Starting April 6th
Code Geass - Hangyaku no Lelouch R2
Well, this one's one of the highlights of the new season, only overshadowed by Macross Frontier on my list. So far, it's a bit subdued compared to the climax of the last season, but I suppose that's to be expected. Also with the new mainstream primetime airing slot, the early episodes need to do a bit of recapping (but in the context of the story in progress) as a significant percentage of viewers will be new (and oh my, what they have missed...including one of the more evil surprise twists I've seen in a series in recent memory). I'm eagerly awaiting each installment of this show, though not to the extent that I need to see the raws, especially as the subs are pretty quick.
Verdict: Following to the bitter end.
Nabari no Ou
This is probably my fourth favorite of the busy season so far. Aside from being an enjoyable contemporary ninja tale (enough so to draw inappropriate Naruto comparisons, as if Naruto *invented* jutsu hand gestures and the like), the show features a not-overly-so bishounen cast and the lead male character's mock-submissive charms have to be seen to be believed (screenshots don't do the series any justice), making the series instantly popular with a number of fujoushi (yaoi fangirls)--Miharu is devilishly cute. But in any case, it works great as a good ninja action series.
Verdict: Following eagerly.
Neo Angelique Abyss
Speaking of bishounen series, this is the latest anime series spinoff of a series of popular so-called "reverse harem" fantasy dating sims (okay, I'm not sure if it's technically a dating sim, RPG, visual novel, or what, but whichever) that have been around for years. The intial setup was okay, though the animation direction flat and uninspired, and the fact that the main character's magical powers comes through prayer left me pretty put out.
Net Ghost PiPoPa
Didn't check this one out, looked too cartoony/gimmicky/childish from what I've seen. Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong, though!
Verdict: Leaving unwatched.
Wagaya no Oinari-sama
An interesting-looking if somewhat average-feeling and somewhat slightly kidsy series involving notable Japanese gods and mythical creatures in a modern context and a fair amount of Shintoist magic. The title character is the incarnation of Inari, the fox god, who is interestingly indifferent about hir gender in human form, thankfully without much of the wacky hijinks usually associated with that sort of thing. It's interesting to see Shinto magic working as its believers visualise it, portrayed in a somewhat "realistic" if not very believable manner.
Verdict: Casually following for the present time.
Zettai Karen Children
Ah, here we go. One of the first really big disappointments of the season. I should have known as it's based on a manga by the artist that did the early 90's Ghost Sweeper Mikami, which was usually more miss than hit, but I had hoped their writing might have improved by now, and knowing it was to be handled by the excellent staff of Hayate no Gotoku, I suspected this might be a hit in the making. Unfortunately, it's a twee Japanese recontextualization of the PowerPuff Girls, admittedly closer in humor and spirit to it than the actual official Japanese remake PowerPuff Girls Z--which was all fluff and zero cleverness, lacking the self-conscious humor of the original. This one's not quite that bad, but at the same time, after two episodes, I could not find a single character I cared about, the humor was too heavy handed, and often simply offensive: stereotyping plus other issues, such as Aya Hirano's Buttercup-like character behaving like a dirty old man which just seemed in questionable taste (not to mention it's the first time I didn't like her voice acting). It's okay for her to act like that as ota-queen Kona-chan in Lucky Star, but as a 10 year old, it's just crass. I was going to give it a couple of more episodes, but after reading other reviews of the next couple, I dropped it.
Starting March 17th
Gyagu Manga Biyori 3
Never watched the first two of this series of random gag shorts, but maybe I'll check some out soon of the original series. Doesn't seem to have an established opening animation.
Verdict: Leaving unwatched for now.
Starting March 31st
Chii's Sweet Home
Cutesy shorts about a cat. No relation to Chobits, in case you thought otherwise. Airs Monday through Thursday, actually.
Verdict: Leaving unwatched.
Starting April 7th
A bishounen/yaoi action fantasy series that had some of the worst and most predictable writing I've seen in some time, and a not particularly likable cast.
