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Tag Archives: spring 2011

Blue Exorcist (review)

Final impression – a blast of awesome (8/10)

Spring 2011 to summer 2011 (25 episodes) (Japanese title – Ao no Exorcist)

Rin Okumura, an orphan raised by a catholic priest, has a terrifying secret hidden in his past.  He’s actually the son of Satan.  His old man also has a secret – he’s the world’s strongest exorcist and works to keep the dark lord of hell from discerning the whereabouts of his lost son.  But few secrets this big can be kept hidden forever, as Rin accidentally uncovers the truth of his identity when he gets into a fight with a delinquent and subconciously releases a bit of his power.  Faced with the risk of being captured by Satan and dragged to hell as well as the loss of his adoptive, human father, Rin decides he’s going to use his demonic powers towards the goal of following in his old man’s footsteps.  He commits to becoming the world’s strongest exorcist in order to kill Satan with is own hands.

Blue Exorcist marks the triumphant revival of shounen anime.  With the unending, filler-saturated, steaming piles that Naruto and Bleach have become over the past several years, I’d pretty much all but given up on this subgenre.  But then Blue Exorcist arrived and helped clean things up.  It’s got action, comedy and story all in equal measures.  The cast is just the right size to provide a nice variety of roles without spreading everyone too thin; characters are likeable and their motivations are clear and concise.  I do have one complaint, and it’s that there are several “fooling around,” episodes whose existence completely ruins the flow of the plot at a few very crucial moments.  Besides that though, Blue Exorcist was a real treat to watch and I recommend it to anyone who misses the days when mainstream shounen anime were still good.

As an interesting little aside, I’m an English teacher in Japan and one of my students is named Yuuki Okumura (a coincidentally similar name to Rin’s brother, Yukio Okumura).

Hanasaku Iroha (review)

Final impression – entertainingly forgettable (6/10)

Spring 2011 to summer 2011 (26 episodes) (title literal translation – Blooming Fundamentals)

When Tokyo girl Ohana’s single mother decides to elope with her boyfriend, she leaves Ohana in the care of her grandmother who runs a hot spring hotel in the sleepy town of Yunosagi.  The culture shock is immediate as Ohana is put to work right away, cleaning rooms and waiting on guests.  She’s assigned to be trained by the introverted Nako—a waitress who does her job well, but struggles to be as cheerful as Ohana.  Then there’s Minko, Ohana’s easily irritated roommate, who aspires to become a chef.  Her glass-half-empty mentality continually butts heads with Ohana’s glass-half-full optimism.  But overlooking the whole operation is Ohana’s grandmother, the hotel’s manager.  Unless they can meet each other halfway, her strict adherence to maintaining tradition is going to lead everyone to a battle between generations.

I never found myself getting caught up in the pace of Hanasaku Iroha.  It was always slow and disengaging.  It certainly has its moments, but they don’t happen often enough to keep me entertained except for a few short bursts.  Many of the characters are so wishy-washy as to be barely likeable.  How am I supposed to pick a side when the characters themselves don’t even have a clear motive?  While Ohana is always “festing it up” and she’s everyone’s heroine, in reality she’s more like a support character in the cheerleading section rather than a main character I can like or even relate to.  The emotions it evokes really start to lose their charge after the first episode’s punch wears off.  The story would have been paced much better in a 13 episode series.  It’s all severely lacking any meaningful impact.

Dog Days (last thoughts)

Final impression – unsophisticated but fun 6/10

Spring 2011

Shinku is a junior high school student that specializes in unconventional sports like free running, gymnastics and obscure martial arts.  He’s always looking for the next challenge and when the kingdom of Biscotti is in need of a hero, they open a portal that brings him into an alternate dimension.  In Flonyard, instead of true wars with the risk of life and death, they do mock battles that test endurance, agility and fortitude – the perfect forum for Shinku to show off his skills.  But rival nation Galette is pushing for more battles and this leads Princess Millhiore of Biscotti to think that there may be something more at stake to these competitions than simple patriotism.

Dog Days watches like a cross between Zero no Tsukaima and a sports anime, as written by a furry.  But take that with a grain of salt because the anthropomorphic characters in the world of Biscotti and Galette aren’t played up as being very different from normal people (with a few comical exceptions).  In the end, Dog Days is typically going to be overlooked by the general anime audience because of the character designs being dog and cat people, but I think that would be very shallow thinking.  I’m not suggesting Dog Days is some kind of sleeping masterpiece, but there’s a subtle charm to the development of the plot.  You can also feel the conflict in Shinku’s heart when it comes time for him to go home and leave the world that has become his natural second home.  Yui Horie was probably typecast for the role of Princess Millhiore because of the songs that accompany Dog Days, and her talent really shines in what is otherwise a pretty average anime.

