Another day, another late quick impressions post. As with the impressions done last season, Link’s the main author here, and when TheBigN or dm00 post, we’ll indicate it by name and by color.
Back in 2008 when Marvel unveiled their plans for an anime venture with Madhouse, no one quite knew what to think about an odd project out of nowhere. I’ll put myself in that category. Come mid-2009 when Marvel showed trailers for the Iron Man and Wolverine series, most people were mildly intrigued, if slightly confused at Madhouse’s plans for the franchises. Takeshi Koike‘s Iron Man concept was particularly impressive. Now imagine if said trailers had a shred to do with reality. When Iron Man and Wolverine aired in fall 2010 and winter 2011 respectively, both shows were derided for comically poor, very low budget production decisions and a lack of coherent vision. They were very trashy anime and quickly forgotten by all but the most die-hard Marvel loyalists.
Almost everyone assumed X-Men would be along the same lines. What shock I received when X-Men aired and I was hearing the first episode was somehow watchable and solid to boot ? Impossible. The real surprise came when I watched that pilot and witnessed a decently written showing, faithful to the X-Men mythos, with above average production values. The X-Men superheroes act like they should for the most part and the setup is largely believable. Through four episodes, X-Men has proved to be one of the stronger series this season with striking action scenes. It could be called this season’s animation showcase. Yes, I’m not kidding. A Marvel anime with high quality animation. Episode 4 was the best to date with Hiroshi Ikehata directing a team of web-kei (an animation movement termed so from young animators with an animated GIF web background given more free reign to do their work, resulting in very different pieces) animators, including Tomoyuki Niho‘s extremely creative storyboarding. Famous Yoshiaki Kawajiri will be directing episode 5, which I’m heavily looking forward to.
Third time’s a charm, ya know.
Every season has the trashy offerings. The shows no one expects to like. Dog Days, by Nanoha‘s staff, is one such series. It makes no qualms about how the protagonist is an annoying fool or how the fantasy world’s rules make absolutely no sense. Masaki Tsuzuki has proved once again he went off the deep end after Nanoha A‘s and has no clue how to write a story. About all Dog Days brings to the table is a star-studded voice cast, akin to last season’s Wandering Son except somehow superior, featuring Sakura Tange, Norio Wakamoto, Yui Horie, Ami Koshimizu, Nana Mizuki (who sings the opening theme song), Kana Asumi, Ayana Taketatsu, and more. Keep in mind Dog Days is absolutely the last resort worth watching for voice talent, despite this. Stay far, far away.
Kyoto Animation brings us their next great 4-koma sitcom with Nichijou, bursting full of energy in its quirky, crazy characters as much Pani Poni Dash! or Azumanga Daioh. KyoAni lavishes high quality animation on comedy that hits more than it misses to make for a fairly solid formula. The jokes get somewhat too “random” at times and occasionally weaker because of it, yet not too often. Nichijou‘s best segments feature an eight-year old mad scientist only known as Hakase (Professor) and her personally built robot, Nano. Shades of Pani Poni Dash, I know. The cuteness and fluffiness of Hakase and Nano’s interactions make me grin ear to ear each time I see them. They pick up talking cat Sakamoto, who is equally one of the most amusing cast members. The too catchy opening theme is performed by ridiculously unique Nico Nico Douga/Youtube superstar, Hyadain, later revealed as a professional musician (Kenichi Maeyamada). This is Hyadain’s first pro gig under his amateur username, where he sings in both male and amusingly female voices, in his typical fashion. Pay attention to the Disney-like background music, equally a riot. It’s nearly impossible to go wrong with Nichijou.
(TheBigN): I’ve already spoken my initial piece about the Nichijou based on the first episode, and five episodes in, my impressions remain the same. The humor is still hit or miss (but mostly hit), music dissonance is still awesome, and the presentation and animation from Kyoto Animation is still lights out. As we get introduced to more characters, these moments of humor became more special, and the more docile moments, especially the ones with Nano, the professor and Sakamoto-san, are adorable. I’m hoping the show remains as entertaining as these initial episodes have.
