Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Mahou Sensei Negima Nekomimi Dash!

There are those who are unfortunate enough to have days in their lives that make them scream at the heavens, venting an erupting volcano of hate at the unseen forces that have damned them, days that make them doubt the very existence of God. For many Negima fans, that would be when the anime came out, with animation drawn by blind, epileptic rhesus monkeys and a storyline that was like someone took a chainsaw to the manga.

But then there are days like one not too long ago, day that provide proof beyond any shadow of a doubt that God exists and loves us all, and that any doubts we ever had were foolish, even stupid. How can I say this so confidently? Negima is getting an OVA made--by the same team that created Tsukuyomi and Pani Poni Dash!

While many future Wal-Mart cashiers philosophy majors would disagree that this provides conclusive proof of a benign God, they obviously don't understand how good Tsukuyomi and Pani Poni Dash are, nor how much potential Negima had that was (with a few exceptions) wasted in the first Negima anime series. The second Negima anime could have gone to anyone--it could have gone to the same team that did the first season. Or it could have got the same team who did Amazing Nurse Nanako and Divergence Eve, giving the students of Mahora junior high unholy sized...er...assets and a plot that makes your brain want to leap out of your skull and commit seppuku. But no, divine intervention gives us Mahou Sensei Negima DASH (not the real title, like I can read any kanji anyway).

The character designs are different, of course, but the more I look at them the more I like them. Beating the moe level Akamatsu-sensei hits in the manga would be damn hard, but the new anime character designs are a lot better than the original anime, to me anyway. Now just have to wait for this to come out--I guess it's being shown at a special event, but it's got to be a matter of time before they press it on a DVD and sell it for 100,000 yen or whatever insane price R2 DVDs go for these days. I'd love to see it on R1 DVD, but since it didn't exist when Funi licensed the first Negima series, they'll probably have to license this OVA separately. Here's hoping the OVA does well enough a second season will follow it soon after.

Unlike a lot of fans of the manga, I don't care if they slavishly follow the manga storyline--for example, Sayo-chan's episode in the anime I thought was much better than what Akamatsu came up with.

If you're looking for more information, eggplant on AnimeSuki translated the text on the pages below:

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Da Capo II ~ Coming 5/26

Well, the game version is coming 5/26, at least as near as I can tell from the official Da Capo II website. Does that mean it'll get an anime series at some point down the road? Hard to say, but if it sells well and is as popular as the rest of the Da Capo franchise seems to have been, it's possible.

I've never played a renai game (and likely never will, since my Japanese isn't that good and I have a Mac at home) but I liked the Da Capo and D.C.S.S. anime, so the news Da Capo II is becoming a real product is good news in my book, potentially bringing the anime one step closer. I'm in the process of re-watching the original Da Capo anime series now, and while the first half you can say is just like any other harem anime, the whole magic aspect with the sakura tree is interesting, and the last few episodes with the Junichi-Nemu-Sakura triangle concluding is one of the best love triangle resolutions I've ever seen.

What's interesting to me about Da Capo II is the characters are all grandchildren of the current cast (or at least most of them are). So there are no carry-overs from the original cast, but in a way there are, since everyone looks slightly familiar. Kotori's granddaughter in particular really looks a lot like Kotori, and as any Kotori fan will tell you that can only be a good thing. It's a good hook to get fans of the original series in, rather than take the approach To Heart 2 did and create an entirely new cast unrelated to the first To Heart and put them in the same setting. I don't really want to see the cast of the original Da Capo in adult diapers, although they may have a cameo or two, who knows--but if this does well and gets made into an anime series it'd be fun to see the original cast's descendants and what similarities are there.

Although I wonder where the non-Nemu members of the cast found their husbands since apparently every last girl on Hatsunejima falls for Junichi in the original Da Capo. Maybe they went off to college and realized there were actually other men in the world, or Junichi's evil powers couldn't reach them there.

Anyway, hopefully when D.C. II is out someone will walk through the scenarios, kind of like the awesome To Heart 2 summaries bluemist did, since I'd be curious what the new scenarios are.

And yes, above is Future-Descendant-of-Kotori. Chiwassu!

