Ashita no Anime

Anime of Tomorrow

Tag Archives: romance

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.

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.

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.

Zetman Ep. 1

Initial impression – too niche (4/10)

Spring 2012 (13 episodes) (more info)

Zetman doesn’t seem to have much going for it.  It’s already very clear what the story is going to be about and I fear it’s going to stick to such a standard formula it won’t be able to deviate into something more creative.  I’m also not fond of the very cliché “Dragonball hair” moment during the climax of episode one, but despite my misgivings there’s some great action and the plot builds on some very formative moments that will clearly shape the characters’ futures in the coming episodes.  The art style also isn’t my favorite with a very “Japan hero-show,” design for the appearance of the superhero suits reminiscent of Power Rangers.  It’s very unimaginative and childish for something that clearly wants to market itself to a more mature audience.   So it seems Zetman is firmly going to be a sort of hyper-shounen anime that isn’t strictly bad.  Unfortunately, it has such narrow appeal that the people who like it will really like it, but everyone else is just going to say, “meh.”

Accel World Ep. 1

Initial impression – the beginning of something really cool

Spring 2012 to summer 2012 (24 episodes) (title synonym – Accelerated World) (more info)

The concept of using a virtual world parallel to reality as a setting concept isn’t new territory.  From .hack//SIGN to Sword Art Online coming this July, this type of series has a long and varied history.  So if Accel World wants to stand apart from the crowd, it needs to find something it can make its own.  And boy does this series look promising.  For starters, if you’re going to go all out and make your main character a pathetic protagonist—the unlikely hero—you can’t be more thorough than Haruyuki.  He’s short, chubby, whiny, nerdy, the target of bullies and above all he’s dishonest with his feelings and with the feelings of others.  His own self-image is so poor that even his online avatar mirrors his lowly existence.  Kuroyukihime is everything Haruyuki is not—beautiful, shrewd, popular, affluent and most importantly mysterious—making her his perfect mirror opposite.  Seemingly on a whim, she guides him to a breaking point and gives him the chance to release all of his emotions in a rage of vengeance.  But he remains composed and opts to play things smart rather than allow his new abilities to go to his head.  The writing continues to prove its purposeful vision when Haruyuki’s new skills are put to a real test.  All too often these kinds of anime devolve into a boring “battle of wills,” in which whoever wants the win more is the one who achieves victory.  But Haruyuki is a thinker and when facing insurmountable odds his cleverness continues to be his greatest asset.  Seeing the underdog finally discover that his strength is knowledge is uplifting and a really smart way to grow his personality.  With a sharp art style and gorgeous character designs I have high hopes that Accel World is going to be one of spring 2012’s best anime.

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.

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