Category: First Impressions

Summer Preview 2012

 I’m four weeks late. FINE! But I had a crazy month and lots of content coming in video and podcasts and a few more reviews that I’m really excited to post. I only watched five shows, I think that is going to be the standard going forward. So here is my Summer Preview! I picked shows I wanted to watch and shows I saw that were excessively decisive. So, here we go! 

Sword Arts Online

  

In the year 2022 the new Virtual Reality Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying game “Sword Arts Online” is released and bought by ten thousand dedicated gamers. In a twist the game designer has turned the game into a death match where players must reach the 100th floor of the game without dying, and any attempt to leave the game will cause their death. Kirito strives to use his experience as a beta tester to stay ahead of the rest of the players and reach the end of the game. 

 I came at this show tainted by the memory of .Hack//sign but the show does a good job of building a realistic situation with the types of people who would obsess over the new release of a hard to get game. There are some beautiful little moments that, as a gamer, I appreciated. The scene where the pristine, beautiful avatars fade away replaced by what the players actually look like takes on a whole range of standard gaming tropes from the young kids to the unkempt twenty somethings. The best is the female characters who suddenly became old, balding men. It rang a little too true. 

The little interfaces that pop up, from the game menus, experience information after battles, and life bars take the audience out of the beautiful fantasy world that the characters have been placed in, which is exactly what they are designed to do. The show wants the audience to be reminded that they are in a game, and those little touches destroy the emersion of an MMO and they are a constant reminder of the show’s set up. 

 I’m worried that once the show starts it’ll devolve into standard fantasy combat but right now the setup is enough to keep me interested for a few episodes. I like the main character, the isolated, lonely gamer; and I can’t wait to see if it turns a rather monotonous sounding task; clearing 100 levels; into something exciting to watch. 

Humanity has Declined

Centuries after the decline of humanity a race of fairies is the most powerful species on Earth. They are friendly, and seem to want to help the humans as what is left of humanity struggles to survive as food becomes scare and the necessities of life are disappearing. Suddenly products from the “FairyCo” start appearing in town and the unnamed protagonist; a mediator between humans and fairies; is tasked with investigating the origin of the mysterious food.

The show works on several different levels. At the very basic level it has an “OMG CUTE” factor thanks to the adorable fairies and their obsessive nature. Beyond that, the humor gets pretty deep. There are satirical elements where the show comments on bureaucracy and human nature in a dark way considering that set up of the show sees most of the human race dead. 

The art is bright and cute, the light tone is matched by the simple designs of nature and the fairies and is contrast with the dark comedy by displacing the messy and chaotic offices of the bureaucrat. The character designs are adorable, especially of the Fairies who have a mix of creepy and adorable look to them as they don’t seem to be capable of an expression other than a massive smile. 

The episode concludes are the protagonist is starting her investigation into the FairyCo with a scene that I won’t describe here because it needs to be seen, not ruined. It sets up a third level of humor for the series; complete absurdity. 

This show is difficult to explain, a unique piece of art even among the strangest of series that have come from Japan. It’s definitely worth checking out, if for nothing else than to see how crazy the show can become with such a loose premise and writers who seem to be able to do anything they want. 

 

Kokoro Connect

Five characters with different interests come together to form a Cultural Club. Suddenly, the characters start to switch bodies through some unknown effect. 

The main problem with Kokoro Connect is that we are only just introduced to the characters before the body switching effect is introduced. So we really don’t know these characters when they start to talk about their personalities switching. Ultimately, no one character is interesting and the first episode features mostly gender related jokes. The first pair that switches has a failed romance going on between them and the second switch features the obvious joke when the male character is transferred into the female character’s body, he is suddenly shocked and enthralled by the fact he has boobs. 

 The aspect that is hard to get over is that the character designs are lifted right from K-On!, both shows feature character designer Shiromizakana except that the animation quality is a noticeable step down from the high standards of Kyoto Animation. When the characters are sitting around the club room table and idly chatting I can’t help but think that it is just a cheap way to take advantage of a built in audience looking for their next moe fix.

The show is a group of characters sitting around a table blandly talking about the weird fact that they are switching bodies. If there was some development before the body switching it might be an interesting concept, or if the concept was added to an existing show like K-On! it might work as an arc. As a standalone show? It just hasn’t built compelling enough characters to make the hook interesting. 

Tari Tari

Konatsu Miyamoto leaves the choir club after being told she won’t be able to participate in a public performance due to her struggles with stage fright. She starts her own music club and begins to recruit others; Wakana Sakai a talented singer who refuses to use her talent, Sawa Okita who is Konatsu’s best friend and obsessed with horses, Taichi Tanaka the only member of the Badminton club, and Atsuhiro Meada a transfer student from Austria. 

