Monthly Archives: October 2011
Final impression – plotless (3/10)
Autumn 2011 (12 episodes) (Japanese title – Maji de Watashi ni Koi Shinasai!) (more info)
At Kawakami High School disputes between classes are resolved with grandiose battles. It reminds me of those two combat episodes of School Rumble. You know…the one where they did the cavalry game at the sports festival and the one where they fought with air rifles. Then add a touch of the Olympic combat of Dog Days and you’ve got the less than mediocre Majikoi. The first episode just drops the viewer right into the middle of a battle with no setup or reason to care who wins. The course of the fight wasn’t even constructed with any kind of development besides some contrived epic mercenaries who were there for no other reason than for the underdogs to win against the atypical, cocky top seed. It’s a thinly veiled, juvenile sports story that’s been done a million times and Majikoi does nothing to revolutionize the trope. Since I can’t tell what else this anime is about, I’m completely uninterested. It makes absolutely no room for plot development and if this first episode can’t construct the most basic elements of a story I have no hope for the future.
Initial impression – subtly beckoning
Autumn 2011 to winter 2012 (26 episodes) (title literal translation – Future Diary) (more info)
What would you do if you were given a diary that tells the future? Well, if Yukiteru is anything to go by, you’d use it as a cheat sheet to get all the answers correct on your tests. But other people would surely use their future diaries for more nefarious ends. These characters include a killer who uses the info to track down his victims and Yukiteru’s female stalker Yuno, who uses hers to keep tabs on his daily life. But underlying all the shenanigans the character’s future diaries allow them to do they’ve just been entered into a game by Deus Ex Machina, the god of time. This game pits the players against each other in a survivor-style, winner-takes-all contest with the reward being nothing less than Deus’s throne. Given the diverse cast that’s been hinted at, there are definitely going to be many different paths intertwined in an attempt to achieve the prize. It’s really compelling and keeps you invested in the events, especially when Yukiteru becomes god’s chosen favorite after cheating his foretold death. How will he end up using this incredibly versatile power? Will it corrupt him or can he turn it into a tool to help people? And how will Yuno play into the proceedings when the winner must off all the other competitors to become the heir to the god of time? Mirai Nikki presents itself terrifically in the first episode with good pacing that keeps you on the edge of your seat and leaves you wanting more.
Final impression – a disgusting imitation (2/10)
Autumn 2011 (11 episodes) (more info)
UN-GO wants to be Code Geass so bad I could puke. Everything from its art style, to the needlessly complicated plot and the characters’ murky motives and personalities just oozes of the worst of Geass. But if all those details didn’t make it obvious enough which anime they were trying to parody, the crown jewel of this blatant rip-off is the character Inga—who uses eye-magic to compel people to do things against their will. From there it gets worse, which I didn’t think was even possible at this point. The plot is one of those poorly constructed detective stories that forgets the key point to making a good mystery is to give the viewers enough clues to let them try and figure out the answer on their own before the big reveal at the end. Instead, it keeps all the little details to itself in a maddening attempt to inflate the legendary genius of the main characters. Just as Horizon got an undeserved privileged spot on ANN’s autumn preview list, UN-GO is another fine example of a horrible product that managed to get a good marketing team. I’m disappointed in you Bones; you can do better than this.
Initial impression – a revival done right
Autumn 2011 to winter 2012 (21 episodes) (Japanese title – Last Exile – Ginyoku no Fam) (more info)
I remember Last Exile as one of my first forays into the steampunk genre. I really like the concept of these romanticized, alternate-history / alternate-technology settings. It’s always interesting to see how people might cope in a world that’s drastically different from our own. However, I do remember thinking the plot of the original Last Exile was unnecessarily convoluted and messy for what it was trying to accomplish. Also, the tone of the characters was either way too serious or way too ordinary. Seeing that Last Exile – Fam has abandoned the old cast (with the lone curiosity of Dio) but kept the old setting makes me hopeful that Fam might actually be better than the original. And early indications are backing up that hope. Characters are much more motivated, focused and driven and there’s a more lighthearted tone than the first season. These big changes are great, add a lot of energy and I can’t wait to see how the story unfolds from here.
Final impression – different, but not different enough (5/10)
Autumn 2011 (13 episodes) (more info)
Kimi to Boku is a school drama about a group of childhood friends who have become high school students and are now relying on their shared pasts and camaraderie to enjoy their youth and shape the adults they are going to become. This sort of description would typically characterize a moe anime with an all-female cast, but that’s where you’d be wrong. It is refreshing to have an entirely male cast in a scenario that most people would shove into a trope that gets done way too often. However, what’s most pleasing is that this gender reversal actually works to create something that is a moderate success. As many good things it has going for it, Kimi to Boku is one of those pleasant anime with some fun moments that gave me a good chuckle, but I just can’t see it becoming anything particularly interesting.