(dm00): For me, the humor has been mostly miss, except where the professor and Nano were concerned. Sadly, with episode five, not even they were managed to be particularly entertaining. I think it’s a matter of timing. Jokes that are, in fact, quite funny, are then d-r-a-w-n o-u-t i-n-t-e-r-m-i-n-a-b-l-y (I thought that bit with the sausage in the first episode would never end — and I was watching it at 2x speed already). I may give this series another couple of episodes, or I might just drop it now.
Hanasaku Iroha is Masahiro Ando‘s, of brilliant Sword of the Stranger and disappointing Canaan fame, new original series, a coming-of-age comedy-drama focusing on the saga of Ohana Matsumae, an often too straightforward 16-year old teenage girl forced to live at her grandma’s countryside inn after her negligent mom is forced to skip town with her boyfriend’s debt problems. Ohana has to deal with her strict, traditionalist grandmother, sour roommate, shy co-worker, and others in a vibrant cast on the way to finding her place at the inn, and by extension, in life. I was initially put off by how Hanasaku Iroha seemed like a stereotypical soap opera after its pilot episode, despite the very high production values. After the second and third episodes, it was fairly obvious Ando and his staff are going for a lighter, more comedic take on a young woman’s dramatic growth, and I was more receptive. The animation quality and background design hasn’t shown to be as beautiful in successive episodes, though still above average and quite eye pleasing. I attribute this to how Masahiro Ando understands animation with his strong background. Why Canaan, a series produced with the same director and studio (P.A. Works) was such a failure in its ugly design work, the world may never know.
Hanasaku Iroha showcases rising star Kanae Ito as Ohana, in what may be her cutest role since Taisho Baseball Girls’ Koume Suzukawa. Aki Toyosaki plays an atypical shy role and makes me question my existence as Nako and Mamiko Noto in a role that feels oh so right as energetic Tomoe.
(TheBigN): THAT HERON. As Link noted, Hanasaku Iroha is a fun coming-of-age story about a somewhat headstrong girl who goes with the flow a bit too much, but has a decent head on her shoulders. While the show might not be as serious as initially expected and more contrived than people would like it to be, it is still a solid, enjoyable ride. The cast of characters play a big part of this, as the many different personalities and perpectives that Ohana deals with help make her experiences interesting, especially as most of them contrast with her viewpoints grounded in her former life in Tokyo. And there are several different plot threads presented regarding Ohana’s circumstances that keep me watching. I’m looking forward to later episodes with hopefully awesome scenes of “slice of life” and character development, as Ohana has only just started her adventures in school, along with the continuing of her learning experiences at the inn.
(dm00): I don’t have much to add. Every so often this show sends me for a loop (e.g., Ohana’s placid acceptance of potential rape in the third, idiotic-chase-scene episode), but I’ve been enjoying it, if only because of Kanae Ito’s voice. It’s very pretty to look at.
(TheBigN): The sequel to a short series (in episode count, and in minute count) consisting of what amounts to a Manzai routine between two robots in the future. The setup robot, Drossel, has had a change in her design from before, but besides that, the conversations between her and her straight man caretaker robot Gedächtnis had remained as before. The first episode hints at some changes in the routine, as more characters seem to drop by providing more opportunities for the two robots to bounce off each other. A short, fun deviation.
Kaiji Season 2
Kaiji‘s second season is more of the same, a direct continuation of the 2007 gambling series. Kaiji continues dealing with his fate, there’s tension with Fumihiko Tachiki as the determined narrator, and we root for him as a lovable loser. Madhouse knows how to animate this, long noses and all the fixings. It’ll be heavily amusing as always seeing how Kaiji gets out of this mess.
