Sidonia and Nanana 2, Kanojo Flag 2-3, and an observation about bread

April 22, 2014 4 comments

Knights of Sidonia 2 continues to set up three things to interest us: Nagate’s joining the real world, so to speak, the school rivalries and jealousies, and the nasty Gauna.

Geez, we just met her five minutes ago.

Geez, we just met her five minutes ago.

Least interesting to me is the middle one. I’m not a fan of watching students being ostracized by their classmates. The hateful pranking they do to Nagate will get old fast if they keep it up. Also, that bishie Kunato’s behavior is already getting old, though I understand the twinge of jealousy he must feel when this untrained newbie gets to fly the old school Type 17 that he wanted to fly. And it’s fun when the Elite Four, sent to the school, seek out Nagate and not him. And they’re setting up a love triangle between Izana and Shizuka, annoying for me because I can’t tell them apart. Odd that the non-gender characters are the ones in the triangle with Nagate. As for Nagate, they’re doing a nice job of showing him adjust to the new surroundings, especially since he’s aware of his status and makes up for it by doing his best, in spite of that pointless peeping in the locker room business. The PTSD he shows after the battle felt real, though I hope he shakes it off. I like vomit scenes even worse than hazing scenes.

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But the highlight of the show comes at the start. The fight with the gauna is a thrilling and nightmarish thing. It helps that they introduce a new character, with her own background, and almost immediately kill her off. Things move so quickly and it’s so black and blinding white that at times it’s hard to follow. But they get the right moments down, the tentacles speeding toward Nagate, Nagate waking up in a sort of frenzy, and the counterattack. You wonder what sort of genes he’s got to be able to do that, but it makes for a great moment, so I don’t really care. Good episode, apart from the locker-room bit.

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Ryuugajou Nanana no Maizoukin 2 didn’t do terribly much to impress. As expected, we meet some new people, both robbers and, er, detectives. The latter two, Tensai the master detective and Daruko her assistant, tracking down the thing that floated down last week, track it to Juugo’s apartment. And later, as part of a test to join the Adventure Society, she solves a problem of getting to some planted treasure. In other words, she’s good. On the other hand, she’s annoying as hell, at least when it comes down to just her and Juugo, who hasn’t the brains or gumption that she has and so lets her do whatever. Juugo also exhibits his big strength, this week, his stamina and ability to take punishment, but these aren’t very fun to watch unless he’s getting smacked around. Oh, he also has a thing for maids, and this is exploited twice by two different women. And Daruka’s a trap. And Nanana can’t leave that apartment. I hope when they finally get all the characters in place they’ll go and do something interesting, and that puzzle they had to solve was, though we didn’t know the rules or it. So let’s meet the other characters quick and move on, shall we?

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In fact, here’s an example of introducing characters. In episode two of Kanojo ga Flag o Oraretara, Souta meets the following: Kikuno, an older sister type, Tsumugi, who either runs the school or is a classmate and looks like an elementary school girl, Mimori, the student council president, Meganu, who claims to be a boy in spite of much evidence to the contrary, plus the school’s Public Works Club and a bunch of classmates. And you remember Akane and Nanami from last week. Basically, rather than have episodes where the haremettes are introduced one by one, they decide to fling them all at us in one episode. And, naturally, they immediately fling themselves at Souta. It’s not all bad (if you consider being the center of a harem bad). They fix up his dilapidated dorm (in pink) and four of them move in with him. Souta has no time to do anything but remark on their flags, and read a mysterious letter and, oh, recall a flashback with still another girl, Sakura. With all the stuff going on, I nearly forgot about, you know, the plot.

The latest girl is a robot!

They welcome yet another girl to the dorm.

Then I watched episode three. Two more girls thrown in for good measure. One is a robot named Ruri, and the other is Rin, a childhood friend, which was obvious before that training scene to everyone except the two of them. That makes 26 girls so far. As for, you know, the plot, it only comes up once when Souta thinks of it, then goes away when he cheerfully decides he doesn’t have time for that now. I’m getting to like Souta. He’s a more passive harem leader than some, but he’s clearly enjoying his situation. As for the girls, they’re a good ensemble so far. They’re constantly bouncing their character types against each other and the timing so far has been excellent. A dumb show like this has an advantage if the large cast is lively. However, I’m a little worried that they’re beginning to repeat their trait lines too often. So now they have a week-long athletic festival to endure, and they must win or Souta will get expelled, whether the school wants him to or not. Or something. Ask Mimori.

I’m not going to regularly blog Escha & Logy no Atelier. Probably. Episode 2 was more of the same lazy direction and predictable character types, and a new village with weird hats. Again, it reminds me of Shining Hearts, bland and completely harmless. And then there’s this.

What is it with questionable quality anime and baked goods?

What is it with questionable quality anime and baked goods?

Meanwhile, on that show with the weird rabbit …

It's spreading!

It’s spreading!

Ping Pong, Soredemo Sekai, Brynhildr 2, Nisekoi 15

April 20, 2014 Leave a comment

Ping Pong 2 is all about getting Smile to care about something, especially ping pong.

