Ashita no Anime

Anime of Tomorrow

Tag Archives: slice of life

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.

Kids on the Slope Ep. 1

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.

Saki: Achiga-hen – Episode of Side-A Ep. 1

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.

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.

Natsuiro Kiseki Ep. 1

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.

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.

Ore no Imouto ga Konnani Kawaii Wake ga Nai (review)

Final impression – prone to hyperbole, but respectably expressive (8/10)

Autumn 2010 (12 episodes + 3 OVAs) (title literal translation – My Little Sister Can’t Be This Cute)

Kyousuke Kousaka finds an anime DVD case lying around the house one day and is surprised to find an h-game disc inside.  Nobody in his family matches the image of the sort of person who would own this item.  Intent on discovering its owner, Kousaka brings up the topic of anime during dinner where his parents firmly rebuke the idea of anyone in their household watching anime.  But this elicits a very different reaction from his little sister Kirino whose shocked expression is enough to set off alarm bells for his suspicions.  Later that night, she confronts him and reveals her secret that she’s a closet otaku (and a pretty hardcore one at that).  Surprised at this frank honesty, Kousaka doesn’t try to belittle his sister for her unusual tastes. Instead, he begins to encourage her to be more honest and to pursue a happiness she had been unable to attain by hiding her true self.

Ore no Imouto tries to be a social discourse about the acceptance of otaku in today’s culture, but ultimately does a poor job by representing otaku as their stereotypes rather than real people.  Not all otaku play h-games.  Not all otaku cosplay on a daily basis in full view of the general public.  Not all otaku dress like creepy shut-ins who fear light and fresh air.  It probably wouldn’t have made for a good story, but most people who watch anime are not as passionate as Kirino, Kuroneko or Saori.  The fact that Oreimo depicts otaku coming from a variety of very unassuming backgrounds (including fashion models, ordinary high school students and upper-class) does do some good in legitimizing the culture and showing that it’s not limited to just one particular unsocial group.  What’s most telling about this anime is not the kinds of people otaku might be, but how the self-loathing of some can lead to the idea that it’s impossible for friends and loved ones to accept them for who they really are.  But none of this should be taken to mean that Oreimo is a failure—far from it.  It may have a few issues, but it’s funny, ironic and deals with the problems that some otaku face when their hobby is discovered by people they didn’t want finding out.

Nisemonogatari (review)

Final impression – satisfyingly philosophical (8/10)

Winter 2012 (11 episodes) (title literal translation – Impostor’s Story)

A short time after the events of Bakemonogatari, Koyomi Araragi’s life is beginning to return to normalcy.  He’s studying hard for college entrance exams, playing games with friends in his free time, trying to impress his overbearing girlfriend and being a generally annoying, but loving brother for his two younger sisters, Karen (火憐) and Tsukihi (月火). But things are not going so smoothly at the junior high where his sisters go to school.  Calling themselves the Fire Sisters because their names both contain the kanji for fire (火) they’ve made it their personal vendetta to find out who has been spreading curses and rumors among their classmates.  But ultimately, it’s going to be Koyomi who will have to make sure their mission of justice isn’t something that is beyond their capabilities.

First off, don’t watch Nisemonogatari without first watching Bakemonogatari.  The masterpiece’s sequel includes little refresh time to get new viewers up to speed and there’s a few points where you’re going to be lost if you just jump right in.  Second, while it follows the gorgeous, intellectual writing style of its parent series, the pacing is not as good as the original.  Where Bakemonogatari was focused and Koyomi was always on a mission to help someone, Nisemonogatari is more of a fluid, slice of life story.  There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s just a very different tone.  But one of the less understandable attributes of the sequel is the degree to which it was touted as the adventures of Karen and Tsukihi and how little emphasis is given to them.  All in all, it feels more like an epilogue than a sequel because there’s never a big climax to accentuate the plot and in some ways that’s a very refreshing way to compose a follow-up series.  So while Nisemonogatari may not be quite as powerful as its source material, it’s a nice follow-up companion that will satisfy fans of the original series.

Tamayura – Hitotose Ep. 1

Final impression – empty nothing (3/10)

Autumn 2011 (12 episodes) (title literal translation – Fleeting Moments – Some Time Ago) (more info)

Tamayura – Hitotose has one of the worst art styles I’ve seen since Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt but for completely different reasons.  There is so little depth to the visuals it looks like it was drawn back in the mid 90s and I expected the aspect ratio to revert back to 4:3 at any second.  The plot isn’t much better—just a story about a girl moving from the city to the countryside and the difficulties of that transition.  She even has time to say goodbye to her friends and properly prepare with her family for the move.  It’s simple, ordinary and uninteresting.  Horizon on the Middle of Nowhere has a more exciting plot and I’m not even sure what Horizon’s plot is.  I can see the creators were going for a nice, quiet anime devoid of garishness, but that also means it’s lacking anything to punctuate its neutrality.  I feel that writing this review about Tamayura was more exciting.  It is the most boring anime I’ve had the displeasure of watching one episode of in a long time.

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.

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