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[In which I review] New anime, Spring 2011

Old Toby

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I watched the first episode of [C] yesterday, and I've got to disagree strongly with the review. The reading of it as a "card game anime" reminds me of the people who said Negima turned into a card game manga... because of the Pactio Cards. Sorry, no, it could have gone that way if that's what Ken Akamatsu wanted... but it turns out he was just referencing CCGs, not using them as the basis of his story or the combat within it. IMHO, there's a tendency of some Western geeks, particularly those of a generation just slightly too old to have a CCG soaked childhood, to react negatively to the slightest whiff of CCGs. But CCGs seem to have had an even greater penetration in Japan, to the point where they are the topic of satires, deconstructions, and casual references. To be sure, there are some pretty dire shows out there based off of CCGs and related concepts. But there are also plenty of decent shows that reference them.

[C] is part of the noitaminA block of programming. Meaning, it's been developed as a sort of "alternative anime" intended to broaden anime's appeal and break out of the cliche box. noitaminA isn't a guarantee of quality, but it is a sign that there's probably more to the show than may be initially apparent. It also means that it's a limited run show, not some endless franchise. And, AFAIK, [C] isn't some sort of promo for a real-world game, or anything. Certainly, it doesn't linger on the technicalities of the rules (indeed, so far, nothing indicates that the creatures summoned with the cards are rule-bound in the manner of CCG creatures) and strategy or try to teach you the game, like some CCG manga I've read.

Rather it seems that the show merely alludes to CCGs in the format that its magical combat takes place. It's a little joke ("Summon your creature with a card. A credit card") not the defining feature of what the series is about. At least that's how it seems to me, so far.

For me, the show seems to combine visual spectacle with tapping into that vein of "deep weird" that some of the best anime hits. Add in the blending of modernity with the (apparently) supernatural, the obvious commentary on the Japanese zeitgeist, and the potential of real world-building and it's really hitting my buttons.

Old Toby
Least Known Dog on the Net


grievous lack of
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Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Boku-tachi wa Mada Shiranai
First episode was very good (excellent direction/drama), second a bit more average. I expect the good of this will be highly dependant of the quality of the characterisation, which I fear may be a bit too pat/stereotyped to drive a real good drama.

Hyouge Mono
Odd duck, but rather entertaining so far. I have no idea where it's going as a story.

Sekai-ichi Hatsukoi
Looks like a decent if wholly unoriginal BL story; which are few enough it makes me happy. Then again, the lattest BL anime were pretty disastrous :(

Ao no Exorcist
I'm liking it so far. The main character is surprisingly likeable for an ordinary shounen lead.


Unrepentant Froggie
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Yeah, a translation for the first episode of Shouwa Monogatari finally materialized ! But I've been too busy watching the Madoka finale to check it out yet. So, in the meantime, let's review another straggler...

Pretty Rhythm Aurora Dream

What's it about ?

Young girls starting a career at the Prism Show, an ice-skating/dance spectacle that's all the rage these days.


Aira, our clumsy protagonist, who had barely heard of the Prism Show before and can barely make three steps without falling over herself, but still somehow gets scouted in the street and set to perform in front of an audience of thousands the same day. She plays along mostly because the dancers get to wear cool clothes.

Rhythm (no, really, that's her name), Aira's self-proclaimed rival, who gets scouted at the same time when Aira trips over her. At least she's got decent ice-skating skills, although not enough to execute the super-dupper dance move the audience is expecting. (But Aira can, of course...)

Mion, the idol who was supposed to perform her debut at the Prism Show but has suddenly gone missing, triggering the random scouting of replacement dancers. Actually, she doesn't even show in person during this first episode.

Of the Prism Show we also see the two main producers (one's a shrewd pragmatist, the other's an eccentric with a eye for hidden talent - well-hidden in the case of Aira) and the three male dancers for the B-act (probably future love interests for the three girls).

We also get a long opening skit with Aira's family, who skirt very near the line of being quite annoying (although the scene's saved with the punchline to Dad & Mom's double act).

Production Values

Pretty good for a (girls') kids' show. I particularly like the 3D rendering for the ice-skating sequences, which barely enter the Uncanny Valley at all.

Someone thought it'd be a good idea for the ED to depict the voice-actresses in live-action... It just looks ridiculous. Especially since they're not even wearing the same costumes as their roles, for some reason (maybe it's the school uniform ? We haven't seen it yet...).

Overall Impression

Yet another kids' show which could not proclaim "NOT FOR ME !" any louder. I'm not a fashion-obsessed teenager, I don't care about X-Treme ice-skating, and the plot contrivances to get Aira on stage annoy rather than amuse me. There are some okay jokes, but not enough to overcome the huge prejudice I have against this kind of series.