Steins;Gate is a based on another entry in the same visual novel series that features Chaos;Head, which was a miserable failure of a cartoon. Will Steins;Gate be any less terrible? Possibly. This time around White Fox animates, as opposed to the middling Madhouse/Imagin combo that brought us the awful quality of Chaos;Head, and it looks average. Average for Steins;Gate is superior and it shows in looking okay enough most of the time. From screenshots I’ve seen of the game this is based on, it loses the stylized artistic filter artist huke (creator of figure pushing mega-franchise Black Rock Shooter) to more standard, less detailed but acceptable character design work. I won’t lie. The main reason I checked out Steins;Gate was for superstar songstress Momoi Haruko’s first anime role in almost three years. She doesn’t disappoint, even if her character doesn’t show up nearly enough as of yet. Other aspects of the series do, such as the nonsensical plot that tries to integrate real life elements, such as nuclear research agency CERN, urban legend John Titor, and ancient IBM computers, into a time travel story, largely fall flat in sheer contrived nonsense. But that’s not why I’m sticking with Steins;Gate. The amusing cast and their wacky interactions is why I keep watching. Protagonist Rintaro Okabe is a nutcase and most of my enjoyment comes from him bickering with others. I have a soft spot for cute Kana Hanazawa characters like Mayuri, even though I know it’s bad for my health. Asami Imai as sexy red-haired Kurisu is a very attractive role for her. I can’t say Steins;Gate is the first, second, or fifth series I’d recommend this season, though you could do worse.
(TheBigN): Steins;Gate throws up a lot of interesting questions and concepts that keep me watching, even if the story is confusing and nonsensical at this point. What also helps are the eccentric personalities that make up the characters in the show, starting with the main character. Rintaro’s actions constantly make me wonder if his madness is just an act or if he can interact with society just fine despite his skewed viewpoint of the world. And as he remains the center of mysteries involving time travel, death, and LHC-tan, trying to figure how everything and everyone ties together is the selling point for me. To be honest, the show can just throw up more Ruka (Rintaro’s friend who’s a miko with other… aspects :3 ) for the rest of it, and I’d be fine.
The minute I saw this:
I was hooked. I’m not a figure collector, but I found myself compelled to add this figure to my modest collection. I’m wondering how long it will take to start drooping in the way PVC figures do.
The series’ muddy visual style reminds me a good deal of Boogiepop Phantom. Its vague sense of hidden conspiracy reminds me of Lain. That puts the series into excellent company, but also sets a high standard for it to meet. So far, the series is working well for me, though I keep wishing it were directed by Lain‘s Ryutaro Nakamura.
I’m amused at how easily Kurisu Makise has gotten ensnared in “Okarin’s” plans and schemes, despite their initial encounter in which she skewered him (and his ravings) in a lecture. Now it seems that Kurisu’s dialogue consists primarily of an annoyed “Nani-o?” as the prelude to yet another bizarre utterance from Rintaro.
Meanwhile, Mayuri at times seems as otherworldly as Cowboy Bebop’s Ed.
The early episodes used the time-travel element to produce a nicely disorienting effect on the audience — one that matches Rintaro’s evident disorientation. Those elements have retreated into the background in the past couple of episodes, as Rintaro and his partners focus on the clues they’ve uncovered, and the show introduces more characters.
I’m intrigued. I’m looking forward to seeing how they fit together this puzzle of a plot and this menagerie of characters.
A Channel is yet another “cute high school girls doing cute things” series based on a 4-koma running in Manga Time Kirara Carat, same magazine as K-On! and Hidamari Sketch. This is Manabu Ono and his Saki staff tackle the daunting task of animating such complex material at ex-Gonzo house Studio Gokumi. They succeed with an attractive art style, sporting somewhat super-deformed character designs. A Channel occasionally uses 3DCG in a different way than many shows do and it’s interesting. What else is there to say? This is a competent cutesy comedy. Doesn’t excel in any areas, but it doesn’t need to. I like that kind of thing when it hits the right buttons. Maybe you do too! Aoi Yuki plays the adorable, stoic Tooru. Kaori Fukuhara, back from her last major role as Saki‘s Koromo, is the oblivious moron Run. As a nice surprise, Momoko Saito, who was also in Saki as fan favorite Momo, plays a minor role. Now all I need is Kana Ueda and Ami Koshimizu. I like the catchy opening theme with decidely creative animation.
