Friday, December 23, 2005

In the Wake of the Week (#4)

* Paniponi Dash (ep 17) - More pure comic genius--this time it's the school festival, and Becky's class does a maid cafe, which means plenty of fanservice. Rei would give Nanami from El-Hazard a run for her money when it comes to running a business. Although I wonder what the "Ichijo Matsuri" really was...then again, maybe it's better if I don't know ^_^;

* Shakugan no Shana (ep 11) - Ike is trying way too hard to set Yuji up with Kazumi. But I guess Yuji tried to do the same thing for (the original) Yukari-chan. The highlight of ep 11 was Alastor playing the overprotective father and Chigusa smacking him down and setting him straight over the phone. I think Alastor has a lot of respect for Chigusa now ^_^ The incest-shimai seem to be about to make a move, so we'll see if we're back to fighting next week, but I'm liking the character development so far.

* Aria (ep 9) - Akari and her friends go to the countryside to visit the legendary "mother of all undines" who was the big undine star back in her day, when she first started Aria Company. Akira is hoping Grandma (yes, that's what everyone calls her) will put them through training to help her become the best undine possible, but in the end it turns out like a vacation, and Grandma just tells them if they enjoy what they're doing, that's what really matters. I want a house out in the countryside like that, damnit... Next episode is an onsen ep, although since this is Aria and not Hanaukyo Maid-tai, I'm guessing there will be towels involved the whole time.

* Karin (ep 7) - Karin's friend has some really, really bad taste in guys. I mean, let's review: his name is pronounced 'Wiener'. He's a vampire hunter but doesn't realize Karin's a vampire. He faints at the sight of blood. He dresses like he's halfway to a padded cell next to Kaede's. Did I mention his name is pronounced 'Wiener'? I guess it's good Usui has nothing much to worry about from his new "rival," but so far I'm wishing they hadn't introduced Winner/Weiner's character at all. Still some good Karin moments in this episode, though, so the series is still high up on my list.

* My Otome (ep 9) - Arika is beaten down by exam week but rejuvenated by a school trip to the ocean--but then it turns out they're not going to the beach to play, that's just the starting out point for a 100km hike they have to do as an exam. Arika and Erstin are paired up, but someone tampers with their bags, and after Erstin gets bit by a snake an injection that's supposed to help her makes her collapse from a fever instead. Arika goes to get help but runs into a Bad Guy and she falls off a cliff.... Back at the ranch, looks like Akane actually has an interest in guys--good for her, since the rest of the students seem obsessed with Shizuru. Shizuru may have more girls in love with her than Junichi from DCSS, and that's saying something. Personally, I'd rank Shizuru near the bottom of the list, but whatever floats their yuri boats, I guess.

I'd do some kind of rankings for 2005's best series/best characters/best vending machine with a omnipotent cat inside it/etc. like everyone else, but since I've only been blogging for two months (and I'm lazy) I think I'll skip that this year. Hope anyone reading this has a great Christmas and New Year's! ^_^

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Da Capo Second Season 17-18

Episode 17:
Aisia follows Nemu around for a day and discovers that she does all the cleaning, cooking, etc for Junichi, who pisses Aisia off by seeming to completely take it all for granted. She finally blows up and says as much to Junichi in front of Nemu, but Nemu explains later while she'd be happy if Junichi thanked her, Junichi being happy is enough for her. This episode made me like Junichi less, but the way they showed how couples that have been together a long time can anticipate each other's needs (well, at least Nemu can...) and operate on the same wavelength was really well done. Looks like Aisia is getting even closer to "using her magic" to help rectify the situation though. And when Aisia uses magic, you better watch out...

