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[In which I review] New anime, Summer 2011

Jhiday

Unrepentant Froggie
RPGnet Member
Validated User
#1
Summer 2011 has come, and with it quite a number of new anime series. 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 for the last two seasons, but I've had some Internet connection problems, and so I've already built up quite a backlog. Hopefully I'll manage to reduce it somewhat before the deluge of Thursday shows.

Note that I will be skipping :
- The sequel series (although I'll probably comment on the few where I've watched the original series). Don't expect any review of Natsume Yuujinchou San, 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, although I'll at least try to get my hands on the Appleseed thingie.

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


Double J
(4-minute episodes)

What's it about ?

A high school club where everyone is a representative of an inane, this-should-really-have-been-automated-by-now kind of manual labor (such as engraving toothpicks or gluing enveloppes).

Characters

Four minutes is a bit short for anyone to develop beyond stereotypes. We've got the newcomer girl, her brash friend, the solemn toothpick girl, the club secretary... and the club chief, a dude who gets drawn in a much rougher artstyle for some reason.

Production Values

By the makers of Haiyoru! Nyaruani: Remember My Love(craft-sensei) ! Which tells you everything about what to expect, really : barely animated sets of talking heads.

Overall impression

Well, on a writing level it's somewhat better than Nyaruani : the jokes are funnier and the pacing has much more punch to it. On the other hand, it doesn't have a killer hook like its predecessor... and it's not good enough for me to care.

Avoid.
 

Jhiday

Unrepentant Froggie
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#2
Blade
(12 episodes)

What's it about ?

It's a straightforward vampire-hunter show.

Characters

Eric "Blade" Brooks, our protagonist. His mother got bitten (and killed) while pregnant, and thus he's a half-vampire "Daywalker". Obviously he's got something of a grudge, and goes around killing vampires by the dozen with his silver-bladed weapons.

Makoto, a young vampire-hunter who makes a team with her veteran father (so of course he's doomed to die before the first episode ends). She gets three minutes of badassitude before getting way over her head and spending most of her screentime in distress. Hopefully she'll snap out of it before she gets on my nerves too much.

Deacon Frost, the Big Bad Vampire, who's recognizable as the one who bit Blade's mother because of his characteristic 4 fangs. Obviously he makes short work of Blade at this point, although he leaves him alive for some reason (maybe because the "Daywalker" blood samples he extracts may not be enough ?).

Production Values

Decent. For once, the rough artstyle of the Marvel/Madhouse coproductions fits the tone of the series instead of working against it. The music score is better than average (this may be the first OP among those projects where the instrumental tune works perfectly with the visuals), and there's some decent use of colour to set the mood here and there. On the other hand, I'm not fond of the frequent use of freeze frames in the action sequences (it always looks cheap to me), and the dissolving effect when vampires get dispatched looks quite weird.

Overall Impression

Well, I didn't fall asleep, which is better than I expected (despite being a Marvel fanboy, I have absolutely zero interest in Blade as a character). It works quite well as a action piece (apart from some stylistic mistakes detailed above), and Makoto shows some potential as an action girl if she gets a clue quickly (Maaya Sakamoto's charisma strikes again !).

Can it sustain itself over 12 episodes without becoming repetitive ? I have my doubts. But it's earned itself a second episode, which is more than I'd thought beforehand.
 

Jhiday

Unrepentant Froggie
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#3
Ro-Kyu-Bu

What's it about ?

Standard sports series about an elementary school's female basketball club. Also, lolicon.

Characters

Subaru, our protagonist. He's a high school student roped by his elder sister (who's an elementary teacher) into coaching the club for three days. He was part of the high-school basketball club until it got dissolved a month or so ago due to a "lolicon incident" (I'm not sure about the details, and I can't bring myself to rewatch this), and his middle school club got quite high in tournaments, so at least he's competent, but he's not particularly enthusiastic (his sister being a complete troll doesn't help).

