Fall 2017 – First Impressions Part I

Well folks, buckle up and keep your hands and feet inside the ride! We’re going to take a look at the first few shows of the season (no turkeys so far) and their prospects.

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After that, a quick look at my near term schedule, how I expect the fall season to shake out, and some goals for next season.

Hit the jump and let’s dive in!

iDOLM@STER: Side M – Episode of Jupiter.

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More of an OVA than a proper episode 0 I think, Episode of Jupiter brings us back to the original iDOLM@STER universe of six years ago.  Jupiter is basically where we saw them in later episodes of the original series – newly independent and struggling to make a go of it.  Though they were a pre-fab band, they’ve come together as a team sharing a united goal to make their fans smile.  (Yeah, yeah, that’s a common trope in idol anime.)
Most of the episode revolves are two things…  First, that Jupiter can’t quite do it all on their own.  They don’t have money, contacts, or much in the way of a support system.  Second, Jupiter being courted by any number of production agencies, almost all of which seem bent on exploiting them and their former fame for profit.  The one exception is the over eager President of the newly founded 315Pro who speaks their language of passion and drive.  Even so, after their bad experiences with 961Pro they’re wary.

In the end they realize that they can’t do it on their own, and join up with 315Pro.

Overall, pretty enjoyable and it felt a lot more like the original series than the overly slick and massively corporate world of 346Pro as depicted in Cinderella Girls.  I would have preferred a story about an independent band working on their own, but that doesn’t really fit into how iDOLM@STER does things.  By the nature of the original material (the player is the Producer), it revolves around a production company.

And that’s my biggest reservation going forward.  iDOLM@STER handled the large staff of a production company very well (one of the best ever).  Cinderella Girls was a massive flop on that front.   And we know there’s a larger cast coming down the Side M pike…

But there’s also positives.  The screenshot is from a conversation among the members of Jupiter near the end of the episode…  And the conversation was of several character moments like those the original series handled so well.  The whole episode flowed very nicely.

Is iDOLM@STER back?  I sure hope so!

Verdict:  Keeper with reservations.

Love is Like a Cocktail.

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I’m… not at all sure how to describe this show.  (Wakako-zake, but with booze?)  I’m not even sure what it’s about for that matter.  But it’s a short, and it’s kinda cute, so what the heck.

Verdict: Provisional keeper.

Konohana Kitan.

Yuzu, who has lived in the country with only her guardian all her life comes to the city to work at a well established and well-regarded inn.  Sounds simple enough, right?  But, Ooohh… how cute.   There’s also hints of a more serious core that give Konohana more weight than you might think.

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From the descriptions in the publicity material Konohana seems to be meant as iyashikei and slice-of-life.  But in execution, there’s quite a bit more.  There’s some deftly done (if a bit tropish) workplace comedy.  There’s hint of workplace drama (some Hanasaku Iroha vibes).  There’s a few CGDCT (think Non Non Byori) type of moments, but not as many as you might expect from a main cast composed pretty much of CGDCT stereotypes.  There’s some friction among the cast, but also a sense of togetherness and comfortable-ness among the workers that Yuzu is joining.

In short, it’s a decently well executed show that I’m finding really hard to pin down succinctly.  But also a show that leaves me intrigued and wanting to know more.

You read it here first folks – there’s a lot of promise here, this is a show to keep an eye on.

The only thing I don’t really care much for is some excessively fan-service-y bits when the girls take their evening baths.  It’s pretty obvious their inclusion was no accident.  There isn’t quite enough to really detract from the show, but enough to be mildly annoying because it’s out-of-place with the rest of the tone.

Oh, and the backgrounds and details are gorgeous.  I had to double-check that this wasn’t a KyoAni or P.A. Works production.

Verdict: Count me in, can’t wait for next week!

WingKing, this wasn’t on your anticipation list but I have a strong feeling it’s right up your alley.

OK, all that being said…  This week is a bit of a mess between trying to get last season’s reviews done and getting the new season underway.  And I will get the season reviews done this season.  It irks me that I haven’t managed to do so in previous seasons.  I feel like I’m letting you down.  I feel like I’m letting me down.

So, I wanted to get this short set of reviews out there so I can concentrate on season reviews before getting slammed with new shows on Friday and Saturday.  I want the decks as clear as possible because those two days have a number of important premieres.  To that end, I’m slipping this week’s Worth Reading into next week.  It was a bit thin anyhow, what with everyone else stuck in the same double workload I am.

Looking forward, I’ve updated my schedule page and it looks like the best day for posting is going to be in the Tuesday-Thursday timeframe.  I’ve tried Monday before, and it just doesn’t work…  Too many post weekend chores, and the weekend is ‘our’ time so I don’t want to spend it writing.  Once I’ve settled on a posting day for my episodic reviews (which takes priority over all other content), then I see where Worth Reading fits and resume regular posting.

