Fall 2010 Anime Impressions – Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru

After taking the Summer season off, Shaft returns with two shows for the Fall season; the first is a sequel to my top show from Spring, Arakawa Under the Bridge, and the other one is Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru. Going into the season, I felt a little bad for this show because it was getting dealt a tough hand. If Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru was another character-driven series with a mix of comedy and seriousness that seems to be Shaft/Shinbou’s trademark then it would have to directly compete against Nino and the crew of Under the Bridge for it’s placement amongst the successful anime of the season. Very stiff competition indeed. If it wasn’t and was instead a more plot driven show, the possibility of Shaft being Shaft™ sinking Soredemo was high.

-

Rating for episode 13/12 D
Rating for episode 2
8/12 B+
Rating for episode 3
10/12 A
Anticipation Level:
2.5/5 Average

-

The Story

Hotori is your typical slightly spacey high school girl with an overactive imagination and a love of detective novels. She recently started working at a maid café run by an elderly woman who decided to convert her normal café into a maid one. The switch in format hasn’t helped business at the café much but that hasn’t slowed Hotori’s unerring quest to cause mayhem (intentionally and unintentionally). And it follows that hilarity ensues.

-

Fine Print

I didn’t like the first episode of Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru. It wasn’t very funny and I thought the main characters were not the type of characters that one builds a good show around and it felt like Shaft/Shinbou was trying way to much. I knew this was a possible result, every now-and-again Shaft/Shinbou serves up a miss in-between their hits; the last time was Dance in the Vampire Bund and before that it was probably Maria+holic. I hoped this wasn’t the case because when Shaft/Shinbou gets it right, their shows are so uniquely satisfying and we always need another one. Instead, I hoped Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru was an example of a Shaft/Shinbou series that as a whole turn out very good but the first episode wasn’t so hot; Natsu no Arashi was a great example of this.

So I watched the second episode (hoping for the best) and it was like a switch was flipped; it still wasn’t perfect but it suddenly was a much more enjoyable show. The pacing picked up and felt more right. The first episode spent entirely too much time on “Hotori doesn’t know how to be a maid” and then “Tatsuno is a little too obsessed with maids.” Contrast that to the second episode where we learn of Hotori’s home life (and why she’s willing to spend so much time at the maid café), why she took a job working in a maid café when she doesn’t particularly like playing the maid stereotype, her irrational crush on her homeroom/math teacher, and several scenes of Hatori acting like herself – bothering the police officer that patrols the shopping district first for not having a license to ride a scooter and then by putting up unauthorized advertising for the maid café being two such scenes.

The voice actor behind Hotori is Chiaki Omigawa (Maka from Soul Eater, Jun from Natsu no Arashi, and P-Ko from Arakawa Under the Bridge). There are some out there that don’t much like her voice work, which I can understand since her voice is so distinctive. It doesn’t allow much of a middle ground. I, however, have liked her vocal work so far but, after episode 1, I wasn’t sure she was right for the part. Or should I say that she was too perfect for the role. Every time she whined her “Waaahh!” at another injustice that her character had to endure, I could feel my jaw clench. She was perfect and I didn’t think I could take it (blame many years of being an older brother and having to listen to my many younger sisters reacting and sounding like Hotori before they matured). I wondered why they couldn’t have gotten someone a little less perfect, a little easier on the ears.

Turns out I just needed to be patient and let the show hit it’s stride and allow Hotori her full range of emotions and characteristics for the decision to have Chiaki Omigawa voice Hotori to look like a good idea. Which it did (hitting it’s stride) starting in the second episode when it began to move past it’s introductions and into the meat of the series i.e. a slice-of-comedy-life type series about a girl who likes to solve mysteries and the third episode continued this trend by introducing the final main character (if the OP/ED is to be believed) and Hotori solving her first mystery.

Speaking of mystery solving, watching Hotori solve the mystery of the strange paintings in episode 3 was quite the experience. I wouldn’t go so far to say she’s an idiot savant but the difference between how well she solved the mystery and her normal grip on reality was very pronounced. I hope every episode features at least one mystery that Hotori solves and if the Harlem Globetrotters show up it would just be icing on the cake. :)

Since this is a Shaft series, it’s important to mention at what level of Shaft being Shaft™ does Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru have since different people have different levels of tolerance to SbS™. Fortunately (or unfortunately) there’s been a relatively low level of SbS™ so far. There’s been a few background scenes that are reminiscent of Bakemonogatari and a few other touches like Hotori kicking the “camera” while sitting at her desk in episode 2 and we got the required “I’m in despair!” scene in episode 3 but overall the effect of SbS™ has been rather tame. Instead, the animators at Shaft seem to spending more time and effort on increasing the raw animation quality of the show. I’ve seen it theorized that the great DVD/Blu-Ray numbers to Bakemonogatari has given Shaft a welcome infusion of money and I definitely think that’s evident in both this anime and Under the Bridge. For example, the last time I saw falling snow done as well as I saw in episode 3 was back when KyoAni did Kanon several years ago.