Episode 18:
Sakura, my least favorite character from the original Da Capo, returns in this ep, after Utamaru leads the cast on a wild goose chase. After a second where I think Junichi was wondering if Nemu was going to try to strangle Sakura's loli ass for what she did in the first season, she hugs her instead and we get some bath service as Nemu and Sakura are reconciled. It was very un-Nemu like for Nemu to just smile when Sakura's hugging Junichi to show him her breasts are (slightly) bigger, but I'm sure Nemu was thinking "try all you want, Sakura, he's my bitch now." When Aisia finds out Sakura's related to Grandma Yoshino, she looks like she just won the lottery--so you can bet Aisia will be calling Sakura "shisho" before long and following her around hoping she'll teach her magic.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

I"s Pure (ep 1)

I"s is one of those manga series that has a big following, but that I'd rather drink paint thinner than read end to end. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against bishoujo, and I'm a fan of romantic plotlines in anime. But watching a guy with no testicles to speak of moping because he can't tell the girl he likes that he likes her, even though it's obvious to everyone from here to Jesus that she's one "daisuki" away from doing the Mattress Mambo with him, is like dragging fingernails on a chalkboard to me.

Having said that--I"s Pure isn't all that bad, at least compared to what I remember of the start of the manga. The plotline looks like it's going to be like this: Boy meets Girl, Boy is too gutless to tell her he likes her, Girl misunderstands something and hates Boy, Boy mopes and is unable to set the record straight, third party does it for him, Boy and Girl reconcile, Boy meets Other Girl, complications ensue, et cetera, et cetera--and then I'm going out on a limb and guessing Boy finally gets the First Girl.

This isn't necessarily bad--hell, I liked Kimagure Orange Road and it follows the same formula to a point, dragging out to forty-eight episodes something that could have been settled in two if Kyousuke had more backbone. Or in one episode if someone, for the love of God, had just backed a cement truck over Hikaru. There's a fine line you have to walk, and in the first episode of I"s Pure it's still on the good side of that line.

Of course, at the end of episode 1 of I"s Pure the Other Girl shows up, and I'm sure Iori will be storming out of what's-his-name's house about 42 seconds into episode 2, but a few complications aren't bad. It's when the protagonist tries to confess for the 64th time but at that exact moment a meteorite comes through the roof, bounces off the TV, ricochets off the chandelier, and knocks over his glass of grape juice onto the girl's white dress, ruining the moment but setting up an ecchi scene where she has to change into a T-shirt that's two sizes too small for her...THAT'S when I start getting annoyed. But at only six episodes, I'm hoping I"s Pure won't get to that point.

So I guess if you want to see ecchi, good animation, and the struggle of one heroic dumbass to be with the girl of his dreams, this isn't a bad choice. Even if you haven't read any of the manga, you won't be lost at all, and the character designs are pretty good. I'll keep watching, although I may not be able to finish it without a lot of beer.

Random thought: This really is like KOR, in that half the guys in KOR were wannabe-rapists also. If schools in Japan were really like this, I'd pity Japanese high school girls.

Monday, December 19, 2005

To Heart 2 (ep 4)

Episode 4 of To Heart Deux is out, and it's another good episode, focusing on Manaka's friend Yuma this time. I like Yuma because she's filthy rich, but doesn't act like it at all. If anything, she comes across as kind of a hothead, versus the anime ojou-sama stereotype you normally see. I kept thinking at any moment she was going to burst into the ojou-sama laugh (think Ayaka from Negima, Ayeka from Tenchi, and probably a billion other examples I can't think of right now) but she didn't. To Yuma's credit, she acts normal and down to earth, although she can be a little irrational.

For example: let's say you're late to school, so you're on your bicycle doing Mach five-point-three. Someone's unfortunate enough to be in your path and you smash into them with your bike. Later that day that same person hits a home run and the ball nails a water nozzle and drenches you. After that, your grandfather comes to pick you up from school. You could call that karma maybe, but nooo, to Yuma this is a clear sign--even your grandfather showing up is all Takaki's fault because Takaki is targeting you! I guess on the Kaede scale, Yuma's nowhere near crazy, but she still seems to be looking for a fight.

Yuma eventually opens up a little to Takaki, telling him she promised her grandfather she'd take over his business when she grew up, but now she resents it because it feels like someone else is deciding her future for her. Plus she has to take Economics class after school, which is enough to piss anyone off. Takaki gives her some good, if a little obvious, advice to be honest about her feelings, and she leaves feeling a little better, even after getting spanked by Takaki in air hockey.

