Ashita no Anime

Anime of Tomorrow

Tag Archives: science fiction

Haiyore! Nyaruko-san Ep. 1

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.

Tsuritama Ep. 1

Initial impression – I want to like it but…eh… (5/10)

Spring 2012 (dropped at 1 of 11 episodes) (title literal translation – Fishing Sphere) (more info)

There is a not-so-fine line between playfully random and simply making no sense at all and Tsuritama dances dangerously between the right and wrong sides of that divide.  For one, it’s got a fairly wild cast including Yuki the overly self-conscious transfer student, Natsuki the local fishing prodigy, Haru the self-proclaimed alien who can talk with fish and an as-of-yet unnamed Indian character who works for the MIB and has a duck named Tapioca as his partner.  It’s really all over the place with its themes, but I feel like praising it because it seems to be going beyond the inane and actually has some substance to the story.  Additionally, unlike other recent anime with all-male casts (Kimi to Boku for example) at the very least it’s doing a better job of holding my attention.  If nothing else it has a decidedly bright and cheerful art style that I really like.  Perhaps I want to be overly generous because I’m a fisherman and I’ve sort of been hoping for a fishing anime to come along someday—blinding myself with optimism because of this anime’s premise.  Sadly there’s certainly no shortage of incomprehensible choices the characters make—like Yuki’s grandmother allowing complete stranger Haru live with them in their new house.  Just…c’mon…seriously?  Are we really expected to just accept that without batting an eye?  On this occasion I’m going with my better judgment and admitting that Tsuritama has some very conspicuous logical flaws that create a damaging discontinuity of tone that I don’t foresee the story being able to adequately recover from.

Eureka Seven AO Ep. 1

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.

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.”

Space Brothers Ep. 1

Initial impression – the wrong style (4/10)

Spring 2012 (12 episodes) (Japanese title – Uchuu Kyoudai) (more info)

I have the distinct feeling this series would have been better suited to a live-action drama.  There’s nothing wrong with animated dramas per se, but Space Brothers does not take advantage of animation as a medium, which I feel is a lot of waste.  The large amount of emphasis on real-world organizations JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) and NASA as well as the bonus features after the episode make it feel like an exaggerated advertisement for getting young people interested in space.  And while I think space is awesome I can’t see this series becoming something spectacular.  I’ll fully admit that I can’t stand the sort of art style used in Space Brothers and that may be biasing my opinion slightly, but I was also so underwhelmed by the writing and premise that it was unable to overcome my predispositions.  All in all the tone of the first episode is so disappointing that I can’t imagine Space Brothers becoming anything other than ordinary.

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.

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.

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.

Guilty Crown (ongoing)

Impression – half over, all awesome

Autumn 2011 to winter 2012 (22 episodes) (more info)

At the halfway point of Guilty Crown, it feels like everything is finished.  But…there’s still another full season of content.  It’s very clear that this anime has decided to split its story into two very distinct arcs, which I’m worried is going to give the impression that the first arc was just a drawn-out way of establishing setting for what is now the main story.  Just how much of what happened in the first half is going to matter in the second is still up in the air.  But with such an abrupt change of direction, much of what came before may not continue to contribute meaningfully to current events.  An anime that’s only half-important to watch is liable to only be half good.  But I feel that I’m being overly pessimistic with that evaluation because Guilty Crown has some really brilliant action.  It’s also trying its best to be a supernatural thriller, and while I give an A for effort, when the best it can muster is an apocalypse, I’ve seen much better compositions on that theme in other anime.  My advice is to watch Guilty Grown for its gorgeous music, smooth art style and top-notch fights that exhibit some amazing spontaneity and creativity.

Mouretsu Pirates Ep. 1

Final impression – plot holes big enough to fly a spaceship through (3/10)

Winter 2012 to Spring 2012 (26 episodes) (English title – Bodacious Space Pirates) (more info)

Despite Mouretsu Pirates‘ female protagonist, the overall tone of the anime from its drawing style, character design, subject material and right down to the way it composes its story is decidedly shounen.  After that, it’s all one incomprehensible turn of events after another.  The main character is just a normal high school girl living in some nondescript corner of the galaxy when one day she finds out she’s the daughter of a powerful pirate and his crew is here to accept her as their new captain… Hold on, isn’t the right of succession for pirates be determined by rank and not inheritance? That would naturally mean that after the captain’s death, command of the spaceship would go to his first mate, right?  If I was a pirate I would want to follow the orders of a commander that knows how to be a leader, not his clueless, uninitiated daughter.  Then we are expected to believe that pirates X,000 years in the future will still be wearing clothes from the 16th century.  It’s these kinds of silly stylistic choices that can make an otherwise decent story so unnatural that it becomes impossible to take it seriously, even in jest.  Mouretsu also abuses the overused plot device of having the shady stranger conveniently become the homeroom teacher in order to keep an eye on things.  It then begins to foreshadow that her classmates are going to become entangled in the unlikely roles of piracy.  Seriously?  This is the best recruiting strategy a group of accomplished space pirates can come up with?  Don’t mistake me for some unimaginative realist who can’t tolerate some stylistic randomness for the sake of having fun.  But when it reaches levels of disconnect that start affecting the setting’s credibility, it’s just a bunch of poorly constructed nonsense.

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