Anime of Tomorrow
Tag Archives: Tamura
Winter 2013 (13 episodes) (more info) (title literal translation – My Girlfriend and Childhood Friend are Pure Hell, abbreviated title – OreShura)
I’ll be completely honest about this…the main reason I’m going to be watching OreShura is because the heroine’s voice actress is Yukari Tamura. Whenever her talents aren’t being wasted on Nanoha, she’s a genius when it comes to portraying devious women and Natsukawa is her latest role in a long line of characters that includes Togame from Katanagatari and Rika from Higurashi. And while I’m on the topic of Yukari Tamura, I’ve just noticed a strange coincidence that several of her recent characters have long, silver hair—what’s up with that?
Moving on, I don’t want to paint the anime community with a broad brush, but I can speak from my own experience that I’d bet main character Eita Kidou is a guy many young men with jaded opinions about love can identify with. His cleverly crafted lifestyle and the way he gets ensnared by an equally smart girl despite all his careful planning makes the cynic in me grin from ear to ear. But that’s not to say this first episode has been nothing but gloom and doom—far from it. It’s got some hopeful, if clichéd, genuine romance elements in Eita’s childhood friend character, Chiwa. Additionally, even though it would be a sadly predictable outcome if Natsukawa and Eita end up hitting it off, I wouldn’t mind that ending because it was borne of a phony relationship of convenience. Because of that, I’m anticipating OreShura to be a series full of some deliciously ironic twists that just might transcend some of its more standard elements.
Winter 2012 (12 episodes) (English synonym – Waiting in the Summer)
Last night, Kaito had a weird dream where something fell out of the sky and killed him. But he brushes off his perceived near-death experience as it’s close to the start of summer break and Kaito and his friends are thinking about making a movie as part of a project they can all enjoy together. Coincidentally, their countryside school gets a transfer student in the relatively attractive Ichika. On his way home, he notices Ichika wandering around town seemingly lost. As it turns out she doesn’t have a place to stay because her transfer was so sudden and poorly planned. Being the gentleman he is, Kaito invites her to stay at his house until she can get on her feet. But the mystery of this summertime transfer student who is living with him takes on a whole new dimension when Kaito’s friend, Lemon recruits Ichika to be the heroine of their film project.
While Ano Natsu is a pretty standard school romance story on the surface—the seriousness about how it presents its story gives it an air of refinement, even when it’s being silly and having fun. What I like most about this anime is the mere fact that despite being a romance story that sticks pretty close to familiar formulas, it doesn’t wait until the end of the series before allowing the hero and heroine to express their feelings. This gives the plot some additional time to expand on their relationship and actually solidify them as a true couple with genuine feelings within the main story—something that is normally assigned as a lazy afterthought to an epilogue contained in an OVA that nobody ends up caring much about.
That’s where Ano Natsu scores big points for me. Compared to other anime romances where the climax is the confession, this series goes above and beyond to give us something that feels more complete. That extra time after their mutual confession is filled by a lot of loony, off-the-wall craziness. But it sticks to the theme of doing whatever is necessary to avoid being separated from the one you love, which is a powerful story element so I don’t begrudge it too much.
The real kick in the pants for this whole premise though, is that Ano Natsu is basically just a revamped version of Please Teacher. I’d call Ano Natsu a sequel if it wasn’t simply a nearly verbatim rehash of that loosely constructed mess. It’s probably a good thing they didn’t hype up its links to material from ten years ago because otherwise I might not have watched it. The story follows a suspiciously similar procession of events starting with having the hero and heroine living together because of extenuating circumstances. Both series even have their token oddball characters Ichigo and Lemon, both voiced by the smarmy Yukari Tamura as well as animal-like support robots for the heroine—a pretty clear indication to me that we’re working in the same universe.
But even though it’s Please Teacher with a more modern spin, Ano Natsu simply does such a better job all around; so much so that the two anime feel worlds apart. It takes care to make sure all of its plot elements are not only fun, but also not so over-the-top ridiculous that it leaves you with too much to swallow all at once. Probably the most important change is that while in both series the main characters end up living with each other, Ano Natsu doesn’t try to pull the wool over our eyes by forcing them into a contrived marriage of dubious necessity. Interestingly, Yousuke Kuroda wrote the script for both series, so in a weird way it’s as if this is an opportunity for him to show how his skills have grown over the past decade, which as it turns out is quite a bit.
All in all, I’d very much like to see more romance series take risks the way Ano Natsu managed to break the mold. It challenges established storytelling rules. While it’s not always as smart as I wish it would be, it ends up telling a compelling adventure that takes place during one wild summer vacation.
