Toji no Miko — First Impressions

School girls with swords are the only thing that can keep Japan safe from demons.

I rather liked this, having set my expectations low after last year’s Schoolgirl Strikers and Battle Girl High School which had similar premisses and were dull as dishwater. From the start, Toji no Miko looked much better from the introductionary battle on. I liked how slow and focused the episode was, keeping the spotlight on just a few characters rather than introducing everybody at once. The main storyline follows Etou Kanami & Yanase Mai, who represent their school at a national sword fighting tournament for Toji shrine maidens, who are the people that keep Japan safe from demons. We follow them as Kanami wins over Mai in their school tournament and they trave; to the finals, as well as through the tournament. The b-plot meanwhile is about Juujuu Hidori, who seems to harbour a grudge against the people organising the tournament. When she attacks the organisor (see above), she’s almost defeated when Kanami comes to her aid…

I liked the pacing of this first episode. The show took its time to let us get to know Kanami & Mai before in the last few minutes letting the plot kick in, while also giving us a look at the other bound to be important characters. (That is, everybody whose match got shown). The tournament was also a good excuse to show off the sword fighting as well as everybody’s fighting styles. In general, the animation and character designs were a cut above what I expected. Can’t wait for next week.

Ramen Daisuki Koizumi-san — First Impressions

Because she’s cute, Ohsawa Yuu stalks her standoffish classmate Koizumi-san and discovers she’s really, really into ramen.

Ramen Daisuki Koizumi-san: Koizumi-san really, really loves ramen

I’ve been reading the manga of this and liking it, so I was looking forward of how it would be adapted. To be honest I expected this would’ve been a short, rather than a full length series, because the manga chapters are rather short as well and mostly standalone, so perfect for a five or eight minute short. What they’ve done instead is adapt 3-4 chapters per episode, if the first episode is an indication. I’m not sure how that would work long time. This time we got three stories about Koizumi going to eat ramen and Yuu stalking, then joining her. It could get a bit dull. Luckily I know the manga starts to mix things up quickly, introducing more characters for Koizumi to play off.

Ramen Daisuki Koizumi-san: ramen eating girls are cute

So far the characters are a bit one note. Koizumi-san is your archetypical cool beauty loner, with little to no interest in anything other than ramen, only coming alive if she’s eating it or explaining about what’s she’s eating. Yuu is a bit better, a cheerful, optimistic girl with a thing for cute girls that’s more than a little bit gay. Every story in this episode has Yuu attempting to talk to/chat up Koizumi-san, her rebuffing Yuu’s approach, then going to eat ramen, at which Yuu joins her and gets her to open up just a little bit by getting her to talk about ramen.

Compared to Sora yori mo Tooi Basho, Ramen Daisuki Koizumi-san is a much more conventional slice of moe anime, competently done but not yet with much to distinguish itself from any other slice of moe anime. The character designs are cute, the animation is all right without anything special and Koizumi-san’s blissgams are nowhere near as interesting as those in e.g. Food Wars. At the moment Ramen Daisuki Koizumi-san is more comfort food than haute cuisine: great if you like this sort of thing, skippable otherwise.

School girls go to the South Pole — First Impressions

Sora yori mo Tooi Basho: high school girls go on a visit to the South Pole.

Sora yori mo Tooi Basho: school girls in Antarctica

Tamaki Mari is a very ordinary second year high school girl who one day suddenly realises that she’s a very ordinary second year high school girl. Which puts her in the mood to go on some big adventure, so she decides to skip school and travel to Tokyo. But then it rains so she doesn’t. She talks to her friend about her frustration of always failing to take that first step and always chickening out. Then, as she goes home, she notices the girl running past her to get her train drops an envelope. Tamaki picks it up and runs after her, but the girl’s gone. So she looks into the envelope to see what’s in it and finds:

Sora yori mo Tooi Basho: one million yen

One million yen!

That’s her first encounter with Kobuchizawa “Antarctica” Shirase, whose mother wrote a book about visiting the South Pole, but disappeared when Shirase was in middle school. Ever since she’s been working and saving up to make enough money to pay for a trip to Antarctica. For Tamaki Shirase’s dream is exactly what she wanted for herself, but never found or had the courage to go look for. But this time it’s different.

The ordinary school girl frustrated with her own ordinariness is not a new character type of course, often seen as the protagonist in school club series like K-on or Amanchu!, their frustrations driving them to try something, anything new to not be ordinary, overcoming their own fears in the process. They tend to be either enthusiastic go-getters (like Mikan from Love Live Sunshine) or shy fraidycats dragged into something almost against their will (Ami Kurata from Long Riders). Tamaki Mari is a mix of both, afraid to try new things and knowing this about herself, frustrated with it, but pushy and enthusiastic once she has made up her mind.

Sora yori mo Tooi Basho: Kobuchizawa Shirase is grateful

Kobuchizawa Shirase meanwhile looks like the typical well put together long black haired school princess, serious and driven. Having set herself a life goal, she’s dilligently working towards it while most of her peers are satisfied with just playing around. But she isn’t stoic or emotionally withdrawn; rather she wears her heart on her sleeve, most noticably when Tamaki hands her back the million yen she had lost. I like how aware she is how her dream of traveling to Antarctica to find her lost mother comes over to other people, that she isn’t deluded to how hard it would be to realise it, but accepts it and moves on.

