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.