Anime and Manga — Reviews and Previews
Hello and welcome back, darling readers! It’s day three of the Summer 2012 anime madness at the Armchair Madcap, and things are starting to get a little hot and steamy around here! In other words, I crammed a lot of the fanservice-filled shows at the end of my watching list to bombard you with all at once. Then I switched gears and watched a show that should set all the yaoi-fangirl hearts aflutter. Onward, daring madcaps! Into the fray!
So, I Can’t Play H!
Plot: Ryosuke Kaga is known at his school as an all-around pervert: he knows the breast size of his best friend down to the millimeter, and he isn’t afraid of showing his love for the female form. But while he’s obviously in love with women for their bodies, he’s also kind to them as people, too. That’s why, when he comes home from school one day to find a beautiful woman standing outside his house drenched in rain, he offers to let her dry off in the comfort of his home. But things aren’t as they seem, and Ryosuke soon finds himself drained of energy and at the mercy of his new houseguest, who insists she’s a shinigami come to the mortal realm in order to make a contract with someone capable of changing history. Ryosuke, she insists, isn’t that someone, but he may just prove her wrong when the overpowering energy supplied by his pervertedness saves her life in battle.
Pros: I’m not the target audience of this show, but you know what? I wasn’t completely turned off by off the ecchi perviness and otaku pandering. I really think it’s because the show wears it so openly on its sleeve. Just like with Highschool of the Dead, you know what you’re getting into so you’re unlikely to be caught off guard. See anime? Just be open with me about when I should expect jiggle physics and unrealistic breast sizes and I’ll be okay with it! Just don’t spring it on me in an otherwise serious show! Back to this series, however: it’s got above-standard animation in most places, and I like Ryosuke as a character. Despite being the show’s resident pervert, you can tell he does actually view women as people and not just a collection of tits and ass. Finally, even I have to admit Lisara, the shinigami, is pretty hot, and she has the most gorgeous hair!
Cons: Well, it’s still a show about a high school pervert. That alone is going to turn off everyone who isn’t already into these things. And there’s nothing really new going on in the plot, either. You’ve seen enough hentai to see where this is going, for better or for worse. For the people who are into these things, they’re probably going to rage against the fact that the version made available to Crunchyroll by the broadcaster is censored (in order to promote uncensored DVD sales, no doubt).
Verdict: It’s not for me, but then again, it’s not supposed to be. I will, however, be recommending it to friends who partake in such things.
The Ambition of Oda Nobuna
Plot: Yoshiharu Sagara is running for his life; he’s a typical high school boy, but all of a sudden he’s in the middle of a sixteenth-century battlefield dodging spears and rifle fire. When a fellow soldier is shot and killed, Yoshiharu makes a terrifying discovery: he’s somehow been transported back in time to the Sengoku Era, when Japan’s strongest warlords vied to unite the country under a single banner, no matter what the cost. But something isn’t quite right. Where infamous warlord Oda Nobunaga should stand is instead a beautiful slip of a girl. One who calls herself Oda Nobuna and insists she’s the head of the Oda family. Trapped in this strange alternate timeline where women can inherit power and a generation of “princess generals” has arisen, Yoshiharu must use his future knowledge of historical events to help Oda Nobuna conquer the tumultuous nation of Japan!
Pros: First off, the animation is dynamic and gives me flashbacks of Sengoku Basara. If there is a show you want your Sengoku-era anime series to be compared to favorably, it’s probably Sengoku Basara. The character designs are unique within the show and aren’t as copied and pasted from historical reference as a lot of others are. (Whether this pleases you or annoys your little history-loving heart will depend on you.) Furthermore, there are aspects of the plot that I like: I like that women have the power here, and it isn’t really questioned or rebelled against. Just by ret-conning the fact that women can inherit land and titles, the writers of the show have given Nobuna and company power that isn’t just an illusion for our benefit. I like the fact that Yoshiharu puts his future knowledge to actual use and doesn’t just sit by and narrate the plot for us. I like that the show is covering a part of the Sengoku Era of which I was not previously well-informed.
Cons: But there are also aspects of the plot that I absolutely hate: the women are still treated like anime women, blushing over a lackluster male lead or having their breasts stared at. Katsuie Shibata faces the distinct misfortune of having breasts that managed to bounce around in and distort metal armor. I hate that while Yoshiharu puts his future knowledge to use, he doesn’t have tact or forethought when he does so. He doesn’t stop to think, “Will this change the future, for better or worse?” He has no ambition other than, “I get to hang out with hot chicks!” I hate that the show allows a complete stranger into a warlord’s intimate inner circle and lets him speak to her without respect of any kind, and she responds with only mild annoyance or with actual praise. It’s such obvious pandering to the audience at the expense of the story that it takes whatever enjoyment I had with this show and stomps on it.
