Vox Artes’ Spring 2017 Overview: A Kind Of Magic

Vox Artes’ Spring 2017 Overview: A Kind Of Magic

And we’re back with another season overview! Although this one is a bit short. Unfortunately, samui has left us, and I couldn’t (or simply lacked the motivation to) watch much anime last season. I only completed Tsuki ga Kirei and was ready to write about it, but Tsukelhm pretty much said it all for me. As a result, only he and our ever-reliable Yamada II wrote for this overview, and the two could only cover eight shows total (though there’s a bit of overlap between the two’s contributions). It’s a shame that series such as Attack on Titan or Uchouten Kazoku‘s second seasons couldn’t be covered, but thankfully it is only a one-off: overviews usually cover close to twenty shows, and my contributions alone should lift the coming Summer Overview a fair bit. We hope you’ll read us again when that time comes! Until then, please enjoy this small Overview of some of the remarkable (and less remarkable) series of Spring 2017.

– daysofsummer

Eromanga sensei

Yamada II

Eromanga Sensei is an anime adaptation of the novel by the same author as Oreimo. The story is about a pair of step siblings who are in the light novel business; the brother is an author and the sister is an illustrator.

With the story focusing on a brother and his sister, and it being written by Tsukasa Fushimi of Oreimo, you can expect the two siblings to love each other in a non-sibling way. Whether that’s a good thing or not depends on your fetishes. But putting that aside, Eromanga Sensei is a pretty fun show. It’s filled with colorful characters who have their weird quirks and are all amusing to watch. Sagiri is a NEET and has an innocent and a not so innocent side, Megumin loves teasing Masamune which is hilarious to watch, Masamune himself has some glorious reactions to the weirdness around him, and so on and so forth. The main driving force here is the comedy brought to you by this extremely fun cast.

There are some weird plot developments along the way with regards to some characters which are somewhat off putting as they tend to come off as forced and just for the sake of building up the harem. The incest part could have been completely replaced by Masamune trying to pursue a normal sibling relationship with his shut-in sister. He even has a number of dialogues where he says that he wants to be a brother and treat her like a sister. Though there really wasn’t any point in expecting them to not go the incest route, it disappoints us to an extent because they had the setting necessary to develop a normal relationship but they never went with it. Although they don’t make much progress with the incest stuff either after giving an obvious hint about who the two siblings love, it is pretty clear that they’re leaning towards the incest side rather than the normal relationship side.

When we come to the animation here, Eromanga Sensei looks pretty darn good. The show is filled with character acting moments which make the cast feel lively and expressive; the characters come to life with all those purposefully animated movements. Most of the character acting sakuga involves Sagiri which explains why we have a “Sagiri Animator” position here, occupied by Keisuke Kobayashi. He has most certainly done a fine job in making Sagiri cute with all those Sagiri cuts. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that this is one of the best animated shows of Spring 2017.

The cuteness in this show is unparalleled this season, proof of which is how Eromanga Sensei characters (mainly Sagiri) literally filled Pixiv from the day it started airing. This level of cuteness was achieved through the amazing animation and the variety of camera angles. The kawaiiness is so much that it kinda takes focus off what the anime really wanted to show regarding the two siblings achieving their dream together. Probably everyone who watched this show watched it for the cuteness, which is only part of what the show intended to achieve.

In the end, Eromanga Sensei probably doesn’t have what it takes to replace Oreimo as the next big incest show (unless it gets a sequel and we see their relationship progress), but it still is a very enjoyable show with great comedy, a really fun cast, and lots and lots of sakuga.

Dungeon ni Deai o Motomeru no wa Machigatteiru Darou ka Gaiden: Sword Oratoria

Yamada II

Danmachi Sword Oratoria is a spin-off series to the original Danmachi, which focuses on Ais Wallenstein rather than Bell Cranel and Hestia. But instead of being some side story in another time-line or parallel universe, it takes place in the same time-line as the original Danmachi, instead showing different events taking place surrounding Ais of the Loki Familia. This makes things interesting as we see events happening which were only hinted at in the original.

