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[In which I review] New anime, Spring 2011

Jhiday

Unrepentant Froggie
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#1
This time, for real.

Spring 2011 has come, and with it a slew of new anime series. There's of course been quite a few delays due to the quake & tsunami situation, but the first few shows are already trickling down.

In this thread, I will be reviewing the first episodes of each new series as they come out. At least, that's the plan ; it worked out pretty well last season, but there's a ton more shows out this time around.

Note that I will be skipping :
- The many sequel series (although I'll probably comment on the few where I've watched the original series). Don't expect any review of Gintama', for example. (By now, you should know whether you're part of its audience.)
- The few kids' shows that I just can't find any access to. (On the other hand, I WILL be reviewing the kids' shows I can lay my hands on.)
- Most OVAs, especially if they tie directly into a new series (I do plan on discussing the Sekai-ichi Hatsukoi OVA in the main show's review, though). By the way, do some people here want a (SFW) review of the Nana to Kaoru OVA ?

Anyway, on to the first show of the season...



X-Men
(12 episodes)

What's it about ?

The X-Men disbanded a year ago, due to Jean Grey's death in the Dark Phoenix incident. But Professor X gathers the band back together when he learns of numerous mutant disparitions in a district of Japan.

Characters

They've gone for an iconic line-up for the X-Men, with Professor X as the remote mentor, Cyclops as field leader, Wolverine, Storm and cat-form Beast. (The OP promises Emma Frost, but she hasn't shown up yet.) Professor X carries most of the narration and exposition. Cyclops is the best at what he does, and what he does is whining over Jean's grave (seriously, it looks like he's spending days at a time there). Beast had gone back to teaching college courses, but he's pretty happy to go back into action and leave his class to his uplifted squid. Wolverine is more tolerable here than in his own series, and Storm plays mother hen.

Hisako (aka Armor) is our token young mutant in distress. She barely shows any personality yet, before captured by robots halfway through the episode. (If you're wondering, she's a character created by Joss Whedon when he wrote the X-Men comics six years ago.)

We start with an extended flashback to the end of the Dark Phoenix incident, where it's clear Jean is manipulated by Mastermind and his Inner Circle (they're kept in shadows, but I see Blob, maybe Toad, and another prettyboy I can't quite identify). It looks like she commits suicide, but considering the epitaph on her memorial ("She will rise again") and the fact they've bothered to show us all this, I'm sure she'll eventually show up again.

The next episode preview suggests that the X-Men are going to face the U-Men. That's an interesting choice (they're quite a recent creation), although it makes perfect sense when considering Warren Ellis wrote this story (the man loves his transhumanism themes).

The ED shows some iconic X-Men villains (Magneto, Mystique, Juggernaut) that I doubt will actually show up... and Stryfe, for some reason.

Production Values

I'm not fond of Madhouse's style for the Marvel adaptations, and it looks especially messy here, but it does the job. I like the character designs quite a bit, to tell the truth.

Overall Impression

I've always had big expectations for this particular Marvel Anime series, and it doesn't disappoint. It manages to perfectly recreate the X-Men experience, especially the sense of a vast tapestry of former continuity that will eventually become relevant. Sure, it doesn't exactly hit the ground running (the X-Men aren't even in Japan yet), but that's the cost of fleshing out the five main characters as well as explaining the gist of the Dark Phoenix incident.

I'm biased, of course : I'm a hardcore X-Men fan. Still, this is by far the best Marvel Anime series, with strong characters and a plot that feels appropriately epic.
 
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Jhiday

Unrepentant Froggie
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#2
Dog Days
(12 episodes)

What's it about ?

In a parallel fantasy world, war rages between the kingdom of Biscotti and the Galette Knights. A surprisingly PG war, with no casualties whatsoever and announcers providing step-by-step colour commentary. Oh, and they've all got animal ears and tails (Biscotti are dogs, and I think Galette are cats). Anyway, Biscotti are losing, so they call upon a hero from Earth to save them.

Characters

Shinku, our protagonist and ordinary high school student. He's actually an accomplished athlete (coming second in the last big sports tournament, and assiduously training for improvement), and a bit of a showboat. When he's transported to another world and called a hero, he muses that this must be a dream, so what the heck, and dives in with enthusiasm.

Milchore, the kid ruler of Biscotti, who summons Shinku and exposits the situation to him. She doesn't show much personality yet, to be honest.

We get to see a few more Biscotti characters, including a couple of elite warriors who get rid of scores of enemy mooks in one spell. Er, weren't they supposed to be losing ?

Although it might be because the top Galette Knights have yet to deploy - everyone says they're very impressive, but I've yet to see any of that.

Production Values

By the makers of Nanoha ! So you get the obligatory OP by Nana Mizuki, bright and shiny colours everywhere, CG runes galore for every single spell, and loli-style character designs for nearly everyone important (except the "villains").

Overall Impression

I'm not really sure what to think about this one.

I quite like the twist of war as a harmless sports-like competition, and Mamoru Miyano lends tons of his usual charisma to the protagonist. On the other hand, the Biscotti people are dull and sugary as hell, and the Galette Knights don't show much promise either.

I'll probably give it a couple more episodes before judging it.
 

Jhiday

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#5
My Ordinary Life (Nichijou)
(26-ish episodes)

What's it about ?

High school slice-of-life surreal comedy.

Characters

Mio, the blue-haired "central" character. A bit of a straight man to everyone else.

Yuuko, our Tomo clone. Loud, obnoxious and clumsy.

