Ashita no Anime

Anime of Tomorrow

Tag Archives: moe

Saki: Achiga-hen – Episode of Side-A Ep. 1

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.

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.

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.

C3 Cube x Cursed x Curious (review)

Final impression – spectacularly human (9/10)

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

Kill Me Baby Ep. 1

Initial impression – not as bad as I thought it might be

Winter 2012 (12 episodes) (more info)

With an art style reminiscent of some big-name moe anime, Kill Me Baby is just asking to be compared to its predecessors.  Unfortunately, It doesn’t have the charm of Lucky Star nor does it have the quirkiness of Pani Poni Dash.  But to its credit, it goes about its humor with a level of seriousness which belies its over-stylized moe appearance.  There’s very much a sense that this anime is determined to be original.  But a niggling detail that I just can’t seem to let go of is the very abrupt and matter-of-fact way the setting and characters are introduced.  I can’t point to any negativity this creates and for the most part it fits with Kill Me Baby’s fast pace.  But all the same, I feel like I’m lacking some crucial details that may simply be nonexistent in the first place.  Maybe it will grow on me if I give it a chance, but Kill Me Baby doesn’t wow the viewer with its first episode.

Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai (review)

Final impression – short-lived, repetitive fun (6/10)

Autumn 2011 (12 episodes) (alternate title – Bokuha Tomodachiga Sukunai) (title literal translation – I Don’t Have Many Friends)

Kodaka was never very good at making friends and being half-Japanese with dirty blonde hair didn’t help his popularity at school.  Yozora was always a tomboy and couldn’t get along with the other girls.  When she forces Kodaka to go along with a new club she’s made for the explicit purpose of making new friends, their circle grows in ways they didn’t anticipate.  It turns out Sena, the most popular girl in school, wants to seek real friendship instead of the empty admiration of her posse.  Then things get ridiculous when Yukimura joins in order to work on developing his masculinity.  Then the easily excitable Rika enters the scene to be with a group where she can let loose her passionate personality.  As this varied group of social rejects stumbles their way through discovering the norms of youth, their clashes of personality set off fireworks of camaraderie.

When I first started watching this anime I had high hopes this was going to be a satirical story about how socially awkward people have a hard time making friends.  What I got was a harem anime with an underlying subplot about the reunion of two childhood friends.  There’s nothing immediately wrong with that and I don’t feel mislead.  But I think a better plot catch would have been to appeal to a fan base that can relate to other people who typically have difficulty making friends.  And on that note I am a bit disappointed a chance for a more meaningful story was passed up.  This is especially poignant when several entire episodes of this short series are devoted to the characters just playing video games together in their clubroom.  Overall, it’s dispersed with some very memorable moments that give a smile and a chuckle, but all the rest just melts into background noise.  The pacing is quite poor and never gets a chance to wow the viewer.

Working!! 2 (review)

Final impression – unchecked misconceptions are hilarious (8/10)

Autumn 2011 (13 episodes) (alternate titles – Working’!!Wagnaria’!!)

The staff of the family restaurant Wagnaria aren’t your average group of employees.  Takanashi grew up in a family of tall women, despite the fact that he has a fixation with small and cute.  Popula is a short, high school girl who is sensitive about her height.  Inami is an incredibly strong girl with an intense, often violent fear of men.  Yachiyo is a hard-working, air-headed waitress who always carries a sword with her.  Yamada ran away from home for unknown reasons and leeches off of others’ kindness while living in the restaurant’s attic.  Satou is a hard-working chef with an off-putting personality.  Souma is Satou’s comrade in the kitchen and has an amazing talent for digging up people’s secrets.  And overseeing all of these personalities is Kyouko, a glutton of a manager who constantly eats all the restaurant’s supplies.

Working!! 2 is one of those rare anime where the story is so episodic that it’s hard to imagine a large amount of character growth or a clear conclusion to an overarching story.  Normally this would characterize an anime that feels unpolished with no clear goal or motivation—especially for a sequel—but that’s not the case.  While the cast has some typical stereotypes, they all have enough depth to be interesting and engaging.  Every day is an adventure for the characters as they contend with daily problems and pursue their own goals with great enthusiasm.  While it would be nice to see some of the relationships become more defined and start to blossom more fully, it’s not necessary for the series to feel complete.  Indeed, many of the most hilarious moments in Working!! 2 stem from compounded misunderstandings and can’t be resolved without drastically altering the spirit of the anime.  In the end, Working!! 2—just like the first season—is a unique formula that makes you laugh and smile.

K-ON! (series review)

Final impression – heartwarming and funny, but oversold

K-ON! (8/10) Spring 2009 (13 episodes) (title literal translation – Light Music!)

