Taste Test: Spring 2015

spring 2015 intro
My spies inform me that a new season of anime has begun, and I’ve been asked if I’m watching anything from it. Initially I wasn’t planning to: I do watch anime from time to time, but I certainly don’t try to keep up with current events in the field. Frankly, I usually have enough to do working my way through specific recommendations without trying things on a whim. On the other hand, I thought it might be interesting to take my usual uninformed state and see how some of the latest shows looked from that perspective.

Upon looking at the anime chart, I was immediately struck by just how much of it there was. There was no way I could sample more than a couple of shows. I immediately removed from consideration anything that was a continuation, which reduced the numbers a bit. After that, I arbitrarily decided that I was going to try two shows: the one which looked the best, and the one which looked the worst. I also deliberately didn’t do any research about the shows, relying solely upon the short descriptions and small pictures given on that list.

arslan senki
Most Promising: Arslan Senki
“Best” is a word struggling for meaning, given the selection of shows on offer, but this looked like it had potential. A young protagonist, wrestling with self-doubt, tortured by tragic events and nonetheless faced with a heroic task. It’s been a while since I saw anything which fitted into this fantasy mold. I have to admit that I was looking forward to seeing how it turned out.

What I actually got was a hefty helping of prologue. The tiny synopsis on the chart told me more about where the show was going than watching the first episode did, but I don’t feel upset about that. If nothing else it serves to give the audience more reasons to become engaged, since they’ve seen what things were like before the story proper started ( <#include world_changing_event.h> ). In this particular case there are two things that really stand out for me: the art and the setting.

arslan senki 2
The art is good – not fantastic, but very good – and at times it looks a lot like that from Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood. That’s praise, by the way. In fact at one point I was surprised to see a character that I thought I recognized from FMA:B, and I couldn’t work out what they were doing in this setting.
Speaking of which, the setting itself is nicely handled too. From my admittedly limited perspective, anime seems to have three default times/places it can be set: modern Japan, historic Japan, or a slightly odd take on medieval Europe. Arslan Senki is set in a thinly-fictionalised version of Persia, which is a really refreshing difference, and I very much enjoyed it. I hope we get to find out more about it as the show goes on.

At this stage there are only two minor quibbles I have with the show. The details of the setting – geography etc – are glossed over very quickly, which I found a bit unsatisfying. I expect to learn more later, and they might not be central to the story in any case. But this is a world I found myself being drawn into, and perhaps it would be nice to have another episode learning more about it before Everything Changes ™.
The other thing is that we still don’t know very much about the titular character, Prince Arslan. The events of the first episode revolve around him, but even by the end he still seems like something of a blank slate (the same goes for most of the other characters as well, incidentally). Perhaps I’m not used to subtle displays of characterisation. I’m sure this will develop as things progress, and waiting to see how it all goes will be no hardship.

In any case, I’m looking forward to seeing more of this. Watson’s Verdict: recommended.

triage x
Least Promising: Triage X
My initial thoughts on this, before I had watched it, did not bode well. Hmm, let me see… high-school boys and improbably-endowed nurses form a group of mercenary assassins. This looked like every stereotype about dubious anime had been rolled into one throbbing, heaving package. I expected it to be an absolute trainwreck, a wall-to-wall parade of the worst tropes anime has to offer. But it got made somehow, so I took it upon myself to give it a try and see just how bad it could get. After watching the first episode… well, I am man enough to admit when I have made a mistake. Sometimes my first judgements are in error. And when I discover that, I have the humility to stand up, put my hand on my heart, and say simply “I was wrong.” So with that in mind, I want to take this opportunity to say that my initial opinions about Triage X were absolutely and completely correct. This show is TERRIBLE. But don’t for a moment think I’m going to be focusing my criticism on all that mindless titillation to make horrible puns. Oh no. I’m way classier than that, and in any case I have a genuine grievance to nurse.

This really tells you everything you need to know about the show: it has guns, action, and boobs. LOTS of boobs.

This tells you everything you need to know about the show: it has guns, action, and boobs. LOTS of boobs.

I’m not talking about the way it’s a disgraceful titstravaganza of sexualized displays, although it is most certainly that. In fact it is almost unbralievable the extent to which jiggling female flesh is pushed up. It seems to be have been pulled off the rack and used as an enhancement or substitute for characterisation, beginning in the opening few seconds.

Nor am I talking about the dialogue which sounds like it came from an early-90s Capcom game (“You are a very bad man!” “MUAHAHAHA! I am a very bad man!”). Trying to keep abreast of this caused my usually perky self to start sagging, especially when the oversized use of medical terms budded (again in the first few seconds, and supported more or less continuously). By the end of the episode I was deep in my cups.

This is from the opening seconds of the show, which was about when I consigned it to the rubbish. Thanks for the mammaries.

This is from the opening seconds of the show, which was about when I consigned it to the rubbish. Thanks for the mammaries.

No, what really gets on my tits is the central gap between what could have been an intriguing show and the clumsy, jugheaded way it gets knockered around. If Triage X has one redeeming feature – and it indeed has only one – it is the underwiring conceit of the show; that there are some criminals who cannot be affected by the usual processes of law but for the good of society are still deserving of death. The idea of this sort of vigilante justice could be the basis of an interesting show, since it brings with it a host of questions: who makes the decisions, and how? Who does the killing? What does this do to the parties involved? How do others respond? Other shows have tackled similar themes, so it’s not impossible to have something that stands up firmly and proudly without requiring titsproportionate levels of bouncing and heaving chesticles to keep the viewers’ interest from flagging.

