Posted by SuperMario on 13 April 2019 with categories: Some Quick First Impressions

Kenja no Mago

Short Synopsis: Some guy dies in a car accident (how many times has it been already?) and is reincarnated into an overpowered wizard.

Mario’s review:
As I mentioned in the Seasonal Preview, Kenja no Mago obtains a deadly combination: it serves as both an isekai and a magical high school harem. The result? The most blatant, shameless show that embraces all the tired tropes with zero tact. First, not only the protagonist is already overpowered, he has the knowledge of an adult and he has the memory of modern world. The level of he learning new magic reaches a ridiculous level as he literally blows everyone away with his power. So it sucks out all the fun when we know he will overcome everything, with ease. The supporting characters fare no better as they are cliched with familiar tropes, even down to their designs and their dialogues. The production is horrible as you can see in the above screenshot where the main character just floats around the still background. The world building is samey-samey with nothing interesting of note and guess what, cute girls with big boobs already line up to be his future classmates. When the show that only cares for making things easy for the protagonist, why should we care?
Potential: 0%


Carole & Tuesday

Short Synopsis: A runaway rich girl and a street-smart orphan meet in a bustling Martian city and decide to compose music together.

Wooper’s review:
This was undoubtedly one of my most anticipated shows of the season, and I’m happy to report that it’s pretty good! The animation is top notch, with attention being lavished on moments both big and small. From shots as complex as Carole’s hoverboarding scene down to the way a guitar case shifts when you pop one of its latches, the team at Bones really pushed themselves for this episode. The characters’ outfits are particularly stylish, with fancy dresses, belts, piercings, and the coolest pair of overalls Mars has to offer on display. The main characters themselves are well-worn types, but they’re backed by strong showings from two hungry young seiyuu. By the end of the episode, their passion for music makes their bid for stardom feel worthwhile, but there are some potential hang-ups surrounding the jam session near the end. The all-English lyrics are repetitive and simple, and pop music won’t be everyone’s bag, despite being Carole & Tuesday’s bread and butter. Luckily, there are already subplots and side characters populating the script, from an actress who wants to break into the music biz to the friction between A.I. composers and the old guard of record producers. Without these stories to offer extra information about C&T’s vision of the future, the series might have felt too conservative. Thankfully, its detours are doubly exciting due to the show’s colorful, detail-heavy nature. Check this one out if you haven’t already.
Potential: 75%

Helghast’s review:
Netflix is back to save anime once again by throwing a ton of money behind the very well-regarded director of Shinichiro Watanabe (Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo, Kids on the Slope, Zankyou no Terror) and enlisting Studio Bones to do the animation. That kind of support pays off in spades when it comes to the glorious production values and soundtrack that would find little trouble in appealing to both Japanese and international audiences. For example, the character designs takes cues from contemporary anime and western influence to create a visually alluring cast that embraces the ideal cosmopolitan future of a terraformed Mar. While Yoko Kanno isn’t scoring the music, the Canadian composer of Mocky is more than capable of crafting the OST with his background of R&B, Funk and Soul that would complement the upbeat and futuristic tone of Alba city. I’m glad they went with the route of switching the VAs from Japanese to their English counterparts when it came to singing the songs. While it comes off as a bit jarring, it is a far better solution than having VAs attempt to sing at the musical levels that Carole & Tuesday demands. Speaking of VAs, I can hear Shinji (Fate/Stay Night) taking on the role of the all-knowing producer with his AIs and predictive algorithms. This sets up the multiple character threads that will no doubt end up intertwining together and clashing between the assembly-line manufactured songs and unrestricted freedom of Carole and Tuesday.
Potential: Should have streamed on a Tuesday but would still watch on a Thursday.


Sarazanmai

Short Synopsis: Three boys are transformed into kappa after angering Keppi, the successor to the throne of the Kappa Kingdom.

Mario’s review:
IKUHARA IS BACK. He’s one of my two favorite directors working in this industry (the other is the late Satoshi Kon), so I had a ridiculously exorbitant expectation for this one, and this premiere manages to match it with flying colors. Well, I still regard his Penguindrum premiere as the better one (in fact, one of my favorite opener of this decade), but this one comes very close to that bar. There’s his visual quirks, there’s his heavy symbolism, there’s his irreverent humor that is both bizarre and charming at the same time. His distinctive style won’t be for everyone, though. The sequences where our characters pop out from Kappa King’s butt can easily turn viewers off; and this episode lacks the dramatic weight (another one of his trademark) that only hinted very slightly at the end of the episode. Everything else though, is a knockout. The premise is so weird and fun that it’s refreshing to see how it folds out. The visual is simply sublime that at no point the REAListic backgrounds become a distraction, and the layers of symbolism so far work for the show’s benefits. I’ll be frank, Sarazanmai is everything I could ask for. Keep this up and I am a happy Mario.
Potential: 1000%

