Ashita no Anime

Anime of Tomorrow

Monthly Archives: April 2012

Sengoku Collection Ep. 1

Initial impression – unoriginal, but not entirely mind-numbing (4/10)

Spring 2012 (12 episodes) (English title – Parallel World Samurai) (more info)

Genderbending ancient Japanese heroes into women is hardly new territory; but Samurai Girls proved that it’s possible to turn that premise into something cool.  And while it falls far short of anything approaching what Samurai Girls accomplished, Sengoku Collection does a respectable job of telling a story of a young woman out of her era.

Where it fails, though is when it turns to the tired old plot device of having the main character travel around collecting pieces of some vague energy in order to have her wish granted.  It’s so lacking in imagination and the main story is such an ordinary clash of cultures / boy meets girl story that I can foresee nothing promising on the horizon.

This suspicion is further confirmed in the credits where the other characters feature as a smorgasbord of moe stereotypes ranging from glasses to jailbait.  I’ll fully admit my own weakness to moe, but I don’t like having it shoved in my face in such a painfully obvious manner.  The spirit of Sengoku Collection can be summed up as regendered, fetishized historical figures transported to the modern era and trying to get home and that’s a bit too simple for me to lend it any more of my time.

What do you think?  Is this kind of formula too weird?  And is reimagining great men from Japan’s past as women something that piques anyone’s interest?  How do you feel about the excessive exaggeration of the character’s appeal?  Is it fun and goofy or offensively contrived and transparent?

Jormungand Ep. 1

"Her name is Koko, she is loco."

Initial impression – risky, clever and auspicious

Spring 2012 (12 episodes) (more info)

I really like the sharp attitude of Jormungand.  It makes me think of a grittier version of Full Metal Panic.  There are even a lot of superficial similarities that can be drawn between the characters of both series—especially child soldiers Jonah and Sousuke.  Also, the incongruent premise of an arms dealer who claims to be working for world peace is so intriguing that I could get hooked on this series by that trait in and of itself.

But this anime also has a smirkingly dark sense of humor that fits perfectly with the steely realism that permeates everything else.  I suppose it would be most appropriate to call this a model of exemplarily well-timed comic relief.  It’s nice to see that while Jormungand may have an air of serious intensity it’s fully capable of having some good-natured fun that is complementary rather than at odds with the main story.  It has some smartly constructed action sequences with the correct sense of occasion, timing, setting and strategy, all supported by well-written political wrangling that always keeps Koko teetering on the edge of disaster.

The voice actress Shizuka Itou (which fans of Amagami SS will recognize as Haruka Morishima) was the perfect choice to depict Koko’s fun and quirky personality as she revels in the thrill of constantly cheating death.  The beginning of Jormungand has me pumped and I can’t wait to see more of how Koko plans to accomplish her goals.

But what do you think?  There are a lot of characters in this series that are breaking the stereotypes associated with this military-ish setting.  Is it capable of adding up to more than the sum of its parts like Full Metal Panic was able to?  Or is antihero Koko just too much to handle?

Aniblog Tourney (follow-up)

First, my thanks to everyone who voted for me in the Aniblog Tourney.  Your support is greatly appreciated even if I didn’t win my bracket.  But during the course of the event I spoke with many fellow bloggers and learned some things that I’m going to use to make the site better.

The first change is going to be my username.  Formerly アレクザンダー (the katakana for Alexander) this is certainly too difficult for the average viewer to read and type.  I’m now going to go by Marlin-sama, which is a Japanese equivalent of my typical username, “Lord Marlin.”  Of course, I won’t mind if anyone wants to call me Alexander or Lord Marlin.

Second, as you can already see, I’m going to try breaking up my text into smaller paragraphs to help organize thoughts for easier reading.  Also to help with organization I’m going to be adding more categories to ease searches.  I plan to go back through all of my posts and get them all labeled by genre and possibly a few other useful categories.

Lastly, I’m hoping to refocus my motives from simply reviewing EVERYTHING to thinking more about why I like the shows I love.  However, I’m going to be keeping Twitter as my primary medium for thinking more broadly about all the anime I watch as I finish each episode.  From here I think my first project is going to be giving the Precious Memories section of the site a bit more attention.

