Category Archives: Comedy
Summer 2012 (12 episodes) (title literal translation – Love, Election and Chocolate)
When the food research club finds out that it’s going to be shut down amid sweeping reforms and budget cuts, they resolve to protect it at any cost.
Out of the many, many high school romance comedies I’ve watched, the student council is a frequently recurring plot element. Usually they just sit on the sidelines to be used when necessary, but occasionally they happen to be the primary antagonist or sometimes the entire story is centered around the activities of the student council.
However, I’ve never seen an anime where the entire central premise was about the student council election and that’s the primary way in which KoiChoco distinguishes itself. All the drama and underhanded dealings that are associated with real elections get played up in one unexpected development after another and protagonist Oojima constantly faces the dilemma of getting himself dirty, caving to the advice of his campaign advisor or sticking to his morals and hoping his good-natured intentions don’t backfire.
It does well, but there’s more than a few instances where KoiChoco feels like it’s trying way too hard. Chisato in particular is wearing a pretty big “childhood friend character,” sign and all five potential love interests of this anime based on a dating sim have some overly gnarly wounds in their backstories. But for the most part the story knows when to be lighthearted and when to be serious to create the right amount of tension and even enough misdirection to keep things unpredictably interesting—even going as far as to occasionally poke fun at its own genre.
With a good cast of voice actors, a fitting soundtrack, a couple of fresh ideas and a nice balance of playfulness and sincerity, KoiChoco is one of the better representatives of romantic comedies. And of course, any series that makes a reference to Madoka is cool by me.
Winter 2013 (12 episodes) (more info) (title literal translation – Sasami at Not Doing My Best)
Going into Sasami-san, I expected that I would enjoy it a lot more than I did. It’s a nice-looking Shaft anime with a trippy premise and the cast includes Chiwa Saito and Kana Hanazawa, two of my favorite voice actresses. So finding myself in the position of not liking it has me somewhat perplexed. The only reason for this I can think of is that this anime wants to be a psychological comedy in the vein of Bakemonogatari, but unfortunately is being let down by the problem of not having a plot. I can’t find any motivating force behind the actions of these weird characters and that wouldn’t be an issue if Sasami-san had the same quality of dialogue that graces Nishio Ishin’s works. Wandering aimlessly isn’t the best setup for this kind of anime unless there’s an overarching theme that ties it all together and because there’s so many other anime right now that are put together much more cohesively, I’m going to have to let this one go.
Winter 2013 (10 episodes) (more info) (title literal translation – The Troublemakers Are Coming From Another World, Right?)
When someone is stuck between a rock and a hard place, it’s good anime logic to call for heroes from other dimensions. Mondaiji-tachi is still in the early stages, but is showing plenty of the traits associated with a good action / adventure with a worthy cause. The cast is full of colorful characters with superpowers of suspect origin, but they have enough flexibility to be put to some creative uses. My biggest complaint about the series so far is the fanservicey design behind the orchestrator of this setup, the Black Rabbit who happens to be a literal bunny girl. She feels very much like an unnecessary cry for attention from a series that is actually interesting enough in its own right. Like many series before it, I wish writers would have more confidence in their work to not devalue it with characters like this. But as she’s the only issue I’m having with this series thus far, I can overlook her and enjoy the battles that may not be keeping me on the edge of my seat, but still have excellent flow.
Winter 2013 (12 episodes) (more info) (alternate title – Good Job Club)
Along with Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai, Yuru Yuri, Ebiten, Seitokai no Ichizon and many other recent series, GJ-bu is a story of some high schoolers who have formed a club for the purpose of not doing very much besides messing around. The formula bends in the direction of a harem anime that puts male protagonist Kyouya in the center of attention for the four girls, but manages to keep a level of class for the lead guy because he’s often just the girls’ plaything. While it’s not exactly an enviable position to be in, at least he’s not a stereotypical, lecherous womanizer or a spineless, immature, overreacting caricature. Beyond that, the show is the usual plot that comes with this kind of setup—thinking about funny concepts or just getting into ridiculous situations. GJ-bu is just another title this winter season that I can’t fault, but I also can’t lavish with praise.
