::Note:: I will be going on a brief hiatus until the 5th May because of the usual deadline scramble. In the meantime, you can listen to me and my smexy Irish accent on the Bakacast
Tokyopop closed this month. Actually they didn’t, they simply closed their American base of operations, which still leaves their European bases of operation alive and well. Not that you’d know that from reading ANN. Besides, most of the news from this month is still fallout from the earthquake and the country gradually recovering from that.
A quick note, since there’s a lot of anime in this monthly roundup: I won’t be covering TV anime I only watched one episode of (Moshidora, Lotte’s Toy, etc). I also won’t cover OVA’s that I only watched 1 episode of that are less than 10 minutes long. There’s still 22 anime in this monthly roundup anyway.
A- Madoka Magica
Episode 11 was everything that was good about Madoka, simple as. The final episode, perhaps less so. Certainly by Madoka standards, the pacing was totally off, with the naked floating through space scene dragging out for far longer than it needed to do. Still, that was all overshadowed by the fact it produced an ending to fit the story. Minor problems like pacing seem so insignificant compared to the fact it produced an ending that fit the series. Bravo Madoka Magica. It will be interesting to see what your popularity does for the future direction of anime. Best case scenario is more original anime with focus on plot. Worst case scenario is more cute girls with no personalities.
SteinssemicolonGate is simply a very solid show. It knows what it’s doing and goes about its business in a composed fashion. It gives us entertaining characters and reveals its mystery slowly but with enough weight behind it to permanently keep our interest. It may be nothing to get overly excited about and it’s not going to blow the world apart, but it feels like a strangely long time since I’ve had an anime I can stick up in the ‘Solid B Rating Zone’ that wasn’t a movie or OVA, so I feel this is really worth celebrating. That is, providing it doesn’t all fall apart when they reveal their mystery.
B You are Umasou
I feel lame for falling for this as badly as I did. But come on guys, Umasou is the cutest little enthusiastic dinosaur ever! You are Umasou is a kids movie, but one with such heart behind it that I couldn’t help fall for it. Not that it’s without its problems. The animation is certainly nowhere near the standard of most of these kids movies, certainly not when you compare it to Welcome to the Space Show or whatever the latest Ghibli offering is. Plus the story does sorta forget about Umasou himself in the final scenes. But it has far more great moments in it. Heart remembering his roots in raising Umasou. The ‘bouncing on your head’ training montage. The race scene which had me tearing up like the massive baby I am (except I didn’t cry because I am an evil man with a heart of stone). I loved this movie, I really did.
B Fireball Charming
Episodes 1-3 + The Making of…
Have I fanboy’d enough over Fireball yet? Do you not yet know how much I love these shorts? If anything, the fact I only gave it a B would be the most surprising aspect to most of you. Mainly because, at only 2 minutes an episode, there’s a limit on how good Fireball can possibly be. But it manages to be as good as a series of shorts, each at only 2 episodes long, can be. Also, oh boy did the animation budget ever take a leap this season. Plus, I was totally won over to Drossel’s new design when she revealed the wheels in episode 2. Also, did you see the ‘Making of Fireball‘? Just watch it man, it’s so awesome in so many ways!
B Blue Exorcist
This score is a bit of a hyped up one based on the second episode, because the first one wasn’t all that special. However, after several seasons of getting burned on shounen anime, for this to come up with such a thrilling episode was like a bright light shining out of the heavens, proclaiming “OK fine, we’ll try rip off FMA again since that’s the only shounen you seem to like Scamp“. I welcome this with open arms. FMA is what I what from my shounens. Comedy shounens descends into yelling, light hearted shounens are too dumb to appreciate and so much of the other stuff trips over itself with remarkable consistency. Imagine a proper shounen anime that’s intelligent with good animation and decent writing that I can actually enjoy again. Please deliver on the promise of that second episode Blue Exorcist.
Dancing deers. Sniggering deers. Hoards of deers taking down 2 giant Buddha robots piloted by men with massive afros wearing shiny dicky bows. Whats not to like! This, in my mind, is what anime is. That sort of mad, imaginative plot points surrounding what is, at heart, a very simple romance story. You’re looking at the guy who got into anime via Love Hina, and whose favourite anime of 2010 was Arakawa Under the Bridge. It was only 25 minutes long though, and was certainly not without its problems. Plus there’s also the elephant in the room: The CGI. Every single character was done entirely in CGI, and anime still hasn’t cracked it yet. The problem is the facial features look painted on rather than part of the body. But hey, I’m willing to forgive them when they make something like Koisento.