In conclusion, at first glance Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru looked liked it was flop but that possibility seems to have been averted if episodes 2 and 3 are indicative of the rest of the series. Instead, it seems set to take it’s place amongst Shaft/Shinbou’s trademark character-driven, slice-of-life/comedy/insightful shows that are such a treat to watch. If it emphasizes the mystery part of the premise then it will even be able to separate itself from Under the Bridge (which has been way better then I thought possible) and carve it’s own niche out.

I’ve been enjoying  Hotori’s facial expressions and eyes so far.

Some of the other cast members.

Various observations about the animation.

The falling rain was done very nicely here

 

and here.

 

Shaft shows that it can do epic leg crossing as well.

 

A picture doesn't do this snow justice.

 

Loved the look of Hotori's little sister here.

 

About these ads

9 thoughts on “Fall 2010 Anime Impressions – Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru”

  1. I’ve been really impressed by this show. The humor has been great. There is just about perfect SbS-quotient. Animation looks great. Extremely enjoyable show.

    Like

  2. Our impressions were quite similar. The first episode was almost a chore to get through.

    Being a Chiaki hater I have to begrudgingly agree with you that she is perfect for the part of this obnoxious girl.

    I really liked the scene where she crashed into the cop on the scooter and the resulting confrontation. As well as her other brushes with the law.

    Like

  3. @Kitsune: Yeah and fourth episode is good as well and thanks, glad you liked.

    @Taka: Thanks for the back-up. Sometimes I get what I think are odd reactions and it’s nice to see that I’m not crazy (at least all the time). :)

    @Joojoobees: Thanks for the comment. I’ve really liked the math teacher.

    Like

  4. I would say people who love anime, if they came from a more normal (Anglo) cultural background, always end up turning eccentric at some point.

    It’s the old story of boy grows up, wants to test himself, and decides to leave the home village to cross the mountains to see what’s out there. 10 years later, he comes back and now he’s weird. To the rest of the village, that is.

    Like

  5. I watched third and fourth episode and liked them :) What other episodes would you recommend? I don’t have time to go through all of them, but I know your recommendations tend to work well for me :)

    Like

  6. @ymarsakar: Like Bilbo Baggins :)

    Or is it the eccentric is already eccentric long before they get introduced to anime and merely recognizes the outlet anime provides for one’s eccentricity? :)

    @Kitsune: I’m honored you’re soliciting my opinion.

    I’d first recommend Arakawa Under the Bridge S.2 since I see no mention that you’re watching it now. I remember you mentioning that you might get to the first season this last spring and I’m guessing you didn’t get to it. I think it’s one of the best Shaft/Shinbou series to date along the lines of a character-driven slice-of-life show like Hidamari Sketch.

    Second, I’d recommend Kuragehime. A very interesting and refreshing cast of characters with Brain’s Base doing a masterful job at adapting this into an anime.

    I think you’d definitely like both of those shows but the next two I’m not as sure, the first of these is Otome Youkai Zakuro. So far it’s focused more on the characters and their relationships then in the whole hunting evil yokai angle which turned some off but I’ve been really liking the characters, animation (by J.C. Staff), and time period that it takes place in.

    The other one is Tantei Opera Milky Holmes. I can’t deny finding this show hilarious week-in and week-out. The humor is partially built around subverting what you expect to see from a show that looks like Milky Holmes and it also seems to delight in being unpredictable.

    Those are the four anime I’d recommend right now to you, hope it helps you.

    Like

  7. The same director that was on Chrome Shelled Regios did (Densetsu no Yusha no Densetsu) Legend of the Legendary Heroes a year later. Both were Light novel original sources.

    So far judging by episode 9, they’ve done a great job combining the dark and light fantasy elements. The combat is still a little non-detail orientated in terms of the mechanics, but since I haven’t read any volumes in the novel, I can’t say for sure that the magic system was a lot more detailed in construction or not.

