Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Good, The Average, and The Ugly: Summer Edition



Real life has a way of making it hard to write an anime blog, but this afternoon though I might as well arise from a Cthulu-like slumber to spew out some thoughts on the summer season, since it's better than working on TPS reports:

The Good

Tari Tari - What can I say, I've been completely sucked in, helped by the fact I like the whole cast.  It's not the most dramatic story ever, the guys in particular seem pretty underused (more like side characters than main characters almost), but it's still probably what I look forward to the most each week.  Sawa's story is interesting because it's something that happens to everyone - what happens when you reach the point in your life where your dreams come crashing into the brick wall of reality.  She can't make herself any shorter, so how she deals with the reality in front of her will be interesting to watch.  Wakana's story you could argue had a easy built-in tearjerker factor because of her mom, but it was handled really well, I thought - now just curious to see what they do with Konatsu and the guys between now and the end of the season.

Oda Nobuna no Yabou - I've seen enough Sengoku series now that my knowledge of the Warring States Period is getting to Ph.D. level, but Sengoku Otome and Sengoku Collection didn't impress me all that much, so I had low expectations for this.  Surprisingly though, I've been sucked in by what's really a pretty good cast - Sagara is a solid male lead, not your typical anime weakling, he actually has balls when he needs them, and Nobuna is on the tsundere side but her concern for her people and her close friends makes her hard not to root for.  The supporting cast from Dousan on down is solid too, and the drama's been decent so far.  It'll be interesting to see if Nobuna can pull off her alternate history, making Japan into a modern state far earlier than in our history - if Japan had opened up instead of turning inward for two centuries, what would have happened?  I doubt they'll show much into the future, but just Sagara and Nobuna's relationship is enough to keep me watching, the historical background and drama is a bonus.  Looking like the surprise hit for me this season, given expected nothing going in.

Yuru Yuri - Not every episode has been great, but when it's good, Yuru Yuri is really, really funny, for me anyway.  It's just a great cast, and getting to see them all again has been a lot of fun to watch.  I'm glad Minami-ke is getting another season, but I think I like Yuri Yuri's cast better.  Needs more "Toshino Kyoko!" exclamations this season, but the first episode with Akarin's fantasy world is one of the funniest things I've seen in a while.

The Average

Sword Art Online - I expect this to vault into the Good category as the cour goes on, the only reason I'd group it as just average is Asuna hasn't had nearly enough screentime yet.  The first episode was...slow, and then we get into side stories that didn't have much impact for me.  Now that everyone says we're getting into the main storyline from the light novels, I'm hoping things will pick up, especially Asuna and Kirito getting more screentime together.

Koi to Senkyou to Chocolate - I liked the first episode, but since then there's been a little too much election mechanics for me - I hate politics and don't watch C-SPAN, so seeing the thrill of election returns and worrying about splitting the anti-faction vote really doesn't do a lot for me.  Having said that, I do like the cast, and I'm hoping when we get into the Chocolate part and why Chiasto doesn't like it, there'll be a little more drama and character development.

Binbougami ga! - Gives me my Gintama fix while Gintama is off the air.  Like Gintama, not always great, but when it's funny it's pretty damn funny.  I never know what to write about comedy anime though - it's kind of impossible to review because everyone has a different sense of humor, so you're either going to like it or not, you have to see it to know.

Hyouka - I really, really want to love Hyouka.  It has great animation, a good cast...but the problem is it's more like slice of life than mystery, and episode 18 in particular was like watching paint drying in slow motion.  When the mystery of the week is why Hotarou's middle school teacher paid attention to a helicopter three years ago - maybe Chitanda is curious, but frankly I couldn't care less.  Here's hoping Kyoani's Chuu-ni next season is a lot faster paced, from the PV it sure looks like it will be.

The Ugly

Kokoro Connect - I was really looking forward to each episode at first but between the alien's constant trolling and Taishi's confession about beating his meat...I just couldn't bring myself to keep watching.  Maybe later I'll marathon it, but I think this might just stay on the back burner.

Imo Naka Wants to Jump Onii-chan - I give this props for awesome character designs, but aside from that...let's just say if I made a list of "anime I'd never, ever show my daughter when she's older, or even acknowledge that I knew existed" this would definitely be on it.  Konoe and Miyabi decide to take their tops off to sleep with the male lead because it's warm out...seriously?  This also makes the "worst anime to show your girlfriend/spouse/family anime isn't just guns and boobs" list.

Campione - Looked like a typical harem series - by episode two I was watching the clock more than the actual content, and dropped it.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Kokoro Connect Four: Did you really have to go there?


Maybe it's a sign I need to stop blogging, because after praising Kokoro Connect to the heavens last week, this week's episode had me looking at the clock for when the madness would stop.  Taishi...wow.  I guess you could say he has guts, but how his statement was involved in "solving" the "problem" of the week...seriously?

