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 Café” 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.

New Spring 2014 #2

April 8, 2014 2 comments
This show wants you to know what you're watching right off the bat.

This show wants you to know what you’re watching right off the bat.

It’s almost not worth writing about Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure – Stardust Crusaders. In it, Jotaro is in jail and won’t leave until he gets to the bottom of the evil spirit that’s inhabiting him, no matter that the cops and fellow prisoners are begging him to. So they call his mom, who calls her father, Joseph Joestar, who brings an Egyptian guy with his own evil spirit, and we have a small-scale Jojo-style confrontation. Dramatic speeches, grunting, gasps of surprise, fear from the onlookers, shouting, and some violence, but not a lot by this show’s standards. Sort of an appetizer for the rest of the series.

Jotaro's EVIL SPIRIT CATCHES A BULLET!!

Jotaro’s EVIL SPIRIT CATCHES A BULLET!!

It looks about the same as I remembered (I only watched halfway through season one), and now that I’m satisfied that the show is as daft as ever, I’m going to drop it. Not because it’s a bad show, but because a little of this stuff goes a long way for me. For the rest of you: enjoy!

I believe that's Hong Kong.

I believe that’s Hong Kong.

Kindaichi Case Files R is apparently an update of an old series. I never saw the original, but I’ve seen enough old series to catch the old-fashioned feel that this new version maintains. We got Kindaichi, lazy high school student, grandson of a great detective, who’s best friend/possible love interest, gets approached by a guy who wants to have her model in a fashion show in Hong Kong. She has no qualms about saying yes to this strange request, and soon the two, plus Saki the Sidekick, are walking around Hong Kong until she vanishes in a dressing room, and the fun begins.

Kindaichi and his sidekick, Saki.

Kindaichi and his sidekick, Saki.

I’m of two minds about this. The unabashed, old-school plot and direction are refreshing, and they got me interested in the story. They throw a lot of plot at us (not to mention characters), but it’s told well enough that I’m going to tune in next week to find out what happens, which is exactly what a show should do. On the other hand, there are moments that are a little TOO old-school, like the bike-chase that ends as you’d expect (though Kindaichi’s tossing his smartphone into the getaway car so he can track it shows that the show isn’t afraid of modernity). And I’m not sure how long I can handle close-ups of shocked faces, eyebrows twitching, with a “ching!” sound effect. Well, you take the good with the bad, and others might not mind it at all.

Kenzen Robo Daimidaler … Heh.

I'm not sure what that is, but it's in a shower.

I’m not sure what that is, but it’s in a shower.

We meet, well, first we meet a giant robot which is stomping the city, then we turn to Kouichi, a high school boy who’s more perverted than most. A woman representing … earth, I suppose, I forget, tries to recruit him to join her team. Since Kouichi’s trying to peep at the time, he’s not interested, until a bunch of penguin guys show up and attack him. He grabs Kyoko’s boobs, and his latent Hi-EROS power is revealed! After that it’s the usual scenes of him not wanting to join the good guys until the evil penguins force his hand (by breaking into his room and reading his porn magazines), and Daimidaler, the big robot, is wheeled out.

But it's for the sake of mankind!

But it’s for the sake of mankind!

Basically, it’s a “troubled youth with great potential must be convinced to fight the good fight” story, but with more boob-fondling than usual. It’s also not terrible. Like Kindaichi, it has sort of an old school vibe that contrasts with Kouichi’s hentai nature. And Kouichi, while a hentai, is more practical than some (“If we fight in here, we might break down a wall and I’ll lose my deposit!”). There are other good, funny moments along the way as well, as well as embarrassing, why-am-I-watching-this? moments. So I’ll watch episode two and decide then.

A forest, in a flashback.

A forest, in a flashback.

Seikoku no Dragonar looks safe to drop. After a flashback where we see our hero, Ash Blake, lying in a tangle with a girl, being healed and given a tattoo by some woman, we see the troubled Ash attending dragon school, in spite of the fact that his dragon hasn’t manifested yet. We meet snickering classmates and a couple friends, whose names I forget, and the show’s noblewoman blonde tsundere, Silvia, and they have a falling out and vow to work it out at the annual dragon race, where Ash meets the wrong person, gets his dragon, who’s actually a naked girl, etc etc.

