Sunday, July 10, 2011

Summer First Impressions - Part 1

Sadly, a busy workschedule has meant that I'm pretty much unable to write full length posts on a daily basis. So instead, I'll opt for a weekly post that encompasses every show for that week! For now, comments on the first episodes of summer shows (that I haven't already written full-length posts about). Enjoy part one of two, done in alphabetical order. Control+F to find a show.

Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu Ni!

The entire cast of Baka to Test, back for another season.

I had high expectations coming into this, and while it felt like a filler first episode, it certainly didn’t disappoint in providing that comedy and character interaction that I liked in the first season. Though I didn’t expect there to be a beach episode so early, it was still funny and entertaining, especially when Tsuchiya was being hit on. I was pretty much as blown away as Akihisa and Yuuji were, because that’s honestly just amazing. The little rivalry between Himeji and Minami took the back seat this time, with them teaming up (along with Aki’s sister) to pretty much make his life miserable. I could never really understand what Akihisa is thinking, hitting on other girls when there is some serious shipping to do (although admittedly, that is why he is an idiot). I’m pretty much okay with Yuuji trying to hook another fish, considering Shouko’s a bit on the violent side. Example? Having to kneel down in front of Shouko. In the sea. As a bit of a footnote, we had our normal Hideyoshi humor, which really never gets boring.
I’ve always liked the openings from Baka to Test (not so much the endings), so “Kimi + Nazo + Watashi de JUMP!!” by Larval Stage Planning was greatly enjoyed by me. The same unique animation is apparent in this episode too, so it’s made me feel like there wasn’t even a gap in between the two seasons. While there’s room to improve from this first episode, it wasn’t a bad way to start it off.

Ikoku Meiro no Croisée


Having never watched Aria, I wouldn’t be able to compare it to this show. Thankfully for me, I don’t have to – other people have done it for me. A young girl, Yune, is brought over to France from Japan and comes to live together with Claude, an artisan of signs, during a time when business isn’t doing so well. Claude finds the companionship of a girl he never thought he’d meet, while Yune stands around as cute as anything I’ve ever seen. The seiyuus aren’t too high-profile, especially Yune’s (who has really only been in two roles prior), yet it doesn’t make a difference. Like Aria, the atmosphere is so calm and real that it made me feel at ease, too. The soundtrack, composed mostly of classical violin and piano pieces, only adds to this by making everything seem a bit more special than normal. As far as I can see, there isn’t really a concrete plot, so it will probably end up being a sequence of incidents and heartwarming experiences. I would definitely recommend this to anyone who can absorb the relatively slow pacing and feeling of “nothing happens”. The art is classy (have I mentioned that Yune is really cute), and even the opening and ending match the calm, subdued feeling. If I had one thing to complain about, there really made the language barrier a big ordeal, considering it was nearly impossible to tell whether or not they were talking in Japanese or French until the very end of the episode. Rather confusing, considering it’s difficult to see if they can actually understand each other or not. Hopefully the problem should be resolved, though.

Itsuka Tenma no Kuro Usagi

Post-aging Himea. And I thought we were going to get another loli.

So we have another vampire/magical girl show on our hands, and this one’s a bit messy. The show starts off with two main characters, Taito and Himea, doing naughty things in a local playground, which turns out to be a dream that an older Taito is having at the moment. We get the old childhood friend Haruka (who in my opinion is wife material) and the super condescending super playboy Kurenai Gekkou with his demon loli servant Andou Mirai. Obviously, the dream that Taito had isn’t actually a dream, and Himea’s been waiting nine years for him to save her from the dimensional hell that she’s imprisoned in. Needless to say, Taito isn’t quite the normal guy he expected himself to be. What stands out the most is by far the fanservice, which includes myriad panty shots (often accompanied by white censor lines), naked scenes, and a scene where Himea ages nine years in a matter of seconds. While I’ve pretty much become apathetic to ecchi (thanks a lot, Koe de Oshigoto), a lot of the fanservice works against the show, since it’s pretty distracting and some of it is just nonsense. For some reason, they decided to censor not-so-gory gore, but they didn’t censor nudity. They arbitrarily censored underwear scenes, too, which was rather confusing.
Nonetheless, there are some pretty important voice actors taking part, including Nakamura Yuuichi (voicing Gekkou), Nomizu Iori (who voices Ando, also played Haruna in Kore wa Zombie Desuka, a series that is much like this one), and to a lesser extent, Tachibana Shinnosuke (who voices Taito) and Takamoto Megumi (Himea). As I said before, with the vampires and the supernatural bit and the comedy, the Kore wa Zombie Desuka feel is certainly evident, but again, the fanservice is a bit on the heavy side. Another plus on my opinion is the animation, which I adore. The character designs are alluring and it's always fun to see the super colorful backgrounds. But to round out this pretty lengthy bit, I’d be careful approaching this, with the aggressive fanservice. The next few episodes will certainly reveal all (and hopefully not in that certain way).

Kaitou Tenshi Twin Angel: Kyun Kyun Tokimeki Paradise!!

The future of Japan rests in these girls' paws.

It takes longer to read the title of the anime than to figure out how it’s going to play out. In a rather cliché situation, we have the two main characters Kannazuki Aoi and Minzuki Haruka, who are students by day but heroes during night. I am rather confused about why J.C. Staff has decided to animate this, considering it doesn’t seem to have anything going for it. The art isn’t even that great (probably making up for Kamisama no Memochou’s fantastic art), and while the seiyuus (Noto Mamiko and Tamura Yukari) are big, I can’t see them saving this from utter mediocrity. Like other shows, the characters must fight while keeping their identities a secret, except for the fact that their appearances don’t change at all. There’s also the popular male classmate that is also a hero, who swoops in to save the day when, oddly enough, our two heroines are turned into cats. There just isn’t really much to say about this, except that there are clearly other shows worthwhile to watch. Unless this show turns out to be a deconstruction on the levels of Neon Genesis Evangelion (which I don’t see happening considering its rated G for all ages), there’s no point in watching this. The character designs aren’t too fantastic either, by the way, which makes it even less enticing to watch.