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Random Anime Thoughts

"'She can't do much', eh, Sakura-chan? Howd'ya like me now, bee-atch!"

It's hard to believe in a little over a month the spring season will be upon us, with something like 6,000 shows airing, or at least it feels like it. Don't believe me? Just look at this list. Hopefully this doesn't mean to crank out this insane a quantity of anime Japan is offshoring every piece of every show, and we're looking at Negima-episode-10-quality animation for everything. If that happens I'll grab a red pen, fly to Japan, and start checking cels myself. Hell, I've seen Animation Runner Kuromi episodes one AND two multiple times, so I think I've got the skillz.

Some random thoughts on anime I'm watching now, since clearly I'm not capable of blogging ANYTHING episode by episode:

Binchou-tan (through ep 2): Binchou-tan lives in the woods. She's very nice, and her diet consists of mostly rice. She lives alone, but she's not lonely because she finally runs into other people in ep 2. She can change her size at will, but DAMN that bird bus screwed her the hell over dropping her through a tree. I don't take the bus often, but in my world they come to a complete stop first when I do, unless I've REALLY pissed the bus driver off somehow. It's like taking a flight and the flight attendant picks you up, yells 'thank you for flying United' and throws you the hell out the door screaming before they even get the landing gear down. With Binchou-tan's work conditions I'm guessing by episode 5 or so she'll be reading Karl Marx on the bus ride to work--I thought my job sucked at times, but at least I get a salary and a health plan, while Binchou-tan has to work inside a rice cooker and people's smelly shoes. You have nothing to lose but your chains, Binchou-tan.

Da Capo Second Season (through ep 24): Once again, Sakura proves to not be very good at judging how powerful magic is. If I were Junichi I would go to Home Depot, buy a chainsaw, and take that sakura tree the hell down once and for all, grandma or no. I mean, sure, the tree that tried to destroy your relationship with your girlfriend TWICE has sentimental value I'm sure, but it's got to go. Explosives would do the job equally well. Looking at Tamaki's shrine, I think that's where I'd like to retire--it's got an ocean view, lots of room, on an island where probably no one works overtime...I'm sure the hill would get old, but one would keep in better shape that way. And Kudo-kun is SO a girl. Too bad we'll probably never get her backstory, there's got to be a reason she acts like a guy but we won't find out in this series.

Da Capo II: Not out yet, but the website is up (in Japanese). The game doesn't even have a release date yet, but since I've liked both anime iterations of Da Capo, I hope this gets an anime series as well. The characters are the grandchildren of the original cast, and you can definitely see the resemblance in some of them. Kind of a cool concept, continuity-wise. Although this time future-Kotori better win, damn it ^_^.

Fate/Stay Night (through ep 7): Shirou has harem problems--for a moment I thought this was D.C.S.S. I can see why Saber has fans, but Rin has to get the win here. They should put her picture in the entry for tsundere in Wikipedia.

Kage Kara Mamoru (through ep 5): Yuuna reminds me more of Milfuelle from Galaxy Angel every episode. Although in Yuuna's case, her good fortune is entirely the result of hard work by Mamo-kun, and not insanely good luck. I'm not sure if Yuuna or Milfuelle is dumber, but if you added their IQs together the smart money says you wouldn't break single digits. That banana song she sung in episode 4 actually got stuck in my head for days. I'm not sure what that says about me. Ba-na-na...ba-na-na, Ba-na-na, ba-na-na, Ba-na-na ba-na-na de!

Lemon Angel Project (through ep 3): The title makes it sound like tentacles will be involved, but through the third episode it's a better show than I expected--nothing spectacular, but interesting. Unfortunately, this isn't getting the lightening speed 'out before it airs in Japan' treatment so many fans have come to expect, but since this is definitely in the less popular category I'm just glad someone is subbing it, period. Tomo is such a dead ringer for Akari from Aria.

Magikano (through ep 6): I just re-watched all of 2x2 Shinobuden, so I won't say Magikano is the funniest series I've ever seen, but it's up there. Definitely the biggest surprise for me this season, one look at the character designs and I was expecting 'kill me now, another Tenshi no Shippo' but no, Magikano takes insane comedy to new levels. Episode 7, according to an animated gif I saw on the internet, has the most painful looking ball-stomping scene ever, up there with Bonta-kun taking out that gangster in Full Metal Panic Fumoffu.