What bothered me about Kokoro Connect's fourth episode is hard to pin down, but I have a gut feeling after watching it, that it's taking a turn into emo-land that I really don't want to follow it along for the ride on.  Between episode three and four it seems bent on turning into "girls  have problems that Taishi easily fixes and they fall for him" which...is OK, I guess, but kind of a lame story.  Honestly, at this point I'd much rather watch "three girls and two guys sing and sometimes play badminton", which is growing on me despite having no serious plot at all.

On an unrelated note, "Oda Nobuna no Yabou", which I had zero hope for, turned out to be surprisingly entertaining, and "Binbougami ga!" is giving me the Gintama-style humor fix that I didn't even realize I'd been missing since Gintama itself went off the air.  Any season with Chichiko in it really can't be called a bad one, and if Asuna ever gets any more screentime, I have hopes for Sword Art Online too.  Tari Tari may not have any Earth-shattering drama, but it's geniunely more fun for me to watch the more it goes on, which is a good sign too.  I think Wien bought his Japan guide book from Monty Python though.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Kokoro Connect


I really didn't expect another series in 2012 to suck me in the way Ano Natsu de Matteru did - I'm a sucker for the rom-com/drama genre in general, and Ano Natsu did that exceedingly well.  I'm not saying Kokoro Connect tops it so far, in part because I think Ano Natsu had more geniunely funny moments (Kaitou's "MY GOD!" in Kanna's delusion about him and Ichika always cracks me up even thinking about it).  But Kokoro Connect is still off to a pretty amazing start.

To be honest, I didn't think the premise was all that promising - take three girls and two guys in high school, and have them randomly swap bodies for brief periods of time due to some unknown force.  It's a unique plot device I guess, but I was more than a little skeptical going in.  I'm happy to say though, that once you accept that premise, the body swaps actually do move the plot along and make things interesting.  Granted, in episode one Taishi does what you'd expect a guy in a girl's body to do and he gropes herself, but aside from that it really doesn't go the servicey route that it could have taken, and by episode three, we're well into drama instead.

If I've learned anything in watching anime from back in the day when Star Blazers was on Saturday mornings up to the present, it's that whether I like a series or not really depends on if I like the characters - if I don't like them, I just can't watch it.  If I do like the cast, then almost any genre I'll get sucked into, but especially if there's a rom-com side to it.  I think that's where Kokoro Connect excels - it has a genuinely likable cast.  The girls all have real-world problems, with Iori living with just her mom after her parents' divorce and feeling lonely, Yui having a traumatic event in her past, and Inaba...well, we don't know her whole backstory yet but I'm guessing something made her the way she is.  Giving your characters problems is a good way to suck in your audience to rooting for them, and it works on me every time.  Although it's true on the guys' side it doesn't seem like Aoki and Taishi really have any serious problems to speak of (unless you count Taishi volunteering for things too readily).  No Tomoya from Clannad here.

So I like the cast, which helps - and beyond that, the story is interesting, and the way the swapping moves things forward, I think, is done really well.  So far, at least, the swappage seems to be moving the cast closer together, although with at least one love triangle popping up, and Taishi turning into a flag-setting machine, it's very likely the conflict will be coming soon.  Technically, the animation quality is good, and the character designs are in the Kannagi/Sorawoto/K-ON school, which isn't my favorite (Denpa Onna, Oreimo, and others I think have better looking character designs) but they don't look bad, and unlike Natsuiro Kiseki or Cabbage Love they're not drawn by Curious George on acid so they look consistent.

So is this going to be my favorite anime for the summer?  It's possible - but a couple things scare me.  This is based on a light novel series that runs for *eight* volumes, so the odds of a clean one-cour resolution to any drama/love triangles are low.  Which brings me to Taishi - while I like his character so far, he's also being set up for Masaki Tenchi Syndrome if Inaban and Iori both end up liking him like it seems they do/will.  There's nothing worse in anime in my book than a wishy-washy guy who's incapable of choosing between girls who like him and just ends up hurting everyone in the process.  If Taishi becomes That Guy, Kokoro Connect's stock is likely to nosedive for me.

Through three episodes though, I'd say I've definitely fallen in love with Iori Kokoro Connect.  Here's hoping they keep this up for the rest of the season, and that we get a good resolution versus a completely open ending.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Akarin~! More Yuru Yuri!


Wow - the second season of Yuru Yuri starts off with the most hilarious ten minutes of anime I've seen in a long time.  Akarin in her dreams makes Io in Acchi Kocchi look like he has NOTHING in pimp skillz by comparison.  They could do an entire season on Akarin's fantasy world and I'd probably give myself an aneurysm laughing.


