Thursday, April 26, 2007

In the Wake of the Week

Insane ramblings about this week's anime:

Lucky Star is continuing to get better with each episode and each healthy dose of Kagami tsukkomi. I'd do a more thorough writeup, but frankly it's already been reviewed much better than I could write. 4-koma-to-anime either grows on me with each episode as I get to know the characters and their quirks (like Azumanga) or it just makes me roll my eyes after a while (Sensei no Ojikan). All signs so far are that Lucky Star will go the Azumanga route. Any series that references Keroro Gunso and Pani Poni Dash! is pure awesome in my book. Now I really want the Hirano Aya version of 'Sore Ga Ai Deshou'...damn the rest of the cast for talking so I couldn't just extract the audio...

Thank Haruhi that gg subbed Seto no Hanayome--along with Nagasarete Airantou it's one of the funniest series I've seen in a while. The Magikano level insanity may turn some off, but I couldn't stop laughing. If the whole spring series was like these two series, I'd be laughing like an idiot for months.

Continuing my out-of-character mecha viewing this season, I'm really enjoying Idolmaster Xenoglossia. Yayoi is the funniest character in kigurumi since Mint, and Haruka's a likeable heroine so far. It seems like a lot of people hate the early character intro/comedy/slice of life part of Sunrise series like Mai Hime/Otome, and only think it gets interesting when the drama kicks in and cast members are dropping like flies later on, but for me it's the opposite. Even if the rest of Idolmaster is just like the first three episodes, I'd be happy. Maybe I'm easily amused, though, your mileage may vary. Although I do want to know what the heck happened to the Moon, and why Imber chose Haruka (unless mecha just get crushes on wannabe idols these days...). Bonus points to Idolmaster for creative use of English, although it's hard to feel the tension in the air and not just snicker when a "Lemon Drop" is heading towards Earth...

The last couple eps aren't out subbed yet, but I love Manabi Straight--it gets best series of the winter season from me, hands down. It's just a great feel-good story, and although the PVs hinted at drama that it doesn't really deliver, it doesn't bother me that it kept things on the lighter side. Although the gradient hair took a little getting used to at first, the animation was consistently good, and it delivered some good solid character development and genuinely laugh-out-loud moments. Mei getting clobbered during dodgeball, Manabi's flailing at Aikoh's principal, and Momo's 'you're such a tsundere' line were just a couple of the scenes I'll always remember from this series. I'm sure this is a series I'll be watching again.

Hayate no Gotoku has been great, as I'd expect based on how good first two volumes of the manga was, although the pace isn't quite as intense as Airantou or Seto no Hanayome. It's still hilarious, and after watching ep 4 I can see why Hinagiku has a lot of fans too.

Sola I was really looking forward to, and so far it's been good, although it's too early to say if it's going to be great or not. Matsuri has the deadly trifecta of beret, zettai ryouiki, and Mamiko Noto, which seems destined to vault her into at least the Saimoe Final Four. Although Yorito--let's just say he needs more than one hobby. They better give a damn good reason why he's so obsessed with the sky, something more in depth than he was dropped on his head as a child... After watching episode 3, I can't help thinking Hiroyuki from To Heart would have handled Mana showing up much better than Yorito did--would Hiroyuki hide Matsuri? Or introduce her and deadpan 'she's been living here for a week--didn't I tell you?' just to mess with Mana's head.

Even watching it raw, Tsunderella (the 13th, DVD-only episode of Otoboku) is one of the funniest things I've seen in a while. I was hoping for a conclusive ending for Mizuho x Takako, but Tsunderella is so good I really can't complain. Plus this way I can keep dreaming that we'll get a second season someday.

On a not-at-all-new anime route, I'm going back and watching all the Da Capo side stories...and they must have been smoking some serious crack to come up some of this stuff, especially the end of the Nemu side story at the end of ep 9. Miharu's experience with 2ch and the dangers of banner ads is just hilarious though. I really like the side stories overall, they add a nice dose of originality.

Tengan Toppa Who-the-Hell-Animated-Ep-4?

