‘Tis the season of well-executed fluff?
While I haven’t had a true “wow” moment yet this season, I confess that I’m enjoying way more of these premieres than expected. There’s a lot of energy so far this Summer, and while that may not translate into good series, it’s led to solidly entertaining pilots that have at least sparked my interest and made me want to see more.
This time around we’ve got a snazzily directed fantasy epic, a supernatural school tale, and an Ouran High ripoff that I liked in spite of myself. Hit the jump for the messy but enjoyable details.
Rokka: Braves of the Six Flowers (Rokka no Yuusha)
Based On: The light novel series by Yamagata Ishio
Streaming On: Crunchyroll (worldwide except Asia)
In a Sentence: In this Mesoamerican-inspired fantasy world, two cheerful warriors set off on a quest to find the other four “Braves” chosen by Fate to battle the awakened Demon God of legend.
How was it? Heavy (and clunky) on the exposition, but nicely animated and stylishly directed.
Like many LN adaptations, Rokka dumps too much expository world-building in its opening scenes rather than letting the information occur organically and trusting the audience to put the pieces together on their own. As such, it’s hard to judge the writing at this point since this whole episode felt more like an extended story pitch than an actual story. Same goes for the characters: Right now I’d call our two main leads arrogant but good-natured and reasonably charismatic, but so much of the episode is about old stories that it’s hard to say much more beyond that.
Fortunately, director Takahashi Takeo (Spice and Wolf, MAOYU) keeps the camera moving even through all the talky bits, using Fresco-style murals to both tell the backstory and establish this fantasy world’s culture, as well as shifting angles to aid with the back-and-forth between our two leads and visually narrate the passage of time. In other words, Rokka looks rull damn good. If the writing can focus on the here-and-now and do more showing and a little less telling, this could turn into a lush, light fantasy adventure. I’ll give it a couple more to see how it goes.
Studio: P.A. Works
Original Series: Directed by Asai Yoshiyuki and written by Maeda Jun (Angel Beats!)
Streaming On: Crunchyroll
In a Sentence: Otosaka Yuu uses his (extremely) limited psychic abilities to coast his way to the top of his high school class, but his plans quickly fall apart when he’s discovered and recruited by another school’s student council with powers similar to his own.
How was it? A solid blend of acidic and cutesy, with a good sense of humor and the potential for character and story growth.
Writer Jun Maeda is a member of Key (Clannad, Kanon), who have a reputation both good and bad, depending on who you ask. Either they write intensely emotional feels-inducing character studies, or create sentimental, emotionally manipulative schlock. And then there’s me, possibly the only blogger in the aniverse who has somehow seen none of these stories and can come into this show with zero prejudices. Well, okay, maybe this one: I really, really like P.A. Works, so this series would’ve had to have a truly terrible first episode for me to not give it the three-episode rule.
And, actually, I liked this one a whole lot. The protagonist is an ass, but a layered one with room for growth, and the series is quick to punish him for his arrogance and manipulations in surprisingly clever ways. The various voice actresses could stand to tone down the high-pitched cutesy vocals, but the characters themselves are so far fairly well-written, behaving in reasonable (and genre-defying) ways at times. And I confess to having a weak spot for stories where characters use their superpowers for mundane purposes (like passing tests or dating people).
Like many of the premieres this season, this episode feels very much like a prologue, so we’ll have to see how things go once Yuu’s settled into his new school. But if the series can keep injecting its story with enough energy and cynicism to keep the more “moe” elements in check, this could end up being a solid supernatural school story.
Guilty Pleasure Alert!
Aoharu x Machinegun (Aoharu x Kikanjuu)
I can’t justify giving this one a full meet ‘n’ greet because I suspect its stupid charm will wear off very fast, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy the heck out of this premiere. Here’s the premise: A girl mistaken for a boy gets roped into joining a club run by a Host in order to pay off a debt for breaking valuables. THAT’S NOT HYPERBOLE. The Host Club is even called “Orion,” just in case you weren’t drawing the Ouran parallels just yet.
Granted, the “club” is a survival games club, not the host club itself, but the ripoff is strong with this one, and is just one part of the forced coolness, casual sexism, and faux badassery that comprises this I-can’t-believe-I-liked-it series. The first episode of Aoharu was utter trash, but dammit, it was my kind of trash. I’ll stick around for at least another week to see if it can keep entertaining me in spite of myself.