Anime of Tomorrow
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Initial impression – just…what? (2/10)
Spring 2012 (dropped at 1 of 12 episodes) (English title – Nyarko-san: Another Crawling Chaos) (more info)
What do you get when you try to cross a romantic, moe comedy with Lovecraft? The jumbled mess that is Haiyore! Nyaruko-san, that’s what. Seriously, just what were they thinking when they came up with the setting for this show? Were they throwing darts at post-it notes or did they just spin a roulette wheel of possible themes? Perhaps it might have worked if the writers didn’t actually think that they could spin these two mismatched concepts into something with real-world ties—‘cause really, how can anyone think that turning Nyarlathotep into a female, alien-otaku is a good idea? It expends way too much energy trying to legitimize itself as something more than the sum of its subtractive parts and it just doesn’t work. Also, it makes a lot of obscure references to the Cthulhu mythos that only someone deeply familiar with Lovecraft’s work is likely to understand. It’s so full of itself that it can’t see how unfathomably thick it is. I actually find this kind of poorly constructed amalgam to be insulting in the way the viewers are just expected to roll with it and accept something so half-baked. It also doesn’t do a very good job constructing its more romantic side with the male lead seemingly having some kind of bipolar disorder. He knows that his new protector is a crazy, nutzo, wild girl, but one minute he’s dealing out punishment for her transgressions by stabbing her with a fork and the next he’s enraptured by her wiles. Is this proof of the concept that the hotter a girl is the crazier she’s allowed to be? Well whatever…I think I’ve adequately made my point that Haiyore! Nyaruko-san is not worth any more of my time.
Initial impression – I want to like it but…eh… (5/10)
Spring 2012 (dropped at 1 of 11 episodes) (title literal translation – Fishing Sphere) (more info)
There is a not-so-fine line between playfully random and simply making no sense at all and Tsuritama dances dangerously between the right and wrong sides of that divide. For one, it’s got a fairly wild cast including Yuki the overly self-conscious transfer student, Natsuki the local fishing prodigy, Haru the self-proclaimed alien who can talk with fish and an as-of-yet unnamed Indian character who works for the MIB and has a duck named Tapioca as his partner. It’s really all over the place with its themes, but I feel like praising it because it seems to be going beyond the inane and actually has some substance to the story. Additionally, unlike other recent anime with all-male casts (Kimi to Boku for example) at the very least it’s doing a better job of holding my attention. If nothing else it has a decidedly bright and cheerful art style that I really like. Perhaps I want to be overly generous because I’m a fisherman and I’ve sort of been hoping for a fishing anime to come along someday—blinding myself with optimism because of this anime’s premise. Sadly there’s certainly no shortage of incomprehensible choices the characters make—like Yuki’s grandmother allowing complete stranger Haru live with them in their new house. Just…c’mon…seriously? Are we really expected to just accept that without batting an eye? On this occasion I’m going with my better judgment and admitting that Tsuritama has some very conspicuous logical flaws that create a damaging discontinuity of tone that I don’t foresee the story being able to adequately recover from.
Initial impression – more refreshing than expected
Spring 2012 to summer 2012 (24 episodes) (full title – Eureka Seven Astral Ocean) (more info)
All too often these days I’m seeing sequels to series that don’t really need a follow up story to make them feel complete. Eureka 7 was an epic that I feel did everything it needed to and ended without any indication that a sequel was necessary. But despite this small reservation, I’m optimistic about Eureka AO because it’s different enough from its parent series that I can see very clearly that it’s not attempting to fill the very big shoes of its predecessor. And while it does make a great many references to Eureka 7, it is already using its first episode as an opportunity to step out of the shadow of past successes and do its own thing. How much it’s actually related to the original only time will tell, but I’m already seeing a lot of inconsistencies with the main story that indicate to me that this will be more of a spin-off like the Pocket Full of Rainbows movie than a true, continuous sequel to the original plot. This makes me happy because that’s the sort of direction I’d prefer Bones to take the rich material they have to work with. On that note, the best part that surprised me is how much Eureka AO still manages to feel like Eureka 7. It’s successfully capturing the tone, style and pacing that made its parent series awesome, but is making every effort to seek its own identify and prove that it is capable of standing on its own. That alone is a remarkable quality for a sequel to possess and my optimism on this series is much higher after watching the first episode than it was before.
