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 – 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 – 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.
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.
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.