Golden Kamuy — First Impressions

A war veteran travels to the wilderness in search of gold, to fulfil a promise made to a dead comrade. He encounters a native woman who helps him fight off a bear attack and they join forces in search of a legendary treasure trove stolen from the woman’s own people, while other, more sinister forces are also looking for it. A typical western, except for its setting.

Golden Kamuy: Immortal Sugimoto

Because Golden Kamuy is actually set in snow bound Hokkaido, just after the Russian-Japanese War, rather than the American west and Sugimoto Saichi is a veteran of that war, having almost died in the battle of Hill 203. Now he’s looking for gold to take care of his dead comrade’s wife, who is slowly going blind and needs an operation. Asirpa, the native woman he encounters is an Ainu girl. It’s this setting that makes Golden Kamuy interesting from the start. Even if the nominal plot so far isn’t the most original, the setting sure is. Not to mention that having an Ainu character is very rare in anime, this is the first one I’ve seen.

Golden Kamuy: Asirpa

Asirpa is an interesting character, from what little I’ve seen of her this first episode. She shows up halfway to save Sugimoto from a bear attack, then serves as his introduction to how to survive in the wilderness. It’s a role that reminds me of the Native American friend of the protagonist in a western, but there are some hints she’ll be playing a larger role later on. She teams up with Sugimoto to look for the murderers of her father, the men who stole the gold he is after.

Golden Kamuy: bear punching

This first episode was mostly setting the plot in motion and as such did its job. I like both Sugimoto and Asirpa and it’ll be interesting how their relationship will evolve. The bear punching didn’t disappoint either. Since Golden Kamuy started as a critically well received manga, I have faith in the quality of the source material. The studio adapting it also did last season’s Kokkoku, which was much better than I expected it to be, so I have high hopes for this.

Fumikiri Jikan — First Impressions

Fumikiri Jikan would like to start things off with a public service announcement:

Fumikiri Jikan: two women can love each other

So I knew literally nothing about this series going in and it was by a new studio, so no great expectations here. It turning out to be a short only lowered them, but this first episode was decent? Basically it’s this girl and her golden haired, slightly kooky senpai waiting at a rail crossing and doing dumb stuff on senpai’s insistence to pass the time and enjoy their youths. It turns out however that this girl would rather enjoy senpai instead, hence the passion about two women being able to love each other. Not often you see this sentiment spoken out loud in an anime, so kudos to Fumikiri Jikan. I’ll continue watching if only to see if the series will actually do something with this.

Hinamatsuri — First Impressions

I have the same sort of reaction whenever my cats do something particularly nasty just before I go to bed:

Hinamatsuri: pretend not to see it

So begin the deadpan comedic stylings of Hinamatsuri, when a strange cylinder is dropped on the head of Nitta, an up and coming yakuza. Ignore it as he might, the next morning the cylinder is still there and once he opens it, turns out to contain a little girl who calls herself Hina. Demanding clothes as she’s naked, Hina isn’t slow to display her psychic powers and destroy three of his prized vases when he isn’t quick enough to produce them. Which sort of defines their relationship at first: she wants things and coerces him into providing them with her powers, whether it’s a stuffed animal or the chance to go to school. They quickly fall into a routine, living together and it’s not long before Nitta wonders why he feels like a care taker.

Hinamatsuri: Hina and stuffed animal

Nitta is a decent chap, but the true draw of the series is of course Hina. Deadpan and expressionless for the most part, she’s as adorable as she’s mischievous in the use of her powers. There’s of course a back story there: psychic girls don’t come just falling out of the sky like that. But all that is for later. For now the focus is on Hina and Nitta building a family together of sorts. When it turns out that Hina needs to regularly discharge her powers or they explode, Nitta takes her to help with a job of his: get a building site cleared.

Hinamatsuri: why should you have to do that

But when Nitta gets a bit too enthusiastic about how Hina could help him, she remarks she’s seen those sort of eyes before. Which makes him understand she had been exploited before and that he wants to be different. So when he has to rescue his boss from the clutches of a rival gang and Hina wants to help out, he reacts as above: why should you have to do that. In the end she still has to rescue him though. But it’s this little scene that solifies their relationship into something like a family.

Hinamatsuri: gross

A somewhat dysfunctional family. As a first episode this was solid. I like the humour and while I find it a bit too brightly coloured compared to the original manga, this is only a minor quibble. There is clearly going to be some sort of overarching plot to this series, but for me just the day to day adventures of the yakuza and the psychic girl is enough to keep me watching.

Saredo Tsumibito wa Ryuu to Odoru — First Impressions

New rule: if a light novel adaptation features pretty boys with fugly swords, it’s not worth my time.

Saredo Tsumibito wa Ryuu to Odoru: fugly swords

Everything in Saredo Tsumibito wa Ryuu to Odoru was cliched. Two pretty boy protagonists, one a bit of an asshole, one a bit stuck up, with a bit of sexual tension between the two that’ll go nowhere because the asshole already has a girlfriend. We get to see them fight dragons with their fugly swords, then it’s off for a bit of political intrigue with various kingdoms and countries I don’t have any reason to care about. There’s also the Church getting involved, which surely won’t be anything sinister before the real plot kicks in. Turns out there’s a serial killer hunting the sort of people that kill dragons and our two are on the list. I’ve seen it all before and there isn’t really anything here that interests me enough to struggle through the drudgery. I’m taking a pass on this one.

SAO Alternative: Gun Gale Online — First Impressions

How do you make a good Sword Art Online series? Drop Kirito, set the story in Gun Gale Online and make the new protagonist a girl who prefers to wear all pink armour while kicking ass.

SAO Alternative: pink is a warrior colour

This first episode managed to do what the original series never managed: make this look like a game people would actually play. The plot hasn’t kicked in yet, if there’s going to be any, so instead this whole episode was one long team match played in Gun Gale Online, which, as you may know from the second Swords Art Online series, is a sort of modern or post-apocalyptic shooter VRMMO. The way it’s presented here it seems to be a fairly serious sort of game, realistic enough that there’s a team of “pros” in the battle, a group of soldiers using it as a training exercise. Why they don’t use a dedicated server instead of mixing with actual gamers is a mystery. In any case, it all looks and feels like a proper game, even with all the virtual reality nonsense in it.

SAO Alternative: Team LM

Our protagonist calls herself Llenn and her team mate here is M, so obviously their team is called LM. M, with his tactical camouflage gear and general build contrasts well with the adorable tiny, pink Llenn. They’re an odd couple but they work well together, with Llenn the nominal leader but M guiding her all the way through the fight. Which for most of it consists of actually avoiding fighting and letting the team of pros deal with the other teams in their neighbourhood as they keep themselves out of danger. It’s only at the very end, when everybody else nearby has been killed that they enter the battle themselves and it’s Llenn’s turn to shine. I liked their team work and how the anime didn’t feel the need to over explain their choices. There was still a bit of hand holding, with M explaining things to Llenn she should’ve already known, but it wasn’t intrusive.

SAO Alternative: priorities

Llenn’s whole GGO personality has the cuteness factor build in, but she’s serious about her gaming. Her first thought after surviving an ambush is that she nearly died without firing a single shot. She’s smart enough to realise when her team mate uses her as a decoy and pouts adorably about it. Her team mate is less fleshed out, the silent stoic type, but then he doesn’t need to be. How and when they teamed we don’t know and we only get to see Llenn in the real world at the very end of the episode, when it turns out she’s very different from how she presents online. It will be interesting to see what the series will make of this and how much it’ll be just GGO battles and how deep it’ll go into Llenn’s background and motives for playing the game.