B- Young Animator Training Project
Oji-san no Lamp, Kizuna Ichigeki, Bannō Yasai Ninninman, Tansu Warashi
Just pretend I didn’t write about Oji-san no Lamp last month and group them all together here. The Young Animator Training Project was quite entertaining to watch. It felt like one of those old compilation sets, like Genius Party or Neo Tokyo. The problem was that, as it was mainly a training project, it didn’t really exist to showcase extremely talented individuals. It was made to give experience to future animators. That meant there didn’t feel like there was a single absolute stand out piece in there. I know a lot of people love Oji-san no Lamp, and indeed it was pretty good, but it was also a bit unremarkable. My personal favourite was Kizuna Ichigeki because it was the only one that felt like it was actually showcasing animation talent, as well as being a whole heap of fun. Kizuna Ichigeki > Oji-san no Lamp > Banno Yasai Ninninman > Tansu Warashi. I’d be interested in hearing other folks ratings of the 4 though.
B- [C] The Money of Soul and Possibility Control
Well it’s not the world beater I was hoping it would be, but [C] has still been an entertaining show. The plot is high concept and has the potential to collapse around itself in its own self-importance, but is held together incredibly well by the sheer strength of the writing. The dialogue in this show is clever, the characters all have clear personalities while not over-exaggeration them (except in the obvious case of Masakaki, where the over-exaggeration is entirely the point) and the concept alone is bizarre and intriguing enough to keep the show fascinating even during the exposition dumps. Honestly, I would have otherwise given this a B, but the derpy CGI really does look stupid.
B- Denpa Onna
No show from the spring season (therefore discounting Madoka) reaches the highs in quality that Denpa Onna can. Sometimes it can be so incredibly cutting, clever and hover the right side of utter brilliance when it wants to. Thing is, there’s also a lot to dislike too. Do you have to rotate through the harem? Or have these massive extended scenes of dialogue that lead to nothing? It’s clear Shaft are going for the same thing they had going with Bakemonogatari with a touch of Arakawa to it, and it’s largely succeeding. It’s nowhere near as funny as Arakawa, nor is the dialogue quite at Bakemonogatari levels (although it’s closer in quality than you’d think). Also, the (overage) girls in Bakemonogatari are hot. Not so big on the girls in Denpa Onna. Yeah sorry, but I don’t get turned on by my aunt.
B- Ano Hana
After the first episode of Ano Hana, I was incredibly unenthusiastic. The show seemed to be trying to get us to feel sad about these characters without letting us to get to know the characters in the first place. You will feel sad for this person because sad things are happening to him. But hey, I’ve been proven wrong. The show has decided to take a more upbeat track, letting us get to know the characters, massively helped by introducing a new character who is actually fun to watch. Neither does it try to shove anything down our throats by giving us dramatic moments, like effing Toradora did. The writing is consistently good between episodes and the characters are growing on me. Well how about that eh? Maybe I’ll end up liking this show after all.
C+ Hanasaku Iroha
Well, so much for the good writing of the first two episodes. Guess it was too much for PA Works to handle keeping such consistently good writing. I still enjoyed episode 3, even if the writing went to pot, and I could have forgiven it as a once off, but the 4th episode wasn’t particularly good either and didn’t have the mitigating factor of having Ohana in bondage gear. Oh well, it’s still a fun show, even if comparing it to classical literature is a bit of a joke now.
C+ Kaiji Season 2
Zawa zawa zawa zawa zawa zawa zawa zawa zawa zawa zawa zawa zawa…I better actually say something about the episodes though, shouldn’t I? What is there to say though? It’s still Kaiji. There’s still people just off screen whispering zawa zawa zawa into the microphones. Kaiji’s nose is still impossibly long and he still cries at every available opportunity. They still spend almost an entire episode explaining the rules of the game, despite the fact the rules are rather simple and it could have easily taken a quarter of that time. The fact that a guy is cheating is still as incredibly obvious as ever, and yet Kaiji still doesn’t seem to grasp that that is the case. And yet I’ll still put myself through this every week. Because it wouldn’t be Kaiji without all those things.
C+ Tiger and Bunny
From a strong first episode, Tiger and Bunny has sort of flailed around since then. It’s still kind of fun, but the instant appeal of the premise has worn off and it hasn’t been replaced by anything I can latch onto as of yet. Tiger is a cool character, but it’s hard to develop the buddy cop routine they’re trying to do when Barnaby has such a non-existent personality. There’s potential, but since the show relies on their personalities bouncing off each other, it hampers the entire anime when Bunny can’t pull that off. Also the cheese can be overbearing without being believable nor that fun. It’s a decent show, but not the insta-hit some people seemed to think it was going to be at the start of the season.
Supernatural can be incredibly frustrating at times. Each episode seemed to be going through this pattern of Dean suggesting they do something cool followed by Sam whining saying they had to find/listen to Dad. Then there would be the token awful romantic couple scene of the episode, which every single time made me want to punch the writer for producing such crap. Then the series would somehow pull a twist that made me believe in the show all over again. A scene with Sam and Dean made me re-believe in their great chemistry and how their personalities bounce off each other, and I’m back on the Supernatural train again. It’s not a particularly good show, but it has enough moments to keep me going. Plus there’s only 4 episodes left. I want to see this out to the end.
