Winter Anime Impressions: Part 1

My impressions of the winter anime continues, and despite everyone's initial skepticism, it is actually shaping up to be an incredibly strong season. For today's impressions, I will be reviewing, Saekano, Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE!, Absolute Duo, and Shinmai Maou no Keiyakusha.
Saenai Heroine no Sodate-kata (Saekano: How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend)
Do not let the fanservice in the first episode fool you, Saenai Heroine no Sodate-kata, translated as Saekano: How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend, or Saekano for short, is an ingenious commentary on Otaku culture and the harem genre that follows Tomoyo Aki, an Otaku, who, after encountering Megumi Kato, the most beautiful girl that he has ever seen, in a situation reminiscent of a dating-sim, decides to create his own dating-sim with Megumi being the basis for the main character. To create the game, he enlists the help of Eriri Spencer Sawamura, his half-foreigner childhood friend who obviously has feelings for Tomoyo, and Kasumigaoka Utaha, a cold and stoic literary genius, who is also the most popular girl in their high school. However, Eriri and Kasumigaoka are closet Otaku and famous for their doujinshi and light novels. When Tomoyo meets Megumi Kato again, he discovers that she is "not MC material," in that she has absolutely no presence and almost blends into the background, he but hopes to turn her into the model “character” for his game.
Thus far, Saekano a brilliantly written and witty series that points out the problems and tropes of anime, most often the harem genre. To sum it up, Saekano is to harem what Gekkan Shoujo Nozuki-kun is to shoujo. The series features many meta-jokes, with it even breaking the fourth-wall at times. The characters are even self-aware archetypes that frequently reference how their situations are similar to anime, light novels, ect, and the dialogue between the characters is written with so much wit that it is almost like that of the Monogatari franchise at times. 
After the first episode, or rather "Episode 0," which takes place towards the end of the story before rewinding to where it all begins in Episode 1, Saekano does not feature any fanservice, setting it apart from other satirical and commentary anime like Outbreak Company. Episode 0 literally opens with the four female protagonists discussing the wrongs of fanservice in anime while featuring fanservice shots, which makes for amusingly meta-opposing ideals. The rest of the episode parodies the cliché of the harem with each girl making a move on the male protagonist. However, after Episode 0, the following episodes feature zero fanservice with it focusing on the meta-humor and surprisingly interesting characters, so this is one of the only harems without much fanservice and that is a refreshing change of pace.
A-1 Pictures' animation is expectedly impressive with appealing character designs and detailed background art. At times, the movement of the characters looks oddly rotoscoped, but that seems to be fixed in recent episode.
Providing the brilliantly witty dialogue and commentary continues throughout the series, Saekano: How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend has all the makings of a harem anime that actually breaks the mold to create something smart and well written. After watching the first three episodes of Saekano, I cannot recommend it enough to any Otaku, especially those interested in meta-commentary on the industry. 
Watch if you like: Meta-humor, Satire, Harems, Otaku comedy, 

Binan Koukou Chikyuu Bouei-bu Love! (Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE!) 
Binan Koukou Chikyuu Bouei-bu Love!, aka Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE!, takes a typical magical girl anime and switches the gender of the characters to all high school boys, and the results are hysterical! Bouei-bu Love features the typical plot of a mahou shoujo anime with a magical animal, in this case a Wombat, giving the group of characters special powers to fight evil with the “Power of Love!” Bouei-bu Love is 100% pure parody of the mahou shoujo genre. From the characters' questioning why they must shout their magical powers in English to the absurdity of a transformation sequence when it features a guy instead of a girl, Bouei-bu Love is wacky satire at its finest. Surprisingly, after the first episode used a lot jokes about the genre, I entirely expected that the series could not keep up the laughs in the following episodes, and yet episodes two and three are just as funny. In addition, the innuendo and blatant corniness makes everything even more hilarious. Anyone that has seen mahou shoujo anime like Sailor Moon should find the jokes in Bouei-bu Love a blast, especially if you are a fan of the genre!
Of course, being a parody, Bouei-bu Love is obviously lacking in characterization and story. Each character is a humorous archetype and their reactions to the absurdity of the situation and magical girl tropes are certainly entertaining, but nothing special. 
As a satirical parody of mahou shoujo genre, Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE! is a success. It makes you laugh at the insanity of what is happening and if you are familiar with the tropes, you will enjoy it even more. However, if you do not find the first episode funny, the series is just not for you.
Watch if you like: Comedy, Mahou shoujo, Wackiness, 

