Ashita no Anime

Anime of Tomorrow

Category Archives: Mystery

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.

Amnesia Ep. 1

Getting back to work helps the heroine rememberInitial impression – a hazy start

Winter 2013 (12 episodes) (more info)

With a completely uncomplicated title, there’s no guesswork as to what this series is about.  Our heroine has amnesia—so bad in fact that through the conclusion of the first episode we still don’t even know her name.  While it appears to be 100% committed to its theme, Amnesia is suffering the problem that comes with the territory of a lot of first episodes, and that is its slow start.  I can’t stress this enough…if I can’t tell what an anime is going to be about after the first twenty minutes, it’s going to have a hard time catching my attention.

The heroine attempts to piece together clues of her lifeThat being said, the setting is showing promise as the heroine’s busy job in a maid café allows plenty of opportunity to get to know the ins and outs of the cast as we discover through her eyes the personalities of the butlers who are her coworkers.  And for what appears superficially to be a pretty-boy anime, I’m not turned off by its character designs.  I’m even willing to give a respectful nod to everyone’s multicolored irises that give the visual style an air of distinction.  The premise may be an overly simple setup to make things mysterious, but I’m willing to allow Amnesia at least one more chance to impress me before I give up on it.

Da Capo III Ep. 1

The newspaper club witnesses the return of the eternal cherry blossomInitial impression – shallow and campy (4/10)

Winter 2013 (13 episodes) (more info)

I usually have a favorable opinion when it comes to anime based on visual novels.  Considering that Da Capo has a long history, a big enough following to get a third iteration and this story was not contingent on knowing the franchise’s history, I was willing to forgo my usual rule of not jumping into sequels without first watching the original.  So you can understand my disappointment that as harem anime go, Da Capo III makes Love Hina look sophisticated and well-adjusted.

It’s not bad to the point of being unwatchable, but aside from the rather bland mystery of the blooming magical cherry blossoms, it doesn’t have anything going for it.  In a rather pitiful attempt at work-safe fanservice, the camera constantly pans to the girls’ chests for absolutely no reason.  The main failing is probably that the writers are relying way too much on the expectation that the male audience is going to stick around to look at the girls, but they’re all pretty average, possessing no particular attributes to even fetishize.  It’s a failure on multiple levels to form any kind of desirability.  There’s even an out-of-left-field BL reference.  I can’t imagine why any girls would want to watch this series.  Da Capo III is really just ill-conceived.

Persona 4: The Animation (review)

The cast of Persona 4: The AnimationFinal impression – play the game first (7/10)

Fall 2011 to winter 2012 (25 episodes)

Yuu Narukami is a city boy, who for various circumstances at home, ends up moving out to the countryside to live with his uncle and little cousin.  But being a naturally suave and likeable guy, he’s quickly able to shake off the aura of being a transfer student and makes some friends.  But when the tiny town of Inaba he finds himself in is rocked by a series of bizarre murders, he gets caught up in a creepy cold case where the victims are seen on a mysterious TV program called the Midnight Channel that airs on foggy nights when you have your TV turned off.  In the face of such unbelievable circumstances, Yuu and his friends become the only ones capable of rescuing the victims by diving into the television and fighting the bloodthirsty monsters that live there using a manifestation of their psyches called Persona.

Yu calls IzanagiWriting an objective review on P4 was difficult for me since I’ve played the game it’s based on.  This isn’t the same as reading the manga that serves as the source material for an anime since both of those media are non-interactive.  Video games on the other hand are and being put in the position of having no influence on the characters’ decisions or the pace of the story was a little unsettling.  I wonder if many other people feel this way about adaptations of video games that aren’t a loose reinterpretation of a concept, but instead a faithful retelling of the same story.

The girls can't cookThat being said, P4: The Animation recreates the events of the game as closely as is possible, with a few changes made that were probably necessary for the transition to TV.  This includes obvious things like completing a side character’s story in a single episode rather than the game’s slower progression that might be spaced out over the course of the entire play time (or even not completed at all if the player neglects that particular social link).  But one thing that always disappointed me about P4: The Animation was the fight scenes.  The game is something of a visual novel built around the framework of a really solid RPG.  That setup should have been a natural cue that the anime ought to be an action / drama.  And while the drama does well, the action is dry and has an air of inevitability to it that never feels the slightest bit suspenseful.

"Welcome to the velvet room."All in all, it makes me sad because, because I loved the game and my hopes were high that the anime would live up to that same level of quality.  If nothing else, the soundtrack for the P4 anime is even more amazing than the game and includes all of the original music in addition to new and expanded tracks with terrifically-written English lyrics that really gets me fired up.  In the end, Persona 4: The Animation is a supplemental anime for fans of the game, but still a very solid series.

Evangelion 3.0: You Can (Not) Redo (preview)

Initial impression – never has there been a more appropriate subtitle

Autumn 2012 (alternate title – Rebuild of Evangelion: 3.0, Evangelion: 3.0 Q Quickening) (more info)

What a turning point for the Evangelion franchise.  A true revolution I must say.  As I sat awestruck in the theater after the movie finished, something crossed my mind that I knew I had to share with you.  “This was necessary.”  With the third movie, this revisit of the story first told back in 1995 has found its own identity and will not live in the shadow of its predecessor.

To avoid spoiling anything, but still giving you a taste of what to expect, I’m going to focus on the powerful transformations the characters have undergone that shape the story in new and exciting ways.

Asuka has given up the mantle of depression and tsundere indecisiveness and become a true soldier.  The degree to which she has matured contrasts most strikingly in her relationship with Shinji.  Where before she had trouble tolerating his naivety, she still had a modicum of sympathy for him and respect for his talent.  But now she sees Shinji as an irreconcilable child who has no business trying to save the world.  He’s no longer “stupid Shinji,” he’s become, “bratty Shinji.”