Akarin uses harem lead wink - it's highly effective. 


She even knows Fleming's Freaking Left-Hand Rule?  Seriously, Akarin?  I remembered I learned it in college, but since nothing I learned in college applies to my job, I had to look it up on Wikipedia.  I'm pretty sure they didn't teach that in middle school, although granted, Japanese kids learn Calculus IV in elementary school and international studies have shown American students are morons who can't find their own country on a map even with their iPhone's Location Services turned on.

Then in the second half, just when you thought Chinatsu was safe if she wasn't holding a crayon, her hair turns out to be a Living Horror that nothing can escape from.  I'm surprised the place they were staying even had that many table tennis balls.


Best answer for "why is the sky blue" ever.

I loved the first season of Yuru Yuri but was wary that the second season might not be able to keep up the comedy - clearly, I need to find better things to worry about, because this was even funnier than the first season.  Spring season was a bit of a letdown for me (although apparently I'm a sucker for idol/scifi since I got sucked into AKB0048, despite the CG abmoniations), so it's good to see summer off to an awesome start.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Thoughts after Hyouka 10

Or not...


Ten episodes in, I think Hyouka is starting to annoy me just a little - it's not that I dislike mystery, but it's not my favorite genre and this isn't like the mystery in Detective Conan where people actually die, for lack of a better term, it's "inconsequential mystery".  The current arc, for example, is interesting, but at the end of the day the only stakes are a sorry-ass student film getting the 'correct' ending the author (who is apparently too ill for anyone to just ask) intended it to or not.

This isn't to say I dislike Hyouka - I like the cast, the animation is gorgeous, there's the chance for some interesting character development, even romance - but the lack of anything...well, serious happening makes it hard to really get into the story.  If the murder in this arc had actually happened and Hotarou was trying to find out who the killer was, with the risk of the killer finding out he's on his or her trail and coming after him and/or Chitanda - it'd be a completely different ballgame.  Instead, Hyouka is more like playing detective than being a real one - right now he has a "case" to solve but it's purely fictional, or in the case of Chitanda's uncle, it really happened, but it was 50 years ago and finding out what happened changes nothing in the real world except setting Chitanda's limitless curiosity at ease for a few microseconds.

Hyouka has a lot going for it, and I geniunely look forward to watching it each week - I just can't help wondering about the wasted potential, with Hotarou never finding himself in a "real" mystery with his life on the line like Kudo Shinichi from Detective Conan.  Maybe later on there will be a mystery Hotarou faces with serious consequences for failure, but when it hasn't happened yet ten episodes in, I'm not optimistic.  I'm not saying this needs to turn into CSI: Kyoto, but they could get a notch more serious without making this like Detective Conan, where in a year Shinichi solves more murders than actually happen in the whole Japanese archipelago in the same timeframe.

On the plus side, I thought the analogy of the sports prodigy saying she was just lucky was a good one - Hotarou *does* have a gift and while he downplays it out of insecurity, he clearly didn't realize that by downplaying it he can also be hurting people like Satoshi who simply don't have his gift.  It'll be interesting to see how the relationships develop between the main four characters, and with another dozen episodes to go there's plenty of time.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Natsuiro Kiseki 8


Really, Sunrise?  You're putting your name on this shizzle?

Natsuiro Kiseki really has a decent story and characters, but For the Love of God, the animation quality is horrifying.  I'm going to have nightmares about this tonight, I'm sure if it.

Having moved a lot as a kid, I can relate to Saki's feelings, but I still can't get past how bad the visuals are.  It's like Sunrise decided to cut their losses about episode three and slash the budget to whatever spare change they could find on the floor in that Lawson they're always putting in the background.

Wasn't there a magic rock that could grant wishes in this series?  Shouldn't any real middle schooler have used it to wish for a billion yen, or to be famous, or maybe to not have Saki move away by now?  And what's up with Saki's father wanting to live on an island?  It's not like Shimoda isn't kind of in the middle of nowhere already, but you want somewhere even more remote?

Animation aside, it really wasn't a bad episode, as our four heroines go on a trip together and Saki's impending departure starts to level up the drama.  Watching this may make my eyes bleed, but I'm still going because they have me hooked enough to find out what happens to Saki, and if the magic rock actually ends up serving any real purpose.


UPDATE: One more note on Saki - as a father myself, I can not imagine making my daughter move like that.  If I got offered twice the money to move to another city, but my daughter was happy in the middle of junior high with good friends like Saki is, I'd turn the offer down without thinking.  As a parent, I think if you strive to be even a halfway good parent at all, you learn quickly to put your kids' happiness first - Clannad made a good point about this the way Nagisa's parents effectively sacrificed their dreams for her, but they don't regret it at all and would make the same choice 1,000 out of 1,000 times.  So it's hard not to be annoyed with Saki's father.  There are some careers where it's unavoidable (my father was military, which is a good example) but for Saki's dad it sounds more like he's jumping from his current job to his dream island job solely thinking of himself.

