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[In which I review] New anime, Spring 2012

ru

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#61
A lot of the graphics in Acchi Kocchi reminded me of Hidamari Sketch. I may be a bit too sugary for me though, not the mention the whole not-boyfriend thing will grate on my nerves after a while.

I may watch Polar Bear Cafe just for the weird worldbuilding. A panda gets a part time job in the zoo as a panda? That's meta enough for me. I also like the fact that, bipedalism aside, the animals look pretty much how they actually look.

likewise Gakkatsu gets a second look for sheer randomness and shortness.

Medaka Box... I'm undecided. I read a bit of the manga but dropped it after it turned into a shounen battle thing.

Sankarea looks pretty interesting at first glance. the dialogue's good, the animation's good.. depends which way the story goes though.
 

Sage Genesis

Two
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#62
So, Medaka Box. It seems I didn't quite manage to articulate what bugs me about it.

A big problem is that, despite her awesomeness, Medaka somehow manages to be bland. Her "I don't care about being awesome, I just want to help everybody" philosophy isn't particularly enthralling either, mostly because the show wants it to be a grand reveal despite being perfectly obvious from the start. (And the flower thing is just silly in its clumsiness. Or maybe it's just the clunky dialogue bringing the whole scene down.)

But the most problematic part of the show is Zenkichi, the Kyon wannabe. Yes, Medaka is completely unlike Haruhi because she doesn't abuse him and is perfectly open about why she keeps him around. She's no tsundere, whatever he claims. THAT's what makes his attitude so annoying. It feels to me that the only reason he's so hostile in this first episode is to provide artificial conflict, which is just poor writing all around. He's been around her since childhood, he shouldn't need a grand reveal about her outlook in life at this point.

Also, the show spends far too much time on him telling us how awesome she is, instead of, you know, showing us her being awesome (which are the moments that do work).

I've heard that the manga gets way better down the line, after a genre change or two. Then, they really should have skipped those terrible first few dozen chapters (or skipped through them, only including the actually relevant parts for the future). Because at this rate, it's hard to imagine this anime adaptation even getting to the good parts...
Yeah I unfortunately share this opinion. The manga becomes really good IMO, because it's a shounen fighting manga that bends all the tropes around until they beg for mercy. People are enormously genre savvy and exploit it to its fullest.

The plan for defeating the main character of the most recent Big Bad:
Spoiler: Show
Nothing. You can't defeat the main character of a shounen manga, that's just how the genre works. So instead the plan was to exploit Medaka's status as someone the reader can't relate to and hijack the manga, making Zenkichi the new main character and stripping Medaka off her plot armor. And it actually sort of worked.


Every time I think "Oh this has just become a shounen manga" it does something unexpected and clever.

The anime gets, what, 12 episodes? I seriously doubt they'll be able to achieve the same kind of feeling. I think Shiranui will simply be the Big Bad who is behind everything. Watch the scene in the cafeteria, everybody but she and Zenkichi just disappears at some point. Zenkichi notices it too. So my guess is, there will be fights with various people (plus some filler), and then Shiranui is revealed to be the mastermind, some philosophical bullshit gets spouted, and finally Zenkichi defeats Shiranui with the power of love, friendship, hope, or all of the above. And then they all live happily ever after under the banner of Medaka's student council. Which would be a real shame because that's precisely the kind of story that the manga subverts.
 

Jhiday

Unrepentant Froggie
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#63
Upotte
(10 episodes)

What's it about ?

The unholy combination of gunporn and lolicon.

Characters

FNC, aka Funko. She's an assault rifle that looks and acts like a middle-schooler. (Well, the completely reality-detached fetishization of middle-schoolers you find in lolicon, anyway.) I have a hard time even making sense of this : there's a permanent association between her body-parts elements of the rifle (guess which part's the trigger ?), but then she's shown holding her namesake when firing.

And there's a whole school of them ! Which includes most of the teachers. But only the girls, I have no clue what the boys are even doing there. Anyway, most of their characterization revolves around stereotypes about which country manufactures their namesake gun (and/or characteristics of the guns), in a way that makes Axis Powers Hetalia look sensitive and subtle. I gave up on keeping track of them when they gave the American a Kansai accent for no good reason... and pointed it out in dialogue quickly. (This series loves breaking the fourth wall. It doesn't make it funny or endearing, it's just bloody annoying.)

