The Spring 2018 Anime Preview Guide Last Period: journey to the end of despair
How would you rate episode 1 of
Last Period: the journey to the end of the despair ?
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How was the first episode?
The best that I can say for Last Period is that it tries, and it tries so earnestly that I almost feel badly for not liking it more. Based on a “free” game that very clearly includes in-app purchases, this episode does its level best to lampoon both itself and the entire RPG-style fantasy genre. Unfortunately it doesn't quite take enough risks with its humor or make its characters interesting enough to fully feel like a stand-alone anime and not an advertisement for the game, something which is possible – just not here.
Most of the issue here for me is that there isn't enough done to really establish the world or characters. Obviously in a first episode neither should be fully fleshed out, but there should be enough to make us want to pursue adventure in this world with these people. To that end, we're introduced to Haru and his party, low-level “periods” (and wow, don't watch this show after having a discussion in class about the role of sex ed in children's literature) who have just come back from an adventure to find that their branch office of the world's equivalent of the adventurers' guild has been shut down. This is where some of the confusion in the world building arises, because it's not clear whether this is in fact a game and Haru and the others are being played by people outside of it or if they're actual inhabitants of a game-like fantasy world. This issue persists when they're later offered a chance to basically roll for a new party member but have to pay for it with yen instead of the in-world currency. So are they NPCs living in a game while unaware of it? The Infinite Dendrogram novels pull that concept off well, but its rules are well-established from the start; this just feels like a joke that falls flat because we don't understand the set up well enough.
This isn't a total failure. The main villainess' look feels like a shout-out to Arsène of Milky Holmes, which is kind of fun, and I love the bright colors and character designs. I'm also pleased with the way that the subtitles try to use the greedy mayor's verbal tic as part of his lines when possible instead of just sticking “zeni” at the end of his sentences, as they do when there's no pun possible. These aspects plus the general good natured feeling of the show do make me want to like it, but the lackluster characters and storytelling aren't giving me much hope that this is going to be worth the time.
Is it just my imagination, or is this shaping up to be a very “3 out of 5” season? I feel like we've been inundated with reasonably competent premieres, but I can count the number of shows I'm genuinely excited about on one hand with a finger or two to spare. In any case, you can go ahead and add Last Period to that growing list of shows sitting in the upper tier of mediocrity. Its RPG parody premise has some potential and does just enough to differentiate itself from the crowd, and the execution in this first episode is reasonably good but fails to deliver that all-important “gotta watch this show” high point.
The writing here leans heavily on genre parody, with a particular focus on free-to-play RPGs. The results are honestly pretty mixed. This episode goes for most of the obvious jokes that come to mind when you think of this kind of game, be it free stuff as compensation for server maintenance or the conveniently-timed arrival of the “gacha salesperson” character. It's all amusingly relatable if you've ever poured too much time into a mobile game, but it's also the lowest of low-hanging fruit from a creative standpoint. I'm pretty sure I've heard all of the jokes in this episode before, be it in another anime series or while griping about games with my friends. Future episodes will need to go deeper in their satire of game mechanics if this show is going to have legs.
In between its assaults on the fourth wall, Last Period also lays the groundwork for its story and characters. I like the idea of having an established party of adventurers trying to rebuild their guild, as it skips over the tired old plot points of a rookie assembling a new team from scratch. There's some decent comedic chemistry within the main party, with magic-user Liza being an early standout thanks to her arguments with the stingy quest-giver mayor. The members of rival adventuring team Wiseman run the risk of going too far over the top, but for now they're tolerable enough as goofy comedy relief.
I do like the look of Last Period; the colorful, kind-of-cute aesthetic is a good match for its tone and style of humor. There's enough going on here that I'll probably check out the second episode, but the writing will need to come up with some more original jokes if it's going to hold my interest beyond that. If you're looking for some easy laughs at the expense of free-to-play games, this episode is just good enough to be worth the half-hour you'll spend watching it.
Last Period is a charmingly illustrated, candy-colored gacha game parody that commits the cardinal sin of comedy: it isn't funny. Though it tries its darndest to elicit chuckles from the audience, the single funniest thing about this entire premiere probably comes from the bevy of menstruation gags I've seen people make about the show's choice of nomenclature for its heroes. It's a shame that this unfortunate localization coincidence has overshadowed the show's own script, but them's the breaks when your comedic chops aren't up to snuff.
That isn't to say that the show is completely lacking in redeeming qualities. While Haru, Choco, Liza, and Gajeru aren't exactly wellsprings of charisma, they share an easy-going chemistry that makes their scenes together pleasant, if not exactly as entertaining as intended. I also appreciate the show's visual design; anything with this bright a color palette usually gets some bonus points from me, and I even dug the outlandish costumes everyone in this gacha game universe wears. It isn't a unique aesthetic, but it suits the tenor of the show, and those more in tune with Last Period's comedic sensibilities will likely be glad to know that the show isn't an eyesore.