I don’t recall it having always been this way, but J.C. Staff has really been cranking out anime over the past few years. Seemingly, about two anime each season now. And the more this pattern has increased, the more it feels like they’re sacrificing quality for quantity. They still put out good stuff like Kamisama no Memochou, but the trend seems to be leaning more towards average stuff like Kimi to Boku.
Initial impression – a quiet little drama
Autumn 2011 (12 episodes) (title literal translation – Pure White Symphony) (more info)
Mashiro-iro Symphony is this season’s h-game turned anime and early indications are good. The art style mirrors Akane Iro ni Somaru Saka (the two anime have the same character designer) while the writing style goes with an Ai Yori Aoshi atmosphere that glows with a kind of innocent sincerity. The setting then takes inspiration from the premise for Kaichou wa Maid-sama except with a gender role reversal; having young men integrating into an all-girls school—rather than the other way around. It’s not a bad flavor and I’m interested in seeing how it develops. The plot doesn’t seem to be rushing anything, which is either a sign of future stagnation or good pacing—only time will tell how that turns out. Another point Mashiro has going in its favor is how it introduces the lead heroine without being too in-your-face about it. If Mashiro continues with this trend in future episodes, I see potential for a decent series.
Final impression – empty nothing (3/10)
Autumn 2011 (12 episodes) (title literal translation – Fleeting Moments – Some Time Ago) (more info)
Tamayura – Hitotose has one of the worst art styles I’ve seen since Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt but for completely different reasons. There is so little depth to the visuals it looks like it was drawn back in the mid 90s and I expected the aspect ratio to revert back to 4:3 at any second. The plot isn’t much better—just a story about a girl moving from the city to the countryside and the difficulties of that transition. She even has time to say goodbye to her friends and properly prepare with her family for the move. It’s simple, ordinary and uninteresting. Horizon on the Middle of Nowhere has a more exciting plot and I’m not even sure what Horizon’s plot is. I can see the creators were going for a nice, quiet anime devoid of garishness, but that also means it’s lacking anything to punctuate its neutrality. I feel that writing this review about Tamayura was more exciting. It is the most boring anime I’ve had the displeasure of watching one episode of in a long time.
Initial impression – so weird it’s good
Autumn 2011 (12 episodes) (title literal translation – Boxed Lunch) (more info)
Every once in a while I stumble upon an anime with a completely absurd premise that manages to surprise me with the quality of its presentation. Sometimes an anime needs a little bit of quirkiness in order to make the overall concept really pop in a way that can catch your interest and hold it for the duration of the series. Ben-to shows signs of being one of those types of anime. It’s a super-fighting anime at heart, which would have no chance of grabbing my attention. But the characters are fighting over boxed lunches (bentos for those who speak Japanese) and that’s funny without being too stupid. Throw in some girls that are easy on the eyes, but stay away from flagrant ecchi and you’ve got Ben-to. I’m looking forward to seeing how this wacky series unfolds.
Final impression – interesting premise, uninteresting characters (4/10)
Autumn 2011 to winter 2012 (25 episodes) (title literal translation – Chihaya Swoop) (more info)
Chihaya Furu has a familiar feeling to it. It reminds me of a lighthearted Shion no Ou—a story of a group of friends brought together by their passion for a game. But unlike a sports anime, the focus is on the people and not on the sport, which is where most sports anime go wrong. Nobody has any obscure superpowers nor is there any banter analyzing boring technique. However, the game that’s bringing them together is karuta. For those of you not in the know, it’s a game where cards are placed on a table in front of you and as an announcer calls cues, you have to slap your hand down on the correct card the fastest. As the characters themselves comment, it’s not well known outside of Japan. So Chihaya Furu puts a very interesting spin on this idea of being the best in the world at something that isn’t very popular. It’s a cool concept, but I’m not convinced the characters have any lasting appeal, even though I’ve only watched one episode. This may be an anime I might revisit in the future, but for now there’s other titles I’d rather be watching.
Initial impression – powerful
Autumn 2011 to winter 2012 (22 episodes) (more info)
Right away, the first thing Guilty Crown presents to its viewers with a wonderful music masterpiece. I have not heard anime music this good since Angel Beats! ended. After that, the rest of the first episode is followed up by just enough background to give me a sense of the setting. Then, the lead hero is introduced as a believable, relatable high school student. It finishes with an action sequence that doesn’t hog the spotlight when compared to Guilty Crown’s other cool elements and injects enough intrigue into the plot to leave me salivating for more. The balance of focus in just this one episode leads me to believe that this is going to be the-must-watch anime for autumn 2011. Or at the very least, I’m seeing some serious potential for this competitor to give Fate/Zero a run for its money.