Ashita no Anime

Anime of Tomorrow

Monthly Archives: January 2012

Ben-to (review)

Final impression – quirky fun with a touch of gallantry (7/10)

Autumn 2011 (12 episodes) (title literal translation – Boxed-Lunch)

When you’re going to high school and money is tight, you learn to shop for bargains on food.  Late in the day at the supermarkets, the boxed meals—Japanese bento—get marked down to half price.  This is when the bargain hunters come out to battle each other for the best deals on the day’s dinner.  Called “Wolves,” they go all out in a free-for-all battle royale of punches and kicks to claim their prize and newcomers like Satou are given no quarter—it’s sink or swim for anyone who steps into the ring.  But a cheap meal isn’t the only motivation for the newbie protagonist.  He admires the beautiful Sen Yarizui whose skill as a wolf has earned her the title of “Ice Witch.”  Upon further investigation he finds that Yarizui is a grade above him at his school and in order to get closer to her, he joins the “Half-Pricer’s Club,” which she is the president.  Little does he know he’s gotten involved in a warrior’s adventure that’s going to teach him the value of upholding chivalry even in the most adverse circumstances.

The flow of Ben-to feels pretty good for the most part.  But this anime’s main selling point is its freshness.  Fighting anime of all kinds come and go without any unique attributes to set them apart from the crowd.  Ben-to stands out by doing things its own way and not caving to established norms.  That’s not to say that this anime made very good choices in its effort to be itself—particularly in the pool episode—but the fact that it tried its best is something to take note of when you look at the big picture.  Another noteworthy facet of Ben-to and nearly all anime of the entire fall 2011 season is the depiction of Satou as a strong, but down-to-earth young man when it comes to his interactions with girls.  I’ve grown tired of the male protagonist who has absolutely no backbone when it comes to women.  All the same, I’m not sure if Satou qualifies as being a favorable exception to that overused male character attribute.  On one hand he’s usually just caught in compromising situations from which there is no favorable escape.  On the other hand, despite is more chivalrous side, he never has the presence of mind to find a way to simply avoid those dilemmas in the first place.  So aside from its slightly ecchi side, Ben-to was a lot of fun.

Anime of the Week 1/22 – 1/28

Anime of the Week – Another
The art is immersive and the story has deliciously calculated pacing. With an amazing combination of mystery and suspense, Another is keeping me keeping me hungry for more.
January 23 Mirai Nikki Ep. 13 What is going on? This is all very exciting, but I was under the impression Yukiteru and Yuno were in the clear by now.
Mirai Nikki Ep. 14 Who are these new adversaries? They’re a team, but what are their motives? In a survival game there’s only one winner.
Daily Lives of High School Boys Ep. 1 Final impression – a guy’s anime for sure (5/10) http://wp.me/p1Gaby-gG
January 24 Another Ep. 2 I hate these kinds of shallow cliffhangers. There’s just no purpose for them other than to get you to watch the next episode.
Another Ep. 3 I see a web of bonds and painful pasts coming together to form a big picture, but I can’t imagine what it will turn out to be.
Listen to Me, Girls. I Am Your Father! Ep. 1 Final impression – scattered and uncoordinated (3/10) http://wp.me/p1Gaby-gM
January 26 Ano Natsu Ep. 3 Oh the unfortunate misunderstandings and the wild imaginations. Where would we be if everyone stopped assuming?
The iDOLM@STER Ep. 25 A nice, generic ending to get everything wrapped up with no loose ends. Nothing special, but I’m not complaining.
Persona 4 Ep. 14 Yuu’s summer vacation has ended. I was worried the down time in P4 wouldn’t be given good service. I’m glad I was wrong.
January 27 Guilty Crown Ep. 14 This episode’s ending was a little awkward, but I like how everyone keeps finding smart solutions to their predicament.
January 28 Inu x Boku Ep. 3 I’m not sure about the pacing of the fast turn around of emotions, but I’m pleased to see a sense of responsibility.

*You could have read these tweets in real time as I updated my status by following me on Twitter.

