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[In which I review] New anime, Spring 2012

Jhiday

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#1
A new spring is about to dawn, and you all know what this means : a batch of new anime series start airing in Japan. In this thread, I will be reviewing the first episodes of each new series as they come out. At least, that's the plan ; but hey, I've managed to do it for more than a year without burning out, so let's push our luck.

As usual, note that I shall be skipping :
- Most sequel series. This means no Kore wa Zombie desuka ? OF THE DEAD, for example. There's no real point in reviewing them, you already know whether you're part of the audience or not (or if you don't, you're probably going to check the original instead). The "not-quite-sequels" (of which there are quite a number this season) are fair game, though ; so do expect reviews of the like of the Saki, Saint Seiya or Eureka Seven spin-offs (I think I'll draw the line at the Rock Lee thingy, though).
- The few kids' show I just can't get any access to. (However, I WILL be reviewing any kids' show I can lay my hands on.)
- Most OVAs, especially "extra episodes". Also, most movies released this Winter won't be on DVD/Blu-Ray for ages.

(And no, I won't be doing a joke "Spring 2002" thread this time around.)


The anime season normally doesn't start until April 1st, but there's at least one show that aired a "preview" of its first episode (basically, the full thing except for the OP/ED sequences) a month early.


The Scarlet Fragment (Hiiro no Kakera)
(26 episodes)

What's it about ?

It's an adaptation of an otome game. You see those romance-simulators where the player can chose between a harem of characters ? This is the female-oriented version, where the player-stand-in is surrounded by a bunch of pretty boys.

Characters

Tamaki, our generic female protagonist. With her parents off doing cooperation work over in Africa or something, she's moving back to the countryside to her grandmother's estate. Which is very convenient, because she's the next in line to be the Local Princess Protector Of Stuff, and Granny's about to retire. She has no clue what this is all about, although she does seem to have the innate skill required to cast spells against the random creepy things crawling around the place.

Takuma, the mandatory gruff bishie who begrudgingly escorts her the whole episode (voiced by Tomokazu Sugita, impeccable as always). There seems to be no depth whatsoever to him besides that. He just grumbles and reluctantly gives some exposition from time to time.

Tamaki enrolls at the local high school, and there are a bunch of of female classmates that might have gotten a chance at becoming supporting characters if Takuma hadn't dragged Tamaki out of the classroom within 30 seconds so that she could meet more bodyguard bishies. There's the short one with a size complex, the quiet deadpan one, and the handsomer-than-the-others glasses dude.

Just in case you're wondering whether there's actually a plot here, the last minute shows us Tamaki's Evil Blonde Counterpart and her squad of underlings. Not that they do anything yet, mind you.

Production Values

Slightly better than you'd expect. The random monsters do look suitably creepy and menacing, at the very least.

Overall Impression

This could have been worse. Sugita pulls off his character without being too annoying. Some of the jokes work. (I like that Tamaki's bodyguards are called "The Five" despite there only being four of them.) The monsters look good.

But the key issue here is that it's dreadfully unoriginal. There's nothing to set it apart from any other series in the same genre. None of the characters display any dimensions beyond their respective archetypes. To put it bluntly, I just don't care, and I can't see myself bothering with another episode ; nearly everything else this season looks more interesting than "Generic Otome Game Adaptation #1642".
 

Axiomatic

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Okay, I'm well familiar with the Painfully Generic Harem-Anime Protagonist in his male form - what's he like when he's a girl?
 

Jhiday

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what's he like when he's a girl?
Dull, with no distinguishing features whatsoever ? She's just kinda there.

Although I'll grant that she does have slightly more personality than the male version, chiefly through being baffled by the situation. She's still very one-note, though.
 

ru

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The Scarlet Fragment (Hiiro no Kakera)
I thought this was painfully bad. All the characters annoy me (especially Sugita's - YMMV ;)), and the dialogue is terribly stilted.

(the art's quite good though)
 

Jhiday

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All the characters annoy me (especially Sugita's - YMMV ;))
Well, I'm enough of a sucker for Sugita's natural charisma that he somehow manages to make me not want to throttle his character. But just about, mind you ; I can see him getting on my nerves by the second episode. (The other dudes can die in a fire, though. I hear cardboard burns easily.)


Now, on to something I actually enjoyed watching...


Ozma
(6 episodes)

What's it about ?

Leiji Matsumoto does Dune. Well, kinda.

Characters

Maya, a princess in distress on the run from a generic army of bad guys. Whatever this is all about, she's not telling yet. (Not that she gets much of a chance, what with getting interrupted all the time.)

Sam Coin, our teenage protagonist, who was originally out to fish for some Ozma (basically, giant sandworms) until he stumbled onto Maya's chase scene ; he takes advantage of the confusion of an Ozma appearance to rescue Maya and bring her back to his home.

Said home is some sort of vaguely pirate-like sand-ship (that can burrow underground if needed). There are scores of minor characters in the crew, with the most noteworthy being Mimei, Sam's not-girlfriend (who's obviously terribly jealous around the new chick) and the Captain, a charismatic and cool-looking woman (until you realize she's just zoned out).

Oh, and the army of bad guys is led by a Cyclops lookalike who's obviously important, given his distinctive character design. (Not that they actually do much evil yet ; maybe it's all a misunderstanding ?)

Production Values

Pretty good on the action side, although the CG elements are a bit too obvious to my liking.

Leiji Matsumoto's hand in the designs is unmistakable : there are four noteworthy female characters, and they all have the same face ! (It's all the more grating because some random male members of the crew get very distinctive designs.)

Overall Impression

I'm still not sure what to make of this. There's nothing particularly wrong with it (my above very minor quibbles aside), it's got enough energy to carry itself over... But, well, it's more than a bit on the generic side.

Still, it's only 6 episodes, and it's perfectly inoffensive ; I could see myself sticking with it till its end.
 

MadMac

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(Really? Is Saki that good?)
I thought it was pretty bad, personally, (Only watched one episode) but it has a ferociously loyal fanbase. As far as I can recall it was just...Mahjong, implied Yuri, and out of place explosions? That and awful, awful, character design, which is the hardest thing for me to wrap my head around given the main draw.
 

Jhiday

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Frankly, I've learned to distrust those BIGLOBE polls : the sample is small and very biased.

(Really? Is Saki that good?)
Not really, but it's got a very dedicated fanbase. It helps that (1) it has tons of side characters, so that anyone can find one they like, and (2) the original series was screaming out for a sequel. (Which this isn't, but close enough.)
 

ru

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There are a few impassioned Saki defenders on these boards, but I am not one of them :)

Ozma was a funny one - the character designs are charmingly retro, but "charmingly retro" is also a euphemism for "bad" ;)
As it's short series the novelty probably won't wear off; the rest of it looks sufficiently engaging.
 

KoboldLord

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Dawgstar said:
(Really? Is Saki that good?)
Thoroughly mediocre, I'd say. It's big selling point is the not-at-all-subtle yuri stuff. Other than that, it's a bog-standard sports tournament show. Unless you're particularly into the yuri, I'd suggest you skip it and watch something like Hikaru no Go instead, which took research into the form of competition much more seriously than most shows like that. There were a few characters in Saki that infuriated me because their gimmick either boiled down to magical cheating or dumb luck, but they were still treated as legitimate players.
 
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