Apologies for the break! I’ve been a bit busy launching my new middle-grade fantasy, which means I haven’t had as much time to watch anime, let alone write about it. But now I’m catching up, which means it’s time to look at what we have on the slate for Spring 2014!

As usual, I’m not going to bother with shows I hated, sequels to things I haven’t written about, or shows with no SFF element. (Though one of my early favorites, Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu ka, is in the latter category as another “cute girls doing nothing” show.) Also as usual, I’m only one or two eps in to these, so these are only initial impressions!

In some kind of weird near-future, Tokaku Azuma is a graduate of a school for assassins, and gets sent out on a new assignment — she’s to join a new girl’s school class, the Kurogumi (“Black Class”) in which there’s one assassination target and twelve assassins. The target, Haru Ichinose, is completely oblivious. Judging from the summary and the opening, Azuma eventually falls in love with Ichinose, and spends the rest of the show defending her against the other assassins.

This is the face of a man you can definitely trust.

This is the face of a man you can definitely trust.

So, under ordinary circumstances, shoujo-ai (“girl’s love”) + assassins sound great to me. The problem after one episode is that I don’t buy the premise at all. The various assassins all seem to know who the target is, and they’re all supposed to kill her, but as far as I can tell there aren’t any rules about not doing it in public and so on. Which means I’m not certain why the first class doesn’t just devolve into a massive gunfight? Much less later, when they get paired up as roommates and assigned to a dorm — you would think someone would end up with her throat slit pretty quickly.

It may be that these things are explained later, but I have a sneaking suspicion that what will actually happen is the various assassins will come at the main characters one at a time, each with their own gimmick, etc. Azuma is a pretty standard “emotionless killer discovering love” archetype, and Ichinose is the “too cute and oblivious to live”, so there’s nothing special there. I’ll probably stick with this for another episode or two to see if it does anything unusual, but if not, meh.

In the dystopian future, a killer virus that turns people into monsters called the Gastrea has taken over most of the world, leaving only enclaves of humanity behind giant shield-generating machines. Gastrea monsters sneak in, and have to be exterminated by “Civil Security”, to which our heroes Rentaro and Enju belong. Enju is one of the “lost children”, kids born to infected mothers who have special powers but have to be controlled by drugs.

I'm not sure if having human-style teeth makes this spider more or less terrifying.

I’m not sure if having human-style teeth makes this spider more or less terrifying.

This struck me as a pretty standard action/adventure setup, although the characters are appealing. Rentaro is the standard action protagonist, and Enju is the cute little girl who is in love with him but whose advances he must constantly reject because she’s like 11. (Seriously, anime, why is this a stock character?) There’s also a childhood friend/love interest who runs their company. The action is fast-paced and well-animated, though the rules of their magic seem a bit obscure.

One thing that bugged me: the main characters are a sort of sub-contractor/mercenary company, who get paid for exterminating these monsters. They’re very clear that any breach in security can result in a pandemic that wipes out the city, but for some reason they’re allowed to proceed with minimal oversight. It’s sort of hard to believe that the authorities would outsource such a vital function, even if it allows for the standard anime “working for the government/military, but not part of it” setup.

Anyway, another one that I’m giving a few episodes to see where it goes. Hopefully they start the main plot soon rather than just doing monster-of-the-week for a while.

This one is so strange I’m not exactly sure where to start. Daichi, our main character, returns to the island where he grew up, and where he one day had an encounter with a strange boy who could create circular rainbows in his hands and other mysterious powers. He tries to find the boy again, but ends up holding a mysterious gun-like device, which he uses to activate a giant robot and get launched into space. The robot combines with another, larger robot, to fight a girl-robot that is coming to the earth to…do something? And we find out that Daichi’s father sacrificed his life to deflect one of these incoming monsters/robots/whatever-they-are.

"Do you guys ever get bored of sitting around this table being cryptic and sinister?" "What was that?" "Um, nothing."  *cough*  "Everything is proceeding in accordance with our vague and apparently extremely circuitous plan."

“Do you guys ever get bored of sitting around this table being cryptic and sinister?”
“What was that?”
“Um, nothing.” *cough* “Everything is proceeding in accordance with our vague and apparently extremely circuitous plan.”

As may be apparent, I’m having a hard time following the plot. This is partly because a solid 50% of the screen time seems to consist of anonymous guys in suits or various suspicious-looking characters, talking to one another in oblique terms and saying things like, “We may have to accelerate the schedule,” which sound very sinister without explaining anything. There’s a cute computer-hacker girl who helps Daichi pilot the robot, and the action scenes are pretty good, but I’m still feeling lost. Daichi himself is weird, too, alternately angsty and happy-go-lucky.

After the first episode, I thought it was weird enough to work, but the second episode made me yawn. I’ll probably go back for one more to see if it improves. It’s 25 episodes total, which means they’ve got a lot of potential room.

Murakami, our protagonist, was in love with a girl named Kuroneko (“Black Cat”), who died young in an accident that he survived. Years later, a girl named Kuroha who looks like his old friend joins his class, and saves him from being killed in an accident with precognitive powers. She turns out to be a magician, who has escaped from a secret military lab; he wonders if she’s his childhood friend, but she lacks telltale moles, even though she looks similar.

He seems to live at this observatory and have sole use of it.  Because giant reflecting telescopes are often entrusted to the care of high school juniors.

He seems to live at this observatory and have sole use of it. Because giant reflecting telescopes are often entrusted to the care of high school juniors.

This is another one where I liked the first episode a lot, and faded a bit on the second. I appreciate that Murakami is not the standard-issue protagonist; he has his own conflict, and we can see how it drives him. Kuroha is a little more cookie-cutter, an archetypical tsundere type who wants to hang out with/get help from Murakami but is too proud to admit it. The part that bugged me was where he spends a lot of time convincing her she should stay in school (because, for anime characters, school = the most possible fun one can have) which seems…dumb, given that she’s being hunted by soldiers and marked for death.

We’ll see what they do with the premise, though. If they favor the schooldays-fun aspect over the magic-and-conspiracy side, I may bail, but otherwise I’m on board.

Vicious, vicious unicorns.

Vicious, vicious unicorns.

In a fantasy world, now at peace after the defeat of the evil Emperor, a brother/sister team of out-of-work mercenaries discover the Emperor’s missing daughter attempting to collect her father’s remains, which double as powerful magical artifacts. The new rulers of the world are convinced she intends to resurrect her father’s empire and try to stop them.

I like this one. The three main characters are all nicely done, though Chaika (the Emperor’s daughter) has a strange half-intelligent way of speaking that makes her sound more like a pet. The magic system seems to be reasonably fleshed out, though they haven’t explained it all at this point. The two mercenaries are competent and willing to fight, though they don’t murder people casually either. There are also vicious, carnivorous unicorns!

I cannot overstate the fact that her name is not Eveningbell Sparklypoo.

I cannot overstate the fact that her name is not Eveningbell Sparklypoo.

After two episodes, they’re just getting started on the main plot, but I’m pretty pleased. Looking forward to seeing what happens.

Next time: More new shows from Spring ’14!

New from Django:
My latest, the middle-grade fantasy The Forbidden Library!

My latest, the middle-grade fantasy The Forbidden Library!

Django Wexler is the author of fantasies The Thousand Names and The Forbidden Library. He graduated from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh with degrees in creative writing and computer science, and worked for the university in artificial intelligence research. Eventually he migrated to Microsoft in Seattle, where he now lives with two cats and a teetering mountain of books. When not watching anime, he wrangles computers, paints tiny soldiers, and plays games of all sorts.

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