The spring anime season started today, so I decided to do a first impressions blog again.
Dog Days - dropped
Seven Arcs is a studio that took the anime world by a storm with its release of Magial Girl Lyrical Nanoha in 2004. So when I found out that they would be producing another magical girl/fantasy franchise, I was naturally excited. Upon reading the synopsis, I expected a cross between Nanoha and Zero no Tsukaima. What I may have missed in the synopsis I read was the comparison to Infinite Stratos and possibly to the Star Trek episode Bread and Circuses. You may ask why, but about halfway through the first episode it becomes painfully obvious.
The plot is pretty much like Zero no Tsukaima, except at higher stakes. The hero from the human world must be summoned or a war between two countries we know nothing about will be lost by the obviously "good" side. We're introduced to the hero, a British exchange student who's a good athlete and rather arrogant about this fact, enjoying showing off whenever he can. He's summoned into the parallel universe (likely saving him from injury as he would have intentionally jumped at least 20 feet onto solid concrete had the portal not opened up beneath him at that moment) by a nation of dog people (cuter than it sounds), and quickly asked to help in their war. He soon discovers that this "war" is akin to an athletics contest, or some freaky Japanese game show. In short, a sport. After agreeing to fight, the first episode ends with flashes of the protagonist in his new outfit (which doesn't seem to compensate for his scrawniness, seriously, if you're going to summon a hero from the human world, you should summon Arnold Schwarzenegger or Chuck Norris, not these scrawny schoolboys).
Perhaps I've lost my ability to watch silly anime anymore, but being a man pressed for time, I don't think I'll be following this closely if it doesn't grow up really quickly. I can see a couple of places the plot could go to achieve this, but even if it did try to become serious,it's not like Star Trek and other science fiction authors haven't dabbled in the same thing.
Projected rating: 2.5/5
Probability of finishing: Low
P.A. Works is establishing itself as one of the elite anime studios in my view. They followed last year's smashing hit of Angel Beats with another outstanding overall display of animation, voice acting, and direction. Hanasaku Iroha is about a girl's life that spirals out of her control. Her mother abandons her to her estranged grandmother who runs a baths house, where she is forced to work amongst hostility and little mercy. While the protagonist keeps a sunny demeanor, she is soon faced with the challenges of reality that directly oppose her idealistic view of the world.
I'm sure this will be branded as another "forced drama" work by trolls and haters. If it be forced drama, then call me a lover of forced drama (anyone who has seen my favorites list knows this already). Perhaps this work does just bring many succesful elements of different genres together to make something "guaranteed to be popular" but in the end, the work is interesting, and therefore entertaining. The characters are excellent; I've already grown attached to many of them, in particular the progtagonist. While I have an idea of the direction in which the story will flow, there are still many possibilities, and hopefully the plot will take some unexpected turns. And just look at that artwork! I have very high expectations for this series, and I hope that it will at least come close to meeting them.
Projected Rating: 4.5/5
Probability of finishing: Very High
While P.A. Works is making Hanasaku Iroha in celebration of its 10th anniversary, four year old studio WHITE FOX is hot off the creation of Katanagari with a new series known as Steins;Gate. It would be quite difficult to give a good summary of this anime based upon one episode, but in short, it involves a mad scientist protagonist, mysterious happenings, possible conspiracies, and a lot of screwing with one's mind.
There are two absolutely inevitable comparisons that I will make once with this anime now, and hopefully never again until I review it. Firstly, the blending of technology and the mind lends itself to a comparison with Serial Experiments Lain, which is probably unfair as in my mind, Lain will never be topped in terms of a pure psychological thriller. Secondly, the anime's setting and characters remind one of Welcome to the NHK and its portrayal of the pathetic nature of obsession, whether it be with otaku culture or anything else. The animation also reminds one of NHK with its dark tones and attempts to keep the characters real rather than exagerated and cartoony (in appearance anyway). If you're a fan of that kind of mindscrewy anime, I'd suggest at least checking this one out. I hope to not abandon this one like I did to Fractale last season.
Also, to have an excuse to post screenshots and demonstrate the art, I will make two flippant comments.
Projected Rating: 4/5
Probability of finishing: High
Kyoto Animation is among my favorite animation studios. They were the ones who adapted a visual novel into my favorite anime of all time along with various other projects I've enjoyed over the time I've watched anime. Coming off the success of their cash cow franchise K-on, Kyoto ani adapts a 4 panel manga called Nichijou, which seems to fall in the vein of many of these other slice of life sketch comedies. This one, however, misses the mark I expected from a studio with so much commercial success.