The five members of the club are the usual stereotypes : the talented and competent one, the loud idiot, the brainy one, the tall and way-too-well-endowed-for-an-elementary-student moeblob, and the kid.

We also get a glimpse of Subaru's potential love interest, as well as the male elementary basketball club walking angrily towards Subaru as a weak cliffhanger.

Production Values

There's absolutely no way to mistake what kind of audience this is pandering to : way too many ass shots, an emphasis on the glistening hotpants the girls wear, a gratuitous shower scene where they actually start fondling each other...

Well, at least they spent part of the animation budget into making the basketball look somewhat good. But that's what, 4 minutes of screentime in total ?

Overall Impression

I knew what kind of show I was in for when I saw that the first post-OP action of the girls was to dress as maids in an effort to "make a good impression" on their new coach (and their dialogue gets more explicit after that). I braced myself for quite a painful watch.

It's... actually not that bad : the lolicon stuff gets more subdued as the episode goes, and it's hard to mess with the standard sports show formula. Still, that doesn't actually make the show any good : the not-brain-bleach-inducing parts are merely mediocre instead of plain awful. There's nothing at all to recommend to this show.
 
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Jhiday

Unrepentant Froggie
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#4
Sacred Seven

What's it about ?

Fuck if I know. Super-powered teens and mechas fighting against Greek mythology figures in a contemporary high school setting ?

Characters

Alma, our high school student protagonist. He goes berserk with his uncontrollable superpowers when under too much stress, which gives him a terrible reputation (the time one of his outburst put 18 classmates in the hospital a few years ago doesn't help).

Ruri, a very rich girl who seems to know what the frack is going on and his deploying all her resources (including an army of maids and a mechatank-riding butler) into fighting off the baddies. She somehow helps Alma with getting his powers under control, although it does take some time for him to even agree to hear her out. She does flamboyant stuff like buy the whole high-school and instituting herself chairman just to keep an eye on him.

Wakana, Alma's too-dumb-to-live classmate who can't quite understand why all her friends are avoiding the glowering brooding guy. Presumably she's being set up as his love interest.

Our macguffins here are GEMS, which coincidentally enough is exactly what Wakana's club is studying (and of course Ruri and her butler join it as soon as Alma makes a move towards it). Our Monster Of The Week is a big walking statue with Medusa powers, and it seems to be after those gems. Given that this looks nothing like a team story, I presume the "Sacred Seven" are the rainbow-coloured gems (Alma has Red somehow embedded into him, Ruri possesses Purple, and Yellow is in the museum targeted this episode).

Oh, and Ruri carries around a sentient mask-statue-thing who spends his time making sarcastic comments. It's that kind of show.

Production Values

Decent, I guess ? You can't really go wrong with Sunrise animating mechas, but I'm not too fond of the character designs, which feel generic as heck.

The OP has got some pretty good visuals marred by a terrible song. No ED yet.

Overall Impression

Well, this is certainly a thing. You can't fault this show for lacking enthusiasm, as it tries throwing everything and the kitchen sink at the viewer in an effort to catch attention. There's something of a tone clash between Alma's angst and, er, nearly everything else (from Ruri's maid army to the slapstick between Wakana and her friends), but I think that's part of the point.

I'm intrigued. It looks very stupid indeed, but it's got enough energy and charm to look like it could pull it off. I'm cautiously optimistic about this one.
 
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David J Prokopetz

Social Justice Henchman
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#5
Wakana, Alma's too-dumb-to-live classmate who can't quite understand why all her friends are avoiding the glowering brooding guy. Presumably she's being set up as his love interest.
That's a pretty good rule of thumb for anime: if you're trying to spot the designated love interest and there's no obvious tsundere, look for the girl who's dumb as a sack of hammers. :D
 

Wolfwood2

Registered User
Validated User
#6
That's a pretty good rule of thumb for anime: if you're trying to spot the designated love interest and there's no obvious tsundere, look for the girl who's dumb as a sack of hammers. :D
Also if the character has no obvious other reason to exist. I mean, at least Ruri is responsible for managing the plot.

