2017 Winter Anime First Episode Reviews

Rena Cai, Staff Writer

Masamune-kun’s Revenge

Genres: comedy, ecchi, romance, slice of life

General Rating: 3/5

The basic premise for this manga-based series sounds like something ripped out of a teen melodrama. A pudgy boy who was cruelly rejected several years earlier has remade himself into a total hottie, and now he seeks to use his good looks to get the girl who dumped him to fall in love so he can dump her, thus getting his ultimate revenge.

Frankly, if I wasn’t already a fan of this series, I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much as I did. The characters fit too neatly into into clichés: the conceited male protagonist, the rich girl who looks down on everyone, the servant who follows the rich girl around, and an effeminate boy who’s the butt of BL jokes. And that’s not the least of it. The main character is petty and small-minded and his target is even worse. Her title is “Cruel Princess” because she shoots down every boy who confesses to her in the most humiliating way possible, publically. Shows about unlikable characters can be enjoyable, but Masamune-kun’s Revenge pushes viewers to like them without giving reasons why by fleshing out their personalities.

But that doesn’t mean the show isn’t irredeemable. The supporting characters seem like they’d add a lot to the show, and while the animation could use work, the art itself and soundtrack are pretty good. And, to be completely honest, the rejection scene was pretty funny.

Interviews With Monster Girls

Genres: comedy, slice of life, supernatural

General Rating: 4/5

I went into the first episode of Interviews with Monster Girls blind, expecting it to be similar to the genre’s benchmark Monster Musume. Imagine my surprise when it turned out to be a warm and fuzzy slice of life series.

The obligatory male human protagonist is a teacher, and his interest in demi-humans comes from wanting to write a college thesis on them instead of wanting to, well, cohabitate with them. This turns the fanservice dial down pretty low, and allows this episode to focus on having candid conversations about what life would be like for a girl with vampire fangs or a detached head. The different approach this series takes lets it find its own niche, and it’s adorable. If the high energy and fanservice levels of previous monster girl shows has kept you away in the past, this might be the series to turn that trend around.

But what really stuck me is the series’s theme. Being a demi isn’t overblown, but it’s still a meaningful part of girls’ lives. Perhaps the most notable thing the show demonstrates is the awkwardness that can naturally result from trying to tiptoe around racial differences. Interviews with Monster Girls’ interview-focused premise ultimately seems to reflect the show’s general belief in honestly approaching others, accepting that you often won’t fully understand them, and working towards greater understanding in spite of that. If the first episode is any indication, this will be a good show to keep an eye on this season.

Hand Shakers:

Genre: action

General Rating: a possibly very enjoyable 0/5

You know a show is bad when you have to look away during the first five seconds to avoid a headache. (I still got one afterwards though.) Right off the bat, Hand Shakers treats its audience to: chains – which I swear are copied and pasted – that end nowhere. An unsuccessful attempt at forced perspective panning up an off-putting character design and ancient explosion effects follow soon after. The worst thing, though, is that this isn’t the type of terrible that is a result of a lack of time or funding. It’s not accidental or unavoidable at all. This is the kind of terrible that can only come about through thorough planning, which means that the production team thought that it looked great.

The visuals might’ve been bearable if the other factors were good. But they weren’t. The characters are either bland, blander, or in the case of one character, apparently ripped off from a popular franchise altogether. The story is equally unredeemable with a standard eye-rolling plot about chosen boys with superpowers given to them by female companions packed with creatures like Nimrods and Ziggurats that belong in a bottom tier light novel. It’s badly written, slightly confusing, and even gross when it comes to the villainess. There’ll probably be some convoluted lore that will explain what’s going on later, but I won’t be sticking around long enough to find out.

But who knows? You might enjoy watching movies with awful visual effects and painful directorial choices for fun, and this show is certainly full of both for you to laugh at. If you don’t, though, please follow my lead and stay far, far away from Hand Shakers.

ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Dept.:

Genre: drama

General Rating: 4/5

A character drama about bureaucracy in a made-up country doesn’t sound like the most thrilling premise for a show, and ACCA seems to understand that – the first episode is evenly split between portraying the boring daily routine of inspector Jean’s life and somehow infusing that same life with captivating style. The events do a good job of showing how Jean is both skilled at and supremely bored by his work, but what is introduced in this episode seems quite mundane. Jean likes the individuality of the districts, thinks his own division doesn’t really need to exist, and is happy to clock out at four to go drinking with friends. But ACCA’s narrative movements hide some very strong, understated worldbuilding, along with great hints of future conflict.

There’s a bit of direct exposition, but most of this episode presents the life in this world and the fault lines in the government at the pace the characters experience them. The winding storytelling enforces this sense of a lived reality – we experience this world not at the pace of narrative drama, but at the pace Jean lives through it. And since this world and the people within it seem real,the building hints of drama to come feel enticing, because viewers are already sold on the world as it is. It also helps that this series has a wonderful sense of style. The character designs have a natural grace to them, and while the animation is limited, the exterior backgrounds are beautiful watercolors.

Overall, ACCA presents one of the most promising premieres of the season so far. Its understated approach to worldbuilding makes me feel far more invested in its drama than a show which starts mid-turmoil. The world and its characters already feel real, and I’m eager to see where this story takes them.