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Everyone who watches him play sees the level of talent he has. Wenge keeps wondering where the hell he is, not knowing he’s at another school. A great player named Kazama comes in to scout him after seeing him play in middle school, for chrissakes. And the old sensei Koizumi decides to make Smile his pet project. But Smile simply doesn’t care. Why he doesn’t hasn’t been revealed to us. We get flashbacks of him stuck in a locker, presumably by bullies, and he seems to like it there, or rather, he tells himself he likes it. He’s safe there, until a “hero” (Peco?) removes the broom and gets him out. But that was a while back, and now, as the narration tells us, there is no hero to save him. He’s going to have to do it himself.

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Which makes his transformation while playing Koizumi, to get him off his back, rather odd. Suddenly, during the surreal beatdown Koizumi’s giving him, he suddenly wakes up. Suddenly, we’re dealing with machine metaphors and he fights back, relentlessly, and nearly kills the old man. Visually, similar to this vocabulary and imagery are in that handheld game he plays on the train, the other kids in the flashback, using robot words to describe him, and an image of his silhouette meshed with circuitry. Well, we’ll take it at that. He snapped, found a metaphor for himself he can use, and so begins to fight for real. How long it will last we’ll have to wait to find out. There’s no indication that his attitude toward the game is different now. He won to get Koizumi off his back. There needs to be more.

Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii 2 is all about Livius getting Nike to make it rain, when it comes down to it.

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I hadn’t really expected the rain to come like this. I suspected it might be an season-end climax or something like that. But if you’re going to do it early, you might as well do it well, especially in a ham-fisted episode like this one with tiresome lines like “You’ve conquered the world, but you’ve never seen it?” (What would Zvezda say?) and countless references to how unchildlike Livius’s eyes are. Great, I thought. Nike is going to bring Livius raindrops and roses and whiskers on kittens … It gets better when Nike is wounded and Livius returns to the way he was when he conquered the world. He’s much more fun in that state. On the other hand they must be doing something right; I found the episode end to be more moving than it should be. If they hadn’t turned it into a pop song, it would have been better, and never mind that that small shower couldn’t have put out a fire that size. Never mind. Lovely moment. If they keep doing things like that I might not drop it after all.

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Gokukoku no Brynhildr 2 works much better when “The Lab” is threatening. When we see them at work, or hear Kana talk with Kuroha about them, or even see the predicament the two girls (and the other witches) are in, their power as villains are increased and I want to get to the danger business quickly. Unfortunately most of the episode is dedicated to Ryouta learning about Kuraha, stepping in when she’s in danger, and generally wondering why he’s so concerned in the first place. Frankly, I’d find a girl with superpowers who saved my life to be quite fascinating on its own. Worst of all was the woman in red business. It was obvious when it happened that they had already saved her life by making her stop her bike. I could see this obliviousness from Ryouta, who’s new to this prediction business, but surely the more experienced Kuroha should have put two and two together. Instead, it’s Ryouta who figures it out. Elsewhere, we’re going to get a beach episode, and I predict that something bad will happen, after a scene where Kuroha is shown having a great time.

I can't believe I'm seeing this.

I can’t believe I’m seeing this.

Nisekoi 15 devotes most of its time to the Marika fallout. She remains as aggressive as ever, even kissing Raku on the cheek (leading to some embarrassing moments later when she blurts out the fact to anyone who it’ll upset), and Raku has to deal with the fact that this girl has been honestly in love with him for many years, the responsibilities to her that he has, those that he doesn’t have … She even gets him to meet her scary father, who knows Raku’s background all too well. Actually, that scene was a bit of a letdown. First he scares Raku, then he settles down and accepts the fact that Raku loves someone else. Then he gets all crazy again later and we’re back to square one. The biggest surprise comes earlier, when, somehow, all three girls get together with Raku and, believe it or not, discuss the entire situation. Important things (i.e., Raku/Onodera) are not said, but at least everyone is more or less on the same page. They try to remember what happened back then, who it was they met, and they even present their keys! Too bad Raku’s locket is still in the shop. Well, little steps.

Wixoss 2-3, Nisekoi 14, Captain Earth and Mahouka 2

April 18, 2014 8 comments

Selector Infected WIXOSS is turning into an interesting series.

Yuzuki is losing her cool.

Yuzuki is losing her cool.

I’m still wondering why so-and-so is getting another attack when it should be whozit’s turn, and so forth, but overall they’re doing a good job of explaining the game rules on the fly so we can get into the flow of battle without infodumps. And so we get to concentrate on the characters rather than the strategy. So we watch as Akira basically goads Yuzuki into losing her cool, and thus the game, rather than seeing the little figures duke it out. We don’t even need to see the last bit of that battle to know how it would turn out. We also see the flaws in Yuzuki’s “straightforward” approach (compared with Hitoe’s preparation and analysis without practical experience), and lament that sad wish of hers, which will cause much pain in later episodes.

