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8:00 AM on 04.16.2014

First Impressions: Inugami-san to Nekoyama-san

Normally, I don't like reviewing shorts because it's really difficult to get a full review out of something that's less than five minutes long. Every so often though, you come across a short that manages to pack a ton of laug...

LB Bryant


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First Impressions: Love Live School Idol Project Season 2 photo
First Impressions: Love Live School Idol Project Season 2
by LB Bryant

It's been around a year since the last time we saw the girls from Otonokizaka High School and a lot has changed in that time. The nine girls are still school idols, but now Honoka has stepped up to become the new student council president. More importantly though, it seems that after a successful first event there will be a second Love Live competition for school idol groups to participate in and everyone wants to enter...except Honoka that is. For the entire first episode, the girls try to figure out why Honoka doesn't want to enter the competition and how they can change her mind.

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First Impressions: Black Bullet photo
First Impressions: Black Bullet
by LB Bryant

Taking place in the not too distant future, humanity has been infected with giant bugs called Gastrea. These bugs attack humans and infect them with a virus which then turns the victims into giant bugs themselves. There is no cure. The only defense that humans have against these attacks are cursed children: young girls who were infected with the virus while still in the womb. These girls are born with superhuman physical capabilities and are able to fight off the Gastrea, with the help of their 'promoters,' or normal humans who keep them in check. This series is about one such pairing: a loli is named Enju and her promoter Satomi Rentaro, who lost his parents ten years earlier in a great war. 

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First Impressions: Soul Eater NOT photo
First Impressions: Soul Eater NOT
by Jeff Chuang

When Soul Eater first rushed on to the screens and shelves of North America years ago, it brought along a fun story about Meisters with special powers who team up with Weapons who are also people with special powers. Its stylish visuals and shounen battle formula made for easy watching with some attractive characters. Soul Eater NOT, a spin-off manga-turned-anime, picks up the main thing Soul Eater left on the table: its setting.

In that sense, Soul Eater NOT is everything like Soul Eater: you have this crazy school full of people with super powers, people fight, and it's hardly what you'd expect of an everyday life sort of existence. In Soul Eater NOT, people still turn into weapons and students study to better hone their powers at school. Soul Eater NOT is, however, everything Soul Eater is not about: a few school kids getting along and growing up together, without the pressure of having to save the world.

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First Impressions: Mekakucity Actors photo
First Impressions: Mekakucity Actors
by Chris Walden

"Oh hey, a Shaft show! I didn't end up watching Nisekoi, so I'll be sure to watch this."

This was the only reason I decided to pick up Mekakucity Actors. I had no idea that I was diving into what seems like a reasonably well-established fandom, involving a bunch of Vocaloid songs and the stories that they may or may not be telling. 

I still haven't listened to any of these songs, or attempted to figure out what the deal is with this fandom, as I figured it'd be better to just go in blind. Or at least, as blind as the people I follow on Twitter would allow me to be. 

The hype reached a fever pitch when it aired on Saturday, and while screenshots of Vocaloid-y looking characters began to trickle onto my timeline, I was busy wondering whether this was going to be another Black Rock Shooter

Nah, I think we're okay. Shaft is handling it, after all!

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First Impressions: Baby Steps photo
First Impressions: Baby Steps
by Karen Mead

I really wish I was good at tennis. It's really the only professional sport that I have a lot of familiarity with, since my Mom often watched professional tournaments on TV dating back to when I was very young. I remember seeing Michael Chang score his famous, around-the-net Match Point in...what was it? 1995? Wow, I feel old, let's move on.

I've tried playing, but I just don't seem to be cut out for it. There's something wonky with my depth perception or something, so I always stick out my racket to where I think the ball is, only to be wrong and miss entirely. I don't know, maybe this is a correctable problem and I'm just too lazy to put in the requisite practice, but I've pretty much given up on ever playing seriously at this point. Now, with Baby Steps, I can explore the possibility of a world where I was not too lazy to learn how to hit that darn ball properly, and it's pretty neat.

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First Impressions: The Comic Artist and His Assistants photo
First Impressions: The Comic Artist and His Assistants
by Karen Mead

I wanted to like this. Maybe it's just due to super-fond memories of Doujin Work, but I have a bias towards any anime that happens to be about making comic books. So even though I knew this was going to be a series about a pervy comic artist that was going to be all pervy jokes about boobs and panties, I was hoping there would be a little more to it; that the humor might somehow be universal enough that I could still enjoy it, even though I get nothing out of the fanservice. Well, the short answer is, there's nothing more to it; it's just fanservice and jokes that aren't very funny.

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First Impressions: Is the Order a Rabbit? photo
First Impressions: Is the Order a Rabbit?
by Dae Lee

You know, I can enjoy some unapologetic fluff too. Sometimes these kinds of shows can be just the palate cleanser I need between heavier offerings.

