Here it is, episode 18 of Anime Pocket Reviews!
We have some awesome shows in this triple-header, from some of the recent summer season’s biggest shows to sequels to classic series! So, without further ado…
Nisekoi (2015, S2, 12x24mins)
Teen, Romantic Comedy
“Sorry to keep you waiting!”
Check out our review of season one of Nisekoi here!
Following on from S1, Nisekoi follows Ichijo Raku (far-left, red), still on the search for the girl who belongs to his locket. Now in their second year at college, Raku and his friends are joined by some new characters, including Chitoge’s protective younger sister Haru (middle, purple), as they continue to go about their daily lives with the nagging of teenage crushes constantly inside them.
Basically Plot: A ditzy high-school sit-com!
While this supposedly carries on from series one of Nisekoi – a series I really enjoyed – there is absolutely no continuity on the story. That love-triangle/square that was so good in season one is not at any point developed, or even touched upon; season two instead almost splits the female characters up into their own stories, with Raku as the centre-pivot. I called it a situation-comedy above because that’s basically what it is. I had to look at Wikipedia multiple times in this 12-episode series just to check that I was watching them in the right order, or the right thing full-stop. There is absolutely no connection between the episodes in season two themselves, let alone with season one. In terms of watching this, hopeful that the love story would carry on, this season has been an absolute disaster.
Despite the drastic let down that the plot was in season two, Nisekoi still has that unique charm about it. The animation is done to a superb standard, and I would definitely put it down as some of the best animation I’ve seen in anime. The motions and drawings themselves are not too neat, but that just adds to the show’s childish nature, and it suits the series perfectly. Also, the comedy in this series is still really good – its Seth MacFarlane-esque style of joke telling is still able to flourish, despite having no real story to ground itself upon.
Overall, while it still has that childish charm and witty comedy, without any sort of story Nisekoi’s love-triangle upon which it built itself completely falls apart, leaving little more than a flat, almost pointless collection of meaningless stories. It feels like they just whipped this together out of leftover parts of S1 – a pointless, 12-episode series of OVAs* that portrays the charm that Nisekoi has, but completely lacks any substance.
If you liked this you’ll love: Konosuba – Honestly, it really depends on what you enjoyed about this show. In terms of combining teenage love with really good comedy and keeping that cute/innocent vibe, there’s not many shows like Nisekoi. However, what this season especially succeeds in is the comedy, and that’s where Konosuba also excels. Konosuba shares this great eye for comedy, while also starring one young guy surrounded by girls. While Konosuba lacks the cuteness and love sides that Nisekoi, in season one, excelled in, there is not many funnier shows out there – in terms of that childish humour – than Konosuba.
*An OVA (Original Video Animation) is basically a bonus episode, usually sold with DVD/Blu-Ray copies of the original series to help sell copies. Most anime series have these, and they usually are funny episodes involving all characters that have no impact on the story or series itself.
New Game (2016, S1, 12x24min)
“First off, don’t write emoticons on official documents.”
Wait! Check out our six-episode review first!
New Game follows Aoba (centre), a young girl who dreams of designing characters for videogames as a job. The story follows her as she graduates high-school and moves into her first job, as a young character designer at Eagle Jump, the company that created her favourite game as a child. As the only new recruit that year, she is taken under the arms of the current workers, including lead character designer Yagami (bottom-right) – a tireless worker who designed the characters for the game that inspired Aoba to design characters herself.
Basically Plot: Life for a young girl in an all-girl gaming company.
First of all: this show was never going to pull up many trees in the anime world. New Game’s story is almost unnecessary, even the fact that they are working towards a shared goal is often pushed to the back. However, that brings out the characters.
Set in an all-girl game company, it won’t surprise you to hear that this is very much directed to a young female audience. To say that this series is sugar coated would be under-selling it. The characters, while certainly lacking any meaningful depth, tick off almost every box in terms of their target audience. The group of four consist of the ditzy lead who is cute enough to warm the heart of anyone watching the show, the sporty girl who rides to work on a bike and collects figurines, the quiet girl who is both frightened of and desperate for friends, and the stylish girl who is conscious of her weight. Yes, it’s that easy to sum up the four lead characters. While if you were to isolate these people they would fall apart completely, they lean on each other through relationships that form in the show. These relationships feel natural and are enjoyable to watch unfold. Another good thing about these characters is that there’s no point where you think they’re being objectified. This is so often a problem for anime, especially in shows aimed at a younger audience, for some reason, but no character is sexualised or objectified in any obvious way at any point in this series, and that’s refreshing.
Refreshing is also a word you can throw at this show’s animation, and particularly its colour scheme. All the motion is smooth, and the almost pastel colour scheme compliments perfectly the light feel of the show. The character’s eyes are a particularly peculiar highlight of the show, and something that I think sums up this show’s energy. The eyes of all the characters in this show are, literally, like jewels. Shining glass eyes, with two shades of vibrant colours (another note: the lead character Aoba’s character has purple eyes) and multiple glints creates an almost fantastical appearance for the characters.
