Anime of Tomorrow
Tag Archives: high school
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.
Probably the most outstanding aspect of Rinne no Lagrange is how it tells a story reminiscent of psychological trips with mecha backdrops similar to Evangelion or RahXephon. But very pleasingly it has managed to ditch the angsty boy pilot and replace him with a brave, cheerful young woman.
On the surface this does have a slight tendency to subvert the heavy atmosphere that naturally accompanies these types of anime, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. I’m all for taking tried and true methods of storytelling that have produced some great anime and putting just enough twists on the formula to create a familiar, but fresh experience. And that’s what Rinne has accomplished at the halfway point in its two-part run.
Though it’s often silly and a little too lighthearted at times for its own good, the depth of the characters is really something to be appreciated. I think I started out hating every character other than Madoka at first. Her pushy cousin Youko, the halfhearted Lan, deceptive Muginami, annoyingly larger than life Vilajulio & Co. as well as the sickeningly bourgeoisie Astelia all rubbed me the wrong way to start off. But as a testament to the force of Madoka’s personality, they all started to shift ever so slightly as the story progressed and to my surprise, looking back I can’t indicate a specific turning point when they started to grow on me.
This anime has some unique, interesting flaws to point out—most notably being how it ungracefully tiptoes around how it wants to deal with the almost-fanservice moments that it seems to want to indulge in, but always backs off before doing anything too risqué. To its credit it has an elegant air about itself, but that kind of flirtatious attitude can only go so far before it starts to become a little too obvious.
All in all, Rinne has enough originality and depth in the cast to leave me looking forward to seeing where things pick up again this summer. But this break between the two halves got me thinking. Between Fate/Zero and Rinne no Lagrange and then Jormungand soon joining the team, there’s a theme developing where anime are doing two twelve episode seasons separated by a one season gap (about four months). How do you feel about that? Would you rather get it all done in one go or do you think there is a benefit to breaking up a two season series like this?
Final impression – the journey is better than the destination (7/10)
Autumn 2011 to winter 2012 (26 episodes) (title literal translation – The Future Diary)
Yukiteru Amano has been entered as an unwilling candidate into a survival game by Deus Ex Machina, the god of time who will use the contest to decide his most appropriate successor. Yukiteru was chosen, along with 12 other contestants, because they have been keeping impeccably accurate observation diaries that Deus deems a worthy character trait to qualify them for the role of the god of time.
As part of the game, each player has had their diary upgraded by Deus to predict the future out to a considerable amount of time. Their actions in the present could change their futures and those changes will be reflected in updates to their diaries. Thus the best candidate will be the one who can control their future and eliminate the others. But Yukki isn’t the most gung-ho about being unwittingly involved in this survival game no matter how big the prize, especially when he has to put up with his creepy, stalker girlfriend, Yuno Gasai, whose diary is capable of predicting his every move.
I’m not the type of fan who can fully enjoy a series based solely on the adventure. I need some measure of closure at the end—something to wrap things up or at least signify a proper ending. It doesn’t matter too much if I disagree with the outcome. After all, it’s at the writer’s discretion to tell a story the way they think it should be told, not to tell it the way I want.
That’s why I’m so conflicted about Mirai Nikki. It seems too focused on the path to the conclusion than on the conclusion itself, even if the voyage along the way was a doozy. The finale does an exceptionally poor job of signifying a true ending as it goes about a little epilogue with a real dearth of imagination. I just can’t imagine sitting in a self-imposed exile doing nothing but lamenting the loss of your loved one for 10,000 years. I was always a big believer in the concept of time healing all wounds; particularly those of the heart.
Many times in this series I think Yukki’s personality is just far too inconsistent; even taking into consideration the chaos that’s always threatening to envelop him at any moment. The pacing of the story also can’t keep a steady tempo with a lot of little bunny trails that seem to lead off to nowhere. But for all of my complaints it does do a good job of telling a story filled with a terrific variety of interesting characters with a multitude of motivations and flaws; all packed with some pretty grisly details that make me wonder if they’ll be uncensored on the blu-ray.
Can true love literally last forever even if you can never see that person ever again? Is it really healthy to remain true to your greatest passion or does there come a point when it’s best to just let go and move on? And what about endings? Is it best to have closure or can the journey be just as rewarding, even if the reward at the end is seriously lacking?
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 – 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.
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.
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.
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 – surprisingly interesting and well-thought
Spring 2012 (12 episodes) (more info)
I’m not sure what Sankarea is really about, but it has definitely caught my attention. I really like the unconventional way Chihiro Furuya thinks of zombies as misunderstood and feels a weird kind of passion for the undead. It’s an eccentric character trait and the fact that on some level he knows zombies can’t possibly exist gives him an interesting, internal conflict. Rea Sanka’s family problems then add an element of desperation that ties the two protagonists together in a kind of loose comradeship despite their very different backgrounds. The title animation would lead us to believe that this is some sort of zombie comedy-adventure, albeit more serious than the wacky Kore wa Zombie Desu ka? But as the first episode begins, I started to suspect the opening theme is intentionally being playfully facetious and this is going to be more of a fun, awkward romance story than anything to do with actual zombies. That assessment changes though, when Rea shuffles her way to Furuya’s side, dragging along her parts that aren’t supposed to be on the outside of your body. It’s such a shock after Sankarea’s not-too-dark beginning that I’ve been hooked and I can’t wait to see how it turns out.