I look at the first three episodes of what I thought was interesting this season.
Re:Creators is a series about fictional characters being taken out of their worlds and being forced into the real world, where they are fictional characters. It’s the brainchild of two people who don’t seem to have much in common creatively (Ei Aoki and Rei Hiroe), but really work well off of each other, resulting in what is easily the best anime of the season.
Before an explanation of those two, however, I need to get into the show proper. It’s premise is that an average high school kid named Sato, who used to draw but has lacked any inspiration lately, is watching an anime adaptation of a light novel he’s a fan of when he gets sucked into the series during a fight scene. However, he then manages to take the anime’s lead heroine out of her series and into the real world, where they run into other fictional characters being dragged out of their respective series. Cheif among them, however, is a villainess from a series Sato doesn’t recognize who is planning to hunt down and kill her creator and urges the others to do the same. They all respond differently to that request, but they do by and large decide that they should look for their creators and find out more about themselves and why their worlds are the way they are.
This series is a complete product of the two minds behind it, so much so that I can say that if you don’t like either creator, you will not like this series. The director and co-writer is Ei Aoki, whose previous work is Girls Bravo (his first directing gig and one I’m sure he’d like everyone to forget), Wandering Son (a thoughtful series about transgendered youths that’s good if you like that sort of thing and a sleep aid if you’re me (I don’t care for thoughtful mature drama for adult anime, it has nothing at all to do with the subject matter)), Aldnoah.Zero (one of the most incompetent scripts ever put to phenomenal direction), and, his best-known and best work, Fate/Zero (the series that introduced the world to Gen Urobuchi’s writing and turned my hatred of the Fate franchise into a more complicated love/hate relationship). Put simply, Aoki us the type of director who is great at delivering Hollywood-level action and good character moments, even when he’s working with utter garbage. This comes through wonderfully here, as the action scenes are great, the animation stellar, and even the exposition-filled moments don’t really feel boring. Having him as a director was an early good sign about this show.
However, he’s not the name most people are pointing at and getting excited over. That would be Rei Hiroe, the other creator and writer (and character designer) for this series. Hiroe is usually seen making hentai dojin under a pseudonym (and is apparently extremely popular, at that), but he’s probably best known for a mainstream manga he made that got a very popular anime adaptation: Black Lagoon. For those unfamiliar with quite possibly one of the best action anime ever made, Black Lagoon was a series that took almost every action movie trope Hiroe could think of and put them in a blender until it turned thick and black like tar, then injected with many uppers to carry you through the morose tone of it’s less colorful characters, then setting it on fire with a f***-you attitude that is only interested in looking awesome (oh, and then we get a excessively depressing story about psychotic twin children being killers due to pedophiles making them perform in snuff films that really makes me sad out of nowhere). Hiroe is, surprise to no one, a huge nerd and this series is a big playground for him to play with his more otaku-centric obsessions (much like Black Lagoon, the tone here is “these tropes are stupid, but I really love them”). Oh, and Hiroe’s tone of writing is also the prominent one here, since the script does what Black Lagoon and goes into the characters spouting philosophical world views at the drop of a hat (Black Lagoon was steeped in nihilism, while this is steeped in existentialism).
I can’t say this is for everyone, but I can say that, in my own humble opinion, this is the best anime this season. Seriously, go check it out.
FINAL SCORE: A
Sin: The Seven Deadly Sins
This is a series that will no doubt be loathed by many people. For starters, it’s a beyond shameless (bordering on being hentai) fanservice series. Then, add to that the fact that, with one exception, the average chest size here seems to be at least D (as in, if you don’t like girls buxom, these designs won’t even work as fanservice for you). Then, add to that the utterly baffling decision to steep this in religious themes (I’ve heard this described as “a highly sexual retelling of Paradise Lost”, which I don’t really see, although I’ve never read Paradise Lost so take that for all it’s worth) and even more people will be predictably angry at this series. Oh, and then you add to that the fact that this is based off of a Hobby Japan property (and the other adaptations of Hobby Japan stuff were terrible, so it raises a huge red flag about the quality of this series). Oh, and the writer and director’s other stuff was all excessively awful and obnoxious fanservice shows, including the one this is most similar to, Queen’s Blade, so there was no reason to think this would be any good.
Luckily, this is at least watchable. Unlike Queen’s Blade, which wanted us to believe that there was a serious and intricate fantasy story going on while we watched blatant and over-compensating fanservice I’ve EVER seen (I mean no hyperbole there), this at least knows how goofy it is and is luckily more interested in getting to the mammaries than pretending there’s an actual plot. It’s plot is thankfully kept in the background, mostly existing as an excuse to get between one fetishy interaction between the girls to the next. And the characters are almost excessively simple (and between scenes, the lead actually completely changes personalities, so it’s not really consistent either), but at least are not annoying (you know, unless horny lesbian demons, some of whom follow the “you say no, but your body says yes” approach to intimacy gets under your skin, in which case three characters will get on your nerves (spoilers: two of them are our leads)). I’d say this series is at least tolerable.