This is the second show in the summer season that is being compared to K-On!. This time it isn’t in aesthetics, in fact this show’s art is incredibly dull. The scenes start to blend, the colors are muted and boring, and the worst is that all the character designs are essentially identical. I had trouble keeping track of the characters because of how similar they were in appearance, even between different genders! 

The story is also bland. There are some interesting opportunity for character development, especially with Wakana Sakai, but this first episode didn’t do enough to build up any one character to the point where I’m compelled to return. The most interesting character to watch was the transfer student and that was only because his misunderstanding of Japanese customers were humorous.

Tari Tari might develop into a show worth watching. It has the buds of interesting characters and a hook to bring these characters together. This first episode does nothing to lead me to believe that they’ll take advantage of any of the potential they’ve laid out. I don’t think Tari Tari will be a bad show, but it will be a bland; average show at best. 

 

Natsuyuki Rendezvous

In order to become closer to Rokka, owner of a local flower shop, Ryosuke jumps at the opportunity to work for her part time. Finally, after six months of working for her, Ryosuke is invited upstairs to her apartment where he stumbles across a half naked man. Disheartened, Ryosuke soon learns that this isn’t Rokka’s live in boyfriend but the ghost of her late husband, Atsushi, that only he is able to see. Ryosuke is determined not to give up on her even with her dead husband desperately trying to stop him.  

I’ve watched much further than the first episode of Natsuyuki Rendezvous so I will be brief so I don’t give anything away: This is the best show of the season. I love the characters; Rokka is an adorable character with a strong determined will to succeed fueled by the loss of her husband. Ryosuke is a sweet guy who just wants to get close to Rokka and actually makes progress towards her! 

Natsuyuki Rendezvous is the most realistic romance I’ve ever seen come out of Japan. There is a scene in the first or second episode where Ryosuke confesses his love for his boss. This isn’t treated like the biggest event in these character’s lives like it would in so many high school based anime, Rokka nods and doesn’t answer; they simply go on their way to lunch and then back to work. Rokka takes her time in considering the proposition like an adult would; an adult who hasn’t dated in eight years due to a tragic loss.  

It’s refreshing to see a realistic romance anime once in a while. I’m always shocked when I do see one and I give it extra points for trying. The added layer of having Ryosuke battle against Rokka’s dead husband makes it all the more compelling. The ghost lingers around the house just as Rokka’s love for him has lingered over the years, and like her own feelings the husband is getting in the way of her moving on to a new partner. I look forward to watching how the series plays out, and how the relationship develops going forward.

 

Spring Preview 2012

It’s a solid season this spring but, unfortunately, one only has time to try out a few shows. I attempted to pick two of the big Moe shows, two of the most serious general audience shows, and two shows that just looked adorable. I hope you enjoy my previews of Dusk Maiden of Amnesia, Mysterious Girlfriend X, Japanese Folktale, Polar Bear Cafe, Kids on the Slope, and Space Brothers. Hopefully I help you decide if you want to check something good out… or help you desperately avoid something. 

Dusk Maiden of Amnesia 

The show is built around ghost stories told at a high school. Most of them involve Yuuko-san, who is rumored to have been a student who died at the school. On his first day at Seikyou Private, Teiichi Niiya meets Yuuko-san in an abandoned part of the school and agrees to join the school’s paranormal club in order to help Yuuko get her memories back.

The episode started out extremely cute with club member Momoe going over the reports of paranormal activity and while she remains oblivious to her stuff floating around her head. She seems to revere Teiichi as someone who can communicate with spirits, someone who has a connection to the dead. When Teiichi arrives he seems more nervous and flailing than anything else, he is also talking to someone who isn’t there which leads to more fun humor as Momoe thinks he can read her mind and several misunderstood statements.

The show was enjoyable up to this point, Momoe is a cute and fun character and the fact that Teiichi is constantly distracted by something that isn’t there, obviously a ghost, was the source of some great misunderstanding based humor. 

Where the show started to lose me is that after the eye catch they replay the entire first eight minutes of the episode again, except this time the audience can see and hear Yuuko. Well, that was an interesting way to introduce the character and concept to the audience but it didn’t require reusing all the footage a second time. While at first I thought it was neat, I quickly grew bored.

After they had gotten past that point it returned to being a fun show. Yuuko’s constant annoyance at her own legends are funny as well as Teiichi’s attempts to cover up her presence to Momoe and the other characters who can’t see her. However, these are jokes that will be quickly played out as the show takes a monster of the week structure. 

