Oh Noitamina, fashionably late as usual I see.
Noitamina is a late-night timeslot, started in 2005, that dedicated itself to providing anime that aimed at a different audience to the young adult male that most anime catered to. What this generally transpired in is a bunch of josei anime, aimed at young adult women, in the vein of Honey and Clover or Nodame Cantabile. It also gained a reputation for producing high-quality anime, such as Eden of the East, Mononoke and Moyashimon. There were still a few stumbles, such as Library Wars, but the quality generally remained high. However sales weren’t really matching expectations, and combined with a drop in ratings in 2010 forced the producers at Noitamina to change their focus. Young adult male audiences were no longer taboo, and up popped anime like Fractale, Ano Hana, Guilty Crown and Black Rock Shooter. While it’s important to remember Noitamina don’t make anime, they do provide a place for josei anime that really didn’t exist beforehand, while stuff like Black Rock Shooter would have been made anyway. This was combined with two poorly received more-traditionally Noitamina-esque anime in C and No.6 to bring about a shocking drop in quality. It probably wouldn’t have been quite as noticeable if these anime were just disappointingly boring, but the high ambitions and grand concepts from the likes of Fractale and Guilty Crown caused their eventual collapses to be all the more dramatic.
Now that we’re all caught up on Noitamina history, let’s talk about what they’ve got out now.
The reason I’m putting these two in the same post, aside from the whole Noitamina thing, is their premises are remarkably similar. A perpetually school transferring highschool boy with a debilitating anxiety problem moves to a new school where he strikes an unlikely bromance heavy relationship with a charismatic yet shunned class outcast over a mutually shared hobby.It’s kind of fascinating to see two wildly contrasting takes on the same story. Shinichiro Watanabe, the assured old hand, definitely has a firmer and more confident grasp on directing in Apollon. It has a very laid back approach to depicting its story, but every scene is very carefully crafted and deliberately placed.
Meanwhile Kenji Nakamura is the hyperactive, gifted yet unpolished new kid on the block. Tsuritama has nowhere near the same fidelity in directing as Apollon does, but it’s eccentricity and occasional sparks of brilliance make it a hugely entertaining piece anyway. It’s like the old captain midfield enforcer in football (sorry Americans, I mean saaawwcuuurr) playing against the young pretender. For the most part the older and more experienced player will boss the match, but there will be that one moment where the younger guy flicks the ball between the legs of the older guy, leaving him rooted to the spot with a perplexed look on his face.
For a Watanabe/Kanno anime, there was a rather surprising lack of BGM in Apollon. I did get a huge kick when I recognised the jazz song they played on the piano. I don’t really follow music trends a whole bunch, but I do like my jazz and blues, which I guess paints my biases for Apollon pretty clearly. Another part where my personal biases come in is I’ve always liked delinquent characters, and Sentarou is the absolute definition of that character archetype. Not a bad thing at all. Yuno from Future Diary may be the absolute stereotypical definition of the yandere, but in going all out with that character archetype, she defines the archetype rather than negatively compared to others. Sentarou is that for delinquent characters. Doesn’t go to class, has a laid back personality where he doesn’t give a shit what other people think, complete ignorance of social boundaries, so on and so forth. I guess I have more of an affinity for these sorts of characters because I fit that mold as a child more than the wimpy kid mold, so I like any show that shows them with the heart of gold.
Tsuritama’s social outcast character falls into the screwball character mold. Complete nutcase with even less of a nose for social boundaries. To be honest though, the character who caught my attention more was the stoic indian dude who was on a scouting operation/loving date with a duck. Heck, the other two characters in this show also made more of an impression with their inner monologue back and forths. It’s a clever little narrative trick. We haven’t a clue what the self-proclaimed alien is thinking, but we hear every single thought the two guys with him have. It’s like the Literature Girl scene from Nichibros (I can’t help it, I have a mental problem where I have to compare every anime to that show), where a scene would appear one way without a running commentary turns out very different with it.
Visual style in Tsuritama is rather reminiscent of the watercolour look of pre-opening segments in Arakawa except without the water, if that makes any sense. It’s not particularly polished, but it lends itself extremely well to the overall feel of the anime. Eccentric and lots of that old whimsy stuff floating around. At the very least, it works well with the visual metaphors the show throws around a lot. Apollon has a much more standard look to it, which is fitting giving its more down to earth storytelling style, but what there is of it is polished to a shine. A bit too much shine at times, characters have this weird glow to them, especially when they’re being all bromance-y. But when they get down to doing some moving, its pretty astounding the level of detail goes into these things. The cymbal noises actually match with the animation of the character hitting the cymbal! Like, holy shit, anime doesn’t do that!
OK, that stuff I’m getting excited about in Apollon don’t sound particularly thrilling. It’s true there’s more in Tsuritama that makes in an easier sell. It has an indian on a date with a duck. It has a water pistol that erases memories. But it also has boring parts too. The entire opening segment with the main character moving houses and walking through the town were rather dull. Perhaps it was to establish a sense of place, but the rest of the show did that just fine anyway. Apollon has that sort of quiet approval of something that is absolutely perfectly executed. The humour in particular hits the mark far more than a show with its mentality has any right to. Perfect comic timing, a dry deliverly and actually funny jokes (please take notes Polar Bear Cafe). Between the two, I definitely prefer Apollon, but Tsuritama is pretty awesome in its own eccentric way. Fancy that, a Watanabe anime that’s really good and a Kenji Nakamura anime that’s really weird. Who’da thunk it.