But to do justice with this you have to approach it in a thoughtful way, and Triage X really doesn’t appear to be doing this. There’s a massive cleavage between the size of the ideas lurking underneath and the breastacular displays of scanty clothing and ridiculous gymnastics employed to flaunt everything that is even remotely flauntable. I really feel like it was a mistake to serve so many adolescent fantasies while the core subject matter points in a different direction, and quite why the creators chose to nipple-and-dime us to death with a constant barrage of boobs, assplosions, guns, motorbikes and so on while they had other possibilities available will forever remain a pantalising mystery.

The bottom line is that this show will undoubtedly be wildly popular with whoever its target demographic is, but at least so far has little to offer anyone else. Watson’s Verdict: run, do not walk, in the opposite direction.

Question of the post: What looks best and worst from the chart? Have you seen either of these shows, and if so what did you think of them? What will you be watching this season?

About Dr. J.H. Watson

I’m a New Zealander, in my 30s, and until recently I lived in rural Japan. I have interests in history, pop culture, video games, and the clever use of language.
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10 Responses to Taste Test: Spring 2015

  1. Bear says:

    This, as was the winter season, is a rather thin serving of good shows. The ones I’d recommend are, unfortunately, second cours. Certainly, for me, the best of the best, is Fate Stay Night, Unlimited Blade Works. Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Come wa Machigatteiru Zoku is also high on my list but that one has had previous seasons. Both would need to have its previous cours watched for you to grasp what’s going on. The only other show I’d recommend would be the Strike Witches Operation Victory Arrow OVAs 1, and 2 (a third has been announced). Again you have to have a background in the Strike Witches world to follow what’s going on.

    Of the new shows Hibike! Euphonium and DanMachi are ok but not great. The first being a high school music story and the second a shounen DxD based adventure story.

    Worst? Triage ranks down there as does Show by Rock! for me. But those are just ones I’d sampled out of curiosity.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, from what I hear no-one is terribly impressed with the current season’s offerings. Triage X might be the worst show I’ve sampled, but Punchline doesn’t seem all that popular either.

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  2. Alex Hurst says:

    I haven’t looked too much at the charts for this spring, but Arslan is looking intriguing. I loved FMA in a strange way, so it’d be cool to see another in that vein, as long as it can make itself original enough with plot and cast. That second option… yikes. No thanks. The last semi-fan service show of this type that I watched was Bubblegum Crisis 2010, and it left much to be desired in the plot department. Oh well. 😛

    Liked by 1 person

    • FMA:B is one of the anime I’ve liked the most, although it does have some downsides. I’ve got no idea how Arslan is going to play out in that respect, especially given it’s setting… but we don’t know much about it yet, so it’s all up in the air still.

      And yes, Triage X is going to be consigned to the dustbin for me. I think you might be being a little over-generous by calling it semi-fanservice too. What hoses me off most is that there could be some genuinely good plot lurking under the heaving bosoms, but I suspect it will be smothered under the great big follolloping titties that the creators seem to be so generous with.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Artemis says:

    There are three shows I’ll absolutely be keeping an eye on this season, and one of them is Arslan. Episode two was more action-orientated and covered up to what we already know from the synopsis, by the way, while episode three took us into unchartered territory as far as the base plot is concerned. The other two shows that I’m greatly enjoying so far are Ore Monogatari/My Love Story (romantic comedy, adorable and hilarious at the same time), and Kekkai Sensen/Blood Blockade Battlefront (a fun urban fantasy/action show with oddball characters and plenty of explosions).

    I haven’t had the… uh, dubious pleasure of watching Triage X, and luckily I now don’t have to – cheers for taking one for the team! I did however watch Punchline, which does have some titstravaganza moments but is far more interested in anything and everything panties-related.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, Arslan is shaping up pretty well from what I’ve heard. My Love Story was also a strong contender when I was deciding what to test, so I’m pleased to hear it’s going well too.

      As for Triage X… uh, you’re welcome (I’m not going to say it was my pleasure, because it really wasn’t). There was no shortage of panties on show in Triage either (seriously, what’s the fascination?), but the creators seemed to know where their interests truly lay – in a mammariffic display of sweater-puppies unencumbered by sweaters. Points for consistency, I suppose.

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  4. daikama says:

    Spies? You have spies!? Why don’t I have those? Where do I get them? *ahem* Back on topic…

    FYI – not sure if you are aware of this, but the reason Arslan Senki’s art looks like FMA/FMAB is because the anime is based upon the Arslan Senki manga illustrated by Arakawa Hiromu (mangaka of FMA) who also did the original character designs for Arslan Senki anime.

    As for Triage X, you made it through the entire first episode!? Good job… I think. Long time ago, I skimmed through the first few chapters of the manga. I thought I had lowered my expectations appropriately for the anime, but apparently not enough. I lasted until they got into the HS SoL stuff (about halfway through).

    FWIW, I second what Bear mentioned above. Fate Stay Night, Unlimited Blade Works and Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Come wa Machigatteiru Zoku top my watch list in a rather tepid season.

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    • I think they usually prefer the term “agents of information”. It takes time to cultivate a good agent, better get started now.

      No, I didn’t know that – I deliberately avoided looking anything up about the shows. It would explain a lot, though. Impressive how art created by one person can remain so faithful to the original when it crosses to a different medium.

      Triage X is easy, very easy, to dislike. I usually try to find something good about what I’m reading/watching, and as I said the show does have a redeeming feature. But it’s masked so effectively by everything else that I just can’t be bothered.

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  5. Pingback: Taste Test: Summer 2015 | Speculative OP

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