Mai, the quiet glasses girl, who gets to do outrageous things as punchlines.

Hakase, whom we only ever see at home with her long-suffering robot servant Nano. You can tell Nano is a robot thanks to the huge winding key sticking out of her back. (Not that it serves any actual practical purpose - Hakase put it there because she's a jerk.)

A couple other girls and teachers show up, but I've already forgotten about them.

Production Values

Very disappointing for a KyoAni series. "Minimalistic" would be the charitable way to put it.

Overall Impression

Oh, dear. A comedy series that is barely funny at all.

Now, I did laugh a bit to Mai's hijinks and most of the Nino/Hakase scenes. But there's a lot here that I just didn't care for.

If I really wanted to be mean, I'd say that this is KyoAni trying their hand at the surreal SHAFT-ish comedy... and completely failing. But that'd probably be a bit unfair.

I'll probably try one or two more episodes to see if it gels together, but I'm not optimistic (and this is a busy season anyway). I've watched the OVA, and it's basically more of the same.
 

ru

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"paging dshaffer to the white courtesy phone" ;)

Huh, that was weird. Realising the war was set up like one of those Japanese game shows almost gave me whiplash. And someone get them handrails for those staircases between the floating islands!

I don't know; I don't mind the set up, but the non-lethal warfare kind of took the drama out of it for me. I'm not sure I can bring myself to care about it, which is a shame, as I'd really like a decent fantasy anime.


My Ordinary Life (Nichijou)
I watched the "episode 0" that came out a week or two ago, and laughed my arse off :) I subsequently checked out some of the manga and it's impressively surreal in places. This episode wasn't quite as laugh out loud funny, but I enjoyed in nonetheless. I like the little bits of continuity you get from one skit to the next.

PS: Mai is pure evil


(didn't bother with the X-men, as I'm sublimely disinterested)
 

Jhiday

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Tiger & Bunny
(12-ish episodes)

What's it about ?

In the future, there are super-powered people called "NEXT". The most prominent ones are garish, megacorp-sponsored superheroes who fight crime in a Reality-TV show.

Characters

Kotetsu "Wild Tiger" Kaburagi, our protagonist. He's a veteran superhero who is definitely past his prime (he rates barely above the joke who never does anything, and no self-respecting kid buys his trading cards). He's in it because he believes in making good (and he needs the money for his wife and kid), but he's kinda bitter with the whole thing, obviously. It doesn't help that his sponsor just got bought out, and the new guys want a format change. Which includes teaming up with...

Barnaby Brooks Jr, who somehow has the same powers as Wild Tiger (flying brick for 5 minutes). The dude shows out of nowhere in the "season finale" to hog the spotlight, and makes it clear he's a "new breed" of superhero, unafraid of showing his true identity to the world. Incidentally, he does less collateral damage than Wild Tiger, which probably endears him to the higher-ups even more.

There are six other super-heroes competing in the show : Blue Rose, the current superstar with impressive ice powers but who's a bit of a coward ; Rock Bison, the only one Kotetsu could call a friend ; Origami Cyclone, who never does anything but stay in the background for product placement ; Fire Emblem, flaming gay stereotype ; and two others who don't matter at this stage.

The supporting cast is rounded off by Agnes Joubert, the TV show's producer, who only cares about ratings, and certainly not civilian lives. ("Nice cliffhanger entrance, Wild Tiger ! Can you just do nothing for 30 seconds while we run some commercials ?")

Oh, and there's our threats for the week : a group of bankrobbers who are ridiculously underpowered to face superheroes, but manage to run around for most of the episodes thanks to the latter's incompetence.

Production Values

Superbly fluid animation for the action sequences (which comprise half of the episode) : this show's got budget and ain't afraid to show it. It's also very good at spoofing Reality-TV shows, including the utterly obnoxious product placement on the superheroes' character designs.

Overall Impression

Wow, this is AWESOME ! I grinned like a madman from start to end while watching this : it's very, very funny indeed. Combining superheroes with Reality-TV works beautifully, and there's a nice balance between enough cynicism to keep things grounded and still some idealism to keep it from being too depressing. It's a very stupid series, but it's got enough energy to pull it off.

The preview I'd seen didn't look very promising, so this is a very nice surprise.
 

ru

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indeed, that was unexpectedly good. The long action sequence was nicely done, but if half a dozen heros dogpile every bank getaway you've got to wonder why people rob banks! I hope the answer doesn't turn out to be the obvious cliche.

in fact, i hope they avoid some of the obvious cliches that look to be be in the offing. the "you won't miss my music recital" thing caused great eye-rolling. as did the offensive gay stereotype. oh, Japan.

It's also very good at spoofing Reality-TV shows, including the utterly obnoxious product placement on the superheroes' character designs.
'course, spoof product placement is still actual product placement; in spite of my self i have to give them grudging props for the ballsiness of it
 

MadMac

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It feels so strange for a new season to be starting when a lot of the prior season shows haven't finished yet.

Tiger and Bunny is definitely on my watch list after the first episode. Nichijou wasn't laugh out loud funny but I'll stick with it for a few episodes and see how it develops. I don't have any comments on the other two but I don't think I'll ever get around to watching them. (X-men maybe, but I haven't watched any of the marvel adaptions and I'd probably start with an older one first.)
 

salinea

grievous lack of
Validated User
#10
DID SOMEONE ORDER A LARGE X-MEN HAM? Man, that was really hitting the Ridiculous Yet Awesome vibe.

I see Tiger & Bunny sounds awesome. *adds to check out list*
 
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