Dororon Enma-kun Meramera
Dororon Enma-kun Meramera is a remake of the classic 70s Go Nagai franchise by the legendary team of director Yoshitomo Yonetani and character designer Takahiro Kimura. Yonetani and Kimura who have previously worked on GaoGaiGar and Betterman together, among other series, so I expected great things from this outing. My expectations were exceeded by what’s a love letter to Go Nagai and then some. Meramera plays it straight, not straying far from what made Enma-kun popular back in the day, with an authentic Showa era setting, Kimura’s near perfectly faithful old-school character designs, and perverted Uncle Go humor. It truly feels this Enma-kun remake never left the 1970s, feeling just like a kid’s show from that time period. The episodes are complemented by a soundtrack from Moonriders, a 70s band in their own right, with what sounds like super robot lyrics blaring in the background at times. In addition, Moonriders works with the embodiment of manly anime power, Masaaki Endoh, on the fiery opening sequence.
The entire voice cast feels like they’re having as much fun as the viewers are, right along with Yonetani and his animation staff. Kappei Yamaguchi plays Enma with enough kiddy bravado to make anyone smile. Mamiko Noto plays Yukiko, where she feels right at home. Ayako Kawasumi plays Harumi and gets to self-tsukkomi herself regularly. I want more Meramera just writing this. This minute.
Maria Holic Alive
Maria Holic was unfunny the first time and I was hoping it might find some fresh material to work with the second time around with Alive. This wasn’t the case, and well, it isn’t worth watching again. The production values are somehow higher than I expected, the type of stylistic production I’d like SHAFT to put out consistently. But there’s nothing here. The string of “fake” opening sequences set to Tomokazu Sugita’s song full of burning passion get more creative by the week and that’s the only part of Maria Holic Alive I bother watching.
(TheBigN): I’ve only watched one episode so far, but it’s more of the same if you’ve seen the first series before. Kanako with her yuri delusions but without the guts to act on them, Mariya being a troll, and wacky adventures with the two, their friends, and God the Landlady. If anything maybe Kanako’s delusions have gotten stronger since then, but this isn’t necessarily a good thing, as the humor based on them quickly gets stale. That being said, the show’s good for a laugh or three per episode, but I’ll keep watching for the hope of better jokes and comedic timing, and the hope that Kanako finally finds someone to accept the traditional otaku pervert lead she really is.
Jewel Pet Sunshine
Since I was curious, I decided to check out the latest entry in the long-running Sanrio Jewel Pet kid’s franchise. It was a kid’s show, surely. Yeah. The stuffed animal Sanrio mascots are in the same class with the humans and are addressed as students. Their homeroom teacher is a talking pink dolphin inside a fish tank. The protagonist argues with her stuffed animal for much of the episode in the silliest ways. Aki Toyosaki plays some shy girl who befriends all the stuffed animals for no apparent reason. The character designs look like a third-rate shoujo manga. I checked out the previous Jewel Pet series for an episode, Jewel Pet Tinkle, with its notably (and oddly) otaku-friendly character designs by Nanatsuiro Drops TV designer Yukiko Ibe. I didn’t find Tinkle more watchable than Sunshine, despite my magical girl preferences, though I don’t remember it being this, uh, weird. In comparison to most children’s TV, that is. Give me more high concept original kid’s fare like Kirumin, Japan. That’s what I need.