C3 Cube x Cursed x Curious (review)

Final impression – spectacularly human (9/10)

Autumn 2011 (12 episodes) (alternate titles – C^3 – C Cubed)

When Haruaki received a mysterious package from his father, he should have guessed it might turn into a girl.  Fear-in-Cube is a cursed torture device that has accumulated centuries of hate and death, allowing her to manifest as an intelligent being in her own right.  She was sent to live with Haruaki so that she might escape the cruel destiny that has compounded into the misery of her existence.  But that’s not going to be easy when the slightest trigger of violence can send her into a blood frenzy of flying guillotines.  On top that, she’s the target of underground organizations of all colors.  Some see her as an abomination to be destroyed while other seek out the power she possesses to use for their own misdeeds.  Either way, she’s going to have to depend on wise-beyond-his-years Haruaki to make sure she stays true on her path to rehabilitation.

When I started to brainstorm for my review for C3, my first instinct was to start with something defensive that made an effort to excuse some kind of shortcoming.  But then I realized that the brilliant composition of this anime needs no excuses to protect it from simple-minded twits who only want to focus on perceived shallowness when all they’re really seeing is the reflection of their own bias on the surface of a vast, deep ocean.  And C3 is splendidly deep.  It is a story about the human qualities of our tools—the extensions of ourselves we create in order to enhance ourselves to either our benefit or our detriment.  When we use a tool long enough we often start to apply human characteristics and personality to it as it becomes an augment of our bodies; even taking on a share of our own souls. Thus are our tools extensions of our own creative or destructive tendencies.

Yukari Tamura gives a sparkling performance as C3's heroine, Fear.

The theme of C3 is societal responsibility—we must clean up our own messes as well as the messes that happen to cross our paths rather than pass the blame or hope someone else picks up the slack.  It’s an uplifting triumph of chivalry and of people who genuinely wish to make the world a better place. Additionally, Haruaki is one of my favorite male characters in recent anime because he’s not perverted, introverted, spineless or shy around women.  The overused trope of the weak male lead finally gets tossed out and that makes me incredibly happy. Given this anime’s style, I could very easily have seen it devolve into some ecchi harem show like Mayo Chiki or Boku wa Tomodachi.  But C3 decidedly stays away from that territory and keeps things classy, even avoiding an obligatory swimsuit or onsen episode that populate so many anime that seem to lose their creative sparks halfway through.

Listen to Me, Girls. I Am Your Father! Ep. 1

Final impression – scattered and uncoordinated (3/10)

Winter 2012 (12 episodes) (Japanese title – Papa no Iukoto wo Kikinasai!) (title literal translation – Listen to Papa!) (more info)

I don’t have any idea what this anime is supposed to be about.  Themes, clichés and subtext fly in from every direction and add to a mishmash of confusion.  Is it just a story about an unlucky college student, a spunky love interest teasing his sexual preferences or his quirky niece who has daddy issues?  There’s really no reason all of these themes couldn’t flow seamlessly into one another or even become mixed into the characters as their personalities become more developed.  But Listen to Papa! seems to only be able to do one theme at a time and the transitions from one idea to another feel really unnatural.  There’s a lot of unestablished history that we’re just expected to accept without explanation.  A much more gradual introduction would have really helped the process of getting to know everyone satisfactorily.  But probably the biggest niggling detail about Listen to Papa! is its nonsensical title.  It’s very clear that the male lead has no children and all of the young girls are his nieces.  This gets even more poignant when you take into consideration the subtitle, Listen to me Girls, I’m your Father!.  A better title would have been, “Listen to Uncle.”  But no matter what you call it, this is just a poorly constructed anime right down to its most basic foundations.

Daily Lives of High School Boys Ep. 1

Final impression – a guy’s anime for sure (5/10)

Winter 2012 (12 episodes) (Japanese title – Danshi Koukousei no Nichijou) (more info)

The Daily Lives of High School Boys is not a flattering depiction of males.  Not all men are wolves jealously guarding the familiar safety of their pack from the encroachment of femininity.  The idea of “men must band together to protect each other from the poison of women” creates an overarching concept that is an interesting twist on how you might write an anime about a group of unrefined, young guys as opposed to an assortment of cute, moe girls.  But with all this talk about how High School Boys emphasizes men, it’s not exclusionary to women.  In fact, I particularly like the portrayal of the girls because there’s some really fun personalities among them and the awkwardness of the boys’ youth is reflected in way they act towards the opposite gender.  It transcends the usual dry stereotype of male-female relationships where the girl is always a possible love interest.  The flow of well-constructed guy jokes does a really good job of making light of some of the aspects of the psyche of young men and puts a few new twists on classic pranks teenage boys play on each other the world over.  I was ok with the anime until the last story arc devolved into toilet humor, at which point I decided I wouldn’t be watching any more.  I try to avoid being indecisive in my reviews and give an honest opinion one way or the other, but this time I’ll say that a lot of people would probably enjoy High School Boys.  It’s just not for me.

