Ashita no Anime

Anime of Tomorrow

Tag Archives: Takatsuki

Dog Days 2 Ep. 1

Initial impression – more of the same with more characters

Summer 2012 (12 episodes) (more info)

Dog Days 2 takes place a few months after season one’s ending.  Now Shinku has returned presumably for the purpose of just having fun playing the tournament-like war games that shape the culture of Flonyard—as opposed to being Biscotti’s last-ditch trump card hero to bring them back from the brink.  He’s also brought two friends along, childhood friend Rebecca and his kind-hearted cousin and fellow rival athlete, Nanami who is quickly adopted by Galette as their own hero.

As in the first season, this is a series that is pretty mediocre all around.  The end of season one wrapped things up so nicely, so I’m dubious that this sequel is necessary. Bringing along Shiku’s friends and adding them to the mix feels lacking imagination and I can almost feel the desperation to find something for everyone to do. Early signs are this series is going to be a mirror image of season one with additional characters added to the mix.  It even continues the unnecessary little habit of having the female characters’ clothes fly off in the middle of battle for no other reason than facepalmingly pitiful fanservice (you don’t even get to see anything approaching risqué).  Really the only reason I’m watching this series is to listen to the skilled voice acting and singing of Yui Horie.

Whether some big crisis is going to befall the land like it did in season one remains to be seen at this early stage, but I wouldn’t put it past this anime to once again centralize on the theme of rivals/enemies putting aside their differences for the sake of saving the day—probably something that’s a bit too standard, childish and cliché for most people’s tastes.

As an annoying afterthought, Working!! 2 started this pattern, but I think it’s worth saying again that adding an ‘ at the end your anime’s title is a terrible way of denoting that it’s a sequel.  Has just using a 2 or the roman numeral II simply gone out of fashion?  What happens if you decide to do a third season?  Is the title going to have ‘’ ?

Ano Natsu de Matteru (review)

Impression – nicely redone (8/10)

Winter 2012 (12 episodes) (English synonym – Waiting in the Summer)

Last night, Kaito had a weird dream where something fell out of the sky and killed him. But he brushes off his perceived near-death experience as it’s close to the start of summer break and Kaito and his friends are thinking about making a movie as part of a project they can all enjoy together.  Coincidentally, their countryside school gets a transfer student in the relatively attractive Ichika.  On his way home, he notices Ichika wandering around town seemingly lost.  As it turns out she doesn’t have a place to stay because her transfer was so sudden and poorly planned.  Being the gentleman he is, Kaito invites her to stay at his house until she can get on her feet.  But the mystery of this summertime transfer student who is living with him takes on a whole new dimension when Kaito’s friend, Lemon recruits Ichika to be the heroine of their film project.

While Ano Natsu is a pretty standard school romance story on the surface—the seriousness about how it presents its story gives it an air of refinement, even when it’s being silly and having fun.  What I like most about this anime is the mere fact that despite being a romance story that sticks pretty close to familiar formulas, it doesn’t wait until the end of the series before allowing the hero and heroine to express their feelings.  This gives the plot some additional time to expand on their relationship and actually solidify them as a true couple with genuine feelings within the main story—something that is normally assigned as a lazy afterthought to an epilogue contained in an OVA that nobody ends up caring much about.

That’s where Ano Natsu scores big points for me.  Compared to other anime romances where the climax is the confession, this series goes above and beyond to give us something that feels more complete.  That extra time after their mutual confession is filled by a lot of loony, off-the-wall craziness.  But it sticks to the theme of doing whatever is necessary to avoid being separated from the one you love, which is a powerful story element so I don’t begrudge it too much.

The real kick in the pants for this whole premise though, is that Ano Natsu is basically just a revamped version of Please Teacher.  I’d call Ano Natsu a sequel if it wasn’t simply a nearly verbatim rehash of that loosely constructed mess.  It’s probably a good thing they didn’t hype up its links to material from ten years ago because otherwise I might not have watched it.  The story follows a suspiciously similar procession of events starting with having the hero and heroine living together because of extenuating circumstances.  Both series even have their token oddball characters Ichigo and Lemon, both voiced by the smarmy Yukari Tamura as well as animal-like support robots for the heroine—a pretty clear indication to me that we’re working in the same universe.

