Occultic;Nine - First Impression

Occultic;Nine - First Impression

Studio : A-1 Pictures
Genre : Sci-Fi, Mystery, Supernatural
Episodes Aired : 8
Status : The plot sure is thick here. Watching.

Let's say you want to present a mystery to your audience. Where do you start? How about the usual - The crime scene?
Bodies, lots of dead bodies, floating on water. What happened? Where did they come from? Let's go back to where it all started. How many people are involved? Let's introduce them all in one episode, connect them to a key point, establish some of their characteristics, give hints about the upcoming events, crack a few lame jokes, throw in giant breasts & a cheeky Shiela for fanservice, a bloody scalp with hair for the creeps and finally a murder to act as a cliffhanger (and there's a Sherlock wannabe too). Overwhelmed yet? If not, then there's the forced fast dialogue.

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Occultic;Nine seems like one of those high-school experiments where you have to perform a controlled reaction by slowly adding the chemicals in several steps, but you're out of time, so you just take a big cauldron and pour every chemical in it at once. They react vigorously, producing lots of colors and odors, and as time passes, the mixture turns gooey and smelly but you keep stirring it anyway thinking that in the end it will all come together to produce the desired result. But sadly, it all ends with the professor smacking you on the head giving you an F. If only you had more time.

If you disregard the bad presentation and the giant tits, then underneath those you'll find a good puzzle. I'll give the show credit for how much content it tries to cram into an episode, just to make the game more fun. There are all sorts of clues thrown in every episode and in the opening ending sequences, foreshadowing a part of the upcoming events. And the overall mystery itself seems to be a big puzzle with lots of connected strings. But sadly the show's approach spoils everything for me.

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The biggest sores are the pacing & the dialogue (and the sudden "creative" camera movements). The show has a lot of dialogues and conversations are carried out at a ridiculously fast pace. Now, this isn't a bad thing usually, it's what a lot of shows do. You see, most of the time when characters talk really fast, it's either when they are overwhelmed (panicked, excited, passionate etc) or they know almost everything about the topic and/or the person they are conversing with (think the usual monogatari banter or when someone's stating a fact or explaining their theory). If done well, it acts as a character trait and adds to their personality. But here in Occultic;Nine, every single character talks fast in almost every situation, whether its your everyday chat in a cafe, or about 256 dead people or finding out that you're *spoilers* and your daddy's a *spoilers*. It's as if they've been holding it in for hours and they really need to go to the bathroom (heck, there are scenes where even the pauses are cut).

In short, a huge amount of exposition/dialogue hits you at an overwhelming pace, which somewhat destroys the character dynamics and the mood of the story.
So, why am I still watching this? You see, despite the painful frustrating headache-inducing dialogue, erratic pacing and overwhelming titties, the show is interesting. And as long as the puzzle is interesting, I'll stay for the answer. I'm glad I didn't go into it with high expectations (because of it's relation to Steins;Gate and the references etc), so I don't hate it as much. I appreciate that they are trying to put so much content from the novel, but they just don't have the runtime to execute it properly and it's doing more harm than good to the show.

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So, should you watch this? It depends on how much you like puzzles (mysteries), and how far will you go to find the answer, because, this show will test your patience. As for me, I'll see it through.

P.S. The last one on the list for this season's first impression parade is Yuri on Ice. Let's see what all the hype is about.

Fune wo Amu - First Impression

Studio : Zexcs
Genre : Drama, Romance, Seinen
Episodes Aired : 5
Status : This might be it. Watching.

“Some people have a way with words, and other people...oh, uh, not have way.” ~ Steve Martin

Human beings are complex creatures. We have got big brains filled with ideas, visions, and feelings. And to let those ideas out into the world can be a daunting task. Using words and phrases is one of the ways we can can express ourselves and communicate with others around us. Thanks to the abundance of stimuli in our world, we experience a variety of things everyday. And to express all of those requires a lot of words. And where to find a lot of words and their meanings? A dictionary.
While a dictionary is out of date as soon as it's printed, you can still pick up an old dusty one and it'll still be useful. Ever wonder what goes into making those big bulky stacks of paper?

