Anime of Tomorrow
Tag Archives: high school comedy
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.
Initial impression – fuel for the moe inferno
Spring 2012 (12 episodes) (English synonym – All Over the Place, title literal translation – Here and There) (more info)
If Lucky Star can be thought of as moe crack, then Acchi Kocchi is probably closer to moe sugar. It’s such a sweet anime that I’m sure most people are going to get a sour taste in their mouths unless they’ve properly conditioned themselves for this kind of style (as I have =P). I like how the two main characters Tsumiki and Io clearly care for each other with a slight, awkward honesty. While they are not in a serious relationship, unlike most anime romances they aren’t vehemently denying their love; instead going for a sort of soft consensus with their mutual feelings. It’s not an atypical friendship between hero and heroine and that simple novelty is more than enough to give this series a nice flair of originality. Integrating males into a moe series is also a rarity and when it is done it often isn’t done very well with focus always going to the girls and leaving the guys to the sidelines. But Acchi Kocchi gives both genders fairly equal measures of presence, which is inspiringly daring. It’s a kind of delightfulness that has gotten my moe passion burning brightly and I’m salivating at the thought of what the future holds.
Initial impression – an aura of fun
Spring 2012 (12 episodes) (English title – Dusk Maiden of Amnesia) (more info)
Tasogare Otome has a really playful, refreshing attitude about how it tells its story. Yuuko, the ghost president of the Seikyou High School occult club, doesn’t remember everything about her past, but she’s determined to enjoy her unlife as much as possible nonetheless. That’s where Teiichi comes in. He’s a kindhearted young man, but perhaps a little over accommodating to Yuuko’s poltergeist pranks. He also has the …fortunate?… distinction of being Yuuko’s object of affection, but perhaps it was inevitable because he’s the only one who can touch her. This is a genius, nearly tangible way of creating empathy for Yuuko’s existence because of the very emotional response it generates to the concept of having only one person in the world you can be close to. Where Tasogare Otome’s plot goes from here is up in the air, but it has already demonstrated very clearly that the setting concept is solid with a great air of mystery and some really likeable characters. I particularly enjoyed how it started out showing everything from Momoe’s perspective to creatively establish that she can’t see or hear Yuuko and the naturalness of her reactions was made all the funnier when the scene was revisited from Teiichi’s point of view. If Tasogare Otome continues this way, I expect great things are to come.
Initial impression – could go either way
Spring 2012 (12 episodes) (more info)
Overall, Medaka Box has an endearing sincerity and is full of fun twists and turns with a good pace that keeps you on your toes. The over-enthusiastic attitude of Medaka reminds me very strongly of Haruhi Suzumiya and the half-hearted reluctance of Zenkichi makes me think of Kyon. Unfortunately, very little else in Medaka Box follows the smartly written formula of one of the wildest anime of all time—but expecting every show to live up to that high standard would be foolhardy at best, overbearing at worst. It’s really quite good and I hate to hold just one ecchi scene against it, but I feel that it’s so misplaced that it warrants reconsidering the overall motivation of this anime. Seeing busty Medaka in her underwear in the student council room with the lame excuse of justifying this fanservice moment by saying that it reinforces the validity of Medaka and Zenkichi’s relationship as childhood friends is just weak. After that pathetic attempt to appeal to the male fanbase, it completely ruined my mood and soured my interest in this series. But it is made by Gainax, so I think I’ll give it one last chance to redeem itself before I write it off as nothing more than an energetic but shallow anime.
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.
Final impression – imaginative and fun (7/10)
Summer 2010 (12 episodes) (title literal translation – Ookami and Her Seven Companions)
Otogi Bank is a student service organization that deals in favors for the service of assisting with any problem they are asked to solve. Sometimes this involves dealing out a little pain to deserving bullies and that’s when Ryouko Ookami gets called upon to dish out some punishment. But Ookami has a secret admirer hiding in the shadows and watching her back. Ryoushi Morino is a shy young man who goes to the same school as his crush, but always manages to keep a low profile because he is overcome with fits of nervousness if he becomes the center of attention. One day when he finally manages to work up the courage to confess to Ookami, he instead finds himself being recruited by Otogi Bank. It didn’t turn out quite the way he expected, but now he gets to be close to the person he admires the most.
