Phi Brain Kami no Puzzle looks like a stock mystery/adventure show with puzzle-solving as its gimmick. The first episode is typical. The show’s world is one where puzzles are important things, judging from the TV coverage they give to one puzzle solver, who is of course a tool whose life is saved by the show’s grumpy high schooler hero, Kaito. A sempai entices him to solve a labyrinth, the same one that nearly killed the tool. Kaito doesn’t care about rewards, only puzzles, in other words he’s a grump but a pure-hearted one. A girl named Nonoha serves as his sidekick and fortunately for Kaito (and for us) she isn’t just a bimbo tagging along; she has a great memory and a keen eye. The show’s fatal flaw might be that we the audience aren’t (so far) allowed to try to figure out the puzzles along with Kaito; we watch while Kaito concentrates and mutters things.
Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon starts out maddingly dull, jumps to action-packed and somewhat funny, back to dull.
We start with a training session at the Ariadust War Trainee School, where an instructor (didn’t get the name) explains, I think, that she’s about to go out and take out a Yakuza joint, and on their way they’re free to attack her. This is strange enough that I liked it, but the briefing devolves into talk about how they’re being suppressed by the world, and they’re flying on a big airship, and their futures, with some odd interjections to introduce characters, and where the hell is class rep Toori, anyway? It’s a bad sign when you get an infodump early in the first episode. But then the chase begins.
The chase was much like the show the other day with battling students which made such an impression on me that I forget the name and can’t be bothered to look it up. Every character has a a chance to attack, and we learn about their skills and personalities as they do. What makes Horizon’s fight much more fun is that the trainees are such a mixed and weird lot. We got a ninja, witch-girls, a bouncing blob, a girl riding on the shoulders of a giant, a naked flying guy who teams with a guy flinging curry, each with weaponry just as bizarre as they are. One after another. It reduced me to slack-jawed amazement, which is a good thing. It’s a shame they reach their destination and Toori shows up and makes everyone there his straight man, and we get more exposition, which continues over the credits! If I do keep watching this series it’s going to be for the weirdness and not the convoluted history.
With Tamayura – Hitotose we get our quiet, restful show of the season. It’s too early to tell whether this one will warm the cockles of my heart. It’s hard to feel an emotional attachment to characters right off. But the show does a pretty good job. It helps that there’s an undertone of tragedy from the start. Fuu’s father passed away, and she is just now getting around to not being sad about it to the point of getting out his old camera (which uses film!) and deciding to attend high school at the town they grew up in. These things don’t make her sad any more, and she wonders when that happened. The tears are reserved for her friend Chihiro, who cries to the point of annoyance (though her use of stuffed animals to convey her emotions was endearing). We don’t see much of the other regulars, only that they’re around. Oh, and there’s cute mystical creatures around too. The director apparently did Aria, which explains a lot. I want to like shows like these. I’m hoping for good things.
We stay (mostly) in real life with Chihayafuru, and meet Chihaya, the most interesting character of the new season so far. She’s determined to start a karuta club at her school even though no one’s interested. But just when I was thinking this was going to be a school club series the show flashes back to how Chihaya became such a karuta nut. That wouldn’t be so surprising, either, except for the subtle work going on underneath. She befriends a quiet boy named Arata, who is an expert at the game. They play once (she manages one card) and she’s immediately hooked, but perhaps not by the game. She had “discovered Arata’s passion.” Earlier, Ayata had admonished her because her own dream was for her sister, not herself. And we have to wonder what happened in the intervening years. There’s obviously a love triangle at work between Chihaya, Arata, and a boy named Taichi, but Arata has vanished, to her chagrin. Meanwhile, Chihaya’s gone from being a plucky and blunt middle-schooler to being sort of … weird. In other words, the show appears to be about much more than becoming a karuta master. Even the tone is wrong for a competition-based show. The orchestral soundtrack during the match reminded me of Cross Game, though it’s wrong to take the comparison any further than that. Very interesting episode one.
So Kimi to Boku is apparently the reverse of those shows with high school girls hanging out and doing nothing. So I was watching as these four, slightly effeminate slackers (well, one is very effeminate) sit around insulting each other in bored tones, and I found myself giggling. And this happened more than once. In a plotless series like this the jokes had better be good. Interesting that what made me laugh had nothing to do with what I was seeing. It was done by the lines and pacing. Indeed, the animation could be described as minimalist. I can’t count the number of times the character talking was looking away so they didn’t have to animate the mouth. The animators must have blown their cash on the cherry blossoms. As for this week’s plot (get Yuki to join a club), it didn’t matter. More important to see how the characters react to the clubs, or react to the others’ reaction to it. If they can keep throwing in little bits that get me laughing, I’ll keep watching.