The World God only Knows II (last thoughts)

Final impression – too similar to season one 6/10

Spring 2011 (Alternate titles – Kami nomi zo Shiru Sekai II)

Keima the dating sim master, continues his mission to free troubled girls from possession by demonic spirits.  The only way to accomplish this is to heal their hearts, which will drive the devils out.  At this point, his demon-catching partner, Elsie will capture the wayward spirit in an oversized bottle to ensure it doesn’t cause any more harm.  However, things get tense when Elsie’s colleague, Haqua arrives and she becomes jealous of Elsie’s accomplishments.  An evil spirit possesses Haqua and Keima might be out of his league to handle the situation without some serious backup.

The whole premise of illustrating the differences and similarities between real girls and dating game girls is still a satisfying trope, but it’s not something I want to continually see different variations over and over.  With only about a three month break between the previous season of The World God only Knows and this second season, it’s hardly surprising that the second season feels rushed out and contrived.  Little has changed and season two feels like a simple continuation of season one.  While I definitely enjoyed the first season, the second season continues with more of the same and there is still no real conclusion (if you’re interested in this anime’s concept, I strongly suggest checking out season one first, before watching season two).

Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae wo Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai (last thoughts)

Final impression – stretched 7/10

Spring 2011 (Alternate titles – Ano HanaWe Still Don’t Know the Name of the Flower We Saw That Day)

Jinta, a high school dropout, is being visited by the ghost of his childhood friend, Menma.  At first, all of Jinta and Menma’s childhood friends think he’s just still obsessing over losing her all those years ago.  But little by little, they realize that Jinta’s loss was their loss, too.  As they finally begin to come to grips with the reality of their traumatic childhood, the friendships they left behind several years ago are renewed.  But through all of this camaraderie and healing, Menma remains invisible to everyone but Jinta.  It’s not understood why he’s the only one who can see her, but it is clear that the reason she has returned is because she has some unfinished business that needs to be taken care of.

For me, Ano Hana just has a feeling of having way too much content that doesn’t move the plot forward.  Admittedly, that feeling is probably unavoidable because it’s necessary to develop the characters and their backstories to make their actions and opinions understandable.  But unavoidable or not, the fact remains that Ano Hana leaves the impression of being artificially lengthened, which is weird because it’s short to begin with.  This feeling is especially strong as the anime concludes because everyone starts spilling all their pent up emotions in the space of only a few episodes.  But again, this is another facet that feels naturally understandable and unavoidable, so I feel a little bad complaining about it.  All things considered, while the ending is certainly heartwarming, it’s predictable and anticlimactic.

Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko (last thoughts)

Final impression – gorgeous and fun 7/10

Spring 2011 – (title literal translation – Radio Wave Girl and Adolescent Boy)

Makoto is going to be living with his aunt Meme while his parents work overseas.  Meme is quite the beauty, but her overaffectionate personality makes her a little off-putting.  But Makoto didn’t know what he was getting himself into when he finds out that Meme has a strange, gorgeous daughter, Erio.  However, Makoto quickly finds that Erio is the black sheep of the family, being only half Japanese as well as having an introverted personality.  She’s also infamous around town because of a series of events that happened, resulting in Erio believing that she’s an alien.  It’s just too sad for Makoto to bear his cousin spending her high school years with no friends or hobbies.  He makes it his goal to literally break Erio out of her shell and starts a mission to get the community to accept her.

The first thing you’re going to notice about Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko is the lovely character designs for the girls.  They are beautiful to look at, but not depicted with voluptuous, unrealistic bodies.  It’s a more natural feeling of feminine beauty that has more to do with their smiles and eyes than anything below the neck.  Female characters in this anime just feel normal and believable, but have quirky charm points.  And that’s probably the main reason you would want to watch Denpa Onna.  The plot meanders gently as Erio finds herself and Makoto discovers two love interests who aren’t overly competitive for his attention.  In the end, it’s a fun, nonsense, slice-of-life anime, punctuated by some big events and an easy-on-the-eyes style that give a wonderful viewing experience.

Astarotte no Omocha! (last thoughts)

Final impression – facepalmingly delightful 6/10

Spring 2011 (Alternate title – Astarotte’s Toy)

Astrarotte (a.k.a. Lotte) is a young succubus princess in the world of Alfheimr who is nearing the age when she needs to start assembling a male harem.  The only problem is she hates men.  Her attendant, Judith is worried Lotte is not going to grow up to be a proper lady.  When Lotte says she’ll only accept a human man, Judith sees to it that she must reopen the Yggdrasil gate between the worlds and bring a suitable male to help cure Lotte of her androphobia.

