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Three-Episode Test: Ink's Spring 2017

Attack of the Sequels, Rise of the Shorts

Welcome to the Three Episode Test, where Ani-Gamers contributors give you the low-down on what they're watching (or not) from the current simulcast season and why.


The Laughing Salesman

Streaming on Crunchyroll
Hirofumi Ogura directs this remake of Yoshitomo Yonetani’s take on Motoo Abiko’s (Fujiko Fujio A) seinen manga, which ran from 1968-1971, about a “salesman” who deals in human hearts or, more to the point, filling the emptiness inside those human hearts … for a price. Shin-Ei animation does a wonderful job of making nearly 50-year old character designs work within a modern setting and art style. I believe a comparison to Mr. Osomatsu is inescapable in that respect, but whereas I dropped the latter for its unengaging comedic stylings, I’m sticking with The Laughing Salesman because I’m a sucker for deals with the Devil and genie wishes gone awry. (To that effect, praise must be heaped upon the character design, animation, and vocal stylings behind the titular salesman, Fukuzo Moguro, a spherical oddity whose visual and audible contrast with other characters in the series emphasizes his unearthliness.) It’s a comedic, watered-down Hell Girl with no through-plot and two episodes per 30-minute installment. But the OP, with opening animation by Hiroyuki Moriyama and the song "Don't" by Emi Nakamura, makes every episode simply unmissable.

Folktales from Japan 2 (sequel)

Streaming on Crunchyroll
After 258 episodes, which collectively got all of two OPs and as many EDs, Folktales from Japan shakes things up a little. I’ve not been writing up this series each season in Three-Episode Test, because it’s a show that largely doesn’t change; all episodes in Season 1 have three stories animated in different art styles and narrated by the same two people who also voice all the characters. (You can read more about this fantabulous series in my Winter 2017 Anime USA feature.) I thought the second season worthy of mentioning, because each thirty-minute episode gives a little more time to its tales (of which there are only two now). Also, one of said tales is included in a new segment, introduced via the CGI tengu child that also features in the third OP for this series, deemed “Tales from the Homeland” — tales based on ancient legend. The long(er) form doesn’t hurt the tales, but I honestly miss the three-episode structure; the contrast between each really made the viewing experience a visual thrill ride. Still, this is phenomenal show, and I’m hoping for another 258 episodes.

Attack on Titan 2 (sequel)

Streaming on Crunchyroll
After three years, Wit Studio’s Attack on Titan returns with neuter giants eating people (as well as their horses) and charging the walls that protect them. Three years seems too long an absence to reconnect with an anime that offers me virtually zero emotional attachment and only vague dramatic draws. This installment also seems a lot more irritatingly screamy than I remember the first season being, but there are a few fun mysteries to be figured out this time around: the secrets surrounding the wall’s composition and an abnormal beast titan. I’d say this season looks smoother and more polished, and I definitely don’t remember SO much CGI, but I haven’t revisited Season 1 at all, so this looks like what I remember … which is good. I like the art style of the backgrounds, character designs, and scenery. But with the gap between this season and the last having been filled by much more ambitious works which cast a greater shadow than any titan could, there’s not much to compel me to watch week after week other than the relative lack of interesting anime this season. Side note: I forgot that THEY STILL HAVEN’T GOTTEN TO EREN’S FAMILY’S BASEMENT. Maybe I'll get to see that by the end of this season … if I make it that far.

The World Yamizukan

Streaming on Crunchyroll
It’s the World Book Encyclopedia of Darkness, but if you’re looking for a replacement Yamishibai, please look elsewhere. While this show arguably adapts the kamishibai effect better than Yamishibai ever did, that is to say with even more minimalist animation of movement and facial expressions, the stories themselves fail to competently establish an atmosphere comparable to the seemingly effortless world-building in Yamishibai. And that’s a shame. Yamizukan’s strength is that it doesn’t have to play to a specific horror theme. The first three episodes are tales of, respectively, sci-fi horror, classic supernatural horror, and pulpy Americana horror. Still, if you’re looking for minimally animated short horror stories, you could do worse. (*cough* Kagewani *cough*) The stills and shaking camera effect are charmingly in line with the chosen execution of the series, while the artwork itself ranges from what you’d expect from Yamishibai to some pretty standout sketch-work with great tonal effect. Each episode runs under five minutes, so there’s not a lot to lose by watching the first few to see if it grabs you. I’ll probably be following this until the end of the season just to see what rabbits it has to pull out of the darkness of its hat.

The Eccentric Family 2 (sequel)

Streaming on Crunchyroll
What I love most of all about the first season of The Eccentric Family is the father-son story, which is really a story about values and traditions being handed down from elder to offspring, whether related by blood (i.e. the Shimogamo family) or teaching (i.e. Benten and Akadama) and the resulting chaos. What EF2 feels like it’s doing, so far at least, is taking that premise one step further and following the main inheritors of the previous generation’s guidance and setting them out on their own. It shows how they've personalized those lessons and how they apply in situations with ties to new characters with ties to both generations … a balancing of respect for the then and now in terms of personal identity. That said, I get the impression from the tweety box that a large number of those who enjoyed The Eccentric Family are eagerly awaiting Benten’s return for the wrong reason. (I could do without ever having seen Benten in short shorts.) Simultaneously, EF2 is expanding on the elders’ stories by showing how the Shimogamo elders met and climbs even higher in the family tree to show a tender, and hopefully not isolated, mother-daughter moment. On the lighter side, one of those new characters (Tenmaya) is a trickster extraordinaire, and the other (Nidaime) seems like a force of nature just waiting for an excuse to show its full force. (Just try not yelling, “Baka,” every time you see him in white suit complete with matching top hat and cane.) I cannot wait to explore more of this alternative Kyoto and delve deeper into these beloved characters. Given the first three episodes, I have little doubt that this is a series to watch to the very end.

World Fool News II (sequel)

Streaming on Crunchyroll
Think ‘80s sitcom schmaltz fully revived and parodied in anime form. This short revolves around a small-town news station crewed by a bunch of oddballs. In fact, the show might be more aptly titled The Eccentric News Family. World Fool News II, while not losing any of the charm of the first season despite an extended absence, is not as brilliant or extreme as David Lynch’s short-lived On the Air, but the traits attributed to the cast make every 10-minute episode a chuckle fest with the rare but welcome and often surprising guffaw. And it’s not that the gags are particularly great or memorable, rather they’re greatly stupid. Emphasis behind running gags and the earnestness with which the show writes its characters’ eccentricities bludgeon viewers’ brains until they give in and laugh. The animation looks like basic Flash, which is one of the show’s charms, so there’s no intricate animation to revel in if that’s your thing. That said, there’s definitely a concerted effort to make the most out of movement and framing to keep things just this side of visually engaging. I was a big fan of Season One, and Season Two seems to be more of the same, so I’m all in on this one.

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