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Even better is the Hitoe/Ruuko battle, between two girls who want to like each other, because it leads to a difficult question that the game rules don’t explain. If Hitoe doesn’t get her wish, will she never be able to make a friend? That’s a cruel penalty! What does that say about Ruuko, who wants to be her friend anyway? Would that break some universal game law? While we (and Ruuko) are pondering that we also have Hitoe’s belief that losing for her sake would cheapen the wish. Well, it’s an honest but dumb wish to begin with … so’s Yuzuki’s come to think of it. We also see Ruuko’s card “evolve” after that one match, while Akira gets upset because all her wins aren’t getting her avatar anywhere at all. No wonder Piruruku looks at her like that … Does this mean evolving to get wishes depends on being good and decent to people, as the show is implying so far? Too soon to tell. But when you add Akira’s rage and that other girl Iona’s rivalry with her, we have a show that’s developing very nicely. An interesting story with decent characters and concepts.

Nisekoi 14 … Oboy, Raku`s got another girl now.

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If you count Tsugumi that`s four now. Chitoge is only pretending to like him but is growing to like him anyway. Tsumugi flat out claims not to like him but is coming around. Onodera liked him from the start but is too shy to go after him. And now Marika/Marie comes in and practically takes him without a fight. Well, so far. And while I don’t like the way Marika steamrolls everyone else to get her way, I will admit it made for a fun episode, at least the first half. You knew the moment she hugged Raku that not only the main characters but everyone in the school would have a reaction, especially the boys. Then the ante is upped when Marika calls in her strike force, yeah, good scene. The second half wasn’t as good because it followed the “everyone follows the couple on their date” rules, but it did get some information about this whole situation out in open, though not all of it. Still, there were times when I wanted to bring them all together with their keys, and see which one actually fits. But then we wouldn’t have a story, would we?

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Back to the new shows. Captain Earth feels more routine that last week, but the story is still decent and has enough mysteries that I’m intrigued. The first part is the usual “boy pilots a mecha for the first time and is getting his butt kicked” situation, when Peter Westvillage (not bad for a generic European name) calls on a weird girl to help guide him, and soon the tables are turned. Well, it’s interesting because he actually did the hit, thanks to his power-up, and the girl just pushed the right buttons to make his attack work. Daichi didn’t seem to mind, but he doesn’t mind a hell of a lot in this series so far.

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Back on Earth it gets more interesting when we see Teppei and that girl, named Hana, in the clutches of some asshole with glasses who forces them to wear pain-headsets and gets creepy around Hana. Daichi seems them too, but doesn’t make the connection when he is about to run off with them for some fun and they’re suddenly clutching their heads. Hard to tell what’s in Daichi’s head. In contrast, we see the evil guys and their earth connection, Kube, I believe, debate whether THEIR young superpowered kids have too much freedom. I’ll leave it to them to decide, but I hope the show isn’t going to be a big metaphor about how to raise your children. Well, Daichi gets a clue and pulls off a ridiculous superpower move at the end and now Teppei and Hana are free, at least for now. But I’m not thrilled about how the show got him to that point. He gets it put on (why?) and then zap, he dumps it. Weird kid, or he wanted to experience it for himself, maybe.

Tatsuya as tsundere.

Tatsuya as tsundere.

Still not sure about Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei, which I’ll call Mahouka from here on out. We start with the aftermath of the fight in the schoolyard with Mayumi and Mari intervening, duels delayed for now, fine and dandy, but after that it turns into a magicbabble dump as they walk home from school. The next day the siblings are called in by the Student Council and we get a studentcouncildump. For all the magic everyone’s got and potentials for violence, this is not the most exciting scenes I’ve ever seen. It gets better when Miyuki is asked to join the SC and she says she wants Tatsuya in as well, because we’re finally watching characters at work and not babbling. A loophole is found letting Tatsuya join the discipline committee, which sounds like a pain in the ass but we’ll get more fights that way, but one of the resident snobbish jerks objects, and there’s a duel. If this show is going to be about Tatsuya navigating the waters of high school castes, I’m going to drop it.

New Spring 2014 #6, and the last

April 15, 2014 Leave a comment
Stars.  Appropriate.

Stars. Appropriate.

Sidonia no Kishi has Tanikaze Nagate, futuristic NEET who runs out of food, goes up to scrounge some, gets caught, is discovered to be the grandson of someone important, next thing you know he’s piloting a mecha in deep space. Sounds like a lot of other series, but everything else is completely different. First, the people of this “world” (more like an asteroid, really) are almost freakishly different. There seem to be some basic physical types, male, female, and both/neither (though the latter look and sound female to me), and I assume they go off to be recycled when it’s time to die. We get so see people protesting the military, which tells you a lot about the society right there, not least that they allow protests to happen. The asteroid they live on has industrial buildings a thousand years old, they say; they reminded me of pictures of modern ruins you find online. It’s a rich backdrop or a good SF story,

Boys, girls, and in-between, or neither.

Boys, girls, and in-between, or neither.

Plus, the show itself has a distinct look. The characters have basic human traits, such as curiosity and jealousy, but it’s often hard to read because they all look of one type or another. And I haven’t even mentioned the character who wears a mask. This could be a problem. It took me a while to realize that the short-haired character in this scene isn’t the same as the one last scene. On the other hand, the world has a gritty, real feel to it, maybe too much so. Nagate’s short-lived escape has moments that had me wincing.

