はじめまして。私はゼロです。 I’m Zero, nice to meet you. I’ve been a fan of anime for more than twenty years now, from the days of trading third generation VHS tapes to downloading new episodes in 720p an hour after they air in Japan. I’m watching more shows than I can keep track of, all while going back to school to major in Japanese. I’ll be covering some of this week’s episodes, old classics, imported figures, as well as other things that come from the land of the rising sun.
In my many years of watching anime, I feel confident saying that this is the best ever, at least for my personal tastes. There’s tons of sequels this season, including my all time favorite show (more on that next time). I’m watching quite a lot right now, so it’s going to take a while to go through them all. For now, let’s focus on the first half of the season (episodes 1-6), and I’ll start with just these five shows and hit some more next time. Again, in all cases I’m talking about about the first six episodes of each of these shows.
Danganronpa: Kibou no Gakuen to Zetsubou no Koukousei
School of Hope and Students of Despair. Fifteen of the worlds most “elite” students are kidnapped and wake up the new school, Hope Academy. Most of the students follow traditional character archetypes: the princess, the bad ass, the tough girl, etc, but it’s not too heavy-handed. After a round of introductions, the academy’s headmaster reveals himself: Monokuma, the talking stuffed bear with a Two-Face complex.
Monokuma lays down the rules: Whoever can graduate from this prestigious academy will succeed in pretty much everything they do in life, you’ll be one of the most influential people in the world. In order to graduate, however, you have to kill a fellow classmate. Not just kill them, but get away with it. After every murder, there will be a trial by the other students. If you’re found guilty, you die. If you’re unanimously found innocent, you live and all the others die.
At face value, it sounds a little bit like a Battle Royale ripoff, but it plays out much more like a who-done-it than a battle royale. The bulk of each episode is about looking at the evidence and trying to figure out the motives. Mind games play a big part of it too, as the ideal situation would be for you to be found guilty of a murder you didn’t commit (as everyone else would get killed, and you’d get to go).
Due to the nature of the show and the mystery aspect of it, discussing it is a bit hard. Right now, seven of the fifteen students are dead, and there’s talk of an unknown sixteenth student. The animation in this show is very stylized at times and I really like it. The execution scenes after someone is found guilty, as shown below, are particularly nice even though they’re ripped directly from the PSP game. Despite the serious nature of the show, there’s quite a bit of humor, especially from Monokuma. I’ve found myself getting into this on a verbal level more than other shows, often shouting at the stupid mistakes people are making in the deliberation process, and watching it with my roommate has been a lot of fun.
Fate/kaleid liner Prisma☆Illya
The Fate series is one of my favorites. Typically, shows in the Fate series have a more serious tone and involve a war for the Holy Grail where combatants summon heroes from the past, such as King Arthur or Alexander the Great. This show is not that. Fate/kaleid liner Prisma☆Illya is a sort of alternate-universe Fate show with a magical girl theme. Think Sailor Moon, but starring re-imagined Fate characters.
Rin and Luvia are magical girls in their late teens, charged with collecting the seven class cards, items based on legendary heroes with the power to level a city. However, they spend all their time arguing and fighting with each other, so the talking-wands that grant them their powers decide to find new masters. To that end they find Illya and Miyu, a pair of elementary school girls, to make into new magical girls. Rin and Luvia find the new girls, and act as sort of mentors/trainers to help the young girls find the class cards.
It’s revealed that the class cards can be “included” in their wands, turning the wand into a weapon based on the respective legendary hero. The two young girls each start out with one of the seven cards passed to them by their mentors; Illya has Archer, which she’s convinced is useless since it doesn’t have arrows, and Miyu has Lancer, which turns her wand into Cú Chulainn’s Gáe Bolg. The two girls are soon pitted against Rider (Medusa), and Miyu makes quick work of her and collects the card. We haven’t yet seen what that card does.
With a day to rest, the girls come to terms with their new powers. Miyu transfers to Illya’s school and moves across the street from her into a large mansion. Full of confidence, they then go after Caster (Medea) and are soundly defeated. They retreat to practice more, and after some rather humorous training scenes the young girls learn how to fly. Illya & Miyu go in for a rematch against Caster, and although the fight was hard, they manage to defeat her. Victory is short lived though, because as they celebrate Saber Alter shows up.