This one has me a little bit perplexed. I absolutely loved the first episode, but the second two, while all right, weren't nearly as engaging. The fourth one was okay, but a bit simplistic. The fifth was a bit better, but still I'm a bit underwhelmed by the writing. I think I'm mostly fond of the pairing of Gorillaz-band-member-look-alike Soul Eater, and the ever-so-badass Maka in her outfit that looks like a mix of Giant Robo/Cyborg 009 sensibility with oh, I don't know, Gad Guard or something, along with her very non-moe shounen style facial contortions and scowls and her lanky Jack Skellingtonesque frame (her awkward adolescent-sounding voice--a common indicator of using non-voice-actor talent--really suits her harsh gawkiness, too). That along with the Tim Burtonesque setting and expressionistic art style, the weird, wholly contrived mashup of reimagined real world and fictional baddies in a comic-bookish world, and some strong animation by the character designer from Full Metal Alchemist, and well, yeah, there's a lot to like. The other main characters didn't click quite as much for me though (Death the Kid was kind of interesting, especially how he wields his twin pistols upside down, pulling the triggers with his pinkies, but his exaggerated obsessive-compulsive disorder over symmetry could get old fast), but now the show has finished their individual intros, so I'm curious to see how everything fits together next, and there is certainly a lot of potential for good old shounen series action done in a relatively novel fashion. If it can pull that off, I'll probably be hooked. If not, I'll probably maintain some casual interest at least. Also, what is it with Japan and shinigami (death gods) lately? I assume it's largely due to the popularity of Bleach and Death Note, but it is getting rather out of hand and seems like a rather morbid obsession, particularly for one of the most largely non-religious countries on the planet. That said, I don't mind it if it's being used in a good show like this (assuming it can keep things going well). Oh, and the opening and ending animations are great stuff!
Meh. The style is taking a page from post-Utena Ouran High School Host Club shoujo anime design, but the characters and direction had me snoring before the episode was over, and a review of the following episode showed recycling of gags that were already overdone in episode one.
Another series showing some of that Ouran vibe, but a little more entertaining with the vampire theme. However, it does feel a little bit trite and tired, and I've heard reports that the manga gets pretty muddled rather quickly, so this is a probable drop. I'll give it a little longer though, I think.
Verdict: Tentatively dropping.
Starting April 8th
Himitsu - Top Secret
A sort of Sci-Fi CSI, where memories can be extracted from a brain for a short period after one's death, however the investigation group doing so also has to cope with the stigma of concerns over invasion of privacy. The first episode was pretty good, but I'm not sure if it will hold up in episodic format.
Verdict: Casually following, but probably dropping later.
Hard SF series by Masamune Shirow and Production IG with much overlapping technology with the Ghost in the Shell universe. Has an interesting Vernor Vinge-like feel to it (and some early Bruce Sterling), with strong transhumanist themes and a rather bizarre ocean/diving metaphor for what is called the "Meta-Real" (or just "Metal" for short), a semi-post-Technological Singularity realm of shared consciousness similar perhaps to the sublimed in Iain M. Banks' Culture novels. At first I was concerned about it getting too metaphysical, but we'll see...so far everything is still rooted in a hard SF explanation. Episode 2 was a bit of a drag for the most part (except the last portion), but episode 3 picked things back up again. 4 was kind of hit and miss, so I am kind of wondering about the writing consistency at this point. The character animation seems a little ungainly and drawn in a rather weird style. Does Shirow prefer his art style NOT to be used in anime? I'm starting to wonder.
Verdict: Probably following until it ends or I am uploaded, whichever comes first.
Uchi no 3 Shimai
Cartoon family show.
Verdict: Leaving unwatched.
Starting April 2nd
This is about as shounen ai/yaoi as it gets without being outright gay porn (and as it is, it is borderline soft porn). From what I understand, there are three storylines that are told in this one. The first one so far is entertaining me, I like Usagi-san and his toy-collecting hobby, lol. I don't know if this will devolve into the usual angsty abusive stuff common to the genre, but I'll watch it for now.
Status: Currently following.
Verdict: Leaving unwatched.
Starting April 23rd
Da Capo II Second Season
Confusing title, given this is the third (or is it fourth now? *shrug*) anime series of Da Capo. I was intrigued with the visual novel-based original, but as I've never gotten far in it, I don't have any reason to watch the sequels yet.
Verdict: Leaving unwatched, possibly for a future look.
Starting April 3rd
Allison & Lillia
Initial reports have this pegged as too bland and NHK animation-ish (not to be confused with Welcome to the NHK, lol) for my taste.
Verdict: Leaving unwatched unless convinced otherwise.
Promo video: http://www.veoh.com/videos/v6809928yjJ6pxB6?searchId=268779453489362944&rank=9 (the opening animation is awful, totally in a different style, and I didn't want to link it...this promo still is a bit misleading but at least reflects the look of the show)
The sleeper hit of the season. Probably my number 3 show this season after Macross Frontier and Code Geass R2. The animation was filmed after the voiceover was recorded, allowing for some really nice subtle facial animation, and the directing style is reminiscent of the kind of Italian neo-realist cinema in films like The Bicycle Thief http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Bicycle_Thief . Others have made comparisons to Leon: The Professional, and I can kind of see where they are coming from. It's hard to explain without seeing it, but the character interactions between Shinkuro and Murasaki are very lifelike and authentic feeling, and the story takes kind of a backseat to it all, nicely understated, and with much to be explained as it progresses. I'm really digging it, and it's a marked contrast for Brain's Base, who also made the more over-the-top, novel style-faithful (with its helter-skelter continuity) anime adaptation of Baccano!