C Deadman Wonderland
Sorry Deadman Wonderland, but I will never, ever be able to take you seriously. You’re simply too stupid, with a scenario concocted by someone with the IQ of the typical Hanazawa Kana-voiced character. That doesn’t mean I can’t still enjoy watching you though. You’re camp enough to be entertainingly stupid, which just enough deliberate campness to you that I don’t feel like tossing you into the “So Bad It’s Good” pile. You nail the atmosphere and are quite pretty to look at too, when you’ve not got dark patches covering dismembering. You’re not very good, but you’re the kind of ‘not good’ I can get behind.
The most annoying thing about Nichijou is that, when it manages to be funny, it’s of the proper laugh out loud variety. I loved the hyper exaggerated chase sequence after the dirty drawing. I love the short skipping rope gags. I love the idea of Sasahara’s character and his sheer fanciness. But why oh why do you have to drag out your jokes so much. And they’re often jokes that aren’t even funny. Mai is the worst, I simply don’t find her deadpan stuff funny, and they drag those jokes out the most. Actually no, worse is when they decide to have an extended sequence of Nano and the Professor eating cake, for no reason other than be cute. Why these damn extending cake eating scenes Japan? Cake is the cancer that is killing the anime industry.
C- Morita-san wa Makuchi
This was a short OVA about a girl who never says anything, simply leaving everyone else to blabber away to themselves. At least, that’s what it says on the tin. What it’s really about is a bunch of girls being insufferably nice to each other and making the occasional implied-yuri advance. Which generally I would stab my eyes out while watching, but this approached it in such a laid-back manner that it was kinda funny. Not that I’d watch anymore of it, but a C- for an OVA from this genre is a massive achievement in of itself.
D+ Ore no Imouto: True Route OVA
This episode reminded me that, even without Kirino, Ore no Imouto still has plenty of things I didn’t like about it. How it would over-react during scenes that might have otherwise been effective. How they would have long, heartfelt speeches about how great their perverted fantasies are, which I could get behind if what they were saying didn’t end in simply “but I just love this stuff” without giving a decent reason why they like it. Where is the Kuroneko elitist mode of thinking when you need it? The one that makes an effort to explain why they like what they like? For shame because, in the grand world of anime, the Kirino route of thought seems to win out over the Kuroneko route, and Ore no Imouto is a constant reminder that that is the case.
D Tea for Universe, Tea for Life
This would be a hopelessly boring anime if it wasn’t so baffling. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. It’s so po-faced and serious most of the time, but then pulls these bizarre facial expressions alongside people stopping mid-fight to marvel in awe over the handicraft of the sword the other person is holding. Whether it’s comparing his lovers pale supple breast to a rare tea cup or pulling constipated expressions over the simplicity of a housing architecture, I’m never quite sure how much of this I’m supposed to be taking seriously. Bafflement and a good opening song forced me to watch the second episode, but there’s no way I could sit through 39 episodes of this. Plus the opening isn’t that good. It’s just made look good by all the other shitty openings this season.
D- Highschool of the Dead OVA
Well this was just softcore porn. Obviously I should have expected that, but…well, put it this way. In the 3+ years I’ve been watching anime as they came out in Japan, HOTD is the only fanservice-centric one I’ve cared about enough to check out the extra episodes of (well, there was a show called They Are My Noble Masters from a few years back I rather liked, but I’m pretty certain if I watched it again today I’d hate it). Hence my experience with these super-fanservice OVA’s is minimal. But still, even their swimsuits were just unoriginal boring string bikinis. I expected a bit more ingenuity from this. This is the show that had a sword wieling, black thong apron combo wearing, hum-vee riding zombie massacre, along with the infamous bullet time tits. I was hoping for something a bit more original than “they all get high and have sex”.
E+ The Epic of Zetbach
This OVA is baaaaaaaad! But at least it’s bad in a refreshing kind of way. A classic example of “So Bad It’s Good”. The sword defeating people with quadratic equations and the half-life formula was certainly a sight to behold as it chopped down awkward CGI horses. Or how stoic everybody was, no matter what went on around them. Maybe they also realised how obvious all the plot twists were and were long since resigned to being killed by Isaac Newton trapped in a machete.
E- Kawamo wo Suberu Kaze
On the other hand, Kawamo may not be as bad as The Epic of Zetbach, but it’s so lifeless and horrendously boring that it deserves my ire far more than Zetback can muster. At least Zetbach is fun to laugh at in its awfulness. Kawamo is a josei one shot OVA about a women moving back to her hometown and meeting the sweetshop guy with the lovely hands and weirdly shaped head. It was a lot like Makoto Shinkai films in that there was little to no story worth telling with characters that haven’t an ounce of personality to them, yet spend the entire thing commentating on every little aspect of the story. Show, don’t tell! Argh, why do people like this stuff argh!