Anime of Tomorrow
Category Archives: Romance
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
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
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 – 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 (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 (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.
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.
Final impression – cute philosophy (8/10)
Fall 2012 (12 episodes)
Back in junior high school, Yuuta was consumed by the crazy belief that he was possessed by a demon and could communicate with forces beyond the understanding of normal people. But he realized he was completely delusional and snapped himself out of it before he graduated to high school. Wanting to abandon all of the embarrassing mistakes of his past, he enrolled in a school far away from home to avoid meeting anyone who might ridicule him for the person he used to be. But just as he thinks he’s in the clear and a normal high school life lies before him, he crosses paths with Rikka, a girl who still hasn’t grown out of her childish delusions of grandeur and could possibly blow the cover on the past he wants to forget.
The most important thing that Chuunibyou has brought to the world of anime is that it’s possible to create a really fun, heartwarming romance story that doesn’t revolve around the subject of romance as its central premise. In this way, when Yuuta and Rikka’s relationship blossoms into love, it feels so much more natural and believable because they had a strong friendship that was already well developed. Rika’s romantic rival in Nibutani also doesn’t have the problem a lot of high school comedy romance series have with the usual plethora of girls vying for the protagonist’s attention. Instead of being a sort of homewrecker to Rikka’s heroine character, she feels like a real rival that Yuuta has an immature crush on, which he can grow out of as his focus shifts through the story.
But beyond the romance, Chuunibyou is also a terrific story about growing up. I already discussed my take on the deeper meanings behind the imaginative symbolism with Charles, so I won’t go into that here. However, the creative side of this anime is really amazing and a lot of fun. It takes those childish fantasies of imagined playground battles and fleshes them out with full visuals of what’s happening in the mind’s eye of the characters as they act out their abilities. Then the fights are given a hilarious comedic spin when the very next scene might cut to what’s actually happening in reality. So one moment, two combatants can be trading blows, each wielding a sword or hammer, and then their epic battle is quashed when we realize Rikka is just swinging her umbrella around while Dekomori spins around her twintails. It’s such a stark juxtaposition that you’re unlikely to ever see anything quite like it again.
But as much as I liked this series, I felt a bit betrayed by the final episode. It seemed very out of place when the rest of the story was building up to the point when Rikka and Dekomori could break free of their coping mechanisms and appreciate the world as it actually is. However, the ending regressed on that theme a bit and left things a little more open than I liked. I wanted something more final, and while there’s room for interpretation as to how everyone ends up, it’s not as bad as it could have been. I’ve seen anime like Canvas 2 completely fall apart on the last episode and Chuunibyou doesn’t come anywhere near that level of failure. Despite that last little problem, altogether it’s a series with a great style, original story and loveable characters.
Autumn 2012 (12 episodes) (title literal translation – I Love Him, and It Doesn’t Matter If He’s My Brother, alternate title – OniAi) (more info)
Making the lustful character of your series female doesn’t suddenly make it a more acceptable trait. It may certainly be different from the stereotypical male character in a harem anime who is either terribly shy or uncontrollably lecherous after having been inserted into an all-female environment. But OniAi makes it worse since hero and heroine are brother and sister—not even stepbrother/stepsister or adopted or cousins. They’re full blood relatives born of the same parents, turning the degree of perversion up to an uncomfortable level. It doesn’t even have the stylistic restraint or pretext that Yosuga no Sora showed when that series dealt with this topic. It’s just in-your-face and says, “this is what this series is going to be about.”
If that wasn’t bad enough, halfway through the first episode is a time skip that’s about as logically placed if OniAi had ended and just started over from scratch. There’s no reason the student council couldn’t have been introduced in a logical manner and how they came to live together should have been woven into the story over at least another episode. I don’t know what went through the writers’ minds for them to think this was a good idea. Even if the girls’ arrivals are revealed via flashbacks that’s just dodging the issue of how out-of-order events are proceeding. So there. OniAi is a weird, twisted, badly written harem series and I’m washing my hands of it.