First impression: Kobayashi-san Chi no Maid Dragon

A drunken sysadmin stumbles over a dragon one evening, pulls the sword from her back and gets the shock of her life when the dragon shows up the next morning to become her new maid.

This is the least KyoAni-esque Kyoto Animation series since Nichijou. Kobayashi-san is a working woman, an IT professional who is some years removed from the usual perky, cute KyoAni high school girls, as her complaints about an aching back and upset stomach make emphatically clear. Nor is there the usual romantic pussyfooting here. Tohru loves Kobayashi-san –“I mean sexually” — and is not shy to show it. Kobayashi-san herself is somewhat less enthusiastic about the whole idea, but allows Tohru to stay with her nevertheless.

Kobayashi-san Chi no Maid Dragon: the thirst is real

The first episode then was all about Tohru’s thirst for Kobayashi-san and the latter’s reactions to it. It’s amusing, especially when Kobayashi and a coworker go out for drinks after work, a jealous Tohru joins them which prompts Kobayashi to start ranting about maids and how Tohru is just cosplaying. Which indeed she was, having based her uniform on two girls advertising a maid cafe. There’s also the recurring theme of Tohru wanting Kobayashi-san to eat her tail, which is not symbolic of anything whatsoever.

What’s also fun is seeing small asides from the manga being animated and given life. Like Tohru happily and messily eating her own tail, which is much more scary animated than as one small panel in the manga. Had the second episode followed along the lines of the first however it would’ve been disappointing, as Tohru lusting after Kobayashi-san while the latter remains stoic was wearing thin already.

Kobayashi-san Chi no Maid Dragon: startng a family

Luckily the second episode kicked things up a notch. First, there was the scene in which Tohru stops a thief when they went shopping at the local shopping centre, with Kobayashi getting a bit paniced at Tohru perhaps exposing herself as not human, leading her away holding her hand and when Tohru notices, gripping her firmer. Subtly done but such a great way of showing how far their relationship had progressed already. But the heart of the episode is when a second dragon shows up, in the form of a little girl called Kanna, who went looking for Tohru when she went missing and is now stuck on Earth. Kobayashi offers her a place in her home, which Kanna is reluctant to take as she doesn’t trust humans. The way in which she breaks down as Kobayashi tells her she doesn’t have to be friends with her to let her stay and especially that final shot of the three pair of shoes lined up at the front door made me choke up.

The subject matter may be slightly outside KyoAni’s usual range, with the animation style taking its cue from the original manga, but that doesn’t mean the usual care and attention the studio is known for isn’t taken. Most of it is fairly subtle, focusing on characterisation and character interaction, but there are several scenes in the first two episodes like the one above, where the animators get to cut loose. It makes you wonder what a good KyoAni action series would be like (as opposed to tripe like Musaigen no Phantom World).

First impression: ACCA – Thirteen-ku Kansatsu-ka

An elegant, lanky man goes on an inspection tour of all thirteen districts of his country, while other elegant, lanky men with more interesting hairstyles discuss his progress.

ACCA 13: as you know, Bob

And if you think that summary is bad, you should read the official one at MAL. The jist is that this is a series about bureaucratic infighting, populated by characters not out of place in some harem yaoi series and taking place in what looks like a fantasy version of Mittel-Europa. Some may be reminded of Cold War Eastern Europe, but for me this felt like Austria-Hungary more than anything. A kingdom that consists of a patchwork of thirteen different states/districts, which survived a near revolution a century ago and as a solution made the districts “independent” while establishing a centralised bureaucracy with no oversight to run all civil services. All of this information is delivered in an infodump at the start of the first episode, as one character tells the other two what they should already know.

ACCA 13: spine chilling adventure

Adventures in Bureaucracy: the Anime may sound boring and in the first two episodes the plot has only barely shown up, but there is actually something compelling about watching our protagonist Jean Otus going about his business, visiting a district, uncovering some cigarette smuggling plot (or not), smoking cigarettes and come back to headquarters with delicious treats for his subordinates. He claims he’s not a rich man btw, but the show goes out of his way to show him smoking while emphasising how rare and expensive cigarettes are, while he’s also the landlord for a luxury apartment building together with his sister. It’s another data point for thinking there’s something wrong, that things cannot be as innocent as they seem.

ACCA 13: pointless antagonism

So far we haven’t gotten into Jean’s head at all, so it’s unclear whether he is as innocent and clean as he seems to be, but the top brass have their suspicions. And then there’s this guy, who is pointlessly but hilariously hostile to Jean. You’d think a lowly branch officer would be more polite to somebody nominally his superior, the vice head of a major department even. But again, a hint that something is wrong. Maybe Jean really is the head of a conspiracy and we just don’t know it yet. Or he could just continue visiting a new district each week and sample their pastries. Either way I’ll keep watching.

