Ashita no Anime

Anime of Tomorrow

Category Archives: School Life

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

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.

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.

Minami-ke Tadaima Ep. 1

The sisters argue about putting away the kotatsu.Initial impression – the sisters return for round four

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.

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.

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.

Ore no Kanojo to Osananajimi ga Shuraba Sugiru Ep. 1

Natsukawa is just using Eita for her own convenience.Initial impression – cynically lovely

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?

Eita still treats Chiwa like a kid.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.

Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai (review)

Those with delusions seek out others to reinforce their beliefsFinal 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.

Love requires a little more courageThe 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.

Rikka, the tyrant's eye battles Dekomori, Mjolnir's hammerBut 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.

The Magick club isn't doing very good with their advisorBut 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.

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