Anime and Manga — Reviews and Previews
Ah, Spring 2012 anime season! You’ve brought me some interesting ups and downs so far, from the sacrilege that is Sengoku-Era-Warlords-turned-moe-chicks to a surprisingly adorable show about a lazy panda who wants to eat bamboo instead of get a job. If you’re just tuning in, this is the third and final segment on my Spring 2012 anime preview. You can find Part 1 (as well as a list of the shows I won’t be covering this season) [here] and Part 2 [here]. But don’t be feeling overwhelmed just yet – there are still six more shows to run through before we reach the finish line. Take a deep breath, and let’s dive on in!
Saki Episode of Side A
Nodoka Hanamura was once a mahjong-loving elementary student who grew up to be a middle-school level champion in the game. But that championship came at the expense of the friendships she left behind when her mother was transferred for work. Luckily, Nodoka’s persistence has inspired her friends to take back up mahjong and meet her in the inter-highschool championships!
Whoops, apparently this is actually a spin-off of an earlier show (which would mean that, by my own rules, I shouldn’t have included it in my season review). But since feel-good stories about friendships and mahjong aren’t in my normal retinue of shows, I’m hoping you’ll forgive this little slip up. As it is, I don’t have much to say about Saki: it’s cute enough, and it gives the right messages of friendship and perseverance and what not. But what Saki lacks that shows like Chihayafuru provide is an explanation for non-experts about the game in question. If you’re already well versed in the rules of mahjong, then Saki will probably be very interesting to you. For me, it was dull and confusing. Also, there was a bit too much discussion of an elementary student’s breast size for me. Just… yeah. I’m going to pass on this one.
Medaka Kurokami is a first-year student at her high school, but she nonetheless managed to be elected student council president with an astounding 98% of the vote. Part of her meteoric rise to power was her promise to solve all the woes of the student body by accepting requests in her Suggestion Box; the rest was all due to her inability to give up or take no for an answer. Thus, Medaka (and her boobs) set out to make her school the happiest place on earth, and she’s dragging childhood friend Zenkichi Hitoyoshi along for the ride whether he likes it or not.
I’ll say this about Medaka Box: you know exactly what you’re going into with this first episode. The fanservice is up there and in your face, but there’s some really good animation and some genuinely interesting characters as well. Honestly, Medaka Box is one of those weird shows that I think I would really like if I were watching it in a group setting but which I don’t think I’ll be able to tolerate on my own. Fanservice like this is something that I enjoy poking fun at with others but which I usually find grating during a solo viewing. Despite that, I’m actually pretty fond of Medaka and Zenkichi, so I’ll probably sneak in another episode or two as the series progresses to decide if it’s worth a real investment in time or not.
Seishou Academy is a special school for special students, where everyone knows their way around a shooting range and can assemble a rifle in no time flat. But the girls of Seishun Academy aren’t just good with guns – they are guns! The Belgian rifle FNC – or Funco, to her friends – learns the hard way that being a young gun isn’t easy when a new teacher arrives, arousing in her the desire to be “handled” and “fired.”
Did you see that there? Did you see how little subtlety I used in describing Funco’s desires? Yeah, the show is even more forward with them, having the middle- or high-school aged girl grab for her crotch/trigger every time she thinks about her new teacher. Waaay too much fanservice going on in this show for me to want to watch it again, but if that sort of thing doesn’t bother you – or heck, if it’s something that you actively like – then Upotte!! is one of the more inventive ecchi shows out there. It’s like if Hetalia were made for straight male gun fanatics rather than yaoi-obsessed women. Furthermore, the show goes out of its way to explain some of the more egregious sexualizations of the girls: Funco wears a thong because the FNC has a skeleton stock, and another character’s breasts are so large because her gun model has a thick barrel. So, credit to Upotte!! for being unique, but I’m moving on, and quickly.