Of course, that’s partially because the animation is being handled by TNK, a studio who specializes in shows like this, especially looking at their biggest hit and undeniably best show, High School DxD. The show is not spectacularly animated (there are obvious moments where the animators are trying to compensate for not animating enough, usually by filling the screen with a close-up of a breast), but it looks better than it should. However, if you are watching for the fanservice, be aware that the Crunchyroll is censored (and obtrusively so, their censor object is kind of obnoxious), so you won’t get to look at too much of the pornier elements of this not-quite-porn series.
In the end, it was better than I thought, but that’s not saying much. For this show, the presence of boobs are what will either sell it or turn you away from it, so it’s not like my opinion will mean much. However, even if you are just looking for mindless fanservice, you can still always do better than this.
FINAL SCORE: D+
Grimoire Of Zero
This season gives us the rare fantasy light novel adaptation that’s mostly about the relationship between two people. Coming to mind instantly, the immediate comparisons are Spice And Wolf and Chaika The Coffin Princess (both of which are personal favorites of mine). And the series does do well to endear you to it’s leads, a tiger-man mercenary and the titular witch Zero, so this should be on it’s way to greatness.
And yet, I’m not really feeling this series. Don’t get me wrong, I want to like it and I do think that the two leads are the strongest elements of the show. So why doesn’t this work as well as other, similar shows?
Well, part of it is the pacing. Unlike Chaika, this isn’t an action-adventure. It’s closer in tone to Spice And Wolf: very low-key and bordering mundane. However, where Spice And Wolf was also low fantasy (next to no fantastical elements aside from the presence of gods), this is high fantasy with lots of world building. Large portions of the episodes so far are just spent spilling exposition about the world to the audience, which really tends to take me out of the show. What’s worse is that, for a series that’s trying to set up a search for a potentially evil witch and presenting a world full of witch hunts and prejudice against the beast-men who are the results of curses, the show has done no work so far to justify why witches are hunted aside from Church and “because magic”. This becomes more of an issue in episode 2, a story that should not have come until later in the story (long story short: witches are misunderstood and are wiser than humans who won’t listen). But it’s placement as the second episode, as well as our first introduction to how the world at large will react to witches like Zero just rubbed me the wrong way, like it’s trying to play the “humans are the real monster”-card before they justified why humans would do this first (normally, you’d have a witch villain first be defeated before you bring out the wise old lady witches).
Like I said, there is potential here and I do like the two leads, but the show’s pacing and tone kind of kneecap it’s ability to actually engage me as a viewer. Maybe this will be a slow build series that gets better as it keeps going, but as it is, I just see wasted potential.
FINAL GRADE: C+
Akashic Records of Bastard Magic Instructor
Somehow, this has managed to become the most aggressively bad and most weirdly interesting series to come out of this season. Whenever you hear people talking about how bad light novels are, this is what they’re referring to. It just completely plays to the type of series you’d expect from this collection of tropes. However, even when it’s obnoxious (and it is, trust me), there’s just something that keeps me wanting to see where it will go.
In a world where magic exists, people go to universities to study magic and hopefully learn to use it for the betterment of society. While running late, the school’s star student and her friend/roommate literally run into a lame man who tries to play off the accident as something to make him look cool. When they make it to school, they learn that the man they ran into was their new substitute teacher: an unmotivated bastard named Glenn Radars (no joke, that’s his name) who can’t do spells without chanting the entire (long) incantations. However, there is more to him than meets the eye. After all, he was personally recommended by a higher-ranking professor at the school, so he can’t be completely useless.
If the premise didn’t tip you off, this is a magic high school riff on the GTO-plot: a loser lucks into a teaching position and must try to endear himself to the students and show that there’s more to life than studying (Ultimate Otaku Teacher and Assassination Classroom are other variations on this story, for reference). The problem is that the set-up is all wrong. The class is not a group of misfits and troublemakers like other GTO-like stories and the teacher is the one who needs to make his life better, so the dynamic is completely shot. Not helping is the show’s insistence on being a loud comedy, which makes for a steady stream of annoyance from his antics and the way the female lead reacts to him. Even when the series gets serious in the third episode, it still doesn’t shake this stigma. At no point does this show evolve past “seemingly talentless loser seems talentless”, even when it goes more towards action.
However, the series is just kind of watchable. While the series does have lore and world-building problems (it is based off of a world-building heavy magic high school light novel series, after all), it never gets bogged down in it. The show is primarily kept at the level of watching the interactions between Glenn, Sistine, and Rumia, and even though Sistine’s reactions to Glenn aren’t funny, it is watchable and easy to fall into a rhythm with. I will go on record saying that light novel adaptations, especially the “magic high school” and “trapped in another world” ones that are the biggest target, don’t deserve as much crap as they routinely get. If a show is bad, it’s bad, but it shouldn’t be considered bad just for following a trend. And while I have issues with how this is executed, it does seem to find a way to make itself very watchable.
I know I won’t make any allies with this (hell, I’m basically saying that the show whose female uniforms look like stripper outfits are watchable), but this is not even remotely the worst show this season. This falls squarely on the “if you like X, then you’ll like Y” category, which I’d say sums this series up nicely. If you like shows like Demon King Daimao or Trinity Seven or Tokyo Ravens, you’ll enjoy this. If you don’t, then there won’t really be much here for you.
FINAL GRADE: C-