 Dusk Maiden of Amnesia is a cute and beautiful show but I doubt the content will be enough to keep me interested for thirteen episodes. They had to replay a long scene in the first episode twice! That doesn’t bode well for the rest of the show, even if their intentions were to do something compelling and different. I’d watch one or two more episodes, but I don’t have high expectations.

 Mysterious Girlfriend X

 

I’m not sure where to start with this show. It begins with an odd hook, where the show comes out and blatantly says that boys are constantly thinking about who will be their first sex partner. From there we’re shown the main character Akira, who is a generic anime protagonist who has no noticeable features and no noticeable flaws. That day in class a new transfer student, Mikoto, appears. She immediately gets a reputation as being odd because she sleeps during all breaks and has a massive laughing fit for no reason in the middle of class. 

 So yeah, up to this point the show is being set up to be a generic love comedy. It’s well animated and the character designs are pretty cute. It also has some interesting use of light and well directed shots. But what happens next changes everything… Akira is leaving class and notices Mikoto still sleeping so he returns and wakes her up. She has drooled on her desk and when she leaves the room he… tastes it. 

What the hell, Japan! I have grown a fairly thick skin to most of the wish fulfillment and sick fantasies that appear in Anime but this show is taking one of the strangest fetishes I’ve heard about and makes it the driving force in the show. Seriously. Akira becomes addicted to Mikoto’s saliva and has to taste it to prevent withdrawal symptoms and it is from this jumping off point that the relationship develops. I don’t know who this super niche title is meant for… I don’t know what makes the manga popular or why no one stopped the process of turning it into an anime. After watching the first scene where Akira tastes Mikoto’s drool I had instantly decided never to do a season preview again and had to talk myself into continuing to write about anime period. Thanks a lot, Japan. You came a hair short of completely crushing my favorite hobby. 

Japanese Folklore

 Japanese Folklore pretty much delivers what is advertised. Its a show about Japanese Folklore. The stories are read by an omnipotent narrator and accompanied by child friendly animation. The animation is cute and colorful, which helps the audience digest an otherwise stuffy narrative format.

The show is clearly intended to teach children classic Japanese folklore. It seems like it’ll be successful but the narrative style is just too straightforward and while it is interesting to learn about these classic works of folklore, they aren’t exactly the most engaging pieces of fiction. So while I appreciate what the show is trying to do and I enjoyed the animation I probably won’t be watching anymore, unless I get an urge to study Japanese Folklore in a quick and easy way.

Polar Bear Cafe

 Polar Bear Cafe is about a Panda who is pressured into finding a part time job my his mother. He’d rather just sit around and chew on Bamboo leaves, and unfortunately those are his only real skills. While out hunting for jobs he comes across the Polar Bear Cafe which is run by its namesake and features a colorful clientele of animals and humans. 

Polar Bear Cafe is absolutely adorable. The entire point of the show is just to activate the cute center of your brain and make the audience squee over adorable animals. There isn’t much characterization, with some minor exception in Polar Bear, and a lot of the jokes are repeated over and over but the cute animals make up for that in abundance. 

 The one setback is that a lot of the humor involves puns. Crunchyroll does a good job of subtly explaining the jokes to the audience by showing the Japanese word which works well with hearing the actor say the Japanese word. So while the jokes do go over an English audiences head, it doesn’t take much effort to understand what is going on. 

The animation style is a little strange, but not off putting. All the animals look like… animals, not overly cute anime version of animals. I think the fact I found the animals unbearably cute is proof that this choice was clearly in the best interest of the show. 

Polar Bear Cafe doesn’t have much going for it. It’s an incredibly light comedy whose main appeal is watching cute animals do things. If that sounds like it appeals to you, or you squeed at any of the screenshots there is no reason not to check this show out. 

 

Kids on the Slope

 Set in 1966 Kaoru Nishimi has moved in with relatives after his father had to leave for business. He’s been a perfect student to this point but that balance is upset when he meets Sentaro Kawabuchi. Through Sentaro he starts to gain an appreciation of Jazz.

The production values of this show are extremely high. The character designs are interesting and unique, colors are vibrant and are matched to the dialogue in the scenes almost effortlessly. What few music scenes they’ve shown so far have been amazingly animated. Characters playing musical instruments are notoriously difficult to animate and painful to watch when done poorly. The highest point of the show is the music, the music staff including Cowboy Bebop’s Yoko Kanno, and in a show about music having any aspect of the music be weak would completely cripple the credibility the show. The music is infectious, background and the music played by the characters are absolutely incredible. 

