Ashita no Anime

Anime of Tomorrow

Category Archives: Moe

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.

Kotoura-san Ep. 1

Kotoura's mind-reading ability makes others wary.Initial impression – revealing the truth

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.

Manabe teases Kotoura by exploiting her mind-reading ability.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.

Tamako Market Ep. 1

Dera and TamakoInitial impression – familiar-looking fun

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.

The Usagiyama Shopping DistrictI 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.

Tamako and her friends take a break from practicing their baton twirlingBut 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.

Maoyuu Maou Yuusha Ep. 1

The Demon King is a playful woman?Initial impression – intriguingly fun

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.

The hero separates from the party to take on the Demon King aloneBut 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.

Busou Shinki Ep. 1

Initial impression – could’ve been worse, but not very interesting (4/10)

Autumn 2012 (13 episodes) (English title – Armored War Goddess) (more info)

Mixing elements of mecha musume, fighting robots and maids, at first glance Busou Shinki appears to be appealing to a highly niche audience.  But I think that all these elements have enough overlap that it’s still greater than the sum of its parts.  That being said, it doesn’t suddenly make this series good.  Yeah, it has a unique style and given the subject matter it could have been something lousy and perverted like DearS or Heaven’s Lost Property.  That the story doesn’t go there and the main character is a nice, stand-up guy is reassuring to say the least.  But from here I can only see the story becoming more and more ridiculous.  Using your tiny, moe fighting robots as loving companions to do your chores doesn’t fit with my sensibilities.  While I appreciate the originality, I think it’s all too simple to grow into anything particularly worthwhile.

Hayate no Gotoku! Can’t Take My Eyes Off You Ep. 1

Initial impression – it’s back and who knows? it could be the best one yet

Autumn 2012 (?? episodes) (synonym – Hayate the Combat Butler) (more info)

Hayate no Gotoku has always intrigued me.  It’s bursting with references to other anime almost to the degree that you have to be an extreme anime connoisseur like me to understand all the humor that’s going on.  It’s also just got a weird premise.  Hayate from a poor family gets strapped with his parents’ debt when they flee the country to avoid loan sharks, leaving Hayate to fend for himself.  Through a series of misunderstandings, he ends up the personal butler of a rich girl named Nagi Sanzenin.

Nagi is a paradox of character traits.  She’s an otaku who usually does nothing but watch anime, play video games and skip school when she can get away with it, but she’s also a genius prodigy who has skipped several grades and is currently enrolled in high school.  Her only sources of motivation are the constant nagging of Hayate and her maid, Maria, to coax her into going to school, or she’ll be inspired to try something she saw in an anime and an adventure will ensue.

When I explain the premise in such dry terms, even I think this doesn’t sound like a very good idea.  But this is a case where a very off the wall compilation has been saved by good writing and terrific voice acting.  Rie Kugimiya always shines her brightest when she plays tsundere characters and Nagi is as tsundere as they get.  Hayate also has a great actor in Ryoko Shiraishi and her coy, almost motherly tones coming through the male lead creates a funny role reversal.  The cast also has a lot of other good names in the lineup including Shizuka Itou, who plays the role of student council president and Hayate’s confidant, Hinagiku.

Even as this series indulges in tropes that feel somewhat dry and overused, considering that I’ve relished every other previous iteration of Hayate no Gotoku, I’m in no doubt that Can’t Take My Eyes Off You is also going to be loads of fun.

Acchi Kocchi (review)

Impression – a dance of love and comedy in a moe candy shell (9/10)

Spring 2012 (12 episodes) (title literal translation – Here and There)

Tsumiki has a huge crush on her naturally gentle, gentlemanly to a fault, nice guy classmate, Io.  However, her shy, tsundere personality prevents her from confessing her gushing love for this paragon of a man; whose only shortcoming is being a little slow on the uptake around his diminutive, female cling on.  But Tsumiki takes this all in good grace because despite wanting more from their relationship, it’s enough to keep her satisfied for now.  She even has a cheering section consisting of mad scientist Mayoi, the plucky and innocent Hime and Io’s good buddy, Sakaki.  But while their assistance is usually appreciated, Tsumiki wants to win Io’s heart on her own.

One of the best measures of any comedy is its ability to put a funny spin on real things its audience can relate to.  Another method is to occasionally be ridiculous in stark contrast to a generally serious premise.  Acchi Kocchi manages to do both, creating some incredibly high highs balanced by a very solid framework of friendship and unrequited love.  The series has a great many awww moments that never feel too sugary or forced and empty.  Aside from a couple of punchlines that feel a little flat, the rest of the anime is very genuine.  Each character has a purposeful role to play and feels necessary without ever being overbearing.

What impresses me greatly is the integration of male characters into this series that have real personalities instead of dry, formulaic clichés that serve no other purpose than to feed the ladies’ ambitions.  Io in particular is one of the most naturally suave and likeable characters I’ve ever seen.  Even his flaws add to the remarkable depth of his cool personality and it’s very clear why he’s a natural fit as the kind of person a large group of friends tend to gravitate around.

I was very worried at first that this series would be another one of those boring love triangles that make you want to rip your hair out for the characters’ inability to be honest with themselves.  And while there’s more than a few moments when a bit more honesty could have moved Io and Tsumiki’s relationship to the next level, it never stops being fun or lacking in creativity.  Acchi Kocchi isn’t just enjoyable to watch, it knows how to simply enjoy the moment and cherish the little things—a precious gem of writing that should not be taken for granted—and then poke fun at said little things.

