Ashita no Anime

Anime of Tomorrow

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JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure Ep. 1

The animation is so sloppy there aren’t even defined frames. Check out the afterimage on JoJo’s elbow.

Initial impression – crapola (1/10)

Autumn 2012 to winter 2013 (26 episodes) (Japanese title – JoJo no Kimyou na Bouken (2012)) (more info)

Most anime that I give my lowest possible rating usually earn it by being disturbing on some level, but JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure has earned my ire on merit alone.  If you wanted to make any kind of work of fiction as bad as possible, it would probably look something like this.  The visual design is flat and when it’s not chugging along at what feels like five frames per second, it’s just panning across still scenes that might was well have been lifted right from the pages of a manga for all the effort that went into them.  The palette makes Claymore look like a rainbow and the clothes and faces are ugly, misshapen caricatures of 1800s Europe.

Characters are completely unlikeable, being either total jerks or wimpy, gullible idiots.  And that’s when they actually have any characterization at all.  In the space of two minutes JoJo goes from a weak, sheltered rich kid protecting some random girl from bullies to the undisputed star of the boxing ring, who then not thirty seconds later gets dethroned by his childishly cruel adopted brother.  One would think that JoJo’s father would pick up on Dio’s stupidly transparent ploy to discredit his sloppy son if the old man didn’t have the completely clueless observational powers of a starfish.

Most bad writing has the problem of going too slow and dragging things out pointlessly to pad the length to the typically required twelve episodes, but JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is exactly the opposite.  Transitions from one scene to the next happen as smoothly as a building demolition with absolutely no warning or lead in to the events that follow.  The pace of the story is so fast and glosses over so many important details that the first episode alone felt like the compressed summary of six episodes—the skeleton of a story without any flesh or skin—made even worse by this series’ unfathomable twenty-six episode run.  Lastly, there are the voices.  Talk about overacting.  I feel like I’ve stepped into the auditorium of a middle-school play where every kid, regardless of skill or will, has some obligatory stage time to appease their parents.

There’s just no excuse for anything being this awful.  Seriously, this is a level of excruciating terrible that makes me feel physically ill, because I have to admit that Milky Holmes actually compares favorably to JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure.  In a sickeningly ironic way, for what it’s worth, I find that the new depths this anime is digging to be somewhat impressive.  Just hurry up and die, JoJo.  The world would be better off if Dio mopped the floor with your sorry ass and put us all out of our misery.

Kore wa Zombie Desu ka? of the Dead Ep. 1

Initial impression – more silliness

Spring 2012 (10 episodes) (title literal translation – Is this a Zombie? of the Dead) (more info)

And so begins Kore wa Zombie Desu ka? of the Dead, the second season of a series that I thought already did everything it needed to the first time.  Ayumu, the zombie who is so alive you’d swear he’s just a normal human, is still living with a nice variety of three young women and his latent masou-shoujo powers continue to be sought after by Megalo monsters dressed in gakuran.  What more could be added to this ecchi comedy series definitely hasn’t been made clear in the first episode—other than Ayumu is going to have a much harder time feigning normalcy than he was able to during the first season.  Given the title animation, it looks like old enemy Kyoko is back for round two and she’s just as crazy as before.  Other than that, it seems Kore wa Zombie 2 is going to just sort of do its own thing—following on in the first season’s wacky, ecchi formula of oddly combined character archetypes that manage to be cool in a very nonchalant manner.  I’m not optimistic the second season will compare favorably with the first (few sequels do) but I’m ready to see where Ayumu’s new misadventures lead him.

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.

Bakemonogatari (review)

Final impression – a magnificent, philosophical escapade (10/10)

Summer 2009 to spring 2010 (15 episodes) (title literal translation – Monster Story, English synonym – Ghostory)

During spring break of his final year of high school, Koyomi Araragi had an encounter with a vampire. Fortunately, he was able to mostly restore his humanity through the aid of the supernatural specialist Meme Oshino, who was able to intervene before things got worse.  As part of a way of thanking the man who saved him from becoming a vampire himself, Koyomi has begun helping people he encounters rid themselves of their unnatural afflictions.  And it’s a good thing he retains some of his vampiric traits, because most curses are not willing to go down quietly.