The relationship between Kaoru and Sentaro will be the obvious draw of the show. Kaoru gets nervous just by hearing about the infamous Sentaro, but when he first meets him, without knowing who it is, he shows a solid boldness as he is being driven by something that he desperately wants. Kaoru is a character that is confused, in flux. He doesn’t quite know what he wants, why he wants what he wants, or where he belongs. Sentaro is a powerful character who knows exactly what he wants, to play Jazz. The contrast, even what little there has been so far, is awesome and I can clearly see where the character arcs are going to end up during the series.  

I’m a bit concerned about the narrative, which isn’t such a big deal in a character focused series, but motivating factors behind what the characters were doing and why seemed lost. Kaoru desperately wanted to get on the roof of the school and during my viewing I was unsure why he wanted to get up there so badly, although I have been told that the show mentions that being up high is a cure for his anxiety. Also, we only get a brief look at Kaoru’s home life and the fact that his father left him with his aunt seems more like a plot device to get Kaoru in an unfamiliar setting than a fleshed out story point. I’m sure most of these issues will be solved in upcoming episodes, the fact that I’m clamoring for these details is proof that I want to know everything about these characters, I should mark that as a positive. 

Kids on the Slope is a slow, plotting character drama which has some beautiful production values, amazing soundtrack, and fantastic character work. It’s the clear winner of the season. However, just from the previous work of the creators, such as Cowboy Bebop director Shinichiro Watanabe and composer Yoko Kanno, are more than  enough to keep me interested. 

Space Brothers

 

Space Brothers is about two siblings, Mutta and Hibito, who happen upon a UFO when they were young children. In that moment they agree to attempt to become astronauts. Hibito, the younger brother, has succeed in being accepted to the new Lunar missions while Mutta finds himself unemployed and back living with his parents. 

I loved nearly everything about this show. It is a solid first episode that clearly shows the division between the two characters and what the conflicts are going to be going forward. The character designs are great, showing even more of the trend this season to step away from moe, the two brothers designs reflect their personalities and their situations in life. I found the scenes when they were kids sweet, a fantastic attempt to capture the innocence of childhood. 

 There are three things that establishes the theme of the show that I thought were well played. The first is how the show begins. The two brothers were both born during major sporting events but Mutta was born during a horrible loss and Hibito was born during a great national victory. This establishes the idea of fate and luck within the narrative. The second is the innocence of childhood. There are long scenes that show the two boys exploring the woods and recording noises of nature, the two of them honestly curious about the world. As they gaze upon the UFO they see something that is unique and special, and in that moment pledge to go into space. This innocent act is shown to the audience as a sweet act of childhood, but it leads into the final theme that is well established in this episodes. 

 The final theme is that of the elder staying ahead of the younger. A concept that is understandable because of sibling rivalry and conflict but even more so in Japan where the concept of the elder being held as revered remains important. Mutta’s defeat is all the more embarrassing because of his younger brothers success and it is this that drives him forward to picking his life back up. After falling low the simple idea of planning his goal to get to Mars rekindles his drive, forcing him back into the world. It was inspiring to watch, which is something I don’t get much from Anime. 

Space Brothers is going to be a fun character drama. It being wrapped in a Space Exploration narrative is a clear bonus for me. I look forward to watching a science fiction story anchored in realism, and that is definitely the feeling I’ve gotten from this first episode.

 

Winter Preview 2012, Part 2

The second and final part of my 2012 Winter season preview. Here I review the first episodes of Nisemonogatari, Lagrange: The Flower of Rin-ne, Another, and Ano Natsu de Matteru.

Nisemonogatari

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Picking up right where Bakemonogatari leaves off the show follows Koyomi Araragi as he deals with various supernatural phenomena. He also has to deal with his insane girlfriend, his sisters, and a cast of lovably crazy characters.

Fans of Bakemonogatari rejoice! The long awaited sequel is here. Like the original, the animation and character designs are absolutely beautiful. There is a special craftsmanship to the backgrounds in this show, probably because the majority of the show is made up of long scenes of dialogue. Due to the lack of action, the look and feel of scenes becomes extremely important. In the scene that takes up a long portion of the middle of the episode Koyomi speaks to his younger sister about life and love. The room she is in is elaborate, featuring a

Screen%2520Shot%25202012-01-17%2520at%252011.23.55%2520PM.pnglarge round couch sitting directly in the middle, a fully fledged art gallery on the left wall, and ladders arranged oddly. The camera angle shifts as they speak to highlight different parts of the scene. These backgrounds are the most beautiful part of Nisemonogatari and like Bakemonogatari I look forward to each new location that Shinbou crafts and look forward to deconstructing how they reflect the narrative.