Through this I hope to make Ashita no Anime a better blog—as both a tool for myself as the writer and as intellectual discourse for my readership.  It’s here that I’m going to start another new addition—asking you the reader for your opinion more directly in order to get you involved.  So…what are your thoughts on this new formula?  Am I being too ambitious?  Or is it a change in the right direction?  I’ve been writing for almost a year now and I’ve acquired a modest group of followers, so I’ll ask you; what would you like to see on this blog that has been lacking?

Again, thanks to everyone involved in the Aniblog Tourney and best of luck to all the competitors.  I hope we all make the most of this fantastic opportunity.

Aniblog Tourney

Hello everyone, especially those of you visiting my site for the first time from the Aniblog Tourney.  Welcome to Ashita no Anime—or if you prefer the English equivalent, “Tomorrow’s Anime.”  My name is Alexander.  I’d like to take a moment to introduce myself and properly explain my motivation for writing this blog as well as the goals I hope to accomplish through my work.

I’m currently an English teacher living and working in Japan.  I started watching anime seriously in 2003—so I’ve been a fan for nearly 9 years now.  I mark that year as my introduction to anime because prior I didn’t really know what anime was.  Unlike a lot of anime fans I didn’t grow up with this media so my opinions tend not to be colored by nostalgia and my tastes in anime are incredibly broad (if you care to check out my viewing history on My Anime List you can see that I’m more than willing to watch just about anything).  I was president of my university’s anime club for 2 years and I graduated with a technical communication degree.  This gives me some professional legitimacy for being a writer and a critic because I have received training in this kind of background (for those of you who actually care about that sort of thing, because I’ll be the first to admit that writing is more about practice than any amount of education).

Now then…why did I start writing this blog?  Well, to make a long story short it’s because I couldn’t find another aniblogger who shared my tastes and opinions on anime.  I found myself disagreeing constantly with the opinions and legitimizations of other critics and so I decided that it was time to throw my hat into the ring and stand up for underrepresented fans like me.  I aspire to a higher standard than lowering myself to degrading anyone else with personal attacks or insinuating that my opinions are the only valid ones.  Really, I think the majority of media review can be summed up as personal taste.  There’s more than one correct answer and dissenting opinions are always welcome as long as they can be supported.  It’s also a part of my goal to promote conversation and for that it’s important to have someone at the table who has a genuine views contrary to mainstream for the purpose of creating intellectual debate.

I continue to write this blog for many reasons, but my main motivation is because it’s fun.  I’ve always enjoyed writing and sharing my ideas with others.  Despite the fact that I primarily only do reviews on this site, I’ve been able to connect with some great people who—even if we vehemently disagree with each other—understand and appreciate our mutual differences.  My other primary goal is to provide a place where people can read short and concise reviews of anime of all genres without getting dragged into a long editorial that takes too much time; bogging itself down with too many graphics or padded language. As a small side project I’m currently working on providing some resources to fans who can’t read Japanese for the Precious Memories trading card game, but so far I’ve limited that portion of the site to the Madoka Magica setlist translations.

If you’ve made it to the end of my unusually long-winded spiel thanks for your patience and interest in Ashita no Anime.  I’d love to hear your opinions and advice for how to make my work better.  If you like what you see and want to support my objectives be sure to subscribe both to this blog site as well as my twitter account and be sure to vote for me in the Aniblog tourney.  Lastly, I’d like to give a shoutout to my biggest supporter, TWWK.  Go check out his blog and give him some votes in the next round of the tournament.  Thanks and have a great day!