Initial impression – significantly underwhelming
Spring 2012 (12 episodes) (Japanese title – Sakamichi no Apollon) (more info)
I know this is a weird, random thing to complain about, but I don’t think the people in Kids on the Slope are very good looking… When I think about the works of Shinichiro Watanabe I have an image of bursting out of the starting gates with something big, flashy and tone setting. So being left hanging on the easygoing pace set by the first episode is a bit of a letdown to say the least. But what really shocked me about the beginning of this series is the absence of any tone-defining music courtesy of Yoko Kanno. Aside from one teensy fight scene, there was absolutely no atmospheric mood that is typically indicative of her work (think Escaflowne, Ghost in the Shell, RahXephon, and Macross Frontier). If the series lacks her strong music style I’m losing optimism fast and I can’t help but say aloud that the duo that made Cowboy Bebop one of the best anime of all time is not living up to their potential. Additionally this sort of “serious music” story that’s superficially reminiscent of snooze-inducing shows like Nodame Cantabile doesn’t thrill me whatsoever. Given the talent that lies with this anime’s staff I intend to continue watching for a while longer to see how it progresses, but I’ve not been wowed by the relaxed pace Kids on the Slope exhibits in its first episode.
Initial impression – pleasing, but lacking impact (5/10)
Spring 2012 (12 episodes) (more info)
While I think Saki is nice, I’m not sure what else I can say about it. I know next to nothing about mahjong and I find it hard to swallow the idea that there’s a large enough community of players in a rural junior high school to warrant a dedicated club that is nationally ranked (though I’ve been wrong before). More acceptable might have been an underdog story similar to what was introduced in Chihayafuru, as cheesy as that sort of premise might be. I do like the nice variety of characters and their natural acceptance of the paths their lives are about to take. Instead of focusing on what they’re losing by going their separate ways as they grow up, they want to cherish the time they have together in the present and that’s definitely something to value. I imagine from here this anime is going to turn into some sort of reunion story as the three friends meet up again through the game that originally brought them together as children. I’m optimistic this series isn’t going to turn into a “sports anime,” based on some weird super-mahjong theme, but there just doesn’t seem to be a very energizing conflict to keep things interesting. So even if Saki seems to be a pretty, well-thought and laid-back slice of life story centered on mahjong, I’m unimpressed by the nonconfrontational start.
Initial impression – fuel for the moe inferno
Spring 2012 (12 episodes) (English synonym – All Over the Place, title literal translation – Here and There) (more info)
If Lucky Star can be thought of as moe crack, then Acchi Kocchi is probably closer to moe sugar. It’s such a sweet anime that I’m sure most people are going to get a sour taste in their mouths unless they’ve properly conditioned themselves for this kind of style (as I have =P). I like how the two main characters Tsumiki and Io clearly care for each other with a slight, awkward honesty. While they are not in a serious relationship, unlike most anime romances they aren’t vehemently denying their love; instead going for a sort of soft consensus with their mutual feelings. It’s not an atypical friendship between hero and heroine and that simple novelty is more than enough to give this series a nice flair of originality. Integrating males into a moe series is also a rarity and when it is done it often isn’t done very well with focus always going to the girls and leaving the guys to the sidelines. But Acchi Kocchi gives both genders fairly equal measures of presence, which is inspiringly daring. It’s a kind of delightfulness that has gotten my moe passion burning brightly and I’m salivating at the thought of what the future holds.
