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[In which I review] New anime, Summer 2011

KoboldLord

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Is that because the writers are intentionally trying to add fetish stuff, though, or is it just because there's an internet fetish for literally every conceivable plot element? The internet is pretty comprehensive, you know, so any marginally wacky scene is going to trigger a fetish flag somewhere.

I'm starting to feel less and less optimistic about this season. Natsume Yuujinchou and the last half of Tiger & Bunny are the only things to really catch me so far.
 

David J Prokopetz

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Is that because the writers are intentionally trying to add fetish stuff, though, or is it just because there's an internet fetish for literally every conceivable plot element?
In my experience, the only folks who wonder if it's all a huge coincidence are folks who've only heard the show described and have never actually sat down and watched a few episodes. Presentation matters. :D
 

JELEINEN

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Kami-sama Dolls was pretty good and enjoyably dark, but with jealous little sister + well-endowed love interest, I predict whacky hijinks next episode.
 

Jhiday

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Two quick reviews, because those 3/4-minute shorts don't warrant a full writeup :

Morita-san wa Mukuchi ("Morita is taciturn")

This revolves around Morita, a high school girl who barely ever talks (although she's got some interior monologue, which kills the effect a bit). And that's it, that's the entire joke. It was already outstaying its welcome at 3 minutes long, I can't imagine watching anymore of this.

Nyanpire

Speaking of one-shot jokes that can't be sustainable, even in 4-minute shorts : this stars a cat that's been bitten by a vampire (as a way to save its life). This is even less entertaining than the previous series : it tries way too hard to hit the "cute cat doing cute things cutely" button, and fails spectacularly at being even a single bit endearing. It's way too artificial to work, and the high concept wasn't even promising to begin with.
 

ru

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Two quick reviews, because those 3/4-minute shorts don't warrant a full writeup :
what is up with all these shorts? were they always there, and now fansubbers are casting around for something to do now crunchyroll have taken most of the other shows, or is this a new thing?

Kamisama no Memochou I thought was nice - a cross between Gothic and Durarara as you note - but I just hope the subject matter isn't going to be so downbeat all the time. It could end up as one of those things which I can see is objectively excellent, but I might not feel like watching very often.

Yuruyuri I didn't hate it as much as you obviously did. I think is main quartet is kind of weak, but the addition of the supporting cast may live things up a bit. I like "atmosphere anime" in general, so I'm willing to give this a few more episodes.
 

Jhiday

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what is up with all these shorts? were they always there, and now fansubbers are casting around for something to do now crunchyroll have taken most of the other shows, or is this a new thing?
Well, the original season of Fireball aired in 2008, so presumably they've been around for a while. I was certainly more surprised by the number of half-length shows last season.

I do agree that it looks like fansubbers are picking up a wider variety of shows than ever before. I'm not sure it's all due to Crunchyroll (a good number of the CR shows still get subbed by various fan groups, after all), but there may be some degree of emulation at work. And hey, more shows getting subbed can only be cause for rejoicing, right ? (Although some shows still fall through the cracks... hello, Shouwa Monogatari and Hyouge Mono !)

Yuruyuri I didn't hate it as much as you obviously did.
I didn't exactly hate it ; I just found it boring and unimaginative, and I've pretty much burnt out my patience for the genre at this point. A season without any quartet of girls talking about nothing (especially if the show's as mediocre as this) should do me some good and refresh my batteries.

I wonder whether I should include numeric ratings with my reviews ? The format often makes them a bit more (or less) vitriolic than my actual opinion of the show.



And I finally caught this one when I noticed it was being simulcasted on NicoNico :

Uta no☆Prince-sama♪ Maji Love 1000%

What's it about ?

Male harem romance in an academy grooming pop idols and composers.

Characters

Haruka, our generic female lead. The kind that arrives late because she was busy helping a random little girl. She joined the Academy because she dreams of composing music for her favourite idol. Voiced by Miyuki Sawashiro, whom I didn't know could sound so boring and unsexy.

As per the rules of the genre, there are half a dozen prettyboy stereotypes just tripping over Haruka. There's the boy-next-door, the rich-but-charismatic guy, the brooding dark dude, the childish one... and the mysterious guy who's a dead ringer for Haruka's favourite idol, but displays a completely different personality (angry loner instead of clown).

Rounding up the cast are Tomo, Haruka's roommate (the female equivalent of the "perverted best friend who handily provides exposition about everyone" cliché), their homeroom teacher (an androgynous senior idol voiced by Yuuichi Nakamura)... and the FABULOUS principal, a retired idol who funded the creation of the academy with his royalties, and voiced gleefully by Norio Wakamoto - his entrance ceremony speech just has to be seen to be believed.