Absolute Duo
In Absolute Duo's world, certain people have the ability to summon a Blaze, a weapon that is the manifestation of the user's soul. Typically, Blazes are offensive weapons like swords and hammers; however, Tōru’s Blaze is a shield, which sets him apart with the other Blaze users. To learn how to use a Blaze, Tōru goes to a special academy for Blaze users, and in the academy, every student must team-up with another student to form an "Absolute Duo," as they work together to graduate from the school while sharing a dorm room. Being an ecchi/harem, of course Tōru is paired with the white-haired and shy bishoujo, Julie Sigtuna. 
Among the season's ecchi anime, Absolute Duo manages to set itself just ahead most of the pack. While the set up is as clichéd as they come, Julie is not the typical archetype for the main harem girl. She is shy and cute, and much like Chaika from Hitsugi no Chaika, she sometimes speaks in adorable broken Japanese since she is from Eastern Europe. Julie also references Norse mythology since Tōru's name sounds similar to Thor, the Norse god of thunder. With all that said, Absolute Duo is still a trope filled ecchi/harem with several random tropes, like the bunny-ear-wearing teacher, and medium fanservice throughout. Unfortunately, after featuring high quality animation in last season's Fruit of Graisa, Studio 8-Bit's work on Absolute Duo, while above average, is nothing special. The character designs are simple yet effective and the action sequences are surprisingly entertaining though. 
Three episodes in, Absolute Duo is riddled with the flaws of a typical ecchi/harem. However, it is just amusing enough to keep me watching; granted, I am a completionist, so I do not drop shows easily.
Watch if you like: Ecchi/harem,

Shinmai Maou no Keiyakusha (The Testament of Sister New Devil)
The anime opens with Toujo Basara's father telling him that he is going to remarry and that his two new step-sisters, Mio and Maria, will move in with them. However, as events unfold, it turns out that Mio and Maria are not normal girls, but rather the daughter of the Demon Lord and her succubus! To the girls' surprise, Basara is not a typical high school student either. In fact, he and his father are members of a hero clan that fight monsters and other supernatural beings. With his father going overseas, Basara decides to take girls under his protection as other evil clans try to take Mio's Demon Lord powers, and that is the set up for Shinmai Maou no Keiyakusha, aka The Testament of Sister New Devil.
Thus far, the series is an entertaining watch. As is now becoming the norm, the main character is not an oblivious oaf, but rather a variation of Fruit of Graisa's scarred protagonist, except with a lot more humanity and less stoicness. Mio's character design is much like the redheaded vixen, Rias Gremory, although she is far shyer and more easily embarrassed than Rias, and her succubus companion, Maria, seems like a familiar archetype, although I cannot remember the term typically used.
Production IMS' animation, while not amazing, is above average and generally appealing to look at, with the magical powers being colorful.
Of the winter's ecchi anime, The Testament of Sister New Devil stands just above the rest in its genre. It might not be particularly original, with it featuring elements reminiscent of the infamous Highschool DxD, but the world and characters are just charming enough to make it a fun ride. Do not expect anything groundbreaking or original, but if you want to watch a fantasy ecchi series then this is the one for you. 
Watch if you like: Ecchi,

What winter anime are you watching? Are you interested in any of the series that I have reviewed today? Please comment below and let me know.

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