Based on a novel by Shion Miura, Fune wo Amu (The Great Passage) is a show about Majime Mitsuya, a man of peculiar character, and his co-workers at Genbu Publishing company's Dictionary Editorial Department. In modern times of technology with huge databases of information stored on the internet, finding the meaning of a word is child's play. So, publishing dictionaries isn't good business. Still, despite the hard times, one old man wants to leave behind his greatest work before he retires. A dictionary that will serve as a vessel, to get people across the ocean of words, a ship he calls "The Great Passage".

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Now, this is where our protagonist comes in. You see, Majime is an interesting character (his hobby is observing people getting on escalators). He is a bookworm with a passion for words but he can't quite express himself. It's not that he is shy and lacks courage, he just has poor social skills. Not the kind of qualities you would look for when hiring a Salesman. Despite that, he somehow ended up in the sales department. Thankfully, he gets a lucky break when his encounter with Nishioka gets him landed into the Editorial Department, where he can pursue his passion for words. And so the journey begins.

I've said before that I really like shows that give us a peek into the production aspects of something - a commodity, a show, a game or a part of it, because it almost always involves interesting characters. And this show fits right into that category. It shows us what goes into creating a dictionary - going through years of research, compiling words, searching for new words, getting writers to corroborate, choosing layouts etc., and how every member of the team plays their part in it, what difficulties they face along the way and what subtle changes all this brings in their lives. And that's what we have here - people trying to find where they belong and how they can contribute to the world and maybe leave something behind to be remembered for.
[Personal thought : I feel that these kind of shows are quite important because they show us that work should be something you love and not something abominable and boring that you get paid to do.]

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But don't fret, the show isn't all about work either. There's some romance as well. One that involves a 15 page love letter. It's a little awkward, like you'd expect from someone like Majime, but it's not full of random misunderstandings or other cliches (so far). They even share the same philosophy regarding their work lives. I'm liking where their relationship is headed for now, and I expect it to turn into a pleasant experience. The same is true for the whole show, I am excited to see where this goes and I am going to stick around for every moment.
So, go watch this show if you like the premise.

P.S. The next show is Occultic;Nine. Not much hopes for that one.

Drifters - First Impression

Drifters - First Impression

Studio : Hoods Drifters Studio
Genre : Action, Comedy, Historical, Fantasy, Seinen
Episodes Aired : 6
Status : Not sure if a really clever joke, or just ridiculous. Watching.

A guy got transported into a fantasy world and guess what? He's not a teenager! If that's not reason enough to watch this, I don't what is.
Shimazu Toyohisa is a honed samurai warrior, with a righteous heart and a knack for lopping heads. It was just another casual day in his life, where he was running around the battlefield lopping heads left and right, when he suddenly got transported to a corridor full of doors, with a man sitting behind a desk giving him a look. But before he could do anything, he gets thrown into a door and finds himself in the forest. So, now we're in a fantasy world where elves, dwarves, hobbits, humans, dragons and whatnot exist and our main character has to fight a world war against the evil army of "Ends". But he's not alone in this mess, several other prominent historical figures from different ages (called Drifters) were also thrown into the mix. Heck, why am I even trying to explain this. It's a bloodbath, filled with well animated mindless action, cheesy dialogues and inappropriate comedy.

Created by Kouta Hirano, the same guy who created the Hellsing series, the show's story is very predictable and devoid of any substance for your brain to munch on. But that's okay. It's a nice concept - pitting two characters from different times against each other, but you can only do so much with that premise. I mean, it's already tough trying to put together these characters and still make some sense, expecting substance is just ridiculous. So, the only thing left, is to have your characters throwing sarcastic remarks or have them fight to death. And if you do the fighting part well, hallelujah.

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So far, all the action scenes had superb animation and I love the way they animate the stance of the main character before he proceeds to lop off someone's head (his obsession with heads is a bit weird). There is adequate amount of blood and gore, the huge contours and the color tones suit the whole thing, and the opening and ending themes are nice as well. For a production studio (hoods entertainment) that hasn't made "great" stuff, this is surprisingly well produced.

