Winter 2018 First Impressions

Welcome to another installment of First Impressions for the Winter 2018 season. If you’re new here, there are a few simple guidelines this blog follows when it comes to first impressions. One, the shows I review here all have to fall under the romance genre umbrella. If you’d like to know what other shows I’m watching this season, you can follow me on MAL  or my Twitter to see updates there. Two, I follow the general three episode rule. That means I’ll try my best to watch three episodes of any show I plan to cover depending on their release schedule. There are two shows on this list that didn’t have a third episode out by the time of this post, so we’ll be going off the current number of episodes. As usual, if I’ve missed something, feel free to leave me a comment below and also feel free to tell me what shows you’re excited the most about this season. Now, without further ado, here are the new romance shows I’ve checked out for the Winter 2018 season.

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Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card (episodes watched: 3)

Studio: Madhouse

Director: Morio Asaka

Sub-genre: Magical Girl

It’s the moment we’ve all — or at least I’ve — been waiting for. The return of Cardcaptor Sakura after almost 17 years. The Clear Card arc enters into a different time in anime when both the technology and social atmosphere surrounding the medium has changed and improved and you can definitely tell. CLAMP created this new arc as a way to reach new and modern young girls with a series that captivated so many young girls’ and boys’ hearts back in the 90s. I feel that they will not only reach the new audience they’re aiming for but also tempt a lot of nostalgic older audiences back to watch more of, what I consider, one of the best magical girl series to this date.

The new arc focuses on Sakura’s transition into middle school after Syaoran had to leave for Hong Kong at the end of last season. On her first day of school however, she finds herself reunited with Syaoran and learns that he will be attending her school from now on. But Sakura’s happy moments are soon overshadowed when a strange dream involving a new staff, blank cards, and a hooded figure interrupt her sleep. When she wakes, she finds that all the Clow/Sakura Cards have become see-through and her staff now matches the one in her dream. Now Sakura, Tomoyo, and Syaoran must come together again to figure out what’s going on and catch the strange new cards popping up around Tomoeda.

If you haven’t already read my review of the first couple chapters of the new manga, you can check that out here. After watching this first three episodes, I have to say I’m fairly optimistic that the show will live up to the past series. I definitely don’t think it will turn into the sprawling 70 episodes of its predecessor, but I do think it will keep with the general feel and message of the series as a whole. Already, we are seeing the return of all the same music, most of the same voice actors, and similar plot devices. The improvement in the art and CG animation is a great addition that I think adds icing on a fairly strong series. I will say though that I do feel like the story can seem a little too predictable, but I also understand that it’s kind of the nature of shows geared towards younger audiences and CLAMP has tends to add a lot of foreshadowing in their shows right off the bat. One of the things I am majorly excited about though is seeing how they handle the progression or display of Touya and Yuki’s relationship and what’s in store for Touya now that he’s lost his magical abilities. You can bet I’ll be keeping my eye on this show for a while.

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Citrus (episodes watched: 3)

Studio: Passione

Director: Takeo Takahashi

Sub-genre: Yuri

Citrus is one of the shows this season that I’m hesitant to keep following. If you’re someone who has read some of my previous reviews of yuri anime and manga, you know that I have trouble finding ones that I actually enjoy. I feel that too often they involve copious amounts of fanservice and are more geared towards a male audience than a female. And three episodes in, I’m seeing many of the same complaints I have been making over and over again. This story gives us a return of the typical yuri character tropes, teases character growth, and forces you to suspend your sense of belief for the sake of the plot.

The story follows the life of highschool student Yuzu Aihara whose mother just recently remarried and Yuzu finds herself with a new school and, surprisingly, a new sister. The only problem? It’s an all-girl school with strict rules about fashion and conformity, meaning her bleached hair, large jewelry, and colorful alterations to her uniform won’t fly anymore. To make matters worse, her new sister happens to be the student council president. When Yuzu finally confronts her sister Mei about her cold attitude, Mei shuts her up with a kiss, spiraling Yuzu’s thoughts into places they’ve never gone before.

My first main issue with this series is this sense of suspension of belief that is forced upon the viewer in order to make the plot work. For one, I like how Yuzu never knew she had a new sister until the day Mei moved in. Was she not present at her mother’s wedding? Was there no effort to introduce the two families before her new father ran off to do whatever he does? Another issue I have is with the fairly tropey personalities we’re presented with when it comes to Yuzu and Mei. Yuzu is the fashionable and naive blond girl who doesn’t really care about her studies but has a “great heart.” Mei is the cold and emotionally stunted dark haired girl who feels she can mess with people however she wants. I feel like I’ve seen these two character types again and again. Lastly, I was tempted to continue watching this series after episode two when I thought I saw some minimal character growth with Mei, but then she seemed to revert back to her standard personality. I may watch a few more episodes just for the heck of it, but I’m not sure how long I’ll last.

