Ashita no Anime

Anime of Tomorrow

Tag Archives: supernatural

Mondaiji-tachi ga Isekai kara Kuru Sou Desu yo? Ep. 1

The Black Rabbit is caughtInitial impression – rough-edged, but good-hearted heros

Winter 2013 (10 episodes) (more info) (title literal translation – The Troublemakers Are Coming From Another World, Right?)

When someone is stuck between a rock and a hard place, it’s good anime logic to call for heroes from other dimensions.  Mondaiji-tachi is still in the early stages, but is showing plenty of the traits associated with a good action / adventure with a worthy cause.  The cast is full of colorful characters with superpowers of suspect origin, but they have enough flexibility to be put to some creative uses.  My biggest complaint about the series so far is the fanservicey design behind the orchestrator of this setup, the Black Rabbit who happens to be a literal bunny girl.  She feels very much like an unnecessary cry for attention from a series that is actually interesting enough in its own right.  Like many series before it, I wish writers would have more confidence in their work to not devalue it with characters like this.  But as she’s the only issue I’m having with this series thus far, I can overlook her and enjoy the battles that may not be keeping me on the edge of my seat, but still have excellent flow.

Code:Breaker Ep. 1

Initial impression – overly simple (4/10)

Autumn 2012 (13 episodes) (more info)

Code:Breaker is one of those anime that’s just trying too hard.  It’s got this gritty, edgy attitude pushing a punishing level of violence that feels out of place with its art style that resembles a series geared towards a younger audience.  It has potential because the story so far is showing good pacing; meshing a little mystery with misdirection.  Then there’s Rei, the male lead who is feeling very much the antihero—believing death to be both just and merciful.

However, the female lead, Sakura, is showing signs of poor characterization between her hot/cold personality that’s both tenacious while at the same time tending to give up too easily.  Misunderstandings about her interest in Rei inevitably can only go in one direction—presumed romance, leading to a comedic relationship—possibly with the heroine exhibiting tsundere traits—that ultimately leads to a real romance.  The stink of cheese isn’t too bad, but it’s strong enough for me to comfortably send Code:Breaker to the recycle bin.

K Ep. 1

Initial impression – fast action, slow story (4/10)

Autumn 2012 (13 episodes) (more info)

You can go ahead and accuse me of having a short attention span if you happened to watch more and reach a different conclusion, but I’ve learned to trust my instincts when it comes to series that cannot encapsulate the heart of the story in the first episode.  Yes, K looks really nice—the tall and skinny character designs and pretty boys are reminiscent of Clamp (even though this isn’t a Clamp work).  It’s ok to leave some details up in the air to reveal later, but I need more than K has offered so far in order to get invested.  I don’t like being left hanging to such a degree that I’m confused or simply left in the mood, “So that’s it, huh?”

There’s certainly an interesting mystery as to why the main character Yashiro is being hunted by multiple parties and yet doesn’t seem to know why, but the pie that is K has too much icing and not enough filling.  It really lollygags on plot development in its first episode compensating— unsuccessfully—by filling itself with overly dramatic fights and chases that would make a Final Fantasy fan proud.  And while that may be enough for some, I’ve seen enough of K to let it go here.

Medaka Box Abnormal Ep. 1

Initial impression – mostly the same, but a little different

Autumn 2012 (12 episodes) (more info)

Picking up exactly where it left off in season one, Medaka Box Abnormal is showing signs of making a big deviation from the storytelling methods it used during its previous iteration.  Where the first season was very episodic and jumped between a terrific variety of colorful characters, the start of Abnormal seems very focused on Medaka to the detriment of the rest of the cast.

Changing things up is not always a bad thing—using previous set pieces as a stepping stone for a new idea can work wonders to put energy into a tired series—but if too much gets mixed up, then can you still call it the continuation of the same story?  The thing is, the first twelve episodes of Medaka Box always kept things fresh enough that I never felt the concept needed to be expanded upon.  It’s kind of like how The World God Only Knows introduced a new major character in its second season when there was still plenty of material to work with using the formula that made it interesting in the first place.  And that’s what I’m fearing will happen to Medaka Box.

This unnecessary change of pace could be distracting and I worry it might devalue the series as a whole.  I’ll continue to watch Medaka Box Abnormal, but I’m going to be biting my lip in apprehension.

