Ashita no Anime

Anime of Tomorrow

Tag Archives: haruka

Minami-ke Tadaima Ep. 1

The sisters argue about putting away the kotatsu.Initial impression – the sisters return for round four

Winter 2013 (13 episodes) (more info)

As slice-of-life comedies go, Minami-ke is definitely above average and does a fantastic job of steering clear of material that’s been done before in this genre; focusing on its own unique take from the perspective of the three Minami sisters. One of the distinguishing features of each season of Minami-ke is that the art style gets a new look.  So despite the fact that it’s now on its fourth iteration, it manages to attain a nice level of freshness and because the series is very episodic, it’s fairly easy to get into Tadaima at this stage in the franchise.  However, it does make a few references to past events and I worry that newcomers may be lost on more than one occasion.  It’s not gut-bustingly funny, but will definitely serve up quite a few smiles.

Kotoura-san Ep. 1

Kotoura's mind-reading ability makes others wary.Initial impression – revealing the truth

Winter 2013 (12 episodes) (more info)

Based on its art style and a three-sentence description I’d expected Kotoura-san to be a two-dimensional moe anime.  However, what I got was a rollercoaster ride of emotions that really caught me by surprise.  The first half of this episode encapsulates Kotoura’s rough childhood and the troubles that come with her ability to read minds and her good-natured honesty.  It’s a truly disheartening series of misfortunes that shows what becomes of people who can’t be honest with themselves, but are then confronted with their own inner truth.  In this way, Kotoura is the knife that’s peeling away the mask that people wear to play the game otherwise known as, “being social.”  I can understand her pain, but perhaps it reflects poorly on me that I wouldn’t have chosen to be so frank if I had the ability to read minds; using my ESP to live a more advantageous life.

Manabe teases Kotoura by exploiting her mind-reading ability.The supposition that most people would be ashamed to have their inner thoughts broadcast to others appeals greatly to me because I can say with a fair amount of certainty that my thoughts are an honest reflection of my actions.  I take great pride in the path I’ve chosen to live a life free of hypocrisy within my own character.  I’m not ashamed of who I am and because of this, I identify strongly with Kotoura-san’s male protagonist, Manabe, who similarly takes his classmate’s mind-reading ability as a chance for self-improvement (when he’s not broadcasting his fantasies).  This change of circumstances from Kotoura’s lonesomeness and off-putting attitude to finally meeting someone who can push her to open up is fantastically written and shows a lot of potential for future growth.  If I was to give a criticism to this anime, I’d say its cute visual design devalues its very serious premise.  But if that’s all I have to complain about when I’m already an admitted moe fan, then I’m going to give it a pass and remain on the edge of my seat, expectantly waiting to see what will become of this unexpectedly sophisticated anime.

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.

Amagami SS and Amagami SS+ plus (review)

Amagami SS

Impression – finely tuned and sagacious (9/10)

Summer 2011 to fall 2011 (25 episodes + 3 OVAs)

Usually I start my reviews with a plot summary of the first episode or two to give a general impression of the story, but I can’t do that for Amagami SS. This series is a real revolution for the standard formula for harem/romance/dating genre of anime. Instead of following the girls’ individual stories through the series organically (which usually just makes the protagonist look like a playboy) Amagami gives each girl four episodes to tell their story with the main character before wrapping things up and moving on to the next girl without a shred of continuity between the two.

It’s really refreshing to see an anime deviate from the default storytelling method for romance series and try something new.  And the best part is that it’s awesome.  It’s hard to believe that nobody thought of this idea sooner, but this formula is just enough time to get to know the characters, introduce a conflict and resolve said conflict in a very tight space of time that allows for absolutely no waste.

The cast is your usual harem mix—the hard-nosed class rep, the whimsical upperclassman, the tomboy, the airhead, the shy girl and the athlete—but they all have enough unique traits to keep them fresh and nonstereotypical.  If it seems like I’m having trouble giving this title an adequately in-depth review it’s because there’s so many unconnected plotlines in this series that I couldn’t hope to discuss them at length without just giving away the whole story because everything is so concise.