The hollow, one-dimensional story and – to a lesser extent – characters stop this show from being anything more than pretty good. However, I think New Game is perfectly happy with that. Light colours, easy humour and easily digested relationships between characters all lend to this show building a happy home in that ‘passing the time’ category. There’s a second series coming, and while I won’t be actively anticipating it, I will happily watch it when it comes around.
If you liked this you’ll love: Shirobako – I’m actually pleased that I didn’t have to bring this up during the actual review. Many people see this as a kind of spin-off to the surprise success at the end of 2014. Another industry-centred anime, this also follows a young girl as she leaves school and enters the job of her dreams, anime production. Shirobako is a more natural and honest anime that still keeps the up-beat feel that New Game fans love but adds to it with excellent story and a great human touch. A must watch.
Alderamin on the Sky (2016, S1, 13x24mins)
Military, Historic Fantasy
“Every hero dies from overwork.”
The story follows Ikta Solork (bottom-left), a young and lazy, womanising boy who lives in a small village in the Katavana Empire. Brought up by a scientist who was exiled from the country due to his findings conflicting with the Empire’s beliefs, Solork has grown up detesting the leaders of his country and detesting war, thanks to his intelligent upbringing. However, to get the easy job of his dreams he has to follow his childhood friend Yatorishino Igsem (bottom-right), born into a famous military family, into a low-ranking officer’s exam. When the exam goes awry the two of them, along with a handful of others, have to escape from the neighbouring Kioka Republic’s territory. Included in the group is the princess Chamille Katvarnmaninik (top-centre), and when she is rescued each of the group are awarded the title of Imperial Knight, turning Ikta into a figurehead for a government he hates and a participant in a war he loathes.
Basically Plot: Anti-war, pro-science boy forced to work for his ‘evil’ country in this historical-themed war series.
This was a nice change in pace compared to a lot of anime that have come out in this cycle. This is probably the most natural-feeling anime I’ve seen in a long time, with the show having enough faith in its character’s abilities to lead the story, which they do quite well in the quieter moments where a lot of shows of this ilk come unstuck. The main thing about Alderamin on the Sky, though, is that this is a really intelligent series. The lead character, Solork, comes across as a genuinely smart person – Lelouch-esque, I thought – and the series overall is really well written and plotted, minus the strange ‘narration from the future’ parts that seem to drift in and out whenever the writers remember it and the creatures (I forgot their name, which is kind of the point) who seem to have little relevance minus just being handy plot-filler so far, and take away from the series’ really good realism. I particularly like how the show plays on the ‘scientific way of thinking’ idea, which itself is a great example of the intelligence level this series is aiming for. Also in terms of quality of writing, you can really feel depth to this series in terms of plot, with cogs slowly turning in the background as Solork and company are at the front line. While not as obvious as in some of the great series of this genre, it’s still there, and really helps this series thrive in the present.
What will really hold this series back in terms of challenging those elite anime series is the quality of animation and drawing. The majority of characters look very unnatural, with drawings that seem to accentuate really weird parts of the face and they have spent far too much attention on character’s eyes (whose colours are also odd for no reason), making them look so ‘perfect’ that they look out of place on bland faces. Also, the colour pallet for this show seems to be way too soft – almost pastel – for the type of show and atmosphere they have worked so hard to create. The colours are more New Game, when they should be more Berserk.
Overall, this is a really solid show that has plenty going for it. Alderamin is really well written, contains some strong characters and has a nicely developing plot sprinkled with enough impact moments to keep you interested. The only thing that lets this down in terms of being a top series is a few obvious errors – probably down to budget – in animation and colour, but this is a series that I will probably continue watching when the next series comes around (I assume there’s a next series, anyway).
If you liked this you’ll love: Code Geass – Staring the aforementioned Lelouch, this is the epitome of military-based anime. Ranked ## on 30 Anime Review, this takes everything in Alderamin and turns it up a notch. Extremely intelligent, combining exciting military action with double-identity tensions, set in a dystopian future and using a mush sharper colour pallet and animation style, there is no denying that fans of Alderamin will really enjoy Code Geass. The only thing that might put you off is that Code Geass does lose some of that natural/realistic feel that thrives in Alderamin on the Sky.
What we have here is three decent enough offerings. The problem for all of these shows is that there is a show out there, cut from exactly the same fabric, that offers what they do but multiplies it by 100. In Nisekoi’s case, that show is actually its own first season, but for the others, we’ve already reviewed shows that do what they do but better! It’s so hard to
make something that will stick, and that’s the case in all creative industries. Whatever you do, unless it’s spectacular, people will find someone who has done it already, and often better.
Make sure you follow The Culture Cove to see the best anime reviews before anybody else! Look out for episode 19 of Anime Pocket Reviews, featuring the classic – and hugely popular – comedy series Working!! (Wagnaria!!).