Zetsuen no Tempest Ep. 1

Initial impression – revenge served with a side of saving the world

Autumn 2012 (12 episodes) (English title - Blast of Tempest) (more info)

Some Japanese writing, whether it be JPRGs or anime has a tendency to be lacking in backstory at the start.  But I think Zetsuen no Tempest is one of those stories where it’s ok to not disclose all the details up front.  After all, who in their right mind among the common folk could predict the coming of a supernatural disaster?  I really like the immediacy of the conflict because being forced to pick a side with little knowledge of the core causes of the conflict is a great way to force someone’s hand into making a decision they’re going to regret.

There’s also a great lesson to be learned about dealing with dangerous and determined enemies—isolation may not be the most permanent solution to getting rid of them.  Hakaze’s resourcefulness has a fantasy-esque MacGuyver feel to it that resonates with me on a couple of different, seemingly disconnected levels.  The overall feel has a bit of a Guilty Crown vibe to it, but so far while none of the characters are coming out as likeable just yet, they all have unique and exciting personalities—being neither jerks nor wimps.  But if the setting is still a bit of a mystery after the first episode, the motives of the characters are very clear and most of their goals overlap along the theme of recovering something that was lost.  The way they have all managed to coincide to create a web of comradeship despite how their personalities constantly clash gives moments for some lighthearted chemistry to take off the edge.

If the first episode of a series can leave me in the dark about little details, encapsulate the cast’s overarching motives and make me interested to know what’s going to happen next, then it’s done its job quite well and Zetsuen no Tempest nailed each of those points perfectly.  I also have a part of me that loves characters who meld justice and vengeance into one mouth-wateringly satisfying vendetta.  And since it’s made by Bones, it’s probably going to be pretty good; even if it doesn’t turn out to be a masterpiece, I’m doubtful I’m going to be disappointed.

Shin Sekai Yori Ep. 1

Initial impression – doesn’t waste any time getting into the story

Autumn 2012 (12 episodes) (title literal translation – From the New World) (more info)

Shin Sekai Yori doesn’t have even one second of introduction as to what the heck is going on.  Right away we’re tossed into the deep and expected to start traversing dangerous waters.  And while I’m definitely interested in the mythos of the setting, the fact that so much of the first episode remains unexplained has left me very confused.  But I’m not going to hold it against the anime just yet because it’s only the first episode, the writing and pace are quite good and there’s still plenty of time to get everything sorted out.  In a lot of ways I can see the motives of Shin Sekai Yori already taking shape, so I’m fine with not understanding for now.

On a metaphoric level there are some really strong themes about the fear of growing up and the uneasiness of being trapped between the worlds of child and adult, not knowing how to move forward but at the same time being unable to go back.  For these young people—heroine Saki Watanabe in particular—it seems the stakes are quite high because if you can’t become an adult properly, bad things can happen.  This adds a really tense horror element to the atmosphere that has me excited to see what happens next.  With sharp visual and setting designs as well as a strong theme involving Shinto, I know that Shin Sekai Yori is going to be worth a closer look.

Tasogare Otome x Amnesia (review)

Impression – playful and surprisingly touching (8/10)

Spring 2012 (12 episodes) (title literal translation – Dusk Maiden x Amnesia)

Teiichi Niiya heard the stories of the cursed ghost that haunts the old school building, but he never expected her to be so beautiful…or playful.  After discovering her remains hidden beneath an old classroom, he and Yuuko decide to found the Paranormal Research Club. On the surface it’s nothing more than your standard occult-themed student organization, but its true motive is to find a way to help Yuuko recover her lost memories.  Joined by the perky Okonogi and the only other person who can see Yuuko—her great niece Kirie—the four of them set to work solving the supernatural mysteries of their maze-like school.

As Dusk Maiden starts, it’s just oozing with creativity—whether it’s new ways to think about how an incorporeal spirit interacts with the world or how to adequately tell the story of said ghost without being pathetically blunt about what’s going on.  The flow of events at the beginning is a little questionable at times with long flashbacks seemingly taking place out of proper order.  But it never stops being entertaining with something fresh in every episode. It makes you think and smile all the while saying, “that was really smart. I’d never thought about it that way before.”

Probably the best thing about Tasogare Otome is its ending.  It’s very emotionally moving but still manages to keep the generally lighthearted style that made the rest of the series so much fun.  This delicate balance between heart wrenching and comedic elation could have been such a messy let down if it hadn’t been constructed in such a smartly arranged crescendo.  Rarely do I find myself nodding at the end of a series while saying, “I couldn’t have imagined it finishing any other way.” With that kind of reaction, I’m going to call Dusk Maiden of Amnesia a resounding success.

