Again doing something a little different here, where in this post, some authors of DMAB will note quick impressions and, in some cases, unnecessary snap judgements of some of the shows that start this season. Long post will be long for sure. Since the opinions can be long and unwieldy, various authors will be color-coded to tell them apart (though it probably won’t be for your reading pleasure, now that I think about it), with Link in the normal everyday black, TheBigN’s opinions in reasonable orange, and dm00′s opinions in the other end of the RGB spectrum. Too make this even harder to read for many, pictures might be at a minimum here. Have fun!
Rio – Rainbow Gate!
When you have a glorified advertisement tie-in for a line of pachinko machines, expectations are set depressingly low from the start. Rio Rainbow Gate is the type of cartoon that everyone involved knows will be wholly devoid of creativity. This show makes no qualms about how eminently trashy and cheap it is. Much of the episode, when the show isn’t drawing its characters with about as much detail as the average Imagin or Studio Deen series, is centered on title character Rio’s mammaries. At least Xebec knew they had nothing else to feature when drawing up storyboards. Marina Inoue and Ayana Taketatsu, the show’s headlining seiyuu, put me to sleep with wooden, lifeless performances. They care about as much the animators do for their own show, surely.
Kimi ni Todoke Season 2
Kimi ni Todoke is the recent heroine of the shoujo romance genre. Sure, the franchise doesn’t break new ground, yet it happens to be delightfully refreshing in a sea of derivative melodramatic sob stories. If you aren’t familiar with the comic or TV show, Kimi ni Todoke is the story of (naturally) average shoujo protagonist Sawako Kuronuma, nicknamed Sadako after thriller The Ring, a socially awkward, shy high schooler, who has created an impenetrable shell through years of snubbing by her classmates. Through efforts of largely her own, bolstered by popular jock Shota Kazehaya, Sawako slowly, very slowly, realizes how much in common she has with her classmates and is able to start enjoying her life like everyone else. At this point, Kazehaya and Sawako’s relationship turns into a typical dance of hilarious misunderstandings where they never get together, despite how much they like each other, and how much every single person under the sun knows it except for them.
The first episode of Kimi ni Todoke’s second season near painfully advances this ideal of eternal confusions in love on both sides with Sawako baking Valentine’s Day chocolate for her friends, teacher, and oh wait, Kazehaya too!!! How embarrassing, Sawako. But oh no, she can’t muster up the courage to give him chocolate after spending nearly 15 minutes mentally agonizing over the terrible, terrible act. Mamiko Noto plays the thoughts of a silly, silly teenage girl with such grace that Sawako seems like she’s right next to me in real life. Kazehaya sees that Sawako has given chocolates to every other friend besides him, sending him into momentary depression. An obvious rival to Kazehaya for Sawako’s affections shows up in a Mamoru Miyano pretty boy. Kimi ni Todoke’s inaugural season hardly ever embraced shoujo cliches this much, but hey, I should have expected it with how easy Valentine’s drama is to write. In a way, this gets the worst of the drama out of the way upfront.
Puella Magi Madoka Magica
Akiyuki Shinbo, Gen Urobuchi, and SHAFT deliver with the type of magical girl series I’ve always wanted. A dark, visually atmospheric cartoon that feels more like Persona than a cutesy toy seller which the genre normally features. I shouldn’t spend paragraphs upon paragraphs speculating on where the decidedly intriguing plot and characters will go from here after the uncertainties weaved through two episodes. I will say that Ume Aoki’s character designs aren’t exactly adapted in the way I wanted, though they work. I believe this has more to do with how the core animation staff is mostly from Aniplex, not SHAFT, and presumably not Takahiro Kishida’s fault. I guess I’m too spoiled by how Hidamari Sketch flourished with Ume’s colorful work, as brought to animation nearly perfectly by Yoshiaki Ito over the years. Still, Ume’s design sense and concepts are more than cute enough. How adorably Madoka Kaname herself wakes up in the morning can only be channeled in such a way when you have the Ume Aoki influence. At the same time, I can forgive any and all misgivings when a smug magical girl is pulling rifles out of
hammerhatspace at will to vanquish Monty Python monsters.