There's also a new transfer teacher, and he's as confused by the whole thing as us. The series never gets around to giving him any name beyond "Sensei", which seems to be meant as a running gag. Funko sends him to the hospital on his first day after he blurts out he's seen her wearing a thong and OH DEAR GODS MAKE IT STOP

Production Values

Dire. I presume keeping Sensei's face obscured for most of the episode is a stylistic choice, although it's hard to tell when the direction goes out of its way to have whoever's talking off-screen or shot from behind to skim on the animation budget.

Thankfully we don't actually see Funko's thong. The fanservice level keeps to longing shot of the cameras on middle-schoolers' legs, and copious amounts of clothed breast-groping.

Overall Impression

I was wondering whether we'd been spared any truly dire series this season. Sure, Shiba Inuko-san, ZETMAN and Sengoku Collection are crap, and I've skipped the latest Queen's Blade season, but those are at least somewhat watchable.

But this is utterly sanity-destroying stuff. I alternated racking my brain in an effort to make sense of the utterly incomprehensible premise... and getting assaulted by the sudden ramping up of the lolicon angle. Whatever you think of the bizarre gun metaphor, there's no obscuring of the fact that Funko spends half the episode aroused at the thought of Sensei touching her.

Also, it's a comedy show that isn't funny in the slightest. And it looks terrible. And nobody's got any personality. There's no redeeming value to this whatsoever.

Avoid like the plague. I watched this so you didn't have to.
 

Jhiday

Unrepentant Froggie
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#65
The Basketball Which Kuroko Plays (Kuroko no Basuke)
(?? episodes)

What's it about ?

Classic shounen sports series.

Characters

Taiga Kagami, an abrasive man-mountain who's just entering this brand-new high school the series is set in. Of course he joins the basketball club : he's very good and he knows it. He's not playing for fun, but because he thinks the tournament's level is way too low and he must contribute to raising it (his recent stay in the US might explain his attitude somewhat).

Tetsuya Kuroko, another first year with no presence whatsoever. (It's a running gag that people never notice he's there.) He comes from a middle school which had a basketball team called "the Generation of Miracles" who crushed everyone else on the circuit. Kuroko wasn't part of the top 5 regulars, though ; actually, he's mostly crap at basketball, utterly incapable of dribbling or shooting right. But there's ONE thing he's insanely good at : passing the ball in a way that completely blindsides the opposing team. (Obviously, his natural propension at being invisible also helps.)

Riko Aida, the only female character in sight. Well, at least she's not the manager (if you're not aware, it's a traditional position for token females in anime school-set sports series who doesn't manage anything but is basically a glorified gofer), but the hard-ass coach who's going to press the first-year noobs into shape.

And then there's the other members of the club, but they don't really leave much of an impression yet.

Production Values

Not very high, but the storytelling is sound. The soundtrack might be trying a bit too hard to make everything dramatic and suspenseful, but it mostly works.

Overall Impression

Hey, this is better than I expected. Sport series obey to a strict formula and there's nothing here that really strays from it, but there's enough playfulness around the usual tropes to make it feel fresh. Kuroko's deadpan attitude is a lot of fun, and him and Kagami make for a fun odd couple.

I wasn't really expecting to keep following this, but the first episode intrigued me.

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Mysterious Girlfriend X (Nazo no Kanojo X)
(13 episodes)

What's it about ?

Romantic comedy (?) where the teenagers are really, really horny.

Characters

Akira, our protagonist. He's a bit generic, with his most notable character trait being the very weird dreams he has. But then, it's hard to stand out next to...

Mikoto, the mysterious new transfer student. I'll grant her that : she's weird in a way I've never seen before. She utterly refuses to socialize with the rest of the class and spends the breaks asleep at her desk. At one point she randomly erupts into wild laughter, to everyone else's consternation. The only panty shot in the whole episode is to show she keeps a pair of scissors tugged in with the string.

The plot here is that Akira becomes addicted to her drool. Not because there's anything special in it, ahah, that'd just be nonsense (OR IS IT ?), he's just a horny teenager who's fallen in love with her. Not that she minds, as a voice told her he would be the one she's have her first sex with. (THAT's why she suddenly erupted in laughter the other day.)

Production Values

Quite good. The dream sequences are especially nice to look at. The character designs are a bit retro, but Mikoto's eye-obscuring bangs are a good design choice.

Special mention to the soundtrack, which together with the direction manages to permeate nearly every scene with a foreboding and creepily offbeat atmosphere. Even (and especially) when nothing bizarre is happening.

Overall Impression

Another well-directed "a boy and his creepy girlfriend" adaptation this season ? Okay, I'm not complaining, especially as this takes a completely different direction from Sankarea. The emphasis here is on how weird Mikoto is, especially as it's impossible to tell whether she's really just a normal girl who doesn't fit in, or whether there's something more at work here. There's plenty to be paranoid about here... and Akira's overactive imagination doesn't help.