Verdict: Definitely following.
Kyou Kara Maou! 3rd Series
This show's still running? I saw some of the original series and it looked fun, but didn't complete it, so no reason to watch this second sequel.
Verdict: Leaving unwatched.
Yahk deculture!! The true hit of the new season, exceeding all expectations so far as the new installment in the classic Macross saga on it's 25th anniversary. This show does so many things so right so far, it's hard to even know where to start. I'll probably save my gushing for another post, but whether you are a classic Macross fan, a fan of Macross Plus, or even of the Macross 7 series (which I didn't care for), or completely unfamiliar with Macross, this is the show to check out this season, in my opinion. Don't miss this one!
Verdict: Following the raws and subs as I can't wait for my next Macross fix.
Opening (probably NSFW): http://www.veoh.com/videos/v6956728fNQKj5RC?searchId=8855577887325578240&rank=1
Lame, exploitive moe fluff show, derivative (once again) of Urusei Yatsura but with none of its class.
xxxHolic - Kei
While I was semi-interested in the original CLAMP manga, the first anime series left me really, really flat with its awful animation and simian-armed interpretations of the character designs. This one is supposedly better, but I've lost interest by now.
Verdict: Leaving unwatched.
Starting April 10th
Generally speaking, I'm something of an anti-fan of this director's works (he also did the popular art film "Mind Game", which was a stream-of-consciousness, navel-contemplating avant-garde surreal work that I enjoyed early pieces of and was left put out well before the ending). This series is a surrealist mashup of classic Tezuka art style and Fleischer Bros. Popeye/Betty Boop era animation that has its moments and some interesting themes. I'll probably drop it after a while, but there was enough whimsy and interesting post-human thematic stuff in the first episode I'll give it some more time.
Verdict: probably should be watched as a recreational drug. Following for now, may drop later.
The first episode was pretty decent, if a little fluffy. I'm wondering how it will play out, but it's an interesting premise that doesn't seem too far removed from the Bradbury-esque/Orwellian contemporary climate of late, with its ultra-conservative media moral watchdog group act versus the liberal-spearheaded countermeasures giving libraries self-jurisdiction and special rights over protection of free expression. The mix of lighter character drama with a strong political backdrop reminds me a bit of Patlabor.
Verdict: Tentatively following.
Starting April 17th
Mixed feelings so far. Not really sure what it's about just yet, other than a private detective agency that gets sucked into something big and mysterious that involves people being turned to glass. The characters are entertaining, but the show is fairly average. Will see how it progresses.
Verdict: Tentatively following.
Starting March 14th
"Bus" in the title of this OVA series is short for "Business". Initial reports I've heard of the first episode were not very encouraging, so I'll pass.
Verdict: Leaving unwatched.
Starting April 4th
Eh...it's okay. A bit "edutainment"-ish, but with some potential. Apathetic high schooler visiting an Augmented Reality recreation of period Edo gets sucked back in time somehow, to the real Edo, except with monsters. Not exactly original or innovative (though the AR tech was cool, similar to Denno Coil's technology), but could still be a fun watch, if the main character can just find a clue soon...
Verdict: Very tentatively watching.
Itazura na Kiss
Shoujo romance melodrama soap opera, similar in feel to Marmalade Boy. Looked really boring, honestly.
Tower of Druaga - The Aegis of Uruk
CrunchyRoll official full episode downloads: http://www.crunchyroll.com/group/CRSeries_-_The_Tower_of_DRUAGA
Very loosely inspired by the ancient video game, Gonzo's new RPG fantasy-comedy series actually pulls off an interesting setting, likable characters, and some good humor so far. Has a similar feel to the original .hack, but other than the opening animation there's been no hint that the fantasy world should be taken as VR (if it is to be at all--the opening animation is very likely a clever joke). What's particularly neat about this show is that it is being streamed subtitled for free on the web concurrent with the Japanese broadcast with Gonzo's blessing (along with Blassreiter) and is being offered in higher-quality for cheap downloads at more than one site in a licensing deal (Crunchyroll offers the downloads in exchange for user-determined donations in a mostly simple, user friendly method). This is Gonzo's first effort to fight against online piracy, and I really hope it works out. I watched it on YouTube (slightly better streaming than CrunchyRoll's free streams, and just as official) long enough to determine I wanted to keep the show and see it in better quality. I would gladly use this service were it available for any of my favorite shows currently airing, and it's nice knowing the money goes directly to Gonzo. My only complaint is that the resolution of the downloads is close to broadcast/VHS quality, but the show is widescreen and clearly meant for HD video quality--and watching shows like Macross F in full res really drives home how much nicer that is. But I can't say getting VHS-quality official downloads for, say $2 an episode is unfair. Perhaps they could offer higher quality downloads at a set price point later (or just leave that as incentive for the DVD version).
