Anime and Manga — Reviews and Previews
I actually had something completely different planned for this post, but then the Spring 2012 anime season snuck up and slapped me in the face…! Has it really been that long since I [previewed the Winter shows]? I guess so! Remembering how much fun I had back then, I’m back to give my quick rundown on the Spring shows I got the chance to try out. As usual, there were a few that had to be left out, and I cover which ones and why at the end of this post. I tried not to let my personal tastes/biases get in the way this time, so I included some shows from genres that I would otherwise avoid. It… well, it was interesting, to say the least! Enjoy!
Because this post is so very, very long, I’m going to be breaking it up into three smaller chunks! (That’s why this part is up early!) Look for parts 2 and 3 tomorrow and on Saturday, respectively!
Hiiro no Kakera
Kasuga Tamaki is a teenaged girl who transfers from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo to her grandmother’s small, rural village when her parents head overseas for work. Upon arriving in town, she is first beset with a happy nostalgia – then she’s attacked by overgrown slime monsters, only to be saved by a surly young man named Onizaki Takuma. It turns out that Tamaki is actually the heir to the bloodline of the Tamayori Princesses, and is therefore the only one who can keep the destructive powers of the gods at bay. Luckily, there are four attractive men to protect and guide her through her trials and tribulations.
Oh, the reverse harem! So many pretty boys, so few brain cells. It’s not so much that Hiiro no Kakera is a bad show; rather, it’s exactly like just about every other girl-meets-six-attractive-men show that has come before it. It doesn’t help matters that Tamaki has absolutely zero personality of her own, spending the first episode either uttering vapid “Huh?”s or introducing herself over and over again (I still had to look up her name on Wikipedia, that’s how little she stuck in my mind). Look, I get that it’s a big adjustment going from, “I get to visit my grandma!” to “I’m the heir to a supernatural power that’s keeping the world from being destroyed!”, but let’s try to ask some productive questions. Or hell, even break down into a mess of tears and gibberish. Anything other than just stand there and get dragged around by your multitude of love interests! The guys aren’t really any better, either: you’ve got your tsundere, your hothead, your academic, and your level-headed mediator – all the same tropes you’ve seen time and time again. The art in this show is rather gorgeous, though, and I found myself staring at the lovely gradient-colored hair and the adorable animal sidekick while tuning out the dialogue. All in all, I was fully prepared to write this show off until the ending gave me hope that there was an actual plot, some villains, and flashy action to go along with them. If Hiiro no Kakera delivers on that front (and if Tamaki develops some modicum of personality), the show might be worth at least a few more trial episodes.
Or I might just watch the second season of Hakuouki instead.
Natural and man-made disasters have ravaged the Earth, leaving behind nothing more than a desert wasteland that strangles all but the hardiest forms of life. Humans struggle to survive in this unforgiving world, but two factions still find time to oppose one another: the military juggernaut of Theseus, and the wily Sand Pirates. Sam Coyne is a pirate whose goal is to capture an Ozma, a gigantic sand whale whose sheer size makes it a formidable foe. While out hunting, he stumbles across a lone woman being pursued by Theseus destroyers and makes the snap decision to rescue her from her plight. This action brings her aboard the Sand Pirate ship Baldanos and leads her to reveal that her name is Maya, but the trouble is just beginning. Theseus will not give up on its quarry so easily.
Everything about this anime screams retro: the art and character designs, the princess-in-peril plot, the masked Char-wannabe villain. There’s nothing wrong with going back to what used to work and trying to make it fresh, but OZMA doesn’t really do much on that second front. The show is written by Leiji Matsumoto, famous for his work on Space Battleship Yamato and Captain Harlock (and the Daft Punk anime-styled music videos), and it feels like OZMA is very much just trying to cash in on people’s nostalgia for the “glory days,” so to speak. Since I didn’t really grow up with this sort of show, it feels dated to me. The one very big check-mark OZMA has going in its favor is the Captain of the Sand Pirate ship Baldanos. Her name is Bainasu, and good lord she’s a badass. I want to be this woman, with her cool edge under fire and her striking red cape. If I keep watching OZMA, it will be to see more Bainasu!
Mutta Nanba was born on October 28, 1993 – the day Japan lost a nail biting game in the World Cup preliminaries. His brother, Hibito, was born on September 17, 1996 – the day Japan scored an outstanding no-hitter victory in baseball. That dichotomy of bad and good luck followed the brothers throughout the rest of their lives. In the summer of 2006, on the day that Zidane head-butted an opponent during a soccer match, the brothers come across a UFO and decide to become astronauts. Hibito achieves his goal, while Mutta gets fired from or quits menial job after menial job. Constantly weighed down by failing to “stay one step ahead” of his younger brother, Mutta feels like an utter failure… until his brother reminds him of their past promise and inspires him to seek a new career as an astronaut.