Wooper’s review:
This episode was an achievement in both visual presentation and symbolic saturation. The first of those two items is a straightforward compliment, but the second may be backhanded – Ikuhara and MAPPA have packed this thing to the gills with metaphorical objects, to the point where it feels overstuffed. We’re entering Penguindrum territory after just one episode, and your preparedness for this series will be a lot greater if you’ve seen that earlier work. There are cardboard boxes, cucumbers, bridges, and dishes all over this episode, representing the secrets and connections held by the three main characters, but they hardly pose any interpretive difficulties. The real wrench comes when the boys’ shirikodama are wrenched from their anuses, and we pass through several layers of reality with different art styles and functions. One is a miniature musical number, one is a dimly-lit combat set piece (against a giant screeching cardboard box), and one is a melding of minds where a character’s deepest secret is revealed to the other two. By the time you come out the other end, the episode is nearly over, and you’re wondering what the hell you’ve just watched. But that’s when the show hits you with a post-credits scene featuring two sexy policemen and a giant taiko drum, which makes even less sense than everything that’s come before. What ties all of these crazy elements together are the nostalgic background art, beautiful animation, and double-edged sense of mystery and fun. There’s no way to predict where the show will go from here, but its visual magnificence is likely to persist.
Potential: 85%

Helghast’s review:
I don’t know what those two above me are smoking but if you enjoy cross dressing, yaoi, anal, scat and bestiality all mixed up in a drugged-fueled psychotic dream, then this is for you. For the rest of us, RUN AWAY.
Potential: 0.69%

16 Responses

  1. Avatar swa says:

    This sounds great, Ikuhara would always be my guilty pleasure, only I don’t feel guilty about it.

  2. Avatar Unremarkable Normie says:

    And so, Helghast-chan outs himself as a freak and a weirdo who can’t appreciate what is good taste for normal regular people.

    I bet he also hates pineapple on his pizza.

    • I do hate pineapple on pizza.

    • Avatar evafan says:

      Or perhaps the whole thematism/symbolism is heavy style-over-substance using the controversial aspects as a advertisement coat and the show falls on its face.

      I must say, I havent enjoyed Ikuhara staple very much after Utena and I’m questioning whether Utena was not a miraculous fluke. Somehow the visual symbolism in that one was different – it was integrated into the world, not vice versa, so the series felt human, not 2deep4you abstract nonsense flaunting how meta it is.

      Might be just me.

      • SuperMario SuperMario says:

        Even within our writers’ circle, Ikuhara’s style sharply divide us. Those who love him really love him and those who hate his style hate it with a passion. For me personally, it’s not about thematical complex, it’s about his characters’ emotional core (which is complex) that resonate with me and he’a one of the only few whose visual styles inspire me in a number of ways. “Eye-opening” is the right word to describe it.

        TL:DR, this is probably what we were smoking when watching this https://images.app.goo.gl/dFN8QwjMHTLcyQv56

        • Avatar evafan says:

          Interestingly I am in both camps… Ah that frog scene was funny. Wait, a frog in Mawaru, hmmmmm….

          I would put Mawaru/Yurikuma/Sarazanmai? into my ‘Monogatari’ bucket. By the time 2nd Monogatari season was airing I stopped caring completely (I have yet to finish the series). And wth was that edgy Kizumono? Adding to Nisio-isin injury, I found Katanagatari boring. But I absolutely love Medaka Box (manga).

          I dislike KyoAni things, but absolutely love their Jun Maeda (Key) stuff. Find Shaft style empty, but always praise Ef~Tale (more than the game!). In case of Ikuhara, its Utena for me.

          These fill my “Monogatari” bucket. Style-heavy producers that to me seem to be unable to repeat their achievement and regress instead of progressing, merely obfuscating their works and catering to the wrong crowd.

          As for Ikuhara, I have giant expectations for (original) Sailor Moon (R movie was it?), and I just know I will love it.

  3. Avatar Allen says:

    Sarazanmai:

    Just imagine if that budget, animation and cinematography were put in service of something that made even the slightest bit of sense. Just imagine.

    Instead we are left with psychodelic anal pearls and some juvenile notion of connection. Which is pretty rich considering how impossible it was to form a connection with any of the protagonists.

    This feels like an April Fools joke.

    • Avatar SuperWooper says:

      We’ve seen one episode out of 11, and the show has already laid out a map for itself: the characters must defeat zombie kappa in order to regain their humanity. It’s a twisted version of the episodic mahou shoujo formula. All the bells and whistles distract from this premise, but it’s not as though the series is entirely dedicated to chaos (just mostly).