Starting April 11th
I've given Golgo's animated incarnations enough chances before and can't say I'm really that curious this time around. Maybe someone will convince me later.
Verdict: Leaving unwatched.
Starting April 25th
Naisho no Tsubomi
OVA series based on a popular shoujo manga with a strong, positive sex-ed theme. Not sure what to make of that, though I'll admit I'm mildly curious how the subject is handled in the context and from that point of view. I can have some rather strong opinions on the subject matter since I personally felt like the omission of some key data (or perhaps my failure to wrap my head around some of it), left me with some pretty wrong-headed notions at that age.
Verdict: Possibly watching.
Starting April 5th
Official CrunchyRoll download site: http://www.crunchyroll.com/group/CRSeries_-_BLASSREITER
Couldn't quite make it through the first episode. Motorcycling and boomers, more or less, but it's no Bubblegum Crisis, I'm afraid.
Kamen no Maid Guy
This one is kind of a paradox. On the one hand, the show is mostly outright awful, misogynist crap (if occassionally amusing for just being so blatantly off-color and so wrong) ...for example, one episode is pretty much entirely about the repeated "gag" that a female's mathematic capabilities are inversely proportional to their...um...proportions. Uh, yeah. Wacky hijinks ensue, including a bizarre, futile effort to, erm, harness the effect. Oh the humanity...
On the other hand, the title character, the masked "Maid Guy", a huge monolith of a burly man dressed in the traditional female maid costume and wearing a mask with eyeholes that look impossibly far apart for his own skull, is at once one of the most absurdly, independently funny and bizarre characters I've seen in a show, and in fact, I think his presence in *any* series of any genre would improve that series by a factor of 90%. I mean, imagine taking the Tick and sticking him in General Hospital, or Heroes, or the Price is Right---it's instantly pretty amusing, and probably better than how the show would normally be. This works the same way, taking an inherently funny, messed up character with totally random powers and tossing him into a show that is otherwise pure dreck. I could care less about the rest of the show, just seeing Maid Guy step in and being totally random just makes you instantly forget everything else that was going on. Oh, and the ending animation's song is pretty fun, too.
Verdict: Watching for teh lulz!
Opening (probably NSFW): http://www.veoh.com/videos/v7100284CnjG8hQt?searchId=6123975655546918912&rank=2
Another ecchi show I suppose I need to make some excuses for. This one seems to be determined to dip into just about every taboo it can think of, and on top of it all, it's pretty much harem fluff. Normally, I'd write off this kind of show in a few minutes, but I've enjoyed hearing Ayako Kawasumi and Mamiko Noto (playing the boy, lol) playing these roles that are so atypical of the kinds of characters they usually play, so I'm mostly deriving some amusement from that. I almost dropped it after the last episode I watched though, so I don't know how much more I'll sit through--I may well be about done with it. If it weren't for the pairing of these two voices--two of my favorites--I'd probably not even have made it through one episode.
Verdict: Tentatively following until the novelty factor wears off.
Starting April 12th
Kyouran Kazoku Nikki
The bizarre orphaned lovechild of Dokkoida and Fairy Princess Reine. While neither Akitaro Daichi nor Nabeshin seem to have any hand in this series, it continues the tradition of the hyperactive motormouth lead character that fans of Reine, Kodocha, and Excel Saga should be well familiar with by now, and mixes it up with a totally random, mishmash adopted family setup that includes a catgirl mom, a Torchwood-type agent dad, and a biological weapon, a talking lion, a homosexual, a girl, and a jellyfish as the children. All with a "perfectly justifiable" reason that I'll just leave you to wonder over. It doesn't get much more random than that... So far, it's about as psychotic as you'd anticipate.
Verdict: how can I not watch this madness?