I like how Manaka got some air time too, and they show some of Manaka and Yuma's friendship--like the original To Heart, it's not ALL about the male lead (which is good, since the male lead is Takaki). In some other harem shows the girls all live to become the male lead's bride and don't seem to have any lives or friends outside of that goal, but in To Heart and To Heart 2 they seem to have a little more depth of character. Overall, I liked this episode, looks like Karin is up next and then, finally, Ruuko.

If you want to find out more about To Heart 2, bluemist's blog has some amazingly thorough walkthroughs of the girls' scenarios from the game.

Zettai Shonen (end)

Zettai Shonen is kind of hard to describe, and like YKK it's probably one of those series you either love or hate depending on your tastes. It's not filled with action, or written for an audience with a 10-second attention span, but it does have a great cast, good character development, and in the Tana arc awesome atmosphere. If you want action, swordfights, and monsters in your anime, avoid Zettai like the plague. But if you want to get pulled into a world that's more complex and mysterious than it first appears, Zettai is a great choice.

I marathoned the last seven episodes, and I'm glad I did to avoid the suspense of waiting. I won't go into detail on the plot, since I suck at doing that and Matthew has really good plot summaries for each episode already. It seems like I'm in the majority in that I liked the Tana arc much better than the Yokohama arc--it was just easier to identify with the cast in Tana, and the atmosphere in Tana was perfect for what was happening. In Yokohama the material fairies just seemed out of place somehow, and the cast as a whole just didn't pull me in like the Tana cast did. Although it was cool to get to see Ayumu two years later, and to get to hear Miki again, even if it was just on the phone.

The ending was better than I expected, although it didn't explain everything about the warm and cold colored lights, I think Ayumu gave a decent theory for what they were. Besides, I'm not sure how you could write a perfectly conclusive ending without it seeming completely out of place with the rest of the series. If Dosshiru had suddenly taken human form and starting pontificating to Ayumu and Sukuwara about how the material fairies came to be and why they cancel each other out, I think it would have just seemed really wrong. In the end, Zettai isn't about the material fairies, it's about the characters and how this experience changes them, and it tells that story very, very well.

Friday, December 16, 2005

In the Wake of the Week (#3)

Random thoughts on anime I watched this week (aka that I'm too lazy to blog properly):

Kiddy Grade (through the end): I liked the series overall, but it's kind of funny that stealing the most powerful (and doubtlessly expensive) spaceship ever created can be accomplished by a guy walking off with a single key. There's not even an alarm system--so a Chevy Impala has better anti-theft protection than the Kiddy Grade version of the Death Star?

Karin (ep 6): More good development of the relationship between Usui and Karin, as Usui starts to open up a little. Next episode looks like the weirdo with the feather in his hat is going to appear--can't say if this will be a good thing or not, but since I'd rather see more time spent on Usui-Karin, I'm guessing not. Still, maybe a rival will spur Usui to take some action...

Nanoha As (ep 6): More background story on Hayate, it's easy to see how the guardians of the Book came to like her and why they're determined to fill the pages of the Book of Darkness. It's good to see Nanoha, unlike a lot of mahou shoujo series, doesn't paint the world in purely black and white. I remember an English teacher once saying it's easy to write purely evil bad guys, but harder to write bad guys who are bad for a reason.

Aria (ep 7-8): One of the many undines whose name starts with A-sempai, from Himeya, is strict when she's training, but it's really strictness because she cares. That's right, even a kick in the nuts can become a warm memory when you consider the special feelings that went behind it. That's what I got out of episode 7, anyway. Episode 8 is all about Aria-shacho, the cat that makes pig noises and weighs too much--so I have to admit I skipped it.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Shakugan no Shana 10

Another good episode with the spotlight on Shana and Yuji's relationship. Yuji's understandably a little depressed--getting your butt kicked by a little girl every morning can't be good for your ego, even if it is in the name of training. Shana, on the other hand, at school is acting jealous of Kazumi and protective of Yuji, even if she probably doesn't realize it herself. By the end of the episode though, it feels like they've taken another step down their respective paths, with Shana wearing a normal dress (kawaii~!) and Yuji becoming a little stronger and realizing although he may not kick ass and take names yet, he can still be useful to Shana just by being at her side. I really like what they did at the end of the episode, showing how even when you're killing a monster, it's still a traumatic experience, even for Shana.