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None of this gets me terribly interested. First, Silvia’s dragon can fly, and Ash’s loner-dragon, Brigid, can’t. Hardly seems fair. When this finally occurs to Ash, he’s deep in the forest, no one is around. How did he get there? The show doesn’t explain. There was also a lecture to the students on things they ought to know already, in order to give us some backstory. In other words, lazy writing all over the place. It looks adequate but the characters tend to look alike. I kept mixing up Ash and his buddy. At least the girls have different colored hair, along with their oversized boobs. Yeah, I don’t think I need to see any more of this.

This is magical stuff.

This is magical stuff.

Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei has another possibly troubled lad, Tatsuya, entering a magical school, along with his sister, Miyuki, who has a serious brother complex. At the start (well, after a backstory narrative and Miuki’s voice talking about how wonderful her brother is), she’s upset because she’s the top student of the entry class, while he’s a second-tier grunt, or “weed,” as they’re called. So school starts, Tatsuya meets some cute girls and a bro-sidekick, we get hints about the two siblings as yet-untold past, and there is a confrontation with some “blooms,” the upper tier.

Tatsuya, Miyuki, and two sidekicks or harem girls.

Tatsuya, Miyuki, and two sidekicks or harem girls.

The show has some rough edges, some first episode scene-setting clumsiness, but nothing as bad as Dragonar. It’s also patient and deliberate, with some surprises thrown in, such as the visit to a temple where Tatsuya is immediately attacked. Tatsuya could be fascinating or dull. He seems to have expected the class warfare he encounters at the school and deals with it patiently, and there was his obvious pride and pleasure when Miyuki gave her matriculation speech. He meets strangers with a mix of courtesy and suspicion (hints are made about his aura giving something away). But we don’t know his reasons or his story. Miyuki had better had something going for her besides her oniisan complex. The side characters are okay. The blooms vs weeds friction is overdone a little. So, a mixed bag, but worth keeping an eye on.

A running scene in a flash-forward to start the series.

A running scene in a flash-forward to start the series.

Kamigami no Asobi has Yui, a girl who works at her family’s shrine and worries about what she’ll do after high school, finding a magic sword, like you often do at shrines, and gets whisked away to a strange, nearly-deserted big estate. She starts running into strange young men, each of whom get the framed-by-flower treatment and treat her with either rudeness or indifference. Then she meets the guy who brought her (and them) here: Zeus, who orders her to be a student or something, among these troubled young gods, in order to give them a girl to seduce or insult, depending on your nature. Yui shows some gumption and refuses (good to see she’s not entirely passive), only to meet Apollo, and it looks at the end like she might think it over again. Heh.

Yui meets Loki, I think.

Yui meets Loki, I think.

So they have this huge frigging school in some cosmic landscape, and only seven students? This is going to be a show devoid of people, or gods. Plus, there’s no way to bring other people there that I can see. Without more people to interact with the show will get stale very fast. As for the episode, all that stands out is that Yui walks around confused a lot, until she meets a god who confuses her even further. The only variation, apart from the type of flowers they get framed by, is how badly they treat her. Frankly, I’m not interested enough in the characters or the story to learn what else the creators will do them.

New Spring 2014 #1

April 6, 2014 4 comments

I’m going to try something here and start each little review with the first second of every episode 1, just to see if I can spot any trends.

And we start with a moon.

And we start with a moon.

We start with Blade and Soul, a series based on a game. That, for me, is usually a bad thing, and I didn’t see much in ep1 that would buck the trend. We start with an attempted killing of a woman we later learn is named Alka. Then a guy tries to scoop up the corpses’ weapons, but he gets smooshed or poofed by an ogre accompanied by two beautiful woman. After that intro bit we shift to the main story of episode one, where Alka is hired to guard local boss Morii as she tries to negotiate with the EVIL Palam empire. There’s lots of blood, fire, death, and backstory to fill things out.

Morii wants to be pals with  Alka.

Morii wants to be pals with Alka.

Alka has no emotions, except revenge on Palam, so a lot of people ask her questions and she doesn’t reply much, if at all, making for boring dialogue. The script felt clumsy elsewhere too, like that scene with Morii practicing her knife-throwing that didn’t connect to anything else in the story. It just happened and went away. Add to the fact that they showed a guy’s wet pants after he pissed himself with fear, and I think I can do without this series.

This looks like a more cheerful show already.