K-ON!! (6/10) Spring 2010 to summer 2010 (26 episodes)

K-ON! Movie (7/10) Autumn 2011

When spacey Yui Hirasawa started high school, she decided she wanted to become a more involved and engaging person.  Carefree Ritsu Tainaka and pushover Mio Akiyama had a long standing pact to start their own band.  The warm and friendly Tsumugi Kotobuki wanted to be in choir, but when she bumped into Ritsu and Mio, she decided to stay and make new friends.  These four crossed paths in their first year of high school and the light music club or “K-ON” was born (if you’re wondering how light music becomes K-ON, the Japanese words for light music are karui ongaku, hence K-ON).  Through a few stumbling blocks, they managed to make it through their first year when the serious Azusa Nakano joined the club to help give them all a better team cohesion. From there, it’s an adventure of playing music and goofing off as only the five girls’ band, After-school Tea Time knows how to do.

K-ON! and I have a somewhat flimsy relationship.  I’m a big fan of the moe subgenre of anime and the first season of K-ON! delivered terrifically.  It was fast-paced, funny, clever, insightful and most importantly not a second was wasted.  It all added up to an entertaining experience.  The music was at times lackluster and a little over the top, but it all fit together beautifully to set up the phenomenon that would come later.  Then the second season began to air and it immediately became apparent from the much slower pace that this was not going to have the impact that the first season had.  It was really quite sad to see something fresh suddenly get turned into a vacuum; sucking away the value that the first season set up by putting the viewer through drawn-out, drudging, pointless story arcs. Admittedly, the second season’s music was much improved over the first season, but that’s little consolation for the huge sacrifice that happened to the story.

So does the K-ON! Movie breathe life back into the franchise that had become a bloated, empty appeal to the fan base?  The short answer is no, but I’ll add a caveat that the movie has much better pacing than the second season did.  There are equal measures of story, punch lines and character development that were seriously lacking in K-ON!! However, this gets undercut by a distinct lack of new music which would really have helped keep things fresh.  The product is a icon of compromise and mediocrity, fighting its desire to pander to the established fans while creating enough new material to keep everything afloat.

Kimi to Boku Ep. 1

Final impression – different, but not different enough (5/10)

Autumn 2011 (13 episodes) (more info)

Kimi to Boku is a school drama about a group of childhood friends who have become high school students and are now relying on their shared pasts and camaraderie to enjoy their youth and shape the adults they are going to become.  This sort of description would typically characterize a moe anime with an all-female cast, but that’s where you’d be wrong.  It is refreshing to have an entirely male cast in a scenario that most people would shove into a trope that gets done way too often.  However, what’s most pleasing is that this gender reversal actually works to create something that is a moderate success.  As many good things it has going for it, Kimi to Boku is one of those pleasant anime with some fun moments that gave me a good chuckle, but I just can’t see it becoming anything particularly interesting.

I don’t recall it having always been this way, but J.C. Staff has really been cranking out anime over the past few years.  Seemingly, about two anime each season now.  And the more this pattern has increased, the more it feels like they’re sacrificing quality for quantity.  They still put out good stuff like Kamisama no Memochou, but the trend seems to be leaning more towards average stuff like Kimi to Boku.

Mayo Chiki! (review)

Final impression – Sometimes fun, mostly just empty (5/10)

Summer 2011 (13 episodes)

Jirou is a high school student with a fear of women.  It can’t be helped.  His mother was a pro wrestler and this little sister seeks to emulate her.  So she uses Jirou as a punching bag, which has led to a condition where if a female so much as tries to touch him, he gets shivers down his spine and a desire to run away.  Things are rough for an adolescent boy who can’t get too close to girls.  But things go from bad to worse when he finds out that Konoe, the school’s most popular boy, is actually a cross-dressing girl.  She’s doing this in order to train to become a butler for the aristocratic Kanade, because after all…only men can be butlers.  Kanade wants very much for her dream to be fulfilled, so in order to ensure that Jirou keeps Konoe’s identity a secret, she insists the two of them become friends.  Otherwise, she’s going to make Jirou’s life a living hell.

The trope of someone being allergic to the opposite gender has been done many times and it’s really starting to get tired.  Mayo Chiki! can basically be summed up as poorly orchestrated ecchi moe with a side order of comedy.  Not the best set of priorities when you’re choosing a theme for your anime.  It watches like a cross between Hanaukyo Maid Team and Maria+Holic as told by Hayate no Gotoku with the drawing style of Ookami-san & Seven Companions.  It has funny and clever moments, but it’s all just so transparently contrived and unimaginative.  That’s not to say there aren’t any fun moments.  There are a few clever plays on Japanese words that the fansub groups neglected to explain to the 99% of their audiences who will not appreciate the puns without a significant understanding of Japanese.  I found myself cheering for the characters occasionally, but that gets old fast—especially when they don’t grow an inch in thirteen episodes.

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