Ashita no Anime

Anime of Tomorrow

Tag Archives: ecchi

Sankarea Ep. 1

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.

Upotte!! Ep. 1

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.

Medaka Box Ep. 1

Initial impression – could go either way

Spring 2012 (12 episodes) (more info)

Overall, Medaka Box has an endearing sincerity and is full of fun twists and turns with a good pace that keeps you on your toes.  The over-enthusiastic attitude of Medaka reminds me very strongly of Haruhi Suzumiya and the half-hearted reluctance of Zenkichi makes me think of Kyon.  Unfortunately, very little else in Medaka Box follows the smartly written formula of one of the wildest anime of all time—but expecting every show to live up to that high standard would be foolhardy at best, overbearing at worst.  It’s really quite good and I hate to hold just one ecchi scene against it, but I feel that it’s so misplaced that it warrants reconsidering the overall motivation of this anime.  Seeing busty Medaka in her underwear in the student council room with the lame excuse of justifying this fanservice moment by saying that it reinforces the validity of Medaka and Zenkichi’s relationship as childhood friends is just weak.  After that pathetic attempt to appeal to the male fanbase, it completely ruined my mood and soured my interest in this series.  But it is made by Gainax, so I think I’ll give it one last chance to redeem itself before I write it off as nothing more than an energetic but shallow anime.

Kore wa Zombie Desu ka? of the Dead Ep. 1

Initial impression – more silliness

Spring 2012 (10 episodes) (title literal translation – Is this a Zombie? of the Dead) (more info)

And so begins Kore wa Zombie Desu ka? of the Dead, the second season of a series that I thought already did everything it needed to the first time.  Ayumu, the zombie who is so alive you’d swear he’s just a normal human, is still living with a nice variety of three young women and his latent masou-shoujo powers continue to be sought after by Megalo monsters dressed in gakuran.  What more could be added to this ecchi comedy series definitely hasn’t been made clear in the first episode—other than Ayumu is going to have a much harder time feigning normalcy than he was able to during the first season.  Given the title animation, it looks like old enemy Kyoko is back for round two and she’s just as crazy as before.  Other than that, it seems Kore wa Zombie 2 is going to just sort of do its own thing—following on in the first season’s wacky, ecchi formula of oddly combined character archetypes that manage to be cool in a very nonchalant manner.  I’m not optimistic the second season will compare favorably with the first (few sequels do) but I’m ready to see where Ayumu’s new misadventures lead him.

Fortune Arterial – Akai Yakusoku (review)

Final impression – atmospheric and smooth (7/10)

Autumn 2010 (12 episodes) (title literal translation – Fortune Arterial – Red Promise)

Kouhei was always transferring schools throughout his childhood as his family moved from place to place.  But now that he’s a high school student and he’s been accepted to a prestigious private school, he’s decided to make some real, lasting friendships for the first time in his life.  But now that he’s made up his mind to finally enjoy his youth without worrying about having to leave it all behind again, he discovers that Erika, the beautiful student council vice president, is actually a vampire.  Her older brother, who happens to be the president, gives him an ultimatum.  He can either join the student council so they can make sure he doesn’t divulge any secrets, or Erika will erase his memories—ruining any chance he might have of recollecting his past relationships with the other students at his school.

The splendid symphony of Lia’s music for the opening and ending themes is the most wonderful aspect of Fortune Arterial.  Also, the story is deeper and twistier than most anime based on h-games.  Overall it gives me the impression of a Twilight rewrite with gender roles reversed and no werewolves or pretty boys—making it a version of Twilight with a male audience in mind and fewer plot devices stolen from Underworld.  However, for as much good as it does to fix the vampire-romance subgenre, Fortune Arterial’s greatest failing is how poorly it treats its side characters.  Those girls not important for the main plot get about one badly written episode if they’re lucky enough to not have any siblings.  Basically, it just sticks with the main girl all the way, which provides a steady pace for some good character development.  The ending is a bit wishy-washy, but impactful enough to not detract from the overall story.  And while this anime ultimately falls short of excellence, it is still very respectable.

Anime of the Year 2011

What’s immediately clear about C^3 is that it’s trying to be a philosophical discourse about the bonds of humanity to the tools we use.  What’s amazing is how well it accomplishes this goal—shattering the initial trepidation that this series might turn out to be nothing more than a gilded brick.  Haruaki’s strong, competent personality provides a natural foundation for the other characters to rely on, but the real gem comes from the sadistically cute voice acting of Yukari Tamura.  Watching her magnificent portrayal of Fear was plenty to elevate C^3 to number five on my list of 2011’s best anime.