Nijuu Mensou Musume
Still need to watch more. Semi-fantasy world setting, girl comes under the tutelage of the famous kaitou (phantom thief) 20 Faces (Nijuu Mensou) out of the pages of popular Japanese literature. I'm not usually a fan of Kaitou shows, they tend to be too formulaic and all too episodic, but I'll watch some episodes and see if this bucks the trend or not. Not really holding my breath.
Verdict: not sure yet. Tentatively following for now.
I caught the first OVA of Mnemosyne. Oooh, nice. The soundtrack has a very 80's anime feel to it (as does, to a certain extent, the OVA itself--I felt like I could have been watching something from around the release of the first Bubblegum Crisis), and Mamiko Noto is playing the title character out of type, which is nice to see more range from one of my favorite seiyuu (who normally plays characters with a kind of whimsical yet sort of breathless quality that is hard to describe, but this time is almost unrecognizable). There's a lot of mysterious elements to the set-up, and the sub-plot of this particular episode is a clear nod to Biohazard/Resident Evil. The tone is a bit dark and the villian-of-the-episode is sadistic to a not-for-the-weak-of-heart extreme. Definitely mature viewers only. I look forward to future episodes.
Earlier I said I didn't have high hopes for Sketchbook-Full Color'S (sic), which I'd been meaning to catch up on from a prior season. I'm pleased to report that actually the show turned out to be quite fun and I've since sped through a good number of episodes of it. I could do without all the cat bits, since I'm really not a big cat lover, but otherwise it's a lot of fun in a kind of Azumanga-esque sort of way.
Sketchbook actually brings me to a pet peeve of mine that is probably not shared by many. I really, really, really can't stand the term "Slice of Life" and its use to describe a "genre". I tend to like shows that get dubbed this by fans, and it annoys me to no end in many cases where I see it used.
The expression itself just sounds so twee and patronizing or dismissive to my ears. I want to slap my forehead more than half the time I see it. I can understand calling something like Azumanga or Sketchbook a "slice of life", though it still grates. A slice of life? Who's life? Which character's? In what setting? It oversimplifies what are usually unique stories told in unique ways often set in unique places (some more or less so than others) or about unique characters. Slice of life on the other hand to my ears implies a sort of "everyman" view of things that is more about universal things. I especially can't bear seeing Yokohama Shopping Log or Aria called "slice of life", as it reduces these works to sounding like they are the epitome of normalcy, rather than reflecting their far-out settings and particularly unique vision. Yokohama Shopping Log is my favorite manga and OVA, but it sure doesn't resemble much any life I'm familiar with. Perhaps "A Day in the Life of..." would ring truer to my ears. Or maybe I'm just being a cranky old pedantic otaku. But don't expect to see me use the term anytime soon...
Winter 2008 Shows
Time at last for me to weigh in with my initial assessments of the new season thus far...links are to show openings when available. All initial impressions are subject to change, YMMV, etc.
Macross F http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HRQ3xUdCPD0 (despite the YouTube title, this is a promo vid, there hasn’t been a OP shown yet)
Well, actually this is a spring show, not winter, but the 25th anniversary special version of the first episode was shown, so it was listed. In any case, the first episode was amazing and I can’t wait for the series to start in spring. See my previous blog entry for more thoughts on this.
Assessment: will definitely follow.
Minami-ke ~Okawari~ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HxZWSlcZ7rI
The approach with Minami-ke is a bit like how Futakoi and Futakoi Alternative was handled, with the two series given to two different studios for them to each do their own take. However, while Futakoi was two alternate takes from the ground up (one an awful bland harem-type series, the other a more interesting experimental work from the folks at UFO Table), Minami-ke is simply two consecutive seasons of the the same continuity, with one ending at New Years’ Eve and Okawari picking up the next day. The art is rendered in more detail in Okawari, possibly trading off some animation for better rendered palettes and gradient colors, while the original was more flat, uncomplicated colors, and the pacing and comedy seems more understated compared with the original, like it is taking itself slightly more seriously somehow. If anything, I’d say the directing is getting in the way of the charm of the series and its characters. It’s still quite good, but the first series had a stronger feeling of spontaneity and yet more relaxed somehow. I really enjoyed the first series a lot, especially the gender-bending humor around Mako-chan and later Touma, and it had a lot of the same feel as Ichigo Marshmallow did from the same studio. Okawari feels like the studio is still learning the ropes. I do like the new opening though, which gets pretty surreal and kind of into Ikuhara-space. The original show had a catchier tune for its OP http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NWQ-uCOlL4I , but the little chibi SD characters popping in as a chorus was really off-puttingly twee and the visuals seemed kind of uninspired.
Assessment: will follow.