Winter 2002 (12 episodes)
Kei Kusanagi is a high school student who was affected by a strange disorder that literally stopped his time a few years ago. Falling into a coma-like state, he didn’t even age as the rest of the world passed him by. Mizuho Kazami is an alien who is on a mission to conduct field research by posing as a teacher at his rural high school. When Kei inadvertently discovers the truth about her, he is forced to marry her to cover up the misleading circumstances that lead to her mistake and to ensure that he keeps her secret from the rest of the world. What follows is the tenuous relationship between the two of them that slowly evolves into an awkward romance.
I’ve heard people call this anime a classic—a throwback to an older time when anime was younger and simpler. I think these people have some pretty big nostalgia blinders on because not only has Please Teacher aged very poorly by every metric you could think of, it doesn’t even compare very favorably to other anime of its own era. This is a romance anime that makes Love Hina look like it was written by Shakespeare.
Most anime that are bad come right out and own up to their awfulness in a way that lets you know it was created with the intention of just having fun and providing something brainless for you to kill segments of your life in twenty-three minute packets. But I’m having trouble thinking of another anime that is bad in the same way as Please Teacher because it has a tone of seriousness that gives the impression that its creators actually believed they were making something deep and worthwhile. It throws around stereotypical tropes such as the alien girlfriend, unexplained supernatural tragedies affecting the lives of the main characters, a romantic rivalry with a childhood friend and a spineless male protagonist that manages to barely grow a little cartilage by the end of the series. Traps bad romance anime still fall into even to this day.
If that wasn’t bad enough the voice actors sound less enthusiastic than the intentional bad-acting in Adventures of Mikuru Asahina (the purposefully amateurish first episode of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya) and Mizuho and her mother and sister have this overused one-liner that wears you out like you’re reading a glossy cardboard-paged picturebook to a one-year-old. The only good I can possibly think coming out of this anime was the result of popularizing Pocky in America, but that’s no reason to give this series the venerated status of a genre-defining work.
Personally, I’d very much like to get back the time I wasted watching and rewatching this series in order to recall all the references Ano Natsu makes to Please Teacher (as it turns out, not that many). My recommendation? Only watch this series if you’re really, REALLY interested in the small amount of trivia that ties it together with the vastly superior Ano Natsu or if you want to experience a piece of anime history that is probably worth forgetting.
Final impression – prone to hyperbole, but respectably expressive (8/10)
Autumn 2010 (12 episodes + 3 OVAs) (title literal translation – My Little Sister Can’t Be This Cute)
Kyousuke Kousaka finds an anime DVD case lying around the house one day and is surprised to find an h-game disc inside. Nobody in his family matches the image of the sort of person who would own this item. Intent on discovering its owner, Kousaka brings up the topic of anime during dinner where his parents firmly rebuke the idea of anyone in their household watching anime. But this elicits a very different reaction from his little sister Kirino whose shocked expression is enough to set off alarm bells for his suspicions. Later that night, she confronts him and reveals her secret that she’s a closet otaku (and a pretty hardcore one at that). Surprised at this frank honesty, Kousaka doesn’t try to belittle his sister for her unusual tastes. Instead, he begins to encourage her to be more honest and to pursue a happiness she had been unable to attain by hiding her true self.
Ore no Imouto tries to be a social discourse about the acceptance of otaku in today’s culture, but ultimately does a poor job by representing otaku as their stereotypes rather than real people. Not all otaku play h-games. Not all otaku cosplay on a daily basis in full view of the general public. Not all otaku dress like creepy shut-ins who fear light and fresh air. It probably wouldn’t have made for a good story, but most people who watch anime are not as passionate as Kirino, Kuroneko or Saori. The fact that Oreimo depicts otaku coming from a variety of very unassuming backgrounds (including fashion models, ordinary high school students and upper-class) does do some good in legitimizing the culture and showing that it’s not limited to just one particular unsocial group. What’s most telling about this anime is not the kinds of people otaku might be, but how the self-loathing of some can lead to the idea that it’s impossible for friends and loved ones to accept them for who they really are. But none of this should be taken to mean that Oreimo is a failure—far from it. It may have a few issues, but it’s funny, ironic and deals with the problems that some otaku face when their hobby is discovered by people they didn’t want finding out.
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 – 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.
Initial impression – a good formula
Autumn 2011 (12 episodes) (more info)
It seems that every anime season has to have its own moe anime and C3 fills the mold for autumn 2011 (accompanied by another moe anime, Working!! 2). The first episode is encouraging, with Fear, the tsundere heroine, being voiced by Yukari Tamura—famous for her role as Nanoha in the magic girl series by the same name. This is bolstered by the fact that she has some experience portraying tsundere characters as Togame in Katanagatari. But unlike last season’s moe anime Yuru Yuri, C3 is showing signs of a plot rather than a collection of random events. The characters also seem less rooted to single traits that they just orbit around in perpetuity and actually have depth and relatability. It does have some ecchi, but that’s offset by some good, physical slapstick humor, the likes of which I’ve not seen in a while. So we’ve got moe, tsundere, good character development, comedy and a little ecchi. Sounds like a satisfying combo to me.