And I’m back with the second half of my first impressions post covering the other 11 12 new anime series of the spring season that I’ve watched. Sure, most every other blog has already completed their first impressions weeks ago but with the late start to Hyouka and AKB0048, I’m only fashionably late :) .
Living on the Edge
Sometimes it’s very difficult to accurately decide if an anime should be dropped or not based on the first few episodes and that makes my inner-Chiri (from SZS) come out – I want these anime series to take responsibility for their quality level and properly separate themselves. Luckily for the animators of these series, I live an ocean away from them or I might be inclined to help persuade them to declare their intentions so I wouldn’t have to watch the entire show ;) .
I’ve actually enjoyed Natsuiro Kiseki a fair amount so far, even though it feels like an inferior Hanasaku Iroha because it has one thing truly going for it – a magic wish-granting stone with a sense of humor. And therein lies the problem. If the magic rock continues to grant the wishes in random, interesting and absurd ways then I’ll gladly keep watching; however, the moment this rock loses it’s trolling heart is the moment this anime becomes a chore to watch.
Polar Bear Cafe
Polar Bear Cafe features, shockingly, a polar bear that runs a cafe but that’s just the backdrop for our main character, who is a panda and happens to work part-time at the zoo as a panda. Don’tcha love anime :) . I picked up Polar Bear Cafe more out of curiosity then a desire to see a polar bear run a cafe. I was curious to see if the animators could create a compelling anime once the whole wow-that-cafe-is-run-by-a-polar-bear reaction grew stale and now I’m stuck. Polar Bear Cafe is only marginally funny at times; which would be okay if the characters were interesting but they’re not. The best one of the bunch is the llama played by Daisuke Ono who no one ever pays attention to in the zoo but, sadly, he’s only a minor character. Throw in the animation quality well below average and I think the only real reason I’ll continue watching; until the characters, comedy, and story decide to go one way or the other; is because I like the opening song/animation.
I almost put AKB0048 into the next category of series, which is a better group to belong too, but I have serious reservations about how this anime will unfold. I love the idea of a guerrilla idol group that will infiltrate oppressive regimes so they can give a concert. It’s the right mix of ballsy bravado and absurdity that I love to see in anime but, oftentimes with anime such as this, the creators only tepidly embrace the premise and the anime bogs down in it’s own mediocrity. If the creators push AKB0048’s story and plotting to it’s maximum silly, absurd glory – like the people behind Aquarion EVOL and Phi Brain did – then this will be a fun anime to watch. Will they or not remains to be seen.
Amidst all the quality and not-so-quality anime this season there’s a few series that I’ve enjoyed well beyond what I probably should have. Compare them to the high-quality, excellent series of the season like Sakamichi no Apollon or the new Lupin series and it’s impossible to explain why these series rank so high on my list of series I can’t wait to see the next episode of but I guess that’s why they’re called guilty pleasures.
Rating for episodes 1 to 5 – 9/12 A-
I will not pretend for even a second that Upotte is a quality series or that it will ever get lauded as a great example of the high artistic merit that’s possible in anime but at this point I don’t really care. Upotte has been genuinely entertaining and is, by a long shot, the funniest anime series of this season. It’s first episode even contained my favorite joke of this season and, even though, explaining a joke makes it automatically not funny, I want to share. It was when the main characters decided to film a little introduction for their new teacher and, as it got to Sixteen (an American M16A4), it was said that she speaks with an Osakan accent for no real reason. This reminded me of how the Osakan dialect is oftentimes dubbed into Southern-accented English because both carry a similar connotation by the speakers of the main dialect in each country and I couldn’t stop laughing.
Mysterious Girlfriend X
At it’s core Mysterious Girlfriend X is a fairly typical anime but the addition of said girlfriend having strangely super-powered drool and a significant contrarian’s outlook to life has made this anime a unique experience. Take the drool out and I’m not sure there’s much to distinguish it (for now, the characters still have the room to become interesting characters and if the anime can capitalize on it’s Arakawa Under the Bridge vibe then it won’t necessarily need the drool). Though, the especially perceptive viewers might argue that the characters having noses is the most unique aspect to this anime :) .
Phi Brain: Kami no Puzzle 2
I give up; I can’t do it anymore. I’m sick of trying to hide that I’ve come to really enjoy Phi Brain. I started watching the first season as a lark and was sure that I’d drop it after a few episodes because I saw no chance for success with a shounen series that was about a high school boy that battles a mysterious organization through puzzle solving. I gave Phi Brain a fair shot and I haven’t stopped watching it yet. Sure, it hasn’t lost that – yeah, it’s a really dumb premise – but there’s several genuinely interesting characters and story moves along at a brisk pace and the plot makes intelligent use of the characters and the premise. I ended the first season with a couple gripes but Sunrise must have a mind-reader on staff because they have addressed those exact gripes in the second season. Compared to Hunter x Hunter, Phi Brain has turned out to be the better shounen series.
The Heavy Hitters
They have the money. They have the talent. They have the ambition. And they have left the entire anime fandom all atwitter in their wake as a result.