Winter 2013 (12 episodes) (more info) (title literal translation – I Don’t Have Many Friends NEXT)
Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai NEXT is just a continuation of the first series. It picks up right where season one left off and continues the misadventures of the Neighbors Club as the group of misfits stumbles their way through trying to figure out how they should function to fit in with society. While a direct continuation isn’t a bad thing, when it doesn’t exactly have the best source material, just doing more of the same really doesn’t cut it. In short, I’ll watch NEXT if I have the time because it has its moments, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I end up dropping it.
Winter 2013 (13 episodes) (more info)
As slice-of-life comedies go, Minami-ke is definitely above average and does a fantastic job of steering clear of material that’s been done before in this genre; focusing on its own unique take from the perspective of the three Minami sisters. One of the distinguishing features of each season of Minami-ke is that the art style gets a new look. So despite the fact that it’s now on its fourth iteration, it manages to attain a nice level of freshness and because the series is very episodic, it’s fairly easy to get into Tadaima at this stage in the franchise. However, it does make a few references to past events and I worry that newcomers may be lost on more than one occasion. It’s not gut-bustingly funny, but will definitely serve up quite a few smiles.
Winter 2013 (12 episodes) (more info)
Based on its art style and a three-sentence description I’d expected Kotoura-san to be a two-dimensional moe anime. However, what I got was a rollercoaster ride of emotions that really caught me by surprise. The first half of this episode encapsulates Kotoura’s rough childhood and the troubles that come with her ability to read minds and her good-natured honesty. It’s a truly disheartening series of misfortunes that shows what becomes of people who can’t be honest with themselves, but are then confronted with their own inner truth. In this way, Kotoura is the knife that’s peeling away the mask that people wear to play the game otherwise known as, “being social.” I can understand her pain, but perhaps it reflects poorly on me that I wouldn’t have chosen to be so frank if I had the ability to read minds; using my ESP to live a more advantageous life.
The supposition that most people would be ashamed to have their inner thoughts broadcast to others appeals greatly to me because I can say with a fair amount of certainty that my thoughts are an honest reflection of my actions. I take great pride in the path I’ve chosen to live a life free of hypocrisy within my own character. I’m not ashamed of who I am and because of this, I identify strongly with Kotoura-san’s male protagonist, Manabe, who similarly takes his classmate’s mind-reading ability as a chance for self-improvement (when he’s not broadcasting his fantasies). This change of circumstances from Kotoura’s lonesomeness and off-putting attitude to finally meeting someone who can push her to open up is fantastically written and shows a lot of potential for future growth. If I was to give a criticism to this anime, I’d say its cute visual design devalues its very serious premise. But if that’s all I have to complain about when I’m already an admitted moe fan, then I’m going to give it a pass and remain on the edge of my seat, expectantly waiting to see what will become of this unexpectedly sophisticated anime.
Winter 2013 (12 episodes) (more info)
Immediately, the first instinct of anyone who lays eyes on Tamako Market is going to be, “this looks like K-ON,” which should be no surprise, because the art designer is Yukiko Horiguchi, the writer is Reiko Yoshida, the director is Naoko Yamada and the producer is Kyoto Animation—so basically, the entire team that made K-ON is back together to make Tamako Market. But if these ties to K-ON are turning you off, it should also be noted that at least some members of this team also made the recent hit, Hyouka and Kyoto Animation also has a long history of all-time great anime titles like Haruhi Suzumiya and Full Metal Panic. So don’t prejudge.
I think this series is going to resonate with me more than with the average anime fan because I’ve actually been to several shopping districts in many different Japanese towns and cities. These are wonderful places that resonate with the part of me that enjoys the atmosphere of the mom and pop, old downtown districts of America, which are still alive and well throughout Japan. And my feeling right away is that Tamako Market has done an amazing job of capturing that personality of friendly people who enjoy their work and have built a close community of small businesses who are always there for each other and their customers.
