Anime of Tomorrow
Tag Archives: 4/10
Winter 2013 (12 episodes) (more info) (title literal translation – Sasami at Not Doing My Best)
Going into Sasami-san, I expected that I would enjoy it a lot more than I did. It’s a nice-looking Shaft anime with a trippy premise and the cast includes Chiwa Saito and Kana Hanazawa, two of my favorite voice actresses. So finding myself in the position of not liking it has me somewhat perplexed. The only reason for this I can think of is that this anime wants to be a psychological comedy in the vein of Bakemonogatari, but unfortunately is being let down by the problem of not having a plot. I can’t find any motivating force behind the actions of these weird characters and that wouldn’t be an issue if Sasami-san had the same quality of dialogue that graces Nishio Ishin’s works. Wandering aimlessly isn’t the best setup for this kind of anime unless there’s an overarching theme that ties it all together and because there’s so many other anime right now that are put together much more cohesively, I’m going to have to let this one go.
Autumn 2012 (12 episodes) (full title – Ixion Saga: Dimensional Transfer) (more info)
Clearly Kon has forgotten rule 29—on the internet, all women are men. Where Aoi Sekai made fun of the console wars, Ixion Saga makes fun of (MMO)RPGs in general. It does this by accentuating how mismatched min-maxing players’ outfits look and how by all rights nobody should have the time to charge up a finishing move without someone coming in and delivering a knock-out blow.
But beyond that it’s not very clever. It really has poor taste in the unscrupulous sensibilities of the party’s cross-dressing maid, makes fun of child marriage and main character Kon is just an unlikeable, lecherous wad that portrays a poor image of the gamer stereotype. If you like this style of writing and story with fantasy elements mixed with modern heroes in an alternate dimension, Hagure Yuusha did a much better job presenting this subject matter last season and I’ll even encourage you to go check it out instead of wasting time with Ixion Saga.
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.
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.
Summer 2012 (12 episodes) (more info)
(short version title – Nakaimo) (title literal translation – One of Them is My Little Sister!)
The plot for this series seems uncannily familiar, but I can’t name the anime it most closely mirrors. Either way, as good natured as main character Shougo Mikadono is in Nakaimo, the bottom line is that he’s been sent to high school and given the task of finding a suitable bride. Really, all I needed to hear about this anime to know the quality of its story is right in the title.
What’s up with this little sister fetish? Is it because Japan has more history of familial purity and didn’t frown on incest in the past as much as the west? Or do I just not get it because I don’t have a little sister of my own? I think Genshiken revealed the inner workings of this curious trope quite clearly when Madarame asked, “why would I want a little sister that I’m related to?” Which follows right into Nakaimo, because apparently the as-of-yet unnamed little sister is actually only a half-sister born of a different mother.
This series pretty much has nothing going for it. It’s clichéd, it’s not particularly funny or heartwarming and there’s nothing to distinguish it from the masses of anime that have similar, more interesting, creative premises with less questionable morals. The main character even has amnesia—that annoying flaw that gets busted out by writers the world over when a cheap and easy mystery subplot is needed.
All the set pieces are there to mix up a really bland broth, but nobody thought to bring the seasoning or the meat and veggies. There’s nothing offensive about Nakaimo, but it’s so accommodating it wouldn’t dare do anything that could be construed as risky or ambitious.
Fall 2011 and spring 2012 (25 episodes)
I think by now I’ve started to solidify my status as the alternative opinion among anime bloggers, but this review of Fate/Zero may be my most controversial so far. Voicing my opinion at critical times like this is a big part of the reason I started this blog in the first place. I’ve prepared for this by writing at length and in detail the points of contention I have with this series. Here we go.
Kiritsugu Emiya is a magus who has seen far too much suffering and injustice in the world. He dreams of being the hero who can rid the world of war and violence and he believes he has found a way to do it. By entering the Holy Grail War he can pit his skills as a modern assassin against six other magi who are also pursuing the holy relic that can grant the wish of the person who obtains it. To do this, he must ally himself with a heroic spirit that will fight by his side and share his victory (as must the other participants in this survival game). With the intention of summoning the spirit of the greatest avatar of justice, King Arthur, Kiritsugu throws his hat into the ring. But the person who heeds his summons isn’t what he expected.
Inevitably, Fate/Zero has to be compared to Fate/Stay Night since this is a canonical prequel to that story. And I’m going to be very clear and say that I did not have the same experience with Zero as many other people seem to have had. The only thing I can see that Zero has going for it is its production values. Everything else was done much better in Stay Night.