While vaguely referencing old children’s fairy tales in its character and story design, Ookami-san weaves a delightfully random plot that never really finds a consistent pace or tone. There’s a couple of stories that clearly reference classical literature, such as the smartly written swimsuit contest that puts a twist on the tale of “The Tortoise and the Hare” as two childhood rivals compete to see who has matured into the better woman. The main story that hides in the background for most of the series is a very convoluted redux of “Little Red Riding Hood” that sort of loses itself along the way in favor of a generic action-romance. At times it takes itself way too seriously, especially when going into the details of Ookami’s back story. But the bottom line is that it’s moderately fun and when it occasionally trips over itself it manages to do it in a way that’s endearing and comedic. With good music and a colorful style, Ookami-san to Shichinin no Nakamatachi won’t wow, but it also will not waste your time.
What’s immediately clear about C^3 is that it’s trying to be a philosophical discourse about the bonds of humanity to the tools we use. What’s amazing is how well it accomplishes this goal—shattering the initial trepidation that this series might turn out to be nothing more than a gilded brick. Haruaki’s strong, competent personality provides a natural foundation for the other characters to rely on, but the real gem comes from the sadistically cute voice acting of Yukari Tamura. Watching her magnificent portrayal of Fear was plenty to elevate C^3 to number five on my list of 2011’s best anime.
It’s not often an anime comes along that blends issues of science and morality as well as No. 6. It reminds us that the natural resources of our world can be our greatest sources of inspiration and innovation. But we also need to respect the power of nature, especially when dealing with phenomena we don’t fully understand. Accepting our own place in nature is also pivotal to our survival, which goes hand-in-hand with our respect for our fellow humans. Through a bit of fantasy, science fiction and post-apocalyptic ingenuity, No. 6 fits nicely into last year’s fourth place.
Wandering Son touches on some very important, often misunderstood and undiscussed issues dealing with the growth of children into young adults. Its core theme deals with gender identity and how this confusion and desire to be someone very different from society’s expectations can lead to turmoil. This anime takes a very candid view of what men and women are expected to be and tells a story through the eyes of some honest young people about acceptance and being who you want to be, rather than what someone else wants you to be. It’s a powerful concept, the art is beautiful and the wonderful music is the icing on the cake that puts Wandering Son at third place for 2011.
I’ll come right out and admit that my choice for A-Channel to be the second-best anime of 2011 was highly biased by my own personal experiences—the lens through which I view the four main characters. Although each of the four girls are colorful and unique, I can see a little of myself in each of them. Like Run, I have a hard time waking up in the morning and I’m bad at reading the atmosphere of social situations. Nagi is smart, wears glasses and is sensitive about her self-image—just like me. Yuuko and I are both tall and ticklish. And Tooru hates hot summer weather, which is also one of my greatest enemies. It’s just good, hilarious moe fun and its charms will put a warm smile on your laughing face.
Everything about this anime is so spectacular it’s easily capable of deflecting the attacks of any naysayer and I predict this title to be one of the most cherished, memorable anime in history. We’re literally witnessing the rise of an anime for the ages—something that will transcend generations to come. Its accomplishments are too numerous to go into detail here, so I’ll do my best to keep my enthusiasm brief.
1. Madoka took the magic girl genre that generally doesn’t get a lot of love from more casual anime fans, threw away everything wrong and then added its own original flair to show that the right amount of creativity can make anything shine brightly.
2. The story is deep and intellectual. Between imagining ways of warping space and time, then twisting the delicate emotions of young people who wish to fulfill their kindest desires resulting in tragedy while distorting misunderstood feelings, culminating in a selfless, powerful will that can alter the physical properties of reality itself, there’s no shortage of deep thinking and fresh ideas.
3. Music and art that merge the story and setting into a complete piece, crafted with such flawless skill that we’re unlikely to see this level of quality again for quite some time. It’s just so tight and focused, not a second, not a color, not a single word is wasted fluff that would distract from the central story.
It’s really just a no-brainer that Magic Girl Madoka Magica would be my anime of the year.
Final impression – quirky fun with a touch of gallantry (7/10)
Autumn 2011 (12 episodes) (title literal translation – Boxed-Lunch)
When you’re going to high school and money is tight, you learn to shop for bargains on food. Late in the day at the supermarkets, the boxed meals—Japanese bento—get marked down to half price. This is when the bargain hunters come out to battle each other for the best deals on the day’s dinner. Called “Wolves,” they go all out in a free-for-all battle royale of punches and kicks to claim their prize and newcomers like Satou are given no quarter—it’s sink or swim for anyone who steps into the ring. But a cheap meal isn’t the only motivation for the newbie protagonist. He admires the beautiful Sen Yarizui whose skill as a wolf has earned her the title of “Ice Witch.” Upon further investigation he finds that Yarizui is a grade above him at his school and in order to get closer to her, he joins the “Half-Pricer’s Club,” which she is the president. Little does he know he’s gotten involved in a warrior’s adventure that’s going to teach him the value of upholding chivalry even in the most adverse circumstances.