The show is largely dialogue, but what made Bakemonogatari brilliant is that the dialogue is as compelling as the best choreographed action scenes. The banter back and forth between Koyomi and the various characters is wonderful, each character having a different flavor of banter which allows the characters to get fleshed out in an abundance of detail. It’s almost as if the tone of the show shifts depending on whom Koyomi is interacting. In the opening scene with Hitagi the show takes on a dark, desperate aura but the next scene makes the show feel like a romantic drama. Like Bakemonogatari expect these changes in tone to be constant throughout.

The unfortunate thing about Nisemonogatari is that it picks up shortly after the end of Bakemonogatari and viewers without knowledge of the pervious series will be completely lost, especially with the opening scene. I have seen Bakemonogatari but this first episode assumes a level of detail that two years has wiped from my memory. Even so I can that that with this first episode it looks like fans of Bakemonogatari may have finally gotten a worthy sequel.

Nisemonogatari is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.com

Lagrange: The Flower of Rin-ne

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Madoka is an energetic young girl dedicated to helping people with her “Jersey club” and is otherwise normal. That is until she is recruited by Lan to pilot “Vox”, a powerful robot and only defense against an invading alien force.

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The first episode of this show is simply a paint by numbers Evangelion clone except replacing Shinji with an energetic young girl. Like Shinji, Madoka is brought into a secret location because she is the only person who is capable of piloting a super secret mech that is the only defense earth has against an invading alien force, she is given no instructions prior to combat other than she just needs to “sit in the cockpit,” and she successfully activates the machine and defeats the invaders with seemingly minimal effort.

Honestly, apart from the blatant Evangelion copy and replace, the show wasn’t that bad. It has a fairly good setup with the character Lan arriving from nowhere to find Madoka. Where does Lan come from? Why is Madoka so important? These questions are left up in the air as the battle unfolds. Even the mundane pieces of the narrative have mystery attached to them, such as the reason why Madoka is the only member of her “Jersey Club” despite the fact that she seems incredibly popular. Everyone talks about her club as if it was something that shouldn’t be approached.

While watching this I had an overwhelming sensation that if I had seen this in 2002, I would have instantly fallen in love. I’ve just seen too many similar shows. This doesn’t seem like it’ll cover any new territory or offer anything new to the medium. However, the animation is vibrant and the writing and action aren’t abysmal. This may turn out to be an enjoyable watch, even if it’s a show we’ve seen countless times before.

Lagrange: The Flower of Rin-ne is currently streaming on Hulu.com

Another

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Kouichi Sasakibara transfers to a new school and can immediately feel something frightening lurking within. The feeling seems to come from Mei Misaki, a beautiful girl that no one seems to be aware of except for Kouichi. Why is he the only person able to see her and what secret is the school trying to hide?

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I love the vibe that the show gives off. The atmosphere built around the city, around the main character, and around the school is so wonderfully creepy that they put me in the mood for horror. It isn’t even blatant, it’s just a feeling in the back of your mind that something is off, something isn’t quite right about how some of these characters are acting. There is a mystery to the show, to the main character, one that even he seems ignorant of which makes unraveling the mystery all the more exciting.

I’m not that big of a horror fan, but this show has me intrigued. Trying to pin down what it is, I think it has more to do with the mystery of the show rather than any type of fear the show brought me. While the goal of horror is to scare the audience, a tactic that fails on me because my disbelief is never suspended enough for it to be effective, this show relies more on it’s creepy tone and mystery to build a compelling narrative. Japanese horror is based less on the jump scare and is more focused on creeping the audience out slowly over time until a single huge scare happens that brings the creepy feeling to a crescendo. Anyone who has seen the ring can identify with this feeling when first seeing the girl start to crawl out of the television set.

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That’s what I expect from Another. Right now the “ghost” is simply creepy, a little weird. As more is revealed about the ghost, about the students in this creepy school, and about the main character the greater the sense of dread will climb.

The one misstep of this first episode was the prologue which described the origin of the ghost and why the school is haunted. This gives the audience knowledge about what is going on before we are even introduced to the main character and it spoils a little of the mystery. I’m hoping the prologue is a clever bit of misdirection, but until that plays out I just feel it’s an information dump in a show that seems to thrive on limiting the information given to the audience.

Another is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.com

 

Ano Natsu de Matteru

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Kaito Kirishima is out testing his 8mm camera at night when something causes a massive explosion at the local dam. He is tossed viciously into the air but he wakes up the next day perfectly fine. That day a red haired transfer student, Ichika Takatsuki, shows up at school and through a series of circumstances ends up living with Kaito. Ichika is an alien and having caused the explosion, feels guilty about harming Kaito and wants nothing more but to nurture him back to health.

