It is time, once again, to take a look at the latest offerings in anime! Coming in with a crisp, cool breeze, the fall 2016 anime season contains a mix of continuations of previous shows, new entries in old franchises, and a few totally original shows. I’ll be focusing on a few that caught my fancy and elaborating on what I did or did not like about them. Starting with:
Flip Flappers will either be the best show on this list, or the worst, depending on how it ends up being resolved. The directorial debut of Kiyotaka Oshiyama, Flip Flappers is an original magical girl show about two young girls exploring a world known as “pure illusion.” Cocona, a middle-schooler unsure about who she is or her place in the world, is approached by an energetic girl who calls herself Papika. Papika asks Cocona to “go with her” to pure illusion, before the both of them are dragged through a portal into a snowy wasteland. Despite Cocona’s initial reluctance, she ends up accompanying Papika as they explore the various landscapes of Pure Illusion, searching for “fragments” that are said to grant wishes.
Flip Flappers prefers to convey its narrative more through imagery than actual dialogue, resulting in the plot feeling like a lucid fever dream at times. Quiet, somber moments are placed next to incredibly fast-paced and frenetic action sequences, often with little explanation for how exactly any of it is happening. A fantastic and varied musical score accompanies beautiful animation and a very stylized, colorful art style to create a visual feast for the eyes. The voice acting is wonderful and fits the characters perfectly, with Cocona’s more restrained monotone contrasting Papika’s loud and fast-paced outbursts.
Where the show makes me wary is the frequent use of sexual imagery, given the show’s emphasis on visual storytelling. It’s somewhat muted in the first two episodes, but ramps up considerably in the third. The show teases the possibility of Cocona and Papika being gay, but also sets itself up in a way that could easily lead to it ending up as a sexual assault metaphor. If the show is just about them being gay as hell, it will be the best anime I’ve seen in a long time. If it goes down a more unfortunate route, it will be the greatest disappointment of this anime season.
Regardless, Flip Flappers is a super fun watch and visually spectacular. Well worth checking out.
Keijo is a show I found myself enamored with, despite having a premise straight out of a bad mid-2000s ecchi comedy. Keijo is about a women’s-only contact sport, named Keijo, that involves using nothing but your boobs and butt to knock opponents into the water while staying on a floating platform known as a “land.” A weird cross between Wipeout and Judo, Keijo has captured people’s attention and, more importantly, their money. With the amount of money being gambled and lost on the sport, good players have no trouble making an easy fortune. Hoping to go pro and get filthy rich, high school graduate Nozomi Kaminashi begins attending an exclusive Keijo school on her first step to stardom.
I mostly started watching Keijo as a matter of curiousity, not expecting to stick around for more than half an episode or so. I quickly found myself drawn in, however, and was hooked before I knew it. The show both acknowledge the nonsense of the premise, with a healthy dose of self-awareness and jokes, while also taking the premise seriously and just running with it. High-quality art and animation work with a unique style and presentation to make the action sequences genuinely fun and engaging. Combined with all the dumbest plot points and sequences from any given sports anime, and you have something that is easy to enjoy and have fun with.
The show is, as expected, absolutely filled with fanservice. While I would normally find this offputting, the ridiculousness of the premise and the effort they go into presenting it all makes it hard to be offended by. The staff working on this clearly have a deep and genuine love off breasts and booty, and they have poured that love into their art. Whatever your thoughts on that may be, I cannot help but respect and admire their passion. I just wish they’d left out the unnecessary groping, so I didn’t have to recall an article from the past.
If you can stomach (or enjoy) the fanservice and are looking for an anime that is just dumb fun, Keijo is definitely worth a watch.
The moment I heard that Izetta was about witches and a fantasy version of WWII, I immediately braced myself in the fears that it would massively downplay the tragedy that was the Second World War. Thankfully, Izetta turned out much better than I was expecting. Set on the eve of not-WWII in Not-Europe, the show focuses around Princess Fine of Elystadt and Izetta, the last of the witches. Izetta is initially reluctant to use her powers, but after seeing the actions of the Not-Nazis, she begins to aid Fine in defending Elystadt.
Combining frantic action with political drama and suspense, Izetta manages to portray the terror of those fighting in the trenches while also featuring some intense action sequences. Izetta uses CG effectively to portray magic and machinery, combining it with 2D animation for the characters and landscapes. A lovely musical score accompanies the action and adds to the mystical parts atmosphere of the series.
On the downside, Izetta does lean a bit heavy into fanservice at times, without nearly the charm Keijo had about it. It’s nothing too distracting, but it does once again make me wish anime treated sexual harassment less like a joke.
Izetta is definitely worth a watch if you enjoy fun fantasy and watching tanks get tossed around.
Like Flip Flappers, March Comes in Like a Lion is a show about visual storytelling. Unlike the frenetic and bright Flip Flappers, however, Marche Comes in Like a Lion uses visuals to convey a somber story about depression, ennui, and loneliness. The story is centered around Rei Kiriyama, a 17-year-old professional Shogi player, and those around him. Rei wanders through life aimlessly, only putting effort into playing Shogi. He finds some solace and warmth in the company of Akari Kawamoto, a hostess who took him in when he was drunk, and her younger sisters, Hinata and Momo.
March Comes in Like a Lion is the antithesis of every other show on this list. A somber and slow affair, the show uses a variety of art styles and musical genres to immerse the audience in Rei’s emotional and mental state. From harsh brushstrokes in black and white to soft pastels, the tone and style of the art is ever-shifting to fit the mood.
The storytelling is equally subdued and subtle, focusing more on revealing bits and pieces to the audience rather than stating things outright. Character’s pasts, medical conditions, feelings, and relationships are left for the audience to infer. What little exposition there is mostly consists of Rei musing on his own life and circumstances.
March Comes in Like a Lion is not a happy show nor is it a sad one. It is a show about life, death, depression, passion, and learning how to rely on others. If you are in the mood for something slower and more introspective, definitely give it a watch.
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