#4. No. 6

It’s not often an anime comes along that blends issues of science and morality as well as No. 6.  It reminds us that the natural resources of our world can be our greatest sources of inspiration and innovation.  But we also need to respect the power of nature, especially when dealing with phenomena we don’t fully understand. Accepting our own place in nature is also pivotal to our survival, which goes hand-in-hand with our respect for our fellow humans. Through a bit of fantasy, science fiction and post-apocalyptic ingenuity, No. 6 fits nicely into last year’s fourth place.

Wandering Son touches on some very important, often misunderstood and undiscussed issues dealing with the growth of children into young adults.  Its core theme deals with gender identity and how this confusion and desire to be someone very different from society’s expectations can lead to turmoil.  This anime takes a very candid view of what men and women are expected to be and tells a story through the eyes of some honest young people about acceptance and being who you want to be, rather than what someone else wants you to be.  It’s a powerful concept, the art is beautiful and the wonderful music is the icing on the cake that puts Wandering Son at third place for 2011.

I’ll come right out and admit that my choice for A-Channel to be the second-best anime of 2011 was highly biased by my own personal experiences—the lens through which I view the four main characters. Although each of the four girls are colorful and unique, I can see a little of myself in each of them.  Like Run, I have a hard time waking up in the morning and I’m bad at reading the atmosphere of social situations.  Nagi is smart, wears glasses and is sensitive about her self-image—just like me.  Yuuko and I are both tall and ticklish.  And Tooru hates hot summer weather, which is also one of my greatest enemies.  It’s just good, hilarious moe fun and its charms will put a warm smile on your laughing face.

Everything about this anime is so spectacular it’s easily capable of deflecting the attacks of any naysayer and I predict this title to be one of the most cherished, memorable anime in history.  We’re literally witnessing the rise of an anime for the ages—something that will transcend generations to come.  Its accomplishments are too numerous to go into detail here, so I’ll do my best to keep my enthusiasm brief.
1. Madoka took the magic girl genre that generally doesn’t get a lot of love from more casual anime fans, threw away everything wrong and then added its own original flair to show that the right amount of creativity can make anything shine brightly.
2. The story is deep and intellectual.  Between imagining ways of warping space and time, then twisting the delicate emotions of young people who wish to fulfill their kindest desires resulting in tragedy while distorting misunderstood feelings, culminating in a selfless, powerful will that can alter the physical properties of reality itself, there’s no shortage of deep thinking and fresh ideas.
3. Music and art that merge the story and setting into a complete piece, crafted with such flawless skill that we’re unlikely to see this level of quality again for quite some time. It’s just so tight and focused, not a second, not a color, not a single word is wasted fluff that would distract from the central story.

It’s really just a no-brainer that Magic Girl Madoka Magica would be my anime of the year.

Ben-to (review)

Final impression – quirky fun with a touch of gallantry (7/10)

Autumn 2011 (12 episodes) (title literal translation – Boxed-Lunch)

When you’re going to high school and money is tight, you learn to shop for bargains on food.  Late in the day at the supermarkets, the boxed meals—Japanese bento—get marked down to half price.  This is when the bargain hunters come out to battle each other for the best deals on the day’s dinner.  Called “Wolves,” they go all out in a free-for-all battle royale of punches and kicks to claim their prize and newcomers like Satou are given no quarter—it’s sink or swim for anyone who steps into the ring.  But a cheap meal isn’t the only motivation for the newbie protagonist.  He admires the beautiful Sen Yarizui whose skill as a wolf has earned her the title of “Ice Witch.”  Upon further investigation he finds that Yarizui is a grade above him at his school and in order to get closer to her, he joins the “Half-Pricer’s Club,” which she is the president.  Little does he know he’s gotten involved in a warrior’s adventure that’s going to teach him the value of upholding chivalry even in the most adverse circumstances.

The flow of Ben-to feels pretty good for the most part.  But this anime’s main selling point is its freshness.  Fighting anime of all kinds come and go without any unique attributes to set them apart from the crowd.  Ben-to stands out by doing things its own way and not caving to established norms.  That’s not to say that this anime made very good choices in its effort to be itself—particularly in the pool episode—but the fact that it tried its best is something to take note of when you look at the big picture.  Another noteworthy facet of Ben-to and nearly all anime of the entire fall 2011 season is the depiction of Satou as a strong, but down-to-earth young man when it comes to his interactions with girls.  I’ve grown tired of the male protagonist who has absolutely no backbone when it comes to women.  All the same, I’m not sure if Satou qualifies as being a favorable exception to that overused male character attribute.  On one hand he’s usually just caught in compromising situations from which there is no favorable escape.  On the other hand, despite is more chivalrous side, he never has the presence of mind to find a way to simply avoid those dilemmas in the first place.  So aside from its slightly ecchi side, Ben-to was a lot of fun.