Kids on the Slope
Kaoru Nishimi is used to moving around a lot. His father is a sailor and his mother abandoned the family when he was young, so Nishimi has moved in with his aunt and uncle in Kyushu and begun attending the local school. A classically trained pianist, Nishimi uses music to relax but also feels the weight of his loneliness bearing down on him when he plays. A chance encounter with school delinquent Sentaro Kawabuchi and jazz may just be the thing Nishimi needs to finally shake off his anxious shell.
After Upotte!!, I felt like I should go with something a little more high-brow, so I finally looked into Kids on the Slope. This show is pretty much right up at the top of everyone’s recommended list, and I definitely see why. It’s a low-key character study of a repressed, classically trained pianist opening up to the wild ways of jazz – not something that would normally fall under my purview. But the music is great, the animation is precise and fluid, and the characters all feel like real people. It’s going to be very interesting to see Nishimi travel along this brand new path and forge a new future for himself. The fact that it’s directed by the same guy who did Cowboy Bebop is just icing on the cake. An all-but-definite watch for me!
Yurume is an eighteen year old high school graduate looking to ace her entrance exams and get into a nice college, so she’s moved to Tokyo to focus on her studies. Unfortunately, she moves into the Maison du Wish, which houses a number of College-less cram school students – none of whom have ever passed their tests. Yurume becomes acquainted with the Maison’s friendly tenants and clutches tightly to the knife her mother gave her in case of emergencies. If things keep going the way they have, Yurume may just need that knife more than she thinks!
I did not realize this show was going to have a 3-minute episode running time when I clicked on it, so I was actually a little disappointed that it was going to be so short. Maybe it’s because you don’t normally get shows about the people who are struggling academically in Japan, but I wanted a little more social commentary to go along with my slapstick comedy (nothing too serious, you understand, but a little meat on the bones would have been nice). That said, it’s a perfectly reasonable adaptation of what I’m guessing was a 4-koma manga. Not really a whole lot to critique here…
Yuki has been transferring in and out of schools his entire life, but he’s never gotten any good at introducing himself or making friends. His anxiety and the weirdly terrifying face he makes when he’s angry have always gotten in the way. But this time – this time! – he resolves to do things differently! Things are even almost going well, at least until Haru, a self-proclaimed alien, shows up. Armed with a memory-erasing water gun and the ability to talk to fish, Haru is going to be Yuki’s friend even if it kills Yuki himself.
I feel like I’ve given Tsuritama short shrift by watching it close to last. After sixteen other shows, I was already feeling burnt out on anime’s particular brand of weirdness – and there is a lot of anime weirdness that goes on in this show. Exaggerated expressions, pseudo-psychological phenomenon, aliens and schoolgirls and everything in between. Shows that have this sort of throw-everything-and-see-what-sticks mentality have a shaky record with me (not a huge fan of FLCL, love Excel Saga), so I’m sticking Tsuritama on the back burner until I see how other reviewers react to it as a whole. But it does have a duck named Tapioca in it, so that’s a point in its favor.
That’s it. Game over. The Spring 2012 Anime Season Preview is complete! If you’re just tuning in or got distracted and wandered off half-way through, here’s a succinct summation of the shows I’ll be keeping up with and those I’m leaving in the dust:
Must-Watch: Space Brothers, Dusk Maiden of Amnesia, Kuroko’s Basketball, Kids on the Slope
Maybe: Hiiro no Kakera, Accel World, Zetman, Polar Bear’s Café, Medaka Box, Tsuritama
Definitely Not: OZMA, Folktales From Japan, Nyarko-san: Another Crawling Chaos, Sengoku Collection, Saki Episode of Side A, Upotte!!, Yurumate3Dei
Will Probably Watch When the Damn Thing Goes Live: Jormungand
Are you watching any shows from this new season? Or are you catching up with old shows? Some from [Winter 2012], perhaps? Heck, no matter what you’re watching, let me know in the comments!