Winter 2017 First Impressions: Urara Meirocho – Episode 01 Review

There’s no place in the world more magical than Meirocho, home to the powerful fortune tellers known as the “Urara”.  When a girl reaches fifteen years of age she can travel to the city of Meirocho to train in this mystical art, divining peoples’ futures in her own unique way.  Chiya, one such hopeful girl who arrives one fateful day to apprentice under an Urara and find her long lost mother, begins her studies and finds some great friends along the way.

I have to start off by mentioning how beautiful this show is.  The amount of care put into the scenery is stunning.  The character designs are super cute and their costumes are crying out to be cosplayed. In a way the designs remind me what you’d see in the Atelier video game series – cute girls wearing frilly, feminine outfits with beautiful flowing hair. My personal favourite visual flair is the borders that appear in certain scenes where beautifully drawn flowers frame the girls.  I could stare at this show all day…

Which is why it’s such a shame that the first episode alone repeats the same dumb, unfunny fanservice joke about ten times within twenty-four minutes.  See, Chika’s from the forest and has grown up with the animals like a moe Mowgli from The Jungle Book, and because of that she often expresses herself in the ways animals do.  When apologising –  which she does so much in this first episode because of the constant faux pas she commits – Chika rolls over onto the floor and exposes her belly in a show of submission.  When she does this, she pulls her top up far enough that you can see a considerable amount of underboob.  This isn’t funny the first time she does it, nor the second, nor the time that she makes a bunch of her friends do it as well while they squeal and protest.  It’s just uncomfortable.  If you have to go for the fanservice gag, please make it in some way funny or clever.  Also, maybe don’t do the joke in an anime about fifteen year olds.

Other than that, this is your usual super chill Cute Girls Doing Cute Things show.  Like a lot of anime that falls under that umbrella there’s some yuri subtext here, sometimes with the main group but more often focused around Saku, the captain of the 10th Bloque Patrol Unit and her two subordinates who are vying for her affection.  None of that content has gone into fanservicey territory yet but based off some of the other comedy in this episode it wouldn’t surprise me if it goes in that direction later in the show.  I’m totally fine with yuri, but I prefer series like Flip Flappers where the subject gets treated more seriously and with respect.  Here it’s likely just for humour and shipping purposes.

One detail I did think was pretty neat was the different varieties of fortune telling that were brought up in the first episode.  In Meirocho, every Urara has their own specialty that sets them apart from the crowd.  For instance; the girls’ teacher, Nina, uses tea leaves to tell people’s fortunes; the other girls use techniques like kokkuri (similar to a ouija board), tarot, or a terrifying haunted doll that will be beside you in your deepest darkest nightmares.  It’s a cool touch and it could be interesting to see how they would explore these techniques in greater detail in later episodes.

While this anime isn’t bad in the way a lot of the premieres this season have been, it doesn’t really stand out either.  For me it’s a lot like Schoolgirl Strikers: it does some things that I like, but it doesn’t do them well enough and the surrounding material (in this case the style of humour) doesn’t appeal to me enough to make me want to sit through it every week.  It doesn’t help that it’s been picked up on a streaming service that barely ever works for me.  I’ll be giving this one a miss.

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