Young Animator Training Program 2013 (Anime Mirai)
Aruvu Rezuru - Kikai Shikake no Yōsei-tachi (Alv Rezul - Mechanical Fairies, also seen it written Areve Rezere): This was an odd entry, this was made by Studio Xebec to fill in a slot that had previously been taken by Studio Perriot and I remember this showing up on anime charts for last summer, no idea if it was supposed to be a single OVA back then or a full series and was reduced to an OVA. The charts were listing it as a full series and it’s based on a light novel series, yet out of the three I was able to see this was easily the weakest. This one felt like a pilot for a full series and, while the others felt a bit like that as well, they managed to also feel complete in 30 minutes, this one felt like we had just started a series and that we wouldn’t have everything explained until it was done (or even the basic concepts fully explained until episode three). The concept was kinda cool, perhaps it was moved from the summer so it wouldn’t compete with the slightly similar in concept Sword Art Online, but the writing felt amateur, weak, and cliché-ridden the whole way through. Oooooh, mysterious organizations! Slightly incestuous sibling relationships which are okay because they’re not blood related and then plot shenanigans to make it even more “okay”! (which in case your wondering, even if you’re not related by blood you still feel pretty creeped out by that stuff, if my step-brother ever acted like this I would smack him in a heartbeat) The art was fine, although I was confused why Shiki always looked like she was drawn in a different style than the background, props, and other characters. I’m rather sad I didn’t like this since when I first saw it on the charts I thought it sounded rather cool, too bad it’s execution was poor.
Death Billiards: Studio Madhouse has made a lot of great things for many years so it’s no surprise that they made something great this time. The story goes that two men, one young one old, show up at a bar with no memory how exactly they got to it and have to play a game of billiards with their lives on the line. They don't know much more than that but it’s soon clear that pool is a game they both have strong memories of and that there is obviously more to the game than it first seems. I’ve seen a lot of people not like the ambiguous ending but I rather liked it, given the sense of mystery that permeated the rest of the short it makes sense that it wouldn’t explain everything to it’s viewers (or even it’s characters, of the other two characters present one of them doesn’t know the final outcome of the game either). I’m satisfied with this as a short yet I can also see it being fleshed out into a full, episodic series with an underlying story revealing more about the bar and it’s two attendants, although I have absolutely no idea how likely that is to happen.
Young Witch Academia: Hotly anticipated since it’s from the new studio Studio Trigger which, if I recall correctly, is formed from a number of people who used to work at Studio Shaft, and people were also excited because it looked just plain fun and it was! Akko has wanted to be a witch since she saw a fantastical magical show when she was young but now that she’s actually at magic school she finds the lessons either boring or just plain impossible. This story could have easily been stretched into a full length film but here neatly fits into the 22 minute run time with good pacing and nice visuals, the OVA almost looked more heavily influenced by American Saturday morning cartoons than anime in places and had a really distinct look the entire way through. And the animation itself looked fantastic, very few still shots and lots of complex movements, if this is the future of animation via animators in Japan then I think we’re good! Lots and lots of fun and I’m excited to see what else Studio Trigger produces, I think they have their first full series coming this summer but it sounds like there isn’t a lot of information about it out yet. Oh and it's legally on both youtube and crunchyroll now so catch it at one of those places when you have half an hour to spare.