This is where I got super excited. Saber is pretty much the star of Fate series, a knight and probably the most famous/recognized name of the legendary heroes. Saber Alter is the dark/evil version of Saber, and she utterly wrecks the girls, destroying the landscape in the process. Rin and Luvia get the wands back to regain their magical girl powers, and their prowess is still no where enough to beat her. With all the four of the girls thoroughly defeated and near death, Illya becomes obsessed with winning. “I must defeat her… I must defeat her…” Illya takes out her Archer card and “installs” it. While including a card would change their weapon, installing it turns Illya into the hero Emiya, another iconic character from the Fate series and the only legendary hero in their mythos that wasn’t from history. Illya-Emiya and Saber Alter face off in an epic battle, with Miyu being the only one conscious to see it happen. Illya decisively wins, only to turn back to normal and pass out immediately after.
I am loving this show, but that’s because I love Fate. I don’t know if it’d be a great show for someone who wasn’t into Type-Moon’s work, the makers of the Fate series. I imagine it’d feel like a sub-par magical girl show, but the cameos, references, and re-imagining of characters make this show an absolute joy for me. I can’t wait to see where the rest of it goes, and am saddened that it’s only ten episodes.
Kamisama no Inai Nichiyoubi
Sunday Without God. “Heaven and Hell are too crowded. It won’t be long before this world is too. Alas, I have failed.” And with those words, God abandoned the world on Sunday. From that day forth, no children were born and no one could truly die. Significant damage or illness could still cause their bodies to shut down, but they would still be alive, similar to a zombie but without the hunger for brains and their humanity intact. “Death” only means slowly rotting away, but never the release. That is when God gave humanity it’s last wish, the gravekeepers. Sent to Earth by God, emotionless and powerful, only when buried by these gravekeepers do people actually die. As has been the case for more than fifteen years now.
We’re introduced to Ai, a twelve year old girl whose mother was a gravekeeper. With her mother deceased, Ai takes on her mantle of gravekeeper. Before she can do anything though, a maniac attacks her town and kills everyone in it. The maniac goes around, destroying the bodies of dead people, and as it turns out, everyone in Ai’s town was actually already dead. They had been hiding it from Ai all this time to give her a better childhood, because Ai is the first and only person born since God abandoned the world, and her mother was the only gravekeeper to ever have a child. She gives the villagers a proper burial as a gravekeeper, and puts their souls to rest.
Coming to learn why he did it, Ai befriends the man who attacked her town and two set off together. His name is Hampnie Hambart, and he’s immortal. With the same body he had as a teenager, he has stopped aging and is searching for someone he knew long ago. Their journey together doesn’t last long though, and Hampnie is kidnapped. Ai realizes that the woman that Hampnie was looking for is her mother, and that he’s actually her father. With the help of another gravekeeper, they rescue Hampnie, and reveal to him that Ai was his daughter. The celebration is short lived, as Hampnie immortality wears off, and he dies. His wish had always been to die happy, and finding out he had a daughter, his wish is granted. They give him a proper burial, and Ai continues on her journey.
The first stop is Ortus, a fortified sanctuary city constructed by the dead who refuse to truly. Lined along the front gate are the sacred spades of the gravekeepers, a warning for them to keep out. Standing above the gate is a large statue of their goddess, the Idol of Death. “Her eyes are the eyes of Death. Her words are the words of Death. Her body teeming with Death, she shall not allow the living to escape. She alone became the guardian of the dead.” Before she died, Ai’s mom had long talked about a world where the living and dead could co-exist in peace. Seeing how the dead have created their own society, Ai instantly becomes fascinated with the city. Ai and her group are allowed to stay there overnight for repairs on the condition that they do not to leave the trade distract, where the living are allowed. Ai completely ignores this and goes out exploring the city, wearing a mask to hide her face.
While out, Ai comes to meet the princess of Ortus, Ulla Eulesse Hecmatika, a girl who is wrapped and bounded so that none of her is visible, with her mouth forced closed and eyes blindfolded. That night, a large group of living come to seeking shelter, and Ortus has an “acceptance ceremony” for the living. Ai then sees the truth behind Ulla, that any one who touches, sees, or hears her will die. Further, Ulla doesn’t know it, as the people of Ortus have lied to her since birth. Ai helps Ulla come to terms with it, and Ulla accepts her role as the Idol of Death. With their care now fixed, Ai and her friends leave Ortus.
