Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Politicians Fail, and K-ON! is Everywhere...

Kirino says: don't fail copying and pasting URLs...

American politicians of both stripes are experts at dumbing down political discourse to fourth-grade level half-truths, and apparently their staff aren't very good at linking either - Meg Whitman's campaign tweeted (twitted?) what was supposed to be a link to some political announcement, but the link actually went to a dude in a skirt performing Fuwa Fuwa time. Yes, K-ON! even finds its way into the sordid world of California elections...

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Looking Back at Summer


Damn, September flew by fast - I should probably just give up on blogging since in the free time I've had, generally I prioritze watching anime over writing about it. But since the fall season's here already, I might as well write up a few random thoughts on the season that just ended:

Seitokai Yakuindomo - My favorite of the season, but I'm a sucker for comedy and comedy is completely subjective so your mileage may vary considerably. The ultra-short genius character has been done before but Suzu, and the rest of the cast, still consistently made me laugh week after week.

Amagami SS - I was sure I was going to *hate* Sae's arc with a white-hot passion, but I was surprised to find it was really pretty funny - the narration wasn't quite Wakamoto Norio-level, but it was still entertaining. Sae isn't quite the timid mouse she appeared to be in the first few episodes, and her character actually does develop a little over her arc. Ai's story should be fun to watch too, I'm still a little conflicted on whether the "do a complete reset and have a new main heroine every four episodes" is a good idea or not, but at least this was no one can complain their favorite got screwed over...

Strike Witches 2nd season - Kind of a letdown compared to the first season - it's like AIC was sticking to the formula so closely that it almost felt more like a remake than a sequel. No "Yoshika's dad is really alive and invented the Neruoi" or any kind of plot twist like that in there either. But having said that, whatever you think of the no-pants thing, the cast was still fun to watch, especially Shirley and Barkhorn's episode.

Nurarihyon no Mago - Not bad, although Gyuuki's story felt a little drawn out. I like the cast, though, and although plot has a lot of "seen that before" to it, it's doing it all pretty well. Definitely getting DNAngel flashbacks from Kana liking Rikuo's alter ego, too bad Kana-chan isn't as awesome as Harada Riku was though...

K-On 2nd season - It pains me to say it, but I actually dropped this - I loved the original K-On, but somehow the second season lost me. If it was all Azusa, Jun, and Ui I think I'd be all over it, somehow I find the kouhais more interesting than their seniors. But I'm sure at some point (probably between seasons) I'll pick it back up and watch the rest, and wonder why I dropped it.

Overall, a great summer to be an anime fan, summer and winter seem to have fewer anime series than spring and fall, but I didn't think this summer was bad at all. Fall is looking like it could be amazing though, one of the great things about being an anime fan is you never get bored...

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Seitokai Yakuindomo

Best. Scene. Ever.

Through the first eight episodes, this might just be my favorite series of the season - although nothing's more subjective than comedy, so I'm sure plenty of people would disagree. I think what makes this work for me is above all a cast that's fun to watch - yeah, a lot of it is Shiho and/or Aria making some raunchy comment and Tsuda being the tsukkomi character, but I'm a sucker for that routine and they haven't run out of jokes that amuse me yet. With just a 12-13 episode run, I'm optimistic it won't get old either. I doubt we'll see a serious episode of this, since it's pretty much all done for laughs, but there are a couple moments that are cute (for lack of a better word coming to mind), thinking of a couple of the scenes with Tsuda and Suzu in particular.

If I had to pick a favorite so far, I'd go with episode 3 - Suzu swearing in English, the infamous Nara deer, and Hata at her finest. How the hell she got a Stedicam into the onsen is beyond me, but it clearly shows her resourcefulness...

