The Spring 2017 Anime Preview Guide
How would you rate episode 1 of
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How was the first episode?
Re:CREATORS' first episode manages to thread a needle that I'd have thought impossible: craft a semi-isekai, wholly anime-reflective first episode that not only didn't repel me, but I actually solidly enjoyed. Recent anime's reliance on self-aware, meta “these are the tropes of anime” commentary has become likely my least favorite trend in the medium. But Re:CREATORS is all about What Anime Is Like, and yet it still feels like a story worth telling.
A big part of this episode's success is that it doesn't hammer on the meta jokes. The premise of anime characters being dumped into the real world is played entirely straight, and none of this episode's stars act in ways that betray their believability as people. Our stranded heroine Selesia is confused, but also determined and capable, and male protagonist Sota only comments on her anime-ness insofar as it applies to their ongoing conversations. When the show does crack jokes about its premise, they're generally natural ones that emerge gracefully from the characters involved - Sota attempting to reassure Selesia by telling her how successful her series is, or Selesia having a bit too much fun driving a stranger's car.
But outside of those occasional jokes, this is mostly a classic action-fantasy show with a reasonably compelling premise. Director Ei Aoki's own Fate/Zero is one of the clearest reference points; fantastical characters clash in modern urban settings all throughout, offering a fair number of thrills. Aoki's style of action choreography is unfortunately still pretty bad (everything feels extremely floaty, and there's no real sense of impact or back-and-forth), but the show is certainly animated well, and the swooping cameras occasionally do work in the show's favor. If Aoki can hold back on his ostentatious framing tricks and just let some fights speak for themselves, the show could be a very solid spectacle.
Outside of the direction, most of my reservations regarding this episode relate to the show's future choices. The post-credits scene here, where Sota and his two new friends visit a convenience store, is pretty generic fantasy harem material. Considering the show can't be all fights all the time, I'm guessing we'll be running into a decent amount of that going forward. Additionally, the show has a tendency to slip into the same style of hackneyed, melodramatic prose it's riffing on whenever the central plot comes up, with the mysterious grey-haired villain being the worst offender.
All in all, this was a solid premiere that's probably worth checking out even if you're suffering from meta fatigue. There are definitely plenty of ways this could go wrong, but this episode was a very fun time.
I don't know that I've ever witnessed an anime episode that better encapsulated my job. Re:CREATORS is a treat, not only for its use of interesting camera work and point of view shots but for summarizing one of the most enjoyable aspects I've had working at Anime News Network for the last five years. In that time, I've been the author of The List, a weekly column about character types, tropes, and trends in anime and manga. Topics have included warrior princesses, evil empires, dark magical girls, the whole gambit. In some ways it's made me hyper-aware of when shows are resting on its genre laurels, so to speak.
Perhaps writing manga for the last 20 odd years had a similar effect on creator Rei Hiroe. While he's best known for the violent Black Lagoon manga, he's testing his writing chops and design skills by crafting a story that features the usual players from every anime genre. While this first episode only introduces fantasy-mecha pilot Selesia Upitiria, previous news articles show that we can expect a magical girl, an edgy swordfighter that looks like he came out of a Kazuya Minekura manga, a mecha pilot, a bounty hunter, and more all ready to get thrown at each other in a battle free-for-all.
This would be interesting enough, but there's definitely some meta-commentary going on here about anime and manga creators and even the genre and society's interactions on a whole. The episode opens up showing the presence of anime and game advertising and individuals visiting dedicated message boards, reading about the latest episodes on their phones, and the like. Then, without warning, a girl jumps in front of a train. It seems like the incident and the previous shots are connected somehow. Pair this with the mysterious girl's declaration that our world is the world of “Gods” because of our ability to create characters and it definitely feels like Re:CREATORS has something to say about the media we create and consume.
I also have to hand it to TROYCA and director Ei Aoki. He's bringing some of his great battle choreography from Fate/Zero into this original work. It's very easy for an anime to zoom out, place both characters on opposite sides of the frame and have them fight while the camera just sits there. Aoki has all kinds of interesting stuff going on with the camera, never lingering on a cut too long. Midway through the episode we get a point of view shot from Souta's perspective, including his glasses. I've never seen that done before. There's also little touches, like when Selesia pulls him in his room and closes the door but, realizing that it's dark, cracks it back open again to flip the light switch before shutting it again. It might sound minor, but that kind of attention to detail isn't something we get very often when an episode's run time is often spent hurrying to the next plot point, action sequence, or set piece.
Re:CREATORS first episode is a strong one. If I had to pick any show from its line-up as an example for individuals sitting on the fence about an Anime Strike membership, this one is it. I'm ready to see what else Hiroe has to say with this characters and excited to tune in for more action.
A good first episode will leave the viewer excited about the story to come, and perhaps a little impatient to see more. The premiere of Re:CREATORS made me want to grab my computer screen and shout, “What do you MEAN that's all there is until next week?” This show has come out with guns (and swords) blazing, and I'm already hooked. I want more, and I want it as soon as humanly possible.
The basic premise here is intriguing in and of itself, and it reminds me of the sci-fi novel Redshirts. Re:CREATORS has set itself up to do for anime characters what that book did for expendable Star Trek crewmen: let them know they're living in someone else's fictional universe, and then give them a chance to tell their “gods” exactly what they think about the situation. This kind of story is right up my alley, as it has enough room to celebrate and criticize an area of popular fiction at the same time. Re:CREATORS can call out the overblown writing and lazy character development that we as fans have grown numb to while acknowledging the things that make genre titles fun to watch. If played correctly, it should make for a delightful combination.
