Ashita no Anime

Anime of Tomorrow

Tag Archives: Yui

Alfheim Online (review)

Kirito wakes upFinal impression – what a letdown (3/10)

Fall 2012 (11 episodes) (SAO Review)

After waking up from the gorgeous nightmare of Sword Art Online, Kazuto’s first action is not to attend to his own atrophied body, but to immediately begin to seek out Asuna, his in-game wife who he promised to find after they escaped.  He finds her, but there’s a problem.  Despite clearing the game and majority of players having returned to the real world, Asuna remains trapped in her NerveGear. Filled with the pain of helplessness for being unable to save her, Kazuto attempts to return to his old life displaced by over two years while remaining by her side for support.

But when a friend from Aincrad (the world of SAO) shows him a screenshot of Asuna trapped in a birdcage, he dons his own NerveGear once again and dives into the world of Alfhiem Online to rescue her from the new prison she’s found herself in.  But he has to hurry because within a week, Asuna is going to be ushered into an arranged marriage with one of her father’s business partners.  Read more of this post

Persona 4: The Animation (review)

The cast of Persona 4: The AnimationFinal impression – play the game first (7/10)

Fall 2011 to winter 2012 (25 episodes)

Yuu Narukami is a city boy, who for various circumstances at home, ends up moving out to the countryside to live with his uncle and little cousin.  But being a naturally suave and likeable guy, he’s quickly able to shake off the aura of being a transfer student and makes some friends.  But when the tiny town of Inaba he finds himself in is rocked by a series of bizarre murders, he gets caught up in a creepy cold case where the victims are seen on a mysterious TV program called the Midnight Channel that airs on foggy nights when you have your TV turned off.  In the face of such unbelievable circumstances, Yuu and his friends become the only ones capable of rescuing the victims by diving into the television and fighting the bloodthirsty monsters that live there using a manifestation of their psyches called Persona.

Yu calls IzanagiWriting an objective review on P4 was difficult for me since I’ve played the game it’s based on.  This isn’t the same as reading the manga that serves as the source material for an anime since both of those media are non-interactive.  Video games on the other hand are and being put in the position of having no influence on the characters’ decisions or the pace of the story was a little unsettling.  I wonder if many other people feel this way about adaptations of video games that aren’t a loose reinterpretation of a concept, but instead a faithful retelling of the same story.

The girls can't cookThat being said, P4: The Animation recreates the events of the game as closely as is possible, with a few changes made that were probably necessary for the transition to TV.  This includes obvious things like completing a side character’s story in a single episode rather than the game’s slower progression that might be spaced out over the course of the entire play time (or even not completed at all if the player neglects that particular social link).  But one thing that always disappointed me about P4: The Animation was the fight scenes.  The game is something of a visual novel built around the framework of a really solid RPG.  That setup should have been a natural cue that the anime ought to be an action / drama.  And while the drama does well, the action is dry and has an air of inevitability to it that never feels the slightest bit suspenseful.

"Welcome to the velvet room."All in all, it makes me sad because, because I loved the game and my hopes were high that the anime would live up to that same level of quality.  If nothing else, the soundtrack for the P4 anime is even more amazing than the game and includes all of the original music in addition to new and expanded tracks with terrifically-written English lyrics that really gets me fired up.  In the end, Persona 4: The Animation is a supplemental anime for fans of the game, but still a very solid series.

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.

Little Busters Ep. 1

Initial impression – oh boy, oh boy, it’s finally here!

Autumn 2012 to winter 2013 (26 episodes) (more info)

Over the past ten years, Key has released quite a few anime all to broad critical acclaim (with the exception of Kanon 2002, but I overlook that since they made up for their miss with Kanon 2006). With their fantastic list of well-written titles accompanied by gorgeous music including Air, Kanon, Clannad and Angel Beats, at this stage, the maker of these terrific series can pretty much do no wrong by me.

Now that I’ve established my fanboy tendencies from a time before I’d even heard of this anime, where on the spectrum does Key’s latest release lie?  It seems that Little Busters looks set to take the prize for “most lighthearted story” so far with a starting cast composed of a compassionate group of five childhood friends who have all been assigned some excitingly nontypical roles.  There is Kyousuke the contemplative and caring big brother, Masato the musclebound hothead who always gets into trouble, Rin the cute and smart-mouthed tomboy, Kengo the serious athlete and main character Riki whose calm and soft spoken personality voiced by Yui Horie binds everyone together.

While I can’t begin to guess what interesting traits the other members of the Little Busters baseball team in potential might possess, so far the setting is grounded firmly in reality even more than Kanon or Clannad.  With so many important male characters already established and a tone that is fun and playful, while—so far at least—devoid of anything supernatural, Little Busters has already done a fantastic job of setting itself apart from the rest of Key’s anime in a very distinct way.  Even the music has a very different feel compared to Key’s other works.  There’s a certain spunk to it that gives me a big, happy smile whenever I listen to the soundtrack that’s all its own.

Really, I can’t believe it took so long for this game to be made into an anime.  Teaming up with J.C. Staff to help animate Little Busters is different from how things usually go, but now that it’s here and I’ve seen its strong start, I know my six-year-long anticipation was well worth the wait.

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 ‘’ ?