Friday, August 20, 2010

AstroNerdBoy Blogging Urusei Yatsura

I've got to say I'm impressed - AstroNerdBoy is blogging all of Urusei Yatsura, and is all the way up to episode 138 no less. If I remember right there's 190+ episodes, plus six movies, and a ton of OVAs, so this is the anime blogger equivalent of climbing Mt. Everest. I haven't watched any of the classics in a while, makes me feel like going and finding my old UY DVDs. I have a soft spot for Urusei Yatsura since it's the first anime series I watched as an adult - I'd imagine a lot of people get introduced to anime by their friends, but in my case I was flipping channels one day 12 years or so ago and came across UY on PBS of all places. That was all it took to get me hooked for life.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Amagami SS 8: Kaoru's Arc Wraps Up

So we come to the end of Kaoru's arc in Amagami SS - belly-button scene aside, this was a pretty solid arc, helped by Kaoru being a very likeable, down-to-Earth character. Although I can't help wondering how much better it could have been if they had a full 12-13 episodes to flesh out the story instead of cramming everything into four episodes.

As Tsuki points out, the climax and all the drama was really in the episode before this one, and this felt more like a epilogue, but I still enjoyed it. The focus was just on the main characters, and while there wasn't any doubt on how things would turn out, there were some good moments in there - the confession/first kiss (although is there ever a Christmas in anime that's not a White Christmas?), Karou falling asleep, Junichi turning out to be petrified of heights, and so on. Nothing really felt off all episode - it was just a cute story, for lack of a better way to put it.

I do have to wonder what Kaoru's arc would have been like if it had a full season to run with, or if the creators of Amagami SS had gone with a Kimikiss-like approach with multiple male leads, and a much more complex relationship diagram where yes, some girls get the guy and some don't. It's easy to imagine a storyline where Junichi gets closer to Haruka with Kaoru's help, but then Kaoru and Junichi start to develop feelings for each other - the scene where they confess to each other and have their first kiss could have had a lot more impact if they had a tougher road to get there. Just picture Kaoru going to the tower alone, despondent since she knows Junichi is out with Haruka, but then Junichi finds her at the tower after realizing she's his true love, cue the dramatic music, etc. You could say that would be like the cliff-top onsen in Mayoi Neko Overrun, where the cliff is there to exhaust you so you can enjoy the onsen all the more when you finally get there.

But in the end, this arc was still a fun watch, and I could definitely see myself watching it again in the future. Up next is Sae, though, and honestly just ten seconds of her talking in the preview makes me want to throw my laptop out a window, so I'll be taking a break from Amagami SS for the next four episodes...

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

To Aru Majutsu no Index: Final Thoughts

I finished the last arc of the first season of Index, and while at first I wasn't expecting much from Hyouka's story, in the end I give them props for taking what I thought was going to be just another generic meek/shy bishoujo, like an anti-Biri-Biri, and making her into a badass. They did a good job developing her character and building the friendship between her and Index - it's hard to throw a character into a series a couple episodes before the end and expect the viewer to care what happens to them, but I think given the time they had to work with, they did a good job with it.

The series ends with some hints of the next story arc, possibly to take Index and Touma out of the familiar environs of Academy City - but now October and Index's second season seems like a long way away. To get my fix, I might have to squeeze in a re-watch of Railgun between now and then (the first 12 episodes anyway...for me, at least, the second half of Railgun was kind of a letdown compared to the first.) There are probably a few more cameos I missed the first time I watched Railgun, like the idol Saten-san's listening to in the first episode, that I didn't know were references back to Index, since I watched Railgun before Index.

Overall I'm glad I picked Index back up - I'm not sure why I dropped it the first time it was airing, but looking back I didn't give it enough of a chance, since it's been fun to watch this time. Between Touma, Index, Biri-Biri, and Kuroko, I like the cast enough I could happily watch a dozen seasons of this. Throw in some epic battles, an intriguing plot, and good animation quality, and it more than makes up for some of the longer-than-necessary dialogue in the first few episodes of the series in my book.

Monday, August 16, 2010

To Aru Majutsu no Index 15-20

Continuing on with the Index sort-of marathon...the Angel Fall arc wasn't bad, with some pretty good fight scenes towards the end, although it's easily topped by the Biri-Biri centric episode 18. Mikoto should just admit she likes Touma already - she can't afford to not make a move, when her competition already lives in his apartment and apparently does the "sleep in only a white dress shirt" thing.