TheBigN: I’ve already written about my impressions of the first episode, and after two episodes, the general “feel” of the show seems to have settled down, which is good. The music, settings (especially the sequences from Gekidan Inu Curry, as well as epic building designs), and cinematography are great here (as expected given the sources), and as we slowly learn about the characters and their aspirations, the potential for the show’s direction seems large. The question “what does it really mean to be a magical girl?” will definitely be looming large as the show continues down it’s (almost assuredly) dark path, and I can’t wait for that. Madoka’s mom is my favorite character at the moment, by the way. :P
dm00: Faust among the peonies. The set designs are from a frustrated architect forced to work as an animator. The school is a Bauhaus updating of the Panopticon. The way this series slides from transparency and light to a surreality of gloomy cotton-balls and menacing butterflies(!?) is a tour-de-force. There could almost be no dialogue, the visuals alone are nearly enough to carry the series.
Shinbo’s economy has been honed over the years, sometimes to the frustration and annoyance of viewers. But here is the payoff. This series is full of tiny moments that come and go in the blink of an eye: Madoka, having washed her face, fumbles for a towel, then her mother pushes it into her reach; breakfast ends with a mother-daughter high-five. I can’t help but think that we’ll look back on these moments later in the series as a calm before the storm.
This series excites me almost as much as Bakemonogatari.
Infinite Stratos is like Macross Frontier, no surprise with former Satelight staff at the helm here at 8-Bit, crossed with a generic harem series. From that standpoint, there’s absolutely nothing worth discussing.
Dream Eater Merry
J.C. Staff has certainly (heh) knocked down how to rehash Shana or A Certain Magical Index an infinite number of times. As long as they have a light novel or generic comic, the tedium will come. Dream Eater Merry feels like nearly the same show from its stock characters to its stock situations to its bland action scenes and everything in between. I never thought that a Yoshihiko Umakoshi action scene could be that unimpressive. About all I can take away from this is the very detailed background work, though why watch a show for that alone? Kudos to J.C. Staff for making bank while displaying no artistic vision or integrity time and time again. Now the real question is how Shigeyasu Yamauchi can come off Casshern Sins to direct this. Yamauchi wanted to work on Merry, bizarrely, based on early reports. The world may never know.
dm00: My initial reaction might be termed “Link-lite”: not excited at this merely competent-seeming production, but not chased away, either. For some reason (quite possibly Merry’s character design and voice), I stayed around for the second episode. That episode adds enough to the cast and the conflict between the worlds that I think I’ll stick around for more.
That said, these people need to learn from whoever does their opening animations. If that were how they did the dream world, this series might be almost as interesting as Puella Magi Madoka Magica. Instead, we get the back-lot of .hack//Sign, though fish-skeletons make everything better.
When I heard that Bones was adapting a popular mystery light novel about a hapless protagonist and Sherlock Holmes as a doll-like little girl, I was immediately put off. When I heard that Aoi Yuki was going to portray said girl similarly to her performance as Mina Tepes from Dance in the Vampire Bund, I had to check out the first episode. If nothing else, Bones is plainly skilled at producing series with wide appeal which the average viewer could enjoy at both sides of the globe. But when Gosick’s first episode has the “mystery” involving a victim shot with a firearm the perpetrator fired in sight of every single witness, that’s pandering to the mainstream and insulting its audience too much for my blood. I’m sure many bored individuals will continue to watch Gosick for a blonde-haired girl in a gothic lolita getup rolling around on the floor like a seven-year old though.
dm00: If you look to this series for mysteries, you’re likely to be disappointed. The mystery for the first episode was mildly diverting, though the solution was a bit too obvious (now, had the maid found some way to get someone else to shoot out the lock without warning the woman inside…), the mystery in the second is a bit contrived (though the duplicate room is something of a nice trick).
However, sometimes Holmes was faced with a silly mystery, too: another possibility is for the characters to carry the series. Here, there might be a bit of promise: Victorique combines a spoiled child (the rolling on the floor, the excess baggage) with an Aspergery Holmes: that laugh in the second episode, the otherworldly logic. The second episode gives some depth to Kujo (no more a nebbish than Watson, after all), with flashbacks to his strict prewar bushido up-bringing. Two episodes in, the series is on the edge for me: the mysteries are lame, but the characters may prove interesting. I’ll keep watching for the time being.