First impression: Gabriel DropOut

Your parents were right to warn you about the evils of videogaming.

Gabriel Dropout: angel trash

Meet Gabriel. A honour student in heaven, she got hooked on MMOs during her placement in a high school on Earth and turned into trash. She’s like a worse version of Umaru, as she doesn’t even try and keep up a facade outside her room. She doesn’t care and she doesn’t even pretend to care. Fortunately for her though her best friend is a demon who does. A considerate demon as straight woman and a trashy angel: a simple role reversal that leads to some good jokes, but this series needs something more.

Gabriel Dropout: truly evil

And gets it in the form of the truly evil Satanichia Kurumizawa McDowell, Future Queen of Hell, who is the delusional sort of character who wants to be evil, but is too dumb and good natured to actually be evil. She’s also the butt of most of the show’s better jokes whenever her need to impress her “rival” overwhelms her common sense. It’s always satisfying to see a character suffer through their own flaws and she delivers in spades. Though she does get the upper hand at times, as episode two showed.

The last major character is another angel, this time a sadistic one and to be honest the least interesting one, seeing how cliched she is. At best she’s a plot device to get Satania in trouble. She is the most “anime” of them all and you’ve seen her type before in a dozen other shows. Sadistic, pervy and with no real debt to her.

Gabriel Dropout: dumb comedy

That minor issue set aside, Gabriel DropOut surprised me with how funny it was. I’d tried the original manga but found it boring, so had few expectations, but I laughed at both episodes out so far. Not always the case with anime comedies.

First impression: Seiren

Depending on what seemingly irrelevant choices he makes, a high school boy finds his one true love with one of three different girls.

Seiren: by the same character designer as Amagami

This is pretty much the spiritual successor to Amagami, with the same character designer working on it, as well as being set in the same school and town. Not to mention the protagonist’s best friend being the younger brother of one of Amagami‘s heroines. it also shares the omnibus format, having the protagonist fall in love with and woo each girl in separate arcs resetting the timeline each time, rather than as a harem with multiple heroines. In some ways it’s a more cynical approach: true love exists, but who cares which girl you end up with.

Seiren: Kamita is a bit of a dweeb

Kamita Shōichi, the protagonist is somewhat less developed than Amagami‘s Tachibana Junichi, who at least had good reasons to be an indecisive dweeb. Kamita on the other hand is your usual meandering harem lead, nice enough but without much personality so far. To be honest, his best friend Nanasaki Ikuo is much more interesting, considering he’s the little brother of Amagami Nanasaki Ai and has some of her sarkiness. Also, so far they make a better pair than Kamita with any of the possible love interests introduced so far.

Seiren: Tsuneki Hikari is cheeky

The first heroine is Tsuneki Hikari, whose flirting through teasing Kamita interprets as bullying. I like her, she isn’t a cookie cutter tsundere or pointlessly mean to Kamita (though there is a bit of homophobia slung around in one scene). She actually feels like a real person. The same goes for Kamita’s sister, who Tsuneki has a rivalry with, the former having won the Santa contest the year before. Popular and refined in school, somewhat crude in front of her little brother, she feels like a real sibling — though she’s of course no patch on Miya.

Seiren: butt cheek imprints

One last thing Seiren seems to have inherited from Amagami: weird fetishes. In case it isn’t clear, that’s the camera focusing on the butt print Tsuneki left on Kamita’s desk having sat on it chatting to her friends.

First impression: Fuuka

A blue haired violent girl runs into a boy idly checking Twitter on his mobile, accuses him of taking a pantyshot and breaks his phone.

Fuuka: crash into hallo

A romance story then, with Yuu, our self absorbed Twitterer chasing after the titular blue haired girl, Fuuka. This is one of three manga based thrashy romance series this season, the others being Masamune-kun no Revenge and Kuzu no Honkai. Fuuka is the most conventional of the lot, with its useless male protagonist being shaken out of his funk by an energetic , cheerful if somewhat violent girl.

Fuuka: high impact

You do have to wonder what Yuu exactly sees in Fuuka at first, seeing as she breaks his phone not once, but twice in the first two times they meet. Not to mention that he seems barely interested in anything but updating his Twitter. Nevertheless, by the end of the first episode they’re on a date together and even h-h-holding hands.

Fuuka: the rival

What she sees in him isn’t quite clear either, but she isn’t the only one. His childhood friend turned idol still loves him too. in fact, she wrote most of her songs about him. Ironically, Fuuka herself is a big fan of her. Now while this looks to become your baisc love triangle story, i have actually read the original manga and know there’s a twist coming, which will put the other theme of the series in the foreground: music. Fuuka is a huge music fan but no drive to do anything until Yuu triggers her, while he also encouraged his childhood friend way back on her way to being an idol. The first couple of episodes therefore are somewhat atypical and blander than the rest of the series will hopefully be.