Note to Saki-papa: Wait until your daughter's out of high school - it's only four more years, then you can live in an island, in Antarctica, wherever the f*** you want.  They'll still have job openings on islands in 2016.

Monday, May 07, 2012

First Impressions - Hyouka (through episode 3)



As a Kyoani series, a lot of people had Hyouka's air date circled on their calendars well before the season started - Kyoani seems to be one of the more polarizing studios out there, with the "cute/moe is shallow crap and good anime is serious" side generally hating them, and the "cute/moe is awesome and serious anime is pretentious crap" camp loving everything they do.

For me, it's not quite that clear-cut - I've loved some of Kyoani's work (first season of Haruhi, Fumoffu, Clannad, Kanon), thought some was good, but not perfect (Nichijou, K-On), and some just didn't do anything for me (Air except for Kannabi no Mikoto's screentime, the second season of Haruhi, Munto TV).  I had a bad feeling Hyouka would fall in the latter category, since generally I'm not a big fan of mystery series - Detective Conan, for example, while I like the cast, the mystery parts are impossibly elaobrate to the point they're just unrealistic.

Through three episodes though, I'm thinking Hyouka is going to surprise me and end up as my favorite for the season - a lot could go wrong, but right now it's probably the series I look forward to the most each week.  I'm definitely liking the cast, and the story, visuals, atmosphere, backgrounds, music - everything just seems spot on.  It's probably still on the first light novel's material, so things could still go downhill later if the source material is weaker down the road, but so far it really does seem like everything's firing on all cylinders.

You could argue that it's slow paced, but things actually do happen in each episode, so it's not a slice-of-life or "cute girls doing cute things" series like K-On.  There are actual mysteries, and while so far they're mostly garden-variety school life ones, the story behind Eru's uncle and what he told her when she was little promises to have a more serious nature.  Fortunately, the mysteries don't involve impossible mental gymnastics, they're all realistic so far at least.  If Hyouka has a weakness, it might be that (so far at least) the cast is very tiny, and over two cours the same four being featured might get old (K-On's main four grated on me after a while), but I'm hoping we will get to see some character development too as this goes on.

As surprised as I was to see Kyoani passing on Little Busters, maybe ultimately Hyouka was a better call for them - it'll be a fun ride watching this.  (I do have to admit I'm looking forward to Little Busters too, I don't think JC Staff will necessarily ruin it either).

Friday, May 04, 2012

Natusiro Kiseki 5


Sunrise, for the Love of Haruhi, hire some animators who actually know how to draw.

I guess on the plus side Yuka didn't have six fingers like that one point in episode three.  I love the cast, love the characters, the story has ups and downs but is good overall...but the drop-off in animation quality in episodes three and five was just horrifying to watch.  I've seen worse, and I still have nightmares about cabbages and lunar princesses deformed by the twisted hands of inept, drooling animators, but I think the good/bad switch they've got going here where some episodes look great and some are craptastic is a pretty deadly combination too.

I also don't think I'll ever understand how being outside without an umbrella in the rain, regardless of ambient temperature, will give anyone a 100% chance of getting a cold in anime.  At least when I was in Japan last, when it rained, only water fell from the sky, not a solution of H1N1 influenza.  If it went down like that, I'd carry an umbrella everywhere no matter what the forecast said, just in case.

On the plus side, a good character development/friendship episode, if you can get past the visual side of things.  Although most of the episode is about Yuka and Rin, it really sets up how painful it'll be for all four of them when Saki ultimately moves away.

I wonder why they just don't wish for Saki's father to get a promotion that lets him stay in town though...the wishing rock is...well, a little underutilized.  In real life, four teenage girls would have wished to be rich and dating Justin Bieber by halfway through episode one.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Spring Season Impressions - Week 2



Somehow it seems like every season, it's easy to find time to watch everything, but virtually impossible to find time to blog about it.  Maybe this is why Twitter and the like are popular with the young'uns, because how much effort is it to come up with, what, 140 characters?  I'm at double that right now and haven't even finished this paragraph, though, so clearly my brain is NOT wired to be that brief.

So without further ado, here are some spring impressions, compacted into one post for laziness brevity's sake.

Haiyore! Nyaruko-san: Just...awesome.  HP Lovecraft references, parody, Miya-chan's seiyuu - this is pretty much everything I was hoping for.  They'll have to seriously screw up for this not to be my favorite of the season when it's all over.

