Ashita no Anime

Anime of Tomorrow

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Ookami Kakushi (review)

Final impression – good atmosphere around a passable story (6/10)

Winter 2010 (12 episodes) (title literal translation – Wolfed Away)

Hiroshi’s father, an author of folklore and occult novels, has decided to move the family to the remote, countryside village of Jogamachi. His friendly attitude and city-boy personality allow Hiroshi to quickly make friends with his classmates.  But the one thing he never really becomes accustomed to the unusual traditions of this backwater town.  It becomes increasingly suspicious for Hiroshi when the dreary Nemuru, his classroom representative (daughter of the town’s oldest, traditional family) tells him to stay away from the old side of town across the river. But the apprehension really kicks in when people suddenly start leaving Jogamachi and the flimsy explanations for their quick departures just don’t make sense.

Ookami Kakushi’s most distinctive feature is its original drawing style that feels suave and matches perfectly with the fog of mystery that surrounds the story.  The writing is pretty good, too—pacing out just the right amount of information to feed your appetite, while managing to keep you hungry for more.  Unfortunately, the story doesn’t leave much of an impact when it’s over.  Without spoiling too much, it’s a fairly standard “spirited away,” scenario that gets much less intriguing when the big surprise is that the circumstances are only superficially supernatural.  All in all, it’s a good show that gets you to feel for the characters and manages its allotments of suspense with skillful timing.  Certainly not for people who don’t care for slow, moody anime, Ookami Kakushi is a fine example of well-composed atmospheric pacing.


Blood-C (review)

Final impression – Only for unabashed CLAMP fans (4/10)

Summer 2011

In a remote village, Saya Kisaragi is the shrine maiden entrusted with slaying the Elder Ones—fearsome monsters that feast on the townspeople.  But when she has free time, she goes to high school, talks with her friends and enjoys coffee at a local café.  As she continues her mission to protect the town, small details start to converge together that just don’t add up.  Where do the Elder Ones come from?  To whom did Saya promise to guard the village?  And the greatest question, who was Saya’s mother?  She had better figure out the answers to these questions before it’s too late and everyone gets eaten.

First impressions can’t always be trusted and that is never truer than in Blood-C.  Talk about betraying your legacy.  Blood the Last Vampire and Blood+ had a likeable cast of characters, excellent pacing and terrific endings.  Even the live-action Blood the Last Vampire compares favorably to Blood-C and that’s pitiful.  The only reason I completed watching it is because I enjoy CLAMP’s artwork, making it the only possible redeeming feature.  I don’t know what Blood-C’s upcoming movie will do with this setup that the anime gave us.  However, 95% of the anime was an utterly pointless jaunt on the way to its eventual cliff-hanger ending.  The whole anime could have easily just not existed and twenty minutes added to the beginning of the movie to accomplish the same effect.

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.

Hoshizora e Kakaru Hashi (last thoughts)

Final impression – decent enough 6/10

Spring 2011 (Alternate title – A Bridge to the Starry Skies)

Kazuma Hoshino and his family are moving back to the countryside from the city.  His parents send him and his little brother ahead so they can start the new school term.  As he begins to get settled, he starts renewing old friendships from his childhood, such as the fun but ditzy Ui and the cute but serious Madoka.  New relationships form as Kazuma settles in, like the tomboy Ibuki, the reserved Hina and the gentle Tsumugi.  High school is fun times with club activities, study sessions and town festivals.  As a former city kid, Kazuma is encouraged to participate in everything, which serves to raise his popularity.  In the midst of these events, the girls surrounding Kazuma have realized that he’s pretty cool.  But who’s going to get Kazuma to fall in love with them may require a committee decision.