Screen%2520Shot%25202012-01-17%2520at%252010.22.00%2520PM.pngAnother show that doesn’t seem to want to bring anything new to the table, with the exception of the cast’s desire to make a film. That single element is compelling in that I’d want to see a well executed play with in a play that might be able to transform a rather generic concept into something interesting. I said this about “Lagrange: The Flower of Rin-ne” as well but it rings just as true for “Ano Natsu de Matteru,” I would have been super excited about this show in 2002. But now, ten years later, I’ve seen more than enough harem shows to satisfy that itch. Better harem shows! I have harem shows I want to re-watch before getting into another attempt to revolutionize the formula.

So Ichika arrives out of the sky in a sudden and impressive showing, by accident injures Kaito so that she has a deep desire to make sure that he heals properly. So what other harem shows start by a girl coming from the sky? Tenchi Muyo; the classic that may have jump started the genre; Please Teacher, Sora no Otoshimono, and Ah! My Goddess to name the ones off the top of my head! Why does anime insist on taking a single popular concept and driving it firmly into the ground?

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There is also something weirdly non-confrontational about the show. I don’t like how Kaito offers Ichika to stay with him while daydreaming, he doesn’t realize he is actually speaking with her! It’s as if the show is telling Otaku “This is how easy it is to get a woman to live with you!” It’s a vibe I strongly dislike.

I’m being overly harsh on this show just because I heard good things and was expecting something. What I got was a simple rehash of a show I’ve seen before. Granted, the animation is better and the character designs are OMG ADORABLE so much so that I will be collecting art of Ichika even if I never make it to the second episode. There are just so many of these shows out now that I don’t have the energy to care about this one. I’d rather re-watch Tenchi Muyo or Ah! My Goddess than experience a cheap imitation.

Ano Natsu de Matteru is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.com

Winter Preview 2012, Part 1

In this first part of my Winter Preview are the first impressions for Poyopoyo, Familiar of Zero F, Mouretsu Pirates, and Brave 10.

Poyopoyo

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Moe Sato finds a cat and names him Poyo because of his round shape. The episodes are short pieces about Sato’s new life with her pet.

Screen%2520Shot%25202012-01-17%2520at%25208.33.06%2520AM.pngPoyopoyo’s first episode was extremely quick and simply a set up for some of the jokes going forward. The show is about an adorable cat who is round, to the confusion of most of the cast and is really the chief gag of the series. This episode established that the cat does cat like things, and is cute while doing them.

The art is cute and fun, fitting the style of humor and the length of the episodes. The humor of the show doesn’t only come from the cat but from a bunch of quick jokes simply tossed at the audience in mass. The Father quickly became my favorite character as you watched him instantly fall in love with Poyo and suddenly put him in a role reversal as he and his daughter beg his distraught son to allow them to keep Poyo.

If you like cats there is no reason not to check out Poyopoyo. It’s three minutes an episode and streaming for free. You’ll find it cute, at the very least.

Poyopoyo is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.com

Familiar of Zero F

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Familiar Zero F is the fourth season of the “The Familiar of Zero.” Based on a series of light novels the series is about Louise who is a magician in training at Tristein Academy who has had no recorded success with magic. During a magic test she must summon a powerful Familiar but instead ends up summoning Hiraga Saito, an ordinary Japanese boy.

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I don’t have much to say about this show. I started it now knowing much about it, and definitely not knowing it was the fourth season of a long running show. What I saw didn’t impress me, and I really couldn’t follow what was going on.

It started with some boob-grab humor, which was the shows way of quickly reintroducing the characters to the audience. Again, being the fourth season of a long running show there is a lot of information left out that the audience is just supposed to know. When the characters are summoned before the Pope I really had no idea what was happening or what the importance was that they were Vord mages, which we’re told posses a legendary form of magic that everyone in the main cast just happens to have… and needs to be told about.

The villains of the show appear out of nowhere and use the boring anime joke of having the older brother look really young and the younger brother look older. They attempt to steal some unknown object from the church. A boring battle happens, and nothing much comes of it.

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Character development can be seen, barely, in the scene where the Familiar gets angry at his master because she is starstruck by the Pope. So the being that she summoned has some kind of severe inferiority complex? This isn’t character development, this is a weak attempt at humor and it fails. Love interests arguing over silly things seems to be a staple of anime comedies and I’ll never understand the appeal.

dDon’t make the same mistake I did and watch this if you haven’t seen “The Familiar of Zero” before. If you got through the other three seasons I’m sure you’ll know if you want to go forward.