Now, one thing that makes this show a little hard to watch, is the comedy. I mean it's most the effective way to include those jabs and history jokes, but the timing is sometimes horrible. I can tolerate the sudden change in art-style with the funny faces and all, but when it happens in the middle of a moment where it's completely unnecessary, it's annoying.
Speaking of comedy, you don't need to be a history buff to get most of the humour, a general knowledge of world history is fine, but since a lot of it is centered around the Japanese characters, a brief look at the Japanese history will do you good (I played a game called Samurai Warriors 2 quite a while ago which included the whole Nobunaga Oda and the Honnoji Temple incident so I had a rough idea).

Anyways, if you like well animated action with badass lunatics running around killing each other, then this is for you. I'll be following this for the exact same reasons.

P.S. Next show on the list is Fune wo Amu.

3-Gatsu no Lion - First Impression

3-Gatsu no Lion First Impression

Studio : Shaft
Genre : Drama, Game, Seinen, Slice of Life
Episodes Aired : 5
Status : Another show with "gatsu" in it's name. This isn't gonna end well (for me). Watching.

Ever since Akiyuki Shinbo joined as director in 2005, Shaft has been on a rampage, pushing its avant grade cinematography (and head tilts) to the limits. And now that they've made a name for themselves (and the fact that they're all out of source material on the monogatari series), they have started to calm down. Compared to last year's Owarimonogatari (and the subsequent Kizumonogatari movies this year), they have a Slice of Life entry this fall season by the name of San-gatsu no Lion (or March comes in like a Lion). Based on a well received ongoing manga, the story revolves around Kiriyama Rei, a high schooler and a pro shogi player, living an independent life in a rather empty part of town. Having lived through a mountain of trouble as a child and not-so-good experiences at his foster family, the repressed emotions and lack of "love" (if you will) has made him depressed and lonely inside. The only thing he has left is his career as a shogi player, which, sadly, started with a lie. So, a life (and mental sanity maybe?) built on such a feeble foundation can only last so long. And so it all starts to crumble and he starts going into a downward spiral.
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This scene reminds me so much of Zetsubou Sensei

But fear not, all is not lost yet. Enter the three Kawamoto sisters. Having gone through some rough times themselves, they had one another to lean on, and so they live their modest lives full of happiness and laughter with the occasional sad reminiscing. And thankfully, they drag our protagonist into it, and it acts as a sliver of hope in his life. His interactions with them and the subtle changes they cause in his personality seem to be the main focus of the show.

Now, there are a few things to watch out for, if you're thinking of picking this up.
Number one is the drama, the kind of drama where there are lots of tragic flashbacks and broken, damaged characters. If you find characters wallowing in depression appalling, this might not be your cup of tea. Though I would say that the creators have put a lot of effort in Rei's backstory as it feels "legit" and in-sync with his character.

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Second, is the game of Shogi. They say shogi is like chess, except that it's not (well it is, in essence, a strategy game). Compared to the 16 pieces per player in Chess, Shogi has 20 pieces; there is no queen, and two new pieces - silver general and gold general are in play. Even the board is different (its a 9x9 instead of an 8x8). Point is, if you don't know shogi, parts of the show involving it - like the surprised look on players when the opponent makes an interesting move (shots with the board and the pieces in position), or analogies/metaphors relating to our main characters life, will probably make less to no sense.

Number three is Shaft. Now, I already said that they're trying to calm down, and they are, I mean, 5 episodes without a head tilt (Shinbo must be screaming in frustration, good thing Kenjirou is in charge), but, it's still Shaft. And I've seen some people complain about the artstyle. Thankfully, it all isn't as erratic as the monogatari series and I am fine with it. Heck I love how they keep the contrast when switching perspectives from the depressed MC to the cheerful sisters (love the color palette too, and the opening, though wtf cat monologues).
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If you're thinking Honey and Clover. Same creator. Similar artstyle.

Conclusion. I like where this is going. I like that the main character is "damaged" damaged and not just damaged for plot's sake, his backstory really gets me. And I am interested in how far down he is going to fall before he gets over his past or if the past is going to come back to haunt him, either way, he will face it and that's what I'm looking forward to (I know it translates to 'I wanna watch him suffer' but that's just me). Also, this is Shaft and I have hope that they aren't going to mess this up.

Next up for a first impression, in alphabetical order, will be Drifters. I'm trying real hard to be on time this season. Wish me luck.