The Winter 2017 Anime Preview Guide
How would you rate episode 1 of
What is this?
Chuta Kokonose is a middle school student who lives with his flighty aunt. For as long as he can remember, he's had a voice in his head, and holding conversation with it often distracts him from what's going on. In the past, the problems this condition caused him convinced Chuta that bad things will happen if he makes friends, but worse yet, it's caused him to make a bad impression on the classmate he likes, Misuzu. One day, he's suddenly spirited off the planet by a group of aliens who call themselves Space Police ēlDLIVE, learning that he's been hand-picked by their Mothers Computer to be a prospective officer. During his entrance exam, he finally learns the truth about the voice in his head – it's actually a legendary alien entity called a Monitalien who can be very helpful when they properly synchronize – but why is Misuzu there, too? ēlDLIVE is based on a manga and can be found streaming on Crunchyroll, Sundays at 12:00 PM EST.
How was the first episode?
The sheer volume of early chapter books and middle grade novels about ordinary kids who turn out to have some sort of extraordinary power or gift outdoes even manga with the same theme. It's a fantasy that most of us probably had (have?), especially if we have some sort of weird quirk. Chuta is the lucky boy who gets to fulfill that fantasy when his habit of talking to himself, or rather, responding out loud to the voice in his head, marks him as a potential intergalactic space police officer. And when the voice turns out to belong to some sort of weird parasitic alien observer, things just get even more exciting – or presumably they will, if Chuta's unpleasant, ridiculously biased classmate Misuzu lets him join.
Basically this is a very by-the-book shounen adventure, and it looks like it's going to do it pretty well. Misuzu is the sourest note right now – the female classmate who is unreasonably prejudiced against the protagonist and randomly decides he's a pervert may be my current least favorite character trope. But setting her aside, there's a fun aesthetic to the show in terms of both characters and plot. All of the alien races are unique and interesting to look at, and I admit that I was tempted to give the show all the points for including a man-in-the-moon character and naming him after Georges Méliès, father of silent film, most specifically Le voyage dans la lune. (You've probably seen the iconic image of the man in the moon with a rocket in his eye.) Other aliens are a particularly good cat woman, plenty of four-eyed monsters, and some fun color schemes. The other imagery is a little odd – there are a lot of washed-out images and shots divided into multiple layers or panels. It does add a bit of interest to an otherwise very basic start to a shounen story, but it also feels like too much. It would have been better to let the aliens be the visual dressing, so to speak, and allow them to be a contrast between Chuta's regular life and his new one.
I actually found myself enjoying the episode more upon rewatching it with its English dub. In part this may be due to the fact that Morgan Berry's Chuta has more of a frustrated feel to him than Ayumu Murase's – Berry's Chuta is clearly just getting by and is really tired of the voice in his head making him stand out as a weirdo (or pervert) and preventing him from having a life. Basically Berry's Chuta felt more relatable and human to me, and that goes a long way to making the show feel less cookie cutter. Daman Mills as Brick is also a standout in that he captures a sort of charming smarm that makes the character feel a bit more original. Given the interesting character designs of some of the aliens, it feels like this could be a dub that can have a lot of fun with adjusting voices to fit appearances, so this is definitely off to a promising start.
There's a real risk that this could get formulaic going forward, and it definitely feels like it's for a younger audience than most of the other premiers thus far. But that has its own appeal to it, and following Chuta's adventures could be a nice return to the days of Saturday morning cartoons with a big bowl of sugary cereal. This episode marks a solid debut of what really could become a fun, albeit familiar, show.
The most noteworthy thing about ēlDLIVE is almost certainly its energetic scene transitions. Even minor transitions here are conveyed through things like palette shifts, checkerboard squares filling the screen, or the protagonists’ walking legs heralding a shot wipe. ēlDLIVE doesn't just move between scenes, it moves between scenes with gusto.
Of course, the fact that I'm pointing out something as ultimately trivial as scene transitions should give you some idea of this one's general quality. Outside of those wipes, there's basically nothing interesting about ēlDLIVE. It's a generic children's show starring a boy named Chuta Kokonose, whose main defining feature is that he's always had the voice of an annoying anime mascot stuck in his head. As he explains over the episode's tedious first half, this voice has always isolated him from others. The show's writing is very stilted (“isn't Kokonose-kun interesting and funny?”) and overall aesthetic pretty bland, so there's nothing in this first half that really grabs the viewer at all.
The episode's second half introduces the titular Space Police ēlDLIVE, but that doesn't really change the show's fundamental blandness. There's some proper noun exposition (“this boy was the choice of the Mothers Computer”), and also a bunch of introductions, as Chuta is assigned his improbable role as a space officer. It's all relatively inoffensive stuff, but also generic, simplistic, and executed without any kind of personality. The show itself doesn't even seem particularly thrilled by its premise - there's no sense of urgency to Chuta's new job, and Chuta himself only accidentally agrees to join the space police. Lacking any real compelling qualities in a narrative or visual sense, ēlDLIVE slots in near the bottom of anime children's shows.
