First off we have Iku to Hasami wa Tsukaiyou, about a girl and her dog, or vice versa.
Harumi, teen bibliophile, gets killed protecting a girl from a robber with a rifle. He reincarnates as a dog and is lounging around a pet store wishing he had something to read when the girl shows up, with scissors, who cuts him free–from a cage. Next thing he knows he’s trussed up and hanging from a rope and the girl is threatening him with death. Turns out she can read his thoughts and it’s driving her a little nuts, and she was nuts to begin with. Oh, she’s also Harumi’s favorite author. This is all told through Harumi’s point of view, and Sakurai Takahiro does an excellent job with it, just the right combination of surprise over each weird situation and desire to read anything he can get his paws on. His first words upon learning who the girl really is is for her to finish the book he’s been waiting for.
I don’t recall such book-obsessed people since Read or Die all those years ago; in fact, with its shots of people reading while waiting for a train, or during breaks in school, there’s a strong ROD vibe throughout. Plus the fact that the words “reading” and “dying” are used together several times, and Natsuno (the author) with her glasses on looks a lot like Yomiko, or Nenene, though she sure as hell doesn’t dress like either of them. This is all fine by me. I don’t think the stories are going to devote themselves to books, but that’s okay. Promising start.
I’m not a fan of the genre, but I thought I’d give Gifuu Doudou etc a try. It looks like what it is, a historical adventure series starring Keiji and Kanetsugu, two samurai who are best bros. After an odd introduction scene which suggest murder and mayhem but goes eccentric, like the bros, we get the part on how they meet, well, the first part. Keiji is interfering with a strange ritual between wives and exes and Kanetsugu goes to investigate, sits down to listen to Keiji’s sublime biwa playing, and together they wipe out some goons who burst in to do whatever they were going to do. It is not explained. There’s a lot of talk, battle strategies, historical situations, protocol on wives and exes, some nice visuals. I’m not sure the animation is up to it, but it looks adequate. All in all it looks pretty good, but as I said, it’s not my genre.
Let’s turn to a franchise whose mindset is about as far away as blades and samurai as possible. Tamayura returns, and this time they’re going to be More Aggressive! Well, it’s all relative, I suppose.
We start with part one of the episode’s crisis: Fuu’s been spacing out more than usual lately, making her friends worry. Turns out she gets that way when she’s thinking hard about something, in this case, forming a photography club at school (at which point, nightmarish thoughts about Photokano burbled up in my brain, which I immediately suppressed). It’s a healthy idea for Fuu to have, and she’s doing it for healthy reasons: she hopes to connect with more people. That she has such a hard time deciding to do it is typical for Fuu, and it’s typical that the episode does little else. All of her friends, friendly adults, and family have to hear about it and give their approval. Okay, it’s a first episode of the series, so everyone must be reintroduced. But I forgot just how LONG it takes for anything to happen in this show.
Which is unfair. This is one of the ultimate stop-and-smell-the-roses franchises and has never pretended to be anything else. This means the occasional maddeningly slow parts, but also lovely, quiet moments, and I suspect your mood at the time will decide which. Once again it’s aided by the music, usually just a quiet piano, that sets the mood perfectly. Visually, the town looks just the same as before, a lovely, inviting tourist trap. Really, the only thing that’s changed is that they’re about to become second years … oh, and we’re going to get a new character, but all she does this episode is lurk–in a non-threatening way. Happy to see the series back.
It’s too early to say about Free!. We got Haru, a gifted swimmer who only swims freestyle, and who’s abandoned competitive swimming for reasons unknown and spends his time sulking in the bathtub. His best friend is Mako, a friendly, lunkish type. They are joined by Nagisa, the impetuous kid whom they swam with in elementary school. And then there’s Rin, who went off to train in Australia and now is back to get revenge on Haru, or something. Together they once won a relay, which apparently was the peak of their competitive careers, then stuff happened. Part of what the show is about is apparently finding out just what, especially with Haru. That, and what made Rin become such a jerk. Actually, Haru’s kind of a jerk, too. I don’t think this is going to be a simple sports anime; their high school has no swim team and I can’t see any of these characters forming a club. Oh, and there’s Rin’s sister, Gou, sorry, Kou, who spends her time this episode just staring at the guys until they start asking her questions. It’s a KyoAni show, so of course it looks great, and this time they get to play with water. The direction feels like any of their recent shows. Some missteps, like the boys not realizing the abandoned pool had no water in it … Geez … Well, we’ll have to see how the story and characters pan out.