I can definitely say that this is a series for people who like romance anime and are looking for something different that sets itself apart from the masses and Amagami definitely fits that bill. But I also think this series could impress people who usually stay away from harem anime because the quality of the writing in Amagami really hits home with how effectual it is at getting the point across in so little time.

Amagami SS+ plus

Impression – an ideal, if somewhat inflexible sequel (7/10)

Winter 2012 (13 episodes)

Probably the biggest failing of Amagami Plus is that it will have absolutely no chance of pulling in new viewers for this franchise. Just like season 1, the writing is short and to the point without an inch of dead time—which of course means there can be no chance for a recap to get fresh eyes up to speed with the stories already in progress.  This basically dooms it to being a nice little bonus package for people who enjoyed the first season, though the necessity of some of this extra content is sometimes questionable.

With only 13 episodes this time around, each girl only gets 2 episodes to squeeze in a little epilogue (plus a bonus episode for Junichi’s sister, Miya).  They all have their own charm and fit nicely onto the end of their previous plotlines. While I was somewhat neutral on why we needed more screen time for Tsukasa, Haruka and Ai, I think Kaoru’s extra content actually stagnated her story from where it left off in the main anime. The two girls that I felt actually needed expanding on were Sanae and Rihoko and Amagami Plus did a great job continuing and finishing the romance that Junichi started in season 1.

Amagami is easily one of the sharpest anime I’ve had the pleasure of watching. The music is really good too, with the opening setting a wonderfully cheerful mood and the ending themes done by the voice actresses in the themes of their respective characters. Essentially free of any ecchi or fanservice to speak of, this is a strong, confident, romance franchise that knows how to handle itself.

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.

Amagami SS+ Ep. 1

Initial impression – a surprise present for fans of the first season

Winter 2012 (12 episodes) (more info)

This is one of those sequels that I wasn’t entirely sure needed to exist.  I was very certain that the first season of Amagami SS said everything that needed to be said and did it exceedingly well.  What could a sequel possibly add to something that was already finished and complete?  To my pleasant surprise, the answer is more excellence.  Just as the first Amagami SS divided itself into six unique arcs for each of the six girls, the second season appears to be going about the same formula.  But with only 12 episodes to cover all the girls, I’m assuming each story will only be two episodes long, which I’m worried will be too brief to be meaningful or have any lasting impact.  The first arc of Amagami SS+ is the Tsukasa Ayatsuji story’s continuation and I’ll come right out and say that I’m biased for Ayatsuji.  But first impressions are that this sequel is going to be a very natural addition to the stories and thus far nothing about it feels forced or cliché.  I can’t wait to see how everything turns out.

The iDOLM@STER (ongoing)

Impression – not bad at all

Summer 2011 to autumn 2011 (25 episodes) (more info)

To be honest, the only reason I gave The iDOLM@STER a snowball’s chance in hell is because I play the Japanese trading card game Weiss Schwarz, and The iDOLM@STER is a very popular title (it’s also quite strong for those who don’t know anything about the game).  So I wanted to learn more about the source material for this set of cards.  Overall, I’ve been intriuged.  The iDOLM@STER started out painfully slow, but it’s started to work its way into my heart and on a couple occasions I caught myself cheering for the girls.  When I first started watching, I had mistakenly thought the series was only 13 episodes and I was wondering how they were going to cover all the girls without feeling a nasty time crunch come episode 12.  Even with 25 episodes it’s a bit of a squeeze, but I’m seeing the method to the madness.  The writers have chosen not to focus on particular girls as facets while the story progresses, but rather on the whole gem that is all the girls working together as a cohesive unit.  Ocassionally one girl will be the target for a particular side sequence, but it’s always about highlighting the teamwork the girls share to accomplish their dreams together and that’s surprisingly powerful given this anime’s premise and source material.  There’s nothing earthshattering about The iDOLM@STER, but it’s fun and that counts for a lot.

