Anime and Manga — Reviews and Previews
The Spring 2012 anime season is here – yada, yada – Had a lot of fun with the Winter season preview – blah, blah – Decided to watch the first episodes of seventeen shows and give my knee-jerk reactions to them – etc., etc. This is the second of three parts, so you know the drill! You can find Part 1 [here], and Part 3 will arrive tomorrow!
Without further ado, let’s begin!
Jin Kanzaki is a homeless ten-year-old boy who has only ever known the love of his grandfather and who spends his spare time seeking out ne’er-do-wells and rescuing their victims – through the liberal application of (super-human) violence and only for a price, of course. He’s joined in his quest for action by the ultra-rich Kouga and Konoha Amagi, whose father disapproves of Jin as a whole. When Jin’s grandfather is murdered by a serial killer, Jin is forced to confront the cruel realities of life he’d never been taught, learn the origins of his bizarre strength, and navigate his own path without the guidance of the only supportive figure he’s ever known. Then the story skips ahead a decade, proving that this entire episode was just a glorified flashback. Huzzah!
The show started off by asking me to enter my birthdate to validate that I was older than eighteen, so that was a promising start. (Turns out there wasn’t really anything beyond a little blood to justify its being rated mature, but maybe I’m just jaded.) Honestly, I’m kind of on the fence about Zetman – on the one hand, it hits a lot of the buttons that make me excited about a new anime: there’s a lot of action, the characters have established personalities from the get-go, the animation passes the bar, and the villain is that combination of sleazy and charismatic that always makes me secretly root for them. On the other hand, though, it hits a few of the buttons that turn me off, too: I’m not big on anthropomorphized animal-monsters (don’t ask me why, it’s just doesn’t do it for me), and there were some logistical jumps that made me scratch my head (Really? Jin has lived for ten years without learning about death? Without ever crying once? Really?). On top of that, it might be a little too cut-and-dry for me. Jin probably seeks the path of vengeance, Kouga goes for the pure-hearted justice route, but they overcome their differences in time to team up against the greater evil. I’ll watch a few more episodes (mostly to see if I like Jin and the rest of the cast as teens/adults rather than kids) before I decide one way or the other. Also because I liked Akemi – she seemed like a nice lady.
Polar Bear’s Café
It’s a show about a talking panda named Panda who visits a café run by a polar bear named Polar Bear who is pretty good friends with his regular customer, a penguin named Mr. Penguin. Panda is pressured by his mother (I’m going to call her Mrs. Panda) to get a part-time job, but Panda is exorbitantly lazy and winds up pestering Polar Bear at his café more often than not.
Yes, I watched a show about a Canadian polar bear and a lazy panda immediately after watching a face-slashing lizard in Zetman because I am a woman of contradictions. Anyway, I shouldn’t like this show. God help me, I really shouldn’t. But it’s just. So. Damn. Cute. And as a college graduate who’s stuck in a part-time retail job until something better comes along (anyone looking to hire?), I relate to Panda far more than I should. Also, Polar Bear has a sexy voice, and I’m excused from sounding weird when I say that because his voice actor, Takahiro Sakurai, also voiced Claud Faustus in Kuroshitsuji and Agemaki Kei in [Otoume Youkai Zakuro], so there. The only real detraction I can lay at Polar Bear’s Café’s door is that the running time feels a little long. It might have been better broken up into fifteen-minute chunks, rather than stretched out to fill half an hour. But yeah, go watch this show for the funnies and for the cuteness. Just don’t expect anything resembling depth.
Nyarko-san: Another Crawling Chaos
Mahiro is just minding his own business one day when out of the blue he’s attacked by a terrifying monster. Just as the beast is about the land the killer blow, Mahiro calls out for help – only to have his prayers answered by the most unexpected of people. A petite silver-haired girl slays the demon and declares herself to be Nyarlathotep, “the chaos that always crawls up to you with a smile!” She’s a Lovecraftian horror who’s come from the depths of space to save Mahiro from alien slavers, and to smuggle home some manga and videogames along the way.
Man, from the synopsis, I really expected Nyarko-san to be something special, or at least something less blasé and generic. Except for the fact that the Cthulu mythos gets some lip service here and there, there is absolutely nothing that sets this show apart from any other harem piece out there. You’ve got the same limp-noodle main character getting dragged around by the personalities of his various love interests. And Nyarko is really a Lovecraftian horror in name only – the first episode makes a point of explaining that she’s actually an alien rather than an eldritch god. You know what I’ve seen done before? The alien love-interest angle (and believe me, most of those earlier shows did it better). I was interested in Nyarko-san because it was going to be about something fresh, something new, something potentially exciting. Instead, they turned it into the same crap with a tacky coat of paint. But hey – the animation isn’t terrible, and the fight scenes color Nyarko as a downright terrifying combatant, but I won’t be keeping up with this unless reviews indicate vast improvement.