Freezing has more going for it than Samurai Girls. I can say that much. More violence than the average Ikkitousen or Queen’s Blade ripoff, paired with Mamiko Noto in a dynamic role as female lead Bridgette L. Satellizer, hysterically written as Satellizer el Bridget in the animated version. I don’t know if that’s better than a Book of Bantorra name or what. Kana Hanazawa’s role doesn’t disappoint either. The Koreans who worked on this almost have a better handle on this hollow genre than the Japanese do themselves. But this is no Qwaser and I can’t say Freezing could possibly hold my attention for another episode more. The 4:3 broadcast airing silliness is the least impressive DVD/BD selling gimmick Japan has tried yet.
Onii-chan no Koto nanka Zenzen Suki Janain Dakara ne!!
Onii-chan no Koto nanka Zenzen Suki Janain Dakara ne, hereby typed out as Oniisuki because holy shit is that name long in any language, is Xebec’s latest entry in their somehow long-running series of idiotic borderline porn humor they’ve carved out since Kanokon. What’s notable here is how Oniisuki faithfully adapts the manga’s awful art in what could only be described as CLAMP rubber people on meth. What I didn’t expect is this show is, uh, somehow decently funny. I could describe it only as an effect in which the first episode revels in such amazing stupidity and wraps around to halfway good. Nao Takanashi, played spot-on by Eri Kitamura, is a deviant pervert who revels in lusting after her brother Shuusuke and teasing him in every situation possible. There’s a scene, which has to be an ironic parody of My Little Sister is Such a Bitch (otherwise known as Ore no Imouto ga Konnani Kawaii Wake ga Nai or Oreimo), where Nao sniffs her brother’s boxers and thinks about the act in excruciating detail. Shuusuke himself is no saint. The dude has more porno magazines than should be legal and switches to porn games when his parents confiscate them. His dad seemed visibly interested in his son’s BSDM magazines at the same time. If Xebec was trying to illustrate how screwed up this family is, they succeeded and I’m surprisingly laughing.
TheBigN: As Link noted, one episode in, this is basically the Oreimo that detractors probably wanted to see more than anything (you know, the actual “hot for each other with a ton of pantyshots” sort of thing). Obviously Nao very much lusts after Shuusuke rather than loving him, and that both siblings are both are into each other, and are perverts about it is actually a plus in my eyes. It’s almost admirable to see how far Nao will go to get what she wants, and it’s funny to see how far her desire for her brother goes. Shuusuke’s not holding up his end of the bargain though; dude needs to man up about his feelings. That being said, in my eyes the manga Onii-chan Control does this “equal perversion between siblings” shtick a hell of a lot better than this show does. Though I doubt that would have half as much of a chance to be animated.
Miyuki Sawashiro is a voice actress who can easily get me to take a chance on any anime she lends her voice to, even if her voice doesn’t actually say anything more than baby onomatopoeias and cries. This turns out to be the case in Beelzebub, where she voices a baby son whose father happens to be the Demon Lord. Because of the Demon Lord’s many “important” activities (on the level of someone in Tentai Senshi Sunred, if you want the best relation to it), the son is sent to Earth to be under the care of the strongest, toughest, baddest bastard person out there in order to be groomed to be a Demon Lord that will destroy humanity in the end. This special person is found to be Tatsumi Oga, the strongest delinquent in a high school of delinquents, and nicely voiced by Katsuyuki Konishi (aka Kamina). With Shizuka Itou as the baby’s demon maid caretaker Hilda, the vocal cast is enough to get me watching the show. And two episodes in, it’s the silly humor that will probably keep me watching the show, as the slapstick adventures and (undoubtedly) wacky hijinks of Oga trying to give away and ending up dealing with the future end of humanity make it an entertaining watch.
dm00: I couldn’t get through the first episode. But then, Sunred never did anything for me, either, nor Bo^8. Just not my cup of tea.
Is This a Zombie?