Both Maki and Shirase than are archetypes I’ve seen in dozens of anime before, but with enough originality and character to come across as actual people you’d want to spend time with. There’s a good sense of humour, that doesn’t come at the expense of either of them and I like the pacing of this episode. All we saw was Maki coming to grips with her normalcry and wanting to do something about it, getting to know Shirase and the both of them deciding to go on a trip to Hiroshima where a polar exploration ship was holding an open house. There’s a sparkle to the animation, which is just that bit better than it needs to be, sharing some of its style and realism with last year’s Tsuki ga Kirei and Just Because.

Very much a recommendation. If this level of quality keeps up, this may be the sleeper hit of the season.

Tenshi no 3p! — First Impression

A teenage hikkimori is saved through the power of cute lolis.

Tenshi no 3P!: pedobait?

I don’t trust this series. I just don’t trust this series. Alarm bells started ringing the moment I read the description on Anichart:

Kyou Mekui is a high school student who tends to skip school due to a trauma in his past. Kyou secretly creates songs using vocal song synthesis software as his hobby. Three girls who just entered fifth grade — the crybaby Jun “Jun-tan” Gotou, the strong-willed Nozomi “Zomi” Momijidani, and the somewhat sleepy Sora “Kuu” Kaneshiro who takes life at her own pace — email Kyou. These three girls, who were raised together like sisters since childhood, want Kyou to help them break into music.

There’s no real reason those girls needing his help should be fifth graders, rather than high school girls his own age, but there has been a minor wave of heartwarming stories starring little children rehabilitating much older people like Usagi Drop or Amaama to Inazuma, so I tried it out to see if it was one of those, or whether it would be something more problematic. The first episode was actually decent, starting off showing Kyou’s daily life and how his nominal class mates think about him, before he’s introduced to the three girls. Even when there are a few dodgy camera close ups of the girls, there are at least no panty shots, but then this shit happens. They ask him to help them plan a concert and in order to entice him, each of the girls says that he can have their way with them and then the episode ends.

Tenshi no 3P!: psyche!

And then in episode two we get the same scene again, but then ha ha it turns out they’re actually talking about their instruments, isn’t that hilarious? So you not only get a pedo joke, but a copout pedo joke, as the show has its cake and eats it too. It doesn’t look like it wants to go the route of oh la la sexy grade school girls harem, but it is clearly comfortable of toying with that route, only to swerve at the last moment. And what with the dress up scene, where each of the girls dresses up as a different kink — gym uniform, school swimsuit, naked apron — most of my trust is gone. Doesn’t help that they’re walking stereotypes either: the shy, cute one, the energetic standoffish one, the sleepy emotionless one. I actually like the central plot setup and it could be decent, but not with all this pedo bait.

Isekai wa Smartphone to Tomo ni — First Impression

Quick, who ordered the season of utterly generic trapped in fantasyland anime?

Isekai wa Smartphone to Tomo ni: bland

Look at this dude, just look at him. Black hair, bland face, even more bland personality. Is there a more generic protagonist imaginable? Even his clothing, freshly bought in the fantasy world he reincarnated in, looks like a school uniform. Anime viewers may complain about all the Isekai/Trapped in Fantasyland series we’ve gotten the past few years, but the reality is that series like Grimgar, KonoSuba, Re:Zero and even much maligned Swords Arts Online are the cream of the crop. The other ninety percent as covered by Sturgeon’s Law, the series that don’t make it out of the light novel or manga series it started in, is much more like this. Bland, generic and lacking even the bite that SAO did deliver.

Isekai wa Smartphone to Tomo ni: no challenge

I’ve read so many of these series and they’re all exactly like this one. Some hapless fool (always a dude, almost never a girl) gets killed in some sort of accident, God or a reasonable fascimile takes pity on him and reincarnates him in some fantasy world, complete with some god level crack cheat to make up for his troubles. Sometimes he gets to redo his life the hard way, starting from scratch as a baby (as in this season’s Knight’s & Magic (sic)), but usually he’s dumped straight into the world as he was. At any rate, we then get to spent some chapters with him exploring just exactly what his cheat power is, as well as figuring out the inevitable game like status menu, while our protagonist also rescues or encounters the first of what will turn out to be a long line of damsels in distress who end up falling for him. In the process legions of low level fantasy monster scrubs are wasted, as well as the occassional human bully. Once the hero and the damsel reach civilisation, the next step is for him to register with the adventurers guild, so he can spent the rest of the story doing quests for which he is once again ridiculously overpowered. There may or may not be some demon lord lurking in the background, but even if there is, there’ll be dozens of chapters of protagonist-kun just puttering around having not particularly interesting adventures and gathering a harem of various archetypical fantasy girls. Important is that the hero is never actually challenged or in any real danger.

And that’s what you’re getting here. Combined with less than stellar animation, there’s literally nothing here that’s interesting or not generic. It’s so generic that it becomes interesting agai– naah, not really.