I hope to get more feature content out this season too…  But I also have to strike a balance (and I have household chores!).  Puzzle Pirates recently came out with a new version and I’ve been enjoying that in the evening.  I’ve also spent months working out how I want my next game of Kerbal Space Program to run, and I want to get back to that.  Not to mention time with my wife, time to experiment in the kitchen, work on my backlog of photographs to edit, etc…

My little Lego pirate in all his finery…
A space station in Kerbal Space Program.

Man, I can get wordy sometimes!

Anyhow, drop me a comment on the premieres you’ve seen so far and what you think!

12 thoughts on “Fall 2017 – First Impressions Part I”

  1. The Idolm@ster one was fun, but I don’t know what to expect from the series proper. I’ll see how far I get. Idol shows aren’t really my thing. (Oddly enough, I preferred Cinderella Girls to the original series.)

    The cocktail show was fun. The impression I get: he likes to get his wife drunk because she’s getting really cute, and she only drinks at home because she’s to embarrassed with how she gets. The one thing they can do to mess this up is by somehow devalue her “career”, but I’m not seeing that so far, so all is good.

    Kotonoha Kitan was great. I think it’s a fairly standard iyashikei series (iyashikei series often display a safe space that floats on the surface of something darker [e.g. Fu’s grief for her dead father, and later her social anxiety underlies much of Tamayura]. For iyashikei series to function as healing anime, there has to be something to “heal”. They’re rarely just relaxing. But it’s really, really well executed, and the characters are all great so far. They’re well characterised and while they fall into recognisable types you can’t really reduce them to those types. My favourite premiere so far.

    Finally, since it’s not on your list I have no troubles talking about it, I quite enjoyed the opening episode of Juuni Taisen. Battle royal type shows are hit and miss with me, but that’s quite the fast pace piece of trash, and it clearly has the Nisio Ishin touch (e.g. one of the twelve combatants is already dead when the story starts) without being bogged down by too much dialogue (which is currently the biggest pit fall I see for this show). It’s very bloody and gruesome, and the theme to play with here is obviously death. Not for everyone, but it’s the type of trash I enjoy.

    [Also, I fully expect Ancient Magus’ Bride to show up on Crunchyroll, since they already have the OVAs. It would be strange if they didn’t get the series as well.]

    Liked by 1 person

    1. For iyashikei series to function as healing anime, there has to be something to “heal”.

      Flying Witch was widely hailed as classic iyashikei, but I don’t recall any element like that. But it seems to match the definitions that I found, essentially “soothing and escapist”. (By that standard Non Non Byori also has iyashikei elements. I can’t entirely disagree.) I’d call something like Tamayura “drama” built on catharsis myself. Disclaimer: I’ve never seen it, just looked it up just now.

      But debating these things is half the fun. :) :)

      Finally, since it’s not on your list I have no troubles talking about it, I quite enjoyed the opening episode of Juuni Taisen.

      Yeah, if it’s premiered and not on my list then it’s fair game. And if you’re enjoying it, I love to hear about it!

      Ancient Magus’ Bride is on Crunchy’s seasonal lineup page (http://www.crunchyroll.com/lineup).

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      1. First the easiest thing: if you go into Tamayura expecting drama, you’re going to be disappointed. There’s no tension at all. It’s core iyashikei; everything about the show is calculated to re-assure. Catharsis needs some sort of tension that can be released; there’s little to nothing of that in Tamayura. There is development, though. You get elements like that in a lot of anime: for example, Kimi no Todoke knows very well what it’s like to be an outsider, but it spares you the nastier elements and reassures you everything’s going to be all right. There’s a darkness underlying that show, that rarely ever surfaces. But at the same time, the show is just… re-assuring. That’s, I think, one of the ways iyashikei works. But Kimi ni Todoke compliments the story of a slow but steady growth with a (IMO) rather superficial romance plot, and that gives it a different focus: it’s a bait-and-switch method, that works pretty well. Tamayura, on the other hand, sends Fu out to take photos, and that’s the way she heals.

        Shows like Flying Witch have no such character, but the methodology is pretty much the same: you slow down and give yourself time. Because of that, there’s really no sense of darkness in that show at all. Non Non Biyori actually gives a better sense of the underlying melancholy, no matter how goofy the show can sometimes be. Flying Witch, for example, has no character that I can think of that you could compare to the Candy Store owner. It’s not a stretch, I think, to consider Non Non Biyori iyashikei.

        The question is twofold: What sort of things do you think “heals”? And when do these elements dominate a show? I’ve often been a bit confused about the way these terms are used. I sometimes feel iyashikei and slice-of-life are used synonymously.