Anime of the Week 1/15 – 1/21

Anime of the Week – Guilty Crown
The second half has started and Guilty Crown continues to balance action with deeply moving themes and fresh ideas that keep you on the edge of your seat waiting for more.
January 15 Shana III Ep. 14 This anime is showing some brilliant moments that cut to the heart of story and overturn everything that came before.
January 16 Ano Natsu de Matteru Ep. 1 Initial impression – an interesting story that deserves a closer look http://wp.me/p1Gaby-fT
January 17 Mashiro-iro Ep. 7 Inui gets a little arc to herself. I’m not fond of these kinds of tsundere characters that have way too much attitude.
Nisemonogatari Ep. 1 Initial impression – if you haven’t seen Bakemonogatari, go watch it so you can enjoy its sequel http://wp.me/p1Gaby-fY
Mashiro-iro Ep. 8 I’m not sure where the story is going. It’s all very sweet, but I’d prefer a more romantic tone done in this style.
January 18 Rinne no Lagrange Ep. 1 Initial impression – natural enthusiasm http://wp.me/p1Gaby-g8
Ano Natsu Ep. 2 I like the route this anime is taking by putting a fresh spin on the homeless girl coming to live with the nice protagonist.
January 19 Rinne Ep. 2 Like so many metaphysical mecha that have come before it, the Vox Aura is piloted by emotion more than mechanical input.
Mouretsu Pirates Ep. 1 Final impression – plot holes big enough to fly a spaceship through (3/10) http://wp.me/p1Gaby-gi
January 20 Guilty Crown Ep. 13 Wow. The situation was rough but now what? I like how the plot continues to transform in ways that I can never foresee.
Inu x Boku SS Ep. 1 Initial impression – a dynamic duo of attitude and gallantry http://wp.me/p1Gaby-gm
Inu x Boku Ep. 2 This is an intriguing turn of events. There’s still nothing very meaty about this anime’s plot, but that’s ok for now.
January 21 High School DxD Ep. 1 Initial impression – Succeeding at being bad http://wp.me/p1Gaby-gt
High School DxD Ep. 2 Their prejudices are right, but it really bothers me how the girls in Issei’s school openly call him a pervert.
The iDOLM@STER Ep. 20 Overcoming a difficult moment and pouring healing feelings into a fabulous song made this an awesome episode.
The iDOLM@STER Ep. 21 So it turns out Kotori had a little idol in her, too. What challenges still await the girls of 765 pro?
The iDOLM@STER Ep. 22 As Christmas specials go, this one was just ok. It’s nice to see everyone happy, but there’s no pressure anymore.
The iDOLM@STER Ep. 23 Oh my that was quite a shock. Seeing how everyone copes with this shakeup is going to make a dynamic ending.
The iDOLM@STER Ep. 24 Success can do funny things to friends when they’re working at different paces. But the girls are staying together.

*You could have read these tweets in real time as I updated my status by following me on Twitter.

High School DxD Ep. 1

Initial impression – succeeding at being bad

Winter 2012 (12 episodes) (more info)

The first thing you need to know about High School DxD?  It’s very ecchi.  So if ecchi isn’t your style you can stop here and go read one of my other reviews.  Oh?  You’re still interested?  Well then, if you’re going to pick an ecchi anime you can certainly do much worse than High School DxD.  Most ecchi anime stick with relatively tame panty shots or clever angles to hide the best parts; in this anime, fully exposed, bouncy boobs are fair game.  The drawing style looks amateaurish with lens flares cheaply used to censor the best parts below the waist and that choice somehow fits with the spirit of immaturity that permeates this anime.  It’s seriously lacking in plot substance, but it’s paced quite well and leaves enough of itself open to keep things entertaining.  High School DxD is an ecchi anime where it’s just sort of nice to relax and drink in all of the eye candy constructed around a simple story.  That’s not praise, so much as a begrudging nod that High School DxD knows what it wants to accomplish and it’s doing it well.  I’ll say that if you’re looking for an ecchi anime that knows how to be entertaining without being too stupid then High School DxD might deserve to be given a chance.