Anime of the Week (4/15 – 4/21)

Anime of the Week – Sankarea
The emotional energy of this anime is powerful. Rea’s despair and despiration, her father’s madness and Chihiro’s shock and awe are unbelievably tangible.
April 16 Fate/Zero Ep. 15 The battle was epic as always, but I’m more interested to know what’s going on behind the scenes. What is Kirei up to?
Acchi Kocchi Ep. 1 Initial impression – fuel for the moe inferno
April 17 Saki: Achiga-hen – Episode of Side-A Ep. 1 Initial impression – pleasing, but lacking impact (5/10)
Mirai Nikki Ep. 26 With an epilogue like that after a nebulous ending it feels very much like this series can’t possibly be over just yet.
Acchi Kocchi Ep. 2 It’s like there’s a delicate perfection protecting this series and I fear that the slightest jostle will break it.
April 18 Kids on the Slope Ep. 1 Initial impression – significantly underwhelming
April 19 Eureka Seven AO Ep. 1 Initial impression – more refreshing than expected
April 20 Sankarea Ep. 3 The reactions Chihiro exhibits are priceless. The crescendo of emotions go from shock to despair and finally disbelief.
Tsuritama Ep. 1 Initial impression – I want to like it but…eh… (5/10)
April 21 Tasogare Otome Ep. 2 This show has some very good wordplay. I also like how the ecchi moments are underwritten with Yuuko’s playful teasing.
Acchi Kocchi Ep. 3 I think what’s making this series so awesome is the excellent balance of personalities throughout the diverse cast.
Haiyore! Nyaruko-san Ep. 1 Initial impression – just…what? (2/10)

*You could have read these mini-reviews in real time as I updated my status by following me on Twitter.

Haiyore! Nyaruko-san Ep. 1

Initial impression – just…what? (2/10)

Spring 2012 (dropped at 1 of 12 episodes) (English title – Nyarko-san: Another Crawling Chaos) (more info)

What do you get when you try to cross a romantic, moe comedy with Lovecraft?  The jumbled mess that is Haiyore! Nyaruko-san, that’s what. Seriously, just what were they thinking when they came up with the setting for this show?  Were they throwing darts at post-it notes or did they just spin a roulette wheel of possible themes?  Perhaps it might have worked if the writers didn’t actually think that they could spin these two mismatched concepts into something with real-world ties—‘cause really, how can anyone think that turning Nyarlathotep into a female, alien-otaku is a good idea?  It expends way too much energy trying to legitimize itself as something more than the sum of its subtractive parts and it just doesn’t work.  Also, it makes a lot of obscure references to the Cthulhu mythos that only someone deeply familiar with Lovecraft’s work is likely to understand.  It’s so full of itself that it can’t see how unfathomably thick it is.  I actually find this kind of poorly constructed amalgam to be insulting in the way the viewers are just expected to roll with it and accept something so half-baked.  It also doesn’t do a very good job constructing its more romantic side with the male lead seemingly having some kind of bipolar disorder.  He knows that his new protector is a crazy, nutzo, wild girl, but one minute he’s dealing out punishment for her transgressions by stabbing her with a fork and the next he’s enraptured by her wiles.  Is this proof of the concept that the hotter a girl is the crazier she’s allowed to be?  Well whatever…I think I’ve adequately made my point that Haiyore! Nyaruko-san is not worth any more of my time.

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.

Eureka Seven AO Ep. 1

Initial impression – more refreshing than expected

Spring 2012 to summer 2012 (24 episodes) (full title – Eureka Seven Astral Ocean) (more info)

All too often these days I’m seeing sequels to series that don’t really need a follow up story to make them feel complete.  Eureka 7 was an epic that I feel did everything it needed to and ended without any indication that a sequel was necessary.  But despite this small reservation, I’m optimistic about Eureka AO because it’s different enough from its parent series that I can see very clearly that it’s not attempting to fill the very big shoes of its predecessor.  And while it does make a great many references to Eureka 7, it is already using its first episode as an opportunity to step out of the shadow of past successes and do its own thing.  How much it’s actually related to the original only time will tell, but I’m already seeing a lot of inconsistencies with the main story that indicate to me that this will be more of a spin-off like the Pocket Full of Rainbows movie than a true, continuous sequel to the original plot.  This makes me happy because that’s the sort of direction I’d prefer Bones to take the rich material they have to work with.  On that note, the best part that surprised me is how much Eureka AO still manages to feel like Eureka 7.  It’s successfully capturing the tone, style and pacing that made its parent series awesome, but is making every effort to seek its own identify and prove that it is capable of standing on its own.  That alone is a remarkable quality for a sequel to possess and my optimism on this series is much higher after watching the first episode than it was before.

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.