        Kotonoha Kitan is definitely in that ball park, though. One way to look at it is how it handles plot and tension. You’ve compared the show to Hanasaku Iroha, and it’s a good comparison, because there are many things the shows have in common. But there’s a greater sense of struggle in Hanasaku Iroha. We start with Ohana’s situation, then she has problems coming to terms with her new “job” (especially with her grandmother and with Minko). Compare that to Kotonoha Kitan, where our main character also has to fit in. It’s not quite smooth sailing, but the manager is stern for about three seconds, before you see her kind side, and the girl’s who’s made to take care of her may not be openly inviting, but she’s no Minko. There’s less a sense of struggle, and more a sense of exploration and learning. There aren’t any major set backs. Tension is relieved almost immediately, and some of the underlying issues (such as our main characters homesickness) are generally treated with tenderness (like when the other girl wipes away our sleeping main character’s tear). It’s all brief, and it’s all right. It’s to early to tell whether the show will become more dramatic than that, but if I had to place a bet, it’s that what you get in the first episode is the extent of it, with maybe one or two episodes near the beginning of third third of the show delving deeper (but maybe not).

        I’m don’t really think a strict definition of iyashikei should be the goal here; but I do think that the more serious elements you mention are part and parcel of the genre.

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      2. As I understand it, the goal of iyashikei is to induce a calm/relaxed state in the viewer. It’s the sort of thing if you’re a Japanese salaryman that you can come home and watch and it’ll help you de-stress and clear your mind after 12 hours of working at your dead-end corporate job. Aria is pretty much considered the poster series for that type of show, but I’ve seen the label applied to everything from everyday SOL shows like Non Non Biyori and Gourmet Girl Graffiti, to shows that have deeper/more thoughtful undercurrents to them like Haibane Renmei and even Mushishi. Of course, people are always going to disagree on where exactly the line should be drawn.
        I think this blog post does a good job of exploring what elements go into iyashikei and what makes it work: https://floatingintobliss.wordpress.com/2017/05/27/iyashikei-the-genre-of-healing-an-attempt-at-a-definition/

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      3. @Dawnstorm

        The question is twofold: What sort of things do you think “heals”? And when do these elements dominate a show? I’ve often been a bit confused about the way these terms are used. I sometimes feel iyashikei and slice-of-life are used synonymously.

        I’m in the same ballpark – until about Flying Witch aired last year, I’d never heard the term iyashikei. Now, it seems to be everywhere and displacing the formerly current term SOL. My gut feeling is that while they overlap, they aren’t the same thing. I just can’t put my finger on why that is.

        I’m don’t really think a strict definition of iyashikei should be the goal here; but I do think that the more serious elements you mention are part and parcel of the genre.

        Part of the problem I’m having is that I haven’t seen the bulk of the shows people keep introducing as examples of iyashikei. This means I lack the necessary vocabulary. (That’s on me, not anyone else.) So I can’t think of any shows that I’d call iyashikei that contain significant more serious elements.

        Few shows of course fit purely and neatly into one box – Sailor Moon for example is always stuffed into the ‘Magical Girl’ box, but has strong ‘coming-of-age’ and ‘romance’ elements as well. In the same way, Hanasaku Iroha is a drama and a coming-of-age story. I think I’m reading too much into the similarity of settings and ignoring the glaring differences. There’s certainly CvC in both shows, but there’s much less sense of CvE in Konohana. (Coining terms here, and borrowing from gaming – Character VS Character and Character VS Environment.) I think we’ll have to wait and see what direction Konohana goes in, but I stand by my prediction… this is a show to keep an eye on.

        @WingKing

        I’ve read that blog post many times, and I still can’t entirely wrap my head around it. Abstract thinking does not always come easily to me.

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  2. You know you’ve risen up to D-list celebrity status when you start getting name-dropped in someone else’s blog posts! I did just pick up a Strike subscription in anticipation of Yuki Yuna’s premiere, so I’m going to be looking first at shows I can watch on that platform while I have it (since I don’t plan on keeping it past December), but I’ll keep Konohana in mind if I have time for it. Appreciate the rec, though!

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    1. If a D-list blogger name-drops you, I think the magnitude of change in your celebrity status might not be as great as you think! :) :)

      Sure, you’ll want to make the most of what you’re spending on Strike. I’m curious to see your thoughts on what you watch.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. But… But I liked Cinderella girls. :'(

    Kidding aside, I find it amusing that 315’s producer is following the faceless gag of 961’s producer. In a way, one thing that has estranged the anime spin-offs from the video games is that the former has to give a “face” to P-kun in order to set some kind of dynamic between the idols. Utilizing sheer attitude (i.e. YOU CAN DO IT JUPITER-CHAN!) instead of a palpable face is an interesting tactic, but I hope they don’t overdo it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I didn’t necessarily dislike Cinderella girls, in fact some parts were quite good. (Such as Miku and Riina choosing to name their unit ‘‘ and why. Ranko’s episode was a gem, one of the best of the series.) It’s just, as I explained on your blog, I feel that overall they didn’t manage the huge cast so well. This stands in stark contrast to *iM@S, which (to me) is practically a textbook case on managing a large cast.

      That’s why I’ve loved the heck out of SideM, it feels so much like all the things they did right in the first series. (More on that in this week’s review, coming in a few hours.)

      Liked by 1 person

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