The fall season is upon us, and even if it only happened by brute force due to the sheer number of anime thrown our way, it looks like we finally have a few good shows coming out in an otherwise largely uneventful 2013. Apart from Aku no Hana, most of the good stuff consisted of carryovers from 2012, and while the summer was an improvement over the lackluster winter and spring seasons, none of the titles were all that impressive so much as satisfying. With what must be a record number of new series coming out at once, this fall is predictably full of a lot of trash, but the first two days (I’m half a week late, I know) were stuffed with all the most hotly-anticipated heavy-hitters. Let’s start off by giving them a look-see.
Coppelion’s first episode does a great job at setting the scene. The dead and empty post-apocalyptic world is stunningly realized through its almost-distractingly beautiful background art. Details which enhance the broader setting, like the shortage of medicine (and its limited application), are introduced naturally through the dialogue, and we’re quickly introduced to some of the key dangers of the world. The pace, while slow, seems about right for the tone the series is going for. There is one big monkey wrench in the works, though, and that is the schoolgirls. Replace them with some competent, trained adults, and you might have something, but schoolgirls, particularly the easily-impressed and mentally-lacking genki variety we have here, run completely counter to the effectiveness of the show. Not only are they obnoxious as characters with their obnoxious schoolgirl banter (except perhaps the main girl), but they are also woefully unprepared and unequipped, and in general have no place here. That may be the point in these early episodes, but even if that is the case, they really take me out of the otherwise well-crafted setting. If Coppelion finds a way to overcome this and fully embrace its key strengths, it has the chance to be a very good show.
Beyond the Boundary
Kyoukai no Kanata is in a similar boat to Coppelion, actually. It’s got some great animation work and a reasonably well-established setting (I like how the fantasy elements are taken mostly in stride and not shoved uncomfortably close to your face) backing a usable premise, that is ultimately brought down by its attempts to make its characters too cute. The characters are the typical trope-filled empty shells that you’ll find in any Kyoto Animation outing – the most notable characters from the premiere are the KyoAni Snarky Male Lead™ and the not-all-there lead female with a tragic backstory and moe pouring out her ears. The too-big sweater and glasses and her inability to cross a room without tripping over herself are just too much. Still, it’s basically a starting assumption with KyoAni’s series that the characters will be a drag; what matters is whether the rest of the show has enough upward momentum to counter that. Despite some clunky dialogue, Kyoukai no Kanata looks like it might actually be able to pull that off. Not only do we finally get to see KyoAni’s superb animation scene take on some honest-to-goodness battle animation after being teased with it in Chuunibyou, the overall atmosphere and tone of the series is a bit of a departure from their normal work. There’s something foreboding that’s not usually there, and this is a different kind of story than they usually tackle. I’ll hop on this ride for a little while and see where it takes me.
Kill la Kill
Perhaps the only show more eagerly awaited by the legions of slobbering anime fans than Kyoto Animation’s latest endeavor was Kill la Kill, the debut work from Studio Trigger. This is where the vast majority of the remaining talent at Gainax went off to after Panty and Stocking and hid out until this year, when they released the lovable and Western-cartoony Little Witch Academia and the glorious, barely-animated INFERNO COP. Kill la Kill is their first proper anime, and right out of the gate, it is a debut every bit as impressive as you would expect from the star-studded veteran Gainax team. Within minutes I was reminded of just how much I missed the direction of Hiroyuki Imaishi and his inimitable style of over-the-top, ridiculous action choreography. Delightfully gratuitous is the descriptor of choice here, with exaggerated ragdoll physics, spinning cameras, expressive angles, and a mastery of powerful impact and kinetic energy. Content-wise, many have compared it to a Go Nagai work, but I’d really only agree with that to the degree that Nagai is an influence on Imaishi himself (which, admittedly, is likely a rather large degree). This is very clearly Imaishi’s own perverse imagination running wild here, being funneled into a coherent whole by writer Kazuki Nakashima, who had the same duty on the staff of Gurren Lagann, the most sane realization to date of Imaishi’s strong but at-times-undisciplined vision. And it shows, what with the surprising amount of substance hidden behind all that style. The pacing is excitingly fast but not unmanageably so, and in between (and in) the fights, there’s plenty of foreshadowing of future plotlines (after some inevitable episodic battles, which in this context I’m more than okay with), thematic development, character establishment (however silly it may be), and a generally coherent flow to the plot that gives me confidence that these guys know what they’re doing. Perhaps the biggest complaint I can offer at this point is that there were more than a few somewhat uncomfortable moments throughout the episode, but really, when you’re dealing with this team, that’s all part of the package. In conclusion, Studio Trigger is saving anime as expected.
Well, this post turned out a little longer than I had originally intended… In any case, to further prove that I’m not dead yet, I’ll be continuing my first impressions in a series of several more catch-up posts – next up: a touch of romance.