This is the one to watch. The first TV series by Trigger, a new studio formed by Gurren Lagann/Panty and Stocking director Hiroyuki Imaishi, is pure cartoony bliss. Sending up fascism, high school cliches, and battle anime, the first couple episodes keep throwing out wild gags and original concepts at a thrillingly hyper pace. Artistically it’s a marvel, every drawing as expressively warped as a great Bob Clampett short. There are some aspects which may turn off certain viewers, though: the humor can get very crude, and there is a lot of sexual fanservice including some uncomfortable scenarios (a magic, sentient, and very skimpy school uniform forcing the main heroine Ryuko to wear it, for instance). It’s all comically absurd and generally satirical, however, and the women, who make up the majority of a very diverse and uniquely funny cast of characters, aren’t much more objectified than the men are. I trust the team who did Panty and Stocking to develop this story to provide raunchy but ultimately good-natured and weirdly feminist fun.
Kyoto Animation always does top-notch animation, but for a while they’d fallen into a rut of boring, otaku-pandering junk. The Haruhi movie was great but coming after a mostly-wasted second season was a little too late, and rare forays into more experimental comedy like Nichijou unfortunately didn’t make money compared to dull moe drek like K-On. This summer’s surprise hit “swimming anime” Free, however, seems to have reinvigorated the studio, and Beyond the Boundary looks to benefit from it. The story about a high school club filled with supernatural beings is very similar to Haruhi, but the show distinguishes itself by taking a more action-based route, with beautifully animated fight scenes and interestingly-designed monsters. The first couple episodes occasionally fall into moe pandering, but our main girl Mirai Kuriyama has strength to go with her cuteness, and I’m interested enough to see where it goes.
Sort of a cross between a toned-down-for-broadcast-TV Kick-Ass and someone’s Tiger and Bunny fanfiction, Samurai Flamenco isn’t going to win any awards for originality based on the first episode, but it’s got charm to spare. Credit goes to Takahiro Omori, who has directed such great character-driven shows as Baccano and Princess Jellyfish, and here he’s found a great dynamic between no-nonsense cop Hidenori Goto and male model superhero-wannabe manchild Masayoshi Hazama. At this point it’s not clear whether Masayoshi’s idea to become a superhero is a good idea or not, but it’s easy to both laugh at and sympathize with his idealism. Sure to be a favorite of slash fans this season, it looks like it has the goods to entertain the rest of us.
OK, tell me if you’ve heard this one before: three descendants of Galileo, one a child engineering prodigy, one a failing law student, and one in high school who we don’t see that much of, are being pursued by pretty-boy terrorists with giant robots, whom they fight in a giant airship shaped like a goldfish. Yeah, thought you hadn’t. This series definitely gets points for originality, and I’m curious where it’s gonna go, but honestly, I have no clue where this is going or what it’s really supposed to be about. The Noitamina block usually orders good shows, so I’ll give this a few more episodes before deciding whether to continue.
*first episodes of these shows are currently available for Crunchyroll subscribers and will be made free for all to view next Thursday