One of my biggest complaints is that the battles are poorly conceived. Nearly every fight always comes down to some sort of matching of wills pushing towards whoever can level up more, meaning every battle was always a forgone conclusion, possessing nothing dynamic. Let me compare the action in Fate/Zero to two other recent action series that actually know how to make a fight scene exciting—Shakugan no Shana III and Accel World. Both of these series understand how to deliver suspense by including strategy that is accomplished either via exploiting weaknesses in the enemy’s plans, or psychological attacks to demoralize the opponent into just giving up. This kind of intellectual action sequence doesn’t need flashy spectacle to keep your attention because you’re too caught up in the twists of the progression of events to get bored.
There’s two points in this series that solidified for me that the majority of this anime does nothing more than pander to the fans. The first is in the episode devoted entirely to young Rin that feels completely out of place and ultimately goes absolutely nowhere. I know Rin is well-liked, but that’s not a good enough reason to just toss her into a filler episode because you know it’ll make people happy. If you absolutely must do something like that, put it in a bonus episode tucked away on the DVD where it won’t clutter up the main story.
The second point is near the end of the series when Saber chases Rider while riding a motorcycle that she magically enhances to catch up with him. All I could do during that scene was shake my head and say, “isn’t that something that should have been Rider’s domain?” There are way too many liberties with what constitutes flavorful powers that needed to be unique to each class. Otherwise why bother even having them if you’re just going to make the characters’ skills ultimately all up for grabs depending on whatever will tickle the fans? These beautiful, but empty shenanigans and complete lack of pace that dominate much of the second half could have easily been substituted with watching Saber jump hurtles and taking breaks every once in a while to shoot her sword lasers and miss.
In the absence of Ryuunosuke and Caster, the only two good episodes in Zero are the flashbacks to when Kiritsugu was a child. Here we are treated to a spectacularly dramatic…or maybe traumatic…procession of unfortunate dilemmas where Kiritsugu must choose between those he loves and respects, or protecting innocent strangers who could never comprehend the danger that he averted or the sacrifice he made to keep them safe.
And as hard as it is to accept (I actually caught myself getting a little choked up) there’s really no room for debate that given the circumstances he made the best decision he possibly could, which serves to only sharpen the pain. To have Kiritsugu back away from this investment at the final moment, feels completely out of character and devalues everything he had worked for. Not to mention that you don’t have to watch more than two episodes of Stay Night to see that several key events in the last episode of Zero don’t match. There’s just no excuse for this kind of oversight from a company that’s in the business of writing stories. Swiss cheese that’s been blasted with a shotgun has fewer holes in it than Fate/Zero’s conclusion. Frankly, it’s just disgusting.
To think that Gen Urobachi wrote both the incredible, gritty epic that is Madoka Magica and the teaspoon shallow, sparkling flop that is Fate/Zero is a sad state of affairs. I would never have guessed these two series to have been written by the same person. I’m going to throw at least some of the blame on Type-Moon for probably restricting his creativity to follow whatever happened in the visual novel this series took its source from.
All things considered, the heavily weighted majority of Fate/Zero is nothing more than a string of uninvested deepities punctuated by some very nice-looking, substanceless spectacle. Unless you’re the kind of person who gets easily distracted by shiny objects, stick with Fate/Stay Night and don’t ruin your experience with this spoiled, vacuous prequel. Probably the most I’ve ever been disappointed by an anime.
Initial impression – deliberately hazy (4/10)
Spring 2012 to summer 2012 (24 episodes) (title literal translation – Scarlet Fragment) (more info)
If an anime can’t make its story clear within the first episode, I worry about the pacing of events to come. Hiiro no Kakera does a decent job setting up some suspense and mystery and I see Tamaki Kasuga headed in a definite direction that is going to be full of challenges. However, not knowing the exact role she is to play in this murky, spirit-infested, backwater village leaves me just as confused as her. Just who is she and why is she so important that she requires high-class secret service hidden among her classmates to keep an eye on her at all times? On that note, the biggest thing I’m relieved to see is that this series does not seem to be the pretty-boy anime that it superficially appeared to be at first glance. The focus is all on Tamaki and while she may be a tad harsh on some of her male guardians, at least she isn’t fawning on them like some weird, reverse harem. I see the potential for something interesting in Hiiro no Kakera, but there’s just not enough substance there to hold my attention.