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Yeah, a translation for the first episode of Shouwa Monogatari finally materialized !
I watched the first episode and ended up skipping to the end halfway through. (Of course, to be fair it was late and I wanted to sleep.) You will have to judge for yourself, but I thought it was deadly dull even considering what the show is and what it wants to do. (A perfectly mundane/nostalgic family drama set in 1960's Japan.)

There has got to be a better way to handle character introductions.


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The Manga takes some time to get going as well, sadly - the early stuff is exposition and fairly generic, then eventually you wind up with Toriko fighting a mosquito themed dude who has a giant straw, on top of a volcano over an ear of corn the size of a skyscraper.... and then they use the volcano to make EPIC POPCORN! Once the Mangaka went crazy, the manga got way better.
On the advice of a friend, I kept with the second episode, not looking for any great character development but instead enjoying the action and there's a world where fruit ice cream changes flavors in your mouth seven different times. It worked out for me much better this time around.


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Ao no Exorcist
I'm liking it so far. The main character is surprisingly likeable for an ordinary shounen lead.
I checked out some of the manga and, basically, yes. He's pretty genre savvy and manages to avoid making obvious dumbass decisions.


Unrepentant Froggie
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I thought it was deadly dull even considering what the show is and what it wants to do. (A perfectly mundane/nostalgic family drama set in 1960's Japan.)
Okay, that was very boring indeed. There was so little "there" there that I have no clue what to put into my review.

I'll give it a second episode (slice of life series do tend to take a while to get going), at least so that I can see how the "Year of the Olympics" thing is going to impact the main characters... and I hope it does, because this series only has 13 episodes to tell its story. I'm not optimistic, though.

salinea;13811102 said:
OKay that was just terrible.
I should have warned you that it's not a sports series at all. (Which is a shame, because we don't get many of those.)

Okay, I've finally cleared my backlog (the Thursday Night schedule is murder), so here are my thoughts on stuff that aired recently :

With the third episode, I'm done with Sekai-Ichi Hatsukoi. The yaoi stuff has gotten too prominent for me to keep enjoying this otherwise decent work-com. (It doesn't help that after Bakuman, I've learned enough about the manga industry for all this stuff to feel a bit repetitive...)

X-Men #4 had a bit of a problem with its central fight scene. Wolverine's theme from his own series starting as he goes solo for the fight ? Awesome. (The badass soundtrack was one of that series' few redeeming values.) The actual fight ? A complete mess that is nearly impossible to follow.

Still, I'm loving the slow but deliberate pacing, as the stakes keep getting higher and higher. And the continuity nods ("David Haller Syndrome" ? Eh !) are fun.

The second episode of [C] still underwhelms me a bit. Sure, it looks great, and Taku Iwasaka's soundtrack is as impeccable as ever, but the Financial District system doesn't really make any sense yet (I might see how setting up rookies for a fall is a clever way to entrap them, but the way our protagonist wins his fight is more than half-assed).

It doesn't help that my mind keeps comparing it to Eden of the East, which hit a lot of similar themes but was much better at building a clever thriller out of it. This feels a bit... sedate, maybe ?

I'm loving Masasaki, the awesome personal space invader, though. He's by far the most fun character to watch in this show.

Denpa Onna #2 confirms that our protagonist does indeed have raging hormones, as he starts building his harem. Only the script's persistence in dumping on us exposition about Erio's backstory manages to keep this from becoming creepy.

Don't get me wrong, I don't hate this show. I actually somewhat admire how it doesn't shy away from having a somewhat realistic teenage male lead, or from depicting the social consequences of the "weird girl" archetype. But SHAFT have made better and/or weirder shows before, and so this feels a bit like a step down.

Ano Hana #2 confirmed my suspicions about Anaru, who's by far the most interesting character in the show (although Poppo is a lot of fun too). These characters feel very real to me, which is the key to making such a series work.

Hyouge Mono #2 makes a nice bid at trying to convince me that Sasuke's totally not gay, honest ! by showing us his wife... And okay, the way he makes love to her convinces me he's actually tea-sexual. And hey, that seems to work out for her, so why not ?

Sket Dance #3 fortunately kept the hysterics to an acceptable level. And I did like the joke of the terribly cliché and out-of-date delinquent girls. On the other hand, the running gag about Himeko's lollipop can die in a fire.

Hen Zemi #3 was a fun episode that freshened up the usual routines by confronting them with a new "former delinquent girl" character. Hopefully it'll gel together properly from now on.
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