To be honest, I really wasn't expecting much out of Blood Lad. For a while I've had an aversion to vampire shows, so at first I was wary. I only really watched the first episode because I heard there would be monster girls. I made the right choice, because what I found in the pilot was something I had never seen before. Blood Lad is a wholly unique show in which almost every aspect I can think of is done differently. The character designs are refreshing and interesting, as is the whole show's look. The animation is done in a fun and surprising way that literally didn't allow me to get bored. The comedy is unorthodox as well and managed to get more than a few surprise laughs out of me. I was really invested in the main character Staz from the get-go, and I'm interested to see all the other characters that are shown in the opening sequence.That being said, I really hope that Blood Lad doesn't turn out to be a straight forward battle anime like the aforementioned opening seemed to imply. As long as it stays as fresh and involving as it's first foray, I think I'm going to continue enjoying this series.
As someone who hasn't seen the original Gatchaman anime and knows virtually nothing about the series's history, I feel somewhat unqualified to deliver judgement on Crowds. That being said, if the original series is half as amazing as this new installment, I have really been missing out. The first episode of Gatchaman Crowds was more unique and gorgeous than most anime series I have seen in my 5 years of covering currently airing anime. What I want to really stress is how absolutely gorgeous and completely unlike anything I've seen before the visual style of Crowds is. There was not a moment in this pilot that I was not in love with the general aesthetics. The character designs put almost every original character design I have ever seen to shame in terms of creativity. Usually CG in anime turns me right off, but the general design sense behind the series made it completely tolerable, even beautiful. The suit and alien designs are brilliant and sold even a skeptical like me on the use of CG. All around, Gatachaman Crowds impressed the hell out of me and I can't wait to see more of this ingenious entry into a classic franchise.
IL SOLE PENETRA LE ILLUSIONI ~ DAY BREAK ILLUSION (GEN'EI O KAKERU TAIY )
In a post-Madoka world, it's hard to get excited for a magical girl anime with dark themes such as this one. However, Daybreak Illusion does enough in the vein of inventive ideas to catch my interest. Even in a season full of avant-garde art styles, the character designs still stand out quite a bit, even if I'm not the biggest fan of them. The animation didn't quite blow me away until near the end of this episode, where it was clear the majority of their budget went. While the first episode certainly does drag it's feet quite a bit, the second half is full of surprises and unique twists. The use of blood is quite notable, as I don't think even Madoka used it that much, if at all. The idea of a horror magical girl show is a really exciting prospect to me, and I hope the series delivers. Even with the incredible amount of content in this episode, many aspects of the story were kept vague, enticing me to keep watching to see how it's developed. While I was wary of this series at first, I'm now incredibly excited to see where Daybreak Illusion goes next.
Even in a season saturated with high-quality slice of life series, Love Lab managed to seriously impress me. Not only is it cute and unique, but the production value is at a level rarely seen in this genre. A sporadic animation style lends itself well to the simple, but adorable character designs to keep even the most normal (if you could call anything that happens "normal") scenes visually stimulating. While I was a little disappointed that the original goal of the characters is to learn how to date boys, I have no doubts that these characters will develop some kind of romantic interest in each other instead. Even without the yuri subtext, Love Lab is a fun show that manages to be inventive enough to keep even the most travelled slice-of-life fans enthralled.
MONOGATARI SERIES SECOND SEASON
The long awaited, confusingly titled third(?) season of this infamous series is here! By now, most anime fans already know where they stand with the continuing adaptation of the Bakemonogatari graphic novels. In keeping with the tradition of the series, this first episode was chock full of dialog, inter-titles, and of course, fan service. Shaft's unorthodox animation production was also as entertaining as ever. Despite almost nothing happening in the vein of actual plot development, this premiere had me completely enthralled the whole time. Without a doubt, this is more of the Monogatari I know and love, and I couldn't be more excited about that.