Hen Zemi TV
(TheBigN): I first watched two OAD episodes that introduced me to Nanako Matsutaka, who was a university student enrolled in a seminar focused on “Abnormal Physiology”, which is more of a seminar on sexual deviancy. This is reflected in the fact that the professor and almost everyone else in the seminar besides Nanako turn out to be unashamedly perverted individuals, and the humor comes from Nanako’s responses to the thoughts and actions of the the others. Like Seikon no Qwaser, the show has several moments that make my jaw drop, but unlike the former, Hen Zemi also have moments that make me feel embarrassed as Nanako does, as the characters do things that I couldn’t imagine regular people even thinking of doing normally (which makes me feel like I’m not as perverted as I think I am). This continues onto the TV series as well, though the TV series is less explicit than the OAD is. The episodes are short enough and surprising to keep my interest, and with shows of this nature, I keep watching just to see where people will go next with it.
Astarotte no Omocha
Astarotte no Omocha is an adaptation of Yui Haga’s (known for her doujinshi slanted towards, uh, younger characters) Lotte no Omocha cheesecake manga with a porno premise that somehow ends up becoming a legitimately heartwarming single dad comic. I’m not kidding on that angle, though not like Lotte ends up becoming much more than cutesy pandering ultimately. Not that there’s much wrong with that. I expected nothing but a straight adaptation from Diomedea. What I received was an extremely slow, boring first two episodes. An unexpectedly tedious pair of setup episodes where I was getting sick of watching what was supposed to be a light, cute escape every week. The manga plainly wasn’t designed for Lotte to carry the series herself, which is why I’m not particularly sure why the staff went with that take. Fortunately episode 3 takes a full 180 after introducing lovable Asuha. Asuha adds a much desired burst of energy and charm to what put me to sleep a week earlier. Her interactions with Lotte and dad Naoya approach the heartful moments I like to see. Yukari Tamura’s endearing Asuha and Rie Kugimiya’s self-conscious Lotte play very well off each other, as expected.
Every man’s best friend Akiyuki Shinbo is credited as “Series Composition Cooperation”, which likely means he goes out for burgers with the staff once a week. Shinbo’s influence doesn’t show in any way, not that it makes a difference. The other surprise staff member, Okama, certainly displays his style with bright, colorful backgrounds.
The World God Only Knows II
(TheBigN): A continuation of Keima Katsuragi’s quest to complete his contract with the demon Elsie by capturing the hearts of random girls to release the souls of evil demons trapped within them in order to be left alone with his galge. The silly tone, romantic moments, “Keima being cool” moments (which tend to overlap with the romantic ones), fun metaphors, and good music remains as the show continues where it leaves off from it’s manga source. My only complaints are that by the time this season ends, we probably won’t get to some of the more fun girls of the manga later on, and that we don’t see more of Elsie fangirling over firetrucks. That stuff’s adorable.
Seikon no Qwaser II
What can I say about Qwaser‘s second outing, beyond the obvious? Like the first season, Qwaser is a brilliant terrible softcore porn series in all the right ways. It takes every fanservice trope to the silliest extremes and revels in it. With androgynous male protagonist Sasha crossdressing as a female to infiltrate an all-girl’s school, the cheese writes itself. They may as well be playing synth porn music. Hoods Entertainment has hilariously mastered the art of bad anime and it shows.
(TheBigN): More Seikon no Qwaser is not a bad thing at all. More absurd breast sucking, more overt titillation, more overt yuri undertones, more shamelessness, and more ludicrous premises. A fun watch as always.
C: The Money of Soul and Possibility Control
C is Kenji Nakamura’s new original noitaminA project, trying to be an economics iteration of Yu-Gi-Oh for adults. I was slightly hyped with Nakamura on board and a strange, promising premise. There was an bizarrely detailed background on the series’ economic principles. That deserves attention, right? Wrong. C is a deathly serious angst drama where we follow around our protagonist Kimimaro as he looks sad and pathetic in every situation. This is yet another typical example of strong premise, horrible execution. The lack of compelling content is hurt further by laughably bad production values with banal character designs out of a terrible shonen manga and cheap CG at its worst (including jarring CG backgrounds). It feels like a poor Gonzo original series, amusingly, from the writing to the unsightly CG. I don’t know how or why I lasted three episodes with how much C bores me to death. I should have quit while I was ahead.