      Ikuhara’s works all have a term that they explore in depth as they progress. From memory, I think Utena’s was “revolution,” Penguindrum’s was “destiny,” and Yurikuma’s was “judgment.” What Sarazanmai intends to do with “connection” won’t be clear after only one installment.

      Is the show juvenile? Yes. Are its characters pretty thin? Yeah. But the first is only a problem depending on your point of view, and I’d say there’s hope that the second issue will be addressed as time goes on. The show will likely dedicate an entire segment of each episode to exposing one of the boys’ secrets, providing multiple angles from which to consider each character.

      Whether or not you enjoyed it, all of us are playing the waiting game with Sarazanmai. This isn’t the type of series where the end is already in sight after a single episode (see Kimetsu no Yaiba). The demands for the show to “make sense” read as cries for narrative conformity, which is the last thing you should expect from this director.

      • Avatar evafan says:

        “The demands for the show to “make sense” read as cries for narrative conformity…”

        True, but watch out: what you said does not form an argument – it excuses virtually any amount of nonsense in the show. Even all Ikus and Haras can not do whatever they want and must obey Laws of Animemetical theory.

        “only a problem depending on your point of view”
        Yeah. The question is, how far should we be adjusting our POV? Is bending over for that however glorious yet very literal asspull not taking it too far? Is meme the final answer? Is moe the Theory of Everything? Only after answering these deep metaphysical questions can we form a framework within which to hold a dialogue about the One True Rating of the show like this.

        • Avatar SuperWooper says:

          I don’t intend to excuse a limitless quantity of strangeness; Sarazanmai’s premiere just didn’t exceed my tolerance for sophomoric humor or non-traditional presentation. When other people react so negatively to what I perceive as acceptable storytelling practices, it strikes me as though they want anime to fit into a much smaller box than it actually does. To quote psgels, “Anime is an art form, and it should behave like that.”

          Everybody has different expectations and tastes when it comes to art, though. What one man sees as a rectum-obsessed meme, another sees as a work of daring originality. Thus, there is no One True Rating – nor is there for any anime series, film, novel or painting. It may sound like a cop-out to appeal to subjectivity, but that’s really what art criticism is after you strip away all pretense.

          That doesn’t mean a conversation about Sarazanmai is useless, though. It’s just tough to dig into its themes and patterns after one episode. If the characterization doesn’t take on a more grounded tone after ~2 more showings, that will certainly be a strike against it. If its focus on “connection” isn’t tied to an overarching plot by episode 5 or so, I’ll be quite disappointed. But we’re only at the first impressions stage right now, and if Ikuhara is good at one thing, it’s making a hell of an impression.

          • Avatar Allen says:

            You know, I actually agree. I came into this show with absolutely no context or expectations, so it was kind of just a flash of color with little rhyme or reason. I certainly didn’t expect it to eschew narrative structure to this extent–even within the subset of one episode–but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a work of art. And a beautiful one at that.

            It just pains me to see a scale that places “visionary” at one end, opposite from “approachable”.

            Looking forward to the 2nd episode regardless because 1) I’m an anime zombie and 2) I still love how beautiful animation can be when this much attention and care is put into it.

    • Avatar Lenlo says:

      Its ok, your not alone. I welcome the disillusioned with open arms into my circle of “Ikuhara isn’t that great”

      • Avatar Allen says:

        Alas, casual anime-er that I am, I’d have to know about/have an opinion about Ikuhara to join that circle. Keep those arms open, though! I’ll be right back… just give me, like, a couple of weeks and massive amounts of Cheese Nips and Mountain Dew.

  4. Avatar Vonter says:

    I just wonder, why not end every preview with a list of tags, it leaves out any doubts of what you’re getting into. Moreso than: “this is a story that will change your view of anime”, or “this is an exhilirating ride that will push you at the edge of your sit”, or “another isekai, this time is a prince who became a frog needing to find the magical wizard at the end of a road made of cheese, but an evil animal organization wants to capture him by using special nets that control other animals minds.”

  5. Avatar CJayiii says:

    As a big fan of Ikuhara I definitely enjoyed sarazanmai a lot, however, I hope it ends up more like Penguin drum and less on the Yuri Kuma Arashi side of the spectrum. As heavy on symbolism and metaphor as penguindrum is, I still believe that it would be an enjoyable show without all those elements due to the compelling characters.. YKA relied solely on metaphor for 100% of its storytelling and I think the result was pretty forgettable, even though it’s one of the most bizarre anime I’ve ever watched.

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