So I watched episode 4 of Tengan Toppa Gurren-Lagann and it...well, let's say the animation quality could have been better. It wasn't quite as bad as Yoakena episode 3, where I lost a perfectly good laptop by slamming it into the wall over and over as cross-eyed Feena stared vacantly out of the screen, my wife trying to vain to restrain me as I screamed "What have you bastards done to Feena-hime! WHAT! HAVE! YOU! DOOOOONNNNEEEEE!!!" But it wasn't pretty either.

Don't get me wrong--I love Gurren-Lagann so far, and I can even forgive it a monumentally badly animated episode here and there, because the rest of it is awesome. I'd normally rather staple my scrotum than watch a mecha series, but this just works somehow--Kamina's over the top cockiness, Simon's (more realistic) worries but slowly growing confidence thanks to Kamina, Yoko's l33t sniper skills, the drills, the Beastmen--it's just a lot of fun to watch. If this keeps up I'll probably need a CAT scan because aside from Gunbuster 2 (or Voltron, if you count what I watched when I was like 6 years old) I can't think of the last mecha series I stuck with.

Some people can look past the animation quality and still enjoy it--but for me, the animation quality is a big part of what I love about anime, part of what makes it part entertainment and part art form. Maybe it's because I can't draw well, but seeing things well animated is almost awe-inspiring, and the first couple episodes of Gurren-Lagann filled that bill.

Which brings us to episode introduced some new characters, but I pity them getting introduced in such a hellishly drawn fashion. They might be moe, but it's hard to tell when they look like bad fanart in most scenes. Anyway, the preview for the next ep looks like the animation's back to normal and Yoko's going to be shooting at something, so I'm definitely sticking with this and hoping the animation team for ep 4 goes back to their day jobs at Yoshinoya, never to return to the Gurren-dan. Kids today are really spoiled, being able to watch this at 8:30 in the morning--sure Voltron had princess what's-her-name for occasional fanservice, but she wasn't as Yoko. Sasuga Gainax...

Monday, April 09, 2007

Kami-chama Karin - First Impression

Kami-chama Karin is based on a shoujo manga by Koge Donbo, who's also well known for Pita Ten and Di Gi Charat. Apparently it was supposed to be a short one-shot manga, but was popular enough the manga ended up running for seven volumes, then spawning a sequel, Kami-chama Karin Chu. Is it good? Bad? Does it have more in common with Haruhi than Lucky Star? We'll see in a minute...

Best. Line. Ever. Double points because she says it in English.

(Brief) Summary:

The anime starts out with one of those "let's throw the viewer into the middle of the action even though they won't know WTF is going on" scenes, which always drive me nuts. Introduction, conflict, climax, and conclusion--didn't they pay attention in Literature class? A bunch of characters I don't know, doing things I don't understand, for unknown reasons is a great way to kill my interest. But anyway, Karin seems to be a mahou shoujo--or more precisely a mahou megami, since instead of Sakura's "Release!" she says "I am God!" before she transforms. Kids these days are cocky little bastards, I guess. So she transforms and goes to battle a seed (Lost Logia?) along with three bishonen...when something goes wrong, and we're taken back in time to the real beginning of the story.

Shii-chan says knock you OUT!

At the beginning, our heroine, Karin, is mourning the death of her pet, Shii-chan, because her parents are also dead (parent mortality in anime is staggeringly high...) and now she feels like she's all alone. She does live with her obaa-san, but she just yells at her for getting lousy grades. As she's standing over Shii-chan's grave, Kazune, the obligatory bishonen, shows up and makes fun of her, so she punches him--plus 50 moe points to Karin for knocking him on his ass. Her day seems to be getting worse and worse when she runs into another orphan girl, Himeka--and it looks like they'll become friends, even though it turns out Kazune's her cousin.

I keep expecting her to bust out a camcorder for some reason...

Kazune seems to take an interest in Karin's ring, a memento her mother gave her--the ring lights up and the rest of the day Karin finds herself with Haruhi-like powers. She scores 100 on a test, which floors her classmates since Karin's normally a Baka Ranger, and she hopes for a thunderstorm to cancel phys ed for the day, and out of a clear sky it starts pouring rain. Karin's a little freaked out, but it looks like the strange events are just starting...

