And so begins a new feature to ramp up our already awesome anime content here at Monkeys Fighting Robots. In Anime of the Week, I’ll be reviewing the best show of the week from the handful that I’m currently watching and we’ll also take a look at a few other categories too, like the week’s most disappointing show and predictions for next week. So without further ado…
Classroom Crisis–the first full-length series from animation company Lay-duce (produced by Aniplex)–is considerably less impressive than the best series of the recently wrapped Spring season, but its merits lie in its potential, much like its fellow Summer-season compatriots.
Classroom Crisis‘ premiere follows two converging storylines, one involving a group of high school students enrolled at Kirishina Academy–a facility for students to learn about and build rockets–and another showcasing the A-TEC corporation in the middle of a ransom threat. Countless characters fill out the cast, with a slightly ineffectual instructor–Kaito Sera–a reckless, ace pilot–Iris Shirasaki–and a coldly aloof business entrepreneur/mysterious badass–Nagisa Kiryu–as the series’ leads.
From the get-go, Classroom Crisis plays up the difference in scope between its separate storylines, with the classic “girl-almost-late-to-school” trope defining the relatively mundane existence–at least so far–of the Academy crew, while an epic musical score raises the stakes of the corporate chicanery over at A-TEC. It’s indicative of what Classroom Crisis itself is seemingly interested in; the ill effects of business practices on people who are attempting to make the world a better place. We see this in the twist at the end of the episode, which I won’t quite reveal, but which certainly ties the Kirishina Academy directly to the business interests of A-TEC.
With this connection, Classroom Crisis is able to cleverly comment on the business aspects of classic science-fiction anime scenarios, like a scene in which Iris takes a prototype rocket–the X-2–out into the cosmos in order to save the day. She quickly runs into an issue with the rocket’s boosters and is forced to jettison the boosters into space. One of the young members of the Kirishina Academy–watching Iris from a decked out control panel–yells out in frustration, “Our 800 million dollar boosters…”. It’s a line that defiantly places Classroom Crisis in the realm of “hard sci-fi”, pointing out the potential realities of such a fanciful project. With so much of today’s anime sci-fi based in the fantastical, it’s nice to see a show that’s a throwback in some ways to something like the Patlabor films, reveling in the mundanity and thoughtful consideration of the real world’s weighty impact on such inventive thoughts and ideas. It’s not as simple as saying, “Boy, oh boy, aren’t mechs great? Let’s build ’em!”, when profits rule the game, and Classroom Crisis wants us to consider that.
Admittedly, I’m chatting a lot about the message and storytelling of this series without letting on to more; there’s a reason for that. See, in all its thoughtful ideas and interesting concepts, Classroom Crisis presents some seriously bland characters. Kaito isn’t particularly engaging, and both Iris and Nagisa feel like character tropes we’re seeing for the umpteenth time; variations on the “loose cannon” and the “bad boy” types. I can only hope that with such a large cast, the main issue here is that the character’s need more time to stretch out and make themselves known. Also, while the general animation–backgrounds, space flights and action scenes–is at times phenomenal to look at, the character designs leave much to be desired. They certainly aren’t the worst, considering this is Lay-duce’s first full-length series, but the artistry here feels almost as vanilla as the characters’ personalities . The designs deliver relatively unexpressive characters that lack the soul that better designs could provide, making for an experience that is missing a level of “heart” amongst its more successful aspirations.
And yet, I’m still brought back to potential. Classroom Crisis has it in spades, at least for this sci-fi fan. The series promises–or so I hope–to critique economic factors in creativity and the development of ideas, as well as the effect corporations have on individuals–it’s only a few letters away from Class Crisis, after all. The characters have every reason to organically grow from here–becoming more three-dimensional and interesting to watch–and the character designs themselves could get better too… right? Alright, so maybe not so much to that last one, but Classroom Crisis is still a winner amongst a field of dubious entrants.