This show is 100% charm and pure charisma! The sense of humor, the way it doesn’t take itself too seriously, even the gag they have at the end of each episode in which they show a picture of an actual astronaut headed into space. The show is obviously in love with its subject material and treats it with the right amount of respect without going over into self-flattery. Mutta is a loveable main character right from the get-go, the sort of down-on-his-luck guy who doesn’t take it out on others. He’s flawed enough to be sympathetic without getting agitating, complete with a sense of kicked-puppy cuteness. Honestly, when I read the synopsis of Space Brothers I was perfectly prepared to pass on the show entirely, but I’m incredibly glad I gave it a shot for this season preview! Besides, where else am I going to find a character who wins the “Good Snazzy Car Award” and Zidane-head-butts his supervisor in the chest? Even if space isn’t the subject of your wildest dreams, I recommend this show just for how it presents itself.
Haruyuki Arita hates the world into which he’s been born: he’s short, overweight, and constantly bullied. The only solace he has is the virtual reality massively-multiplayer game that’s popular among his classmates. One day, however, he logs in to find that his previously unnatural high score has been bested – Haru has been beaten down again. Lost in despair, he is approached by Kuroyukihime, undisputed queen of Haru’s school. She offers him the very thing Haru has yearned for: the chance to accelerate his life, to obliterate his reality, to bring his talents from the virtual world to life. But there are dangers for which Haru is unprepared. Will Haru be able to survive, let alone tame, these new powers that Kuroyukihime has given him?
The first episode of this show does an incredibly good job of setting up the premise of the series: it introduces us to new technologies, a host of characters, and the action of the series in twenty-some-odd minutes without feeling rushed or relying on an information dump. It’s this deft directorial touch that keeps Accel World from feeling stale, even if the story isn’t made of the freshest ingredients. We’ve all seen the underdog story a thousand times, and the technological twist isn’t necessarily going to be enough to save this show from that fault. There’s nothing unique or dramatic going on in the designs or art style, either, but there is some slick animation throughout, especially in action sequences. You could do a lot worse than Accel World, and it might be worth sticking around just to see how bombastic the show can actually get.
Folktales From Japan
I’d normally open with a long-winded paragraph about the plot of the first episode, but as this is a collection of short folktales, that doesn’t really apply here. The three tales covered in this episode were “The Man Who Made the Dead Trees Blossom,” “The Man Who Bought Dreams,” and “The Rat Sutra.”
Look, I know this is pretty much a PBS-style educational piece that’s probably meant for five-year-olds, but it’s the quiet sort of interesting show that makes for perfect, informative background noise. I know there are a lot of anime fans out there who, through their fandoms, have come to want to know more about Japanese culture as a whole, and Folktales from Japan is a savvy little way to have your cake and eat it too. It has absolutely no chance of ever being dubbed into other languages, but that would make it easier for non-native speakers to enjoy this show without having to sit still for half an hour reading subtitles. The show just isn’t quite exciting enough to keep anyone who graduated from elementary school sitting still in front of the television or computer for that long. It’s a relaxing change of pace, though. Probably not something I’ll continue watching consistently, but I see no reason I wouldn’t go back to it every now and then to explore unfamiliar folktales.
That concludes Part 1 of my fabulously informative season preview! There are twelve more shows in the line-up for Friday and Saturday. Tune in tomorrow for Part 2, in which I lament that my idols of Sengoku Era Japan have been adapted into moe, scantily clad girls. Again.
Shows That Were Excluded (And Why)
Hyouka, Shining Hearts, Natsuiro Kiseki, AKB0048, Ginga e Kickoff, Arashi no Yoru ni, Acchi Kocchi, Natsuiro Kiseki – None of these shows were legally simulcast (to my knowledge). While I’m not going to condemn fansubs and haven’t been averse to using them in the past, I prefer to get my anime legally and support the industry in at least that small way. There are a couple shows here that, if they get picked up later, I’d certainly be willing to revisit. Namely AKB0048 because a morbid part of me wants to see just what this j-pop marketing campaign can actually achieve.
Saint Seiya Omega, Kimi to Boku Season 2, Rock Lee & His Ninja Pals, Is This a Zombie? Of the Dead, Lupin III: The Woman Called Fukiko Mine, Fushigi no Umi no Nadia, Phi Brain Season 2, Eureka Seven AO, Queen’s Blade: Rebellion – All second seasons/spin-offs/reboots/etc. There’s no real reason for my avoiding these, other than wanting to see shows from the beginning rather than jumping in the middle.
Nazo no Kanojo X – The only show I stayed away from purely because of its description. Something about a guy tasting and getting hooked on some girl’s drool…? I… yeah. I’m good. No thanks.
Jormungand – Funimation picked up the rights to stream this one, but then never got around to getting it up and running on their site, at least not before this post went live. I was and still am actively looking forward to trying out the first episode, but I’ll wait a little while longer to see if Funimation can get their stuff together before looking into other avenues.
Have you watched any of the above shows? Have you had the chance to check out something I passed up?