The second the opening credits started, I knew this would be a fun one. eIDLIVE reminds me of the kind of Saturday morning cartoon we'd get in the late 80s and early 90s, with a colorful assortment of bad guys, and a wild menagerie of good guys just as strange. It takes me back to the days of Street Sharks and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, where we could have overgrown sharks with legs, and cool villains like Bebop and Rocksteady. Only with eIDLIVE, we get a wacky collection of alien space police, who range from furry white monsters, to tentacle jelly things, to my favorite, a floating crescent moon dude who even has a matching crescent moon spacesuit.
If most of the series is going to be space aliens fighting other aliens, then I am all about this. The first episode was a lot of fun, especially once Chuta learned how to unleash his alien symbiote powers. Prior to that, I admit that I found his personal suffering to be a little trying. I generally sympathize with the loners in anime, but I found myself exasperated that Chuta wouldn't just stop responding to the voice in his head out loud. But hey, it worked out—he got Titty-sensei to show her true alien form, and he awoke his parasitic alien friend, who turned out to be this quasi-adorable cat snake dinosaur who can manifest his host's thoughts into action. With a power as versatile as that, we're in for a solid season of creative special attacks.
The space police are the best part of the show, and what sold me immediately. I can't wait to get to know them more, as they all seem like a delightful bunch. It's all very cartoony in the best possible way, and evokes a sense of nostalgic excitement that I haven't felt in a while. Even the human character designs have a retro sheen to them, calling back to the days of classic anime cop girls and intergalactic crime fighters. Everything in this show so far, Chuta's dead parents and crippling social anxiety notwithstanding, just seems like fun, which is a quality that's often sought, but incredibly hard to actually nail down. I don't foresee eIDLIVE having long-term staying power in the annals of anime history, but it'll be a welcome addition to this season, and a great way to blow off some steam every week.
I was in elementary school when the first Men in Black film came out, and I remember spending the next year or so wanting to be a secret agent in charge of fighting evil space aliens. Ridiculous title aside, ēlDLIVE plays to a similar sense of adventure with its “normal kid joins space police” premise. It may not have the snazzy black suits or the cool sense of humor, but I imagine the promise of monster-busting adventures might still be enough to appeal to a younger audience.
If you're no longer young enough to insist on counting half-years when people ask you your age, there probably isn't enough here to justify sticking around for a full season. The characters are all fairly standard-issue, from the dorky but earnest protagonist to the sharp-tongued pretty girl who won't give him the time of day. My favorite at the moment is Space Police chief Laine Brick, though I suspect I only like him because his name makes me laugh. Some of the alien character designs are kind of neat in a cartoonish way, but we don't really get to know any of the extraterrestrial officers in this episode.
For the younger audience that it seems to be aiming for, ēlDLIVE should work reasonably well. It offers the timeless fantasy of discovering that an embarrassing flaw is really a hidden superpower, and tops it off with getting to have space-themed adventures with the pretty girl from class. The only obvious sticking point is that even kids will probably think that Chuta's parasitic alien mascot character thing looks really stupid. “Don't make me use my space tapeworm on you!”
I suspect that ēlDLIVE will appeal more to the Saturday morning cartoon crowd than the usual late-night anime audience, but I'll admit that it's kind of fun in its own goofy way. If it happens to hit your childhood nostalgia in just the right place, then it might be worth sticking around for an episode or two to see how things play out. If not, then at least Laine Brick will give you a chuckle or two.
And the award for the Most Annoying Series Title of the Season goes to this series, though it apparently can't be helped because that's also the name of the intergalactic police force at the heart of the series. Regardless of that, ēlDLIVE makes an immediate impression with its visual style, which is quite a bit different than anything else out there this season; in fact, I'm hard-pressed to think of another anime title that it actually resembles. (The way it handles coloring and textures somewhat reminds me of 2014's Engaged to the Unidentified, though it is different otherwise.) Its design aesthetic on aliens harkens to a kid-oriented series where aliens can look like any bizarre thing, even a crescent moon with a face or a tiny humanoid with a pyramid for a head, though the saucy teacher suggests that it's actually aiming a bit older. It also uses a much more creative approach to scene transitions than most titles, a detail which can easily slip by if you're not watching for it.
Beyond its look, the first episode is otherwise a fairly standard super-hero/adventure origin tale where the young male protagonist learns that one of his idiosyncrasies is actually a special power which qualifies him to be Someone Important. That earns him what many boys his age would probably consider a dream job: working as a Space Police officer. (I'd question why an adolescent is considered fit for such a seemingly-important task, but like with teen mecha pilots, this is one of these anime things where you just have to roll with it.) It also looks like he's going to have a pretty dazzling “manifest what you can imagine” kind of power, too, and never mind that the alien who is bonded to you sticking out of your belly like that looks quite dorky! Looked at in the most cynical light, this is a classic teen power fantasy developing here.
Sadly, Chuta doesn't distinguish himself much by his character; he's a typical worrywart nice guy who has a supposed-to-be-amusing habit of winding up upside-down when he gets teleported. Love interest/fellow recruit Misuzu is also a standard-looking standoffish type, though she seems unusually harsh towards Chuta; if there's not some backstory between the two then she definitely is overreacting to perceived character flaws. Captain Laine Brick seems like a pretty cool guy, though, and the concept of a space-spanning computer behind the selection process for Space Police candidates is also interesting.
Ultimately this series gets a middle-of-the-road grade from me because I am undecided at this point about whether or not it's going to amount to anything.
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