Or yakitori, take your pick.

Or yakitori, take your pick.

One more quibble: I can’t believe Nagate would know so little about what the surface is like. He’s quite young. Don’t tell me he had never heard of this new gender. Also, he adjusts to his new surroundings too quickly. And the evil aliens are just more monsters with tentacles. They put more thought in the world than in the evil invaders. But if the world continues to be this interesting, I don’t mind a bit.

A comfy cottage that tells you what this show's probably going to be like.

A comfy cottage that tells you what this show’s probably going to be like.

I almost missed this one: Escha & Logy no Atelier: Tasogare no Sora no Renkinjutsushi, which I’ll call Atelier. About a nice young alchemist named Escha, beginning work at the local rural magic office and meeting the city slicker Logix who’s just transferred in and looks down his nose at these peasants, especially when he learns that local alchemical jobs include fixing a windmill. There’s dangers and ruins around, so I guess that’s where the show will go with this.

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It all reminds me of Shining Hearts. The fairy tale village is full of happy villagers (except the harvests haven’t been very good recently. Hmm…) who all know each other. All the women wear aprons and the men are muscular and jolly. There’s no bread in this show, but it looks like they’re going to replace them with apples, which are everywhere. I was a little unkind to Logix in the paragraph above; he is a city slicker of sorts but he’s not disdainful of the happy village, but taken aback with how they do things. Once he gets a tour of the place he’s more than happy to repair windmills. There’s no story yet, so the first episode is slow-paced and peaceful. No masterpiece, but like Shining Bread Hearts, it’s a pleasant, slightly dull half hour. I might keep an eye on it, but I won’t write about it.

Gears, showing time passing, or stopping, or something.  Ask Shinbou.

Gears, showing time passing, or stopping, or something. Ask Shinbou.

Mekaku City Actors … What? Shaft is doing two shows at once? Amazing! I’m a huge Shaft fan, so I’ll probably watch this no matter what. Good thing for the show, because the story going on beneath the usual style looks pretty mundane. We have a NEET named Shintaro doing whatever NEETs do while this avatar girl, too smart for her own good, named Ene, bugs him to buy things he doesn’t need. His keyboard breaks, forcing him outside for the first time in two years, and wouldn’t you know it, terrorists or robbers take him and a bunch of other customers hostage. You see, NEETs? This is what happens to you if you go outside. But a couple guys in hoodies, who are also prisoners, take interest in him, and allows him the opportunity to do something.

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On the down side, the good guys are almost all young people in hoodies. This usually strikes me as an attempt to be cool, and usually fails. The story of a hapless hero who joins a group of rebels or vigilantes and gain confidence is as old as the hills in anime. Also, while it appears (if you peer through all the quick cuts and abstract shapes) that Shintaro did manage to save the day, it was Ene who did most of the work. He just plugged something in. On the other hand, I rather like Ene and Shintaro’s banter. They’re like a quibbling couple. I wonder if she was sent to Shintaro to give him someone to interact with while he’s shut away, which suggests a larger plan for him … Also, this show is pure, undiluted Shaft–those quick cuts, shapes, wide angle shots, even two head tilts in the opening section alone! The style nearly overwhelms the story, which, as I’ve suggested, is probably a good thing.

Here's what you're about to watch.

Here’s what you’re about to watch.

Inugami-san to Nekoyama-san is about Inugami and Nekoyama, which I guess you could figure out by the title. Inugami is a cat-lover and Nekoyama is a dog-lover, and their mutual friend and straight-man Aki introduces them. Five minutes of yuri jokes with animal overtones. And it’s actually not bad.

The world trembles.

The world trembles.

Yeah, not all the jokes are good, but many of them are. It feels a bit like Teekyuu (THE GREATEST SHOW EVER!) except not as frantic or surreal. The voice actors for all three girls do a terrific job with episode one. They’re clearly having a blast with the material. When the episode finished I was disappointed. “That’s it? Aww …” I didn’t know it was a short show. But if it was a half hour they might wear me out, so it’s just as well. One question: if Inugami is a cat-lover, why does she have three dogs in the house?

Apart from some children’s shows and sequels to shows I didn’t watch, that’s about it. The RC guide lists one more, called M3, but it doesn’t seem to be out yet. Now I have to decide what I will watch. I have one series carrying over: Nisekoi. Among the new shows, there are four must-watch: Mushishi, Ping Pong, Sidonia, and Kekaku City, and a boatload of shows I just don’t know about, including Sword Eater Not, which I watched on a whim and rather liked without having watched much of the original. I’ll write about the must-watches and let the others sort themselves out.

New Spring 2014 #5

April 13, 2014 Leave a comment
We start with fire!

We start with fire!