Sengoku Collection: The Nobunaga episode was good.  But Ieyasu feels like an Idolmaster ripoff, only not as good without Harurun and the twins.  If they get back to the Nobunaga plot I'll be happy, but I have a bad feeling until then we're in for Sentimental Journey-type individual stories of Sengoku warlords making it as bishoujo in the real world.  Jury's out on this one.

Medaka Box: Read somewhere this would be exactly the same if you replace Medaka with Jesus.  Probably true, but still not terrible so I'll keep watching.  It'd be interesting to see who's more unrealistically perfect at everything they do, Medaka, or Marika from Mouretsu Pirates?

Upotte: I can't believe I actually watched the first episode of this.  The girls are guns?  Main heroine has to wear a t-back because her rifle has a skeleton stock?  Seriously, Japan?  If I was a gun nut maybe this would do it for me, but...no, even then I think I'd be scratching my head.

Natsuiro Kiseki: First episode kind of bland, but glad Saki and Natsumi made up in ep 2 and they didn't draw that out to the whole series.  It's getting to be more fun to watch as I get to know the cast, and that's a good sign.  I still have no idea where they'll go with the wishing...er...rock.  In real life they'd probably all wish for a billion dollars and the rest of the episodes would just be their slide into depravity and crack habits, but since this is anime I'm guessing they'll wish for a fun summer together or something.  What would Medaka do?  Probably solve world hunger.

Acchi Kocchi: Konata?  Did you hit your head on something, you're acting kind of funny.

Shining Hearts: I want a baguette right now.  A plot aside from baking bread would be good too, and I think that's coming up, so this could have potential.  The lead is...pretty bland though, he bakes bread and sleeps on a pirate ship like Jack Sparrow.  Keeping an eye on this, but expectations aren't too high.  Definitely looks pretty though, great character designs.

Kore wa Zombie desu ka of the Dead and Stuff: I want to like this, but honestly the first episode reminded me of why it ended up being kind of a chore to watch the first season towards the end.  Ayumu's harem is insanely big now, not quite Takaaki-level.  He's not a vampire, he's a zombie, so the Arararagi Theorem doesn't explain his popularity either.  And Ayumu panchira...DO NOT WANT.

Mouretsu Pirates: This series keeps me watching somehow in the hope it will rise above being...well, just above average, and it never manages to pull that off.  At this point I want to see Marika make a mistake, any mistake, and have to deal with the consequences, but it's not likely to happen.  Interstellar piracy and danger you'd think would go together well, but in this series they might as well be selling lemonade on the street corner.  Don't even get me started on how the Serenity arc ended.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Spring Impressions: Sengoku Collection

 

So this starts out about as generic as an anime series could be - well-endowed girl falls from the sky from another world, literally running right into the protagonist (with a head-butt to the stomach, I'm surprised he didn't get the wind knocked out of him), then she marvels at everything in the modern world, ends up staying at his house - this is probably enough to make your average fan of "serious" anime roll their eyes and/or projectile vomit, and move on.  But if that doesn't turn you off, I think this  series actually has some potential.


Yes, Nobunaga is a bishoujo, and yes, she falls out of the sky and lands on the main character (actually head-butting him in the stomach).  But there's no panty shot involved, and in the end she doesn't stay with Ota, she decides to head out and find items that will help her return back to her world.  She seems a little conflicted about leaving at one point, and I think that sets up the potential for some drama later - will her ambition drive her to return to her world and finish the job of conquest she started?  Or as they say in Disney movies, will true love conquer all?  


Nobunaga is also a great character - she combines abmition, a little tsundere-ness, and an almost childlike wonder at the things in the modern world we take for granted.  That's actually one of the many cool things about having a three-year old in the house - my daughter gets that same expression of wonder at things as simple as playing with wet sand at the beach, or a airplane's contrail arching across the sky, or the sunset - all the things that as an adult you generally think nothing of since you've seen them a million times before.


For me at least, Nobunaga alone is a reason to keep watching - and by virtue of having an ex-girlfriend alone Ota isn't your typical loser male lead either.  He may be working at a convenience store, but he does have a job.  Although he does kind of have Justin Bieber hair like Kaitou in Ano Natsu.  I think there's a lot of potential between Ota's feelings for her and possibly (over time) vice versa, and whether or not she'll go home, but we'll see where the writers go with this one.

If I had a complaint, it'd be even in the first episode, while generally the animation and character designs are good, there are a couple scenes that show they're on a budget - much like "Ef: A Tale of Watching People Talk from a Kilometer Away" there's a sequence at the beach where you watch from a vantage point so far away you can't even see the characters' mouths move.  But if the story develops into anything beyond mediocre, this will have surpassed my expectations.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Spring Preview: In her house at R'lyeh, dead Nyaruko waits dreaming

GREAT CAESAR'S GHOST, JAPAN MADE H.P. LOVECRAFT MOE

In their few millenia on Earth, modern mankind has accomplished many things, ranging the full spectrum from triumphs to tragedies, from awe-inspiring to horrifying.  But Japan has accomplished something so amazing, so seemingly impossible, that even as I type this I'm not sure I believe it's happened - they made the works of H.P. Lovecraft freaking moe.