I remember hearing once that one of the big disconnects between men and women is women like to talk about their problems just to get them off their chest, while when a man hears a woman tell him her problems, he immediately tries to come up with solutions, rather than just being there and listening. I guess I'm mentioning that since it seems like Yuji had a similar misunderstanding, thinking since he couldn't fight well yet he'd be useless to Shana, but not seeing that just his presence can help give her strength, even if his fighting skills need to be leveled up a lot.

Anyway, good to see a character development episode, and to see both Shana and Yuji slowly changing. Chigusa (Yuji's mom) kicks ass, it's funny how she seems to have decided Shana and Yuji make the perfect couple and gives good advice to both of them. Next episode should be interesting, Alastor versus Chigusa--I'm thinking Chigusa wins hands down, she's easy to underestimate. Plus it looks like a new enemy has arrived, in the form of siblings who are a little too Nemu and Junichi close, if you catch my drift...

Sunday, December 11, 2005

D.C.S.S. 16: Aisia and the Horror of Hatsunejima

Following episode 15, which closed out the all too short mini-Kotori arc, episode 16 takes a more dramatic turn, as Aisia tries to come to terms with how she can make everyone she knows happy--and stumbles upon Hatsunejima's horrifying secret.

Aisia's day starts innocently enough, although Nemu is getting on her nerves generally being Nemu and Aisia ends up storming out of the house, since she's a Kotori fan. Aisia goes to a park and thinks about what Kotori told her before about happiness...and she runs into Misaki. Misaki tells Aisia she likes Junichi too, and thinks Aisia does as well. In fact, Misaki says she thinks EVERYONE wants Junichi to take them to the Boneyard--and that's when Aisia's blood starts to run cold. What kind of messed up world could Hatsunejima be, where every single girl falls in love with Junichi? Junichi's nice and all, but why don't ANY of the girls she knows have a crush on anyone ELSE? Aisia's eyes widen with horror as she gets a brief glimpse of the truth, but she has to confirm it herself first...

Aisia starts with Tamaki, who denies liking Junichi, but while practicing archery her arrows make a heart shape. Aisia runs into Nanako, who's caught drawing doujinshi with her and Junichi going at it like rabbits on Viagra. Next Aisia overhears Mako and Moe's plans for a threesome. Miharu's more obsessed with bananas than Junichi, but Aisia figures she's probably retarded so she doesn't count. Alice tells Aisia she likes Junichi. Thinking about it, Aisia realizes she's starting to like him too. She realizes there is only one possible answer--Junichi is a magician, a greater magician than he ever let on, and he's been brainwashing every last girl on Hatsunejima to fall in love with him, like some kind of sick game you can buy in Akihabara. Overwhelmed with horror, Aisia wants to scream with the fury of a million exploding suns--but then she realizes that only she can end this nightmare. The episode ends with Aisia at a garden supply store, buying a set of pruning shears you could cut down a small tree with...

OK, the episode didn't go like that at all, but it would have been great if it did. I know, it's a renai game so of COURSE all the girls like one guy, but damn. When you add all the girls who like Junichi up, like Aisia did in this epiosde, you'd think you'd question reality just a little. It does look like Aisia's getting closer to doing "something" about the situation, since in her eyes it looks like Nemu and Junichi are happy, but everyone else, herself included, is kind of screwed.

Friday, December 09, 2005

In the Wake of the Week (#2)

* Paniponi (ep 16): Awesome episode--I'm not a huge Ichijou fan, but this was hilarious. The "rabbit missile" part was great, it was uncharacteristically good luck on Mesousa's part that he didn't actually get launched into space. So in this episode we learned the alien captain has some kind of relationship with Ichijou...but Kami-sama only knows what. Maybe it's better not to know. Oh, and the principal has a helicopter available for the staff. Tuition at that school must be a damn fortune. Wonder how National Monument got a pilot's license, you'd think he wouldn't be able to reach the controls. Then there's poor Miyako getting her forehead stuck in the wall...Roukgou's attempt to comfort her didn't really work ^_^

* Mai Otome (ep 8): think this episode was setting things up for a fight between the current crop of Otome in the future? It's like the writers sat down and said "our audience is really, monumentally stupid, so we're not just going to Foreshadow here, we're going to Foreshadow With a Goddamn Sledgehammer." So now we know at some point in the future a war will break out and Erstin, Nina, Arika, etc. will have to fight, although right now Arika doesn't want to. Nina, on the other hand, is ready to lack the smackdown on her friends at any time, although I bet if she had to fight Sergay Wong (*snicker*) she'd change her tune. Just when I think they're going to get into more serious mode though, next episode is Natsuki in a thong. Wonder if the tentacle monster will come back...