Aria the Origination http://youtube.com/watch?v=G8HUOVXz8co
I will get to this third Aria series as soon as I finish Aria the Natural and the Arietta OVA. I expect it will be as good and relaxing as the prior shows have been.
Assessment: will follow when I catch up to it.
Gunslinger Girl -Il Teatrino- http://youtube.com/watch?v=WBxYYyavZ3E
The fact the opening doesn’t give away what the animation looks like it might have been the first warning sign… Ugh. Utter and complete failure. The original Gunslinger Girl is one of my top-listed anime TV series ever, and the manga is one of my all-time favorites. This garbage is painful to watch…from the less-than average animation (or lack thereof when a shakey-cam apparently sufficed), to the comparative “moe-fication” of the characters, the new voices, the awful directing and writing the generic unresearched background art, I couldn’t even bear to watch the full first episode. What a travesty. To think I was looking forward to this one and was going to try to keep an open mind, knowing that Madhouse really put the bar high on the perfection that was the original series, but this didn’t even try, it’s below generic quality and a total waste of a good license and betrays the whole post-traumatic mood and well-researched setting of the original. I can’t believe that Artland would botch things so badly, especially after their acclaim with Mushishi. More recent reports indicate that it gets WORSE from here out.
Assessment: will forget this ever existed if at all possible.
A Moetan knock-off that “teaches” 5 different languages in an eight-minute (though about 80% recycled formula) segment with a different language each weekday. If it was particularly funny or inspired, I might have watched it for laughs. But what I previewed wasn’t either, really, just lame, if not as obnoxious as Moetan’s anime adaptation was. I might like Aya Hirano a lot, but this was probably not her best choice of role.
Assessment: no plans to follow.
No real interest here…remake of the old 70’s Tatsunoko Time Bokan spin-off gag anime series, aimed more at younger viewers (and some nostalgic otaku).
Assessment: not following. I might check an episode out of curiousity, but that’s all I expect.
H20 ~Footprints in the Sand~ http://youtube.com/watch?v=ZQOge1P_RlY
Harem anime. New twist, though. Main character’s blind. Hijinks, groping, and drama ensue. Yawn. The tacky Christian homily quoted at the first show’s start that is its namesake didn’t help, either.
Assessment: Zzz. What? Oh, yeah, I’ll pass on this one too.
Okami to Koshinryo http://youtube.com/watch?v=21foK1ZF4P0
Sleeper hit of the season. Simple set up, excellent writing and dialogue. A merchant enters a sort of business partnership with Horo the Wise, a wolf-god in a land where pagan worship is falling out of favor in the face the spread of a unified church. Much of the show is simply banter between the two characters as they travel, so far, but thanks to really clever storytelling and a good setting, it really charms.
Assessment: definitely following.
Lowest common denominator sleaze, about a boy that has accidentally ended up in a school for youkai (supernatural monsters), with a heavy low-angle camera fixation on the panties and anatomy of his new female vampire friend. Not that I’m above the occasional sleazy fanservice appreciation by any means, but watching shows pretty much dedicated to it above all other elements of the series like this one have been reported to cause permanent neural damage (cough cough Aika cough). ;P That said, I’m kind of enjoying it in an MST3K laugh-at-it kind of way, and I like the way the school looks more like the Addams mansion, lol. The first episode was at least amusing in its predictability and was a little more entertaining than other shows I’ve seen in this category. Generally I prefer plot and good characters to balance out my fanservice (cough Kiddy Grade cough) or at least actually funny “humor”, but I’ll give this fluff a couple of more episodes to see if it holds my cheese tolerance or not.
Assessment: somewhat reluctantly following for now.
Wellber no Monogatari: Sisters of Wellber Zwei http://youtube.com/watch?v=P21A3O9hg3s
Meh, I didn’t get into the first Wellber series, so I don’t have any reason to try this one.
Assessment: not following.
At first I thought this, by the title, was one of the Doraemon spinoffs. Actually I was kind of partly right, but more in terms of source of inspiration. This actually comes from a seinen magazine and is billed by some as “a children’s manga for adults”. From what I understand, the concept apparently revolves around it being set in a world where mascots are hired by families for their children from agencies to help them along in life, and the main character is one who’s had a hard time keeping steady work. Sounds like it could be worth following.
Assessment: will try it out if fansubs become available.
Nice opening, but the show doesn’t deliver anything new, and the directing felt fairly flat. Not to be confused with the earlier Amano Yoshitaka-based Ayakashi anime series, nor with Ayakashi Ayashi.
Assessment: not following.