I guess I should have seen this coming - if modern man can make aliens moe, why not Lovecraft's monstrosities?  Even more impressive, if the Flash-based (and drawn worse than Yoakena's cabbage) anime that precedes this spring's upcoming Haiyore! Nyaruko-san is any guide, it's even going to be pretty damn funny.  It doesn't hurt that Nyaruko has the same seiyuu as Miya from Amagami SS+ (although no nishishi~ in this one).

Nyaruko is a light novel series that started in 2009 and is up to seven volumes and running, centering on a ordinary high school boy, Mahiro, and Nyarlathotep, a monster from Lovercraft's universe (original short story here), or Nyaruko for short, who drops in on him one day.  Sounds like just about every anime of its genre since Urusei Yatsura, but it's not as generic as it sounds - Mahiro is pretty much on full-time tsukkomi duty as Nyaruko and her associates arrive, like Shinpachi times a hundred, the universe is possibly at risk of destruction, and...well, it's best to see it for yourself.



There's a preview of sorts available (on Crunchyroll, even) in that there have been two flash-based series that already aired for this: Haiyoru! Nyaruani in late 2009-early 2010, and Haiyoru! Nyaruani, Remember My Mr. Lovecraft in late '10-early '11.  The episodes, if you can call them that, are insanely short at just a minute or two of actual content, and the animation style is so painfully bad it makes Yoakena look like it was drawn by the Gods Themselves.  But, for all that there were more than a few parts, especially in Remember My Lovecraft, where I was laughing out loud.

After all, how can you not like an episode title like "How He Came to Love the Girl Despite Being a Normal High School Student Who Cannot Even Sense in the Slightest That the Universe Is at Risk of Destruction, and Suppresses a Vague Worry That Tomorrow the Sun May Not Rise from the Same Direction or at the Same Speed or Even Shine at the Same Luminance and Follow the Same Orbit"?



Fortunately, this series won't be confined to Flash/fanart-level hell for long, with a proper anime series coming this spring on April 9th - it's produced by Xebec, which worries me a little, but I'm hoping the characters and story will make up for any animation flaws.  Besides, whatever Xebec does is going to look over 9000x better than the Flash stuff, even if they bring back the B team from Xebec's Negima anime.

There were some really good anime series airing this winter, and I hadn't found anything to get really excited about for spring yet - but after stumbling on its insanely short and badly animated predecessors and thinking what a real length, normal quality series could accomplish, this spring's Haiyore Nyaruko-san is at the top of what I'm anticipating.  I'll be counting the days to April 9th...


Monday, March 26, 2012

Ano Natsu de Matteru - Finale

 Can't resist a Tetsuro-Mio shot, they make a pretty cute couple here...

Ano Natsu de Matteru ends - almost exactly how I guessed it would, which means the writers were probably a little predictable, but it was executed really, really well, so I can't complain.  Ichika does have to leave, but returns at the end - probably because Lemon-senpai hacks into the Galactic Federation's mainframe or something, after the van went all mecha I don't think anything Lemon can pull off would surprise me.

The confession scene a few episodes back with Kaitou and Ichika is probably still my favorite scene of the series, but this episode had some good moments between them too.  After seeing more anime than I can count where the male lead is completely useless and girls still like him in spite of him having no redeeming qualities, Kaitou says exactly the right thing and isn't afraid to tell the girl he loves how he feels.  Although in the scene above I was half expecting the answer to "what if we get in a fight?" to be "Makeup sex, senpai.  Lots and lots of makeup sex."

Lemon turns the ass kicking factor up to 11 and turns out to be a real member of MIB - the nice twist was Tetsurou's sister's husband being a special agent also.  Here's something that'll make you feel old if you're in your late 30s like me - the Men In Black movie came out the same year ('97) that many of today's high school freshmen were born into this world.

The zero-gravity tears were a really cool touch - too often in anime and sci-fi in general they just ignore zero gravity or explain away the lack of it to everything having some kind of artificial gravity field.

And the finale - if Ichika hadn't come back, I'd probably be ranting about how the world doesn't need another "bittersweet" ending, but this is the perfect finish in my book.

Overall review?  Best anime of the season for me, hands down - I'd even wager it'll be hard for anything else this year to beat it.  Romance, sci-fi, drama, comedy - Ano Natsu had it all and did it all very well.  Definitely the kind of series that makes me very glad to be an anime fan.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Amagami SS+ Haruka part 1

Hibiki is the voice of reason as usual - unfortunately for Junichi, Hibiki is the voice of reason Haruka never listens to.  Seriously, Haruka wants her Mrs. degree already and she's not even out of high school?