As for the two-episode mini-arc in episodes 19-20 with Accelerator and Last Order, I'll admit they did an OK job at trying to make Accelerator into a 'good guy', but I think they could have laid a little more groundwork for it by showing some (or any) shred of remorse when he was going around slaughtering Sisters earlier. Instead it seems being beaten down by Touma somehow completed changed his character. And yeah, losing some of his ability was a bit of a price to pay for all he'd done, but not anything compared to what Misaka 1 through 10,031 went through...

It's also kind of hard to believe that the same scientist who's involved in an experiment involving mass slaughter of clones would then turn around and become a schoolteacher. I wouldn't want my daughter in her class, that's for sure - I guess I'm a little disappointed the only price she paid for her involvement is not being able to be a researcher anymore.

I'm starting to think I badly mistimed picking Index back up though, because with just four episodes to go I'll be done soon and the wait for the fall season will seem like forever. Although I guess I shouldn't complain, since if I'd watched it when everyone else did I'd have been waiting for over a year already...

Friday, August 13, 2010

Nurarihyon no Mago

Even in human form, Rikuo can be a badass when he needs to...

I don't normally watch shonen action anime - I don't watch Bleach, Naruto, or DBZ, although I did watch Inuyasha for a while until the "monster of the week" thing finally made my head want to explode. But I tried out the first episode of Nurarihyon no Mago, and found myself getting hooked - it's an interesting premise, a normal-looking junior high student named Rikuo who's actually one-quarter youkai (more or less translates to demon/monster) and is heir to be the leader of a powerful youkai clan. Rikuo doesn't want any part of it, preferring just to live like a normal human - but DNAngel-style he does have a youkai personality that comes out when needed, usually when someone important to him is in trouble, and his youkai side *does* want to take over the clan someday.

Through the first six episodes, there's a lot going for this - there's a good cast, with Kana, his friend who he has kind of a crush on (voiced by the now-infamous Aya Hirano of Haruhi fame), Yuki-Onna, a youkai who's his bodyguard/servant of sorts (and voiced by Hocchan), and Yura, an onmyouji in training who ends up at his school. The guy who's the head of the 'Youkai Research Club' that recruits Rikuo is...well, a little annoying...in episode 6 in particular I was rooting for some youkai to come and bite his head off, but no such luck so far. But aside from that, it's a solid cast, and I'm a sucker for characters like Yuki-Onna who have a strong sense of duty to protect their charge. Rikuo's not a bad lead either - his youkai side is a badass, and his human side has guts too.

It'll be interesting to see where they take the story - there's a possible love triangle in the works between Rikuo, Kana, and Yuki-Onna, and since many youkai don't like the idea of Rikuo taking over someday I'm sure the current arc won't be the last attempt to take him down either. Will his youkai side end up taking over his human side? Will Kana end up falling for his youkai side (which would really give me DNAngel flashbacks...)? Or will he disappear forever at some point, leaving Rikuo to yell "DDAAARRKKKUUUU!"? I don't know, but I think it'll be a fun ride to find out...

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Best Moe 2010

You can argue popularity contests are a waste of time (although you can also argue that about most forms of entertainment), but I've voted in Best Moe, the Korean-based anime character popularity contest, for the last few years now and it's been an entertaining ride. There have been a few epic battles along the way, including one where Shana beat Nanoha by a single vote, 1010-1009, if I remember right. Best Moe also makes it insanely easy to vote, with an English version of the site where you just click on the buttons for the characters you want to vote for and then punch 'vote' - no Saimoe 2ch rocket science, foreign language proficiency, or voting codes involved. ISML can be fun to participate in too (and also makes voting easy), but especially since they're on hiatus until the double eliminiation tournment starts in September, Best Moe can be an fun way to spend a couple minutes a day - there's also a thread on AnimeSuki here.

To Aru Majutsu no Index: Thoughts on eps 10-14

The obligatory servicey pic to go along with the post...