Pani Poni Dash (through ep 21): I wish Shoujo Q was the OP song for the whole series, I could pretty much put it on endless repeat in iTunes all day. Especially if the banana song is stuck in my head and I need to get it out. I'll be sad when it's over, this is another hilarious show, it has to take the all-time record for most references to other shows/manga/movies/everything.

Rec (through ep 2): Aka is teramoe, and the basic setup of this is pretty cool--glad to see after they slept together at the end of ep 1 (SHOCK THE ONSOKUMARU!) it's settled into a more typical pattern. Poor Fumihiko-san, he gets one night of heaven and now he's in the doghouse.

Shagukan no Shana (through ep 16): I know it's blasphemy to the legions of Shana fans to say this, but I'm losing interest in this show. Maybe I just don't like Kazumi and her angsting, or the action's getting repetitive, or Yuuji's waffling is annoying me, but think I'll give myself a break from watching this. To be honest, it's just paling by comparison to Fate/Stay Night in the story department, no matter how moe Shana is.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Da Capo Second Season 22

Well, she's finally done it...it looks like Aishia has reactivated the Sakura Tree of Doom at last, Sakura underestimating her powers just a little. Seeing everyone trying to help get Junichi and Nemu some quality time together, it's apparent that they know they can't be with him, but because they love him they at least want him to find happiness with Nemu. Aishia sees this more as they're just denying their true feelings, but if you really love someone you should want them to be happy, even if that unfortunately for you that means happy with somebody else.

With the tree back in the picture, it looks like the only way Aishia will learn what she's doing is wrong is The Hard Way. I still think the real super-magician is Junichi, and his evil magic powers are the reason every girl on the island wants to get jiggy with him. I mean, come on, there ARE other guys on the island right? And it's not like Junichi is some perfect guy hero out of a romance novel with a name like Brad Longshaft and biceps that let him break trees in half with his bare hands.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Kashimashi 4: Sharks vs Innocent Little Kitties

Watching episode 4 of Kashimashi, I can't help but think Hazumu has ALWAYS been a girl. Let's look at the evidence:

  • He gets all excited about wearing a dress--NOT something guys do.
  • He can't work a remote control--ALL guys have the ability to use ANY remote from birth.
  • When the alien who turned him a girl shows up, he doesn't threaten to beat him to death with a crowbar if he doesn't give him his wang back RIGHT GOD DAMN NOW.
Next episode, Hazumu will get all excited because he has a heavy flow day and gets to shop with Yasuna for maxipads. Seriously, if Hazumu acted at least a little like a guy in a girl's body this show would be more believable.

The other complaint I'm starting to have with Kashimashi is Tomari-chan seems to have a snowball's chance in hell with Hazumu. It's kind of like D.C.S.S., where everyone knows Nemu's the winner, and they're just going through the motions of liking Junichi. Let's see, we have Hazumu, who likes Yasuna. And Yasuna, who's already pulling a Tomoyo and dressing Hazumu up--we already know from the first episode she likes Hazumu-chan, because she kisses her. And then we have Tomari. Tomari who hasn't even confessed yet, and Yasuna's halfway to first base. At this rate, Tomari will get the guts to kokuhaku just in time to walk in on Hazumu and Yasuna going at it like rabbits in heat. That's not a love triangle--it's a fight where Yasuna's a great white shark and Tomari's a swimming pool full of defenseless little kittens who can't swim. Hmmm, that's kind of an alarming analogy...but the point is I feel bad for Tomari-chan, so far at least I'd rather see Tomari "win". Hopefully the next couple eps she gets into the running a little better.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Mahou Shoujo Club (aka Sasami-chan returns...)

She's baaaaaack...

Mihoshi-sensei embarrassing herself...ah, some characters never change...

