First impression: Tsuki ga Kirei

Two class mates get traumatised by their families when they unexpectedly meet up at the same restaurant.

Tsuki ga Kirei: family is always embarassing

There is after all nothing as embarassing as your family prematurely meeting the boy/girl you may be developing a crush on. Nothing certain here yet, no contact. Just coy glances when he/she isn’t looking, looking away when he/she notices, an acute awareness of the other’s presence. Most romance stories in anime start when boy meets girl and one or both quickly falls in love. This sort of drawnout, uncertain longing is rare. I like it better than the usual anime shenanigans, the slowness and mundanity lending realism to the story.

Tsuki ga Kirei: slightly anxious

The girl, Mizuno Akane is sporty enough to be on the track and field team and suffers from anxiety enough she carries around a small stuffed potato thingie to calm herself. It’s an anxiousness not played up as cute, but something she just has to deal with in her day to day life. Not overdramatised, nor debilitating, but just something she has to deal with. As she had to do in episode two, when she lost her safety potato and promptly lost her baton during a relay race.

Tsuki ga Kirei: slightly dorky

The boy, Azumi Kotarō, is a bit of a dork, in the literature club, aiming to be a writer and in love with Osamu Dazai‘s writing, who seems to be the sort of writer slightly dorky, intellectual teenage boys would fall in love with. His joy at getting a text from Mizuno to the point of shadow oboxing is exactly the sort of thing a teenage boy would do, having to get physical to deal with his feelings. He feels real, and the fact that he couldn’t “save” Mizuno in the second episode, even if he did find her potato thingie, helps. In short, I like this mundane, realistic, slow love story because it’s so different from any other anime romance.

First impression: Hinako Note

Crippingly shy girl goes to Tokyo for high school and to join its theatre club, to overcome her shyness.

Hinako Note: friend to all the animals

A by the numbers slice of moe show, with the main girl being a friend to all the animals, if barely able to talk to people. She’s adorable, in a very much infantilised way. Grown up in the country, she turns into a scarecrow when shy or embarrassed, immediately attracting each animal in the vicinity, which the old farming couple she lived near exploited mercilessly to keep the animals of their fields. She’s so tongue tied she can’t even thank them for the vegetables they give her for her help. There’s room to explore such a debilitating level of shyness, but I figure it will only be used for cuteness or humour here.

Hinako Note: imitating Lucky Star

Two episodes in, nothing much has been done with the theatre setup yet, but we have met most of the main cast of loveable weird girls. Here they’re seen performing a Lucky Star tribute. Each of them so far is mostly defined by their eccentricities: one likes to dress up as a maid, one is the reasonable, motherly type, one likes to eat books, etc. Our main girl, for all her shyness, quickly becomes comfortable with them. So far, little has been done with the whole theatre aspect of things, further underscoring the idea that this is very much a show only interested in slice of life cuteness. And since it’s the only one airing this season, save for the latest season of Natsume Yuujinchou, I think I’ll keep watching this in the hope it will get a little better.

First impression: Shuumatsu Nani Shitemasuka Isogashii Desuka Sukutte Moratte Ii Desuka

I refuse to believe anybody called Willem can be the hero of an anime series, but here we are.

SukaSuka: Willem is not a heroic name

Shuumatsu Nani Shitemasuka Isogashii Desuka Sukutte Moratte Ii Desuka (What do you do at the end of the world? Are you busy? Will you save us?), aka SukaSuka so far doesn’t. Suck that is. As you may have guessed from the absurdly long title, it’s a light novel adaptation, with a fantasy setting in which humanity went extinct half a millennium ago due to some so far not yet seen enemy, while all the other races are living up in the sky on floating islands. Willem himself is the last living human in the world, with most other inhabitants looking as if they stepped out of a Disney animal movie. The reason he’s with those four human looking little girls is that he is going to be their caretaker.

This first episode was as slow paced as this music video above, and it reminded me of last year’s Grimgar. About a third is spent on Willem guiding this blue haired woman around the town/island he lives to a spot where she can look out over it, set to an absolutely fabulous rendition of Scarborough Fair. It’s only afterwards that the plot sets in, with a friend badgering Willem into taking on a job for the military, to go baby sit an armoury. An armoury full of girls, rather than weapons, but of course the girls are the weapons.

SukaSuka: she wants to eat him. Literally

Ah yes, the saucy maid/old friend who delights in teasing the protagonist through sexual banter. Or not, as she really wants to eat him, perhaps with a nice chianti. in any case, vore makes sense now. Can I say how rare it is that this is the only sexually tinted scene in the whole episode, despite Willem having to catch not one, but two girls as they crash into him, without pulling a Rito? instead we get our protagonist as a slightly indulgent father or older brother as the four cute little girls in the top most picture sneak into his bedroom out of curiosity. It’s nice. I’m sure the rest of the series will be a nice, slice of life healing sort of anime about one guy and the dozen or so living weapons he is the caretaker of, with no hints of tragedy or anything bad happening at all. Nu-uh.

First impression: Sakura Quest

Two years after Shirobako, P.A. Works still cannot match their moe girl styled protagonist to the more realisic looking secondary characters.

Sakura Quest: our heroine surrounded by wrinklies

Our protagonist, Koharu Yoshino, has trouble finding a job after finishing college in Tokyo, but refuses to move back to her small town family. Short on cash, she gets a job as “queen” for the tourist department of Manoyama, a small town almost aa bad off as her home town. She thinks it’s for one day only, but not having read her contract, she doesn’t realise she will actually have to spend a year as the queen of the Kingdom of Chupakabura… She doesn’t really want to, tries to flee, but in the end is more or less guilt tripped into staying on.

Sakura Quest: Chupakabura Kingdom

As you know, Bob, Japan struggles with a demographic crisis and an aging population, especially out in the countryside where small towns like Manoyama struggle to keep young people living there. At the same time, there’s a certain nostalgia for and fetishisation of the country side and anime isn’t adverse to indulging in this. P. A. Works has essentially built a career out of this, even a mecha series like Kuromukuro being set in a loveningly rendered beautiful part of Japan. Sakura Quest is no different, but everything is a little bit more rundown than the norm.

Sakura Quest: down in Tokyo

There’s a depressing undertone to this first episode, especially in the first part as Koharu goes around Tokyo failing to find a job. This is of course to set up a contrast with the more idyllic Manoyama, but you can’t help but think it reflects just a bit too much of the real Japan and the anxiety of young people trying to find jobs in an ever stagnating economy. It’ll be interesting to see if Sakura Quest can keep a bit of this bite going, or whether it’ll turn more cozy than that.