Ashita no Anime

Anime of Tomorrow

Tag Archives: high school drama

Mirai Nikki (review)

Final impression – the journey is better than the destination (7/10)

Autumn 2011 to winter 2012 (26 episodes) (title literal translation – The Future Diary)

Yukiteru Amano has been entered as an unwilling candidate into a survival game by Deus Ex Machina, the god of time who will use the contest to decide his most appropriate successor.  Yukiteru was chosen, along with 12 other contestants, because they have been keeping impeccably accurate observation diaries that Deus deems a worthy character trait to qualify them for the role of the god of time.

As part of the game, each player has had their diary upgraded by Deus to predict the future out to a considerable amount of time.  Their actions in the present could change their futures and those changes will be reflected in updates to their diaries.  Thus the best candidate will be the one who can control their future and eliminate the others.  But Yukki isn’t the most gung-ho about being unwittingly involved in this survival game no matter how big the prize, especially when he has to put up with his creepy, stalker girlfriend, Yuno Gasai, whose diary is capable of predicting his every move.

I’m not the type of fan who can fully enjoy a series based solely on the adventure.  I need some measure of closure at the end—something to wrap things up or at least signify a proper ending.  It doesn’t matter too much if I disagree with the outcome.  After all, it’s at the writer’s discretion to tell a story the way they think it should be told, not to tell it the way I want.

That’s why I’m so conflicted about Mirai Nikki.  It seems too focused on the path to the conclusion than on the conclusion itself, even if the voyage along the way was a doozy.  The finale does an exceptionally poor job of signifying a true ending as it goes about a little epilogue with a real dearth of imagination.  I just can’t imagine sitting in a self-imposed exile doing nothing but lamenting the loss of your loved one for 10,000 years.  I was always a big believer in the concept of time healing all wounds; particularly those of the heart.

Many times in this series I think Yukki’s personality is just far too inconsistent; even taking into consideration the chaos that’s always threatening to envelop him at any moment.  The pacing of the story also can’t keep a steady tempo with a lot of little bunny trails that seem to lead off to nowhere.  But for all of my complaints it does do a good job of telling a story filled with a terrific variety of interesting characters with a multitude of motivations and flaws; all packed with some pretty grisly details that make me wonder if they’ll be uncensored on the blu-ray.

Can true love literally last forever even if you can never see that person ever again?  Is it really healthy to remain true to your greatest passion or does there come a point when it’s best to just let go and move on?  And what about endings?  Is it best to have closure or can the journey be just as rewarding, even if the reward at the end is seriously lacking?

Kids on the Slope Ep. 1

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.

Acchi Kocchi Ep. 1

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.

Tasogare Otome x Amnesia Ep. 1

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.

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.

Hiiro no Kakera Ep. 1

Initial impression – deliberately hazy (4/10)

Spring 2012 to summer 2012 (24 episodes) (title literal translation – Scarlet Fragment) (more info)

If an anime can’t make its story clear within the first episode, I worry about the pacing of events to come.  Hiiro no Kakera does a decent job setting up some suspense and mystery and I see Tamaki Kasuga headed in a definite direction that is going to be full of challenges.  However, not knowing the exact role she is to play in this murky, spirit-infested, backwater village leaves me just as confused as her.  Just who is she and why is she so important that she requires high-class secret service hidden among her classmates to keep an eye on her at all times?  On that note, the biggest thing I’m relieved to see is that this series does not seem to be the pretty-boy anime that it superficially appeared to be at first glance.  The focus is all on Tamaki and while she may be a tad harsh on some of her male guardians, at least she isn’t fawning on them like some weird, reverse harem.  I see the potential for something interesting in Hiiro no Kakera, but there’s just not enough substance there to hold my attention.

Shakugan no Shana (review)

Final impression – a triumphant beginning (10/10)

Autumn 2005 to winter 2006 (24 episodes + 1 OVA) (title literal translation – Shana of Burning Eyes, English synonym – Shana the Fire-Eyed)

High school has started and Yuji Sakai is already making the most of his youth.  But on his way home one day he steps into a sealed zone that is separated from the normal flow of time.  In here, he is attacked by monsters intent on devouring this strange human who can move within their trap.  But at the last second he is saved by a beautiful girl with flaming red hair; easily overpowering his attackers.  But despite protecting him from the monsters, it turns out Yuji Sakai is already dead.  His existence was eaten by a denizen of the Crimson World some time ago and all that remains of him is a tiny spark that will soon burn out.  He decides to spend his last few days before he disappears in the company of his savior, aiding her in any way that he can before he is gone without a trace.  However, a fortunate turn of events may give him an unexpected reprieve from oblivion.