* Da Capo Second Season (ep 13): A good episode that finally gives us some backstory on Aishia and why she's obsessed with magic and making people happy. I still wish DCSS was focused on Kotori more than Aishia, and it's hard to understand why Nemu and Junichi haven't gotten any further in their relationship given how far it had gone in the first season. I mean, the original series they sleep together, now in DCSS they're embarrassed when Aishia walks in on them about to kiss--it's like their relationship has regressed. You'd think they'd wait for Aishia to fall asleep and then get down to business, but I guess Nemu and Junichi aren't really the focus of DCSS anyway, so far it's all Aishia.

* Shakugan no Shana 9: Pool episode! Lots of fanservice, and Shana shows some more signs of being jealous when Kazumi tries getting close to Yuji, although Shana probably doesn't realize it herself. Shana signing up for the couple cavalry battle in the pool as soon as she hears you can get all you can eat melon pan was pretty funny. It looks like the Kazumi-Yuji-Shana love triangle will get a little more development next episode, before the next adversary appears and the series switches back to swordfighting mode.

* To Heart 2 ep 3: Much better than episode 2, where Tamaki was just annoying and Takaki just went and hid like a little wuss. In episode 3, Takaki is actually useful, helping Komaki-chan bar code old books in the library archive. Komaki's kawaii, and it was nice to see her character develop during the episode to the point where she stood up for herself at the end and managed to keep what was important to her. The guy who's in charge of the library club needs to be taken back behind the woodshed--how the hell did he get elected president? It's nice to see To Heart 2 following the same path as the original as far as focusing on the girls more than the male lead, hopefully that'll keep up as it goes on, since Takaki…well, he ain't Hiroyuki.

* Da Capo Second Season (episode 14) - Finally, more Kotori! Nothing against Aishia, but the "I'm going to screw up trying to make everyone happy" schtick was wearing a little thin. It's hard not to feel bad for Kotori, still pining after Asakura although she knows he's fallen into the clutches of Nemu, never to escape. They really need to put a much better guy than Asakura in the show and pair him with Kotori. That and how come Kotori hasn't sung anything yet? I think she sang every other time she appeared in the first season, but nada so far in DCSS. Moe sure as hell is never going to drown, it's amazing she can walk upright with those things. Anyway, got to like a Da Capo beach/onsen episode. Suginami and Asakura going to the beach with nine girls--guess that's the way the guy-girl ratio always goes in harem shows. It makes me wonder what Kudo-kun did to not get an invite, since the rest of the cast was there...although I still suspect Kudo's really a girl, maybe he declined because the beach would've blown his cover.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Futakoi Alternative 13 (end)

The first episode of Futakoi Alternative blew me away--it was just incredible, the kind of episode you want to hold up as an example when people ask you what anime is. From there it shifted gears and for much of the middle of the series the action took a back seat, and the drama kicked in, although not at all in the way I expected. I expected a love triangle, with a resolution in the end where Rentarou picked Sara or Soujyu, but since Japan isn't Utah, I never expected in the end he'd effectively pick both. The drama wasn't the choice between the twins that I'd expected--instead, the drama came from Sara being separated from Soujyu and Rentarou, and their determination to restore their inseparable three together again. It's a little hard for me to understand personally, but after watching the last episode I have to agree with what the people of Nikotama said--society may have something to say about three people living together, but Rentarou, Sara, and Soujyu being together is fine with me. In a way I still feel like it's a cop-out ending, but maybe there are triangles that can be resolved by keeping them just as they are.