Natsuyuki Rendezvous Ep. 1

Initial impression – a lot of interesting talk

Summer 2012 (11 episodes) (title literal translation – Summer Snow Rendezvous) (more info)

Natsuyuki Rendezvous—an anime about a ghost who is playing interference to keep a guy away from his own widowed wife.  Right away I must say the concept for this romance-drama is pretty original and smart.  The writing is good at conveying feelings and it definitely needs to be because heroine Rokka isn’t particularly attractive with her hair cut so short you might mistake her for a 12 year old boy.  It’s an interesting stylistic choice to depict the leading lady so unaesthetically because her charming points that protagonist Ryuusuke finds appealing feel more innocent and genuine than if he was just after her for her looks.

However, why Ryuusuke is suddenly able to see Rokka’s dead husband’s ghost, Atsushi after several months working part time at her flower shop isn’t explained and sort of comes out of left field.  All the same, the reveal is well-timed with a moment when Ryuusuke is starting to feel bold enough to pursue her more earnestly.  So far, everything is there that the series needs in order to work and I’m happy to see that the protagonist’s unrequited love isn’t going to be dragged out any longer than the first episode as anime are so prone to do.

At this point Natsuyuki Rendezvous is relying so heavily on its dialogue that it feels more like I’m reading a novel than watching TV.  The low-budget animation is done in that semi-realistic, glittering-eyed shoujo style that makes it immediately clear that this series’ target audience is probably not men (if that wasn’t already obvious from the premise and so-so attractive heroine).  I think I may be up for a more serious romantic story flavored with a slightly off-the-wall plot hook and if that’s also your thing I’m willing to bet that Natsuyuki Rendezvous is not going to be a disappointment.

Hagure Yuusha no Estetica Ep. 1

Initial impression – a good idea that’s not on a solid foundation

Summer 2012 (12 episodes) (title literal translation – Aesthetics of a Rogue Hero) (more info)

From what I can glean from Hagure Yuusha’s first episode, people are being taken from our world to another dimension where they are put to the task of fighting a war for the denizens of that realm.  Part of this process involves giving normal humans superpowers and naturally some people want to use their new abilities to find their way back home, as Akatsuki Ousawa has successfully accomplished.  Returners like our main character retain their abilities and are put through a training program called Babel to put their powers to use here on Earth.

Again, Hagure Yuusha is one of those anime with an interesting premise, decent writing and generally agreeable characters that messes itself up with unnecessary ecchi.  Akatsuki brings a naked girl back from the other realm in his backpack for as-of-yet undisclosed reasons and he has the ability to remove women’s will to fight by stripping them of their lingerie without removing their rest of their clothes.

Thankfully, I don’t have to pretend to enjoy this series too much in spite of its ecchi because it’s already starting to establish a typical list of character archetypes—the perverted protagonist, confused victim-girl who is posing as his little sister, arrogant student council president.  Cue blank stare as I sarcastically marvel at this list of revolutionary thinking.

If it could have taken itself more seriously and the creators had been more confident about their work, I’d be much more willing to like Hagure Yuusha.  As it currently stands I find myself trapped between a cool story and too much ecchi; disappointed at how many times I’ve had to concede that flaw over the years.

Rinne no Lagrange 2 Ep. 1

Initial impression – the same great enthusiasm

Summer 2012 (12 episodes) (title literal translation – Lagrange of Endless Rebirth) (English title – Lagrange: The Flower of Rin-ne) (more info)

Picking up after a few months of down time in the story, in the absence of her friends, Madoka has been down and is facing the decision of what she wants to do after graduation.  Lan is working with La Garte to push the limits of Vox Limpha and Muginami’s whereabouts are still unknown.

At first glance I thought this series would just be more of the same—a reflection of the first season, but after thinking about it a little more I’m inclined to think that there are enough new elements to tell a very different kind of story.  Most importantly a lot of the set pieces don’t need to be introduced and everyone’s role is slightly altered, even if most of the major players still have roughly the same motives.

To have Vox Aura reactivate right at the moment Madoka wills the machine back to life completely devalues having it inexplicably go offline at the end of the previous season.  It’s an excellent example of how the writing in this series is much more about feeling than substance.  It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but probably not everyone is going to appreciate this style that is very much about being in the moment rather than building up to something much bigger and grander by incremental steps.

Because of the nature of its storytelling, I don’t think Rinne no Lagrange 2 is going to attract any new fans who didn’t care for season one.  But those who liked the first half are going to enjoy reentering a world that’s starting to realize its potential.

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