Inu x Boku SS Ep. 1

Initial impression – a dynamic duo of attitude and gallantry

Winter 2012 (12 episodes) (title literal translation – Fox x Me Secret Service) (more info)

The heroine of Inu x Boku SS is a rotten little bourgeois girl who succeeds at keeping everyone at a distance through a carefully constructed concoction of insults and icy glares.  She desires independence from her cloistered family environment and is allowed to move into a fabulous apartment on the condition that she’s accompanied at all times by a private secret service.  But what kind of man would her parents hire as a bodyguard who could handle her abusive nature? Well, he’d have to be devoid of pride, a master at twisting negative emotions and possessing abundant kindness and loyalty.  And that is the masterfully crafted relationship between Riricho and her bodyguard Soushi.  She degrades him; he spins her words into kindness.  She avoids him; he’s there for her when she least expects it and already I can see his gentle demeanor beginning to soften Riricho’s armor-like superiority complex.  But given her social status and her family’s wealth, she couldn’t just be living in any old swanky apartment, nor would you expect Soushi to be your average bodyguard. A surprising twist of fate links their pasts in a way that just might transform both of them in a brilliant dance of opposing personalities.

Mouretsu Pirates Ep. 1

Final impression – plot holes big enough to fly a spaceship through (3/10)

Winter 2012 to Spring 2012 (26 episodes) (English title – Bodacious Space Pirates) (more info)

Despite Mouretsu Pirates‘ female protagonist, the overall tone of the anime from its drawing style, character design, subject material and right down to the way it composes its story is decidedly shounen.  After that, it’s all one incomprehensible turn of events after another.  The main character is just a normal high school girl living in some nondescript corner of the galaxy when one day she finds out she’s the daughter of a powerful pirate and his crew is here to accept her as their new captain… Hold on, isn’t the right of succession for pirates be determined by rank and not inheritance? That would naturally mean that after the captain’s death, command of the spaceship would go to his first mate, right?  If I was a pirate I would want to follow the orders of a commander that knows how to be a leader, not his clueless, uninitiated daughter.  Then we are expected to believe that pirates X,000 years in the future will still be wearing clothes from the 16th century.  It’s these kinds of silly stylistic choices that can make an otherwise decent story so unnatural that it becomes impossible to take it seriously, even in jest.  Mouretsu also abuses the overused plot device of having the shady stranger conveniently become the homeroom teacher in order to keep an eye on things.  It then begins to foreshadow that her classmates are going to become entangled in the unlikely roles of piracy.  Seriously?  This is the best recruiting strategy a group of accomplished space pirates can come up with?  Don’t mistake me for some unimaginative realist who can’t tolerate some stylistic randomness for the sake of having fun.  But when it reaches levels of disconnect that start affecting the setting’s credibility, it’s just a bunch of poorly constructed nonsense.

Rinne no Lagrange Ep. 1

Initial impression – natural enthusiasm

Winter 2012 (12 episodes) (title literal translation – Lagrange of Endless Rebirth) (English title - Lagrange: The Flower of Rin-ne) (more info)

Rinne no Lagrange is an anime with a lot of positive energy.  There’s a distinct theme that it’s good to help people simply for its own sake.  I’m sensing a lot of déjà vu since the main character’s name is Madoka.  I wonder if “Madoka” is becoming a name that’s synonymous with girls who will save the world.  Interestingly, Madoka’s older cousin is leery of her younger relative’s overly chipper attitude, signaling that there’s something going on behind the scenes.  I like this pacing because it gives a nice amount of foreshadowing without revealing too much about what’s really going on.  Whether this backstory is well-written remains to be seen.  Madoka’s first steps into her robot remind me of Shinji Ikari—go sit in the cockpit and wing it; by the way you’ll be fighting another robot and you could die.  She starts her unreasonable task with the same bewildered confusion as Shinji.  But Madoka at least manages to complete her mission with slightly more grace and with a much more positive attitude.  And that’s the story of the atmosphere that permeates Rinne.  It’s an overflowing amount of positive emotions and can-do spirit that Madoka exudes in her daily life.  She just wants to help people and challenge herself in order to be certain she’s fully capable of any task necessary of her.  But what’s most distinct about Rinne is that Madoka has the right personality to be normal and believable.  She isn’t arrogant in her abilities or overly humble to the point of lacking self preservation, but feels like a “natural hero,” who is likeable and easy to support.

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