Anime of Tomorrow
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Initial impression – a quiet little drama
Autumn 2011 (12 episodes) (title literal translation – Pure White Symphony) (more info)
Mashiro-iro Symphony is this season’s h-game turned anime and early indications are good. The art style mirrors Akane Iro ni Somaru Saka (the two anime have the same character designer) while the writing style goes with an Ai Yori Aoshi atmosphere that glows with a kind of innocent sincerity. The setting then takes inspiration from the premise for Kaichou wa Maid-sama except with a gender role reversal; having young men integrating into an all-girls school—rather than the other way around. It’s not a bad flavor and I’m interested in seeing how it develops. The plot doesn’t seem to be rushing anything, which is either a sign of future stagnation or good pacing—only time will tell how that turns out. Another point Mashiro has going in its favor is how it introduces the lead heroine without being too in-your-face about it. If Mashiro continues with this trend in future episodes, I see potential for a decent series.
Final impression – Original, but nothing groundbreaking 6/10
Summer 2011 (title literal translation – A Black Rabbit has Seven Lives)
Taito Kurogane thinks he’s just a normal high school student with an average amount of misfortunes for someone his age. But all that changes when he gives his life to save a girl he doesn’t even know from getting hit by a truck. As he lies in the road expecting death…it never comes. Miraculously, his body knits itself back together and suddenly he knows what he must do. The healing magic courses through him and in a rush of repressed memories that come flooding back, he seeks out his childhood sweetheart, the powerful vampire Saitohimea, who he made a pact with many years ago and who granted him his immortal body. But their reunion doesn’t go smoothly when the sorcerer who separated them in the first place reappears, intent on renewing the curse that was just broken.
Itsuka Tenma no Kuro Usagi breaks with some anime stereotypes initially by giving its lead hero a true love immediately from the outset. This was a refreshing deviation from the typical setup of stringing the love story along through a series of awkward, indecisive circumstances that may or may not lead to a partnership at the anime’s conclusion. That being said, Itsuten deviates back into the territory of annoyingly nebulous love and inserts what feels like a very forced “innocent homewrecker” mentality from the love triangle’s third corner. All in all, the action of this anime was well played, the concept mostly fresh and it gets points for at least attempting to have its romance deviate from established norms. But it loses those points almost as quickly when it winds down to its nonconclusion that is begging for a second season to tie up the loose ends. At the start, I had thought I was getting an anime that would be much more revolutionary than it turned out to be.
Final impression – often underrated 7/10
Winter 2011 (title literal translation – Is This a Zombie?)
Eucliwood Hellscythe, the quiet necromancer. Haruna, the genius magic girl. Seraphim, the vampire ninja. Ayumu, the high school zombie. Combine them together and there’s no end to the problems they can cause for each other. When Ayumu accidentally absorbs Haruna’s magic girl powers, it becomes her responsibility to instruct her new cross-dressing apprentice. And when Seraphim challenges Ayumu to a duel to the death, it’s more of a war of attrition when they realize that neither can kill the other. But underlying all of this is Eucliwood’s secret powers and troubled past. If her three friends can’t team up to protect her from the mistakes she has made, she might have to leave forever.
Kore wa Zombie desu ka? falls into that class of wild and strange anime that a lot of love and hate relationships develop around. While it’s understandable why many would want to steer clear of it, the cast of random oddities fits with the anime’s overall tone to create a nice cohesion that feels acceptable. I hear a lot of people complain about Ayumu’s cross-dressing. But is that really something to complain about when the rest of this anime is oftentimes just off-kilter, goofy and fun? Yes, occasionally Kore wa Zombie gets a little too serious for its own good given its cast of oddball archetypes, but overall it’s very entertaining.
Final impression – well written 9/10
Winter 2011 (Alternate titles – Wandering Son)
Nitori is a confused young boy who feels a need to explore his identity in much greater detail than other people his age. In elementary school his closest friends always told him that he looked good in girls’ clothes, but his cross-dressing “hobby” goes much deeper into his psyche than just enjoying wearing dresses and skirts. Takatsuki is in a similar, reversed situation to Nitori, but she’s much more certain of her desire to be like a man than Nitori is of his femininity. The most interesting facet of this dichotomy is the two of them are the best of friends. But as they start junior high school and begin the journey towards becoming young adults, the problems surrounding their gender identities will have to be addressed.
In the short time since its conclusion, Houruo Musuko has already solidified itself as an anime that breaks the mold. Anime that really explore societal issues like gender identity are few and far between, but when they do come up, it helps legitimize anime as an art form. The opening and ending themes are beautifully composed and fit well with the image this anime wants to deliver (please listen to Rie Fu’s wonderful bilingual singing). While there’s nothing to really complain about in Houruo Musuko, there’s also never a climactic or even a dramatic moment to give an emotional rush for Nitori’s controversial circumstances. It’s all dealt with rather calmly and fails to take advantage of the emotional baggage associated with the issues it wants to address. But that’s just a choice of stylistic direction rather than a shortcoming of the anime to deliver an interesting story. Houruo Musuko also brings a refreshing style both in its pastel-color art and story with the two protagonists being introverts surrounded by more flamboyant side characters. It’s a level of believability not often seen, which easily pushes it into the top list of influential anime.