Sell Me in 20 Minutes: Sailor Moon Crystal, Shonen Hollywood, Barakamon, and Aldnoah Zero

Saturday’s here, with three shows on my preseason top 10 and another I was at least watching for the historical context. Given that, I feel like the day could have been better than it was, but since I’ll be taking the good stuff and dropping the bad anyway, I’m just happy it had some keepers.

Sailor Moon Crystal was Toei at its worst, trying to pass off “character moves 3 frames or less in this cut” as motion and fumbling around with basement-grade CGI. And the script was subpar relative to the Precure series I’ve finished. I’m not keeping up with that.

Shonen Hollywood was a very authentic-feeling piece on acting (especially the bit about delivering embarrassing catchphrases), with only a few bits of conversation feeling anything less than perfectly organic. It also had lots of smart, low-key cutaways and well-drawn sequences of hands clapping. It was basically storyboard porn that fell 100% of the way within my strike zone complimented by solid dialogue, so something would have to go horribly awry for me to not be following it come August.

Barakamon had the most conspicuous on/off switch of the series I’ve seen so far this season. The bits with the calligrapher reacting to his new, more rural abode were unremarkable. The bits where he was booting that ridiculous kid into the ocean were flat-out spectacular; the way the kid kept getting tossed out of the house cannonball-style and coming back in was a tight repeating gag, and he just generally acts in a way that’s both incredibly adorable and (understandably) irritating to the lead guy. Also, I could watch that ending 8 or 9 more times without getting bored of it. It’s watch at least two more weeks or regret it on this one.

Aldnoah Zero’s core plot was very similar to that of Martian Successor Nadesico, only the government was worse at covering up the fact that the alien race with the advanced technology making war with the Earth are biologically humans. And that the cast is full of pale-faced melodrama stereotypes instead of quirky ass-kickers. The whole dynamic with Slaine being discriminated against for not being a Martian was laughably transparent. Complex politics doesn’t mesh well with that sort of cane-to-the-face racism slash 19th-century attitudes in more than one or two key characters.* Ditto for the alcoholic teacher’s monologue on adults lying to children – it was just taking up lots of space while making a really basic point. The worst part script-wise was before the missile attack, when the male lead just noticed the missile and casually mentioned it.** That doesn’t seem like a plausible reaction of a normal human being (fear or panic), or even one who’s had military training (who would have at least braced for impact). All that said, there’s still a little bit of potential so long as the series focuses on the world that’s now being invaded as a whole rather than the Japanese high school students we got introduced to at the beginning. But I honestly don’t see myself enjoying this at all right now. I might give it one more week, depending.

*Not like the politics in the 19th century weren’t fascinating, but caricatures of them in anime generally tend to fall short, Lohengramm versus Wenli aside, in tossing out the complex, backstabby maneuverers in favor of easy-bake one-dimensional villains.

**Though the “world peace” bit at the end was not far behind.

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