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First Impressions of the New Season

The Winter 2013 season has begun and the first episodes of several shows are available for public viewing. While the season has shown a weak start so far, full of 5-min shorts that leave people desiring anime shows with more meat, we can be glad to see the return of Blast of Tempest and Psycho-Pass which are strong anime carrying over from the previous season. We can only hope that the season strengthens as it continues.

First up is Amnesia, which on paper sounds like it is going to have some considerable potential to become a good story this season. The concepts look promising, the animation is beautiful, especially the detail they have gone into with the clothing and eyes, but there is also something different about the world and culture the story is based in. With the introduction of a floating spirit creature and the mention of some kind of special ability using their unique eyes, I can't help but think we are going to be treated to a unique and refreshing twist on Urban/Contemporary Fantasy. The show is also a reverse-harem, which is a rarer genre than it should be. My only complaint so far with the show is the incessant telling. I felt like I'd slipped into an educational show preaching to me about mundane activities that I really had no interest in knowing in detail, or how the writers felt they needed to explain every emotion and detail to us as if they thought the audience wasn't intelligent enough to pick up on the clues themselves. I hope that as the episodes continue they learn to trust the audience more and tone down the telling.

Vividred Operation has us venturing back into the magical girl genre but with an added sci-fi twist that gives it a feeling reminiscent of Eureka Seven AO, just without the need for mechs. We are introduced to the main protagonist, Akane, who has a fear of heights, yet seems destined to take on a role that requires her to face her fears. While the flashbacks showing where her fears came from makes for a deep character background, I couldn't help but feel they threw away the chance to build upon her fears too easily; she appeared to get over it within the first episode. We can only hope that her fears relapse in following episodes and that it continues to be a struggle for her, making her character feel more real. This anime shows potential but I couldn't help but feel I'd rather have mechs than a spiritual successor to Strike Witches. Even so, I believe this anime will be a strong contender for the season. The characters are well designed and thought out, the animation is good, and the musical score suits the scenes perfectly, although they could do with focussing a little less on the characters' posteriors - they are only fourteen after all. I wouldn't go so far as to call it ecchi, but it is borderline and I feel quite unsuitable for the age the characters are representing, and it gives me the creeps a little each time one of those scenes screens. At least the clothing transformation scene typical of magical girl anime doesn't focus on the breasts, it's only saving grace. Overall though, it appears to be an anime well worth watching.

Next up is the ridiculous childishness that was the first episode of Da Capo III. I know the anime series is popular but I felt like I was watching an immature kids show that had drifted into the ecchi harem genre. Every chance the artists got, they had to include scenes with bouncing boobs. The sexual jokes were very overdone, even for an ecchi. While the mystery of the island was interesting, and might provide enough reason to watch another episode, I can't help but feel the story is lost beneath the stupidity of the characters and their childish dialogue. The dialogue especially grated on me when the writers felt the need to include a piece of dialogue from every character in the scene, skipping from one to the next showing their responses to a certain piece of dialogue from another character. The first time it happened was funny, but when they continued to repeat the pattern it just became annoying and stilted.

I'm not entirely sure what to make of Maoyuu Maou Yuusha yet. The concept of the story has the potential to be good, and the world design should certainly interest fans of Fantasy-themed anime, but the ecchi component that was made so prevalent in the episode felt completely out of place. I can understand the sense behind a political marriage between demons and humans, but professing it to be more than that, love at first sight even, and the childish reactions of the "Demon King" destroyed any sensibility and made it into a comedic situation that ruined the potential the anime has to take a good long look into the effects war has on nations and the motivations behind it. The story has a lot of potential, but I fear they are going to waste it chasing the naive and weak protagonist uncomfortable with becoming romantically involved with the excessively developed and attractive girl who likes him for no apparent reason trope. Saying that, we did get some glimpses into her past, and it showed the potential for there to actually be some depth to her character, but perhaps they would have done better to actually tell us her name first. I ended the episode seeing them agree to form a relationship to bond the nations together when they didn't even know each others names and instead just referred to each other as "Hero" and "Demon King". That along with the sexual jokes ruins any credibility the story could have had.

Zettai Karen Children: The Unlimited treats us to a dark action story that would suit fans of fighting-themed anime. I see it as Code:Breaker meets X-men, with characters that come across quite similar to those of Code:Breaker with very similar powers, yet their existence is common knowledge and just like with X-Men, it shows us the reaction the rest of the world has to their powers. The characters appear solid and well thought out, the story has potential, yet I found the abilities of the protagonist excessively overpowered. I do worry that the show will turn into the "lets get beaten up by the bad guy of the week until I am forced to release my full powers and instantly win" trope. The animation is well done, and the backgrounds of the characters might just well continue to surprise us as they did in the last few minutes of the first episode. The show certainly takes a much more mature and serious spin when compared to the original series that was released back in 2008. I believe though that the anime will be one worth watching.

Ninjas are back with Senran Kagura, and so are bouncing boobs. The combinations should be any ecchi fans dream anime. Unfortunately what makes ninjas great is lost beneath the childish portrayal of the characters, with the protagonist being made into a hopelessly ditzy girl who makes the early days of Naruto look like a master shinobi. With the exception of Yagyuu, the antagonists of the anime have more potential to be entertaining characters than the girls we are supposed to be rooting for. The script and plot leaves much to be desired, but the last few minutes of the episode hint at possible improvements to come, so this anime might need a couple more episodes chance before being dismissed completely. I just hope Katsuragi gets over her breast groping fetish already, it's incredibly irritating and out of place. I don't hold out much hope for Senran Kagura being any good, which is unfortunate, because I believe many anime fans would love to see an anime about Ninjas compete with Naruto. This won't be that anime.

In Hakkuden: A Strange Tale of Eight Dogs of the East we are introduced to three characters who are the sole survivors of a village that was burned to the ground, and each one of them gifted with some special ability that sets them apart from the other people in the community where they sought refuge, trying to hide from their past. The premise of the story is interesting and has some potential, but I found the episode too rushed, as if they were trying to fit several episodes worth of plot into one 25 minute slot. This served to make much of the episode feel like a series of random events. When the episode first started I was a bit put off by the talking animals, felt the Lord of the Lake and the frog a bit much. I didn't mind Murasame once I understood a bit more about him, but wondered why they even thought of including that algae eyeball creature. When this show was labelled as Shoujo, there was a big scare that, considering the protagonists are two male characters, that there would be a boy love theme as the main focus  of the story. Having watched the episode I found no evidence to suggest they would take that direction with the show, but not having read the manga it is adapted from, I cannot say for sure that it won't include anything like that at all. But at this point I'm certain you will find a stronger BL theme in Da Capo III than this. Overall I feel the anime is worth watching, but I just hope they slow things down a bit now that they have introduced the characters and background.

But the best episode of the week has to go to Kotoura, which has come out starting very strong with a heart-wrenching emotional plot, driven by deep characters that, in the style of last season's Chu-2, soften the darkness in the background with light humour. The anime takes a good long look into the effects having the ability to read minds has on the life of the protagonist and her family, the way it effects friendships, the harm knowing everybody's inner thoughts does. The animation style is a bit below-average, but the story should more than satisfactorily make up for it - although the style of animation does suit some of the very strange glimpses Kotoura gets from the mind of her hopelessly stupid friend, Manabe. So far, Kotoura is easily the anime of the season to watch out for, and I can only imagine the insane hilarity Manabe is going to get Kotoura involved in as the series progresses and he helps her to deal with the darkness of her past.

Keep an eye out for more detailed reviews of this seasons anime as the stories progress.