So he kills 10,031 bishoujo and all Accelerator gets is his ass kicked by Touma? I must be more vindictive than most, but seeing how he delighted in killing the Sisters, all of whom were significantly weaker than he was (at Level 3 instead of Level 5), I was hoping he'd be at least maimed, if not killed. Yeah, it was part of an "experiment" but what did the scientists involved do, hold a gun to his head? If he had any decency he'd have said hell, no. I'd have loved to see a scene that started with something like: "'I hear having your testicles crushed by a hammer is extremely painful,' says Misaka, a trace of righteous anger in her voice as she pulls out a large hammer." I've read spoilers that indicate later on Accelerator becomes one of the "good guys" but I'm baffled at how the psychopath we saw in these episodes could possibly turn over a new leaf after having a few swimming pools' worth of blood on his hands - maybe I'll find out later this season, or in the second season this fall.

After this arc my respect for Touma went up several notches, though - he's not quite Kamina level, but close. Plus his mad street fighting skills were put to very good use here. Hitting lots of Biri-Biri flags this arc too, can't help thinking Touma x Biri-Biri is a better couple than Touma x Index...

Totally unrelated, but glad to see Author and Kurogane both enjoying Sorakake - it didn't seem to get a lot of love when it aired, but I've been re-watching it lately and somehow it's one of those series I almost enjoy more the second time around.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Amagami

I'm starting to lose hope on Amagami - I guess I was hoping for another Kimikiss, but the weird fetish stuff is starting to give me the creeps. I mean, if you like kissing back of knees or bellybuttons that's no skin off my back, but somehow seeing it in anime makes me cringe, kind of like that scene in Swingers where the guy calls the girl and leaves a dozen rambling messages. It's a pity because I really want to like this - the characters are interesting, the male lead at least isn't indecisive (thanks to the "each girl gets the win" format with six separate story arcs), and normally I can't get enough of the romance/comedy/school life genre. The song from the OP even gets stuck in my head. Maybe I need to just fast-forward every time the main character's alone somewhere with the girl and they start blushing.

Also, not sure if he coined the phrase, but Kurogane calling Kaoru "sexhair" cracks me up somehow...

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Back to the Past: A Certain Index Who Gets Her Limelight Stolen by a Certain Biri-Biri

Too cute...which sets up the kick in the gut a couple minutes later...

An entire season of anime has come and gone since I blogged last, and honestly real life makes it difficult to keep up with all the other anime blogs out there, of which 99% I'm pretty sure are much better than what I could write anyway. This creates a vicious spiral of not-blogging, but since I have some free time at work I might as well break the cycle for a quick post.

Maybe this is unique to me, but every once in a while I end up going back and watching something I dropped months, or even years ago, and I find myself getting into it and struggling to remember why I dropped it. This month's case of this is To Aru Majutsu no Index, which I think I bailed on after episode 6 or 7 when it first aired - if I remember right there was talking, a lot of talking, sometimes in the middle of what's supposed to be an action sequence, and in the end the next episode just sat on my hard drive, forlon and forgotten, like a condom in an otaku's wallet.

See if you can spot the psychopath...I can just picture Accelerator walking into a courtroom at the start of his trial and the jury foreman takes one look, stands up and says, "guilty as hell on all counts, Your Honor."

Anyway, I picked Index back up at episode 10, since I knew Mikoto and the sisters were going to get an arc, and now I'm hooked. I don't know if the second half of the series is going to let me down or not, but I'm cautiously optimistic now. I think the setting just really clicks for me - the mysteries of Academy City, the somewhat realistic regulation of ESPers (reminds me of "Mahou Tsukai ni Taisetsu no Damn This Series Has a Long Name" a little), and so on.

Is there a point to this post, you might ask? I guess just that sometimes, for me anyway, the passage of time, and moving to a new story arc, can turn a series that you can't force yourself to watch into something where you're actually looking forward to the next episode.