Unlike the story of bell Cranel where we saw him grow stronger, the story of Ais isn’t about her getting stronger; it’s about her past. But nothing surrounding her is interesting at all. Ais is a taciturn emotionless character which makes following her a chore–at least Bell had a hyperactive Hestia with him to make things interesting even if his character wasn’t the best out there. Ais’ character is established from the beginning and she doesn’t gain any emotions or any new friends or anything. Everything about her is already there except for her past, and the way they bring about things related to her parents is hardly worth anything.

The other characters are hardly worth anything either. The other main character is the elf Leyfia, who also wants to get stronger. But she’s not exactly worth following either, since the only thing that stands out about her is her homosexual love for Ais, which doesn’t exactly make her special or anything. The other characters barely get any focus as the show sticks with Ais and Leyfia, the latter of which starts getting less focus as the show progresses.

Sword Oratoria also has some pretty average animation as a whole. There aren’t any terrible shots or cuts with poor animation, but it doesn’t look mind-blowing at any point either. There are a handful of short sequences of brilliance but they’re overall pretty reserved in this regard. There are some short instances of badassery along the way to make things occasionally interesting, but the badass characters feel like they’re only here to be cool for a few minutes in the entire show as they don’t get any significant screen time apart from that. Some shows tend to use their animation or some badassery to make up for where they lack, but it appears that they didn’t bother to do any of that here.

All in all, Sword Oratoria is outright boring with its main flaw being how it follows such an uninteresting girl and its portrayal of many of the so-called “mysteries” about her. There isn’t anything interesting about the main character and those around her which could grab your attention.

Tsukelhm

Back in 2015 the high-quality studio J.C staff brought us an adaptation of one of many light novels with incredibly long names that aren’t worth even writing, Danmachi; said novel told the story of a young adventurer called Bell Cranel in a fantasy world where gods from various mythologies descended to earth, forming guilds and raising ‘heroes’ to conquer huge dungeons placed near the cities mankind lived in. This show gained a lot of popularity not because of great writing or stunning direction, and definitely not because of deep characters or amazing sound design (although to be fair, it had a pretty nice voice cast); it earned its name because of Hestia’s design as a mixture between loli and busty genki-girl that usually wore a scantly white one-piece mini skirt with a big back cleavage and a blue boob ribbon…yup, that’s why.

However, Sword Oratoria is not about the same boy as he becomes stronger and meets girls in a dungeon, but about the girl who inspired him to go out and do that: Aiz Wallenstein. She’s a member of the Loki guild and a powerful fighter that doesn’t know a lot about her past but spends her days training and trying to grow stronger because why not. The young swordswoman is the usual quiet beauty archetype and pretty much all her guildmates love her, or at least look up to her. Note that this anime is not a retelling of the 2015 show, but rather a side story that provides some insight on another character’s life as well as giving her point of view on some events that took place in the original.

For someone who has watched the first installment, it should come as no surprise that the animation and effects in this show are really bad, growing worse as the show progresses, to the point of static fire backgrounds, one-colored effects and disappearing gloves from scene to scene. While the story is significantly better this time around, we still don’t get a clear picture of the world’s structure and bad guys’ motivations. The Loki family looks way better than Hestia’s under the spotlight given the big cast of characters and their ties to the actual story, but for the most part they come off as flat and simple until Bell Cranel’s name shows up again late on. It’s sad how bad the plot is treated considering the decent world building and steady progression this show has. On a more positive note, the sound aspect is noteworthy; the music composition is not outstanding but it goes well with each scene and does the work it’s intended to. The voice cast is pretty good; with Tione (Takahashi Minami) and Tiona (Murakawa Rie) being the best by far, followed by Bete (Okamoto Nobuhiko) and some brief appearances by Hestia and Bell (Minase Inori and Matsuoka Yoshitsugu). The opening song by Iguchi Yuka is as catchy and happy as always, and the ending by Kano shows once again why more utaites should receive the chance to perform anime themes.