(dm00): Unless the third episode disappoints me terribly, this is easily one of the most interesting series this season, made even better by Takahiro Sakurai’s Mephistophelean Masasaki. Sakurai (Ichi in House of Five Leaves and the Medicine Seller in Mononoke) brings just the right sinister touch to that character. Visually, it’s like the inside of a pachinko machine or cheap video game (appropriate, under the circumstances). The horned familiar that Kimimaro has acquired is an amusing character design. If the show turns into a shounen fighting show, I’ll be disappointed, but looking at this director’s past work (Kemonozume, Kuuchu Buranko, Mononoke), I’m prepared to let him develop his ideas a bit before I pass judgment.
Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae wo Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai
(TheBigN): I’m glad that this show is abbreviated as AnoHana, since it would be hard for me to remember the title even if I tried to do so. This show feels like it’s trying to hit you in the heart hard, with it’s premise of a group of childhood friends that are now teenagers who’ve grown apart following a tragic event. The current situations of some of the members (one a hikikomori high school student, one a freeter, one who’s smart but obsessed with the past) and bitter conversations between people who were formerly friends, and are hard to watch, but with the help of someone from the past, they slowly start to come together again, and probably will become better people by doing so. The show treats serious issues with gravity and realism, and as a result can tug at the heartstrings and be painful to watch, although other moments of the show can hint at random silliness that breaks the somber mood, but ultimately, I get that this show wants to tell an idea of using the past to as a learning experience for a better future. It’s a story I’m interested in continuing to watch.
Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko
Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko, better coined as Crazy Chick & Normal Dude, is SHAFT’s next light novel series after Bakemonogatari. I won’t lie and say this was a series I was particularly looking forward to. Sure, I was eagerly waiting to see how Asako Nishida‘s top-notch illustration work adapted the character designs, yet not much else. I have a low opinion of light novels as is. My low expectations helped in a way because Denpa Onna has made for a pleasant series to kick back with. Nishida’s classically detailed work makes for very cute characters, complementing their quirky personalities. I appreciate skilled design work in my SHAFT offerings after Madoka Magica‘s forgettable, unassuming character designs. While the dialog gets too verbose at times (light novel disease), the characters have enough meat to them, even if they feel somewhat contrived. The voice acting, sporting Emiri Kato and Ai Nonaka as headlines, fits like a glove to the oddities of the cast. Emiri’s Ryuuko is adorable with her incessant emoting and boundless energy. I’m feeling like the story keeps implying strong (family) drama and I hope it follows through on that. It’s going places after three episodes and that’s superior to enough shows of this type.
Still, the writing does feel like a lesser facsimile of Nisioisin’s Bakemonogatari style, though I can forgive it more now than when I first started watching. Not everything has to be the real deal.
The opening theme song backed by alternative rock group Shinsei Kamattechan, with wonderfully saccharine singing by Asuka Ogame, is fantastic, paired with simplistic, yet uniquely stylized visuals. SHAFT puts the rest of the industry on blast with their consistency in theme work.
(TheBigN): I don’t really like how Ogame’s singing the vocals in the OP, since they come off atonal, and don’t seem to fit her voice. But maybe that’s the point, since the main female protagonist, Erio, comes off as someone that doesn’t really seem to fit with how we perceive reality. It doesn’t help that when the main male protagonist, Makoto, first meets her after moving in with his aunt following his parents working elsewhere, she tells him that she’s an alien. What helps is that for the most part, other character’s responses to her are what normal people would expect them to be, from her mother trying to hide her from others who might poke fun at her expense, to Makoto being annoyed by her irrational actions and attempting to at least help her get to the bottom of things. This is while Makoto is adjusting to a new school life with other interesting girls that he meets and befriends.