Clash of the Titans!

First Impression:

Kami-chama Karin is easy to recommend if you like ultra-cute anime--the character designs remind me a lot of Snow Fairy Sugar, Winter Garden, and Pita Ten, and the animation quality seems a little above Pita Ten so far. It seems like a basic shoujo story so far, with Karin finding she has a mysterious power, probably lots of fights/misunderstandings between her and Kazune in store before they ultimately get together, and from the first few minutes it looks like we'll get the "bishonen who has a crush on the heroine even though he has no chance in hell, just to annoy the male lead" character somewhere down the road too. I just hope there isn't anyone as obnoxious as Mitarai in Pita Ten in this cast--I liked Pita Ten overall but after the first few episodes he appeared in, I just wanted to see Mitarai get run over by a cement truck.

At least she doesn't wear it on her left hand like Nemu...

I'm not a huge shoujo fan, with some exceptions (Cardcaptor Sakura, Daa!Daa!Daa!, and Hime-chan's Ribbon) but this is interesting enough I'll keep watching for at least a few more episodes. The OP credits are really out of place with the contents of the first episode (closer to the OP of Yume Tsukai than Sugar), and imply that the series could get darker/more serious at some point down the road.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Spring FTW

There's nothing worse than when you expect something to be really good, and it turns out to be terrible. It's like taking a bite of chocolate cake and finding out what you thought was chocolate icing is, in fact, moose poop. Fortunately, so far this spring has completely lived up to the hype, and the icing is not just real chocolate--it's Venezuelan dark chocolate and it's monumentally oishii.

Three of this spring's series (Hayate no Gotoku, Seto no Hanayome, and Nagasarete Airantou) are based on manga I really liked, but the specter of horrors past (I'm going to Hell, or at least to Heck, for beating on it all the time but Yoakena inevitably comes to mind...) made me a little hesitant. Before the season started, my sleep was disturbed by visions from the B9F of Hell itself. What if Suzu looks like Feena-hime on a bad cross-eyed day? What if Hayate starts cutting up cabbages that look like bowling balls? What if San just stares at the screen and goes 'muuu' for 24 minutes, 30 seconds? So far, though, I'm glad to say these anime adaptations have lived up to the manga, and in some respects are even better.

So, as usual, here are some incoherent thoughts on what I've seen so far:

- Nagasarete Airantou: Suzu is moe enough in the manga, but add Horie Yui's talents and we're talking about a firestorm of moe that could burn away the Earth's atmosphere itself, forcing humanity's last hope to make an emergency run to Iscandar. The story, basically a guy stranded on island of all girls, sounds like the idiot child of Gilligan's Island and Girls Bravo, but the manga manages to be consistently hilarious and so far the anime has lived up to its potential. The OP and ED are sung by Horie Yui, and they're insanely addictive--I've had them on repeat play on iTunes for long enough I'm surprised the neighbors aren't throwing rocks through my window. The animation quality isn't Kyoani's Kanon or anything, but for this type of series I think it's fine. Character designs are simple, but cute, and the colors are bright and vibrant, like you'd expect set on a tropical paradise. I remember reading the manga and thinking 'this is so made to be an anime series'--it's been a long, long wait but it's looking like it'll be worth it.

- Seto no Hanayome: Only seen the raw of this so far, but this is another manga I liked and was glad to see turned into an anime series--it looks like the anime's captured the feel of the manga with lots of SD moments and yakuza bent on ending the hero's life as messily as possible. It reminds me a little of Happy Lesson, with the lead running for his life 99% of the time from mortal peril--definitely looking forward to seeing this subbed, although it followed the manga closely enough it was easy enough to tell what was going on in the raw. I was a little worried about Halko as San, since while her Komugi-chan voice was fine in that series I didn't think it would work for San--but she seems to have changed it up enough that it works in this role pretty well. Apparently the same crew that brought us Magikano is involved, and you can definitely see their influence (a good thing in my book, since I liked Magikano). Insane comedy + romance = I'm definitely watching it.