Nichijou focuses around the lives of various random school life girls. At this point, the characters don't necessarily function as a unit, as there are multiple "plots" in each episode. There's one thread of sketches that centers around a group of ordinary school girls, and other focusing on a loli professor and her klutzy robot (who oddly seems very familiar...) I'll cut to the chase. The biggest problem this anime has is that everything is overdone. It's as if the writers feel the need to force every joke, the voice actors must overact every line, and the animators have to exagerate every visual gag. This, unless done properly (*ahem*) just comes off as trying way too hard. The comedy should be disolved in the blood of the series, not farted out at regular intervals. The anime gave me a few good laughs, but it lacks the charm of many other sketch comedy series, and in a genre that seems to grow each season, this intangible charm becomes more and more important. The viewers are to have an emotional investment in likable characters (*ahem*), who not exist solely so that the viewers laugh at them mercilessly. That's how I view comedy anyway.
Projected Rating: 3/5
Probability of finishing: Medium
The World God Only Knows II
Manglobe is primarily known for one anime, the cult hit Samurai Champloo. Last fall season they released an adaptation of the popular manga, Kami nomi zo Shiru Sekai, a.k.a. The World God Only Knows, or Kaminomi for short. It was fairly well received as it played off the various stereotypes that occur in generic harem anime, and the work attempted to put a twist on these archetypes as the protagonist tried to win their hearts.
This season picked up where the last one left off, continuing with the arc style storytelling that was enjoyable in the first season. The girl in the episode wasn't the best, but overall, I found that the series still carried the same charm as last season. The wacky variance in animation, the pretentious attitude of Keima, and the odd situations that surround our protagonist had me laughing with a fresh sense of the franchise. Hopefully this time around the season won't have as much useless filler and the anime can simply focus on the arcs that make the show so entertaining. However, I won't hold my breath.
Projected rating: 3.5/5
Probability of finishing: Very high
When I looked up the name "Studio Gokumi" I didn't get much information other than the fact that it had produced an OVA about a 16 year old eroge seiyuu. However, I took up this recommendation from the user Shatnershaman who called it "K-on with more yuri." Since he seemed rather emphatic about my watching it, I decided I may as well check it out.
After the first episode, I found Shatnershaman's description to be almost too accurate. My entire impessions can be sumarried in a single forumla.
Did you follow all of that? Well, in short, the whole anime felt quite borrowed (and not in a good way). It has yet to develop an identity for itself and rather takes the attitude of "This is a permutation we haven't tried; let's see if it makes money." I hope that there will be something beyond that. There are only so many character oriented slice of life shows I can take, and it all comes down to the characters in the end. If they don't leave their platforms of derivitiveness or introduce some fresh element, the show will get old pretty quickly.
Projected rating: 3/5
Probability of finishing: Medium
Tiger & Bunny
Sunrise is one of the most prominent studios in anime production. This studio has produced hits such as Cowboy BeBop, Outlaw Star, and Code Geass. This season's work seems to be similar to their other works, focusing on action displayed in a slightly off beat art form. Tiger & Bunny, from the first episode, appears to be just that.
Tiger & Bunny is set in a city of the future not too unlike the generic Gotham city of American comics, where villains and superheroes are part of the everyday lives of citizens. Although this anime takes this familiarity with superheroes to a new extreme. Not only does the public reconize and support superheroes, heroism has become a profession with corporate sponsorships and competitions with heavy media coverage. Our protagonist is a strength based hero who seems to still hold the ideal of saving people while not particularly enjoying the commercialism of his profession. He falls behind the newer, younger, flashier heroes and appears to be nearing the end of his career. During one particularly dangerous incident, he is rescued by a younger counterpart who shares the same specialization in strength. By the end of the episode, he discovers that this young hero will be his new partner in fighting crime.
Japan seems to have become obessed with the superhero genre lately so I guess it's natural to see a superhero anime for this season. I'm glad to see that this anime has it's own incarnation of the genre; the premise alone makes the show quite interesting. Add in the already fairly well developed protagonist, and you've got a recepie for sucess. The product placement and advertising are a bit distracting, and the animation, particularly the CGI integration, leaves a bit to be desired. Sitll, I think this anime will be entertaining like Sunrise's other works.
Projected rating: 4/5
Probability of finishing: High