What I notice is that this show tends to emphasize what people would considered as “moe” in regards to the characters actions and mannerisms (sometimes pointed out by Makoto himself), even in the case of someone who stays in a tied up futon. Maybe that’s a function of the show’s light novel source, as another function could be the dialogue which can get wordy and nonsensical (though a lot of that is due to Erio’s actions as an alien). What I also notice is more of what could be considered typical SHAFT-isms in regards to cinematography, montage, coloring, and character mannerisms, and that in itself helps keep me interested in the show. Even if I’m not completely feeling the show right now. Though Erio’s 39-year-old mom, Meme, voiced by Ai Nonaka and acting like someone who she voices would be expected to be age-wise (that is, a little childlike), is fun to watch.
(dm00): Arakawa Under the Bridge, only interesting. After three episodes, I am beginning to wonder if Erio isn’t telling the truth, and that Makoto has stumbled into an alien terrarium, full of odd-duck characters.
Ao no Exorcist
(TheBigN): I first saw the promos of this show consisting of someone who seemed angry at everything. And I wondered “why is this guy angry all the time”. Finding out that you’re the spawn of a union between Satan and a human mother while having that truth hidden for the most of his life could probably justify that anger, and that’s what we get in this show, currently serialized in a Shounen Jump. Rin Okumura is the angry protagonist in question, as his “foster” father, a powerful exorcist, reveals the truth. After a series of fortunate events, Rin decides to follow in his father’s footsteps and become an exorcist himself to beat the crap out of his birth father (which makes me go “Hell Yeah!” in response). The show has just finished up it’s introduction, and I do want to see Rin’s quest as it plays out. It helps that the voice acting, including Jun Fukuyama, Kenji Fujiwara and Hiroshi Kamiya, is solid with decent music and fun animation that merges CG nicely with the 2D animation.
What If a Female Manager of a High School Baseball Team Read Drucker’s “Management”?
Yes, I am intentionally using Moshidora‘s English title because it happens to be that hilarious. I’ve also seen the equally silly Drucker in the Dugout as an alternative take. Moshidora had the hype machine going everywhere for its unique title premise, based on a Real Novel which utilized Peter Drucker‘s writings. Could it be the next memorable drama for the ages? Not really. Moshidora is an exercise in how to frustrate the viewer in its pilot until they stop watching, assuming they are not a 50 year Japanese man or insane. Maybe that’s what the prototypical NHK Education TV show is meant to be. Intentionally duller than painting a barn. This is an extremely low budget, low effort series in almost every respect. There was certainly no care put into the scripting or presentation. The first offense is how the protagonist, Minami, (voiced by Yoko Hikasa) is literally reading the book she’s the lead character of. There’s not a single attempt to hide this by the Production I.G. staff and it makes the initial episode feel very gimmicky and cheap. At one point, the protagonist thinks to herself in internal monologue about mid-episode “Minami Kawashima came to curse her arrogant personality.” out of nowhere. Not only is this eminently lazy, it makes for a very tedious showing, where I find it extremely hard to care for the characters and their situations. When it feels like I’m slogging through mud while watching entertainment, there is a problem. The production values are similarly the lowest quality with static pans up and down characters, the most trite talking heads display possible. The most animated it ever gets is simplistic walking scenes. The character closeups look okay and on-model, though I’d be shocked if they weren’t with the budget cutting everywhere else and how ordinary the designs are. At times the existence of this show almost feels surreal while watching the episode.
There are times when I’ll jokingly say “Why was this series made?” Barring “they wanted to make money”, that’s exactly what must be asked of Moshidora. The show doesn’t offer pressing baseball drama, engaging characterization, or copious mood. Zero substance. It will put all but the most patient salaryman to sleep. With the counterproductive, dire presentation, viewers may as well read the novel. If anything I’m skeptical of the novel’s quality after this TV series and rightfully so. What is the possible point? Peter Drucker must be rolling in his grave for how misused his work is here. Where’s my next Cross Game? I want it. Now.