Runner Up: Snow White with the Red Hair – Ep. 1
Animation studio Bones’ new series, Snow White with the Red Hair, is instantly likable, both for its fairytale quaintness and for how well it lands what it’s going for. At times, this premiere feels almost Ghibli-like in it’s sweetness, though the overall writing/directing of the show never comes close to the work of the famed film studio. Snow White‘s animation on the other hand, is beautiful at times, starting off with a gorgeous scene in the forest. It’s eye-candy with a decently entertaining story and characters that you don’t want to strangle within the first five minutes. Snow White isn’t aiming to shake up the anime industry, but it’s storytelling for the sake of storytelling; the medium at its purest.
Biggest Surprise: Monster Musume – Ep. 1
As our own Logan Peterson got across in his in-depth review of Monster Musume‘s premiere episode, on its face, this new series from Lerche studios doesn’t attempt to be more than it is; a fun ecchi romp for horny otaku. However, that simple goal belies the fact that the central relationship in Musume is actually incredibly sweet, compared to much more abusive/dominating relationships in other such series. Miia, the monster/snake girl that winds up on our hero’s doorstep, doesn’t fall for him–Kimihito–because she thinks he’s a Christ figure, or because she needs rescuing–see most of the last decade’s moe series–but because he tries to accept and understand her in a way that the outside world doesn’t. Most poignant, is a scene where Miia and Kimihito are out on the town together. A shallow couple comes upon them and the couple starts mocking Miia for her more monstrous qualities. A series of unfortunate events occur, leading several “normies” to start snapping pictures of Miia on their cell phones. Kimihito pulls Miia away from their prying eyes, realizing the pain she must feel from the embarrassing scene. Of course they wind up at a love hotel in the next scene, but what can you expect? Monster Musume, for all its over-the-top cleavage shots, is decidedly optimistic about love and relationships where other series are cynical. At the end of the day, if we’re going to be watching series that objectifies women, at least they can point out the importance of equal footing in a relationship so that we as an audience come away from the show with a positive and healthy message. I know that from here, Monster Musume becomes more and more of a harem show, so I can’t promise that I’ll be on board till the end, but for now the show has to be one of the best ecchi shows we’ve seen in a while.
Biggest Disappointment: Overlord – Ep. 1
I’ve never been all that excited about these “welcome to the game, bro” series, where the protagonist gets sucked inside a game world that they have to fight their way out of, or die trying. Nevertheless, the fact that studio Madhouse was tied to this project, gave me a considerable bit of hope that it might be the first series in this genre worth a watch. Fairly soon into the premiere episode, it’s clear that Overlord simply isn’t interested in doing anything too ground breaking. Hang around a bit longer, and you’ll get some seriously uncomfortable boob groping, the likes of which could only excite a pre-pubescent boy in its sheer “Huh, huh, I’m touchin’ a boob” ethos. Overlord has a few interesting moments–people growing up and moving on from virtual worlds, the meaning of an abandoned digital landscape, etc.–but it floats right past them in order to play in an extremely amateurish sandbox. I’ll probably keep watching the show until episode three, in case something revolutionary happens, but I’m certainly not holding my breath.
Predictions for Next Week
I’m hoping that a good number of these series shape up next week, making for a more well-rounded Summer season–as it stands, I’m only REALLY enjoying three or four of these shows. I’m expecting Rampo Kitan: Game of Laplace to come into its own, for one. Its premiere episode was certainly intriguing–it often felt like a mix between a Lynchian nightmare and something out of the Persona series–but it didn’t present its characters in an engaging way, leaving me with a cold feeling towards the show. Similarly, Gangsta SHOULD be an awesome show, but it landed dead on arrival for me, with walking anime tropes for characters that brought little of interest to the table. I expect it to pick up the pieces though, as Manglobe–the series’ animation studio–has put out some truly inventive works in the past, such as the recent Samurai Flamenco. Lastly, while Seiyu’s Life initially felt like a cheap Shirobako knock off, by the end of the episode, I found it to be charming in its own right and at least half as interesting as its more impressive cohort. The mechanics it uses to explain the “inside baseball” goings on in the life of a voice actor, are far less nuanced than Shirobako‘s, but at least it’s tackling a different angle of the behind-the-scenes fun.
Tune in next week to get a fresh take on what worked and what didn’t in the week in anime.
Survivors of the Week
Snow White with the Red Hair
Rampo Kitan: Game of Laplace
My Love Story
Ninja Slayer: from Animation
New Shows for Next Week
Dragon Ball Super