Ashita no Anime

Anime of Tomorrow

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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.

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.

UN-GO Ep. 1

Final impression – a disgusting imitation  (2/10)

Autumn 2011 (11 episodes) (more info)

UN-GO wants to be Code Geass so bad I could puke.  Everything from its art style, to the needlessly complicated plot and the characters’ murky motives and personalities just oozes of the worst of Geass.  But if all those details didn’t make it obvious enough which anime they were trying to parody, the crown jewel of this blatant rip-off is the character Inga—who uses eye-magic to compel people to do things against their will.  From there it gets worse, which I didn’t think was even possible at this point.  The plot is one of those poorly constructed detective stories that forgets the key point to making a good mystery is to give the viewers enough clues to let them try and figure out the answer on their own before the big reveal at the end.  Instead, it keeps all the little details to itself in a maddening attempt to inflate the legendary genius of the main characters.  Just as Horizon got an undeserved privileged spot on ANN’s autumn preview list, UN-GO is another fine example of a horrible product that managed to get a good marketing team.  I’m disappointed in you Bones; you can do better than this.

Guilty Crown Ep. 1

Initial impression – powerful

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

Right away, the first thing Guilty Crown presents to its viewers with a wonderful music masterpiece.  I have not heard anime music this good since Angel Beats! ended.  After that, the rest of the first episode is followed up by just enough background to give me a sense of the setting.  Then, the lead hero is introduced as a believable, relatable high school student.  It finishes with an action sequence that doesn’t hog the spotlight when compared to Guilty Crown’s other cool elements and injects enough intrigue into the plot to leave me salivating for more.  The balance of focus in just this one episode leads me to believe that this is going to be the-must-watch anime for autumn 2011.  Or at the very least, I’m seeing some serious potential for this competitor to give Fate/Zero a run for its money.

Horizon on the Middle of Nowhere Ep. 1

Final impression – who is the target audience for anime like this? (3/10)

Autumn 2011 (13 episodes) (more info)

Seriously, just what has happened at Sunrise?  Has the staff been replaced by schizophrenic squirrels wearing kaleidoscope sunglasses while drinking way too much caffeine?  They used to make nice, serious anime like Escaflowne and then they made one of the best magic girl anime, My-HiME.  After that, they made the weird, but still fun Sora Kake Girl.  Last season featured the poorly composed Sacred Seven.  Now we have the completely unintelligible Horizon on the Middle of Nowhere.  I can’t make heads or tails of anything I saw in this first episode.  The plot is all over the place, the setting is a blur and there’s just too many characters.  I want to say there’s nothing offensive about it—unless you find having your intelligence belittled to be offensive.  But it really just isn’t worth anyone’s time.  Who had to sleep with who to get this to be a featured series on ANN?

C3 Cube x Cursed x Curious Ep. 1

Initial impression – a good formula

Autumn 2011 (12 episodes) (more info)

It seems that every anime season has to have its own moe anime and C3 fills the mold for autumn 2011 (accompanied by another moe anime, Working!! 2).  The first episode is encouraging, with Fear, the tsundere heroine, being voiced by Yukari Tamura—famous for her role as Nanoha in the magic girl series by the same name.  This is bolstered by the fact that she has some experience portraying tsundere characters as Togame in Katanagatari.  But unlike last season’s moe anime Yuru Yuri, C3 is showing signs of a plot rather than a collection of random events.  The characters also seem less rooted to single traits that they just orbit around in perpetuity and actually have depth and relatability.  It does have some ecchi, but that’s offset by some good, physical slapstick humor, the likes of which I’ve not seen in a while.  So we’ve got moe, tsundere, good character development, comedy and a little ecchi.  Sounds like a satisfying combo to me.

Persona 4 The Animation Ep. 1

Initial impression – good, but squeezed

Autumn 2011 (12 episodes) (more info)

I seriously can’t believe that the very unpolished Persona Trinity Soul got 26 episodes but the amazing work that is Persona 4 has to be mashed into only 12.  I played Persona 4 on PS2 and it’s a long game.  It takes upwards of 60 hours to savor the deep story and get a good play-through without missing too much.  At this point, I just can’t see how it can possibly work that Persona 4 The Animation is going to be truly appreciated with the short amount of time that’s going to be given to it.  Already in the first episode I’m seeing cuts have been made to crunch details into the space provided.  Now that I’ve got the bad news out of the way, I do have to say that it’s at least keeping nicely with the spirit of the video game as source material, especially in its music and comedy.  I’m going to make a prediction.  In three months time, when this season comes to a close, I’m going to give this anime a mediocre rating and then go tell you to play the game.

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