Anime and Manga — Reviews and Previews
Ah, Part 2 – that lovely middle ground between beginning and end that usually signals the point where I start going crazy from all the anime. Luckily, there’s a good healthy crop of science fiction shows this year to keep me sane.
(If you have no idea what’s going on with this “Part 2” business, check out [Part 1] of my Fall 2012 Season Preview for the rules and regulations of this little affair! Part 3, meanwhile, will drop tomorrow.)
Why don’t we start with the creatively titled:
Plot: Yashiro Isana – nicknamed Shiro by his classmates – is sent on an errand by classmate and member of the Student Council, Kukuri Yukizome. His mission: purchase fireworks and bring back the receipt! But Isana quickly finds himself the target of a group of people known as Homura, a gang of street thugs with mysterious powers who are led by Mikoto Suou, a man who styles himself as the “Red King.” He’s saved in the nick of time by a swordsman clad in black, but Shiro’s relief is short lived. The “Black Hound,” Kuroh Yatogami, intends to kill Shiro himself. After all, Shiro is the “Colorless King,” a sadistic figure caught on tape murdering people without a qualm. Or is he? And what of the “Blue King,” Reishi Munakata, and his task force known as Scepter 4?
Review: It’s a lucky coincidence that I watched K almost immediately after watching Code:Breaker – the two share a lot of similarities in their stories. But K succeeds for me where Code:Breaker fell flat. It’s got a better, more interesting opening conflict, a more versatile cast of characters, and a more unique visual style. (It does, however, commit the cardinal sin of using terrible fonts.) Whereas I left Code:Breaker begrudgingly wanting to know how the next few minutes would play out, I walked away from K wanting to know everything. How is Shiro connected to the colorless king? Why are the two factions fighting, who controls them, what are their goals? And what’s with those huge damn swords? The visuals are absolutely stunning, particularly the scenes of Homura member Misaki Yata skateboarding and beating people with a baseball bat. The movements feel natural, the color scheme is anything but cookie-cutter, and techniques like the fish-eye lens had me wishing I could make an AMV out of this show right now. And in keeping with a theme of sorts, this show reminded me – at least in places – of fantastic shows like Durarara!!, A Certain Magical Index, and Code Geass (the last may only be because of the Sword of Damocles reference). If K can keep pace with pedigrees like that, it should prove to be an interesting ride!
Verdict: It takes a lot to make me forgive terrible typography, but K has overcome! Count me in!
Blast of Tempest
Plot: Mahiro Fuwa’s life has been turned upside down: his girlfriend has been murdered in an apparent break-in gone wrong, and her brother – Mahiro’s best friend, Yoshino Takigawa – has disappeared after swearing revenge on her killer. Then, a woman assaults Mahiro at gunpoint at his girlfriend’s grave, demanding he tell her everything he knows about those events. Unable to meet her demands, Mahiro expects to be shot and killed, but who should come rushing to his aid other than Yoshino? But Yoshino has a few new tricks up his sleeve. Magic, to be precise, which he claims he gained from a sorceress stuck on a deserted island, one who has offered to help locate his sister’s killer if Yoshino can help her regain her place as the strongest sorceress in the Kusaribe family. But dark forces are afoot, ones who wish nothing more than to see the sorceress dead and Yoshino’s hopes of revenge crushed into dust.
Review: Why are there so many good action/mysteries this year? It’s like we had season after season of moe chaff and now all of a sudden, it’s “Make the Madcap Happy!” time. But I get ahead of myself. Blast of Tempest is another show that comes out of the gate with a promising hook. Its animation isn’t as strong as that of K, and its atmosphere isn’t quite as menacing as Shin Sekai Yori’s, but it’s got an interesting trio of main characters to make up the difference. I’m particularly interested in Aika Takigawa, who holds such strong sway over the two main protagonists even after her death, and she appears to have had some interesting depths. Sorceress Hakaze Kusaribe isn’t too shabby either, nor dangerous Evangeline Yamamoto. Maybe this’ll be my show full of strong female figures? Blast of Tempest definitely looks like more of a “sure thing” than K, which has so many questions and variables up in the air that it would be easy to drop them all. But there’s nothing wrong with a little safe fun now and then.
Verdict: I feel like I’m losing my edge, recommending so many shows this season. But I guess I shouldn’t complain that they’re all so fascinating. More Blast of Tempest, please!
Plot: Ryouta Sakamoto is a 22-year-old unemployed gamer who has managed to achieve the worldwide #10 rank in his favorite game, BTOOOM! In fact, he’s allowed the game to so dominate his life that his relationship with his mother has deteriorated and all but shattered, and his repeated attempts to score at job at the company that makes BTOOOM! have left him with nothing to show for his efforts. His frustration is palpable, but it all vanishes in the blink of an eye when he wakes up not in his comfortable bed, but in a humid jungle dangling from a parachute. Things go from bad to worse when he’s approached by a fellow castaway, one who immediately attacks him with bombs straight out of BTOOOM! Stranded on an island he knows nothing about with strangers trying to kill him at every turn, Ryouta must find a way to survive in a world where he once felt in absolute control.