Then there are the fight scenes, which are an absolute blast. The production values are high, the visual direction is strong, and there's a good sense of fun behind all the explosive insanity. That last part is perhaps even more important than the first two; if a series is going to go completely bonkers, then needs to be able to laugh at itself on occasion. That's evident in the ridiculous gun-sword-violin combination, and it carries over to the calmer scenes. Sota's trip to a convenience store with Selestia and her new magician ally is a fun way to wrap up the episode, and it avoids the temptation to end on an ominous prediction of impending chaos.
As excited as I am to see where this all goes, even I will admit that Re:CREATORS will have to dodge all kinds of pitfalls as it moves into the meat of its story. It will need to maintain a good balance between the metafictional antics and the actual narrative, which means fighting the temptation to go overboard on self-aware monologues. The characters will also need to be developed quite a bit, since they mostly skate by on sheer novelty in this episode. Of course, given the amount of big creative names behind this series, I'm inclined to be optimistic. If anything is going to give this season's A-list sequels a run for their money, Re:CREATORS could very well be it.
In true Ei Aoki fashion, Re:CREATORS has just burst into the spring anime season by kicking down the door, whipping out a rifle, then whipping out a sword and using that sword to bow the rifle like a violin and send out a shock of soundwaves. Oh, I'm sorry, I meant swordwaves. The shitty-light-novel-imitant villain of Re:CREATORS uses her sword-gun violin to send out waves of other swords, while monologuing about the symphony of the universe or some nonsense.
Self-awareness doesn't give a "metafictional" light novel series like this an automatic pass over the many sincerely crappy adaptations it pulls from, but if the result is as fun and frothy as the action extravaganza Re:CREATORS delivers, then being tongue-in-cheek sure does help! The premise, conceived by Black Lagoon creator Rei Hiroe and co-written by director Aoki, is downright ingenious as an opportunity for both otaku and animators to have their cake and eat it too, poking fun at the garish ridiculousness of light novel anime without verging into satire or criticism. The show seems to acknowledge that the glut of series with titles like "Elemental Symphany of Vogelchevalier" are perhaps not very good, but they're popular for a reason, and it's anybody's guess what pinup knights like Selesia and company would think of the introverted "gods" who made them. Villainesses like sword-gun-violin-lady will probably want to murder their creators, while our noble heroine is still too wrapped up in existential questions to decide on a path forward, and a spacey yet studious magician girl finds the whole situation fascinating from a philosophical point of view (between bites of this strange new world's melon bread).
The result is a sharply animated and impeccably directed production built on a premise overflowing with potential and the bass-rumbling energy of a Hiroyuki Sawano soundtrack. The only reason I can't quite give this episode a perfect score is that Aoki and Hiroe are (unsurprisingly given their resumes) far more interested in delivering kickass action sequences right now than getting into the details of the plot or characters. Compelling visuals are important, but good writing will make all the difference between a Fate/Zero and an Aldnoah.Zero, so I'd like to know a little more about the substance underneath all this style before I go from "super-excited" to "impossibly stoked." There's plenty of reason to hope given Hiroe's past writing on Black Lagoon though. If nothing else, I expect this show to be exuberantly paced and sinfully good fun.
If any anime title this season screams “new otaku darling,” it's this one. But what would else would you expect from the pairing of the creator of Black Lagoon and the director of Fate/Zero and Aldnoah.Zero?
If I'm understanding correctly what's going on in the first episode then the concept at hand is a fantastic one. Various comments made during the episode suggest that this is a scenario where characters from anime series are somehow emerging into the real world, which to some of them constitutes the “realm of the gods” since that's where the creators of their anime and/or source material live. The two of them whom Sota and Selesia meet are seeking out their creators, presumably so that they can regain control of their own destinies. In other words, the concept is essentially a variation on the Arnold Schwartzeneggar movie The Last Action Hero. That leaves an awful lot of room for story potential here, and it neatly allows for the inclusion of all kinds of anime-related elements without making it seem like the series is purely pandering to otaku – even though that is, of course, exactly what it's doing.
Given the creative forces behind the title, the elaborate action sequences that it features are wholly expected. What actually makes the episode work, though, is Selesia. She comes from a world where she has to be the take-charge hero who stands toe-to-toe with the strongest bad guys, and being transported to a wholly unfamiliar world doesn't cow her one bit. She doesn't hesitate to act or let minor inconveniences deter her (one great scene shows her poking her sword through the glass of Sota's bedroom window in order to slide it aside) and isn't even fazed by commandeering a car in the process of fleeing a villain; after all, its controls are simpler than those of the mecha she was piloting in her world. Her understanding of things is not perfect, of course, as the episode's one funny moment prior to the epilogue comes when she mistakes the car's windshield wiper switch for an armament, but she doesn't strike me as the kind of character who's easily going to roll over and become harem fodder for unassuming Sota. Much harder to get a bead on Meteora, the other new girl seemingly from another world, at this point, but the epilogue paints her as so similar in sound and temperament to GATE’s Lelei that I was surprised that they don't have the same voice actress.
There are a lot of other nice little touches, too, and what the episode-opening scene involving a girl apparently committing suicide by jumping in front of a train has to do with anything has yet to be revealed. The soundtrack, by the same person who scored Aldnoah.Zero, is also strong. Overall, if the goal of an anime's first episode is to get viewers enthusiastic about a new property then I consider this to be a big success.
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