Poor Junichi, he gets to go straight to three months of the living hell before babies learn to sleep through the night, and doesn't even get to round home plate to get there.

You can't tell that at 12 weeks, Hibiki do your homework!  Although I guess a OB would know that more than a pediatrician.

Not a bad episode, although Morishima Sexy Jessica?  We get a trifecta of bad foreigner stereotypes with the big boobs, kissing is just a greeting, and...odd naming sense.

Foriegner Miya was pretty hilarious though, even if it was just a few seconds in Junichi's imagination.  They need to give Miya more character traits than nishishi~ and eating nikuman though, it's nice that she likes nikuman, but she's not Rihoko.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Ano Natsu de Matteru 11

I'm really, really going to miss Ano Natsu when it's over - it's just managed to get more epic with each episode.  Having said that, I think it's also just the right length - two cours and it'd probably feel too drawn out.  This episode we have Ichika pondering giving up before thanks to encouragement from her friends deciding to go up against the entire rest of the Universe and the chase scene that follows, as they race to the place from Ichika's memory in the hopes of keeping her on Earth.  Kaito offering to leave the Earth with her earlier was a pretty ballsy move, after all, he's offering to give up everything he knows just for her - if he hadn't declared he loved her already, she'll know for sure now.  Tetsurou gets props for riding a motorcycle out of the back of a moving van as a decoy too.

Tetsurou asks Mio out as they're being pursued by the drone.  I'm reminded of that first episode of Tower of Druaga satirizing the whole RPG genre, where Utu tells everyone he's getting married, and promptly gets killed.  Haven't you heard of death flags, Tetsurou?  Although this isn't that kind of anime...

Poor Kanna - I feel bad she's the one left out, but it's pretty awesome of her to volunteer to be a decoy too, for Kai's happiness's sake.  And honestly, Tetsurou and Mio make a better couple in my book anyway.  Kanna can't possibly compete with hadaka apron and hadaka panda power.

And Remon's van has ROBOT PUNCH.  I'm pretty sure that is not an option at Hertz, Avis, or any other rental car place.  I'm expecting an anime Will Smith making a cameo next episode, although someone would probably sue JC Staff then.  Remon, who exactly do you work for?  CIA?  MIB?  Vesper?  A Mahoro cameo would be cool, but I'm asking for too much there...

And we end on a cliffhanger, of course.  If I were betting on the finale, I'd say they make it to Ichika's special place (did that just sound ero?) but Ichika still has to go back but promises to return as soon as she gets done testifying to the Uncivilized Planets Committee of the Galactic Federal Senate or something, and the next summer she shows up at Kai's front door.  You can call this predictable, but it's still been a lot of fun to watch, with a great cast and a story that has yet to have a boring or "filler" episode.  It's just the kind of series that makes me thank Haruhi I became an anime fan.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Cinderella

Wouldn't a glass shoe be uncomfortable as hell?

I know, I know - it's not anime, and this is an anime blog (or at least pretends to be one).  But the history of anime is inexorably linked to Disney, with Osamu Tezuka (known for Astro Boy and other 60s classics), one of the pioneers of anime, influenced by Disney's feature films.  And part of having a 3-year old daughter is that you're going to watch Cinderella at least once, and most likely several thousand times.  Plus, technically, in Japan Cinderella is anime, in the sense of anime being the generic term for animation, so away we go.

So if I was reviewing Cinderella like it was an anime series, how would it rate?  If you're curious, read on...

Animation Quality: Actually pretty amazing, overall, even without considering how old it is, made back in 1950.  Motions are fluid, characters are drawn on-model, and there are no Yoakena-rage-inducing-cabbages anywhere to be seen.  Backgrounds are often stylized and not incredibly detailed, but still, it stacks up well against Kyoani in terms of fluidity of motion, and there's no 3D crap anywhere to clash with the cel-drawn artwork.  Of course, in 1950 a computer capable of 3D graphics would have ten million vacuum tubes and a footprint the size of Montana, so it's not like Disney had the option of going there anyway.

Story / Characters: Let's just say I'm glad my daughter was born in 2008 and not 1950.  Everyone knows the gist of the story, so I'll just skip to the flaws - first of all, the world it's set in is pretty sexist, which I guess given the US circa 1950 shouldn't surprise me.  The King basically wants to hook up his son the Prince so he can make grandkids for him, since as everyone knew in 1950 women were put on Earth mainly for babymaking, cooking, and cleaning stuff.  The gems like "leave the sewing to the ladies" date this a little too.