Initial impression – too niche (4/10)
Spring 2012 (13 episodes) (more info)
Zetman doesn’t seem to have much going for it. It’s already very clear what the story is going to be about and I fear it’s going to stick to such a standard formula it won’t be able to deviate into something more creative. I’m also not fond of the very cliché “Dragonball hair” moment during the climax of episode one, but despite my misgivings there’s some great action and the plot builds on some very formative moments that will clearly shape the characters’ futures in the coming episodes. The art style also isn’t my favorite with a very “Japan hero-show,” design for the appearance of the superhero suits reminiscent of Power Rangers. It’s very unimaginative and childish for something that clearly wants to market itself to a more mature audience. So it seems Zetman is firmly going to be a sort of hyper-shounen anime that isn’t strictly bad. Unfortunately, it has such narrow appeal that the people who like it will really like it, but everyone else is just going to say, “meh.”
Initial impression – the wrong style (4/10)
Spring 2012 (12 episodes) (Japanese title – Uchuu Kyoudai) (more info)
I have the distinct feeling this series would have been better suited to a live-action drama. There’s nothing wrong with animated dramas per se, but Space Brothers does not take advantage of animation as a medium, which I feel is a lot of waste. The large amount of emphasis on real-world organizations JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) and NASA as well as the bonus features after the episode make it feel like an exaggerated advertisement for getting young people interested in space. And while I think space is awesome I can’t see this series becoming something spectacular. I’ll fully admit that I can’t stand the sort of art style used in Space Brothers and that may be biasing my opinion slightly, but I was also so underwhelmed by the writing and premise that it was unable to overcome my predispositions. All in all the tone of the first episode is so disappointing that I can’t imagine Space Brothers becoming anything other than ordinary.
Last Exile – Fam, the Silver Wing (4/10)
Dropped at episode 4 of 21 (more info)
I remember fondly the sense of urgency and mystery that filled the original Last Exile and made it a great introductory anime to anyone who wanted to take a closer look at the steampunk genre. The magic of the original series has been lost over the years and its second season has become just a boring old pirating anime, set in a world at war that deals with issues of honor in very contrived ways.
High School DxD (4/10)
Dropped at episode 2 of 12 (more info)
There’s good ecchi and bad ecchi. To its credit, High School DxD falls somewhere in the middle, but there’s still way too much ecchi for its own good. The plot is really quite silly and the character designs portray the women with completely unreasonable proportions, purely for fanservice purposes. Its redeeming feature is that it actually has a somewhat original and interesting story to tell, but that’s not enough when the rest of the anime feels as though there’s no effort invested in its creation.
Kill Me Baby (3/10)
Dropped at episode 2 of 12 (more info)
The super-deformed moe style certainly isn’t for everyone, but what kills Kill Me Baby is the serious lack of personality in its characters. Sonya is supposed to be aloof and detached, but seems much more bored and apathetic all the time. Agiri may always be up in the clouds and look spacey, but her voice sounds either like she’s about to fall asleep or maybe she’s on drugs. Lively Yasuna does her best to make up for the two cinder blocks she hangs out with, but when they’re content to just leave her behind I can’t see how the plot of this anime could possibly go anyplace exciting.
Inu x Boku SS (3/10)
Dropped at episode 5 of 12 (more info)
The idea of tsundere Ririchiyo being naturally driven to adopt this personality by virtue of her cloistered and bourgeois lifestyle is a level of depth in character creation seldom seen from this character archetype. Giving her a doting companion / bodyguard who will naturally be able to melt her icy personality through his devoted loyalty was the perfect complement to Ririchiyo and the beginning of something really cool was all set to wow the viewers. And then it all went horribly wrong as it floundered in a sea of misplaced and pointless S&M jokes. Really, this is one of the strangest changes of tone I’ve seen in a long time.
Senki Zesshou Symphogear (3/10)
Dropped at episode 3 of 13 (more info)
Hibiki and Tsubasa’s relationship is on bad terms, but it’s mostly because Hibiki seems to turn off her social skills in favor of playing the starstruck underdog to Tsubasa’s cold, professionalism. It’s also paced way too slow, with too little information revealed about the origins of this war and with supporting characters who clearly understand more than the combatants. Being a singing anime with less than mediocre music is also not a great way to sell a title to fans who are interested in that kind of genre. Symphogear could have been a cool, technological / magic girl anime along the lines of My-HiME, but the fight scenes are clunky and the characters are either super bitchy or socially incompetent airheads.