Kimi ga Aruji de Shitsuji ga Ore de http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HQokM_Dwlcs
Blatant Hayate the Combat Butler rip-off, with none of its cleverness, self-conciousness, great humor, or entertaining characters. I would have watched this had it been sharper in at least one of those categories, but instead I can’t help but feel “knock off!” and “what are they trying to pull here?” every cut of the way. It’s a shame as some of the characters look like they could have been entertaining, had they just been written for better. Blah.
Assessment: not following.
Hatenkou Yuugi http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WR-lpuqOrAU
This one’s been surprisingly good. Fairly average sort-of-ghost-busting anime premise, but some witty and snarky banter, a sense of self-consciousness to the point of mocking the “by the numbers” set-up of one episode, and a speedy delivery that plows through the plot of the entire first manga volume in the first episode, with some refreshingly cocksure protagonists adds up to a fun enough ride. The design style is very evocative of CLAMP influences, but not in a bad way.
True Tears http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XExzG9krJR0
Looks to be mostly a typical romantic anime dramedy, but I enjoyed the setting and characters enough in the first episode, I’ll at least eventually watch some more before I decide I like it or not.
Assessment: tentatively dropping, but not quite sure.
Zoku Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4XJoTLzFUo4
I’m catching up on the original first series, so I expect I will continue with this next portion of this wacked-out suicidal gothic-emo high school black comedy. Compare the new opening with the first one (somewhat non-worksafe due to certain brief cuts at the start) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OM8ODecbuhA --Shaft and Shinbou are still at it with their avant-garde mixing of post-digital anime and surrealistic imagery that outdoes Ikuhara Kunihiko and Enokido Yoji at their best.
Assessment: will follow when caught up on the prior series.
Persona -trinity soul- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GZR-XSJhTvI
Based on the popular video game series, though minus the controversial “summoning technique” of blowing one’s brains out. Actually it feels to me like a cross between Aquarian Age and JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, which is not a bad thing, I think. I need to see some more episodes, but the first one was certainly much more enjoyable than I had expected it to be (these game anime adaptations usually don’t turn out so well…).
Assessment: Tentatively following.
Porfy no Nagai Tabi http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IC-S72fzIzE
Blah…NHK anime about an orphan blah blah blah. In the same vein as all those other post-Miyazaki “educational”, usually western literature-based anime shows from NHK.
Another twist on the overdone shinigami theme, this time about a girl who acts as a postman for the recently deceased, accompanied by a really annoying talking staff/cane. The directing is slow, the gimmick doesn’t quite work. The end of the first episode was a nice surprise twist, and made up for a few flaws, but not enough to maintain my interest.
Armored Trooper VOTOMS: The Pailsen Files http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cWSN0ZtJhB8
Three episodes in and it’s pretty much same ol’ Votoms. Same continuity, basically a side story. If you liked the original Votoms, then this will make your day. If not, then don’t bother, as it doesn’t really offer anything new, and the CG effects are pretty low-budget and honestly would have looked better done traditional-style instead. I almost wonder if they deliberately dropped the frame rate on the CG and kept it low-budget to somehow maintain that 80’s “classic anime style”. If you can’t tell, yes, I liked the original angst-ridden, bitter coffee-drinking original, and this is just as fun in the same way.
Beyond that, I’m still following the still-running shows of prior seasons:
Hayate no Gotoku, Bamboo Blade, Kaiji, Clannad, Shakugan no Shana II (stuff’s finally happening in the second half…kinda like ROD TV, lol), and Kimi-kiss ~ pure rouge (well I haven’t watched much of it yet, so it’s still under evaluation).
This looks to be a great year for anime, especially mecha, with both the second Code Geass series and Macross Frontier coming up in April.
I was cautiously optimistic about Macross Frontier until I saw the 25th Anniversary Special “Director’s Cut” preview of the first episode on Dec. 26th and had my socks blown off. Now THIS is what Macross is SUPPOSED to be like, and the homages throughout the episode to all the prior series and particularly to Ai Oboeteimasuka (including the great Yoko Kanno remix of the title song itself for the ED credits) and the classic first episode of the original don’t hurt. This episode alone was far truer to the spirit of the original Macross than any of its spinoffs, yet managed to acknowledge all of them in the same breath. Plus the Macross movie-style blending of the space dogfights and Sheryl Norme’s Minmay-meets-Fire-Bomber-meets-Sharon-Apple concert gave the show the feeling anime’s missed since the days of the original Bubblegum Crisis. Rock on! The fact the series composition is by the same writer as Code Geass (not to mention that he worked on Mai-Hime/Otome and Gundam Seed/Destiny) means I think we have a new name to watch out for.