The Prince also has next to zero character development - it's like if Ryuuji didn't show up until episode 24 of Toradora, and Taiga was instantly smitten with him despite him despite his only having five lines.  Cinderella falls in love with the Prince because he's handsome, but that's really all you know about him, period.  There's no chemistry between them, no time they spend getting to know each other (outside of what, two hours at a ball?) and you're supposed to believe this is the epitomy of true love.  Although now that I think about it, the Prince is kind of like your typical harem lead in that girls fall for him for little apparent reason (I'm thinking Kanna falling for Kaitou in Ano Natsu just because he smiled during his self-introduction...).  Although I guess Princes tend to be loaded, so he has that going for him.

Having said that, the plot's not terrible - it's a classic for a reason, and the whole thing with the over the top wicked stepmother and stepsisters getting their comeuppance in the end is still fun to watch.  Gus is fun to watch with his Rihoko-like gluttony, but he's one seriously stupid mouse, in real life natural selection would finish him off in a New York minute.  He's going to be cat shit in no time if everyone else doesn't keep saving him from his own stupidity.  It's just a pity the Prince and Cinderella don't really have much chemistry given how little screentime they have together.

Character Designs / Moe Factor: Meh.  I think the little eyes ruin it for me, it's a problem I have with Miyazaki's movies too.  Bottom line, no one in Cinderella is moe.  Don't expect any fanservice either, Disney doesn't do hadaka aprons or maid outfits.


Like, happily ever after, until the messy royal divorce hits the tabloids

Overall: So from an anime standpoint, what grade would I give Cinderella?  Probably a C.  I'd say if it had a full 12-13 episode cour to work with, they could have developed the characters more, but as it stands it looks pretty at times but doesn't have a lot of substance.  Also, someone really needs to do something about all that bursting into song for no reason.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Spring Season Midterms




Once again, I've been on near-total hiatus for the last couple months - I blame real life and a distinct lack of free time at work to write blog posts.  But still, I thought I'd surface to throw out some thoughts on the winter season, and how I'd grade it if I were giving out grades today:

Ano Natsu de Matteru (Grade: A) Awesome - this is what Onegai Teacher should have been.  Kaito isn't a loser like Kei, he freaking dives through the air and confesses at the same time.  The whole confession scene at the end of ep 9 was awesome too, probably one of the best-done of its type I've seen.  Yeah, Kaito has the Bieber Fever haircut, but still, episode 9 impressed me that he can get it done when he needs to.

Mouretsu Pirates (Grade: B+) - I really liked the first couple episodes - I'm a sucker for scifi in general, usually, but hate "serious" scifi like Guilty Crown so this looked like it could be right up my alley.  The pacing is a little on the slow side - sometimes it feels like this was meant to be a one cour series and they're just padding it to two.  The extended intro at the start of every episode gets more than a little repetitive too.  But having said that, it has a good cast of characters, and I think that's what's sucked me in and keeps me looking forward to this every week almost as much as Ano Natsu.  Marika's almost too perfect in that she seems to have an absurdly natural grasp of decision-making as a captain, but Chiaki's like watching Kuroneko in space, and Misa and her teacher/helmsman are always fun for me to watch too.  It's odd for me to say this but I'd actually like it if they went a *little* more serious - seeing space combat where no one gets hurt just seems a little unrealistic, and putting her crew in danger enough times means someone would get hurt eventually and Marika would have to deal with the consequences.  But still, overall, this is fun to watch each week and I'm looking forward to where they end up going with it.

Amagami SS+ (Grade: B) - The Morishima-senpai arc is still coming, so this may get graded up, but so far it's been fun to watch - it's rare to ever see what happens to a couple in anime after they actually become a couple, so an entire season about that is kind of refreshing.  Although it's not very realistic that Junichi isn't, for just one example, all over Sae after they've been going out for a year.

Rinne no Lagrange (Grade: B) - My final grade for this could be an F depending where they go with it, but it's fun to watch so far, and while I'm sure Madoka's personality could grate on some, it doesn't really bother me.  It feels like 99% of what's going on is hidden from the viewer, and that gets a little annoying after a while - I'm hoping they parcel out more information as we go and don't just dump an explanation for everything in the very last episode in a rush.  Given there's a second season in summer but a three-month break before that, I'm dreading a cliffhanger at the end of the month...

To Heart 2 Dungeon Travelers (Grade: B) - This is an OVA, first episode was out last month, with the second episode to follow this month - I think most people would grade this a D or so, but I've watched all the other To Heart 2 anime and OVAs, and seeing the cast in action again after a long layoff was enough to make this well worth watching for me.  Takaaki has to have the biggest harem in all of anime though - seriously, how many girls are after him, 15?  20?  I thought Junichi in Da Capo SS was a player, but Takaaki I'm pretty sure has him beat in numbers at this point.