"Misaka, I can't let you die...a harem with just a loli nun is like a beefbowl without the beef"

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Urusei Yatsura in Shana-tan


It never ceases to amaze me, over 20 years since the Urusei Yatsura anime ended, how it still shows up as a reference in other anime. This time the Shana-tan special that came with the Shana S second OVA has Yuuji paying homage to Ataru (specifically in UY episode "After You've Gone"), where Lum leaves Ataru (unknown to him, just temporarily to take care of some paperwork), but leaves a small doll of herself behind to keep tabs on him. I know Urusei Yatsura was popular in its day, but I wonder how many of today's otaku have even seen it - I doubt it's in any kind of syndication, and if some of today's fans can call Love Hina and To Heart "old school" they sure as hell won't be watching an anime series from 1982. Anyway, this made me laugh since I remember that episode of Urusei Yatsura well - probably one of my favorites, since it shows that under his usual letch/jerk exterior, Ataru really does care about Lum.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Sora no Woto 7: Just, Wow

Wow....for anyone who gave up on Sora no Woto because you thought it was going to be just slice of life and happy, without delving into the horrors of war at all, episode 7 is here to change your mind.

Going into this episode, Felicia was probably the biggest enigma of the cast to me - she's the mom-type character who watches over everyone else, but she didn't have a whole lot of depth. This episode changes all that, as you see what she went through during the war, her guilt at surviving the battle, and her despair at defending a dying world. This episode wouldn't have worked without the six that came before it, either - building the peaceful setting of Seize and everyone's everyday lives gave the actual scenes of the war that much more impact by contrast.

I'm impressed with Felicia's character too, going through what she did but still coming out with a positive message - maybe the world doesn't have any grand design or deeper meaning to it, but that just means you have the opportunity to make that meaning for yourself. I'd expected an episode like this more towards the end of the series, but not this soon - hopefully we get more background on Rio and Kureha's pasts too, and of course the legend and the winged demon, which I'd be shocked if it doesn't come in to play the last couple episodes. The mystery blond solider whose name was finally revealed this episode I'm sure will appear again too - a lot to look forward to, this is remaining the series I'm looking forward to the most every week, and it's getting to be a really interesting ride.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Omamori Himari - Call Me Nushi

I can't say this is anything stellar, but it's exactly what you'd expect - boy gets harem, fanservice ensues, there's some fight-of-the-week as mystery bishoujo defends boy from monsters. Some will find this as more proof that anime is doomed because If It Has Panties It Must Suck, and some will be moderately entertained. I'll fall in the entertained category, if only because Himari says "nushi" and speaks in archaic Japanese.

Maybe it's just Spice and Wolf's influence (and Himari has the same voice actress as Horo the Wise), but when girls use "nushi" for "you" it gives them Skull of Mondain-level powers somehow (there's an obscure 80s gaming reference for you, although Google knows all as usual). Not sure why I think this is cool because I can't speak Japanese worth a damn, much less the Japanese of the Heian period, but it works. The male lead somehow forgot most of his childhood (another tragic case of Aizawa Syndrome) so I expect some drama towards the end as he remembers his past with Himari, and I'm sure we'll see the new enemy at the end of the episode joining his harem in a week or two tops.

Not expecting much from this, but I'll still give it a couple episodes - the plot seems monumentally generic but I'm easily entertained, so I'll keep watching for the nushis and Himari-Rinko cat-fighting if nothing else.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Looking Back at 2009

I know, everyone else did "best of" countdowns about a month ago, but my posting rate in 2009 was a little on the glacial side. So even though it's late, here's a stab at my favorites of 2009, and a late Happy New Year to all of my fellow anime fans!


Winter

Favorite: Toradora

I can't say enough good about Toradora - it has an awesome cast, a great story, comedy, drama, everything. I started re-watching it over the holidays and was just as impressed on second viewing. I remember the first couple episodes not thinking it was anything amazing, but the more you get to know the characters, and especially once Ami-chan shows up, the better it gets.

Runner-up: Sora wo Kakeru Shoujo (Leopard alone makes this worth watching for me)
Spring

Favorite: K-ON!

K-ON seems to attract a lot of extreme opinions, where you either love it or think it's the anime equivalent of the Antichrist, but I guess that's a feature of opinion on the Internet in general now that I think about it. I wouldn't call K-ON! as good as Toradora, but I liked the cast and it had plenty of moments that put a smile on my face, so it gets the win.