Yosuga no Sora (review)

Final impression – emotional, but not tear-jerking 7/10

Fall 2010

Following the death of their parents, Haru and Sora move out of their spacious apartment in the city and head back to their family’s house in the countryside.  Beset by money woes and the loss of their family, they have to readjust to the small life and begin by rediscovering their childhood friends.  The girls Haru played with as a kid have grown into young women, and they haven’t forgotten the nice boy who was always there when they needed a friend.  Beset by troubles from seemingly every direction, Haru constantly must balance his love life with taking care of his antisocial twin sister, Sora.  In doing so, they shed the innocence of their childhood and begin to grow into adults.

It really baffles me how it was possible this anime was able to be aired.  I’ve watched hentai with fewer sex scenes than Yosuga no Sora (admittedly you never get to see too much, but it’s darned explicit compared to the usual fare I deal with from h-games turned anime).  The development of the plot follows the formulaic standard that was set by Amagami SS just a season earlier; Yosuga no Sora separates the story arcs of the different girls into distinct “plot universes,” with each path following to its eventual conclusion of having that girl become Haru’s lover.  This is opposed to the traditional way of having the story meander from girl to girl, ending each indistinct arc with a “let down” / “lets be friends” ending before the conclusion with the main girl he was destined to hook up with anyways.  The music is really nice and the drawing style is very pretty.  But given its very open portrayal of sexuality, Yosuga no Sora isn’t for everyone.

Twin Angel: Twinkle Paradise Ep 1

Initial impression – boring and formulaic

Haruka and Aoi are the magic girl heroine duo Twin Angel.  During the day they’re just normal jr. high school students, but at night when evildoers come out, they transform into Twin Angel and save the day.  Tomorrow, their school is hosting the presentation of a mystical tiara at the campus museum.  But thief and mecha designer Salome has been given the mission to steal the ancient relic.  While battling Salome’s robot the following night, she transforms the magic girls into cat girls using a noxious gas.  But when all hope seems lost, Misty Knight arrives to free them from a cat girl life because the gas only works on females.  After defeating Salome’s robot, she flies off in a hot air balloon and the tiara is safe.

There’s really just no contest against other magic girl shows when Twin Angel gets measured up against the recent genre-breaker Madoka Magica or hit classic My-HiME.  So yeah, Twin Angel has taken the magic girl genre and followed the formula to the letter.  With moe, loli characters, transformation sequences, a secret identity, questionably explained superpowers, a backup support network, and an evil organization to be the fall guys who manage to avoid capture after every conflict, there’s nothing original here to speak of.  They even brought in Yukari Tamura of Magic Girl Lyrical Nanoha fame to do the voice for Haruka.  Aoi gets graced with another voice talent Mamiko Noto, whose fabulous career is too long to include here.  So Twin Angel not only fails to deviate the slightest bit from the established magic girl formula, it also leaves a bad taste in the mouth hearing such voice actress’s talents being wasted on what’s possibly the worst show of summer 2011.

Uta no Prince-sama Ep 2

Final impression – average

Haruka has received her first assignment as a student at her private music school.  She’s been paired with Ittoki, one of the boys that helped her on the day she took her entrance exam.  He’s in charge of singing and lyrics and she’s in charge of composition.  However, despite their desires to work in the music industry, neither of them has experience making their own original work.  As they stumble through their project independently, it dawns on them that working together will produce a much more cohesive piece.

There’s nothing really offensive for male viewers of Uta no Prince-sama, despite the strong themes that are designed to appeal to girls.  However, the plot feels somewhat rushed and is being guided by feelings and backstory that don’t get properly filled in.  Overall it gives a distinct impression of being incomplete.  It’s not a bad anime and certainly feels good.  But that’s just not enough to hold my interest.