Let me get this straight. In Black Bullet, the “initiators” are cursed children who are keeping mankind safe from the nasty Gastrea bugs. They are teamed with “promoters” who do … what, exactly? We meet and follow Rentaro, an eighteen-or-so-old promoter, who has nothing special going for him and can’t even shoot all that well. His initiator Enju does all the work. In the first scene he comes to a sealed-off apartment where there’s a gastrea outbreak, all the cops and professionals there defer to him, though he does nothing special at all. Why can’t the initiators work with professional law-enforcement instead of these shills from a private company?

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It’s not all bad. There’s a good and vivid flashback to the bad old days to start off, and Rentaro, who could be just another bitter, angry kid, such as Eren, has both Enju and his boss, Kisara, to keep him grounded. The scenes with Rentaro and Enju, in spite of her come ons and his annoyed looks, are very sweet in a sibling way. Enju has chances to break out of her lethal-loli stereotype and she makes the most of them. But there are some infodumps later on, and that asshole with the mask, who kills a lot of cops and afterwards is completely forgotten by everyone. But overall, not bad. Worth another look.

Chatroom.

Chatroom.

No Game No Life has two NEET game geniuses, Sora and Shiro, people who use all their limbs to control four characters at once, challenged to a friendly game of online chess, and after they win, are asked a series of questions about life on Earth and if they’d prefer to go somewhere else. Since they consider life to be an unbeatable, no fun game, they say yes, and Whoosh! there they are free-falling while an enthusiastic young god named Tet gives them a long list of rules to follow. After they land and not die they quickly adapt to this game-happy land in ways that scare me a little.

They pick up on the rules awful quick.

They pick up on the rules awful quick.

I get the impression that these kids will rise to face great gaming challenges in this world. But Sora and Shiro are cynical NEETs who don’t seem to have much in the way of ethics. All they seem to care about are games, not people. Depending on how far they take it this could make this an interesting series or an unpleasant one. It’s already clear that even if the kids are amoral, so are some of the people they meet, and the two show a great deal of affection and trust toward one another, so they can’t be all bad. On the other hand, I don’t like their invincibility. The two are supposed to be shut-ins with difficulties dealing with people, but Sora could tell by his face that the innkeeper was ripping them off. These inconsistencies make me worry about the series in general, but we’ll see.

Steel butterflies or something.  I forget.

Steel butterflies or something. I forget.

In Hitsugi no Chaika, after a flashback where some demonic thing looks down at a small, frightened girl and gives pronouncements about how she’s Emperor Gaz’s daughter, has great power, and will have not any fun in her life, we jump to the present day were a guy named Tooru, hunting for food, comes across the same girl, now in fancy dress and carrying a coffin. They start their adventures together when they are attacked by an evil unicorn–you don’t see many evil unicorns, so I was happy with this development. Both Tooru and Chaika (the girl) whip out magic powers. We then turn to court intrigue, angry sisters, an attempted heist of a severed hand, the usual.

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In spite of the evil unicorn I was not all that impressed, but the setup is interesting. We aren’t told why Chaika is like she is, or what the fates have in store for her, in fact, one character is extremely surprised to see her alive. Others (who want to steal that hand as well), are keeping an eye on her. Yet she can barely take care of herself, hell, she can barely talk, making her attempts to communicate funny at times. Adding to the humor (or the attempts), Tooru and his sister Akira fight and quibble a lot, and the show lets us know early on that Akira is kind of stupid. Much of the laughs come from Tooru’s reactions to these two, that and the problems of sneaking hapless Chaika and her coffin into the mansion in the dead of night.

A generic old European town.

A generic old European town.

In Gochuumon wa Usagi Desuka?, a girl named Cocoa comes to a pseudo-European town to begin high school. She stops at the “Rabbit CafĂ©” to get directions and meet some rabbits and learns that she’s going to live and work there and that the only rabbit in the place is a big white furball that reminds me of the critter from Tamayura, except it talks and has a man’s voice. In fact, it’s the owner’s father, reincarnated or something. Also there is Chino, the daughter, and Rize, who tries to shoot her. And they are all cute and interact cutely. Well, it’s nice to have at least one show about cute girls doing cute things, right?

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Things that liven up this potentially dull situation: Rize is a soldier’s daughter and a gun nut, and she’s a little lonely because she goes to her home every night. Chino is our deadpan girl for the series and so gets a lot of the good comebacks. Nothing much going for Cocoa, however, though she’s good at math. We’ll meet more cute girls next week, I assume. As for the show itself, I don’t have high hopes. They set up predictable gags and then take their time getting to the inevitable punchline. But at one point they have bit where we watch Chino make a latte, grinding beans, pouring water, and while it was unnecessary, it wasn’t boring, either. It was part of the flow of work that Chino does everyday. If they can add other little moments like that the show might be all right.

I don't know what's going on with this opening.

I don’t know what’s going on with this opening.

In the past couple years, NoitaminA given us shows that have different subject matter than we normally see, but nothing with a divergent style, shows like Trapeze or Katanagatari. But Ping Pong: the Animation, we again get something that looks and feels different than other shows out there. It’s this that strikes me the most about episode one. The artwork is sketchy, sometimes barely fleshed in, and the characters are all normal looking, not anime characters we usually see. The animation, when it settles on one moment and doesn’t cut away or go to split screens, which they usually do, is both fluid and jerky. When you add the dirty, sweaty world that the people here live inn, and the lives of the characters, it’s almost a visceral look at crude and vaguely unpleasant lives.