Sword Oratoria is an improvement overall from the original show of Danmachi, which is not that hard considering how that one was, and it’s something you should definitely check out if you were interested in the world of Orario but annoyed by Hestia and Bell’s bland story…or if you like silent knight heroines that make even young elves fall in love with them.

Fukumenkei Noise

Tsukelhm

Being a show about a high school girl reuniting with one of her elementary days crushes and joining his band as she keeps singing for her first love, it’s easy to expect a melodramatic and fairly common triangular romance in Fukumenkei Noise, and that’s exactly what we get. The only difference is that this time around the topic is music, but the main heroine’s love interests just happen to be both prominent composers in the alternative Japanese rock world. Fukumenkei Noise plays out just as one would expect from just reading its synopsis.

We get average animation and weird elongated visual designs reminiscent of CLAMP’s style; coupled with a straightforward story that goes extremely slowly and only picks up around episode 7, after reusing a lot of shots and scenes from the heroine’s childhood. The CG shots for the band performances are not amazing, but they’re at least a good try even though the directing of said scenes is for the most part simple and bland with many ‘guitar neck’ shots. The comedy does not help either as many of the jokes feel out of place or are really not that funny overall. The music composition is fine for the most part, using simple melodies and catchy rhythms does the job, and the OP and ED are fairly enjoyable and worth the listen. However, the voice cast is pretty bad as almost the entire cast feels off, especially Hayami Saori’s Arisugawa Nino and Yamashita Daiki’s Yuzuriha Kanade, who are the main characters; their performances should be the ones that lift the show. Fukuyama Jun is pretty much the only one that’s actually good and while the rest of the performances aren’t out of character, they clash with the overall feel of the show way too often. Hayami Saori’s singing is amazing but her style and voice color struggle to give an alternative rock vibe and as a result, even later in the show when her character is supposed to have learned and be on a professional level, her voice goes against the song compositions as it sounds way too melodic and clear compared to the tracks she’s singing; she’s really good at portraying an amateur singer with no vocal technique though, we’ll give her that.

In short, there’s no real reason to watch this anime as it’s not an original plot development, it has average animation and “not-Kids-on-the-slope-level” performance portrayals (although it’s not as bad as Fuuka with that) and while the music is catchy and enjoyable at best and the ending is fairly decent, there are way better things to watch or read within the musical genre. So if you were interested in Fukumenkei Noise for its musical setting just do yourself a favor and skip it, go watch BECK or Kids on the Slope; or go and read visual novels like Kira*Kira or DEARDROPS instead.

GRANBLUE FANTASY The Animation

Yamada II

Granblue Fantasy is an anime based on a mobile game of the same name. It follows the journey of Gran as he gets involved with a mysterious girl on the run from the government. The show is typical fantasy adventure material as it has everything you would expect from a show of this genre. In typical fantasy adventure style, Gran and friends travel to different places, meet different people, run into all sorts of troubles, help solve problems, and end up with new crew members.

But Granblue Fantasy isn’t exactly an outstanding show. It’s kind of good, but it never gets better than that at any point. The characters are all okay; they’re not bad (except for the mascot Vyrn who shouldn’t exist because he sounds and acts annoying), but they don’t come off as special or anything. They’re largely forgettable which is seen by how easily the MC is replaced in the last episode by someone completely different and it didn’t make much of a difference (it becomes better in fact that way). The story itself about Lyria, her past, her troubles etc. is passable at best. They fail in making her story worthwhile as you never find yourself intrigued enough by the things surrounding her. If anything keeps you hooked here it is the adventure itself, the world, Lyria’s cute face, and the animation, which is pretty good here.

There are a few drops in quality, especially the distant shots of the characters halfway through the series where they look somewhat poorly drawn, but those are only a few instances as the show is generally good looking. The line-art is especially fascinating; the somewhat broken lines for the character outlines and the insane amount of lines for the hairs at times (most notably in the opening sequence) is really appealing to the eye. There aren’t that many instances of fighting animation, but when there is, we get some exciting sequences with amazing background animation, great effects, and smooth movements.