Bakemonogatari is an amazing masterpiece of wordplay.  I’ll come right out and say that if you don’t like dialogue-heavy anime you’re not going to enjoy this series because its strongest attribute is the way it twists language and and plays with our perceptions of humanity.  But if you revel in the intellectual—the sociological—then you’re going to have a hard time finding anything better than this.  And the awesomeness doesn’t stop with its writing.  It has a great cast of voice actors including Kana Hanazawa and Yui Horie who are masters of their craft and depict their characters’ personalities perfectly down to every nuance.  Then, if you thought my praise was over, the music is absolutely spectacular with a fresh opening theme for each of the female protagonists, sung beautifully by their skilled voice actresses.  Dealing with such topics as love, hopelessness, responsibility, desire and lust, Bakemonogatari is passionate and insightful.  If you let yourself get caught up in its pace, your blood will start to boil with the brilliant energy radiated by this incredible anime.

Fortune Arterial – Akai Yakusoku (review)

Final impression – atmospheric and smooth (7/10)

Autumn 2010 (12 episodes) (title literal translation – Fortune Arterial – Red Promise)

Kouhei was always transferring schools throughout his childhood as his family moved from place to place.  But now that he’s a high school student and he’s been accepted to a prestigious private school, he’s decided to make some real, lasting friendships for the first time in his life.  But now that he’s made up his mind to finally enjoy his youth without worrying about having to leave it all behind again, he discovers that Erika, the beautiful student council vice president, is actually a vampire.  Her older brother, who happens to be the president, gives him an ultimatum.  He can either join the student council so they can make sure he doesn’t divulge any secrets, or Erika will erase his memories—ruining any chance he might have of recollecting his past relationships with the other students at his school.

The splendid symphony of Lia’s music for the opening and ending themes is the most wonderful aspect of Fortune Arterial.  Also, the story is deeper and twistier than most anime based on h-games.  Overall it gives me the impression of a Twilight rewrite with gender roles reversed and no werewolves or pretty boys—making it a version of Twilight with a male audience in mind and fewer plot devices stolen from Underworld.  However, for as much good as it does to fix the vampire-romance subgenre, Fortune Arterial’s greatest failing is how poorly it treats its side characters.  Those girls not important for the main plot get about one badly written episode if they’re lucky enough to not have any siblings.  Basically, it just sticks with the main girl all the way, which provides a steady pace for some good character development.  The ending is a bit wishy-washy, but impactful enough to not detract from the overall story.  And while this anime ultimately falls short of excellence, it is still very respectable.

High School DxD Ep. 1

Initial impression – succeeding at being bad

Winter 2012 (12 episodes) (more info)

The first thing you need to know about High School DxD?  It’s very ecchi.  So if ecchi isn’t your style you can stop here and go read one of my other reviews.  Oh?  You’re still interested?  Well then, if you’re going to pick an ecchi anime you can certainly do much worse than High School DxD.  Most ecchi anime stick with relatively tame panty shots or clever angles to hide the best parts; in this anime, fully exposed, bouncy boobs are fair game.  The drawing style looks amateaurish with lens flares cheaply used to censor the best parts below the waist and that choice somehow fits with the spirit of immaturity that permeates this anime.  It’s seriously lacking in plot substance, but it’s paced quite well and leaves enough of itself open to keep things entertaining.  High School DxD is an ecchi anime where it’s just sort of nice to relax and drink in all of the eye candy constructed around a simple story.  That’s not praise, so much as a begrudging nod that High School DxD knows what it wants to accomplish and it’s doing it well.  I’ll say that if you’re looking for an ecchi anime that knows how to be entertaining without being too stupid then High School DxD might deserve to be given a chance.

Blood-C (review)

Final impression – Only for unabashed CLAMP fans (4/10)

Summer 2011

In a remote village, Saya Kisaragi is the shrine maiden entrusted with slaying the Elder Ones—fearsome monsters that feast on the townspeople.  But when she has free time, she goes to high school, talks with her friends and enjoys coffee at a local café.  As she continues her mission to protect the town, small details start to converge together that just don’t add up.  Where do the Elder Ones come from?  To whom did Saya promise to guard the village?  And the greatest question, who was Saya’s mother?  She had better figure out the answers to these questions before it’s too late and everyone gets eaten.