The last episode was a good mix of action in the first half and a good epilogue in the second half. It seems like a lot of people stopped following Futakoi Alternative in the middle, especially when Rentarou moped around aimlessly, but the ending was strong, and as a whole this is still one of the better anime series I've seen. The whole plot with the squid monsters may make some say WTF, but it wasn't really the point of the story, it was there to facilitate the drama.

Watching Futakoi Alternative felt like I was watching a real work of art at times, with the way they played with the camera angles, visual effects, and flashbacks. I still think if they'd kept up the energy of the first episode longer, and gone with a more traditional resolution to the love triangle, it could have been even better--but Futakoi Alternative wasn't trying to follow the pattern people expected. ufotable really showed what you can do with a renai game to anime series, and I can only hope in the future we see more series like it. Futakoi Alternative may not be perfect, but it was a hell of a fun ride to watch.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

In the Wake of the Week

Random thoughts on this week's anime...a day early since probably won't post at all Friday:

* Shuffle (through ep 19): Pardon my use of clinical psychiatric terms, but Kaede is one crazy-ass motherfucker. I think right around the box cutter incident I'd cart her off to the Funny Farm for some serious therapy. Sure, you can say Kaede went through a terrible tragedy, and that's very true, but lots of orphans don't go psycho. Looks like Asa will win, but Rin's a fickle little bastard (it wasn't that long ago he and Sia were planning to start a big family when they were "stranded" on the beach) so you never know.

* Mai Otome (through ep 7): The episode with the tentacles in the pool was entertaining, but talk about walking right up to the line--why not just make it full-blown hentai if you're going to get THAT ecchi? Mashiro continues to be my favorite character, though, she's got Fine and Rain beat hands-down as the most unprincessly princess ever. Got to like a queen with a serious attitude problem.

* Aria (through ep 6): The "left hand punishment campaign" makes me think Alice could be winding up in the same zip code as Kaede before long. If she thinks her left hand is useless, wait until her biology teacher gets to the appendix--she'll be breaking out a box cutter. Yeah, this episode made a nice point about how people support you without you realizing it, and so on, but episode 6 just rubbed me the wrong way. Your roommate starts spontaneously singing in the middle of the night and you don't think that's odd? Sure, it's been a long time since I was in college, but if my roommate started busting into an operetta at 3am, I'd be calling Campus Security.

* Paniponi (through ep 15): Went back and watched all 15 episodes--the staff of this show must go through more drugs each week than your average hospital. The bus being stuck on the edge of the cliff the whole episode in ep 15 looked like it would be boring, but it was still pretty funny. Miyako's denial of reality was hilarious.

* Shakugan no Shana (through ep 8): Shana kicks ass. She even uses her own name now, which is pretty cool. Now that she has a name and more confidence, it's a matter of time before she starts talking trash during fights. From the preview looks like episode 9 is the oppai battle in the pool, which Shana's going to lose hard. Shana should take a page from Mahoro's playbook and just keep reminding everyone bigger isn't always better and big breasts cause back pain, etc. Kazumi better watch out, or Shana's "intent to kill" will take her the hell down. Swordfights are good, but looking forward to rabu comedy next week.

* Comic Party Revolution (through the end): Not a terrible ending--not great either, but I'm sad this is the last of CPR. If they continue it with another season someday, my vote is to give us the Kazuki x Mizuki ending they seemed to be aiming for with the original Comic Party. But plenty of filler eps focusing on the rest of the cast is good too--that's something CPR did much better than the original, giving the entire cast their time to shine. My favorite's probably Asahi-chan, although it pains me that Taishi would undoubtedly say the exact same thing...there's an alarming parallel for you...

* Karin (through ep 4): Awesome. The manga's awesome, the anime's awesome, J.C. Staff didn't have the "animators" who worked on Okusama wa Mahou Shoujo work on this--all I can say is awesome. Rabu comedy with a reverse vampire just can't go wrong. I'm glad it's not as ecchi as the OP, though, I'm a firm believer that when a series crosses a fine line the fanservice starts taking over and you end up with crap (*cough* Girls Bravo).

Next week: Looking forward to more DCSS, if Shinsen puts ep 13 up on BT. I am way too old to learn IRC...