Verdict: I don’t hate this show nearly as much as I expected I would, but I’m still leaving it behind. There are too many questionable decisions made by the writers, directors, and producers for me to have faith that things are going to improve from here.
Aesthetica of a Rogue Hero
Plot: Akatsuki Ousawa is a rogue hero, a man who rose to the occasion and defeated a dark lord, but whose perverted tendencies have earned him a reputation as a nonchalant playboy. But that’s hardly the biggest of Akatsuki’s worries. In fact, Akatsuki doesn’t even belong in the world of Alayzard. He’s native to good ol’-fashioned Earth, and despite the entreaties of Alayzard’s princess (and the tender mercies of a few dozen battle maids), he’s determined to return there. He has important cargo in the form of the dark lord’s only daughter, and his intent is to take her to a world where her bleak destiny will no longer hold sway over her life. But his return to his own world is overshadowed by his admittance into BABEL, the school that takes in and trains those who have been whisked away to and returned from other worlds. Can Akatsuki protect the secret of his new “little sister,” or will the scheming of BABEL’s elite students thrust her into danger once again?
Pros: The animation is technically proficient, though it doesn’t rise to the high mark of some of the other shows this season. But what this show is banking all of its hopes on are its story: it’s a wild combination of science fiction, fantasy, comedy, school-yard romance, and just the tiniest bit of hentai. Needless to say, it’s not going to stick to one long enough for you to get particularly bored of it. And hey, if you enjoy a main character whose super special attack seems to be divesting women of their undergarments at lightning speed, you’re all set.
Cons: Sure, it’s got all those different genres going for it, but because it refuses to commit to any of them, it winds up being lackluster in every single one. It’s not perverted enough to appeal to fans of hentai comedies; it doesn’t have a good enough story to draw in the “literary” crowd; it’s characters are too banal to really inspire many shippers; and it’s flip-flopping between fantasy and science fiction is more an annoyance that a fresh new idea. The only people I can really see getting behind this are people who collect action figures. The character designs seem custom made for that sort of market (especially the combat maids). Ultimately, though, I really just dislike Akatsuki as a character. Whereas Ryosuke from So, I Can’t Play H! seems like the kind of guy who’d take you out to dinner before trying to get into your pants, Akatsuki seems like the sleazeball who’d take a picture up your skirt with his camera phone.
Verdict: Nuh-uh, Aesthetica. It’s game over already. Cool title, though.
Plot: Ryunosuke Ibuki has been left for dead, beaten and bloodied over the insignificant amount of change in his pocket. He has all but given up on life when an arrogant and condescending stranger asks him the simplest of questions: “Do you want to live?” Forced to choose between his pride as a samurai and a meager rice ball, he nonetheless stretches out his hand for his chance at survival. But Kamo Serizawa is a cruel and capricious man. His fee for saving Ryunosuke’s life is Ryunosuke’s servitude. But through Serizawa, Ryunosuke is able to meet kind people like Heisuke Todo, Isami Kondo, and Toshizo Hijikata, all members of the Roshigumi, a Kyoto police force in service to the Tokugawa Shogunate. But all is not well between Serizawa and Ryunosuke’s newfound compatriots. Will a political divide within the country come to mean the loss of Ryunosuke’s tenuous happiness, not to mention his life?
Pros: This third season of Hakuouki benefits from being part of a longer series: it knows what it’s fans are looking for, and it knows how to provide those things in spade. For Reimeiroku, that means lots of pretty boys acting out the storied history of the Shinsengumi, and being either cheerful, brooding, and/or cheerful and brooding. (Don’t ask me how that works. It just does.) The character designs are far from historically accurate, but they are pleasing to the eye, and they don’t stretch credulity the way those skin tight, bouncy bodysuits in Muv Luv do. Hakuouki also has the benefit of being a male-fanservice show that deals with some pretty fantastic action scenes as well. Good animation to boot. But let’s face it: you’re either in this for the characters, or you’re out.