Initial impression – an aura of fun
Spring 2012 (12 episodes) (English title - Dusk Maiden of Amnesia) (more info)
Tasogare Otome has a really playful, refreshing attitude about how it tells its story. Yuuko, the ghost president of the Seikyou High School occult club, doesn’t remember everything about her past, but she’s determined to enjoy her unlife as much as possible nonetheless. That’s where Teiichi comes in. He’s a kindhearted young man, but perhaps a little over accommodating to Yuuko’s poltergeist pranks. He also has the …fortunate?… distinction of being Yuuko’s object of affection, but perhaps it was inevitable because he’s the only one who can touch her. This is a genius, nearly tangible way of creating empathy for Yuuko’s existence because of the very emotional response it generates to the concept of having only one person in the world you can be close to. Where Tasogare Otome’s plot goes from here is up in the air, but it has already demonstrated very clearly that the setting concept is solid with a great air of mystery and some really likeable characters. I particularly enjoyed how it started out showing everything from Momoe’s perspective to creatively establish that she can’t see or hear Yuuko and the naturalness of her reactions was made all the funnier when the scene was revisited from Teiichi’s point of view. If Tasogare Otome continues this way, I expect great things are to come.
Initial impression – surprisingly interesting and well-thought
Spring 2012 (12 episodes) (more info)
I’m not sure what Sankarea is really about, but it has definitely caught my attention. I really like the unconventional way Chihiro Furuya thinks of zombies as misunderstood and feels a weird kind of passion for the undead. It’s an eccentric character trait and the fact that on some level he knows zombies can’t possibly exist gives him an interesting, internal conflict. Rea Sanka’s family problems then add an element of desperation that ties the two protagonists together in a kind of loose comradeship despite their very different backgrounds. The title animation would lead us to believe that this is some sort of zombie comedy-adventure, albeit more serious than the wacky Kore wa Zombie Desu ka? But as the first episode begins, I started to suspect the opening theme is intentionally being playfully facetious and this is going to be more of a fun, awkward romance story than anything to do with actual zombies. That assessment changes though, when Rea shuffles her way to Furuya’s side, dragging along her parts that aren’t supposed to be on the outside of your body. It’s such a shock after Sankarea’s not-too-dark beginning that I’ve been hooked and I can’t wait to see how it turns out.
Initial impression – a difficult premise (3/10)
Spring 2012 (more info)
Where Hetalia is the personification of countries and The Sacred Blacksmith is the personification of swords, Upotte!! is the personification of guns. I want to reinforce this idea that most of the characters in this series are literally guns in human form and their personality types are based on the features of their mechanical references. Being quite knowledgeable about firearms myself I can see what this anime is trying to do, but I’m pretty sure most of the jokes are going to fly right over the heads of most viewers. To compensate for this sort of murky comedy, Upotte!! depicts main character Funko as a sexually excited junior high girl who keeps fantasizing about being “handled,” by her new teacher who happens to be a gun expert. I’m not sure how to adequately convey this new concept of ecchi because I’ve never seen an anime that manages to keep its fetishes limited to its writing while visually maintaining its innocence. Upotte!! is trying to be unique and original, but maybe it’s just trying too hard because I can’t see how its concept is going to be anything more than incomprehensibly goofy.
Initial impression – I don’t follow (3/10)
Spring 2012 (12 episodes) (title literal translation – Summer-Colored Miracle) (more info)
Natsuiro Kiseki is yet another anime this spring season that can’t tell the viewers what it’s going to be about after the first episode. A group of junior high school girls with a nice assortment of personalities who have been friends since elementary school are having an overly-dramatic crisis because one of them is moving to Tokyo so they gather together to make a wish on a big rock and they all end up floating in the sky for a few minutes in a daze before they go back to their former personalities and their separate ways. Yeah, if it wasn’t for Natsuiro’s sharp, colorful art style I don’t think I could really find any redeeming features for this series’ opener because that’s one of the most disjointed sequences of events I’ve watched in a while. I want to feel for these characters, to get involved in helping them solve their problems and to hope they can stay friends, but I’m much too baffled by what I’ve seen to care. Mostly I’m having a hard time believing they were ever friends because despite being so close they don’t act very kindly toward one another. In order to make their relationships more convincing I think there should have been a flashback episode to get everyone introduced properly before jumping right into the main conflict. Whether Natsuiro is suffering from a rushed story, poor character concepts or simply a serious lack of focus, all I know is that I’m too confused to bother with it.