Welcome to the Anime Invasion! What is this lovely new column all about? Well, I’ll be looking into shows that are currently airing in Japan, but have been made available to a wider market thanks to wonderful, free streaming services. Since the Winter 2013 season is already is already in full swing, it seems right to use this first week to give my first impression on the first few episodes of these shows.
A quick side note before jumping in: Since I’m not a subscription member of Crunchy Roll, I don’t have access to the newest episode. However, I’m sure the majority of people are in my situation, so it shouldn’t be too big of an issue.
First on the chopping block is Encouragement to Climb, which was something that caught me by surprise. It tells the story Aoi and Hinata, two childhood friends who found each other again in high school. Hintata has always remembered a promise that Aoi made when they were kids that they would climb mountains when they were older, inspired by one trip they took and had a chance to see a beautiful sunrise. Aoi is dragged along with the plan, even though she has since then developed a fear of heights and has become a recluse.
When I say I was surprised by this show, I mean that it has great storytelling consideringit only has episodes that run about three minutes each. The character's actions, at first, seem very stereotypical; but, slowly, they have grown into their own person. You’re rooting for Aoi to get over her fear and become a better friend, and are happy when Hinata encourages her friend, even if she is a bit selfish at times.
The art, while very simple, is wonderful to look at. It’s bright and vibrant when the story calls for it, but can also be gentle for the softer scenes. It’s surprising how much can be said for this little show.
Encouragement to Climb episodes 1-4 gets 7 stars out of 10.
Up next is Hakkenden: Eight Dogs of the East, which is unfourtunately the least enjoyable show out of the bunch. The plot revolves around Shino Inuzuka and Sosuke Inkawa, two young men who have been cursed for five years. They are being pursued by the church and have been called in by a mysterious man to hunt down six others that are like them.
The art style here is very dark, which is fitting for a fantasy such as this. While the show’s description would seem like this is a something that would feature plenty of battles, they have actually been scarce and relatively short. Instead, much of the show is spent on back story, which makes the show very dull.
It seems that Hakkenden is doing its best to be the next Black Butler, another show that involved two men with supernatural powers. Black Butler, while it wasn’t great, was at least able to keep itself focused. Hakkenden, however, has too many subplots, making it rather confusing for me to keep track of what was going in the plot. It also has a hard time of keeping my focus, and is just plain boring most of the time. With the conclusion of this third episode, it shows some potential to have a compelling story, but at the rate its going, it’s almost unwatchable.
Hakkenden: Eight Dogs of the East episodes 1-3 gets 3 stars out of 10.
The next show is another three-minute episode series, Mangirl, which follows four teenage girls as they create a monthly manga magazine. Much like how Hakkenden seems to have the same vibe as Black Butler, Mangirl almost completely resembles K-on. For this anime’s credit, it was smart to let it have short episodes instead of having the story drag out with full length episodes.
Since it is so short, much of the dialogue and action is fast paced, which fits, since this is supposed to be a comedy. One big fault of the show is that, well, none of the characters have really left an impression on me. Having forgotten their names, you can only tell the difference between the girls by their hair styles and types of characters they are. There’s Annoying Spice, Serious Spice, Fan-Service Spice, and I’m-Completely-Useless-So-I’m-Just-Going-To-sit-Over-Here-And Eat-Donuts-Spice. It’s not really a show for everyone, especially those who have gotten fed up cutesy slice-of-life.
Mangirl episodes 1-4 gets 5 stars out of 10.
Finally, we have a very special show titled Problem Children are Coming from Another World, Aren’t They? Three young adults born with special gifts, Izayoi Sakamaki, Asuka Kudou, and You Kasukabe (all taken from parallel versions of Earth), open up a letter that transports them to a world known as “Little Garden”. There, they meet the Black Rabbit, who happens to be an actual bunny girl, who teaches them that this world revolves around Gift Games. In Gift Games, they can bet almost anything to win prizes galore, whether their challenger be another human, a demon, or even an elemental god.
This show comes out swinging from the get go, which makes sense for something as absurd as this. From only the first episode, many can tell whether they’re going to love this anime or absolutely trash it. I would fall under the group of people who are having fun with the show, which it can be ridiculous at times, but that’s only part of its charm.
The art here, while not finely detailed, is very well done. The world of Little Garden is very open and diverse, having vibrant cities, ghostly houses, and even decayed lands. It seems that the budget here is being sprinkled throughout the show’s run, having really one big scene per episode, but it is enough to keep those who love it entertained.
The characters in the show, while sometimes fall into their designated tropes, are pretty fascinating to watch. Each of the main teens is given their chance to show what they can do and to slowly grow. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, which works in its favor, and hopefully they can keep consistent work throughout the rest of the season.
Problem Children are Coming from Another World, Aren’t They gets 6 stars, out of 10.