Production Values

This looks pretty good, if you don't mind technicolor day-glo. The character designs for the dudes look beyond generic, though, and Haruka's dead eyes are just plain creepy.

I quite like the opening sequence with all the guys doing a boys' band routine : sure, it looks stupid and awkward, but there's a certain charm to it, and the tune is annoyingly catchy ("Let's song !").

Overall Impression

Well, that's certainly better than I anticipated. Not that it's actually any good, mind you ; the harem romance is as cliché as possible, and neither the female lead nor any of the dudes look like they've got any potential to rise above their genericness. But there's some decent entertainment to be had out of the setting, as both the homeroom teacher and the principal are FABULOUSLY camp and nearly make the episode worth watching from their few minutes of screentime alone.

I expect myself to get bored of it very quickly (especially if the harem plot gets too much screentime), but I'm surprising myself by giving it a tentative second episode.
 

JELEINEN

Sizzler Black Squadron
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what is up with all these shorts? were they always there, and now fansubbers are casting around for something to do now crunchyroll have taken most of the other shows, or is this a new thing?
They come and go and a number always get fansubbed, but they seem to go under the radar a lot. There have even been a few shows that were nothing but anthologies of shorts (Wonderful, Anime Complex and Modern Love's Silliness off the top of my head).
 

Wolfwood2

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Kamisama no Memochou I thought was nice - a cross between Gothic and Durarara as you note - but I just hope the subject matter isn't going to be so downbeat all the time. It could end up as one of those things which I can see is objectively excellent, but I might not feel like watching very often.
I thought the downbeat subject matter was the only thing saving it from being complete pants. The male lead was so painfully generic it killed it for me.
 

Jhiday

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Mawaru Penguindrum
(24 episodes)

What's it about ?

Two brothers are forced into a bizarre magical contract to save their deathly-ill sister. Also, penguins.

Characters

Shouma, the blue-haired younger brother, is our point of view character for most of the first episode. He's the more subdued and introverted of the pair, although he does get quite emotional when his sister seems to die halfway through. If I've understood the plot well, the brothers take turns going to school and doing the chores (and taking care of Sis). It's all but stated that their parents are dead.

(We get to see a couple of his classmates, such as the obligatory lecherous best friend and a girl that screams "potential love interest", but they're not important yet.)

Kanba, the red-haired elder brother, seems to be much more of a Casanova (much to Shouma's dismay)... but then we see him kissing his sister while she's asleep at the very end of the episode. Hum...

Himari, their sister, is afflicted with one of those undefined fatal anime diseases. The doctors have no clue why she's even still alive, and give her a few months at best. Which was optimistic, considering she drops dead in the middle of a trip to the zoo (the brothers were obviously trying to make her last few days as pleasant as possible). But never fear ! The (very ugly) penguin-shaped hat they bought her at the gift-shop takes control of her, and gives her some life back, provided the brothers enter a mysterious magical contract.

Shouma was starting to think it was all a dream, but then he starts getting stalked by a very helpful penguin... which turns out to be part of a trio which was sent to the siblings by parties unknown. Oh, and Himari gets controlled by the penguin hat again, providing some more exposition. Which barely explains anything, of course.

Production Values

It's animated by Brains Base, one of the best studios currently around (even their C-show Kamisama Dolls looks better than average), so of course it looks good. But what is really striking are the multiple directorial touches that provide exposition in a fun way (the subway signs for location changes, or the ticker text for the hospital flashbacks) or just contribute to the playful atmosphere (the faceless masses reduced to bathroom symbols).

Which is only to be expected, considering this is the new project of capital-D Director Kunihiko Ikuhara (Revolutionary Girl Utena), who hasn't done any substantial work for more than a decade. It's actually surprisingly devoid of what I'd identified as his signature stylistic tics (there's barely a rose in sight, and no pastel freeze-frames), but then I can only assume he's moved on and is trying to make the best of modern animation techniques.

The ED heavily suggests that the brothers are going to take girl forms as part of their contract. Oh, Ikuhara, never change.

Overall Impression

I obviously has high expectations about this show, considering the director and studio behind it ; the complete lack of any promotional info regarding the actual premise only exacerbated my curiosity. I'm glad to say that this is well worth the hype, mystifying in all the right ways, possessing a superb sense of slapstick (the penguins are hilarious) and jokes that are genuinely funny, and grounded by the intriguing relationship between the three leads (and this, despite how irritating I usually find Himari's character type).

This is head and shoulders above anything else this season : imaginative, funny, great looking, and gifted with a gripping emotional core. Sure, there's still about 9 new shows I've yet to sample, but I really doubt any of them is going to be as good as this one. If you're only going to watch one anime series this summer, make it this one.
 
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