I have no clue whatsoever where this is going, but I'm hooked.
 

JELEINEN

Sizzler Black Squadron
Validated User
#66
They Mysterious Girlfriend X manga is pretty good and it looks like the anime is a straight forward adaptation. The voice they got for Urabe is perfect.
 

Axiomatic

I mix a coat
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#67
So I told myself, Upotte can't possibly be as bad as they're saying.

I should have listened. I should have listened to Jhiday.
 

Jhiday

Unrepentant Froggie
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#69
What have I done ? I should have known I was tempting fate with that review.

(I'll always give XEBEC the benefit of the doubt ever since I was pleasantly surprised by Hen Zemi, but this was just a disaster. Hopefully they'll do better with Nyaruko.)

The voice they got for Urabe is perfect.
Her voice feels a bit weird, completely different from those usually used for teenage girls in anime (especially those of slender build). Which is of course perfect for such a character.
(From the look of it, this is the first voice-acting gig from Ayako Yoshitani ever. Well, good on her.)

And now, reviews !

----------------------------

Dusk Maiden of Amnesia (Tasogare Otome x Amnesia)
(12 episodes)

What's it about ?

A high school detective club who investigate ghost stories. And the club's president is a ghost.

Characters

Okonogi, our point of view character for the first half of this episode. She seems to be the secretary of the club. She's really, really stupid, and completely fails to pick up the numerous clues that there's a ghost just next to her. Half of her interior monologue is devoted to how much she likes...

Teiichi, the vice-president of the club. He's apparently got a sixth sense for paranormal events (although reading Okonogi's thoughts is just a string of coincidences and misunderstandings). At the very least, he's the only person who can see AND touch...

Yuuko, the club president, and a famous ghost haunting the school. It's just that Okonogi is too dumb to make the connection. Since she's invisible to most, she spends a lot of her time trolling people and flirting with Teiichi. She's got some memory problems, hence the series' title.

Kirie, the fourth member of the club. Somehow she can see Yuuko (the reason why isn't explained in this episode, but becomes obvious once I did three seconds of research), and thus she spends most of her screentime being annoyed by her antics.

The gimmick in this episode is that you see the exact same sequence of events twice (down to the specific camera angles), first without and then with Yuuko and her dialogue. It's not as successful as it could be, as most of it was perfectly obvious the first time around ; but there's enough new material (especially Yuuko's body language) for it not to feel like a waste of time.

Production Values

Impressive. The animation team goes out of its way to make even a simple corridor look cool, and the episode's gimmick wouldn't work without a great attention to detail and body language. There's also some good use of colour for atmospheric effect. That said, there are some points later on where Okonogi's hysterics devolve into SD shorthand.

Overall Impression

Hum. This is a decent setup episode ; the joke isn't subtle, but it works. And of course, it looks great.

The problem is that, while we've now got a good handle on the characters, there's no indication about where the show itself is going. Is the gang going to have random slice-of-life adventures ? Or is there a wider plot coming ? This episode doesn't tell us, and so it's hard to say yet whether the series can sustain 11 more episodes. (I really hope the gimmick was a one-shot, because otherwise it's going to be bloody annoying.)

Well, at least I'm intrigued enough to check a couple more episodes out.

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Sequel watch !

As it turns out, I won't be making a full review of Saki: Achiga-hen - Episode of Side-A. It's more of the same from the original : cute girls with little personality playing mahjong as though it was calvinball. It makes a stab at building drama around the formation of an underdog club, but it falls flat due to the dullness of the writing. And that's when it doesn't just go for utter stupidity (actual dialogue : "wait, you've been cleaning this unused club room alone for two years on the vague hope we'd come back ?"). Also, given Saki's sluggish pace, I really doubt these people can get to the national level within 12 episodes.

Fate / Zero is back after three months' break, and jumps straight back to where it left. Frankly, there's no point in starting watching it now, you'll want the 13 episodes of setup to have a hope in figuring out what's going on.

Phi Brain S2 didn't even take a week's break, but it does go out of its way to reintroduce the supporting cast, the premise and the first season's relevant events so that it can be a good jumping on point. Since the evil POG organization has been comprehensively dismantled by now, we're getting a new set of villains to challenge the cast with more stupidly dangerous puzzles. Since they're already more personality and charisma (hello, Hiroshi Kamiya and Tomokazu Sugita !) than the POG, I'm not complaining. This looks as fun as ever, so I'm in for the ride.
 
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