There’s a new season of anime series starting! I watched some of them! Most of them were terrible!
Japanese middle-school(?) student Shinobu heads off to England to visit a friend of her mother, whose daughter, Alice, she quickly becomes BFFs with. They do generically adorable things for a while in a whimsical fairy-tale version of England, then Shinobu goes home to Japan. Several years later Alice, who appears to have been thoroughly weeaboo-ized by Shinobu’s presence, arrives in Japan as an exchange student.
I watched this pretty much just because most of the episode is set in a location other than a Tokyo suburb, which always piques my interest. If I had known it was based on a four-panel manga I probably wouldn’t have bothered.
Like a lot of other four-panel adaptations Kiniro Mosaic is short on actual humour and heavy on the characters doing inane things. I laughed exactly once, when a hair ornament thing Shinobu is trying to put on Alice flies off and hits her in the forehead; I’m not sure if anything else in this episode is even supposed to count as a joke.
Kiniro Mosaic’s only real distinguishing feature apart from the temporary Japanese-Anglo connection is how terrible some of the production values are. There’s a scene at the start of the episode with Shinobu being driven through the most god-awful CG landscapes that looks like a cut-scene from a late-generation Playstation 1 game.
If all you’re looking for in a show is bobble-headed girls with high pitched voices Kiniro Mosaic might be for you. Otherwise skip it.
Like many people my age I was introduced to anime through gimmicky toy-oriented shows like Pokemon and Digimon. I also had a fondness for Cardcaptors, a short-lived attempt to turn a series with a female lead presented using artwork like this into a boy-focused commercial property (it didn’t work). I’m telling you all of this to try and explain why I would ever consider watching Fantasista Dolls. The nostalgia made me do it.
So it’s contemporary Japan and Some Girl with no real personality to speak of in a garish over-designed school uniform has a pink mobile phone-like device inserted into her school bag by a mysterious dude on the train. It turns out the phone is a thing used in a card game that Girl used to play when she was younger- you know, one of those improbable anime card games where children routinely compete against adults and crowds of people show up to watch. Except this card-phone-device-whatever is special, because it has magic powers! And also there’s four invisible candy-coloured mascot girls following our hero around, who are powered up by the magic iPhone to fight other card-iPhone-student-mystery-girls? Or something? I stopped paying attention halfway through.
I think I know how this show got green-lit. It started out as a merchandise-focused kid’s property before some enterprising executive had the idea to stick a bevy of generic anime harem girls with varying hair colours and boob sizes into it and sell hug pillows instead (if you don’t know what a hug pillow is don’t look it up. You’ll be happier that way).
Girl-chan is just a bit more proactive and confident than I expected, but that’s about all the positivity I have for Fantasista Dolls. As well as being generic and stupid the show is up its own ass to a degree that’s surprising even for anime, with lots of Very Serious magical incantations and villains standing around in shadowy locations spouting cryptic nonsense about destiny. In consequence it feels very much like a cheap knock-off of a B-list CLAMP property from the middle of the last decade.
So there’s a cute girl with no personality who
*glug glug glug*
Okay, I’m good.
So there’s a cute girl with no personality who arrives at a giant palatial girl’s school only to find a handgun under her room-mate’s pillow. But don’t worry, it’s not a real handgun! It turns out the room-mate is part of an inexplicably under-populated airsoft club that stages battles against other all-girl clubs from different schools (hint: most real airsoft clubs are composed entirely of sweaty braying dudebros).
There’s a tendency lately in anime to take a theoretically interesting premise and then instead of writing original characters just load it up with the cast of K-On. And so it is here, with the airsoft club made up of a quartet of stock quirky girl stereotypes.
That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy this episode- it’s energetic and chuckle-worthy in places, and the airsoft battles are fairly entertaining. You can tell that someone at Gainax really wanted to show how fun the sport is and put a lot of effort into capturing the experience in animation, down to the authentic sound effects of the guns firing. Oddly enough this doesn’t apply to the music, a weird lifeless jazz soundtrack that hangs over the action scenes like a wet blanket.
I’m probably not going to watch any more of Hella Airsoft High School Class Whatever but this first episode made for a pleasant enough diversion.
Oh, one more thing: playing Airsoft in a school uniform? Probably not a good idea.
The anime industry is in a bit of bother at the moment. Studios are closing, people are losing their jobs, the money isn’t there as much as it used to be. In this environment everyone is looking for a hit, and it’s perhaps understandable that anything popular gets copied incessantly as studios follow the leader straight into the fetid swamps of creative stagnation.
In 2011 Studio Shaft unleashed Puella Magi Madoka Magica onto the world. At first glance a throwback to the once-popular but now largely dormant magical girl genre, after three episodes the show revealed itself to be something else entirely with a series of dark twists lurking below the frilly, pastel surface. The unexpected genre subversion coupled with strong characters and writing made the series an instant commercial and critical success, world-wide as well as in its home territory. So naturally we’ve gotten more dark magical girl shows in Madoka’s aftermath.
Enter Il Sole Daybreak Penetra Daybreak ~Illusion~, as obvious a rip-off as you’re likely to find. The story centers around Akari, an orange-haired girl living in what appears to be Isle Delfino from Mario Sunshine who works part time telling people’s fortunes with tarot cards. A whole lot of bullshit happens, monsters, people die, Akari turns into a flame-haired magical girl and kills the monsters alongside a trio of other girls in hideously designed outfits. Also Akari accidentally stabs her cousin to death after transforming, but it didn’t really happen? Or something? It’s all very convoluted and vague.
Why does Il Sole Penetration Daybreak fail so spectacularly at stealing Madoka’s thunder? A variety of reasons. First, Madoka’s “twist” of turning into something darker than it appeared to be at first is the sort of thing you can only really do once. Even a competent recreation is never going to be more than that. Second, Madoka has a whole lot more than just the twist going for it and took three entire episodes to set up the characters and plot before playing its hand. And perhaps most importantly, for all that Madoka gets hyped up for being DARK AND EDGY RARRRRR it’s really not that dark; almost all of the explicit violence takes place off-screen, leaving the show’s grim tone to be delivered thematically rather than through gore and death.
Il Sole Super Mario Daybreak by contrast is so excited about being DARK AND EDGY RARRRRR that it blows its wad before the end of the first episode, shoving the viewer’s face in blood and tears and snot leaking from its young character’s noses. It’s just trying way too hard to copy the superficial appeal of Madoka while entirely failing to understand why it had such an impact in the first place.
Il Sole Whatever is also one of the ugliest shows I’ve seen in a long time, with messy over-designed monsters and chunky heroines wearing ludicrous candy-coloured outfits. The girls all have massive skull-engulfing hairstyles that look like they’d present a major drowning hazard in deep water and for some reason all of the grown men in this episode are drawn with huge out of proportion heads. A pregnant women shows up near the beginning who has the face and body of a ten year old girl but adult-sized breasts and a swollen abdomen- a sight far more disturbing than anything else in the episode.