Familiar of Zero F is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.com

 

Mouretsu Pirates

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Marika is a first year high school student living in the galaxy Uminoakeboshi. She suddenly finds out her father was the Captain of the Space Pirates Ship “Bentenmaru” and that she is set to inherit the ship, taking over as Captain.

Screen%2520Shot%25202012-01-17%2520at%25209.28.53%2520PM.pngThere is a lot to like about the first episode of Mouretsu Pirates. The main character is a spirited young girl who has experience piloting ships in her school’s Space Yacht club, which is far more than I expected as a base for the character, on top of her being an intelligent and driven individual. Her mother, a former space pirate, is wrapped in a ton of mystery which sets a level of intrigue to the narrative. Why did she stop being a pirate? Why never tell her daughter about her father? The rest of the cast is just as interesting, although most don’t get an adequate amount of screen time in the first episode to really get a feeling for them, other than to quickly plant a kernel of development. It was enough to realize that I desperately want to see more of them.

The fact that the pirate ship she is set to inherit is a group of Privateers given licenses by the government during the war for independence is far more interesting than just having them be a gang of thugs. Evil pirates who rape and pillage wouldn’t be a good focus for a show that seems to be setting up for a light comedy. Pirates who are good guys and plunger for heroic reasons make for a more compelling narrative without having to corrupt the main character.

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With no space combat I can’t pass judgement on the action of the show so far. Having the main character being pursued by a group who doesn’t want the pirates to exist is a good starting point and what little action there was in this episode was certainly compelling.

The one thing that irked me about the episode was the inclusion of a Maid cafe. It seemed tossed in for no other reason than to show the main character in a maid outfit. While it got worked into the narrative for more reasons than fanservice the fact that this young girl living on a distant planet in space would be working at a maid cafe seems like a lazy solution to the problem. It’s as if the creators needed to sneak something in so the show would appeal to Otaku.

Mouretsu Pirates is currently streaming on Cruncyroll.com

Brave 10

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Set during the Sengoku Period the ninja Saizou Kirigakure meets the priestess Nami Isa when she is attacked by assassins. For some unknown reason Saizou feels like he must stick with her and protect her on her journey to seek revenge for the destruction of her shrine.

Screen%2520Shot%25202012-01-17%2520at%25209.25.08%2520PM.pngThere are somethings to like about Brave 10. It’s an action show that has no identify crisis, it just wants to be a vehicle to show you action. Saizou is a tough scary guy who has powers that make him almost impossible to beat, he saves the girl who will be his love interest, and that allows him to meet up with a lord who is putting a team together in an epic Nick Fury style twist.

Unfortunately nothing is particularly original. It feels like a rehash of a dozen shows that came before from character designs to the set up. Enemies have shown themselves as generic masked Ninja characters, the settings is Sengoku Period which has served as the backdrop for countless shows, and the action wasn’t particularly compelling unless you enjoy enemies failing to take advantage of the main character after they wrap him in chains!

Screen%2520Shot%25202012-01-17%2520at%25209.26.36%2520PM.pngThe worst element of the show are the anime tropes tossed in that work to undermine the seriousness of the main character and the tone of the series otherwise. Tropes like characters eating an excessive amount and freaking out around women are tossed in as if to remind the audience that they are watching an anime.

The most confusing part of the episode is the character’s motivation for helping the girl. He seems completely determined not to help her and then suddenly he is protecting her. At the end of the episode he agrees to stay with his new lord because of some loyalty for her that doesn’t seem to exist, at least I can’t find it. The character development is more focused on driving the narrative forward rather than building interesting, fully developed characters.

If you’re an action fan or a serious fan of the Sengoku period than you might find something to like in this show. If those elements don’t appeal to you then it is a definite pass.

Brave 10 is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.com

First Impressions: Persona 4 The Animation

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Based on the Japanese role playing game of the same name, Persona 4 for is about Yu Narukami who moves to live with his uncle after his father, a former politician, is disgraced. While investigating an urban legend he nearly gets sucked into his television, but is not large enough to fit. With his new friends they enter the world on the other side of the television where Narukami can summon the powerful form called Persona.

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The show is beautiful, balancing it’s dark tone with some energetic and lively characters. The sinister narrative happens in the background of the story of Narukami learning about his new home and making new friends. I was enjoying the characters while at the same time starting to feel a creepy vibe from the murder and supernatural narratives developing slightly under the surface. The transition from one element to the next is also well done, the kids chatting about odd urban legends folds right into them becoming reality.

I was taken with one character in particular, the energetic Chie. She is a character type I always enjoy, the hyper energetic; random; and manic girl who wants nothing more than to be the main character’s friend. In classic Moe style the character is played by an actor already familiar with the role, Yui Horie, who played Minorin in Toradora. Curse you, Japan, you know just how to hit my database. The stoic Narukami and the cheerful Chie play off each other well and I look forward to seeing their relationship develop.