C3 Cube x Cursed x Curious (review)

Final impression – spectacularly human (9/10)

Autumn 2011 (12 episodes) (alternate titles – C^3 – C Cubed)

When Haruaki received a mysterious package from his father, he should have guessed it might turn into a girl.  Fear-in-Cube is a cursed torture device that has accumulated centuries of hate and death, allowing her to manifest as an intelligent being in her own right.  She was sent to live with Haruaki so that she might escape the cruel destiny that has compounded into the misery of her existence.  But that’s not going to be easy when the slightest trigger of violence can send her into a blood frenzy of flying guillotines.  On top that, she’s the target of underground organizations of all colors.  Some see her as an abomination to be destroyed while other seek out the power she possesses to use for their own misdeeds.  Either way, she’s going to have to depend on wise-beyond-his-years Haruaki to make sure she stays true on her path to rehabilitation.

When I started to brainstorm for my review for C3, my first instinct was to start with something defensive that made an effort to excuse some kind of shortcoming.  But then I realized that the brilliant composition of this anime needs no excuses to protect it from simple-minded twits who only want to focus on perceived shallowness when all they’re really seeing is the reflection of their own bias on the surface of a vast, deep ocean.  And C3 is splendidly deep.  It is a story about the human qualities of our tools—the extensions of ourselves we create in order to enhance ourselves to either our benefit or our detriment.  When we use a tool long enough we often start to apply human characteristics and personality to it as it becomes an augment of our bodies; even taking on a share of our own souls. Thus are our tools extensions of our own creative or destructive tendencies.

Yukari Tamura gives a sparkling performance as C3's heroine, Fear.

The theme of C3 is societal responsibility—we must clean up our own messes as well as the messes that happen to cross our paths rather than pass the blame or hope someone else picks up the slack.  It’s an uplifting triumph of chivalry and of people who genuinely wish to make the world a better place. Additionally, Haruaki is one of my favorite male characters in recent anime because he’s not perverted, introverted, spineless or shy around women.  The overused trope of the weak male lead finally gets tossed out and that makes me incredibly happy. Given this anime’s style, I could very easily have seen it devolve into some ecchi harem show like Mayo Chiki or Boku wa Tomodachi.  But C3 decidedly stays away from that territory and keeps things classy, even avoiding an obligatory swimsuit or onsen episode that populate so many anime that seem to lose their creative sparks halfway through.

Listen to Me, Girls. I Am Your Father! Ep. 1

Final impression – scattered and uncoordinated (3/10)

Winter 2012 (12 episodes) (Japanese title – Papa no Iukoto wo Kikinasai!) (title literal translation – Listen to Papa!) (more info)

I don’t have any idea what this anime is supposed to be about.  Themes, clichés and subtext fly in from every direction and add to a mishmash of confusion.  Is it just a story about an unlucky college student, a spunky love interest teasing his sexual preferences or his quirky niece who has daddy issues?  There’s really no reason all of these themes couldn’t flow seamlessly into one another or even become mixed into the characters as their personalities become more developed.  But Listen to Papa! seems to only be able to do one theme at a time and the transitions from one idea to another feel really unnatural.  There’s a lot of unestablished history that we’re just expected to accept without explanation.  A much more gradual introduction would have really helped the process of getting to know everyone satisfactorily.  But probably the biggest niggling detail about Listen to Papa! is its nonsensical title.  It’s very clear that the male lead has no children and all of the young girls are his nieces.  This gets even more poignant when you take into consideration the subtitle, Listen to me Girls, I’m your Father!.  A better title would have been, “Listen to Uncle.”  But no matter what you call it, this is just a poorly constructed anime right down to its most basic foundations.

High School DxD Ep. 1

Initial impression – succeeding at being bad

Winter 2012 (12 episodes) (more info)

The first thing you need to know about High School DxD?  It’s very ecchi.  So if ecchi isn’t your style you can stop here and go read one of my other reviews.  Oh?  You’re still interested?  Well then, if you’re going to pick an ecchi anime you can certainly do much worse than High School DxD.  Most ecchi anime stick with relatively tame panty shots or clever angles to hide the best parts; in this anime, fully exposed, bouncy boobs are fair game.  The drawing style looks amateaurish with lens flares cheaply used to censor the best parts below the waist and that choice somehow fits with the spirit of immaturity that permeates this anime.  It’s seriously lacking in plot substance, but it’s paced quite well and leaves enough of itself open to keep things entertaining.  High School DxD is an ecchi anime where it’s just sort of nice to relax and drink in all of the eye candy constructed around a simple story.  That’s not praise, so much as a begrudging nod that High School DxD knows what it wants to accomplish and it’s doing it well.  I’ll say that if you’re looking for an ecchi anime that knows how to be entertaining without being too stupid then High School DxD might deserve to be given a chance.

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