Monday, January 07, 2013

Da Capo III: The Search for Sakura

Da Capo has a lot of nostalgia for me - I remember watching the original series back in 2003, in crappy Divx 3.11 fansubs, and being mesmerized by the world, the story, the characters, and everything else.  It had Shirakawa Kotori, bishoujo extraordinaire, who would knock off the heroine in any other game-to-anime series - but in Da Capo she's only a side character.  The original Da Capo had Sakura vs Nemu on the school roof, coughing up sakura petals, hell, it even had a Urusei Yatsura reference in the beach episode.  It was pretty much impossible not to like, for me in 2003 at least, just five years into the revival of my anime fandom.

But since the original, the Da Capo franchise has been more of a mixed bag - D.C.S.S. had its entertaining moments and I loved the cast, but it really felt like they were trying to milk the exact same story over again at the end.  Da Capo II I was eagerly looking forward to from pretty much the moment the game was announced, assuming correctly it'd also make the jump to anime - but honestly, it disappointed the hell out of me.  The male lead had maybe 10% of Junichi's character, the drama all fell completely flat, and the feint where Yoshiyuki is "dating" (in a third grade sense) one of the side characters in the first cour was a train wreck.  So when I heard Da Capo III was coming, I honestly didn't know whether to look forward to it or not.  Would it be awesome?  Just OK?  Terrible?

So if this was the end of a episode of Denpa Onna, what kind of seishun points would I give Da Capo III's inaugural episode?  Read on...

(-1) Animation Quality is kind of...well, adequate.  I mean, it's not terrible, and the cast is easy on the eyes, especially for all the Imadoris out there who are floored by "D power".  It's not Yoakena bad, my eyes aren't bleeding, but the quality seems a notch down from both the original Da Capo and from D.C.S.S. and D.C. II.  Again, not horrible, but it's kind of disappointing to see a first episode look this average, especially compared to, well, the first episode of Chuunibyou or Sakura-sou last season, or even Maoyuu this season.

(+4) It's f**king Hatsunejima!  There are cherry trees!  They're all blooming at once!  I realize these are really just nostalgia points for me, but it's like watching Star Wars I and seeing a lightsaber in a new movie for the first time since Return of the Freaking Jedi in 1983.  I'm dating myself here, but you get the idea.

(+2) Suginami.  He's back.  AGAIN.  It's impossible - he's got to be the biggest enigma in the Da Capo-verse, spanning three series, and multiple decades, he always looks and acts the same, and is always going to the same school.  He's like Evangeline in Negima or something, maybe like Eva this is his punishment, I don't know.

(-2) Lack of realism.  By that I don't mean the sakura tree thing, I  mean Sharuru (I can't bring myself to type "Charles" for her name even if it's official  wanting to sleep in the same bed as Kiyotaka and when she does, Kiyotaka not tapping that with the force of a thousand burning suns (which you all know is exactly what a 16 year old guy would do in that situation, unless he'd had his family jewels severed in a freak wheat thresher accident.)

(-1) Character designs.  They're not bad, they just...seem off.  It's hard to put my finger on but they just seem kind of generic - I guess this really goes back to animation quality, if they had DCSS / DC II's character designer I think they'd look a lot better, but this is just personal preference.  Maybe the insane proportions are what bugs me, Sharuru in particular is going to have serious back pain.

(+2) Kiyotaka > Yoshiyuki.  Yoshiyuki, the male lead from Da Capo II, had the personality of my toaster oven, so this was an easy bar to clear, but after D.C. II I actually worried about this one going in.  I wouldn't say he has a *lot* more personality, but I think Kiyotaka wins the matchup here so far.  While bishoujo series are mostly all about the bishoujo, if the male lead sucks, it ruins the whole story because you have a bunch of hot girls after a complete tool, which destroys any sense of realism.  I'm thinking that guy who was allergic to girls from some bad anime a while back, but I don't want to remember enough to Google Seiren to find out what it was called because it'll just bring bad memories back anyway if I do.

(-1) Kiyotaka < Junichi.  Honestly, Junichi in the original Da Capo's kind of hard to beat, since he was a slacker but genuinely had some funny moments too.

(-1) All the side character girls < Yoriko.  Seriously, Yoriko in the original Da Capo made me cry like a little girl when she starts going on to Junichi about how she's left food in the refrigerator for him.  You kind of have to see it to get what I mean, but so far none of these side characters look very memorable.  None of them have nekomimi either.

(+2) Ricca.  She's just Haruhi like enough to be interesting without being obnoxious, at least so far.  The whole thing about the past life and being a wizard then makes me think maybe she has chuunibyou, but she's promising as a heroine.  It's too early to get much of a read on her yet though.

Your reward for getting through the wall of text above.  Note Sharuru's huge tracts of land.

Total seishun points: +4

Which wasn't a bad start.  Not as good as the original Da Capo, but I'm cautiously optimistic it'll beat Da Capo II and come out somewhere between original and II flavor.  We'll see, I'm hooked enough to see where they go with it next week.