I have no clue why Crunchyroll decided to not localize this title and has oddly pandered to their subscribers by using “Kore wa Zombie desu ka?” for no apparent reason. Are they One Piece fans or some nonsense? Nakama, indeed. With that out of the way, Zombie opens up with the protagonist, looking like a drug addict, sent off by KOS-MOS and remarking on how “it’s such a nice day”. From that scene alone, I could tell this wasn’t going to be a serious light novel adaptation. I was rejoicing at that very second. Through the next 20~ minutes, Zombie goes through the protagonist’s daily life in which he is run over by a bus, steals a chainsaw-wielding magical girl’s power, then becomes that magical girl, complete with identical chainsaw and girly costume with panty shots. Never before has an anime shown a male character’s panties with such a straight face. I’m glad the male lead Ayumu Aikawa subscribes to the Seto no Hanayome Nagasumi brand of chill and isn’t a tired generic protagonist. He’s just some guy caught up in an extraordinary situation where he’s a zombie with magical powers. I hope Zombie can keep up the absurdist humor going because I can’t see Studio Deen’s staff doing so, honestly. Japanese humor is hardly funny much of the time as is. Speaking of Deen, this show has a washed out color palette and noticeably low detail character designs per their “signature”. Don’t let that put you off, since the first episode is worth laughing at, if nothing else. The second episode apparently has a vampire ninja. Only problem is they may not be able to stay with this pace if the world doesn’t explode by the sixth episode.
TheBigN: I’d feel better about this show if there weren’t as many unnecessary Haruna pantyshots as there were in this episode (mosou shoujo’s don’t need to be flashing that much, do they?), but as it stands, one episode in the show looks to be a fun absurd comedy. Like Link, I’m also a fan of Ayumu’s general calm among most situations, though I have to wonder if that’s a result of his zombification more than anything else. This show has the makings of hilarious home situations between Ayumu, Haruna and Yuu and their adventures defeating whoever they need to defeat. Though it also has the potential to lose favor with me depending on the type of humor they focus on. If it continues being about the silly situations that Ayumu finds himself in, then life will be great.
And I’m also a little surprised that manzo (of Genshiken fame, to me) worked on the OP and ED for the show. A pleasant surprise, I guess.
dm00: The problem with Jungle wa itsumo Hale nochi Guu was that Hale would launch into a noisy panic whenever Guu smirked. This show knows the value of deadpan, and it works wonderfully. With ninja vampires coming up, it looks like it will continue to work, at least for a while.
Dragon Crisis is yet another light novel series about yet another mysterious organization with yet another generic protagonist with yet another energetic older sister figure driving the plot along with yet another mysterious little girl voiced by Rie Kugimiya. This is nowhere near a poor effort, but haven’t I seen this same show 16 times? I feel bad for Hideyuki Kurata having to work on this with Read or Die character designer/animator friend Masashi Ishihama. I may check out the second episode to see what Ishihama and director Hideki Tachibana have in store for action scenes, though with I have very low expectations with the pilot sporting barely detailed CG cars.
dm00: It’s clear the team that worked on this series learned a good deal from their work on R.O.D. the OAV. The series starts in medias res, informs us that we’re not in Kansas anymore, layers on the action, and gives hints of conspiracies within conspiracies. Whee!
But, R.O.D. the TV had a strong first episode, too, before running out of steam (I still enjoyed the series, it just wasn’t the series I’d hoped it would be). So, a bit of a cautionary tale for Dragon Crisis, as well.
Kugimiya Rie’s rendition of Chii (or is it Elfen Lied’s Nyu?) doesn’t help (except for when she’s using her dragon powers for urban renewal). Still, I’m hoping this series will surprise me the way Asobi ni iku yo did — or at least I was. The second episode was pretty disappointing in that regard.
When I heard that David Production, the studio which produced sleeper hit Tatakau Shisho – Book of Bantorra, was adapting a Yoshihiro Togashi (Hunter x Hunter and Yu Yu Hakusho) comic, I was intrigued. My expectations were met by an old-school comedy that feels right out of the mid-90s with a deadpan alien prince and the ordinary baseball playing lead character to bounce jokes off of. There’s a light sci-fi element that keeps it bizarrely charming enough to work, similarly to how the humor plays out in other Togashi manga. This is further supported by character designs and overall visual design of the series feeling more out of Cross Game or another Mitsuru Adachi cartoon than any other standard moe series airing currently. Level E may be the only series airing this season that can’t be described by screenshots alone. I can’t even describe Level E much more without saying “go watch it”.
dm00: Another series that understands the value of deadpan.
