Sunday, January 18, 2009

Random Thoughts: Asu no Yoichi

So no picture, since I'm without my laptop at the moment - I know, it
seems like I'm violating a cardinal rule of anime blogging to write
about something without a screencap, but here goes anyway...

Asu no Yoichi is one of those series that I check out each season
without really having any expectations for it, and so far it's seemed
kind of average, delivering what looks like a typical harem
love-comedy, but with the twist of the male lead being a badass
old-school samurai who was raised in the mountains and is just
encountering modern life for the first time. It's an interesting
enough premise to keep me watching through episode 2, and Yoichi's not
a bad character, with God-like swordfighting skills and a generally
noble character that I think helps keep the viewer from getting
annoyed (since let's face it, there's nothing more obnoxious that a
lead like the guy in Girls Bravo who has few redeeming qualities but
still has bishoujo throwing themselves at him like he was either the
last man on Earth or a multi-billionaire).

The story's simple enough--Yoichi, who's been raised in the mountains
his whole life by his father, has no experience with modern life but
has learned everything his father can teach him, and become an
amazingly strong swordsman. But his father's concerned he needs to
experience the modern world to truly complete his training, so he
sends him to a dojo--which has four girls living there (an onee-san
type, tsundere, fujoshi, and loli). Yeah, this is where it sounds
really generic, since it looks like they're heading towards the girls
all liking Yoichi (surprise) and Yoichi getting in various
understandings due to his lack of common sense about the modern world.

It sounds like something I'd usually drop, except that it does manage
to be pretty funny at times, and the fanservice isn't as blatant as
you'd expect. Yoichi writing haiku like "the girl with small breasts
did her best" and not seeing anything wrong with that, cracks me up,
and the way he gets misunderstood and beaten down by the onee-san may
be predictable, but it's still entertaining and reminds me of Love
Hina a little (admittedly not a perfect series, but I have a little
nostalgia for Love Hina since it was one of the first series I saw
digisubbed when I got into anime). If Toradora's an A, Asu no Yoichi
is a C for me so far, but that's still passing so I'll stick with it
and see how it goes.

The Nullset sounds like he had about the same opinion as I did, giving
it a B- so far (but he actually has screencaps):
http://thenullset.wordpress.com/2009/01/15/winter-anime-impressions-%E2%80%93-asu-no-yoichi/

AnimeDiet also has a good point that the first episode was stronger
than the second...the second ep really did feel more generic, but I
guess I'm holding out hope it may get more interesting from here:
http://animediet.net/anime-reviews/2008-q4-fall/toradora/winter-2009-roundup-1-akikan-asu-no-yoichi-toradora-regios

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Random Thoughts: Minami-ke Okaeri

The first episode of the third season of Minami-ke was good, but the
second had a few really classic moments, especially Devil Chiaki and
Curry Fairy Hosaka. For someone who has made absolutely zero progress
in even speaking to Haruka, the object of his affections, Hosaka sure
spends a *lot* of time thinking about her and drifting off into
delusion-land.

It's kind of hard to place why I like Minami-ke so much--the animation
quality is so-so (to me, at least, not as good as the first season,
which Doumu animated), there's no real overarching plot, and there
have been zero established couples formed so you could argue it's
lacking in the romance category too, but somehow this is the winter
series I was looking forward to the most. I think what really makes
it shine for me is the cast--like Toradora's cast, it's just a group
of people that I'm genuinely glad to see each week, and I think I
could watch 108 seasons of the Minami sisters and their friends
without getting tired of them. Nothing is more subjective than what's
funny, but Minami-ke always puts a smile on my face too, and I think
that's a good enough reason to look forward to more.

It's a great cast overall, but my favorite character is definitely
Chiaki--the Angel/Devil Chiaki faceoff was great, and later in episode
2 I love how she got the Curry Song stuck in her head...

Random Thoughts: Rideback

I'm not usually a fan of anything with mecha (with a few exceptions)
and I'm not a CG fan either, but...somehow the first episode of
Rideback just sucked me in anyway. I guess I'm a sucker for unique
premises, and you don't get much more unique than a ballerina tearing
a ligament, quitting ballet, and ending up riding a sort-of humanoid
mecha motorcycle, presumably to one day fight against an oppressive
world dictatorship. The animation quality was just amazing the first
episode, the character designs have a retro feel (but I'm used to them
already), and while the storyline has the potential to get
serious/heavy I'm still addicted (yes, I know I usually avoid anything
with a serious plot and load up on rom-coms instead). The scene with
Rin and the sakura petals as she's starting her new life in college,
and especially how the whole scene with her first ride on the rideback
captured the exhilaration she felt--it was worth watching for those
two moments alone. Yeah, the whole rebel group taking over the world
thing was a little far-fetched, but you could argue the very design
and concept of most mecha are pretty impractical and far-fetched too.