I should really blog about Maoyuu too, which honestly was more interesting and better animated in my opinion, and threw in some econ for the geek in me who still gets the Economist every week, but it's time in RL to put away laundry and go to sleep.

Sakura Tree: Bring it.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Looking Back at 2012

It's hard to believe I started this blog in 2005 and it's somehow 2013 already, a year that in my mind belongs squarely in the distant future, a time when we'd all be living in colonies on the moon, ideally under the benevolent rule of Feena Fam Earthlight.  But time flies, as they say, and 2012 is gone already - which means I might as well throw a few thoughts about the past year out into the ether.

It's virtually impossible for me to rank anime - if someone asked me what my favorite anime of all time was, I honestly wouldn't know what to answer.  Haruhi?  Toradora?  Seto no Hanayome?  It really depends what I'm in the mood to watch - comedy?  Romance?  Scifi?  What I'd rank #1 after a long day at work when just want something to laugh at would fit very differently in a ranking when I'm looking for something more serious (although generally I avoid "serious" anime like the plague).  So I can't really put up a coherent ranking, but here's the series that I'd say are most memorable-slash-have the most rewatch value for me from the past year, in chronological order:

Ano Natsu de Matteru - I've written about this before, but somehow this hit all the right buttons for me - maybe because Onegai Teacher was one of the first series I watched back in the fansub days, but I almost had a sense of nostalgia watching this.  It's got a good cast, great character designs, some drama, and a male lead who actually puts his balls out there to get the girl he loves.  And I liked the ending too - no open-ended-let's-leave-room-for-season-two here.  It's a little too servicey to watch in the middle seat on an airplane without getting some odd looks, but still a solid series.

AKB0048 - I didn't even watch this the first seven weeks of the season, but after picking it up I marathoned everything that had aired so far and was waiting for each week's episode on the edge of my seat.  There are parts that are corny, and parts that over-glamorize the idol industry (the contrast between the handshake episode and the reality of otaku inflicting "semen handshakes" on the members of the real AKB48 at similar events in particular shows a huge gap between anime vs reality).  But AKB0048 has a great cast that's easy to root for, and once you get past the ridiculousness of the overall plot, it's actually a really compelling watch.  Granted, I'm a sucker for idol shows in general, so your mileage may vary - but this was a pretty original take, reminds me a little of Idolmaster Xenoglossia in plunging idols into a scifi setting.  Only without the kind of creepy crushes on mecha.

Oda Nobuna no Yabou - Another series I ignored the first few weeks of the summer season it aired in, only to end up hooked.  I'm a sucker for historical series, and this has just enough Sengoku era history, action, bishoujos, drama, and romance together to suck me in.  The lead guy has some guts and puts his life on the line, and the heroine, Nobuna, is kind of a tsundere but cares about her friends and has the vision of a true leader.  It's just a great cast to watch - really hoping we see a second season down the road.

Tari Tari - Another series that was just fun to watch week in and week out, although Tari Tari didn't read with anything life-and-death, just a story of people growing up and chasing after their dreams in the face of a reality that is (as reality tends to be) not always the most fertile ground for those dreams to take off in.  There was some really funny dialogue in this series too, it was rare for me not to laugh out loud at a couple points in each episode.

Yuru Yuri 2nd season - Not hilarious every episode, but when it was funny (Akari's dream world in the first episode in particular) it could be side-splittingly funny.

Chuunibyou Demo Koi ga Shitai - The last couple episodes felt a little heavy-handed to me, and the first one a little slow - but everything in between was pretty much gold.  Nibutani and Dekomori battling each other, the drama with Rikka and her father, the budding relationship between Yuuta and Rikka, Isshiki shaving his head - this just had a solid story and a likeable cast, and although it took a couple episodes to hook me, I've rewatched most of it already, which is probably the highest compliment I can give, especially given it just finished airing.

Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo - I can't say I liked this as much as Chuunibyou - Aoyama in particular, while likeable, is the kind of character I swear I've seen a million times before, and Sorata's obliviousness makes me want to bang my head against the wall - but still, this raised some interesting points about normal people compared to geniuses.  You tell your kids that "you can do anything if you try" but in reality Michael Phelps with size 14 feet is going to have a much better chance of winning the gold than you are if your feet are size 7, no matter how hard you work your ass off.  Albert Einstein is probably going to have discovered more than you about physics no matter how many hours you spent burying your nose in your Physics 101 textbook, and so on.  So how does romance work between a normal guy and a girl who's a genius?  It's an interesting question, and I think most of us "normal" people can relate to Sorata in this series.  Mashiro is fun to watch too, she definitely takes tennen/airhead to a whole new level.

That's not a complete list of what I watched this year, but it's likely what I'm most likely to re-watch in 2013 and beyond, especially as I wait for the winter season to start.  I don't know how fans of American TV do it with the whole summer devoid of new episodes, long breaks for Christmas, between sweeps, and so on - just the week around New Year's when it seems like almost no new anime airs is a killer for me.  But at least the wait is over soon, and winter could be promising - as many years as I've watched anime, I've never been let down by a new season yet, as there's always something that pulls me in and makes me glad I'm an anime fan.