One of the things I was disappointed about in the third movie was how small Mari’s role is.  After her stunning battle with the tenth angel, Zeruel, and the stirring words of encouragement she gave to Shinji, I thought she would have a bigger influence.  But I will admit that she wasn’t necessary to most of Eva 3.0 and the primary reason for my disheartened feelings come from my love of Maaya Sakamoto’s acting, which hasn’t been so active lately.  Maybe in Eva 4.0…

Misato’s character has undergone what’s possibly the most drastic change.  Her softer side melts away to give rise to an icy, authoritarian woman who is large and in charge; she has to be for the sake of everyone around her.  She never fully trusted NERV and that serves her well as she finds herself facing a world balanced on the edge of a razor.

Gendo always sought control of things no man should hope to control.  Before, he was a villain whose motives could not entirely be called evil.  He now goes about pursuing his ideals with single-minded purpose and will stop at nothing to achieve those goals.  Any shred of humanity he had before is lost and nothing will satisfy him short of his personal vision of perfection.

As always, Rei is an enigma.  I don’t know what to think of her and neither does Shinji.  The distance between them is painful at times, but all things considered this is a story about Kaworu and Shinji.

Kaworu’s kindness in the face of so much strife is the hope of this movie.  He’s a genuine young man and becomes seemingly the only person Shinji can truly call a friend.  Once a schemer in the TV series, he becomes an unwavering pillar of wisdom in a world gone mad.  He goes from mysterious shadow to the voice of reason and motivation—even when Shinji loses himself in despair and then loses himself again in delusion.  His importance cannot be undersold and is probably the most likeable character in 3.0.

And then there’s Shinji.  At times ready and willing, at others lost and ashamed, his rollercoaster ride of emotions is palpable.  To some degree, Shinji has always allowed himself to be a tool of the authority figures around him, but his inability to find his will is understandable.  Lacking a full view of the big picture, he’s unable to form sound decisions so what would you expect?  Additionally, his source of support in Kaworu is also compromised when both become misled by the powers that be.  It’s not that Shinji is weak—far from it.  Perhaps he’s merely too trusting and too confident that his own good feelings and positive attitude will lead to the best result.

And that’s a valuable lesson.  It’s reminiscent of the old phrase, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.”  It’s not that Shinji is unlikable—more inevitably pitiable.  Trapped by his circumstances, it’s a rail path that’s doomed to end in a crash.  When he does his best for the sake of everyone but ends up hitting rock bottom, you feel for him and want to encourage him to get back on his feet and keep trying.  But ultimately, it’s about accepting the consequences of your actions and moving forward instead of dwelling on the past.  Focus on the “will be” instead of the “had been.”  After all, as the subtitle suggests, you cannot redo.

K Ep. 1

Initial impression – fast action, slow story (4/10)

Autumn 2012 (13 episodes) (more info)

You can go ahead and accuse me of having a short attention span if you happened to watch more and reach a different conclusion, but I’ve learned to trust my instincts when it comes to series that cannot encapsulate the heart of the story in the first episode.  Yes, K looks really nice—the tall and skinny character designs and pretty boys are reminiscent of Clamp (even though this isn’t a Clamp work).  It’s ok to leave some details up in the air to reveal later, but I need more than K has offered so far in order to get invested.  I don’t like being left hanging to such a degree that I’m confused or simply left in the mood, “So that’s it, huh?”

There’s certainly an interesting mystery as to why the main character Yashiro is being hunted by multiple parties and yet doesn’t seem to know why, but the pie that is K has too much icing and not enough filling.  It really lollygags on plot development in its first episode compensating— unsuccessfully—by filling itself with overly dramatic fights and chases that would make a Final Fantasy fan proud.  And while that may be enough for some, I’ve seen enough of K to let it go here.

Magi Ep. 1

Initial impression – not very sophisticated (5/10)

Autumn 2012 (12 episodes) (full English title - Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic) (more info)

I’m not the biggest fan of 1001 Arabian Nights.  I’ve even read a fair bit of the book.  I think it’s fine if Magi wants to draw inspiration from this piece of fantasy literature, but the bottom line is that it’s just not my cup of tea.  This is an anime for younger fans who want a different flavor of fantasy and the battlelines between good guys and bad guys defined clearly by the presence or absence of mustaches. The anime itself is not bad, but the overall tone is very childish as well with the main villain being so cartoonishly evil I couldn’t stop shaking my head at the blatant cliché.

BTOOOM! Ep. 1

Initial impression – The Most Dangerous Game with bombs

Autumn 2012 (12 episodes) (more info)

What would you do if you suddenly found yourself in the setting of your favorite multiplayer game like Halo or Modern Warfare and you had to kill or be killed?  Well that basically summarizes the setting of BTOOOM.  Beyond that it seems like a survival game story much like any other.  I like these kinds of stories and so far there’s a pointedly amusing side to this anime that seems to be pointing jokes towards the NEET gamer stereotype as main character Ryouta refuses to find work even at his exasperated mother’s behest.

The only job he will even consider is his dream job working at the company that makes BTOOOM.  So it’s an ironic twist to see him experiencing the reality of the video game he’s mastered.  Most likely he was chosen because he was ranked 10th in the world for the game, but so far everything else remains a mystery.  It’s not even clear that the players are in fact supposed to be killing each other because there weren’t any instructions for his weapons or his survival.  It’s completely possible the unnamed man who attacked him was just a psychopath who jumped to conclusions after he got his hands on some grenades.

And that’s really all that can be said at this point about BTOOOM.  It’s keeping things really simple, but I feel like there’s a lot of substance still lying in wait; ready to explode once the timer reaches zero.

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.

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