Now I’ll look back at my last anime blog entries and figure out what shows I’ve dropped and which I’m still following or have finished:
I did in fact drop Blue Drop. It might gradually improve, but I’ve had better stuff on my plate to catch up on.
I’ve only followed Shakugan no Shana Second the last few episodes of its first half because my roommate still hasn’t quite given up on it. That said, we skimmed the last two or three episodes after seeing they were still boring as hell. I “love” how often the characters have flashbacks to the original series, like they are thinking, “hey, remember back when STUFF HAPPENED?” My MyAnimeList rating of the show has dropped to four and then three out of ten. To put that in perspective, this is the first show I’ve continued following after it dropped below a five. At least it looks like the point of the end of episode 12 was “okay, STUFF’s going to HAPPEN now…tune back in a couple weeks after the New Years holiday week is over and you’ll see for yourself.” So perhaps the second half of the series won’t continue this noxious fan abuse.
I did in fact finish Zeorymer, which had the classic melodramatic “everyone must die” ending, but the whole thing was such an outright mishmash of 80’s anime clichés mixed with some awesome mecha designs, and so short, that it was all good fun anyway. Not as classic as, say, Iczer-One, but worth the popcorn and peanuts.
Night Wizard was as bad as (or worse than) Rental Magica turned out, so it joined it in getting the boot. Ah well, I was really hoping one of those two would work out, and Night Wizard at least looked like it had a good cheeseball factor going for it. Rats.
Bamboo Blade continues to impress and surprise, a fun, funny, well-written show that hides itself under a modest-looking kendo sports anime exterior.
Kaiji is fantastic, chilling and evil, a train wreck in progress you can’t tear your eyes from. I can’t imagine what kind of thought processes the mangaka went through to create this one…
Moyasimon’s still been entertaining, though I’ve only watched a couple so far. I did drop Heroic Age (I found out it gets much worse in the eps ahead, sigh) and Terra E, regretfully.
I finished Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni Kai and was quite satisfied, though very surprised that there will be a THIRD series, even though the main story arc of the original sound novel series has been fully completed now. I ended up giving the show a “nine” on MyAnimeList, but only because Studio DEEN continued to drop the animation ball in a number of places. Had they done a GOOD job animating the show, it would be my favorite anime TV series ever. As it is, I’d still rank it up with my top favorite “tens” for story, at least.
Hayate no Gotoku (aka Hayate the Combat Butler) needs no further discussion, it simply is one of the better anime comedies out there.
Genshiken 2 is one of those few anime that is actually BETTER than the original manga it’s based on (thanks in part to heavy involvement by the mangaka). EPIC LULZ for the episodes about the visting fujoushi otaku from the US and the massive amounts of coached English. And that’s saying a lot as the manga is in my top five favorite manga series. A massive improvement over the past anime versions of Genshiken, and far, far more risqué.
Clannad is quite good as ever. KyoAni’s anime record is quite unblemished and they deserve every bit of recognition they’ve earned from fans. Forget Gainax and Gonzo, keep your eyes on these guys…
As much as I love surreal and avant-garde stuff like Utena and FLCL, and innovation in anime art direction, especially adoption of and further adaptation of the techniques Gonzo pioneered in their greatest work, Gankutusou, I really can’t quite keep up with Shaft and Akiyuki Shinbou’s avant-garde style of presentation (as much as I applaud their bold experimentation and the way it can enrich the rest of the medium). Sometimes it works brilliantly, like in Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei, which I have been watching in small gleeful doses. I think it ALMOST worked for me in ef: a tale of memories, but the writing in the show just didn’t click and one character just really got on my nerves, so I couldn’t follow it. I dug the style and presentation, as I often have on Shinbou’s stuff, but, as also often with his work, I found that the material itself didn’t work out.
Kimi Kiss ~ pure rouge has been waiting for me to get back to it. Looks like a nice romantic comedy without getting into annoying harem wish-fufillment wankery and fluff, at least so far, and isn’t over-the-top wacky either. We’ll see.
I still haven’t bothered checking Sketchbook ~full color'S~ as what I’ve heard sounds pretty unpromising.
I know I’m forgetting some others, but that’ll do for now. Soon I’ll have to put together my winter season agenda.
Following up on the open letter to the anime industry, the letter has now been translated into Japanese, and Justin has this to say on the matter in one of the followup comments:
JETRO, the Japanese government body that promotes Japanese entertainment content overseas, has expressed interest in disseminating it to their anime related contacts, which is pretty much everyone. That would be pretty amazing.
Very well said and worth reading.