The flow of Ben-to feels pretty good for the most part. But this anime’s main selling point is its freshness. Fighting anime of all kinds come and go without any unique attributes to set them apart from the crowd. Ben-to stands out by doing things its own way and not caving to established norms. That’s not to say that this anime made very good choices in its effort to be itself—particularly in the pool episode—but the fact that it tried its best is something to take note of when you look at the big picture. Another noteworthy facet of Ben-to and nearly all anime of the entire fall 2011 season is the depiction of Satou as a strong, but down-to-earth young man when it comes to his interactions with girls. I’ve grown tired of the male protagonist who has absolutely no backbone when it comes to women. All the same, I’m not sure if Satou qualifies as being a favorable exception to that overused male character attribute. On one hand he’s usually just caught in compromising situations from which there is no favorable escape. On the other hand, despite is more chivalrous side, he never has the presence of mind to find a way to simply avoid those dilemmas in the first place. So aside from its slightly ecchi side, Ben-to was a lot of fun.
Final impression – spectacularly human (9/10)
Autumn 2011 (12 episodes) (alternate titles – C^3 – C³ – C Cubed)
When Haruaki received a mysterious package from his father, he should have guessed it might turn into a girl. Fear-in-Cube is a cursed torture device that has accumulated centuries of hate and death, allowing her to manifest as an intelligent being in her own right. She was sent to live with Haruaki so that she might escape the cruel destiny that has compounded into the misery of her existence. But that’s not going to be easy when the slightest trigger of violence can send her into a blood frenzy of flying guillotines. On top that, she’s the target of underground organizations of all colors. Some see her as an abomination to be destroyed while other seek out the power she possesses to use for their own misdeeds. Either way, she’s going to have to depend on wise-beyond-his-years Haruaki to make sure she stays true on her path to rehabilitation.
When I started to brainstorm for my review for C3, my first instinct was to start with something defensive that made an effort to excuse some kind of shortcoming. But then I realized that the brilliant composition of this anime needs no excuses to protect it from simple-minded twits who only want to focus on perceived shallowness when all they’re really seeing is the reflection of their own bias on the surface of a vast, deep ocean. And C3 is splendidly deep. It is a story about the human qualities of our tools—the extensions of ourselves we create in order to enhance ourselves to either our benefit or our detriment. When we use a tool long enough we often start to apply human characteristics and personality to it as it becomes an augment of our bodies; even taking on a share of our own souls. Thus are our tools extensions of our own creative or destructive tendencies.
The theme of C3 is societal responsibility—we must clean up our own messes as well as the messes that happen to cross our paths rather than pass the blame or hope someone else picks up the slack. It’s an uplifting triumph of chivalry and of people who genuinely wish to make the world a better place. Additionally, Haruaki is one of my favorite male characters in recent anime because he’s not perverted, introverted, spineless or shy around women. The overused trope of the weak male lead finally gets tossed out and that makes me incredibly happy. Given this anime’s style, I could very easily have seen it devolve into some ecchi harem show like Mayo Chiki or Boku wa Tomodachi. But C3 decidedly stays away from that territory and keeps things classy, even avoiding an obligatory swimsuit or onsen episode that populate so many anime that seem to lose their creative sparks halfway through.
Final impression – a guy’s anime for sure (5/10)
Winter 2012 (12 episodes) (Japanese title – Danshi Koukousei no Nichijou) (more info)
The Daily Lives of High School Boys is not a flattering depiction of males. Not all men are wolves jealously guarding the familiar safety of their pack from the encroachment of femininity. The idea of “men must band together to protect each other from the poison of women” creates an overarching concept that is an interesting twist on how you might write an anime about a group of unrefined, young guys as opposed to an assortment of cute, moe girls. But with all this talk about how High School Boys emphasizes men, it’s not exclusionary to women. In fact, I particularly like the portrayal of the girls because there’s some really fun personalities among them and the awkwardness of the boys’ youth is reflected in way they act towards the opposite gender. It transcends the usual dry stereotype of male-female relationships where the girl is always a possible love interest. The flow of well-constructed guy jokes does a really good job of making light of some of the aspects of the psyche of young men and puts a few new twists on classic pranks teenage boys play on each other the world over. I was ok with the anime until the last story arc devolved into toilet humor, at which point I decided I wouldn’t be watching any more. I try to avoid being indecisive in my reviews and give an honest opinion one way or the other, but this time I’ll say that a lot of people would probably enjoy High School Boys. It’s just not for me.