SILVER SPOON (GIN NO SAJI)
Against all odds, I actually really enjoyed the first episode of Silver Spoon. Maybe it was the charm that permeates Hiromu Arakawa's work, or maybe it was the completely unorthodox premise for an anime, but I found myself laughing and smiling the whole time. Just like with all of Arakawa-sensei's work, the character designs were unique and memorable, with personalities to match. Some nice similarities to some of the more notable Fullmetal Alchemist characters only served to endear them to me all the more. That being said, there were a lot of factors in Silver Spoon that, if made by any other author, would definitely be deal breakers. A realistic show about farming undoubtably comes with some pretty gross subject matter, including animal feces and anatomy. However, this first episode cleared these huge hurdles with ease using charm and wit. Silver Spoon looks like it's going to be a very enjoyable series, if only because of that great Sukima Switch ending song.
STELLA WOMEN'S ACADEMY, HIGH SCHOOL DIVISION CLASS C3 (STELLA JOGAKUIN KOUTOU-KA C -BU)
If you were to ask me my favorite japanese animation studio of all time, I probably wouldn't hesitate to say Gainax. So many of their projects have changed the way I think about anime as a medium and had a significant impact on my tastes. Needless to say, when I heard that they were making a show about girls with guns, albeit air-soft ones, I was very excited. While the first episode of C3 wasn't quite what I expected, it would be a terrible exaggeration to say I was disappointed. Each of the self-proclaimed "weirdos" in the war games club is cute in their own way, and I can see myself continuing to enjoy their antics. While the character designs are nothing special, they are very cute and complement the animation very well. Also notable is the exciting jazz music that plays during the mock battles, grooving in time with the action onscreen and making for a very exciting experience. I really enjoyed the first episode of C3 and I'm excited to see the direction that Gainax takes this interesting and cute concept.
TAMAYURA ~MORE AGGRESIVE~
Finally the second season of one of what is probably the most lighthearted anime series of all time is here! Despite the title and the characters' vows to be "more aggressive!" this season, I'm not expecting a drastic change in the show's laid back tone. If this first episode was anything to go on, this season will provide more of the same heartwarming, adorable content that Tamayura is known for. With 4 OVA and a 12-episode television anime already under it's belt, you most likely know by now whether you're going to stick with it for this season. As for me, I'm definitely looking forward to more of the quirky, easy-going adventures that characterize this delightful series.
THE ECCENTRIC FAMILY (UCH TEN KAZOKU)
Uch ten Kazoku surprised me in a way I never expected it to. As a fan of the novelist's previous anime adaptations, I already had a general interest in it, but nothing about it really intrigued me. I knew I would enjoy the art and animation, by the always amazing P.A. Works, but I didn't know how the story would mesh with my tastes. Even after the first episode, it's hard to say why I really enjoyed it, but I certainly did. I'm very interested in japanese folktales and Uch ten certainly has this content in spades. It's cool to see how the different species of Oni live and interact with the humans in the setting of modern day Kyoto, even if the first episode is fairly vague about how it actually works. The central protagonist has an intriguing personality and outlook on life, and seeing how he interacts with the other main characters and deciphering their history together was actively fun for me. I don't know if Uch ten Kazoku will continue with the charm that filled this pilot episode, but I seriously hope it will.
NO MATTER HOW I LOOK AT IT, IT'S YOU GUYS' FAULT I'M NOT POPULAR! (WATAMOTE)
Watamote was probably the show I was looking forward to the most this season, and it definitely did not let me down. I enjoyed the first episode of this show more than any other pilot in recent memory. It's no secret that I enjoy unpopular and NEET characters, but protagonist Tomoko Kuroki brings a freshness to the archetype. By striving to be popular and even being unrealistically optimistic about her looks and social skills, she brings a positivity that most characters like her lack. I really relate to Tomoko and, against my better judgement, even found myself rooting for her. It takes a lot for anime to send me into hysterical laughter, but Watamote pulled it off on a regular basis.The character designs are ugly in an almost cute way but I, for one, think Tomoko is adorable. The animation by Silver Link is average, but with some cool decisions thrown in to keep it from getting stale. Something that both surprised and delighted me is the opening song. I think it's genius to use such a heavy and epic song for a show with such anticlimactic content and I was smiling for the entire sequence. Needless to say, I think Watamote will end of being my favorite anime this season.