Cons: If you listen very closely, every time a new pretty boy appears on screen, you can hear the slowly building roar of a million fangirls losing their collective minds. In other words, this show is filled with the kind of fanservice that plays into the hands of those who like yaoi and shounen-ai, so if you aren’t into the boys’ love side of things, you might be a little put out by this show. There’s nothing explicit or even expressly stated, but it’s not hard to catch the (fanfiction-inspiring) undercurrents. If you’re watching for the plot and not the sexiness, however, the story is a little slow to build and the state of things isn’t properly explained early on. You’ll probably want to at least familiarize yourself with Hakuouki’s first season or with the actual history of the Shinsengumi. (On a related note, anyone know and recommend a book that deals with just such history?) Lastly, the replacement of seasons 1 and 2 protagonist Chizuru for newcomer Ryunosuke feels a little off. Chizuru was a character who had a decent (if somewhat generic) personality and her own motives, but was also a way for female viewers to feel as though they belonged among the all-male cast, rather than simply lusting after them.
Verdict: Do you really need to ask? Me and my guilty pleasure will be over in the corner, thank you very much.
*Yes, I’m cheating by including a show that’s had multiple seasons. But I like Hakuouki, I have never gotten to see the second season, and it’s technically a prequel so I’m bending my own rules.
Nakaimo – My Sister is Among Them!
Plot: Shogo Mikadono’s father has just passed away, leaving him as the sole heir to a mega-corporation. But this sudden windfall of fortune cannot pass into Shogo’s hands effortlessly. His father left two conditions: that Shogo complete a year’s worth of training at a special academy, and that he find his true love and marry her before he completes high school. Seems simple enough, at least until a mysterious voice begins to taunt Shogo, telling him that she is in fact his long lost sister – and that she attends the very academy where Shogo is hunting for his wife! The childhood accident that left him with amnesia isn’t helping matters, either. Can Shogo find and marry his true love without accidentally also hooking up with his sister?!
Pros: The show really shines when animating expressions. Kannagi (the brunette with pigtails, above) in particular is a treat to watch, because she’s got a devious streak in her that translates into a lot of silly or super deformed faces. The other female characters are all cute in their own ways, and there are some nice hair styles that look dynamic without running into the problem of overly-spiky anime hair. As for the plot, it’s pretty standard fare – amnesia, for crying out loud! – but it gets a little insidious near the end and things start to look more like a thriller than a harem rom-com…
Cons: But then the show promptly rams my hopes into the ground by having a girl grope her own bare breasts while mentally comparing them to creampuffs. For the love of God, anime, this is why we can’t have nice things. This sort of blatant hyper-sexuality always raises my hackles because it’s completely gratuitous. If this sort of thing had happened in the tenth or eleventh episode, and if it were in keeping with the character, I wouldn’t bat an eyelash. The show would have earned it’s thrills. But tossing it in at the end of the first episode when, up until that point and immediately afterward, the character in question had been a nice, polite girl just felt so incredibly cheap that I lost all faith in the show. To make matters worse, the little animations that frame the commercial break depict the girls as toys to be won from those cheap little 25¢ machines. It’s meant to be cute, I know, but it felt degrading to me. It shows you just how much value this kind of show puts on the women in its cast.
Verdict: I think it’s clear I’m biased against these harem shows. Have never liked them, probably never will, and the looming threat of accidental incest isn’t helping things. Although, if they latched onto that one little thread and made it about an unsuspecting boy getting psychologically tormented by a group of girls, I could dig it. Would be something new at least. But bye, bye Nakaimo. May our paths never again cross.
Phew! That… was a lot of anime this season! Though I technically watched one fewer show this time around than I did in the Spring, it felt like a longer process because I jammed them all into about a week and a half! But, of course, there are always shows that don’t make it into my preview. Here are their titles and why:
Driland / Joshiraku / Love, Election, and Chocolate / Ebiten: Kōritsu Ebisugawa Kōkō Tenmon-Bu
All of these are new shows with no previous seasons, but none of them were picked up for legal simulcast by the time my preview posts were, well, posted. Of all of these, Driland was the only one that caught any of my attention, and that was mostly because of the adorable aesthetic.
YuriYuri season 2 / Moyashimon Returns / Dog Days season 2 / Rinne No Lagrange season 2 / Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere season 2
All sequels. Pretty self-explanatory.
Chitose Get You!!
The episodes are only three minutes long, so by the time you read my long-winded summary and analysis of the first episode, you really could’ve just watched it yourself.
So there you have it! This marks the end of my 8,000+ word opus on the Summer 2012 anime season. I think I’ll keep watching Sword Art Online, Natsuyuki Rendezvous, and Hakuouki Reimeiroku, with tentative hopes for a few others. What shows have you picked up for the season? Any you feel I have under- (or over-) rated? Let me know!