Is this a shot directly from the manga?

Is this a shot directly from the manga?

Not unpleasant to watch, however. I love the world they’ve invented. I’m also intrigued by the story itself. Smile and his friend Peco are two talented first-years in their school’s ping-pong club, too bored to play the lesser-talented upperclassmen, who would bully them anyway. Peco is the impulsive and confident one, while Smile (named so because he doesn’t) is the sidekick, or that’s how it seems, until they sneak to another another school to watch a Chinese ringer they brought in. This guy, Kong, destroys Peco when he insists on a game, but is more interested in Smile. Kong could tell the quality of their game from the roof, just by listening to them play.

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I’ve mentioned the show’s impressive style, but not all of it works. There was a moment when Kong and his buddy were on the roof, Peco and Smile playing on the tables below, and the screen went to white. With hindsight I knew what they were up to: they wanted us to concentrate on the sound of the game rather than anything visual. Unfortunately, my reaction was “Why the hell are they wasting time with this whiteout?” Maybe they miscalculated, maybe I should forget the nearly two-dozen shows I’ve watched recently, put the way I watch anime out of my mind, and learn how to watch this show. Or a little of both. Either way, this and Mushishi are the only two series I’ve watched that I’m definitely keeping. They’re also the ones that look different.

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I suppose just about any anime series would look normal and mundane next to Ping Pong, but that’s what noitaminA’s got for their other new series, Ryuugajou Nanana no Maizoukin. Still, it’s not the type of show you’d normally see in this timeslot. We have a guy named Juugo, who’s arrived at an island in the pacific to do his third year of high school after getting kicked out of his house. It starts like Bokura wa Minna Kawaisou, the kid soaking it all in, but tropical. But there’s weirdness in his new place. He’s got a live-in ghost named Nanana who sits around the place all day eating puddings, watching TV, and playing games. Your typical annoying roommate, I suppose, except she’s beautiful.

Juugo witnesses Nanana's phantom hand technique.

Juugo witnesses Nanana’s phantom hand technique.

After things settle down the show begins to feed us backstory. Nanana was one of the seven geniuses who made the island possible (the sexy landlady was another). She doesn’t know who killed her, and there’s treasure she buried stashed all over the island. Question: is this show going to be about finding Nanana’s killer and moving on, or is it about that treasure? In other words, what’s Juugo going to do? Well, the next part of the puzzle seems to be literally floating down towards him, whereupon we’ll meet some other people, so I’m assuming treasure, or at least some adventures, are coming up. Episode one was all right, not inspiring, but not bad. Juugo is hardly surprised at the existence of Nanana, which sounds like the creators aren’t paying attention, but Nanana then makes the same observation. All of the other characters so far seem to by types. Still, an interesting start.

New Spring 2014 #4

April 11, 2014 2 comments
Appropriate, since we get some stargazing in the first episode.

Appropriate, since we get some stargazing in the first episode.

After all that sports stuff to round out the last post, it’s a relief to get back to a show like Gokukoku no Brynhildr, with it’s weirdo OP showing cute girls with various amounts of blood on them. It it we meet Ryouta, a high school boy still mourning the loss of his childhood friend Kuroneko, when she was going to show him an alien. He blames himself for the incident and now spends his spare time looking for replacement aliens, or girls, because a grown-up version of Kuroneko does the transfer student thing. Soon she’s going around saving lives, like smashing the pump that the girl had her knee stuck in underwater (the thought of getting a hose for her to breathe was beyond their minds), and later warning Ryouta that he’s going to die if he doesn’t catch the last bus, or if he does catch it, well, it changes.

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So we have some mysteries afoot, like the origin of this new Kuroha Neko (who apparently is not the girl or she had cosmetic surgery), what she’s on the lam from, who was at the other end of the walkie-talkie, and can you be called a witch if you get implants. I’m not terribly interested yet. Ryouko is a bit of a wuss but very smart, something that takes Kuroha aback when it looked like she was going to win all the battles, and while he still mourns her little friend, he’s not a complete idiot about it. The story didn’t really grip me, however. Once I get an answer to a few of those mysteries I fear I might grow tired of this series, but we’ll see.

Blinding light through trees has no significance to this show that I can think of.

Blinding light through trees has no significance to this show that I can think of.

Isshuukan Friends could be one of the better new series this spring, or it could be one of the most maddening. We have a boy named Hase who wants to get to know a classmate, Fujimiya, better, in spite of her rebuffs, and during a sequence of lunches eaten together on the roof, manages to do so, only to learn that her memories get reset every Monday so she can’t remember anything about the people close to her. In other words, their whole relationship has to restart every Monday.