Of all the episode's many gags, there were a few that resonated with me through the more inconsistent bits. For instance, I found the lampshading of Mayor Bigbucks' stinginess to be rather trite, but the actual verbal tic of him ending every sentence with the word “money” eventually Sideshow-Bob-Stepping-on-Rakes'd its way from being irritating to sort of funny. I also thought the concept of the “call-girl” who summons gacha heroes a little too on the nose, but I appreciated the characters' befuddlement at the concept of having to use yen to purchase them. A couple of mildly amusing bits were sprinkled about here and there, but more often than not the meta-humor gags that poked fun at mobile game tropes were too obvious and half-baked to really sing.
All in all, most of Last Period's premiere was more “tolerably pleasant” than anything else. I won't necessarily complain about that (I'd rather a dozen of these fluffy mediocrities than even one more Magical Girl site), but in a season that's positively bursting with a variety of different shows, being unmemorable is as fatal a mistake as you can make. Comedy is incredibly subjective, so even though this premiere didn't exactly win me over, it may be worth a shot to investigate and see if it's more your thing. Just don't be surprised if you forget it exists only a few minutes after you finish it.
Last Period's free-to-play game pedigree might inspire some skepticism, but I'm guessing you won't want to sleep on this one. Last Period isn't a generic “fantasy in a game world” show; it essentially follows in the mode of shows like Konosuba and Outbreak Company, offering a solid mix of charming camaraderie and barbed riffs on videogame conventions. It's upbeat and attractive and pretty darn funny, establishing itself as a fine addition to the videogame parody pantheon.
The show quickly rushes through its default premise, setting up a standard JRPG world where the heroes are known as Periods and the monsters are known as Spirals. We're then introduced to the adventuring quartet Haru, Choco, Liza, and Gajeru, as they learn their own branch office has had its fortune stolen, and they themselves have been reduced to unlicensed temping in order to eventually buy back their own former building. And so they head off to fight more spirals, offering a combination of chipper can-do attitude and fatigued genre cynicism all along the way.
So far, the four original members of the Last Period crew have already established a fairly solid rapport between themselves. While Haru's simplistic, upbeat nature would likely position him as the lead in a more traditional fantasy show, it's his companions Choco and Liza who both steer and steal the show here. Choco takes the “mysterious, soft-spoken heroine” role and runs with it to the point of absurdity, offering a great mix of deadpan punchlines and fourth-wall breaking genre commentary (“cramming money jokes into a guy's dialogue is lazy writing”). In contrast, Liza acts as the true leader of the group, furiously negotiating for better pay and generally being the voice of reason. The two of them end up with much better material than Haru and Gajeru (whose one big gag is an easy “I'm an idol otaku” gimmie), but this episode's overall joke strike ratio is quite strong, with only some choppy pacing and over-extended weaker gags holding it down.
Last Period is also very solid aesthetically, boasting plenty of lively movement, strong expression work, and a generally pleasant, colorful design sense. I particularly liked the show's opening song, whose crayon tale of the cast slowly improving as adventurers endeared me to them before I'd even met them. On the whole, Last Period feels very much like a somewhat kinder version of Konosuba - take that show's genre parodies and apply them to a group of people who generally try to be decent to each other, and you've got Last Period. That's a fine combination, and Last Period is looking to be a fine show.
This series is probably going to be tagged as an RPG-styled fantasy series, but calling it that would be a misnomer. It would more accurately be described as a blatant parody of app-based games – or at least an attempt at one, anyway. Can you truly call something a parody if it isn't funny at all?
Okay, maybe there are slight bits of actual humor here, and it's not like the first episode doesn't try. Many common aspects of app-based games are prime material for comedy, particularly the whole “gacha” mechanism, including how it's often free the first time but you usually have to pay real money for your opportunities after that. One of the few worthwhile jokes involves how there's always some kind of fanciful spell, contraption, or other gimmick for adding a flourish to the gacha picks, and then for all of that flash you will commonly end up with a disposable return. If the series takes and runs with the one-star guy as a running joke, then that might amount to something creative. The guy with the weird five-star item was also a decent spoof.
Otherwise the episode is pretty much a load of cornball cutesiness which comes off like an elongated version of the omake parodies sometime included in DVD and Blu-Ray releases. Character designs look like they are pulled straight from some cheap Japanese app game, and I've seen app games with better animated sequences in their cut scenes. Basic character personalities are at least firmly-established, but any details on who these characters actually are and where they come from will apparently have to wait for later. There's little sense of overarching world-building afoot either, or indication of why Team Rocket Wiseman is trying to undercut the Periods grouped around Haru. That Wiseman's boss looks suspiciously similar to the Arc End assistant girl is a mildly interesting twist, and it's safe to say that she probably has a lot to do with the 8th Branch's payroll having gone missing.
However, I'm not convinced that anything going on here – the lame characters, the uninteresting and unimpressive artistry, the weak humor – warrants putting up with the series long enough to find out what's going on. The “despair” in the title feels like an unintended reference to this series’ chances of success this season.
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