What sets Acchi Kocchi apart from most other moe anime is its incredibly balanced formula that mixes comedy and romance into a seamless package of goodness.  A must-watch for moe fans such as myself; I think it could also appeal to the tastes of anyone who is interested in a funny drama with really good writing, absolutely no ecchi and complimentary friendships.

Tasogare Otome x Amnesia (review)

Impression – playful and surprisingly touching (8/10)

Spring 2012 (12 episodes) (title literal translation – Dusk Maiden x Amnesia)

Teiichi Niiya heard the stories of the cursed ghost that haunts the old school building, but he never expected her to be so beautiful…or playful.  After discovering her remains hidden beneath an old classroom, he and Yuuko decide to found the Paranormal Research Club. On the surface it’s nothing more than your standard occult-themed student organization, but its true motive is to find a way to help Yuuko recover her lost memories.  Joined by the perky Okonogi and the only other person who can see Yuuko—her great niece Kirie—the four of them set to work solving the supernatural mysteries of their maze-like school.

As Dusk Maiden starts, it’s just oozing with creativity—whether it’s new ways to think about how an incorporeal spirit interacts with the world or how to adequately tell the story of said ghost without being pathetically blunt about what’s going on.  The flow of events at the beginning is a little questionable at times with long flashbacks seemingly taking place out of proper order.  But it never stops being entertaining with something fresh in every episode. It makes you think and smile all the while saying, “that was really smart. I’d never thought about it that way before.”

Probably the best thing about Tasogare Otome is its ending.  It’s very emotionally moving but still manages to keep the generally lighthearted style that made the rest of the series so much fun.  This delicate balance between heart wrenching and comedic elation could have been such a messy let down if it hadn’t been constructed in such a smartly arranged crescendo.  Rarely do I find myself nodding at the end of a series while saying, “I couldn’t have imagined it finishing any other way.” With that kind of reaction, I’m going to call Dusk Maiden of Amnesia a resounding success.

Ebiten: Kouritsu Ebisugawa Koukou Tenmonbu Ep. 1

Initial impression – a random lack of focus (3/10)

Summer 2012 (?? episodes – ONA) (title literal translation – Ebisugawa Public High School “Astronomical” Club) (more info)

While I like the fansub group [Staircase]’s creativity in changing the Astronomy Club’s name to the Asstronomy Club (a euphemism for Assing Around) I’m starting to get sick of these anime whose central premise is a club for being lazy.  I’d think that true laziness would just be going home and skipping the whole complicated club business altogether.

Ebiten’s theme is all over the place and while I appreciate its energy it feels like a total waste of time.  It takes a whole episode for the prospective club member, Itsuki Noya to finally be accepted after being put through a torturous series of “entry tests.”  During the whole sequence none of the other members are particularly enthusiastic about their roles; leaving me wondering why I should be, either.  All the while the thick new girl hasn’t picked up that this isn’t actually the astronomy club despite nothing about these girls having anything to do with stargazing.

It even throws in a token ecchi sequence with some chibi S&M elements that is completely pointless and doesn’t even do a good job of being particularly titillating.  It’s really quite perplexing why this series exists and who it was even made for.  Ebiten isn’t strictly bad in spirit, but it’s such a hodgepodge of ideas from too many semi-popular anime over the past few years with some conspicuous moe sugar blended into the mix of randomness that it leaves itself with nothing distinguishing to offer.

Other than a group of girls trying to keep their personal relaxation club from being disbanded, I can’t made heads or tails of what the overarching story is in this series.  I think Ebiten is just another one of those insubstantial messes that’s shooting in the dark, hoping to hit some kind of nerve in the masses of the anime culture that will turn it into an explosive hit; let down by the fact that it’s firing blanks.

Joshiraku Ep. 1

Initial impression – fourth wall…what fourth wall? (4/10)

Summer 2012 (12 episodes) (title literal translation – Girls’ Ease) (more info)

The five girls of Joshiraku all have their unique personalities and styles and each seems to be getting a pretty equal amount of screen time, so if you’re looking to adopt a character for this moe, comedy series I’m sure one of them will fit your tastes.  But I think the main reason Joshiraku isn’t firing on all cylinders is because a lot of its jokes are very Japanese in nature, from poking fun at other Asian countries to making political commentary about its own government.  And even if you’re up to date on current Japanese politics like I am (sort of), it’s still not exactly a barrel of laughs.

The best way I can describe this series is that it’s sort of like the political cartoon in your favorite national newspaper was given a twist of moe and a seasoning of Japanese; more of a thought-provoking satire than anything really worth smiling about.  While that’s a success in the contest of being unique, I don’t think it has much appeal beyond a niche audience that likes moe, ironic jokes about the government and understands current events in Japan.  I’d think this series would almost be better suited to a short five minute timeslot injected between the evening news for comic relief.

Its plot is also structured in an interesting way.  Joshiraku makes no secret that it knows exactly what it’s trying to do as it frequently comes right out and breaks the fourth wall on a regular basis; each character knowing full well that they are in an anime with a dubious premise.  Because of that I really feel like it’s trying too hard in almost every possible way.  This especially comes out when it goes into fanservice mode after all the characters put on their pajamas to showcase what constitutes, “normal/casual dress,” and one of the girl’s sleeping attire happens to be nude.  So the other girls strip her down and she’s forced to hide behind an oversized pad of paper that doesn’t quite conceal her profile.  The commentary then continues as her cover is used to brainstorm ideas completely unrelated to what happened only a few minutes ago.

So while Joshiraku is silly and cute, it has a lot going against it and if you absolutely need to get your moe fix this season, I recommend Yuru Yuri.

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