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In other words, this is about one person who has a problem that makes her unable to reach out, and a boy who wants her to try, anyway. But mishandle the situation and you might wind up with a variation on endless eight. Also, you can’t help but analyze the situation; what can Hase do to make the changeover easier? What can her classmates do? What do her parents do? We already know they’re going to sidestep these problems if possible, hence the “… except my family” loophole, in order to keep the show focused on Fujimiya and Hase and not the real implications of her memory loss. But a lot of people, including me, won’t be able to help ourselves. “Why doesn’t Hase do _____ on Monday, or why doesn’t Fujimiya do _____ on Sundays? That will save them both time!” I’ll do my best to contain myself. In the meantime, I like the look of the show, the character designs especially. The two kids have a nice chemistry, and I like how Hase handles every setback, even before he knows the truth. We’ll see how their second week goes.

Typical cityscape, again signifying nothing specific, except we're in a city.

Typical cityscape, again signifying nothing specific, except we’re in a city.

About ten minutes into Kanojo ga Flag o Oraretara I was worried. The plotting was completely unrealistic. Our hero, Souta, was telling Namami his life story, concerning being able to see flags, and the dark curses that hang over his head, so that’s why he shuns everyone, you know, stuff that you wouldn’t tell strange girls even if they do insist with force like Namami did. Stuff you might save for later in the episode, or an episode or two down the road, or, if it’s Nisekoi, maybe in the first season. They’d been in school together less than a day, and they were acting like people who had shared a lot together. Namami had done nothing to deserve this sensitive information apart from bugging him a lot. Then Akane shows up.

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There’s nothing much about her, I don’t even like the character that much, but she brought some goofiness that the show at that time desperately needed. All this talk about seeing flags and knowing when people will die, and Souta’s cutting himself off from friends because of it, all blown away. There was something about seeing all those flags popping out of her head like some crazy headdress that I had to laugh at. And unlike Namani, who used force and threats, Akane defeated Souta with sheer indefatigable kindness. I’m still plenty worried about this series, but they brought out a sense of fun that I hope they can mix well with the sad parts.

Boring sky.

Boring sky.

Mangaka-san to Assistant-san to has a manga-ka named Aito, and the girls who work with him/are disgusted by him. Short gags. In the first one, Aito manipulates his assistant Sahoto into fondling her own boobs “for research.” Later he talks at length about panty shots with Sahoto and his editor, Mihari, and later runs into Mihari in a mall and embarrasses her by revealing her cup size.

I did like this moment.

I did like this moment.

At least Mihari can punch him. I feel sorrier for Sahoto, who’s an assistant and probably feels she has no choice but to humiliate herself for the sake of her job. Some people might argue that Aito is an innocent spirit, not fuly understanding what he’s asking for, but all I see is a calculating schemer who knows how to use his power and talent to manipulate women around him. So we’ll be seeing this sort of thing every week? Not me.

Those are posts, or drapes, and we're running through them.

Those are posts, or drapes, and we’re running through them.

Finally for this installment we have Mahou Shoujo Taisen, a shortie, where we meet Aoba Naruko from Miyagi Prefecture, and watch her not be a very good magical girl for about five minutes until she pisses off a cop and gets hauled away. It’s cute and over with quickly. The draw will be to see how each prefecture will be presented. The problem is there are probably a lot of cultural references, oddities about the prefecture, that I don’t even know I’m missing. But it’s harmless, and, like I said, short.

Miyagii prefecture's proud representative!

Miyagii prefecture’s proud representative!

New Spring 2014 #3

April 9, 2014 Leave a comment
Abstract violin string.

Abstract violin string.

Kiniro no Chord: Blue Sky, like the gods show, is also loaded with bishies, quite a few more, in fact. And it has a school crammed with people in it as well. Two of them, our heroine Kanade and bishie 1 (best friend variety) Kyoya, are talented young violinists who are off to see bishie 2 (childhood friend who moved away variety), er, Ritsu, perform. Two others (Bishies 3, and 4: outlandish and sinister varieties respectively) also perform, and then there’s an announcement of a nationwide competition to crown the best music club in Japan. The next part gets a little weird.

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Ritsu has arranged for Kanade and Kyoya to transfer to his school, and play on his hand-selected orchestra. It’s all done completely behind their backs, but after a night’s sleep, Kanade decides she’ll stay. What about their families, their obligations? What about the rest of the orchestra, who are obviously angry that the two newbies are being put in front of them? I suspect there will be repercussions. Anyway, it’s obviously heavy on the shoujo, and the triangle they’ve already developed reminds me of Chihayafuru, except all three are together. Everyone’s passionate about that competition, or music in general. But in terms of how it treats the subject matter, I don’t think it’s going to be a Nodame Cantabile, and so I think I can skip it.

Just to let you know early on.

Just to let you know early on.

Captain Earth looks like a boy pilot hopping into a mecha and saving the world type of show, but episode one at least is told in such a backhanded way that it didn’t feel like one.

Wow!  Cool!

Wow! Cool!

We get scenes involving a boy named Daichi, hop into flashbacks involving a mysterious but friendly kid named Teppei, visit two veteran mecha fighters who banter with station crew, watch Daichi wonder why he’s fucking up at school and why that weird rainbow on the news fascinates him, visit the grave of his dad, with more flashbacks. Then the mecha fighters are revealed to be bad guys and one is about to attack the earth, and Daichi finds him at the right place at the right time to hop into a mecha of his own to defend it …

Can you tell that people from Star Driver worked on this show?

