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This is a collection my first impressions of the fall 2013 season. There may be spoilers in these reviews, so fair warning. New reviews will be posted periodically. Please note that these are reviews of a series’ first episode, and are not intended to be a blanket judgement of a series as a whole. Ratings are 1(worst) to 5(best). If you feel differently about a series, or wish to point out something that I missed, please feel free to post in the comment section below. Enjoy!

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Log Horizon (2 out of 5)log_horizon

Episode Summary – Shiroe wakes up one day and finds himself in the world of MMORPG Elder World, and *shock* finds that neither he nor the thirty thousand other users can’t log out. He ends up contacting some of his in-game friends: Naotsugu, a happy-go-lucky warrior, and Akatsuki, a long assassin who, after requesting an appearance-changing potion from Shiroe, reveals that she’s a girl. The three decide to go hunting in order to get used to their new world, during which a guildmaster friend of Shiroe’s tries to recruit them.

Review – It was expected that the popularity of Sword Art Online would lead to similar titles being released, and Log Horizon is the first such series. SAO placed the bar pretty high, and as such, the first episode of Log Horizon is a giant “meh”.

The story so far is uninspiring, and feels more like a rehash of the standard “trapped in a game” line, though the characters are aware of the differences between their in-game bodies and reality. Having that small separation of reality and game does seem to be more practical, it doesn’t make for good storytelling (I don’t need an explanation of how the “real” you is taller or shorter than your game avatar). I do like the fact that the main character is a strategist instead of a typical warrior, which if handled properly, could lead up to some very entertaining battles (a-la Code Geass).

The design of a post-apocalyptic world overgrown with vegetation is pretty enough, but ends up becoming bland in the long run. The animation production seems to be in flux, especially with Naotsugu’s perspective. (he changed size at least three times)

Overall, this series is starting off as a middle-of-the-road series, offering decent action and a few laughs, but has forgettable character designs and an overused storyline.

Log Horizon is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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Arpeggio of Blue Steel – Ars Nova –   (3 out of 5)arpeggio

Episode Summary – In the early 21st century, a un-manned sentient naval fleet of alien origin, called the “Fleet of Fog,” wiped out humanity’s defenses and imposed a worldwide naval, aerial, and communication blockade, effectively isolating every country. 17 years later, humanity’s only effective weapon against the Fleet of Fog is the I-401 “Blue Steel,” a defected Fog submarine, commanded by naval cadet Gunzō Chihaya. Little is known regarding how or why this came about; the sub’s avatar, a little girl named Iona, can only remember one order from her memory banks: “meet the son of Shouzou Chihiya and obey him” (which is mysterious, considering Gunzō’s father was rumored to defect during humanity’s final battle with the Fleet of Fog). The Blue Steel’s latest task is to retrieve a new weapon from America that could possibly turn the tide of the war, but several Fleet of Fog ships, each with their own unique female avatars, are standing in their way.

Review – Sentient warships, humanity on the brink of extinction, a crew of rag-tag youths, even little girl avatars…it’s all been done before. I was hoping for a strong story or a unique hook in order to stand out from the sea of mediocre copycats, but after watching the first episode, I may have been expecting too much. The battles are definitely the forefront of the series, and for good reason, they are exciting and dramatic. However, anything beyond that seems like an afterthought.

Like Flowers of Evil, the main issue that will split viewers will be the visuals. Almost everything (save for some backgrounds) is entirely rendered in CG (similar to Appleseed and Vexille). While Studio Sangzien, the company behind the recent 009 Re:Cyborg movie, have improved their technique of using CG to imitate hand-drawn animation, but its definitely not ready to replace it outright. Dialogue-heavy scenes with minimal movement are able to pull off this feat, but the moment someone starts to move around, the noticeably choppy CG may pull many viewers out of the moment.

Take Arpeggio of Blue Steel for what it is and nothing more: CG battles with naval warships commanded by cookie-cutter anime character archetypes.

Arpeggio of Blue Steel – Ars Nova – is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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Walkure Romanze (1.5 out of 5)walkure

Episode Summary – Winford Academy is a school where it’s primary focus is jousting. Takahiro used to be a top knight, but has retired due to injury, and has decided to instead focus on taking care of the horses. He is actively sought out by other knights requesting him to be their “belgeiter” (a support position for knights), though he rejects all offers. He ends up rescuing a clueless girl named Mio from one of his horses that went wild. Mio ends up infatuated with Takahiro and makes it her goal to win him over. In one of her first attempts to win Takahiro’s heart, Mio ends up embarrassing the school’s top female knight, who mistakes Mio for an actual knight, and challenges her to a duel.

Review – What can be said about a series that’s based on a visual novel, other than “typical”? Not much, especially with this series. You can easily go down a checklist of what to expect in a visual novel adaptation. Indecisive male protagonist? Check. Numerous females with a standard variety of personalities vying for said male’s attention? Check. “Hilarious” situations where one or more of the girls ends up revealing their panties or more? *Groan* Check. So how, you may ask, does this series try to stand out? A molesting horse that likes to rip of girls’ skirts. No, I’m not kidding. This scenario happens TWICE in the first episode!

The character designs are cute for the most part, though having girls wear form-fitting armor and a skirt while jousting is just otaku-bait. The animation quality is your standard fare, with some nice CG jousting thrown in for good measure (hence the half-uptick on the rating). I can’t really write anything regarding story or character personalities because, well, there’s none so far.

Walkure Romanze is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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