- Hayate no Gotoku: I'm deeply shamed for not mentioning this in my last post, since the first two volumes of the manga are pretty funny, and the first episode of the anime lived up to the hype. Rie Kugimiya is brilliant as Nagi, who could well end up being one of my favorite anime characters. The censoring of any scenes with blood in them could get annoying (since although he's resilient as hell, a lot of the manga has Hayate getting bloodied in various encounters) but they're at least joking about the broadcast code. The first episode seemed just a little less funny than the manga somehow, not sure if it was less SD or watering down his parents gambling addiction, but I have high hopes for the rest of the series. Can't wait for nursing robot 8 to make his debut, which has to be coming soon...

- Hitohira: Hitohira's a slice of life show that has character designs reminiscent of Asatte no Hokou, about a girl named Mugi who has a strong voice but is generally too timid to use it, especially when she gets nervous. The first episode was mainly introducing the good-sized cast and setting the stage for Mugi to get sucked into the drama research society. So far, so good--I hope they don't go yuri with Mugi x Nono (which probably puts me in the minority) but there's the potential for some good character development and a little romance here. The only complaint I have so far is the setting--WTF is up with Brooklyn meets Hatsunejima? Did the director just take a trip to NYC and thought he could re-use his vacation pictures as backdrops?

- Tengen Toppa Gurren-Lagann: It's by Gainax, and has mecha in it--that makes me think the ending will be terrible and I won't want to watch it, since I've found generally mecha = emo whining plus very un-aerodynamic robots built to look like people for no good reason, and frankly I'd rather watch "Joanie Loves Chachi." But so far this has caught my interest anyway--the world it's set in is interesting, the style reminds me of Gunbuster 2 a lot (or I'm told FLCL), and there's a good mix of action and fanservice so far. Not sure if anything will happen between Simon and Mune-Mune Yoko, but hopefully they'll throw some romance in down the line too. The mecha remind me of Tenbatsu Angel Rabbie, although that analogy alone probably just shows you how few series with mecha in them I've watched. And speaking of Mune-Mune Yoko, for a show airing at 8:30 in the morning there's a lot of the infamous "Gainax bounce" at work here...guess it must not be on TV Tokyo...

- Nanoha StrikerS: I'll admit it--I'm not a raving Nanoha fan. Maybe I'm just being too American/prudish but the henshin sequences are a little disturbing, and although it's aimed at a very different crowd, the fact mahou shoujo are involved makes me compare Nanoha to Cardcaptor Sakura, and in my book CCS always wins that smackdown. The character designs are just average for me (and I realize there's probably nothing more subjective than if you like the designs or not), Raging Heart really needs to go to juku to study up on English, and the techno-magic more often than not makes me roll my eyes. I liked magic better when it was--well, magic, not something you load into cartridges and shoot like a bazooka. Having said all that, StrikerS isn't bad so far--the new cast members are interesting, with Subaru's backstory making her instantly likeable and Tiana having enough tsundere-ness to make her my favorite of the new cast. The action sequences were well done too, although damn, that's one big area in need of some urban renewal. Really my only complaint so far is where's Yuuno? I'm probably the only otaku on Earth that's rooting for Nanoha x Yuuno and not Nanoha x Fate, but did his ferret ass get eaten by an owl or something? Or is he off somewhere drawing Nanoha yuri doujinshi? Seeing this really makes me wish CCS got a 'seven years later' series...but now I'm just whining.

I'm sure there will be more to add to this list once more subs are out--I'm really looking forward to sola, and I have Idolmaster and Kami-chama Karin sitting on my laptop waiting for me to watch them (I got a little sidetracked by DVDs of Tsukuyomi and PPD arriving this weekend). Kyoani's Lucky Star I'd also been looking forward to, although my record with 4-koma-to-anime is hit-or-miss, and the sages of the anime blogosphere seem to be universally kicking it in the balls, so that may get the 'give it a couple eps, then drop/delete' treatment, we'll see. Kono Aozora no Something Something Else I did try to watch raw, but the character designs and the characters themselves didn't do much for me--if it's subbed I'll give it another shot but the early reviews aren't very good so it could end up being another miss. Overall, though, this is looking like another great season to be an anime fan.