But even though it’s Please Teacher with a more modern spin, Ano Natsu simply does such a better job all around; so much so that the two anime feel worlds apart.  It takes care to make sure all of its plot elements are not only fun, but also not so over-the-top ridiculous that it leaves you with too much to swallow all at once.  Probably the most important change is that while in both series the main characters end up living with each other, Ano Natsu doesn’t try to pull the wool over our eyes by forcing them into a contrived marriage of dubious necessity.  Interestingly, Yousuke Kuroda wrote the script for both series, so in a weird way it’s as if this is an opportunity for him to show how his skills have grown over the past decade, which as it turns out is quite a bit.

All in all, I’d very much like to see more romance series take risks the way Ano Natsu managed to break the mold.  It challenges established storytelling rules.  While it’s not always as smart as I wish it would be, it ends up telling a compelling adventure that takes place during one wild summer vacation.

The iDOLM@STER (review)

Final impression – above average is really the best that can be said (6/10)

Summer 2011 to autumn 2011 (25 episodes) (title synonym – The Idolmaster)

The innocent Yayoi, Ami and Mami the twin combo, Hibiki the animal lover, soft and timid Yukiho, Miki the flirt, Makoto the tomboy, serious Chihaya, Iori from a wealthy family, Azusa the plucky boob, Takane the foreign flavor and Haruka the stable pillar are the team of aspiring idols working for the studio 765 Pro.   In order to manage the human resources of the growing, young company, the president hires a producer to get the girls in top shape to start their careers.  They each have special traits that need the careful attention of their new supervisor to properly highlight their strengths.  But as they start to get noticed and their popularity begins to rise, the president’s old partner turned rival isn’t about to let 765 Pro attain success without resorting to dirty tactics.  These young women, guided by the leadership of their producer, will face this challenge with the strength of their convictions and a terrific display of talent.  As individuals they shine brightly, but together they begin to sparkle even brighter and nothing is going to get in the way of their path to stardom.

I’m not sure how to really categorize The iDOLM@STER.  It’s not a harem anime, as its major themes are nearly devoid of romance of any kind.  It has some music elements as a recurring theme, but it also touches on other topics such as TV, acting and photography.  With so many girls on this cast, you’d think there would be a lot of temptation to sneak in some fan service from time to time.  But The iDOLM@STER scoffs at the notion of doing anything risqué.  So given a lot of compounding factors, this anime could have been a really lowbrow feature that just melted into the background without finding any identity for itself.  So it manages to avoid a destiny of mediocrity, but in my opinion just barely.  The huge cast is well managed and everyone gets a chance to have some time in the spotlight.  The characters all have clearly defined goals and personalities, but for all it does right I just can’t call The iDOLM@STER a good anime.  It’s just so underwhelmingly mediocre.  Everything is so feel-good there’s never a chance for something to really grip the heartstrings and move you.  And when it does finally start to develop and mature into something meaningful, it’s over too quickly and we’re back to sugary happiness.  All in all, The iDOLM@STER’s best moments are too few and far between to be impactful in a 25 episode series.  It succeeds in setting itself apart with some original character composition and storytelling as well as the occasional catchy beat, but there’s nothing to make it truly memorable.

Ano Natsu de Matteru Ep. 1

Initial impression – an interesting story that deserves a closer look

Winter 2012 (12 episodes) (title literal translation – Waiting in the Summer) (more info)

Ano Natsu has a bit of a cliché boy-meets-girl anime.  But I like how it keeps things lighthearted and doesn’t attempt to ruin the awkward, teenage atmosphere by putting up some sort of serious facade—or more detrimentally, forced comedy.  It’s pretty clear that Takatsuki is an alien and she saved Kaito’s life during some kind of accident, but is there more to their relationship than that?  As “alien arrives on Earth” character backgrounds go, Takatsuki isn’t some inept, unhousebroken bimbo that’s relying on protagonist Kaito to keep her out of trouble.  She has a believable level of wonder, curiosity and simple lack of knowledge that might be expected of a new visitor who possesses basic knowledge of the fundamentals, but not any of the specifics.  It has an attractive art style that strongly references Ano Hana and it’s no coincidence that the two anime have similar titles because Ano Natsu and Ano Hana both have the same director and character designer.  It unfortunately doesn’t escape some of the staples of the harem anime genre with a cast of several other girls vying for Kaito’s attention and the obligatory ladies-man sidekick.  All in all there seems to be enough freshness to warrant giving Ano Natsu a chance to prove it can set itself apart from the crowd.

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.

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