Yutaka Yamamoto, known as Yamakan to all, can’t have it both ways. He’s been an outspoken critic of the moe-dominated anime industry which values merchandising over creativity for several years, yet he directs nothing but the same otaku-oriented series, such as Kannagi and Black Rock Shooter, that he regularly debases. Could Fractale, with popular otaku critic Hiroki Azuma, finally be Yamakan’s break from his sordid past on Fuji TV’s mainstream airing block noitaminA? Not particularly.
With this production, it feels like Yamakan again feels like he can hit up both worlds to the detriment of his audience. Fractale seems to be targeting the same otaku males that Yamakan always has. From the opening scene alone, I was puzzled on why this was airing on noitaminA, a venture that attempts to bring in women and other mainstream viewers, features a generic teenage male protagonist with no unique traits. You’d think if Yamakan and Azuma were trying to appeal to everyone, they’d pick an adult to headline Fractale from the first scene. A teenage girl would be a less stereotypical lead at that point. I’m almost thinking Azuma wrote the protagonist and future fantasy setup to resonate more with NEETs than genuine adults. On the other hand, maybe he’s poking fun at the NEET lifestyle through this work. Neither prospect helps. Either way, Azuma isn’t winning me as a follower with how insipid the dialog and same-ish setup feels. We have one mysterious teenage girl who finds the tediously grating protagonist “interesting” after he saves her, interesting in the same lifeless, predictable manner that the girls in garbage harem anime find the protagonist “nice”, then another mysterious girl coming out of nowhere at the episode’s end. The protagonist has an eye-rollingly moronic scene where has to help out the initial stock female while she’s naked. Oh, there’s the usual tired little girl who shows up to fetch our mysterious female in a “wacky” series of events. I’m less than enthused. Is this really the best Yamakan and Azuma could do or did the dollar (yen) signs light up too quickly? Does Yamakan have no talent beyond directing comedies? Worse is how Hideyuki Kurata isn’t on board as Yamakan had for Kannagi.
The animation is comparatively unassuming with much of the episode moving like most A-1 Pictures series do in that average way. I’m sure Yamakan and his staff were attempting to channel Laputa and such, yet that’s irrelevant when the result doesn’t look near Ghibli-like in the least. There’s no personality to the animation either. The ugly blimps don’t help. Hidari’s original character art, which initially looked beautifully detailed in the promotional pieces, is melded into looking near identical to Anime no Chikara’s Sora no Woto or Night Raid. There’s nothing engaging about the entire production in any area.
TheBigN: Well, Link is Link, and I am myself. So natually, I’m engaged by the premise of the world in Fractale, which initially seems like one possible offshoot of our current lives on Earth. Though it was very hard not to see Ghibli works, Nadia (which Hayao Miyazaki had the original concept for!) and YKK in the wondrous and humorous, yet peaceful main setting of the story. I definitely hope for more worldbuilding in terms of how the Fractale system developed, what the current state of technology and technological communication is in the show’s world compared with ours (though 64GB SD Cards aren’t out yet to buy in most places yet), and how people interact with that world’s new society. I have doubts that we’ll necessarily see all of that, but my general interest will probably remain piqued regardless. It doesn’t hurt that Kobayashi Yuu voices main character Clain. Coupled with nice animation and what seems like a solid soundtrack (or at least a solid opening and ending with Irish themes abounding) that’s majestic even at times when there was no need for it to be, I’m very excited about the show from the first episode.
Also because Yamakan is at the helm, and “Database Animal” Azuma (I’m probably not going to let people’s infatuation for that philosophy go for a while) involved with the project, the expectation is that the show is going to say something about fans that indulge in Japanese visual culture. And given the thorough analysis and constructive criticism from both, it will be interesting to see if they do so, and where things will go from there. I do hope Yamakan can keep on directing for a time to come, though.
dm00: This series really feels like it came out of the eighties or early nineties: so much seems cribbed from Ghibli or Nadia (or even Miyazaki’s Future Boy Conan). But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. There’s a reason we go back to those Ghibli films (though GAINAX’s Nadia is maybe more forgotten than it should be).