Eureka Seven Ao
I watched the original Eureka Seven early in my timeline as an anime fan which might have clouded my ability to properly judge it but I found Eureka Seven to be disappointing. It had good build-up and great animation but as the series lurched to the end I found it unraveling, much like Bones’ first Full Metal Alchemist series, and completely ruined by a poorly handled ending. This cemented a personal belief/theory that Bones is incapable of making a decent ending to their series and since then there’s been numerous series that further prove this belief/theory. As a result, I was in the complete opposite mindset as most fans of the original series apparently were – I couldn’t wait to see Eureka Seven Ao because the first half of the series was going to be awesome. Of course the second half will probably follow Bones’ MO and fall apart but that was a worry for next season :) . And so far I’ve been properly impressed. The animation has been some of Bones’ best work in years and the story, with it’s political backdrop, is interesting and the characters have been very solid. One couldn’t ask for more from Eureka Seven Ao. If this ends well then I’ve already decided to give Eureka Seven a second try.
A year ago the noitaminA animation block was airing a Kenji Nakamura directed series called C – The Money of Soul and Possibility Control and it was a mixed experience. It had a number of very interesting and thought-provoking questions that it wanted the viewer to think about but this enticing nugget was wrapped in an anime that suffered from time constraints, unharmonious animation, and uneven story-telling. Ultimately, I was happy that I watched it but felt it was an opportunity lost. Now a year later Kenji Nakamura is back with another series for the noitaminA animation block and it appears that this one will be a winner. Animation duties have been shifted to A-1 Pictures, a young studio that’s already created many excellent series, and it’s beautiful to look at. The story feels like it’ll fit into the episodes allotted it and it’s being told in a much better manner. The only complaint that could possibly be laid at it’s feet is that Tsuritama lacks the big ideas of C but I don’t see the point of trying to squeeze a series that needs at least 2 cour (minimum) to be properly told into 11 episodes.
Sakamichi no Apollon
Rating for episodes 1 to 4 – 12/12 Perfect
What I most love about Sakamichi no Apollon or Kids on the Slope is that I can just relax when watching it. We, the viewers, are in the hands of masters. I don’t have to worry if the ending will stink or if the pacing will feel rushed or if story will fizzle or will the animation get dodgy or will the characters get treated like walking clichés that need to adhere to certain stereotypes or will individual parts of the show like the soundtrack work against it. I know I’m not the only person that’s already mentally placing this anime at the top (or very near it) of their 2012 best anime list. I hope Kids on the Slope sells a million DVD/Blu-Ray discs because every time a great anime sells a bunch that helps pave the way for more great anime and because it’ll help the animation studio MAPPA, which is a new spin-off from Madhouse. Masao Maruyama, one of the original co-founders of Madhouse, started MAPPA as a means to animate those oddball, high quality anime series that Madhouse was known for like Kaiba, Blue Literature (Aoi Bangaku), The Tatami Galaxy, and Rainbow. Masao Maruyama has also said that MAPPA will finish Satoshi Kon’s final movie that he was unable to finish before his untimely passing but they don’t currently have the funding to do so. A financially successful series or two should allow MAPPA to find that funding.
Lupin the Third: Mine Fujiko to Iu Onna
Rating for episodes 1 to 5 – 11/12 A+
I was super excited that Lupin was finally getting a new series and that it wasn’t going to be merely a continuation of the bland, halfhearted TV specials and movies. I was also worried that this new crop of creators and seiyuu wouldn’t be able to do justice to a Lupin series. Basically, the same thing every fan of a particular work feels when it’s revisited by it’s creator(s) or gets adapted. Turns out, I shouldn’t have bothered worrying; they knew what they were doing. I particularly like that this series is set as the Lupin “origin story” because this allows new viewers a point of entry into the Lupin franchise and because it gives preexisting fans the chance to learn more about their favorite characters and gives them something new to see. Now, if only they don’t muff the ending, more Lupin series might be forthcoming.
When Nichijou aired last year I remember saying that, no matter how it did financially, Nichijou was a success for Kyoto Animation because it allowed the animators room to experiment with different animation styles and that would improve the overall quality of KyoAni’s work and would help prevent them from stagnating like other formerly top quality animation studios (cough, J.C. Staff, cough). I didn’t think I’d be proven correct so quickly but here we are; Hyouka seems set to claim a large share of the attention (and yen signs), even in this incredibly awesome anime season, partially because of it’s spiced-up animation style. I’m kinda surprised that I’ve enjoyed Hyouka as much as I have, though. Normally, I find myself not really caring for mystery series because the answer to the mystery in a mystery series is always vaguely disappointing and why get into a book or show if it’s going to end in disappointment? Maybe it’s how the early little mysteries have been handled that makes me willing to invest in caring about what has happened to the Uncle or maybe there’s enough other stuff to Hyouka that has made Hyouka so interesting.
Someone’s Been Reading My Brain
Get out of my mind Randall! Sorry, I just had a XKCD moment.
Several months ago Ghostlightning at We Remember Love wrote a post about the anime he would make if he was given the keys to an animation studio and a blank check. His creation was exceptionally brilliant and something I’d love to see. At the end he asked others what they would make and I’ve been kicking the idea around. Little did I know that I shouldn’t have bothered because Uchuu Kyoudai aka Space Bros is probably as close to my ultimate anime as is humanly possible.
Rating for episodes 1 to 6 – 12/12 Perfect
After voicing Tiger from Tiger and Bunny and now voicing the main character for Space Bros Japan should just pass a law proclaiming that each year at least one high quality anime is made which features Hiroaki Hirata voicing a middle-aged male character. He’s just that great. The only question I have left for this anime is how much of the story are we going to get to see and will it ever be revealed if the two brothers actually saw an alien as kids.
And apparently I felt like rambling well over my target of 1500 words. Sorry, I’ll try to write a few short entries to balance it out :) .