Naoya is a young, single father seeking a job to support his two-person family.  When a strange woman named Judith approaches him with a job offer, memories from his early teens come rushing back.  When he meets Astrarotte, he knows he’s on the path to finding his daughter’s missing mother.  This job in the kingdom of Ygvar is going to be more important for him than just the money.

Astarotte no Omocha does a fantastic job of walking the fine line between appropriate and inappropriate and this accomplishment is (in and of itself) very entertaining.  One minute you think the plot is going to take a really bad turn and suddenly make things very uncomfortable, but then everything heads in a different direction.  The level of surprise you feel at the change of pace is just hilarious.  But there’s an aspect of fun in Astarotte’s Toy that comes from the natural flow of events; despite the preposterous setting and plot.  Everything fits and nothing feels wasted as the bond between Lotte and Naoya grows.  Because of that, Astarotte no Omocha is a small success worth checking out if you want mix things up with a quirky anime that gets 100% for effort (also worth checking out if you want to hear Rie Kugimiya’s wonderful tsundere voice).

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.

Deadman Wonderland (last thoughts)

Final impression – poorly executed 4/10

Spring 2011

It’s just an ordinary day at school for Ganta Igarashi, when the frightening Red Man flies into his class and murders everyone around him.  After being accused of the murders himself and a farce of a trial that leaves Ganta public enemy number one, he ends up in the infamous spectacle prison, Deadman Wonderland.  Here, prisoners are forced to engage in deadly games for a bloodthirsty audience.  But there’s at least a small glimmer of hope.  He meets his long lost childhood friend, the albino girl Shiro, who also happens to be imprisoned with him.

Shortly after being placed in this dangerous minefield of a jail, Ganta encounters a life-or-death situation and he finds out his surviving the attack with the Red Man gave him superpowers called the branches of sin.  He’s now capable of turning his own blood into deadly projectiles.  Filled with hatred, depression, disgust and indignation for his unbelievable series of misfortunes, when it’s revealed to him that the Red Man is also imprisoned in the Deadman Wonderland, there’s only one goal on his mind – revenge.

Deadman Wonderland had a good idea, but didn’t implement it very well.  The falsely accused prisoner sentenced to death row is a very compelling story hook because it makes the viewer want to know how the protagonist is going to escape his upcoming fate.  Additionally, a curse that grants double-edged superpowers creates terrific tension during fight sequences.  The final gimmick that pulls you into this anime is the macabre setting of a prison where the inmates are forced to put on grisly shows for hooting spectators begging for blood.  However, this gets really watered down when Deadman Wonderland injects way too much hope into a plot that was just begging to be dark.  Despite Ganta’s extreme misfortune and his very low lows, he has way too many victories to offset his depression.  Why should an ordinary kid have so many friends in a prison?  But the most egregious problem is the huge plot hole of having an army of superhuman characters unable to make any effective progress at a coup.  While the guards carry effective “kryptonite”-style weapons to keep the deadmen from running wild, it seems far too ineffective a hindrance to truly keep the prisoners in check.  In the end, Deadman Wonderland is just poorly written.

A-Channel (last thoughts)

Final impression – moe comedy at its finest 10/10

Spring 2011

Run the spaz, Yuko the beauty, Nagi the nerd, and Touru the attitude.  Combine them to make a four high school girl mix-up of misadventures and hilarity.

I know the moe sub-genre is not well received by everyone.  But if you are one of those people who avoids moe like the plague, I really encourage you to set aside your prejudices and give A-Channel a good-natured chance to tickle your funny bone and work its charm on your heart.  There are so many moments in A-Channel that I think a lot of people can relate to, especially our desires to acquire the best attributes of our friends.  In this way, there are also some good life lessons to receive as well.  In the end, we all need to remember to be ourselves, celebrate our differences, and simply enjoy each other’s company.

The first anime most people think of when you mention the word “moe,” is usually going to be Lucky Star.  Other titles you’re likely to hear will include The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, K-ON!, Working!! and Ichigo Marshmallow but those have a bit more than just moe going for them.  During the history of this sub-genre, there have been many more downs than ups, but A-Channel has made its legacy proud and really set the bar high for future moe anime.  It’s also worth mentioning A-Channel’s great opening and ending tracks as well as the theme songs that accompany each episode to add a little extra to the experience.  A fresh art style, a varied cast with an amazingly constructed web of relationships between the four girls has resulted in what is the best comedy anime so far for the year of 2011.