I wasn’t expecting much from this show going into it, but the story has thrown me for a few surprises. I really like the premise behind it, and they manage to make the predictable still catch me off guard.
Maki is the student council president at an all girls school. Always calm, cool, collected, and has perfect grades, she is idolized by much of the student body. Behind closed doors though, she’s clueless about boys and love, yet yearns for romance. To her contrary, there’s Riko, “The Wild One”. Popular for all the other reasons, she’s forward, athletic, and has a tomboyish demeanor.
Riko’s sent to drop off some papers at the student council office, only to see Maki making out with a large dakimakura, poorly drawn to look like boy. Maki is understandably embarrassed. She tries to explain she was practicing for the real thing, to which Riko attempts to calm her down by lying and saying she’s done it before. The conversation gets out of control, and before she knows it, Riko is agreeing to help Maki practice how to fall in love. “In love, the first meeting is crucial! So I want to practice bumping into a guy at an intersection!” Very cliche scenarios like that.
Maki signs Riko up for the student council so that the two can continue to practice after school in the council office. Before long Riko is playing it off like she’s an expert in love, when the truth is the complete opposite and all the boys she knows see her as “just one of the guys”. Meanwhile, Yuiko and Sayori are ex-student council members and trying to embarrass Riko and Maki so they can get their spots on the student council back. After a series of failed attempts, the four girls patch things up and all become friends. Yuiko and Sayori rejoin the council, and together with the council’s file clerk, they all try to help anonymous students with their love life problems.
Love Lab doesn’t have much of a complex story or overarching plot lines, so there’s not a lot to say about it. It’s fairly funny, and from the makers one of my favorite slice-of-life shows, Yuru Yuri. A lot of the humor requires a knowledge of what’s typical and cliche in anime, so there’s a good chance you won’t like it if you’re not into anime already. Given that this is a slice-of-life and how there’s not much “story”, I likely won’t bring it up again when I go over the second half of this season.
Watashi ga Motenai no wa Dou Kangaetemo Omaera ga Warui!
No Matter How I Look At It, It’s You Guys’ Fault I’m Unpopular! Tomoko Kuroki is in her first year of high school, because what anime girl isn’t? She’s short, flat chested, with messy hair and dark circles under her eyes from playing video games all night long. She sees her peers having fun together, dating, enjoying their youth, and wonders why they never approach her. So, she takes a serious look in the mirror and tries to figure out why she’s unpopular and boys never talk to her. Taking inspiration from those around her and the games she plays, she tries to change her ways, and her failures are the source of this show’s humor.
Girls with glasses in video games and comics are cute, right? I should wear glasses! The popular girls always purse their lips, I should have a duck face too! Guys like clumsy girls and knee socks, I should wear them wrong!
At the height of her feelings of dejection, Tomoko gets a call from her close friend from middle school, Yuu. Much like Tomoko, Yuu was plain, wore glasses, nerdy, and unpopular as well. Finally, someone that can understand and relate to Tomoko! The two meet up, and the year has been exceptionally good to Yuu: larger breasts, contacts, short skirt, nice skin, energetic smile, styled & dyed hair. Feeling all hope is gone, Tomoko begrudgingly hangs out with Yuu for the day as they had planned, not expecting things to go well. As the day goes on though, Tomoko learns that despite how much Yuu has changed on the outside, she’s still the same person inside. The two rush off to have fun together, laughing and playing at the arcade like they did in middle school. As the day draws to an end, as they’re saying their goodbyes, Yuu thanks Tomoko for the great day, it was just what she needed to get over the fight she had with her boyfriend. Once again, Tomoko feels lousy.
I think for a lot of us, this show can be very relatable at times, if not TOO relatable. I often find myself almost cringing as I can see the embarrassing moment about to happen, then burst out laughing after it does. When Tomoko goes out to buy some sexy panties, only to lose them before getting to wear them to school the next day, you just know they’re going to turn up at the worst possible time. It hits a lot of right keys with me, and I adore the opening song & animation, even if it doesn’t fit the vibe of the rest of the show. At the same time, this is a slice-of-life show, and thus there’s not much to talk about. It’s very funny, and unlike Love Lab I think even non-anime fans can enjoy this quite a bit, but not much “happens”.
All this is just scratching the surface of this season. Next time, my favorite anime has a new season. The Alice Game continues!
Filed Under: J-PoP!