The world of Granblue Fantasy is vast and diverse. The background art is generally quite solid and the different places Gran and friends travel to are vastly different from each other which gives the necessary variety to the world here.

Granblue Fantasy stays by the book with whatever it does and as such, doesn’t come off as anything special or different from the rest. It does have its moments with its animation and some story events, but they aren’t enough to make this show really stand out from the pack.

Little Witch Academia (TV)

Yamada II

After the success of the Little Witch Academia OVAs, TRIGGER went on to produce a full length 2 cour TV anime for it. The story for the TV anime and the OVAs only have the basic idea of Akko wanting to become a witch after watching Shiny Chariot in common. Otherwise they’re completely separate from each other and knowledge of the OVAs is not necessary to enjoy this TV version.

As we’ve said already, the story is about a young girl wanting to become a great witch after watching a Shiny Chariot performance. It sounds like a typical shounen anime if you compare its premise with the currently airing My Hero Academia, for instance.

With TRIGGER helming the production, Little Witch Academia has all the quirks and styles which make a typical TRIGGER anime. The animation is generally on par with what we saw in the OVAs, which looked amazing. If there’s a downgrade here then it’s the backgrounds which pale in comparison to Studio Pablo’s work in the OVAs. Studio Pablo is well-known for their amazing background and their absence in this TV rendition is really felt as Bihou couldn’t exactly manage the same outstanding quality as Pablo.

One really fascinating thing here is the world. Like how we use electricity, these witches use magic for everything and them losing magic to run their stuff being the equivalent of us having a power outage is quite interesting. Another thing about the world of Little Witch Academia is that magic is now declining with the advancements in technology and all. Magic used to do a lot of things which now modern technology can do. And Akko wants to bring magic back to its former glory by following in Chariot’s footsteps.

Little Witch Academia predominantly consists of episodic adventures where we see the show’s world and Akko as she causes trouble or runs into trouble and the hilarity that ensues. Through its largely episodic first half we see different sides of Akko and learn about her character as we see her change ever so slightly. The second half is where the plot starts to kick in, but even then it takes some time for things to actually get serious. They don’t stumble in their transition from episodic hilarity mode to serious story mode as this move feels quite subtle. Their story has some clichés in its development, but their execution is good enough to make it all enjoyable.

One thing Little Witch Academia really succeeds at is Akko’s character. She is impatient, hasty, stubborn, sticks her nose in other people’s business, wreaks havoc everywhere she goes, and so on, but they manage to make her into such a character who you just want to see succeed; you can’t help but root for her. Akko fails a billion times but is still back up for another try. It’s this persistence of hers, along with how she tends to get treated for being from a non-magic background, which makes her someone you want to support. She’s the main driving force here and most of your enjoyment depends on how much you like this girl.

The other main characters are also interesting here. Diana is set up as the main opposition to Akko; whereas Akko is a newbie at magic and has to try hard, Diana has everything from the start. Both are portrayed as polar opposites. But despite all that, Diana is a pretty likable character. Akko’s friends are also somewhat interesting, but they don’t get enough screen time as the show only focuses on Akko, which is a slight bummer.

Being predominantly episodic, there are some episodes in between which don’t have the same level of hilarity and ridiculousness many other episodes have. And being a TV anime, there are some compromises, with a few laid-back episodes in between with average animation. But when the episodes have either great animation or high quality comedy, they really are a treat to watch.

Little Witch Academia may have a few hiccups along the way, but they’re not enough to make for some significant quality drops. It is a thoroughly entertaining show with a fun cast, generally solid animation, plenty of mind-blowing sakuga (just look at the finale), amazing opening and ending sequences, a number of beautiful scenes, and overall consistency in whatever it does.

Shuumatsu Nani Shitemasu ka? Isogashii desu ka? Sukutte Moratte Ii desu ka?

Yamada II

SukaSuka is an anime with an unbelievably long name about a man responsible for taking care of some young girls who fight to protect the world. It sounds like a battle harem show about a lolicon and his loli harem, but that is not what this show is about at all.

