Ashita no Anime

Anime of Tomorrow

Category Archives: Review

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

RWBY and the Anime Style

Last Saturday, Rooster Teeth, the guys who make the Halo machinima comedy series Red vs Blue released the last trailer for their anime-inspired series about a group of female fighters called RWBY (pronounced “ruby”). Very little is known about the series thus far outside of what has been revealed in the four trailers themed after the colors of each of the main characters, red, white, black and yellowRead 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

Attack on Titan (first impressions)

Attack on Titan CrunchyrollReaction – gut-wrenchingly vindictive

Spring 2013 to summer 2013 (25 episodes) (Japanese title – Shingeki no Kyoujin) (more info)

I’ve often sold myself as the guy whose tastes differ with mainstream opinions in order to stand as the representative of anime fans who think a lot of big titles are highly overrated.  However, today I’m taking a more relaxed position as the voice of reason to try and calm things down a bit.  When I saw this image indicating that Cruchyroll had given Attack on Titan five of five stars with only two episodes out, my first reaction was, “really?” and the second was, “hold your horses.”

It’s just my own style to refrain from giving new anime I’m optimistic about a score because there’s no guarantee that the same level of quality will continue to hold up as the series continues.  But I’m not willing to let a perfect score go unanalyzed with so little to go on.  All we have so far is the setup, in which a young Eren and his childhood friends witness the power of the monstrous and disturbingly human titans that seem to have crawled straight out of the uncanny valley.

The only thing that the humans have done is get their asses handed to them, with no glory whatsoever.  Episode two in particular was incredibly lackluster with several time skips and way too much summarizing of what happened in between.  Sure it was stuff that had to be said, but it could have been said more elegantly and in a way that didn’t sound like reading a history textbook.

Now, let me be clear.  I’m not saying Attack on Titan doesn’t deserve those five stars, because it very well might.  The music for the opening and ending themes is epic and orchestral—befitting the grand scope of the setting that not only is big, but FEELS big.  It’s got a fresh art style too with very sharp lines that makes all the edges pop out, giving everything a lot of personality.  The writing has done a great job getting me emotionally fired up, although the only emotions I’m feeling are hatred or disgust for everyone outside Eren’s circle of friends and an uneasy sickness towards the titans.  We have been treated to a oversized, dark and hopeless situation that needs a hero to turn things around.

Eren vows to wipe out the titansBut I have a worrisome suspicion that our hero may be a rather shallow trope.  He’s a cocky, loser kid who is quick to make enemies of those stronger than him and has some rather unfeasibly grandiose dreams.  If that isn’t a familiar formula then clearly you don’t watch mainstream anime because that sounds an awful lot like Naruto to me.  The preview for episode three even indicates that Eren continues to be the stereotypical screwup in basic training.

If we’re looking for a beautiful action series that’s likely to have some masterfully flowing battles flavored with a thick revenge sauce, I can definitely see Attack on Titan being just that.  But I don’t foresee it being some deeply thought-provoking introspection on the human condition, which leads me to my conclusion that Crunchyroll’s praise is premature.

My friend Elliot at Japanator finishes off his resounding praise of the first episode with hint of trepidation as well, but we’re both optimistic that something big is just getting started. 

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.

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