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Karakai Jozu no Takagi-san (episodes watched: 3)

AKA: Skilled Teaser Takagi-san

Studio: Shin-Ei Animation

Director: Hiroaki Akagi

When I first looked into this anime, it reminded me a lot of maybe a cross between Tsuredure Children and Tonari no Seki-kun. I have a fondness for both animes because of their brand of humor and the kinds of situations that arise between the characters. So far, Karakai Jozu no Takagi-san is fairly charming three episodes in. However, I can already predict that the formulaic comedy and hints at romance may become tiresome after a while. I’ve already heard some anime fans who have read the manga talking about not being able to get into the anime because the plot is just too much of the same. In some ways, I’m seeing places where the comedy may be lacking but it also may turn out to be a fairly amusing show to watch for those that don’t want too much investment.

The story itself centers around Takagi-san who loves to tease her classmate Nishikata-kun as they sit next to each other in class or walk home together. Nishikata tries to get back at her multiple times but always seems to fail. The anime’s episodes are split into small vignettes that follow both Takagi’s teasing of Nishikata as well as a group of three girls from their school. Adapted from the manga by Sōichirō Yamamoto, it was picked up by Shin-Ei Animation, a major studio in the animation industry most known for their work on Doraemon.

Shin-Ei Animation did a pretty great job with the art and animation in the show, so I don’t really have any complaints in that department. I think the character designs add a sense of charm and the voice actor for Takagi-san really seems to fit her personality. My only problem that I can see that could impact my enjoyment of this show is the level of comedy. Like I said above, I do generally compare this show to Tsuredure and Tonari no Seki-kun given the vignette style and the classroom antics. However, I don’t think it has the same level of absurdity that makes those shows enjoyable, and I can predict my interest waning after a while.

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Koi wa Ameagari no yo ni (episodes watched: 2)

AKA: Love is like After the Rain

Studio: Wit Studio

Director: Ayumu Watanabe

Honestly, out of almost everything on this list, this anime seems like one of the strongest contenders for a good mature romance story. I haven’t had the chance to read the manga, but after looking into it before the season started, I felt like I would really enjoy watching this one. If you happen to have Amazon Prime, I’m going to make a recommendation right now that you check this out even before I get to the reasons why. With vibrant animation, interesting characters, and a story that really makes you feel for the main character while not being too drama-heavy, I feel like I’ll be checking constantly to see if there are any new episodes.

The story of After the Rain follows highschool student Akira Tachibana who had to quit the track team after a serious injury halted her running career. She now works at a small family restaurant run by the sweet yet bumbling manager Kondo who has caught Tachibana’s interest. However, their age difference and the fact that he is her manager seem to be in the way of their ever being more than manager and employee. Adapted from the manga originally written by Jun Mayuzuki, it was picked up by Wit Studio for the animation. There seems to be a live action film planned for May of this year as well.

From episode one I felt myself get drawn into the fairly introspective mood that surrounds Tachibana as she deals with not being able to run anymore and her love for Kondo. The large billowing clouds in the background, the vibrant colors throughout the episodes, and the strong animation helped solidify the overall feel of the show. I do feel like this may be marketed more towards an older highschool or early college audience given that much of the story takes place at the restaurant and involves an older love interest. The characters are also interesting and believable with Kondo’s kind of bumbling attitude giving him a more down-to-earth feel compared to some romance love-interests. Definitely give this a chance if you happen to have Amazon Prime.

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Violet Evergarden (episodes watched: 2)

Studio: Kyoto Animation

Director: Taichi Ishidate

US Release: Spring 2018

I was hesitant to add this anime to the list at first, one, because I wasn’t sure if it actually fit the genre restrictions of this blog, and, two, it’s technically slated for US release in Spring 2018. However, after finishing up the second episode earlier, I don’t think I need to be concerned about either of those things. Violet Evergarden may not deal in direct romance but it does touch on topics of discovering the meaning behind love and learning to empathize with other people. It has also already been released to every other country besides the US it seems, with Netflix waiting for the full series to be done before putting it up on their website for us unfortunate people over here. However, if you are outside the US or have other avenues from which to watch this show, I absolutely recommend you do as I do think it will hold up to the hype surrounding it’s announcement last year.

The story centers on a girl named Violet Evergarden who was put under the command of Major Gilbert during the previous war. It was there that she was treated as a human weapon becoming extremely loyal to the Major. However, she didn’t come out of the war unscathed, having both her arms replaced by metal prosthesis and losing all her memories of the Major’s fate except for his final words: “I love you.” It’s these words that catapult her into her new career as an Auto Memory Doll, working to write letters for those who cannot while trying to figure out the meaning behind those three words. Adapted from the light novel series by Kana Akatsuki, and picked up for the anime by Kyoto Animation, it’s release has been much anticipated, and for good reason.

The two episodes I have seen so far were fantastic, and I know I will be watching it all the way to the end unless something completely unforeseen happens. Kyo-Ani has done a phenomenal job on the animation, making it nearly movie production quality. The colors are vibrant, the character designs are varied and interesting, and the animation is smooth. But it’s this story of healing that brings me back the most. We see Violet struggle to adjust to her new life after the war and we see just how much the war has affected her both physically and mentally. I think it will be interesting to see if she can actually come to understand and empathize with people enough to become good at her job. It will also be interesting to see if her military skills will be needed in the future or if this will be a show purely focused on healing. Either way, it seems like I’m fully invested for now.

~~Thanks for reading!~~

<<<< Fall 2017


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