I don't think Wakana is that dumb. So the tall, good-looking, brooding guy with a bad reputation but that Wakana has never seen do anything violent is like catnip to her? That seems about right.
 

David J Prokopetz

Social Justice Henchman
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Validated User
#7
Also if the character has no obvious other reason to exist.
That's a good guideline in the medium run, but when you're playing spot-the-love-interest right off the bat - anime shows often take half-a-dozen episodes just to finish introducing the core cast, so a given character's reason for existing may not be immediately apparent.
 

bv728

Was he a violent man?
Validated User
#8
Sacred Seven
I'm cautiously optimistic about this one.
The initial hints of Oni-horn stuff and the mid-episode suit were better than the final one. Japanese myths versus Greek myths would make a much more interesting show than the one we seem to be getting. And it's never good when your show makes me come up with a much better idea by the end of the first episode.
 

Katsue

Young Witch
Validated User
#9
I don't think Wakana is that dumb. So the tall, good-looking, brooding guy with a bad reputation but that Wakana has never seen do anything violent is like catnip to her? That seems about right.
Well, she seems to be right about his personality. The dumb part is where she spends about two hours waiting him for to turn up at a bus stop when he said he wasn't coming.
 

Jhiday

Unrepentant Froggie
RPGnet Member
Validated User
#10
The initial hints of Oni-horn stuff and the mid-episode suit were better than the final one. Japanese myths versus Greek myths would make a much more interesting show than the one we seem to be getting. And it's never good when your show makes me come up with a much better idea by the end of the first episode.
I don't know : while I agree that Alma's eventual armour design is bland as all heck, the show you describe sounds like a terrible idea to me. And the series' earnestness wouldn't work as well in that kind of setup.

(Also, I've now seen Blood-C, and I take back any nasty thing I may have said against Wakana.)



La croisée dans un labyrinthe étranger (Ikoku Meiro no Croisée)

What's it about ?

A young Japanese girl is brought to late-19th-century Paris to serve as a housemaid. Cue culture clash.

Characters

Yune, the Japanese girl, whose kimono are a complete style clash with the rest of the setting (not to mention somewhat unwieldy to walk around, as the show quickly proves). Apparently going abroad for months as a house servant is a traditional thing in her family (she's moved to Paris entirely willingly). She's initially presented as barely understanding any French, but we eventually learn she's somewhat fluent in the language (which makes her presence somewhat less ludicrous).

Claude, a young blacksmith/sign-maker. He's not hot on having Yune around, although his objections are perfectly reasonable and he's shown to be a decent sort of guy. Very good at his job.

Oscar, Claude's grandfather, retired founder of the sign shop (we learn in passing that Daddy is dead). He's somehow affluent enough to go on trips to Japan and bring back Yune on a whim.

Production Values

Gorgeous backgrounds, which is actually a problem (see below). The animators also have a decent grasp of body language, which is essential in a series like this.

Overall Impression

Oh, dear. This is everything I feared it would be.

When I think "late-19th-century France", my mind immediately jumps to the works of Émile Zola, which may be somewhat accurately described as "grim and gritty". In contrast, this series showcases an immaculate Paris, where even the (barely shown) street urchins look way too clean to be real. As a result, this version of Paris looks fake, like the theme park version of the real thing. It doesn't help that my mind is in constant nitpicking mode while watching it (shops named after the King ? There'd have been three regime changes since France had a king ; although it's slightly less outlandish when we later learn that the shop was founded two generations ago - when there just barely was still a King - and that its business is struggling somewhat - but then, how can Grampa afford a trip to Japan ?).

Anyway, this show looks far too artificial to my liking, much akin to the way Paris is depicted in most foreign media. More damningly, there is very little depth to it : the characters are blandly nice and no real conflict looks in the offing. I'll give it one more episode to change my mind, but I'm not optimistic.
 
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