These young girls aren’t normal girls; they’re weapons, are treated as such, and think of themselves as such too. Willem is the only human alive and as the show progresses, his dark past comes back to haunt him as he is about lose those he cares about.

SukaSuka has lighthearted comedy moments which are greatly contrasted with serious dark moments as we start to learn about the nature and eventual fate of the young girls. The main thing in this show is the fate of these girls, how they treat it and Willem’s reaction to it all. We have some instances of discrimination which are interesting as the girls look human, and are discriminated against for looking like that by the animal people. It’s interesting to see the humans being called disfigured by those who are disfigured by our standards. But it doesn’t get too much focus as the girls do not care about it, which ties in with them being fully aware of their eventual fates.

There is a general theme about the importance of one’s life which is linked with the topic of family. The girls didn’t care about their lives because they were never given any importance apart from their usefulness as weapons. Willem comes in and changes things a bit by becoming the father figure they never had. He gives them a family and some love, and that teaches them the importance of their lives. SukaSuka really does a good job with this, mainly through focusing on Chtolly and Willem’s relationship, which is really good to watch.

The other characters barely get any focus. They make Ren and Ithea out to be the second most important girls after Chtolly, but they barely get any meaningful screen time. You don’t end up getting attached to them even though some end up being important later on. The only good characters here are Willem and Chtolly, and that’s because they’re the main characters and get their due focus. They manage some emotional punches with this pair of characters.

The world of SukaSuka is quite interesting and as the show progresses we learn the actual reasons behind everything in this world–from the weapons to the reason why everyone lives on floating islands to why humans have gone extinct–which does successfully grab our
interest. Satelight also throws in some stunning animation from time to time as most of the girls’ fighting scenes are well animated. They don’t go overboard with ridiculous camera movements or incredible speeds, but the motions in general during the fights are fluid and good enough to make you watch them again.

SukaSuka has got issues with its plot progression at times but that isn’t the focus of this show anyway; it successfully manages to develop a good relationship between Chtolly and Willem which was its original target. Its themes are there and get the necessary focus. It’s an enjoyable show overall, with more positives than negatives, and an emotional ending to leave a mark.

Tsuki ga Kirei

Tsukelhm

Romance is an important part of entertainment, we tend to look for it in many pieces of media we consume; whether it’s a conscious choice or not, we generally crave for romantic developments between the characters we grow to like in a story. We see this in anime too, as in past seasons we’ve gotten many shows with romantic elements that we sometimes take for granted or even overlook. From good romantic comedies like School Rumble and Full Metal Panic Fumoffu, to the romance rollercoasters with convoluted relations like Toradora or Ano Natsu de Matteru and going through touching love stories with sci-fi or fantasy elements like Clannad, Steins; Gate, Kyoukai no Kanata and Ef. But we’ve also seen more and more romantic stories with real life settings and “normal” relationships, like Ore Monogatari, Isshuukan Friends or Hyouka. Tsuki ga Kirei falls into the latter category, airing a season after Seiren and Fuuka, and in the same one as Fukumenkei Noise. It’s hard not to point out how strikingly different it is from those shows even though they fall into the same category: romance.

The story follows an average Japanese high school boy, Azumi Kotarou, as he prioritizes his writing hobby over his studies. Azumi spends his days going to school and attending hayashi practice, where he’s one of the main dancers that take part in the festival parade, while also putting a lot of time into his dream of becoming a novelist. As the school sports festival grows closer, he gets put in charge of the sports equipment alongside his classmate Mizuno Akane, who’s a track and field club member with good grades and impressive running records. They both grow closer through LINE, and face the common day difficulties of their relationship as well as the decisions they make in life.