This looks like a more cheerful show already.

Next: Bokura wa Minna Kawaisou. A boy named Usa enters high school and moves into old but atmospheric house and falls in love with one of the girls (Ritsu) there. The feeling, right now, is not mutual. Same goes for me, but sometimes you have to give a series time to set things up. Episode one is half about Usa meeting his wacky housemates and getting knocked off his pins a lot. The other half is him trying and failing to resist the temptation of stalking Ritsu, ironic because his “roommate” is a pervert (but a cheerful, forthright pervert, so I guess that makes it okay).

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These latter scenes drove me up the wall, but again, these are early days. In a few episodes they’ll be one big happy family, or that’s what the OP and ED claim, anyway. Shiro, the pervert next door, will be okay once Usa stops reacting to him. The other new girl, er, I forget her name, a slightly older drunken lady, could be a lot of fun. She was in episode one. I like the look of it, though the creators do seem to want to use the entire spectrum of colors in every scene. If Usa can stop acting like a buffoon I’ll probably keep watching this.

Your basic basic training scene.

Your basic basic training scene.

Akuma no Riddle throws a basic story about girls trying to assassinate a girl and then wraps riddles around it. We watch Azuma, your average teenage trained assassin, get transferred to a high school where her victim is. Her small homeroom includes the other assassins, all girls, and their probable victim, Haru. Haru is sweetness and light while the assassins, who know all the others are assassins, spend their time acting snarky, tossing off veiled threats at each other, and testing each other’s reflexes by flinging knives or pocky.

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So is this a competition for who gets to kill Haru? If so, why? And why are they waiting for a signal? And why Haru? She is keeping some secrets of her own, but she doesn’t seem dangerous. What’s with that asshole Kaiba-Sensei who keeps texting riddles and saying senseless things with a smirk on his face? Well, whatever the reason for any of this, I guess the point of the plot is that Azuma’s going to fall for Haru. I’m not sure that’s enough to keep me watching. The rest is borderline.

The new series wants everyone to understand the concept right from the start.

The new series wants everyone to understand the concept right from the start.

After all this it’s time to get classy and rediscover one of the most unique anime tv series ever put out. Finally, after eight or so years, we get a second season of Mushishi. Some people were worried that times and changes would mean a negative change for this series, but after the superb OVA that came out a few months ago, I, for one, was not worried. And I was right. If there’s anything negative to say about the first episode of Mushishi Zoku Shou, it’s that the animation looks a little crude, but you could say the same thing about Kill la Kill. And what it lacks in animation quality it more than makes up for in its art, ambiance and sensitive stories.

Welcome back Ginko!

Welcome back Ginko!

There’s just nothing like it. The OP folksong is replaced by a new one which is just as calm, likewise, the images of nature and things floating are different, yet convey the same mood. The background music works with the nature sounds and the long scenes where people simply walk, or marvel, or gasp quietly as mushi mess with them. The mood is always calm, with a hint of blind menace in the wind. The forces at work in this show are usually so subtle and quiet that no knows they’re there. We see all of this in the first episode, where a sake brewer gets lost in the woods, finds some of his pot empty, and lights over the ridge. It’s also a tale of the man trying to please his father by creating the golden sake the old man had tasted once in the past. It’s also a reintroduction episode; Ginko has a long conversation near the end for those new to the series. The only other difference is that Ginko’s hanging out with a sort-of conference for Mushishi. Not often we see him socialize so much, not that he was a loner before, but his work takes him places alone much of the time. Rather nice to see him crack jokes with his peers. Anyway, those of you who have not watched this series yet, please do so. If you have, you don’t need me to tell you.

Back to scary urban fantasy.

Back to scary urban fantasy.

We finish this first installment of too many with Selector Infected WIXOSS, where a nice girl named Ruko, worried that her nice grandma (who apparently designs games) is worrying about HER, accepts a gift of a card game called Wixoss, because that’s what the cool girls are doing now. She opens it up and discovers that her player card is a cute little white-haired thing, and is alive. At school the next day she discovers that none of the other girls playing have living cards; in fact, the one that does finds her, instead. “Let’s battle!” And so they do.

Tama doesn't seem to mind that her master doesn't know how to work the controls.

Tama doesn’t seem to mind that her master doesn’t know how to work the controls.