Runners-up: Hatsukoi Limited (mainly for Enomoto, she's a walking tsundere stereotype but her and Kappa-face's interactions made me laugh regardless), Hayate no Gotoku 2nd season (I'd be happy if this was on the air forever, especially with the H-I-N-A-Hinagiku ED)

Summer

Favorite: Sora no Manimani

Mihoshi is so genki it's amazing she doesn't just burst into flames, but her and Saku are a fun couple to watch, Hime's reactions to just about everything make me laugh, and the supporting cast isn't bad either. Plus, I now recognize the Winter Triangle when I see it, and it's not that often anime is, well, educational.

Runners-up: Yoku Wakaru Gendai Mahou (mainly because of Yumiko and the Three Stooges-like washpans hitting people), Taishou Yakyuu Musume (cool setting, although I worry about what the cast is going to face when they're in their 30s), Hayate no Gotoku 2nd season (again), and Bakemonogatari (beware of staplers)


Fall

Favorite: To Aru Kagaku no Railgun

I loved the manga, so this was an easy win for me - although my favorite characters are Saten and Uiharu. Looking forward to the second cour because it'll finally take us beyond where I read in the manga so I won't know exactly what's going to happen.

Runners-up: Nyankoi (not a big nekomimi fan, but Kaede is undeniably cute), Sora no Otoshimono (flock of flying pantsu has to be one of the more epic anime moments of the year)

Looking back, 2009 was a great year for anime - it's amazing looking back on the start of the decade, when I was still watching anime on VHS (and getting VHS fansubs through the mail), and then look at where we are today, where I can watch new anime subtitled less than a day after it airs (just an hour after on Crunchyroll). Here's hoping 2010 will bring us more great anime, and that it'll be a great year for all of us anime fans in general.

Sora no Woto - First Impressions

After watching the trailer for Sora no Woto it vaulted to the top of the anime I was anticipating the most for winter - and through the first episode, it doesn't disappoint. The animation quality is good, the cast seems interesting, and while, no, it's not for fans of a lot of action, I think it's got a lot of potential. I think a lot of people saw girls with musical instruments plus K-On-like character designs (although I always think of them as Kannagi-like since that's the series I saw this style in first) and assumed we have a K-On clone on our hands, but I think this is going to be pretty significantly different, especially with the potential for drama.
The story starts with Kanata, who at first glance is your genki main character type, heading to her new post since she just joined the army - it's six months after an armistice that ended a war and the country she's in is at peace, with the draft over but Kanata volunteering for the army anyway. She seemed to have a traumatic event in her past where she met someone from the army, and that might have motivated her to join. From there, she gets to the fortress where she's posted, meeting her squadmate Rio on the way and getting to experience a little of life in the town as she comes across a festival.

The thing that struck me the most watching this was the setting and the atmosphere - the backgrounds are amazingly detailed and really capture the feel of an old European town well. It's pretty enough it could be an advertisement for a travel agency trying to get you to go to Europe (although what's missing is in real life there'd probably be a McDonald's off the square - I remember even finding one in the historic part of Florence). The backstory with the winged demon, and Kanata then seeing its massive skeleton under the lake, makes me think there's going to be some fantasy element in the plot too, and if the girls repeat the legend from the past there's certainly some potential for drama too.

The characters are interesting too, which is usually what makes or breaks a series like this for me - Kanata and Rio both seem to have suffered losses in their past, probably from the war, and I'm sure as the series goes on we'll see more flashbacks of their past. Other than Kanata and Rio the rest of the platoon didn't get much screentime, but I'm sure they'll play more of a role as we go. Unlike K-On's cast, I think the odds are these characters will have a few inner demons to work through, between that and the legend there's definitely a lot of potential for drama (which I think ends any comparison with K-On right there, although I loved K-On it's definitely not much in the drama department, unless you could Ritsu's pointless fight with Mio that took half an episode).


Overall with a great setting, some comedy, and quality animation, I'm already looking forward to next week. A-1 Pictures also did Kannagi, and I like what they did with it - with Sora no Woto I think they have even more potential to make this season's winner.

Mikotoism seems as impressed as I am with the first episode (although I actually liked K-On too), although Moe Sucks...not so much. I guess the contrast just goes to show you have to see things for yourself, since pick any series you can name and you can find two completely opposite reviews of it in the Blogosphere...