Nobunaga Oda has just been betrayed by previously loyal retainer Mistuhide Akechi; the temple at Honnoji is burning down, and Nobunaga submits to the flames – only to be catapulted head first into the modern world and into the life of Seiichi Ōta. But this isn’t the Nobunaga Oda of history books; this one is all woman, and ready to conquer all of her fellow time-warped (female) warlords if it means getting back to her own era and the country she nearly conquered.
More moe harem chaff… First off, if you like harem stuff, you’ll probably like this show (and probably Nyarko-san, too, come to think of it), and you should stop reading because I’m completely biased about these kinds of shows. If you don’t like harem comedies, then do not bother to watch this show. How’s this for formulaic? Both Nyarko-san and Sengoku Collection had these events occur in their first episode: female alien/warlord appears unexpectedly, begins tailing the main character against their wishes, saves the main character from an enemy, moves in with the main character, causes the main character to blush with nakedness before taking a bath. Beat for beat, it was like I was watching the same show but with the character models swapped out. And I’m sorry, but Japan – what the hell? You’ve got some really cool history in the Sengoku Era! Why are you turning its important figures into teenage lolicons with huge racks? And you already did it with Sengoku Otome and with Hyakka Ryouran Samurai Girls. Why!? This is a pass for me on principle alone.
In an effort to not let my biases get completely in the way, I will say that Sengoku Collection has a little bit of natural charisma that Nyarko-san lacked – Nobunaga is at least a little bit of fun to watch as she navigates the modern world, and there’s always the possibility that things might progress away from the tried and true harem path. The show’s colors are vibrant and easy on the eyes, too. And at least Date looks cool. I can deal with that, I guess.
Dusk Maiden of Amnesia
Yuuko Kanoe just wants what every poltergeist with amnesia wants: to figure out how she died and why she’s stuck wandering the earth as a restless spirit. Compounding her troubles is the fact that only a select few people can see her. There’s Kirie Kanoe, a cynical and somewhat bitter girl, and Teiichi Niiya, a kind-hearted boy who wants to help Yuuko however he can. Teiichi and Kirie are two members of their school’s Paranormal Investigation Club, with clueless Momoe Okonogi and Yuuko herself rounding out the roster. Together, the four of them must solve the various ghostly mysteries that permeate the school in hopes of discovering the cause of Yuuko’s unfortunate condition.
What a pleasant mix of humor and mystery! The animation is appropriate for the series and can be downright lavish when it’s trying to set the mood. The black-red-orange color scheme is both warm and ominous. Dusk Maiden of Amnesia is striding a careful balance in this first episode between trying to hook you with its central mystery without overwhelming you with melodrama at the same time, and I think it definitely succeeds. The biggest strength besides that balance is definitely the characters, specifically Yuuko herself. You immediately sympathize with her despite only knowing her for only a minute or two. There’s some fanservice going on in here that I wouldn’t say was strictly necessary but didn’t feel grating or obnoxious; certainly nothing bad enough to turn me away. I’m definitely very interested in seeing how this mystery gets unraveled, as well as what other troubles get stirred up in the meantime.
Seirin High is a relatively new school whose basketball team nonetheless managed to achieve great success in their inaugural year. Looking to capitalize on that winning streak, the club members actively recruit at the beginning of the year, managing to latch onto two potential candidates: an American-raised, giant-sized phenom by the name of Taiga Kagami; and the underwhelming Tetsuya Kuroko. But there may be more to Kuroko than meets the eye. After all, it’s rumored that he was a member of the famed “Generation of Miracles,” the unstoppable middle school team that was recognized by all as the very best. Is Kuroko’s seeming weakness just that, or is his self-styled “shadow” basketball technique the secret weapon Seirin High – and Kagami in particular – so desperately need?
My close friends all know this, but I’m a really huge fan of basketball. I played for a couple of years when I was young, but the big thing in my family is watching the University of Kentucky men’s basketball team every season! I’m a UK girl born and raised! Thus, even though there have only been a few sports anime that I’ve liked in the past ([like Prince of Tennis]), I was kind of looking forward to Kuroko’s Basketball. And my hopes were well and truly exceeded! It’s refreshing to have a main character like Kuroko, who is the absolute antithesis of the me-me-me protagonists you see in other shows. He’s got a quiet, understated confidence that comes off so much cooler than brazen bravado. The way they animate his shadowy basketball skills is perfect, too – you recognize the skill that’s behind it as well as the immediate effect it has on the game without anything being showy. It’s a good way of working within budget without making things look cheap or simple. The opening and ending songs and animations are really underwhelming, though, so don’t judge the entire show just by those. I recommend watching the first episode just to see if you can get behind a protagonist like Kuroko – it might be the sort of thing that changes your opinion on some sports anime.
That’s it for Part 2! Did I sneak in some of the new series that you were interested in? Am I still leaving your favorite out until Part 3? Also, what is the exact color of Kuroko’s hair? Let me know what you think, and tune in tomorrow for the conclusion of the Armchair Madcap’s Spring 2012 Anime Preview!