But the real strength of Tamako Market lies in the terrific double act that comprises the two main characters. Tamako’s polite, cheerful personality is such a contrast to Dera Mochimazzi, the rude and gluttonous cockatoo that forces himself into her home in which the downstairs is a mochi shop. They play each other’s foils so well and I can already tell this is going to be the driving force for some terrific dialogue. Along with her colorful friends which includes a kind of Romeo and Juliet family rivalry with the son of the mochi shop across the street and just general all-around silliness, this is shaping up to be a great moe anime.
Winter 2013 (13 episodes) (more info) (title literal translation – My Girlfriend and Childhood Friend are Pure Hell, abbreviated title – OreShura)
I’ll be completely honest about this…the main reason I’m going to be watching OreShura is because the heroine’s voice actress is Yukari Tamura. Whenever her talents aren’t being wasted on Nanoha, she’s a genius when it comes to portraying devious women and Natsukawa is her latest role in a long line of characters that includes Togame from Katanagatari and Rika from Higurashi. And while I’m on the topic of Yukari Tamura, I’ve just noticed a strange coincidence that several of her recent characters have long, silver hair—what’s up with that?
Moving on, I don’t want to paint the anime community with a broad brush, but I can speak from my own experience that I’d bet main character Eita Kidou is a guy many young men with jaded opinions about love can identify with. His cleverly crafted lifestyle and the way he gets ensnared by an equally smart girl despite all his careful planning makes the cynic in me grin from ear to ear. But that’s not to say this first episode has been nothing but gloom and doom—far from it. It’s got some hopeful, if clichéd, genuine romance elements in Eita’s childhood friend character, Chiwa. Additionally, even though it would be a sadly predictable outcome if Natsukawa and Eita end up hitting it off, I wouldn’t mind that ending because it was borne of a phony relationship of convenience. Because of that, I’m anticipating OreShura to be a series full of some deliciously ironic twists that just might transcend some of its more standard elements.
Winter 2013 (12 episodes) (more info)
Maoyuu Maou Yuusha…after doing a little research to practice my Japanese, the simplicity of the title has a certain charm to it. “Maoyuu” as far as I can tell, is a meaningless arrangement of syllables. However, “Mao” and “Yuu” are the first two hiragana of the next two words in the title, “Maou” and “Yuusha,” which translate to “Demon King” and “Hero.” So an equivalent translation of the title into English would read something like DeHe Demon King / Hero—a very lighthearted and carefree name for an anime if there ever was one. It continues this path of keeping things simple because another silly quirk of this series seems to be that our hero and heroine will remain unnamed, instead to be referred to only by their titles, Demon King and Hero.
But it’s the story of Maoyuu that might actually be going somewhere really interesting. Immediately, Maoyuu Maou Yuusha does a quick 180 degree spin after its initial bout of gusto with heroes going off to slay the Demon King and starts talking about the politics of the war currently in progress between humans and demons. In this exposition, the set pieces are revealed and a clear goal is set so we all know exactly where everyone’s motives lie. It’s a simple setup and it’s too early to tell if it’s going to be a weird, philosophical, romantic comedy or an ill-conceived, shallow flop that tried way too hard. If it sounds like I’m rambling, it’s because this first episode has put me into a bit of a tizzy, but I want to reinforce that it hasn’t displeased me.
Given the art style, the playful fantasy theme and the fact that the Hero’s actor is Jun Fukuyama, the voice of Yuuta, it’s no wonder this series reminds me strongly of Chuunibyou. Based on that, readers who saw my Anime of the Year post will understand that I may subconsciously be giving this series the benefit of the doubt. But I’m genuinely curious to see where this adventure is headed and hopeful that it’s going to turn out to be an enjoyable journey.