Kokoro Connect Ep. 1

Initial impression – naturally smart and funny

Summer 2012 (12 episodes) (title literal translation – Heart Connect) (more info)

Kokoro Connect is about a group of high school students who have inexplicably started swapping minds and bodies.  While I’m not entirely sure that everyone has wondered what it would be like to literally spend a few minutes walking in someone else’s shoes, it’s a common enough theme in storytelling that the concept shouldn’t be too foreign.  The question then is really just a simple matter of execution.  I’m not sure why this ought to be occurring to people within the school’s slacker club, but I suppose it can feed a bit of a mystery theme as it unfolds.

The central premise of this series sounds like something very pervy, but I think it treats the sensibilities of these young men and women with playful curiosity and never really crosses any unacceptable boundaries given the subject material. I would have liked to have gotten a bit more familiar with the character’s personalities before they started swapping bodies because this is the kind of series that is a real test for the voice actors to show just how good they really are.

All in all, I think Kororo Connect has a nice, diverse cast with men and women that clearly have some interesting tensions between each other, despite their loose reasons for hanging out together.  Whether it’s going to be a story of getting to know one another and becoming better friends or uncovering the supernatural phenomenon that’s causing these mind-body switches remains to be seen.  But either way, I think this anime is going to provide a lot of intellectually stimulating laughs.

Yuru Yuri 2 Ep. 1

Initial impression – moe of the same

Summer 2012 (12 episodes) (more info)

What makes a moe anime good for me is when it parodies the mundaneness of life in familiar ways that are funny, cute and/or insightful.  Yuru Yuri doesn’t do that.  It’s just a bit too imaginative with its themes and doesn’t mesh with reality very much.  While that’s not really a true complaint per se, it detracts from the viewers’ ability to relate to it.  I don’t know that a second season of Yuru Yuri was really necessary in the grand scheme of things.  None of the characters really grow up in any way and tend to stick to what they know best and unfortunately what they know best is being just above average.

The biggest difference I can see between season one and two of Yuru Yuri is a massive growth in arrogance regarding its own worth.  I suppose you could write that off as an attempt to be satirical, but I just don’t get how it’s any funnier than if it had just gone and explored things the way it always had done without this unnecessary shift in tone.  Other moe anime like Squid Girl have a steady confidence that doesn’t mess around with anything that already works.  The series’ episodic nature ought to keep things accessible to newcomers, but established fans of the first season probably won’t be wowed by the sameness of Yuru Yuri 2.

So despite the fact that it’s really neither good nor bad, what it all comes down to is that Yuru Yuri is a comedy series that really isn’t all that funny.  Its moments of brilliance are less frequent than those of Acchi Kocchi and shine less brightly than A-Channel.  If you’re hungry for moe, you can do much worse, but I’m currently withholding my seal of approval.

Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse Ep. 1

Initial impression – a solid introduction

Summer 2012 to autumn 2012 (24 episodes) (more info)

Ok, so Muv-Luv is your standard story about a young pilot in training who is going to have to grow up fast in order to fight back against the alien invaders (at least that’s my impression about how these things usually develop).  Fine, it’s not the most original premise, but if this series wants to make a name for self, it’s going to have to stand up on its technical merit.  The pacing is pretty good so far and while the characters are still by no means established, I can feel a definite atmosphere of impending doom, futility and desperation which is pretty impressive with the amount of history that was woven into the exposition of the progress of this war.  You just know things are going to get much, much worse before they get better.

The tone feels a little off at times with this supposedly being a military training facility and the real potential for death during practice being juxtaposed alongside high school girls living fairly normal lives.  Considering this first episode was a buildup of history and emotion leading to what is presumably the real battle in the next episode I’m not comfortable really calling this anime either way just yet.  I’m quite eager to see how it handles its action sequences.  Thankfully, Muv-Luv is staying away from the big mecha pitfall of blathering on in technical jargon about why their giant robots are better than everyone else’s.

However, the super-revealing flight suits these girls wear with their buttocks on full display make the plug suits from Evangelion look like petticoats.  If it’s relying on fanservice to get male viewers lured in at this early stage, my optimism is waning.  From past experience I know a lot of people are going to cringe at the poorly integrated CGI mecha against a very flat, out-of-place background.  The primary group of girls still only feel main-ish and I’m wondering if the series is going to continue to keep this broad view of the war at large or if Yui is actually going to be the focus of the story.  Perhaps the next episode will be a better gauge of how Muv-Luv is going to turn out.

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.

Persona 4 The Animation (ongoing)

Impression – straightforward, yet philosophical

Autumn 2011 to winter 2012 (more info)

As good as the Persona 4 video game was, I wish its anime series would deviate more from the default script or fill in some more fine details that have thus far flown under the radar.  Arguably, fans of the video game are going to be the primary fanbase of the anime, but if there are no surprises for us we’re not likely to give very good opinions to more casual viewers who may only have a passing interest.  So the plot of Persona 4 is stuck in a weird catch-22 where it needs enough new material to keep the old fans interested but it also needs to stay true to the original story.  In some ways, it’s suffering from some of the same problems as Fate/Zero.  But it’s more than worth it to watch Persona 4 just for the killer music and sharp art style that is an intrinsic quality of Atlus.  One of the things the anime does get right that is a perfect mirror of the video game is the pacing of events to match real dates and create a tangible passage of time.  And while the story may have felt more natural in video game format, it’s still totally awesome.  Its best points are a cast of varied, loveable characters, a good sense for spinning elaborate mysteries and an overarching theme of emphasizing the importance of the bonds we share with our friends.  When you think about it like that, there’s not much else to be desired.

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