    By detail in construction, I’m referring to something akin to Brandon Sanderson’s Elantris Glyph magical system or the Mistborn magical system that transforms metal flakes in the body to a particular power, such as pull or push, clairvoyance or clairaudience. The construction was in the fact that only one kind of metal had one power and each metal had its opposite. Yet there were often “secret” or hidden metals with their own powers, which plays a large part in the final plot scene. You can do a lot of fun stuff just by hiding easter eggs and secrets in the combat system as the story unfolds. The story feels more real and more alien when you are forced to accept rules of physics different than what you are familiar with. But if you can just choose to ignore it and pretend it doesn’t impact the plot, because it doesn’t impact the plot, it’s not as immersive.

    I’m getting the impression that the reason why the composition for Chrome Shelled Regios was horrible (for the first 11 episodes) was due mostly to the series composer. The director has a different composer for Densetsu. The one from Chrome had a list of prior achievements that I recognized zero titles from. None of them seemed to have made an impact and it wasn’t particularly long either.

    Chrome had an interesting external/internal martial arts combat system that relied a lot on chi, or kei, combined with some anatomy and science fiction. Since the kei vein is a mutation from pollution, supposedly, which ties all the way back to the fact that people have to live in a domed shell city because the rest of the planet is corrosive to humans.

    The weapon of mass destruction incidents start off in episode 1-3 in Densetsu. So that’s always nice. I had to wait until the second half of Heroic Age to see some planets blow up, in comparison. They pulled off the evil megalomania persona rather well. It’s always hard to match the right personality to a person when they are fighting. A lot of voice tones and body language has to be synched up with the actual combat and fighting. Hard to do that without an actual combat system or an understanding of the system on the part of the cast.

    From the first episode in Dentsu I felt like I got a beginner’s course on how their magic works. I got the sense that there were details left out at times, but that’s just the natural result of compressing a novel amount of text into a tv show. Can’t help it. The visuals really helped convey what an Alpha Stigma was. Big bonus there. Always hard to convey complex concepts using just visual elements.

    Ferris is amazingly beautiful and sharp as a sword. She has a similar feeling to Felli in Chrome, but because Chrome didn’t focus on her relationship with the main character, I didn’t really get the sense that they conveyed what she was like. Ferris, on the other hand, gets a lot of screen time and she’s just fun to watch. Reading the novel descriptions of her, they did her justice on the screen. Chrome was able to get a good visual still screen of Felli when she is using the sakura flakes, but a lot of times when you see her, she is involved in a joke. It’s hard to show her primary personality that way and tie it with the aesthetics.

    In a nutshell, I would say she often had a frail, sad feeling around her. It is more poignant precisely because she looks so delicate. She sees her power not as a gift nor a duty, but as a curse that prevents her from seeking a normal life. And she relates to Layfon initially because Layfon himself also seeks a normal life. Felli is setup like a hidden flower, a time bomb, for the end of Chrome and perhaps for its sequel the Lance Shelled. That’s my assessment. While Nina and Sharrod get initial development in the early and middle parts of the first novel series, Felli has innate power but she doesn’t often see a need to use it. And that doesn’t really change by much in what I have read, with some special exceptions. The author is definitely holding her back for something else in the future.

    Ferris is like Saber in FSN, except Ferris has a bad mouth like Maria in Arakawa and Tomoya in Clannad. More like Maria, less sarcastic\flippant than Tomoya. She’s really fun to watch. The interest level I get from this series is comparable to Heroic Age and Seirei no Moribito on the first half. But I also had the same interest level through every first half episode in Gantz as well. I watch the next episode right after the previous one since I just got to find out what happens next. This story is going to be a lot darker than Heroic Age or Seirei no moribito, although not as dark and depressing as Gantz. I wonder at which episode I will hit the limit and I’m scared to find out.

    I would have been more disturbed by dark stories when I was younger. More extreme banding of emotions. I have a higher tolerance now, but not even I can watch something like Gantz straight through, one episode after another, with no real break inbetween. Even knowing that the director is manipulating your feelings by setting you up so you can fall further, doesn’t make you immune to its effects.

    Like

  8. Oh, thank you for your suggestions! :) That’s a long list! I’ll check out those shows sometime. I didn’t like most of the latest SHAFT work, but we’ll see about that Arakawa. Kuragehime might be interesting too.

    Otome Youkai Zakuro has foxies – I’ll like it :P

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s