Yeah, so I’m one of those weirdoes who likes h-games that have been turned into non-h animes.  Hoshizora e Kakaru Hashi isn’t a very good example of this type of transformation done well, but it’s somewhat respectable.  There’s a decent balance between all the girls and their stories flow nicely to create a cohesive story.  The art style and music are nothing to write home about, but I’ll forgive Hoshizora because it has some fun moments that exemplify how h-game anime can be clever.  A good example is when one of the girls points out that there’s nothing strange or embarrassing about bloomers being part of the girls’ gym uniform because women wear far less clothing in public when they go to the beach.  The ending is quite dramatic as well and gives a nice feeling of completion that a lot of anime seem to be lacking lately.  While the story is a little corny at times and predictable, the satisfaction of Hoshizora’s completeness makes it a small success.

Hidan no Aria (last thoughts)

Final Impression – Not for everyone 6/10

Spring 2011 (Alternate title – Aria the Scarlet Ammo)

Kinji is a student at a butei high school in Tokyo – a training and licensing center for worldly bounty hunters.  He used to be top of his class, but circumstances changed and as his second year starts he’s thinking of calling it quits as a butei.  However, this isn’t his lucky day.  When his bike gets rigged with a bomb, he needs the help of the butei genious Aria Kanzaki to save him from a grisly death.  After witnessing his courage in a life or death situation, Aria wants to know why Kinji’s butei rank has dropped so low in such a short period of time.  As it turns out, Kinji has a secret he’s not proud of.  When he gets aroused by a girl, he goes into hysteria mode and gains superhuman reflexes and a gentleman’s demeanor.

Aria is working as a butei to clear her mother’s good name of a false criminal record, so she’s been searching for an appropriate partner to help her fulfill that goal.  Kinji might be able to fill that role if his childhood friend and fellow butei, Shirayuki doesn’t kill Aria for trying to steal her crush.  But Aria’s biggest threat comes from the EU, the very criminal organization that framed her mother.  She needs to be more careful than she realizes, because an agent of the EU has entered the butei academy and is much closer to her than she suspects.

Aria the Scarlet Ammo is one of those anime that you really want to like, but when you’re honest with yourself, you just have to admit that it really wasn’t that good.  The amazing opening music by May’n sends you in on a high note and the equally captivating ending lets you down easy, but there’s just no excuse for the content to be this mediocre.  While I was a little sad to see Rie Kugimiya relocated to an anime unbefitting of her talent, in the end there’s probably no other voice actress who could have pulled off the necessary tsundere of Aria’s character.  Ironically enough, the voice acting is probably Hidan no Aria’s most redeeming feature.  With a bizarrely arranged cast all claiming to be the descendants of legendary or literary characters, superpowers we’re expected to accept without explanation, and copious amounts of misplaced fan service, everything about the anime is pretty weak.  The fight sequences occasionally have a bit of cleverness to them, but all in all J.C. Staff came out with something just barely above average.

Nekogami Yaoyorozu Ep 1

Initial impression – average

Mayu, the cat spirit of fortune, was banished from the spirit realm when she kept abusing her powers of good luck for her own benefit.  Only a shadow of her former power, she’s now living in the mortal world with the impoverished, human girl Yuzu.  But when the poverty spirit Shamo, wanders into the town, the other spirits fear for Mayu and Yuzu’s futures.  A campaign is organized to drive Shamo away, but Yuzu’s abundantly generous nature may actually be the key to saving the day.

With all of the Shinto themes flying around Nekogami Yaoyorozu, I want to draw a parallel to Touhou.  The anthropomorphic creatures and various ancient spirits populating the modern city feel very reminiscent of the colorful characters in the Touhou mythos.  But given Touhou’s history and the love it gets from its army of fans, there’s really not going to be a fair comparison, even though there are very similar themes between the two titles.

Yui Horie’s willful, yet plucky voice acting in the role of Yuzu comes across great.  But is Nekogami Yaoyorozu good?  No… but I can’t offer a reason why you should hate it, either.  I’d just say there’s better stuff to be watching, but I’m also not going to discourage anyone who thinks they might want to give it a look.  It’s charming in its simplicity, but very underwhelming.