It was for that very reason that I carefully curated Is the Order a Rabbit?, an adaptation of a 4-koma comedy manga by Koi. Since White Fox was announced to work on it (Super Sonico the Animation and the hilarious The Devil is a Part-Timer!), and Hiroyuki Hashimoto is directing it (episode director for notable shows like Bakuman and Angel Beats!), I felt that they could conjure up something cute and enjoyable for me to talk about, and I got pretty much exactly what I ordered.

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First Impressions: Selector Infected WIXOSS photo
First Impressions: Selector Infected WIXOSS
by Karen Mead

While taking in WIXOSS, I couldn't stop thinking to myself, "This show really, REALLY wants to be Madoka Magica," and you know what? That's probably really unfair. After all, Madoka was a groundbreaking show; there's nothing wrong with taking inspiration from it. And just because you can tell where the creators are gleaning some of their inspiration from, that doesn't mean they aren't bringing interesting ideas of their own to the table. But even so; if I had to describe this series in three words, as of right now I would say "Poor-man's Madoka."

But whether it's derivative or not, JC Staff must be doing something right with this psychic/card battle/magical girl anime, because I'm more than willing to come along for the ride.

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First Impressions: JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders photo
First Impressions: JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders
by Josh Tolentino

Well, this is it. This...is JoJo's Bizarre Adventure.

Of course, I'm utterly wrong on this one, factually speaking. JoJo's Bizarre Adventure started with Phantom Blood, way back in 1987, after all, as a manga. 

Then again, I'm also utterly right, because for a goodly number of folks, Stardust Crusaders IS JoJo's Bizarre Adventure. There's a reason Jotaro is the biggest guy on the cover of All Star Battle, and not Jonathan, Joseph, Josuke, Jolyne, Giorno, or Other Josuke. 

This isn't to say that Stardust Crusaders is the best JoJo's arc, or even the most well-regarded, but there's no denying that this what quite a few fans have been waiting for since David Production first started with Phantom Blood and Battle Tendency.

And now, after a brief dabbling with Hyperdimension Neptunia, they're back and ready to get down to the real thing. Was it worth the wait?

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First Impressions: Lady Jewelpet photo
First Impressions: Lady Jewelpet
by Brittany Vincent

It's been a while since I got started with a sugary-sweet bit of shoujo. There's Happiness Charge PreCure, but even that has a balance of action and life lessons to go along with its girlish charm. Lady Jewelpet is all girly, all the time. It's a little strange, given its propensity to lean toward cousin love (which I absolutely abhor) but there's also an underlying sincerity that makes it a pleasure to watch...even if it does tend to lean toward the creepy side of things here and there.

Momona is a middle-schooler who was innocently attending her cousin's wedding to fiance Lady Diana. It's clear Momona harbors more than a crush on her cousin, and she's jealous that another woman is taking him away. When Diana walks down the aisle, however, Momona is blown away by her beauty and grace. But before the two marry, Momona is whisked away into the bizarre world of Jewel Land with no explanation, and drafted into a program as a Lady Jewel Candidate. Did you dip into some weird punch, Momona?

Momona is aided by her very own Jewelpet, Ruby, who has chosen her to become the next Lady Jewel, or the fairest lady in all the land. The winner will be chosen by the Queen herself. There are trials and tribulations Momona and Ruby will have to face together, and Momona will be competing with other candidates and Jewelpets, who all want the same thing. There's also Prince Kaien, who looks suspiciously like Momona's cousin.

The candidates all have their own Jewelpet friends and training they have to go through to become "proper" ladies, and the fact that they're competing for a fluffy title make it easy to pass on Lady Jewelpet. But despite its insistence on putting female characters in silly circumstances like these, I genuinely enjoyed this episode; it's got all the pep and color you'd expect from a shoujo anime, from magical items to transformations and special outfits. I also really dug the opening song, which sounded more like a regular pop song than anything else.

Lady Jewelpet is going to go a long way to act as my smallest bastion of hyperfeminine charms this anime season, assuming I can get past the cousin love overtones. I get that it's not a big deal in Japan, but it's such a rampant trend that it honestly begins to grate on my nerves. I'm not sure it's the best thing to be teaching children in any area, either, but as long as it's not too pronounced I suppose I'll hang on. It's just so weird to see in a story like this that's so traditional about marriage and the way women should behave. I don't know what's going to happen, but I do know it's the cutest show this side of Spring 2014's anime season, and I'll be following it. 

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First Impressions: Haikyu!! photo
First Impressions: Haikyu!!
by Karen Mead

If we were ranking these new shows based on animation quality alone, Haikyu!! would be king of the mountain; out of everything I've seen so far this season, only the first episode Captain Earth has better animation...maybe. Possibly. These volleyball-loving kids spike, set and tumble into the scenery with a real sense of weight and inertia, and even the characters who don't move around much are animated with a lot of care. The character designs aren't quite my cup of tea, but still, everyone's facial expressions are invested with plenty of emotion.

The shows charms aren't strictly limited to its visuals either. While this is a standard sports anime in most regards, with stock character types you've seen before, it kicks off the story from a different angle than I'm used to, and even subverts a cliche or two at the same time. Really, Production I.G. couldn't have done much better with this first episode...but for whatever reason, I just don't feel hooked.

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