But there’s more going on here than just nostalgia, perhaps hinted at by the main character being named (C)Lain (see what 2DT has to say). Since Link and TBN have talked about Azuma, I will, too. It looks as though this series is taking a stance on social isolation. While those around him are content to send their avatars out into the world, Clain goes himself. This difference is what Phryne finds interesting (pay attention, Link), and it appears to be why she entrusts him with a mission.
So, the setup has an interesting bit of world-building, a bit of mystery as to the nature of Phryne and the mission she’s entrusted to Clain, and maybe a quest. That’s enough to bring me back next week, and the week after that.
Wandering Son (Hourou Musuko)
Now Wandering Son is the noitaminA series I was really waiting for. Wandering Son is Takako Shimura’s 2002 comic about two elementary school students, Shuuichi Nitori and Yoshino Takatsuki, who befriend each other through their shared struggle with gender dissociative disorder. The story is seen mainly from Shu’s viewpoint and his interactions with Takatsuki and other friends. The main crux of the manga’s first 33 chapters, its initial arc which deals with elementary school that the anime does not cover in its first episode, is the love triangle between Shu, Takatsuki, and socially awkward/abrasive Saori Chiba, who has a strange crush on the lead character. This ends with Shu confessing to Takatsuki near the end of their elementary school days and getting turned down, which is about where the TV series starts off. While I can see why this may be confusing to non-fans, considering the show starts without a frame of reference for the character interactions and relationships, AIC has only 11 episodes to work with. There likely will not be an animated follow-up to Wandering Son. In addition, the production is assuming many of its Japanese viewers have read some or much of the manga, given how it’s more than eight years old, which may not help an international audience as much. As a devotee to the franchise, I’m okay with the decision, honestly.
Wandering Son features heavily post-processed watercolor designs and backgrounds reminiscent of Sweet Blue Flowers (Aoi Hana), also of Takako Shimura fame, animated series. In this case, Wandering Son has a significantly more detailed take on the aesthetic, polished expertly by director Ei Aoki. I assume Aoki learned and honed his techniques from his work on ufotable’s Kara no Kyokai movie series. Key scenes in the first episode, such as Takatsuki indirectly breaking the ice after rejecting Shuuichi weeks earlier, accompanied by breathtaking, color-infused cherry blossoms, are a sight to be seen. That happens to be worth price of admission alone.
Complementing the visual splendor is a talented voice cast with the lead characters played by unknowns with a very sympathetic, personal style. Aki Toyosaki in a very different role for her is paired with her friend played by Saeko Chiba in the kind of genuine role she’s become famous for. Nana Mizuki gets to show off her acting chops as Shu’s sister, Maho. I’m glad Nana finally is casted where she can act for once. Yuuka Nanri, who I haven’t heard in ages and known most for her Mai-Hime and School Rumble acts, shows up as Saori.
TheBigN: This was the show that I was most waiting for this season, and I was utterly blown away at how stunning the first episode’s execution was. Granted, not everyone will marvel at how the main character’s interactions and general actions were, but they were executed in a pretty believable and nicely subdued way. The adaptation of Takako Shimura’s manga designs to the anime were some of the best that I’ve seen in a while, and the general animation of everything was excellent, and worked well with the superb soundtrack. Despite the main plot of the story being a probable turn off to a lot of people (a boy and girl struggling to come to terms with themselves and their gender/sexual identities), if someone decides not to watch the anime (or read the manga) because of that, than they would be very much mistaken. It’s not often that a topic like this (or any topic in anime, really) is handled so reasonably, realistically and maturely. This is my show that I’d say “go watch it” for, and while I don’t put a lot into a first episode, Hourou Musuko’s was thoroughly enjoyable.
As for the timeskip ahead to where we start the story, I do hope that they cover information in the previous chapters, since the backstory between all of the characters in the story contains pretty powerful stuff appearing as they grow as children to teenagers and slowly begin to make their way through life. I have no problem with where they’ve started, and it’s easy for someone who hasn’t watched the manga to get into the characters and general mood of the story. That being said, there is a lot of good stuff in the previous chapters that help lead to where we currently are at the first episode, and based on where the show seems to be going, future events wouldn’t nearly be as powerful for the viewer if they don’t get that information before hand. Though even if that does happen, those moments would still be powerful in their own rights.
dm00: I’d never heard of the manga before this series came out. It doesn’t matter. The anime is beautiful and the story makes perfect sense. Go watch it now.