First impressions can’t always be trusted and that is never truer than in Blood-C.  Talk about betraying your legacy.  Blood the Last Vampire and Blood+ had a likeable cast of characters, excellent pacing and terrific endings.  Even the live-action Blood the Last Vampire compares favorably to Blood-C and that’s pitiful.  The only reason I completed watching it is because I enjoy CLAMP’s artwork, making it the only possible redeeming feature.  I don’t know what Blood-C’s upcoming movie will do with this setup that the anime gave us.  However, 95% of the anime was an utterly pointless jaunt on the way to its eventual cliff-hanger ending.  The whole anime could have easily just not existed and twenty minutes added to the beginning of the movie to accomplish the same effect.

Itsuka Tenma no Kuro Usagi (review)

Final impression – Original, but nothing groundbreaking 6/10

Summer 2011 (title literal translation – A Black Rabbit has Seven Lives)

Taito Kurogane thinks he’s just a normal high school student with an average amount of misfortunes for someone his age.  But all that changes when he gives his life to save a girl he doesn’t even know from getting hit by a truck.  As he lies in the road expecting death…it never comes.  Miraculously, his body knits itself back together and suddenly he knows what he must do.  The healing magic courses through him and in a rush of repressed memories that come flooding back, he seeks out his childhood sweetheart, the powerful vampire Saitohimea, who he made a pact with many years ago and who granted him his immortal body.  But their reunion doesn’t go smoothly when the sorcerer who separated them in the first place reappears, intent on renewing the curse that was just broken.

Itsuka Tenma no Kuro Usagi breaks with some anime stereotypes initially by giving its lead hero a true love immediately from the outset.  This was a refreshing deviation from the typical setup of stringing the love story along through a series of awkward, indecisive circumstances that may or may not lead to a partnership at the anime’s conclusion.  That being said, Itsuten deviates back into the territory of annoyingly nebulous love and inserts what feels like a very forced “innocent homewrecker” mentality from the love triangle’s third corner.  All in all, the action of this anime was well played, the concept mostly fresh and it gets points for at least attempting to have its romance deviate from established norms. But it loses those points almost as quickly when it winds down to its nonconclusion that is begging for a second season to tie up the loose ends.  At the start, I had thought I was getting an anime that would be much more revolutionary than it turned out to be.

Kore wa Zombie Desu ka? (last thoughts)

Final impression – often underrated 7/10

Winter 2011 (title literal translation – Is This a Zombie?)

Eucliwood Hellscythe, the quiet necromancer.  Haruna, the genius magic girl.  Seraphim, the vampire ninja.  Ayumu, the high school zombie.  Combine them together and there’s no end to the problems they can cause for each other.  When Ayumu accidentally absorbs Haruna’s magic girl powers, it becomes her responsibility to instruct her new cross-dressing apprentice.  And when Seraphim challenges Ayumu to a duel to the death, it’s more of a war of attrition when they realize that neither can kill the other.  But underlying all of this is Eucliwood’s secret powers and troubled past.  If her three friends can’t team up to protect her from the mistakes she has made, she might have to leave forever.

Kore wa Zombie desu ka? falls into that class of wild and strange anime that a lot of love and hate relationships develop around.  While it’s understandable why many would want to steer clear of it, the cast of random oddities fits with the anime’s overall tone to create a nice cohesion that feels acceptable.  I hear a lot of people complain about Ayumu’s cross-dressing.  But is that really something to complain about when the rest of this anime is oftentimes just off-kilter, goofy and fun?  Yes, occasionally Kore wa Zombie gets a little too serious for its own good given its cast of oddball archetypes, but overall it’s very entertaining.

Itsuka Tenma no Kuro Usagi Ep 1

Himea loves TaitoInitial impression – good

Taito made a pact with a vampire when he was a kid.  But something happened nine years ago to make him forget about his most cherished love.  Suddenly, his memories return to him after a shocking event.  While sacrificing himself to save a girl from a collision with a semi, Taito discovers he is immortal.  After his body knits itself back together, he rushes off to reunite with Himea, the vampire girl who made the contract with him.

Episode 1 of Itsuka Tenma no Kuro Usagi has the makings to set up a fantastic romance / action series.  It won’t score perfectly because of a couple unnecessary panty-shots, but that doesn’t distract too much from the core of the plot.  I’d say check it out if you’re interested in what looks like a very serious drama.

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