From a technical standpoint, Tsuki ga Kirei has pretty bad animation. While the color hues and visual designs are easy on the eyes and help the viewer connect with the characters, there’s little actual animation in many shots and there are some straight up awful CG scenes that are just embarrassing to look at. The plot moves too slowly and the characters aren’t anything special as we’ve seen many iterations of the unconfident high school boy and nervous girl; but what this show lacks on those aspects it makes up for by excelling at everything else. There’s an impressive attention to detail in every shot, from the scene composition and editing and down to the sound design and voice acting.

The way each scene and shot is built in this show makes it easier for the viewer to relate to the characters and their emotions; we feel the anxiety and nervousness of Akane as she fidgets with her squeeze toy before a race, we get Azumi’s hopelessness and worries as he looks for novels to read for inspiration. The script and interactions also play a huge deal in how we connect with the characters, as they interact with each other in believable ways. Alongside the visuals, the background music and the foley play a huge role in supporting each scene as the sound effects are always on point and accurate, helping the viewer feel part of the scene that’s being portrayed. Finally, the voice acting is great; particularly the supporting roles are an amazing display of youthful playfulness and naivety, topped off by how much both Kohara Konomi and Chiba Shouya better their performances along with the development of their characters’ relationship. The way the sound and visuals match and complement each other in this show is what makes it way better than any of the average baffling romance shows like Fuuka or Seiren. This show demonstrates that there’s no need for a convoluted story or overuse of clichés for a good show with a romance story.

Overall, Tsuki ga Kirei is a great romance show that has a slow start but a brilliant execution and a really satisfying development. Anyone that is fond of the romance genre should watch this anime, as it does well what many average romantic based shows don’t; it catches the audience and conveys the emotions of the characters with smart directing, visual and sound designs.

Zero kara Hajimeru Mahou no Sho

Yamada II

Grimoire of Zero is a fantasy adventure anime about a beast man and a witch as they travel across the lands in hopes that the beast may turn into a human if he helps the witch. It bears a lot of resemblance to Spice and Wolf, except we have a cat man instead of a cute wolf girl, and that there’s magic here instead of economics and business.

Grimoire of Zero shines when it is all about Zero and the Mercenary’s relationship. This is the only thing the show never fails at. Beastfallen and witches are mortal enemies, but here we have a relationship develop between these two. Zero teases the Mercenary in different ways at first, and gradually the typical reaction he would give turns atypical as he gets somewhat sarcastic himself and learns how to deal with Zero. Their relationship starts from Zero only being his employer to the two becoming so close that they can’t stay apart. Zero had been in a cave all this time and the Mercenary becomes her companion as she travels to different places, sees new things, eats different foods and all that. Their relationship is really a joy to watch.

The world of Grimoire of Zero is also fairly interesting. They have their technicalities in the difference between sorcery and magic and develop these as two completely different things. In this world, witches and beastfallen aren’t well-received by normal humans and that gets some focus too. In fact, the whole plot of this cartoon is the bad relationship between humans and witches as they later fight for their rights in an all-out war. The world is quite well constructed.

Where Grimoire of Zero stumbles is in its transition from laid-back relationship developing to its serious plot. And after that, there are some developments which feel contrived and poorly executed. But the episodes following that are quite exciting as the war starts to come to an end and we see the role our main cast plays in ending it. But even then, its plot ends up being relatively less interesting and you end up wanting more of Zero and the Mercenary’s chemistry. We end up feeling that Grimoire of Zero would have been better had it stuck with showing Zero and the Mercenary’s relationship and kept the plot secondary throughout, rather than give it the focus it gets in the end. The plot does come in quite late but that’s not an issue more than the plot itself.

Visually, Grimoire of Zero is as average as it gets. It doesn’t get horrendous like Tsuki ga Kirei gets all the time, but it is in no way up there with My Hero Academia or Eromanga Sensei in terms of visuals.

Overall, Grimoire of Zero excels with the relationship between the two main characters, but loses points with its plot progression and everything else related to it.

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daysofsummer

Admin, Editor, Writer at Vox Artes
19-year-old French dude. I may or may not run this place. I'm a Love Liver who's obsessed with Kousaka Honoka. I also like to talk about pretentious books so I can pretend I'm an intellectual or something like that.
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