Shakugan no Shana is a spectacular story.  It starts with the initial, horrifying concept of the enemies of humanity consuming people’s very existence as energy, leaving nothing behind to remember them by.  It’s a feeling of hopelessness and helplessness that is dramatically mitigated by Yuji’s ability to keep a positive attitude about the whole situation.  He never despairs and is always thinking about how he can best make use of his limited potential.  It’s a testament to the tremendous strength of character people can exhibit when cornered by the most trying circumstances.  The series expands on its intellectual, action-filled beginning and moves into a more romantic theme as the steely Shana realizes that she’s not an emotionless killing machine and her feelings for Yuji go beyond mere camaraderie.  Even the final battle is more than it superficially appears to be because the plot never misses a chance to include a thought-provoking discussion about the characters’ inner motives.  And then to top of the amazing writing is the gorgeous art style of Ito Noizi and excellent music courtesy of Mami Kawada, KOTOKO and several other bands and singers who knew just the right style to set the mood for this epic series.  In short, the first season of Shakugan no Shana struck a perfect balance between fighting, philosophy, artistic tone and romance to create an amazingly profound first season.

Guilty Crown (review)

Final impression – pretty but unpolished (6/10)

Autumn 2011 to winter 2012 (22 episodes)

In 2029 an outbreak of a mysterious disease known as the Apocalypse Virus hit Tokyo causing cancerous crystals to emerge from people’s bodies, reducing them to dust that blew away in the wind.  Now it’s 2039 and much of Japan’s policies are under the control of the GHQ—an organization devoted to researching and preventing another pandemic.  However, under the guise of public safety, the GHQ restricts the freedom of the Japanese people, which naturally makes them rather unpopular.  To counter this stifling new branch of government that sometimes descends into spontaneous martial law, the terrorist group Undertaker seeks to liberate Japan using covert, guerrilla tactics.  Shu Ouma is just an average high school student living in Tokyo who laments the current state of affairs and feels there’s nothing he can do to change things.  But he gets thrust into the heart of the conflict when his path crosses with the indie singer, Inori Yuzuriha.  On the run from the GHQ, she entrusts him with delivering a stolen package to Undertaker.  But an accident along the way imbues him with the power to change the course of fate.

Guilty Crown is very beautiful both in its crisp drawing style and harmonious music, which create a terrific setting with awesome potential.  This optimism further gets bolstered by the growth of Shu’s character as he goes through a transition of ordinary to mighty, then misguided and finally culminating in noble selflessness.  The flow of his personality follows an organic development that is as natural as it is elegant.  But looking past the artfulness and the excellent character development of Guilty Crown, the writing of this anime is thick and muddy.  As much as it wants to be epic and tell an amazing story of realizing your own weakness and overcoming your preconceived limits, it fails to accomplish this goal eloquently.  Whether it’s relying on misplaced tropes like a swimsuit episode, contrived plot points such as reviving a character who was supposed to be dead or some overused quasi-romantic sort of martyrdom, there’s plenty of wasted potential.  To its credit, Guilty Crown never goes so far as to allow its clumsier episodes to break up the flow of the plot.  But some of the characters’ motives are so unreasonable that it feels like they’re puppets of the writer rather than real people with free will and personalities.  So while Guilty Crown is easy on the eyes and ears, its story is frustratingly forced and rushes to finish in its shorter-than-average run.

Ookami Kakushi (review)

Final impression – good atmosphere around a passable story (6/10)

Winter 2010 (12 episodes) (title literal translation – Wolfed Away)

Hiroshi’s father, an author of folklore and occult novels, has decided to move the family to the remote, countryside village of Jogamachi. His friendly attitude and city-boy personality allow Hiroshi to quickly make friends with his classmates.  But the one thing he never really becomes accustomed to the unusual traditions of this backwater town.  It becomes increasingly suspicious for Hiroshi when the dreary Nemuru, his classroom representative (daughter of the town’s oldest, traditional family) tells him to stay away from the old side of town across the river. But the apprehension really kicks in when people suddenly start leaving Jogamachi and the flimsy explanations for their quick departures just don’t make sense.

Ookami Kakushi’s most distinctive feature is its original drawing style that feels suave and matches perfectly with the fog of mystery that surrounds the story.  The writing is pretty good, too—pacing out just the right amount of information to feed your appetite, while managing to keep you hungry for more.  Unfortunately, the story doesn’t leave much of an impact when it’s over.  Without spoiling too much, it’s a fairly standard “spirited away,” scenario that gets much less intriguing when the big surprise is that the circumstances are only superficially supernatural.  All in all, it’s a good show that gets you to feel for the characters and manages its allotments of suspense with skillful timing.  Certainly not for people who don’t care for slow, moody anime, Ookami Kakushi is a fine example of well-composed atmospheric pacing.

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