Review: Can we all just agree that this anime has a really stupid name? Yes? Okay. That having been said, BTOOOM! is like Sword Art Online meets The Hunger Games / Battle Royale. It’s one of those credulity-stretching ideas that I’m willing to overlook only so long as there’s something else to shore it up. SAO had its characters. BTOOOM!, I’m guessing, is going to go for the violence and sexuality, a la Gantz. So long as it follows that route earnestly and doesn’t try to go halfway, I can see BTOOOM! working out nicely as a bit of dark-tinged entertainment. Other than that, there’s not really a whole ton in its favor or working against it. It features perfectly serviceable animation and a standard soundtrack. Nothing to write home about but nothing to scoff at, either. I was honestly expecting to dislike it from what little information I had gathered, but it managed to assuage quite a few of my fears.
Verdict: The ball’s in your court, BTOOOM!. Are you going to go big or go home? I’ll have to wait and see.
Plot: In the future, a person’s psychological state and propensity towards crime – their Crime Coefficient – can be measured in the blink of an eye. Get too stressed out, indulge in one too many dark fantasies, and you might just be labeled a latent – or potential – criminal. In such instances, the Criminal Investigation Division is dispatched to arrest or kill the offender. When cases are particularly difficult, the CID will call on a group known as the Enforcers, latent criminals who work for the CID for their own reasons. New CID recruit Akane Tsunemori is assigned her first mission alongside a group of Enforcers. But what will she – and her companions – do when the actions of one criminal begin to push his innocent victims over the edge of the Crime Coefficient?
Review: If BTOOOM! is Hunger Games meets Sword Art Online, then then Psycho-Pass is Blade Runner meets Minority Report, and I’m exceptionally glad it dodged the science-fiction pitfall of trying to explain every little detail of the world in the first few minutes. Instead, we’re allowed to pick up bits and pieces as we go, making the first episode much more tense and immediate. The gore I was expecting in BTOOOM! must have migrated here, instead, where exploding bodies and flying viscera are animated almost lovingly. I haven’t seen enough of any of the characters to get much of a feel for them, yet, so I can’t speak much towards originality on that front. I’d have been more impressed with this first episode if it wasn’t so similar structurally to that of K, but both were good so I really shouldn’t complain. Ultimately, it feels like Psycho-Pass is going to have to focus very intensely on its premise and science fiction roots. Here’s one series where too much filler and too much light-heartedness would be a death sentence.
Verdict: I’m legitimately running out of nice things to say about the shows this season. I’m going to be a very busy little anime fan in the coming months!
Ixion Saga DT
Plot: Kon Hokaze is a virgin gamer who spends all his free time hooked up to his computer playing fantasy videogames. He’s minding his business one day, getting his rear end kicked by a powerful dragon, when he’s approached by a cute girl who asks for his help “in the real world.” Instead of setting up a place to meet, however, she transports Kon into a fantasy world where he just so happens to save a Princess and her servants by falling on top of their attacker! But the Princess is on an important mission and blah blah blah I seriously got bored halfway through and stopped caring. Oh, and the villain’s name is Erecpyle Dukakis. I am not even kidding you.
Review: Ah, here’s the soulless chaff of the season. Ixion Saga DT isn’t a terrible show, per se, but there’s absolutely nothing good about it either. The setting’s been done a thousand times, the characters are shallow imitations of ones that have come before, and the animation is choppy and downright cheap-looking compared to so many of the beautiful, technically proficient shows this season. I rarely laughed at any of the copious jokes, and when I did, it was usually at the expense of the characters (like when Kon discovers that the beautiful maid is really a man! Haha, isn’t that funny and not at all an old, driven-into-the-ground cliché? Haha!) I suppose, at the very least, you could enjoy this show if you A) didn’t watch a ton of anime and therefore didn’t have much to compare it too, or B) you’re still young and impressionable enough to find jokes about virgin gamers funny. Let me just note out of fairness that I wrote this entire review halfway through the episode. The second half did not change my mind.
Verdict: Well, I knew there was going to be at least one terrible show this season… Bye bye, Ixion Saga DT. You will not be missed.
Well, I didn’t mean to end the day on such a negative note, but that’s luck for you, I suppose. I’m just glad I had four awesome shows to erase the bad taste that Ixion Saga DT left in my mouth. Ick.
Only 5 (or possibly 6) more shows to go this season! Will we finish strong, or will I have to endure more crap in my quest for anime glory?