It’s not bad, though Ruko is a little dull. Her new friend/rival, Yuzuki, isn’t. She’s thrilled that there’s another “Selector” at their school, and she’s also thrilled that she has a chance to take Roku and her card (Tama) before Roku even knows the rules yet. It sounds devious of her, but she’s so upfront about what she’s doing that I can forgive her. There’s also the show’s dark side. Roku has a nightmare about pillars and a horrible white monster (remember that Tama is also white); meanwhile, Yuzuki, her new best friend, talks about the wish that winning battles can give you, and I start to remember another series about girls and wishes with dark edges … We’ll see how far they want to take the darkness in this show. It looks good, and I’m a sucker for good light shows, as you might know by now. Worth keeping an eye on.

The last finales: Asukara, Yakuindomo

April 5, 2014 Leave a comment

Finally, Nagi no Asukara crosses the finish line. They added a little sprint at the end to shave a second off their time, but frankly, it didn’t amount to much in the long run.

Looks like a nativity scene, actually.

Looks like a nativity scene, actually.

To start this episode we got the people on the surface trying to figure out just what the hell is going on with all the waves and weird lighting. And we see Chisaki pulling Manaka onto a salt-flow(?), and she’s cured! She even has her ena back! Turns out being surrounded by fragments of Ojoshi-sama’s feelings cured her! Of course, it doesn’t happen quickly. We have to undergo a narration by Manaka explaining that the pieces were telling her that she loved Hikari, and a flashback to what really happened in that legend, or rather, what that bastard sea god was up to when he took Ojoshi’s memories away. Anyway, she remembers she loves Hikari! Yay! Story over.

Oh, that's right.  Forgot about her.

Oh, that’s right. Forgot about her.

Hikari’s rescue of Miuna is a typical example of his shouting and hitting things to make his point. He fuels it with his perceived guilt over how he treated Miuna (i.e., he didn’t love her, hardly a sin) when she had fallen in love with him and helped him so much when he had returned all naked to the surface. And he’s pissed because love sucks sometimes, so take his ability instead. The god seems to take him up on this, throwing in a light show, but it seems the god was having a realization himself.

Not much has changed after all.

Not much has changed after all.

It only seems fitting that this god, shallow and capricious enough to want a sacrifice every year, all of a sudden realizes, after many years, that taking away Ojoshi’s ability to love was stupid because she loved him, too, not just that other guy. You’d think after bearing two of his kids would be enough to get it through the god’s head, but instead he waits for centuries not figuring it out until some middleschoolers get tangled up in a love heptagon. Nothing this episode did raised my opinion of this guy. And in spite of the overall good vibes of the episode (by the way, the climate change crisis that was threatening the well-being of billions of human beings is averted, not that that’s important in this show) I can’t say the finale raised my opinion much. It was a fairy-tale the characters had to take as fact, not as legends full of metaphors, and stories like that fall apart because you’re not supposed to look too closely at it. Over that we have some middle-schoolers who were mostly either annoying aggressive, or dully passive, who all fall in love with one another. It didn’t add up. I will say that it looked great and was well-produced, but, as I’ve said before, I expect nothing less from PA Works.

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The Seitokai Yakuindomo phew finale hardly plays up its own love-square, or rather, it simply gets a situation where Uomi and Shino both appear at Takatoshi and Kotomi’s house to feed them dinner when the parents are away. They wind up staying the night. There’s a scene where Takatoshi tries to take a bath. Then they watch a film (Méliès’ A Trip to the Moon, if you want to know). Then more food, they sleep, and the next day clean the house.

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Back at school there’s ANOTHER interview with Hata, then other scenes with underused characters, including one hapless male student who actually gets a line. The student council works late and gets home late. Later Suzu and Takatoshi work alone, and we are reminded yet again that Suzu is short. Some other girls complain about the double-standards concerning male and female behavior in society, and the Judo advisor worries about his baldness.

Takatoshi has just said something innocent but that could be taken the wrong way.

Takatoshi has just said something innocent but that could be taken the wrong way.

Then its graduation, a straight-up, sentimental affair, with a surprising realization (by me) that is quickly turned into maybe the best gag of the season. It’s not even dirty! However, naturally, things get dirty before the end, and they’re done. It was pretty much the same as the first season, and my reaction was more or less the same, so I’ll let Shino have the last word:

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