Just when you thought you'd never see the cast of Tenchi in an alternate universe yet again, there's a new series coming out in April starring Sasami-chan, called "Mahou Shoujo Club". I loved Magical Project S/Pretty Sammy, the original Tenchi spinoff where Sasami was a mahou shoujo, so I've got high hopes for this.

The new series has nothing to do with the old Pretty Sammy series though, it sounds like it's based on a manga coming out that's aimed at guys, so it'll probably be similar to Nanoha or Magical Canan. The plot, as near as I can tell, is Sasami is a member of the Cooking Club at school, and Washu is the club's faculty advisor--only it's not JUST the Cooking Club, it's also the front for the Mahou Shoujo Club. Mihoshi is Sasami's (undoubtedly ditzy) homeroom teacher, and Misao (from Pretty Sammy and Battle Programmer Shirase) is back as Sasami's best friend, as is Ryo-Ohki.

There's a video up if you click on "Movie" on the official website, and it looks pretty good--the background song is catchy too. The new character designs take a little getting used to, but the animation quality overall looks like it should be a lot better than the 1995 Pretty Sammy TV series was. Don't know anything much about the manga it's based on, but still looking forward to seeing what they do with this. Pretty Sammy TV (or "Magical Project S" in Region 1) was hilarious, never taking itself too seriously and parodying the mahou shoujo genre, but it's hard to tell from the short video what approach this new series will take. Although it's been so long I wonder if they'll get the same seiyuu to reprise Sasami, Misao, Washu, and Mihoshi...guess we'll see two months from now...

It's probably asking for too much, but I hope Washu-sensei still has the guitar from Pretty Sammy TV...

Friday, February 03, 2006

Rec 1

I was looking forward to Rec enough that I watched the first episode raw--granted, I missed 90% of what they said, but it was enough to generally get what's going on. The heroine of the show is Onda Aka, who by chance runs into twenty-something salaryman Fumihiko in front of a movie theater. His girlfriend just turned him down, and he's about to throw away two movie tickets in disgust when Aka stops him, not wanting to waste them. He gives her a ticket and she drags him into the movie with her--and she starts reciting the lines, later explaining she's a seiyuu tamago, a voice actress in the making.

On the way out of the theater, Fumihiko sees his girlfriend, but she's hooked up with a guy who looks like a yakuza--he's crushed, but Aka drags him to a local bar for drinks to cheer him up. Yakitori too...damn, I miss good yakitori, if you're ever in the Hotel New Otani in Tokyo there's a great yakitori place there. Back on topic, Fumihiko gets stuck with the bill since Aka has no money, but as they part for the night he feels a little better about getting dumped. Still, Fumihiko and Aka go their separate ways, and don't even end up getting each other's names.

Later that night, Fumihiko hears sirens and goes outside to investigate--an apartment building nearby is in the process of burning to the ground, and sitting on a swing in the rain in her pajamas is Aka-chan, looking stunned. He goes up to her and asks if she has relatives or friends she can stay with, and she says no--so he offers her his place. Aka takes a shower and Fumihiko offers her the bed, while he'd sleep on a futon on the floor...but Aka starts to cry over losing everything in the fire, Fumihiko comforts her...and Aka kisses him! Not just that, but they end up sleeping together! No, they don't actually SHOW them sleeping together, but kiss + falling down together on the bed + fade to black = 99% chance they did the horizontal mambo.

Up until that point, Rec looked like your typical anime romantic comedy--usually the pattern is they'd slowly get closer together, he'd do things like accidentally walk in on her in the shower and she'd throw something at him, et cetera, and at the end of 13 or 26 episodes they'd realize they liked each other, and they'd kiss at most. Not the case with Rec, noooo...they sleep together in the very first episode! Not only that, it's only a 12-minute episode! That's what, less than 1/50th of the airtime it took for Keitaro to kiss Naru! Fumihiko is rounding home plate 10 minutes and 58 seconds into the show, and that's even counting the opening credits! Don't underestimate salarymen, I guess...

On a US TV show this wouldn't be surprising at all, but it definitely surprised me to see things move this fast in anime. I'm not saying it's a bad thing, since it gives the potential for Rec to explore how their relationship grows, and breaks it out of the usual anime romantic comedy pattern.