Kamisama Dolls

Ad lib contest: Dad: "That looks delicious. And the cake too, I suppose."

This Brains Base adaptation brings another interesting situation to the summer lineup. Here, main character Kuga Kyouhei (Okamoto Nobuhiko) lives in Tokyo in order to escape his past and his role in the village. After his younger sister Utao (Fukuen Misato) comes to town with the news that a criminal Aki has come to Tokyo looking for him, he ends up moving in with his love interest Shiba Hibino (Kayano Ai), who is also from the village. We’re introduced to these doll-like robots, which are able to materialize, disappear, and fight on its owner’s will. Sadly, much of the show was wasted on me, as I was too busy noting the similarities between it and Higurashi and there was just nothing new about the show. The kid trying to escape his hometown before being pulled back in? The overpowered villain who is presumably a family member? It’s just so rehashed that it’s rather annoying to see again. I’m not always against cliché things (after all, I was a fan of Infinite Stratos despite how others thought of it), but there’s nothing to grab onto here and like. I liked the characters in IS (even if they were all stereotypes), but I can’t really say the same about this. The character designs are sketchy (especially Shiba, whose proportions are rather hard to believe) and there’s just nothing that really pops out at me. The opening and ending sung by Chiaki Ishikawa are nice, but it’s just not enough to make it worth enduring 20 plus minutes of this. Okamoto Nobuhiko using his normal voice (the same one he is using to play Okumura Rin in Ao no Exorcist) is annoying as well. Everything put together, this will probably be a low priority show for me.

Kamisama no Memochou

I can only imagine what she's really doing on those monitors.

On the other side of J.C. Staff, which I can only presume is as far away from the production staff of Kaitou Tenshi as possible, there are a group of people who are working on this, Kamisama no Memochou. Featuring self-proclaimed NEET detective Shionji Yuuko (or “Alice”), the plot revolves around the various mysteries that Alice and Fujishima Narumi (who has just moved to the town) encounter. Accompanying them are some noteworthy supporting characters, such as the gun-toting Mukai Hitoshi and the dropout Ichinomiya Tetsuo. Given the advantage of putting out a full hour episode instead of a typical half-hour one, they were able to get through the opening case all at once, which certainly made this come off stronger than other detective shows recently (namely Gosick and its Queen Berry first arc). With Kishida Mel behind the character designs (who also designed Hanasaku Iroha), the art has made a huge rebound. While it is true that the characters are very Iroha-like, it is for the better as everything is just more crisp compared to other recent J.C. Staff shows (Hidan no Aria). Thankfully, there is less time spent dilly-dallying and jumping into the first case was a good idea, as it served as a great hook and liner for people like me. The characters are pretty unique (never quite watched anything like this yet, but there might be something out there), and this means character interaction is of utmost importance. Narumi is pretty much forced into Alice’s pace, which tends to happen in most anime, but I don’t see this as a problem. As long as the cases continue being interesting (this case was quite interesting in my opinion), the chance that this ends up being a solid adaptation after various failures for J.C. Staff is big. It would be nice if they could prove themselves again before working on one of my favorite series, Shakugan no Shana. I don’t want them messing THAT up.
Since I’ve already talked about the art, some notes about the music. The soundtrack is fine, and I really like the opening “Kawaru Mirai” by Choucho, but I really don’t like the ending “Colorado Bulldog” by Mr. Big. I don’t really see how there’s room for a hard rock ending like this one, so hopefully there will be a new ending when episode 2 airs next week. While I mentioned the similarities to Gosick earlier because of the detective genre, there are some similarities to Durarara as well, including the gang environment as well as the rather mysterious feeling that I got from watching the characters (seeing as how their backstory is as obscured as Masaomi and Mikado’s when we are introduced to them). So is this worthwhile watching? Yes. For now, at least.

Mawaru Penguindrum

Pretty awesome home, if you ask me. Sadly, it's been designed by a clown.

I’m pretty confused as to what I just watched. We’ve got Takakura Kanba, Shouma, and Himari, three siblings living on their own. Himari “dies”, having been diagnosed with a life-threatening disease, but she is miraculously saved and the family comes into possession of some odd penguins and everything for them changes. The plot is just so random that it’s difficult processing everything. This was one of the more hyped shows this season, and then this episode just slammed into me like a brick. Everything is just so surreal and I never really got the feeling that I understood what was going on. Apparently, the show is slice of life, which is rather surprising. This just left me with a billion questions dying to be answered, not least of all why Kanba kisses his own sister at the very end. The craziest transformation scene that I’ve ever seen is also present in this episode, and it’s almost as if SHAFT has produced this. The craziness that is just obvious everywhere really makes it hard to say anything about this. If I haven’t made it clear, it’s crazy.
The art is pretty colourful, which adds to the insane feeling of the show. Other than the bright colours, there isn’t much to praise on the animation side, and the opening and endings are pretty solid. Of course, what will keep me watching is whether or not there is a method to their madness, and between the “Nadine!”s and the Himari moments, I hope there’ll be a bit of a plot, too. And what to do with those penguins…

Stay tuned for part 2 (which includes my favorite show, the iDOLM@STER).

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