Ashita no Anime

Anime of Tomorrow

Tag Archives: school life

Phi Brain – Kami no Puzzle Ep. 1

Final impression – an undercover sports anime (4/10)

Autumn 2011 to winter 2012 (25 episodes) (title literal translation – Phi Brain – God’s Puzzle) (more info)

When you scrape off the surface coating of the puzzle theme, Phi Brain is just another sports anime.  You know the kind—arrogant middle school or high school boys with really specific superpowers competing against other arrogant male figures that are evil by the arbitrary distinction of not being the main character.  Yes, there’s a small twist to the premise, but that’s totally insignificant.  The basic concept has been done a million times, it’s distinctly shounen and by this point people reading this review probably already know if they’re going to like it or not.  I’ll concede that not all sports anime are awful and I understand Phi Brain is attempting to mix things up.  But it’s not different enough to hold my interest beyond the first episode.

Hanasaku Iroha (review)

Final impression – entertainingly forgettable (6/10)

Spring 2011 to summer 2011 (26 episodes) (title literal translation – Blooming Fundamentals)

When Tokyo girl Ohana’s single mother decides to elope with her boyfriend, she leaves Ohana in the care of her grandmother who runs a hot spring hotel in the sleepy town of Yunosagi.  The culture shock is immediate as Ohana is put to work right away, cleaning rooms and waiting on guests.  She’s assigned to be trained by the introverted Nako—a waitress who does her job well, but struggles to be as cheerful as Ohana.  Then there’s Minko, Ohana’s easily irritated roommate, who aspires to become a chef.  Her glass-half-empty mentality continually butts heads with Ohana’s glass-half-full optimism.  But overlooking the whole operation is Ohana’s grandmother, the hotel’s manager.  Unless they can meet each other halfway, her strict adherence to maintaining tradition is going to lead everyone to a battle between generations.

I never found myself getting caught up in the pace of Hanasaku Iroha.  It was always slow and disengaging.  It certainly has its moments, but they don’t happen often enough to keep me entertained except for a few short bursts.  Many of the characters are so wishy-washy as to be barely likeable.  How am I supposed to pick a side when the characters themselves don’t even have a clear motive?  While Ohana is always “festing it up” and she’s everyone’s heroine, in reality she’s more like a support character in the cheerleading section rather than a main character I can like or even relate to.  The emotions it evokes really start to lose their charge after the first episode’s punch wears off.  The story would have been paced much better in a 13 episode series.  It’s all severely lacking any meaningful impact.

Kamisama no Memochou (review)

Final impression – A really compelling drama (8/10)

Summer 2011 (title literal translation – God’s Notebook)

Narumi just wanted his high school life to pass by in an ordinary, orderly fashion so he could become an ordinary, orderly adult.  But when his cheerful classmate Ayaka insists that he be involved in extracurricular activities, any hopes of his life remaining quiet disappear.  She introduces him to a group of young men who work under the command of hacker genius and self-proclaimed NEET detective, Alice.  Under her guidance and the assistance of her friends and subordinates, Narumi finds the desire to grow beyond his pitiful goals of mediocrity into someone capable of changing lives.

Kamisama no Memochou is an excellent example of what can be done with anime as a story-telling medium.  It depicts genuinely good people facing incredibly trying dilemmas.  Anime with similar tones include Durarara!! and Eden of the East, but those two anime go into supernatural or science-fiction themes that Kamisama no Memochou stays very far away from.  Even the drawing style and character designs of this anime take on a style of realism seldom seen in anime and when it’s done this well…that’s really cool.  It watches like a regular, well-written drama with a wonderfully varied and eccentric cast.  Characters have complementary little quirks with well-established motives and designated strengths that give them a nice team cohesion.  Each mini-arc of the story is dynamic, interesting and spans a range of tones from mysterious, dramatic, suspenseful, romantic and even comedic where appropriate.  For a no-nonsense drama, you can’t go wrong with Kamisama no Memochou.

Blood-C (review)

Final impression – Only for unabashed CLAMP fans (4/10)

Summer 2011

In a remote village, Saya Kisaragi is the shrine maiden entrusted with slaying the Elder Ones—fearsome monsters that feast on the townspeople.  But when she has free time, she goes to high school, talks with her friends and enjoys coffee at a local café.  As she continues her mission to protect the town, small details start to converge together that just don’t add up.  Where do the Elder Ones come from?  To whom did Saya promise to guard the village?  And the greatest question, who was Saya’s mother?  She had better figure out the answers to these questions before it’s too late and everyone gets eaten.

First impressions can’t always be trusted and that is never truer than in Blood-C.  Talk about betraying your legacy.  Blood the Last Vampire and Blood+ had a likeable cast of characters, excellent pacing and terrific endings.  Even the live-action Blood the Last Vampire compares favorably to Blood-C and that’s pitiful.  The only reason I completed watching it is because I enjoy CLAMP’s artwork, making it the only possible redeeming feature.  I don’t know what Blood-C’s upcoming movie will do with this setup that the anime gave us.  However, 95% of the anime was an utterly pointless jaunt on the way to its eventual cliff-hanger ending.  The whole anime could have easily just not existed and twenty minutes added to the beginning of the movie to accomplish the same effect.

Itsuka Tenma no Kuro Usagi (review)

Final impression – Original, but nothing groundbreaking 6/10

Summer 2011 (title literal translation – A Black Rabbit has Seven Lives)

Taito Kurogane thinks he’s just a normal high school student with an average amount of misfortunes for someone his age.  But all that changes when he gives his life to save a girl he doesn’t even know from getting hit by a truck.  As he lies in the road expecting death…it never comes.  Miraculously, his body knits itself back together and suddenly he knows what he must do.  The healing magic courses through him and in a rush of repressed memories that come flooding back, he seeks out his childhood sweetheart, the powerful vampire Saitohimea, who he made a pact with many years ago and who granted him his immortal body.  But their reunion doesn’t go smoothly when the sorcerer who separated them in the first place reappears, intent on renewing the curse that was just broken.

