Ashita no Anime

Anime of Tomorrow

Category Archives: Drama

Alfheim Online (review)

Kirito wakes upFinal impression – what a letdown (3/10)

Fall 2012 (11 episodes) (SAO Review)

After waking up from the gorgeous nightmare of Sword Art Online, Kazuto’s first action is not to attend to his own atrophied body, but to immediately begin to seek out Asuna, his in-game wife who he promised to find after they escaped.  He finds her, but there’s a problem.  Despite clearing the game and majority of players having returned to the real world, Asuna remains trapped in her NerveGear. Filled with the pain of helplessness for being unable to save her, Kazuto attempts to return to his old life displaced by over two years while remaining by her side for support.

But when a friend from Aincrad (the world of SAO) shows him a screenshot of Asuna trapped in a birdcage, he dons his own NerveGear once again and dives into the world of Alfhiem Online to rescue her from the new prison she’s found herself in.  But he has to hurry because within a week, Asuna is going to be ushered into an arranged marriage with one of her father’s business partners.  Read more of this post

Sword Art Online (review)

Kazuto logs in for the first timeFinal impression – only half amazing (8/10)

Summer 2012 (14 episodes)

Kazuto rushed out to be one of the first players for a new form of virtual-reality gaming using a system called the Nervegear.  This device lets a player use his or her brain to play video games with a full immersion experience as if they had been transported to the actual game world itself.  The first game released is the fantasy MMO, Sword Art Online or SAO for short.  Assuming the online identity of Kirito, within hours of starting he and thousands of other players become trapped in SAO’s world of Aincrad by its creator, Akihiko Kayaba. Things get even more serious when it’s revealed that dying in the game means dying in real life too because the Nervegear has a hidden function that fries the brain of anyone whose HP drops to 0.  The only way to escape is for someone to clear the world’s massive, one hundred floor dungeon.  Read more of this post

Rinne no Lagrange (review)

Madoka suplexes the enemy mechaFinal impression – a mecha series without the angst (8/10)

Winter 2012 and Summer 2012 (24 episodes + 1 OVA) (English title – Lagrange: The Flower of Rin-ne)

Madoka may be a boisterously cheerful, overly outgoing and enthusiastic young woman, but at the end of the day she’s just an ordinary high school girl with an odd personality.  So when she’s approached by mysterious, uniformed girl named Lafinty and invited to do her part to help the world, it’s understandable that she didn’t expect to become a mecha pilot.  Being an athlete of all manner of sports and martial arts, Madoka quickly adjusts to her new responsibility as a guardian of the Earth.  But when her older cousin arrives on the scene vehemently against this development, it’s clear that there’s more to the situation than everyone is letting on.  Read more of this post

Suisei no Gargantia – Morality of Feast and Famine

Ledo talks with BevelBased on my own research into philosophy and my experiences on the subject, it’s clear that morality cannot be categorized into good or bad, black and white.  It’s ever-shifting and depends entirely on the circumstances a society or even an individual finds him or herself in.  The culture clash at the heart of Suisei no Gargantia illustrates one of the times in which humanity might be forced to put aside its notions of protecting the weak and that’s the emptiness of deep space.

The thought of euthanasia and weeding out those people deemed incapable of contributing sticks in most people’s throats, but I think the key thing to remember is that Ledo comes from a very different society than we’re used to—one based solely on the quantity of resources. In space, limited supplies and proper allocation would be paramount to survival and it shows that when backed up against a wall, we’re capable of making tough decisions that are necessary for the benefit of all. Food, water, electricity and even oxygen are as precious as life itself (literally the essentials of life). Read more of this post

Koi to Senkyou to Chocolate (review)

Oojima's friends, supporters and rivalsFinal impression – cleverly endearing; never a dull moment (7/10)

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.

The Food Club huddles in anticipation of their student council runHowever, 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.

Chisato delivers Oojima's election postersIt 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.

Chisato cosplays as MadokaWith 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.

Sasami-san@Ganbaranai Ep. 1

Sasami can't believe what her brother is up toInitial impression – disappointingly pointless (4/10)

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.

Mondaiji-tachi ga Isekai kara Kuru Sou Desu yo? Ep. 1

The Black Rabbit is caughtInitial impression – rough-edged, but good-hearted heros

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.

GJ-bu Ep. 1

The GJ Club membersInitial impression – standard fare but not boring

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.

Love Live! School Idol Project Ep. 1

Honoka, Kotori and Umi danceInitial impression – low budget, low brow (3/10)

Winter 2013 (13 episodes) (more info)

Inevitably, Love Live is going to get compared to both K-ON and The iDOLM@STER, so I’m going to just get that out of the way.  Combining the concept of a school music club with young ladies pursuing careers as idol singers in theory shouldn’t be too preposterous a setup.  However, in execution it’s a real flop.  At the core of this overlap is music, and the bread and butter of any music anime is that the music needs to be good.  The two series it’s borrowing ideas from have that area covered, but Love Live is definitely not up to par.

There’s also the hard-to-swallow plot point about how our heroines have the harebrained idea that they’re going to attract new students to their school that’s suffering from declining enrollment in just a year or two by competing with established idol clubs at other local schools.  There’s a level of cheesiness to it that makes me want to smack someone for even suggesting the idea.  Combined with some really intrusive CGI-animated scenes when the girls start dancing, there’s nothing to praise about Love Live.  I even think there’s room to speculate that this was the product of some money-grubbing committee who saw the success of the aforementioned titles and decided to frankenstein them together into something guaranteed to appeal to both audiences, but really shouldn’t appeal to anyone.

Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai NEXT Ep. 1

The Neighbors Club makes a movieInitial impression – not new enough

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.

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