Overall, I really liked the first episode--Aka is incredibly cute, which doesn't hurt, the animation was pretty good, and it's going a different direction than anime like this normally does. It's only 12 minutes and 9 episodes--I guess that's about movie length when you add it all up, but it seems short for a series like this. It'll be interesting to see where they go with it next week--it ended with Fumihiko waking up alone in his apartment, but he's going to see Aka-chan again somewhere he wouldn't expect to soon.

Lemon Angel Project 1-2

Lemon Angel Project is one of those series I didn't know exactly what to expect from going into it. I knew it was about an idol group, and that's about it--while the first episode didn't impress me much, the second was much better, and I'm definitely getting drawn into the story more now.

A brief summary - Tomo (pictured above) is a normal high school student, except she has a good singing voice. You see in flashbacks that her best friend Yui (to Tomo, she's Yui-senpai) had started an idol group called Lemon Angel that's really successful. But Yui died, Lemon Angel breaks up, and Tomo keeps writing letters to Yui even though she's gone, which is how the viewer hears Akari's thoughts. Enter Kogure, a guy who worked with Yui on Lemon Angel and is now producer of a new group, a second Lemon Angel. The new Lemon Angel would keep Miki, the leader from the first group, but otherwise have all new singers in it--and Kogure wants Akari to audition. Kogure explains to Tomo the original Lemon Angel wasn't real--it was a computer program created by Yui, but Yui used Tomo as the model for the lead vocalist. Because it's what Yui would have wanted, Kogure convinces Tomo to try out. Things don't look like they're going to go well, but in the end Tomo pulls herself together and manages to do well enough to make the first cut and get invited back, along with 20 other finalists.

I was thinking this would remind me of Full Moon wo Sagashite and in some ways it does--but the character designs, animation, and Tomo's character all remind me of Aria. Tomo's a lot like Akari from Aria in that she's not all that confident of her skills, but she's determined when she needs to be, and sometimes comes across as more than a little ditzy. When she first meets Miki, who goes to the same school, it's an unqualified disaster, as she rambles on in a way that would probably make even the Dali Lama smack her upside the head. But in the second episode Tomo's less irritating, as she struggles with her lack of confidence in her singing, and can't help but feel like she's stepping into a world she knows nothing about and doesn't really belong in. Like Mitsuki in Full Moon, Tomo's an innocent going into a world that can be a brutal, back-stabbing place, and it'll be interesting to see how she reacts.

The relationship chart, two episodes in, is already getting complicated--there's Saya, a Lemon Angel candidate who quit her last company because she didn't want to take compromising pictures, and she immediately dislikes Tomo, thinking she's just using her connection with Kogure to become an idol. There's Kogure, who probably liked Yui, and it'll be interesting to see if anything develops between him and Tomo. There's Miki, who seems to hate Tomo, and may just be jealous that Yui held Tomo in such high regard. And Yui-sempai herself is sure to keep showing up in flashbacks.

I'd read this was a yuri series, but so far there's not a whole lot of evidence of that--there isn't the fanservice level you'd expect in that case either, although I may be speaking too soon because the next ep includes a swimsuit photo shoot. I can't say this series is good or bad yet, but it's interesting...I'll give it another ep or two to see how it goes.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Cel Checkers Are Good

I have no idea if Kage Kara Mamoru is drawn on cels or if it's all digital...but either way it's funny the little things you notice (especially if during a slow workday you're watching anime). In the OP around 1:18 Yuuna's running with slice of bread in her mouth--in episodes 1 and 2 her mouth's partially open and it has white fill, which I remember thinking was a little odd looking (is the inside of her mouth glowing?):

But sure enough, by episode 4 her mouth's closed and the white fill's gone:

I always think of Animation Runner Kuromi when I see little changes like this and wonder if on the other side of the Pacific there's a director who's noticing these things and cringing when the first episode airs, but the schedule was so rushed there was no time to fix them. In any case, I salute the people who take the time to go back and fix the little things in anime--it's probably not something a lot of people notice, but when you add it all up it makes a difference. Although it's not like Kage Kara Mamoru has the slickest animation I've ever seen, so maybe I picked a bad example.