Itsuka Tenma no Kuro Usagi breaks with some anime stereotypes initially by giving its lead hero a true love immediately from the outset.  This was a refreshing deviation from the typical setup of stringing the love story along through a series of awkward, indecisive circumstances that may or may not lead to a partnership at the anime’s conclusion.  That being said, Itsuten deviates back into the territory of annoyingly nebulous love and inserts what feels like a very forced “innocent homewrecker” mentality from the love triangle’s third corner.  All in all, the action of this anime was well played, the concept mostly fresh and it gets points for at least attempting to have its romance deviate from established norms. But it loses those points almost as quickly when it winds down to its nonconclusion that is begging for a second season to tie up the loose ends.  At the start, I had thought I was getting an anime that would be much more revolutionary than it turned out to be.

Yuru Yuri (review)

Final impression – Refreshing, but not as funny as I’d hoped 7/10

Summer 2011

The unstoppable, capricious leader, Kyouko.  The level-headed sidekick who vainly attempts to keep her in line, Yui.  Their childhood friend and the girl everyone forgets about, Akari.  And a new addition to the group, the hot and cold, pink twin-tailed Chinatsu.  Together these four members of the Amusement Club have taken over the former Tea Club’s room and turned it into a gathering place where they can goof around and just have fun.  Opposing their happy days are two members of the student council.  The strict tsundere Ayano and her calm, yuri sidekick, Chitose.  But despite their attempts to crash the Amusement Club’s party, more often than not they just end up getting sucked into the high-tempo pull of Kyouko’s personality to be whisked off on another wild ride.

To be honest, I wasn’t expecting Yuru Yuri to be as clever as it turned out to be when I first started watching it.  With an all-female cast as is typical of moe anime, you’re not going to be seeing any romance from this series.  However, as type-cast as some of the characters are, they do occasionally get to show a few more facets of their personalities in delightfully comedic ways.  That being said, their depth is quite shallow when compared to the growth and development of the characters of A-Channel, another recent moe anime.  The music is delightfully cheerful, the tropes pleasingly nontypical and it adds up to an anime that entertains.

Hourou Musuko (last thoughts)

Final impression – well written 9/10

Winter 2011 (Alternate titles – Wandering Son)

Nitori is a confused young boy who feels a need to explore his identity in much greater detail than other people his age.  In elementary school his closest friends always told him that he looked good in girls’ clothes, but his cross-dressing “hobby” goes much deeper into his psyche than just enjoying wearing dresses and skirts.  Takatsuki is in a similar, reversed situation to Nitori, but she’s much more certain of her desire to be like a man than Nitori is of his femininity.  The most interesting facet of this dichotomy is the two of them are the best of friends.  But as they start junior high school and begin the journey towards becoming young adults, the problems surrounding their gender identities will have to be addressed.

In the short time since its conclusion, Houruo Musuko has already solidified itself as an anime that breaks the mold.  Anime that really explore societal issues like gender identity are few and far between, but when they do come up, it helps legitimize anime as an art form.  The opening and ending themes are beautifully composed and fit well with the image this anime wants to deliver (please listen to Rie Fu’s wonderful bilingual singing).  While there’s nothing to really complain about in Houruo Musuko, there’s also never a climactic or even a dramatic moment to give an emotional rush for Nitori’s controversial circumstances.  It’s all dealt with rather calmly and fails to take advantage of the emotional baggage associated with the issues it wants to address.  But that’s just a choice of stylistic direction rather than a shortcoming of the anime to deliver an interesting story.  Houruo Musuko also brings a refreshing style both in its pastel-color art and story with the two protagonists being introverts surrounded by more flamboyant side characters.  It’s a level of believability not often seen, which easily pushes it into the top list of influential anime.

Hoshizora e Kakaru Hashi (last thoughts)

Final impression – decent enough 6/10

Spring 2011 (Alternate title – A Bridge to the Starry Skies)

Kazuma Hoshino and his family are moving back to the countryside from the city.  His parents send him and his little brother ahead so they can start the new school term.  As he begins to get settled, he starts renewing old friendships from his childhood, such as the fun but ditzy Ui and the cute but serious Madoka.  New relationships form as Kazuma settles in, like the tomboy Ibuki, the reserved Hina and the gentle Tsumugi.  High school is fun times with club activities, study sessions and town festivals.  As a former city kid, Kazuma is encouraged to participate in everything, which serves to raise his popularity.  In the midst of these events, the girls surrounding Kazuma have realized that he’s pretty cool.  But who’s going to get Kazuma to fall in love with them may require a committee decision.

Yeah, so I’m one of those weirdoes who likes h-games that have been turned into non-h animes.  Hoshizora e Kakaru Hashi isn’t a very good example of this type of transformation done well, but it’s somewhat respectable.  There’s a decent balance between all the girls and their stories flow nicely to create a cohesive story.  The art style and music are nothing to write home about, but I’ll forgive Hoshizora because it has some fun moments that exemplify how h-game anime can be clever.  A good example is when one of the girls points out that there’s nothing strange or embarrassing about bloomers being part of the girls’ gym uniform because women wear far less clothing in public when they go to the beach.  The ending is quite dramatic as well and gives a nice feeling of completion that a lot of anime seem to be lacking lately.  While the story is a little corny at times and predictable, the satisfaction of Hoshizora’s completeness makes it a small success.

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