Can you tell that people from Star Driver work on this show?

It could be confusing, but each little scene feeds the narrative until we have all our basic questions answered. It’s very well done. But after he gets in that robot it becomes more routine. It has the longest mecha-launching-and-arming scene I know of; it takes so long that we have to wait until next week for the actual fight. And I’m afraid that things will settle down into a more routine show. I hope not. They have some good things going. There’s the question of why those guys are attacking the Earth when they’re all normal humans like us. There’s the mystery of Teppei and that girl in a sphere. And Daichi is one of the more appealing boy pilots I’ve seen. A successful episode one, apart from that endless launching sequence.

This series starts with a knee!

This series starts with a knee!

Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii has Nike, a princess of some place where it rains everywhere, being sent off to marry the Sun King, no not that one. She’s so eager to get there that she speeds her ship into the harbor and sends her retinue back two days before she’s supposed to show up, and spends them being a hapless country girl in the big city, getting her luggage stolen, etc. And she meets the family at an inn, gets kidnapped by forces unfriendly to the king as well. Quite an eventful couple days.

Nike's formal introduction to the palace.

Nike’s formal introduction to the palace.

I’m not sure about this one. It has some good stuff. Nike is willful and adventurous, a lot of fun to watch. The king, once we get to see him, is this young bishie that doesn’t get me terribly excited after hearing about him. He reunited parts of the world and is treated as some as a monster. But the innkeeper says that he’s done wondrous infrastructure and development work in their town. So is he a dictator who makes the trains run on time? Too bad he looks like that. But I guess that’s where much of the show’s conflict will lie. The show feels a little old-school at times, like with those bumbling crooks, and other times if feels like it’s intended for children.

One more thing: why is Nike the only human we see in the OP? Did they not want to reveal the bishie king yet?

On the way to some sumo wrasslin'!

On the way to some sumo wrasslin’!

In Abarenbou Rikishi!! Matsutarou 1 we see middle-schooler Matsutarou disrupt a class test, assault his teacher, steal candy from a baby, douse some old ladies with water, steal his dad’s bento, hijack a truck (and kidnap the owner), almost run over that baby, steal the truck and kidnap the driver again, kidnap another teacher (he has a crush on her) and try to assault her, crash into a bathhouse, and finally get thrown in jail.

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I suppose this is all supposed to show what an unruly kid the main character was before he shapes up, but all it did was turn me off completely. Worse of all was the “Ha ha look at the wacky hijinks our boy gets into!” attitude the show takes toward him, with all the slapstick and silly background music they play. Dropped.

A foot!  (It's stepping up to the line, you see)

A foot! (It’s stepping up to the line, you see)

Haikyuu!! stars Sho as a volleyball-crazed boy who scrounges up a team to compete in the middle school tournament, where they are promptly flattened by a team aiming at the nationals, which should come as no surprise as, apart from Sho, his team barely knows the rules. Yet Sho impresses the main guy on the other side, Kageyama, because Sho can actually play very well, or at least he tries, whereas Kageyama’s team can’t get up the ability to take these scrubs seriously. And guess what? They’re both wind up going to the same high school!

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Nothing wrong with episode one if you like this sort of thing. I liked how they mixed in flashbacks of Sho learning to play and love the game with the actual game where his team’s being wiped off the court. Some of the imagery they use is effective, such as the wall of hands that rise in slow motion over the net. Sho is determined but short, and the show lets us see his more human moments of weakness along with his gritted-teeth determination. Kageyama is more of a cold fish, but shows enough grudging admiration for Sho’s efforts in that game that we’ve got a good friend/rival situation. But I’m not really into sports anime, so I’ll give it a miss.

Bounce ... bounce ... bounce ...

Bounce … bounce … bounce …

I might miss Baby Steps too, but I’m not sure. It takes a different approach to the high school sports stories than I’ve seen, and I admit I haven’t seen too many. Marou is an overly-organized honor roll student who even eats his lunches in a precise way, and he decides he needs some exercise. Tennis looks easy, so he visits a club for a free trial, where he discovers school idol Takasaki pounding away. He can’t even get through the warmups without collapsing, but Takasaki (and, earlier, another classmate) asks him if he’s having any fun in his life. By the end of the episode it looks like he’ll give tennis a shot, but I wonder if it’s for the exercise, the idea of fun, or his new-found interest in Takasaki that’s doing it.

It's still warm-ups.

It’s still warm-ups.

They start with a flash-forward, a match Maruo’s having when he’s much better at it, during which, he takes notes. So there’s little mystery about what will happen to him, or how he’ll balance the game with his obsession with note-taking. As for the tennis itself, the points are clear, you can see the flow of the game, though the animation can barely keep up with it. Marou is a little dull, but earnest. Takasaki right now is depicted as a clumsy ray of sunshine, so it’s too early to tell with her. I’m borderline with this one.

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