Random Thoughts: White Album

So far, I like the character designs and the setting, the animation
quality is solid too, and the characters have some potential...but
it's not a Toradora-level cast that I really look forward to seeing
again each week. My biggest fear with this is when I hear people
comparing the male lead, Touya, to Takayuki from KGnE--based on that,
it's hard for me not to think this has train wreck written all over
it. I think in the end, I'm just not a big dorama fan, and that'll
probably ruin this for me--I dropped KGnE pretty fast and if Touya
starts playing the field out of indecisiveness the way I think he
will, I'll probably be dropping this too. Still, for now since I'm
not watching *that* much this season, I'm curious enough to give it a
few episodes.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy New Year! / Looking Back on 2008

Yes, this was the first episode I watched in 2009--Admiral Nagato for the win...

Happy New Year to everyone out there in the Internets, hopefully those of you in college aren't fighting too bad of a hangover this morning. I spent midnight holding a bottle, but it was a bottle of infant formula, so no hangover for me, just a little sleep deprived as usual lately...

I should start by saying thank you to all those of you who've stopped by this blog and/or commented over the past year, and all of you who have your own anime blogs, which are always a great source of information, viewpoints, and entertainment for me.

Looking back at 2008, it may not have been the greatest year for anime I've ever seen, but there were quite a few series that I really enjoyed watching--here are a few of the series I liked:

Winter

Minami-ke Okawari: Most people hated Okawari after the original Minami-ke, and while I agree that the original was better, I love the cast enough that I was thrilled to get a second season regardless. Okawari had some episodes that were better than others, but remembering Fujioka's facial expression when he got a good view of Kana in the onsen in the first episode always cracks me up. Here's hoping Minami-ke Okaeri, which will start in a few days, will be even better.

True Tears: I fell in love with this series early on, but to be honest I never finished it--somehow, when the drama kicked in I just lost interest. This is something I really should go back and finish watching this year....

Clannad: I'm avoiding After Story because I read enough spoilers to know it's a little more drama than I want to watch, but the first Clannad series that ended at the end of winter definitely had its moments. Tomoyo and Kyou stole the series for me, Kyou in the gym shed and Tomoyo landing an insane number of kicks on Sunohara were both great scenes, and although Fuuko and Kotomi's arcs fell kind of flat for me, there were still enough entertaining moments throughout to make up for that.

Spring

Tower of Druaga: Not the greatest series ever, and the ending on a cliffhanger thing really pisses me off--but this did have an awesome first episode, sending up the whole RPG genre. Hocchan getting attacked by the roper was one of the funniest anime scenes of the year for me. Unfortunately, after a strong first episode this series started following some of the cliches it was making fun of at first, and that made it a lot less fun to watch.

D.C. II S.S.: I love the Da Capo franchise and was hoping for DC II SS to make up for the first DC II series, a.k.a The Koko and Minatsu show. While D.C. II S.S. did have its moments, and finally delivered the Asakura sisters' storyline that I'd been waiting to see animated for years, somehow it wasn't able to top the original Da Capo for me. I blame Yoshiyuki for the most part--he just seemed indifferent for most of the series, and it didn't help that the series ended with no clear choice between Yume and Otome. If this had a more conclusive ending and a stronger lead, I think it really could have been awesome, but instead I was left with the feeling it could have been much better. I guess I can always hope Kyoani remakes it someday...

Kamen no Maid Guy: Insane comedy is usually my sweet spot, and this did deliver the crazy--the character designs and animation were just OK, the fanservice a little in your face, but I still want a Maid Guy Badge someday :)

Summer

Strike Witches: The no pant thing was a little over the top...but this series still had a great cast of characters, and managed to pull off comedy, action, and drama pretty well, in an interesting setting. Best of all, this followed Druaga's model where you could pay for a DRM-free copy, subtitled, the same date it aired in Japan--this is my dream for how I wish all anime gets distributed someday, so I was more than happy to cough up $3 an episode to BOST.

Zero no Tsukaima (third season): Louise is so tsun-tsun she's almost a parody of tsunderes in general now, but I'm still a sucker for this show. Not as good as the original season for me because the endless Louise beatdowns of Saitou are wearing thin, but still glad to see the cast again. Tifa's a great addition to the series, it's too bad after the first half of the season he didn't get a lot of screentime.

Fall

Toradora: I love this series--I've talked about it before, but this may end up being my favorite of the year. It just has a really compelling, unique cast of characters, and the relationship chart is complex enough to be true-to-life.

Kannagi: Already did a short review of this, but solid animation and Nagi's antics are enough to make this a series I was looking forward to every week.

Hyakko: Not every episode is funny, there's been a lot better school slice-of-life out there, and sometimes the animation is eye-rendingly bad, but I do like Torako and the rest of the cast, so it's been a fun series to watch.

Last but not least, I should mention Gintama--I didn't watch an episode of this until a couple months ago, but I've marathoned through the most recent subs, and it's pretty addictive. Mediocre animation and character designs, but when it's funny it's really, really funny, and it can do action/drama well too when it has multi-episode arcs. Zura rapping has to be one of the funniest things I've seen in anime this year.

Overall, it's been a great year for anime--here's hoping we'll have a lot more great series to watch in 2009.