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Unfortunately all we have in this episode is a set up and a hook. The world inside the television is intriguing and has me wanting to see more but the audience is treated to no information about what this world is, why Narukami has power, or why monsters started chasing them. The action was good, if quick, and the design of the Persona is definitely worthy of the best JRPG designs.

An interesting premise alone doesn’t make a good show. Without knowing anything about what the story is going to be about I can’t make a judgement call. In this case that might be a good thing because I’m dying to explore the world of Persona 4 The Animation and answer the questions this first episode left open. That is what a first episode is supposed to do, after all, get you to watch Episode 2. It definitely worked on me.

First Impressions: Gundam AGE

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Flit Asuno’s mother is killed during the UE’s (Unknown Enemy) attack on space colony Ovan. Before she dies she gives her son the blueprints to the “legendary white hero” who appeared before to begin an era of peace. Seven years later Flit helped build his mother’s Mobile Suit and named it Gundam, after the hero of legend. Just as Gundam is preparing it’s final tests the colony is attacked by the UE and Flit is forced to pilot his creation.

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There are two things that I like about Gundam. The first is politics and judging from the set up to this show, which suggests youngchildren batting aliens in giant robots, I doubt we’re going to get the normal Gundam flavor of political drama. Turning Gundam into a show about a robot batting aliens goes against what Gundam is at it’s core. The original Gundam quickly transformed from a wish fulfillment action show to a thought provoking piece on war and political ideology. Gundam AGE can never be that type of show.

The second thing I like about Gundam are the mech designs. Going back to the beginning the mech designs in Gundam were always stunning, especially in Zeta Gundam where the budget had obviously been spent on perfecting those designs and making sure they looked and felt like real machines. All of Gundam AGE’s mechs are simplified designs of the original mobile suit Gundam series. It feels very reductive. In fact the entire show’s art is deformed slightly suggesting a lack of realism in tone. This isn’t my Gundam.

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My chief complaint about the show is that it lacks realism. It should be pointed out that the show is a children’s anime, this is really designed for kids eight to twelve, so lack of realism could be forgiven. Still, as someone who is looking for a compelling narrative I can’t accept that this young kid could persuade the military to build his mobile suit design, that he would be part of the team working on it, and despite being a prodigy he is ignored when he warns of the coming attack. The entire build up of the show requires a suspension of disbelieve that I wasn’t prepared to accept. They’re common tropes and exist only to set the main character at a time and place where he can become a hero.

I believe the goal of this series is to get young people interested in the larger Gundam universe. This series is obviously not designed for a current Gundam fan and obviously not aimed at one in their mid twenties. Sunrise might have a fun children’s adventure story with a good amount of dark elements brewing here. However, I certainly can’t say it’s worth watching above almost any other Gundam series.

First Impressions: Ben-to

 

 

Saito goes to a boarding school that supplies only one meal a day and due to his tight budget he can barely afford to eat. Attempting to take advantage of some half-price Bento boxes he gets attacked and blacks out. It turns out the super market erupts into a brawl when the half price stickers hit the bento boxes. The fight is dominated by the Ice Witch, who always seems to come out on top. Saito befriends timid Oshiroi and they go to the brawls together until The Ice Witch takes pity on Saito and invites him to join the Half Price food lovers club.

shot0002.pngThe only thing that stands out in this show is the concept. Having to fight over getting half-priced Bento and it being loosely organized by the participants is a fantastic basis for a show. Unfortunately everything around the show is average. The animation is average, all the character designs are typical generic Moe, and the music is forgettable.

However the structure of the episode does carry all these shortfalls through. It’s built in a way to reveal of the shows concept. It starts off with Saito blacking out and he has to figure out what happened the night before that caused it. In the course of attempting to figure it out he jumps at some half priced Bento and suddenly remembers what happened. The next time Saito returns we’re treated a brawl in it’s entirety which features some interesting camera work, mostly for fan service, and are quickly introduced to a group of characters have some serious potential to be interesting. The Ice Queen herself is a mystery, she seems like a typical unsociable, quiet type modeled after Yuki Nagato but even that hasn’t been established yet.

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While the production of Ben-to is middle of the road all the way through this first episode was fun. Now that the reveal is over and the show has to fall back on its characters, I doubt it’ll decide to fall back on its action, it’s a mystery. There was pretty much zero characterization in the first episode so it seems that Ben-to has probably been cutoff at the knees before it had a chance. Definitely want to see where they go with this concept but my hopes aren’t high.