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[In which I review] New anime, Winter 2013

Shay Guy

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And Michi Random is done.

My thoughts during some of Iori's scenes: "Get this girl an empty auditorium and a folding chair, stat."

I still love how she argues with people who are trying to reassure her. I still hate how distracting that damn mole is.

I have no idea who I want to end up with Taichi anymore.
Spoiler: Show
Even with Iori still trying to get a grip on her identity, I'm not sure why she and Taichi decided to abort their potential relationship. Is this clearer in the light novels?


Guess all that's left is to wait for Baka-Tsuki to finish the rest of the novels' translations.
 

Jhiday

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Ai Mai Mi is yet another series of shorts adapting some comedy 4-panel manga. It's notionally about a high school manga club, but really the three title characters spend most of their time or acting out terrible jokes. At least Mangirl had a plot ; this is just unfunny, horrible-looking crap. Avoid.

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And now for the first actual full-length show of the season (and one of the few to have any buzz)...

MAOYU - The Dark Lord and the Hero (Maoyuu Maou Yuusha)
(12 episodes)

What's it about ?

Heroic fantasy mixed with economics.

Characters

The Hero, champion of the human realms in their war against the demons. He's in such a hurry to defeat the Dark Lord that he runs towards the Evil Castle, leaving his usual party members behind. He's very gung-ho about the whole thing until he actually meets...

The Dark Lord, who's really a gentle young woman, and has no desire to fight whatsoever. She's sick of the war and would rather they find a way to end it together (well, that, and she's smitten by the legendary dashing young man). Her death/capture/whatever would solve nothing, as there are way too many vested interests on both sides to keep the war going (cue a comprehensive lecture to a bemused Hero about the subject). They're going to need to be more clever than that...

(In case you're wondering, nobody in this show has any name beyond their role ; for example the Hero's party comprises, beyond him, of the Female Knight, the Magician and the Old Archer.)

Production Values

One could have expected the worst from studio Arms, who have barely contributed to anything of worth since Elfen Lied nearly a decade ago, but did produce the likes of Queen's Blade, Ikki Tousen and various porn OVAs. Well, while the camera is very interested in the Dark Lord's huge tracts of land indeed, the fanservice level remains quite tame ; there's nothing too egregious on that level.

Actually, this does look quite good. The backgrounds are quite good-looking (although the CG scenes look a bit awkward, especially that spinning battlefield one with the Hero's party left behind), and the animation of the Dark Lord's body language is very good indeed.

Overall Impression

They had me at "Jun Fukuyama & Ami Koshimizu flirting while talking about economics", a formula with some pedigree indeed.

Now, this is a rough first episode. The (deliberately generic) backstory is rushed through in a terse narration infodump so that we can get to the one scene that matters, with our two leads meeting. This makes the Dark Lord's infatuation come a bit out of nowhere, although the episode does manage to eventually sell it by its end. Similarly, the Hero's final decision feels a bit too quick.

But that's nitpicking. The two main voice actors make a very convincing job of quickly fleshing out their characters beyond the stated archetypes, while exuding tons of charisma throughout. (I had no clue you could display any charisma while spending the whole episode entirely baffled. Jun Fukuyuma somehow pulls it off.)

Also promising : the economics described here paint a very detailed picture of the human realms (the Dark Lord is more vague about the demon side of the equation) that makes perfect sense and feels impressively real. I'm eager to see what other aspects further episodes are going to explore. It certainly makes the stakes quite high from the get-go, and I wonder what the Dark Lord is planning to do. (The title for the second episode is... most intriguing.)

So. There are bits that don't quite work. (By the way, why exactly is the Magician spouting the same catch-phrase as her voice-actress's character in Smile Precure, of all things ?) But there are a lot that do work, including the show's main selling points (the economics and the relationship between the two leads). So on balance I'm quite happy with continuing to watch this.

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I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Nekomogatari (Black) somewhere, now that I've watched the whole of it (the four episodes aired just before the New Year, but took a bit to get translated).

For those who aren't aware of it, this is a prequel to 2009's Bakemonogatari, a very peculiar mix of harem romance, supernatural horror, self-indulgent dialogue and Akiyuki Shinbo being weird for the hell of it. That was a very good show indeed (if only for being a visual masterpiece), but it's not for everybody. Nisemonogatari, its sequel last year, was basically more of the same, with even better technical quality but also even more self-indulgent.

The question with Nekomonogatari (Black), like any prequel, is whether there's any point to watching it, considering how the events of "the Cat incident in Golden Week" have already amply been described in the main series in its "Tsubasa cat" arc. I've actually rewatched those four episodes to make sure, and yes indeed Nekomonogatari (Black) does cover a lot of (until now) relatively unexplored territory. It helps that this is a lean narrative (by Bakemonogatari standards), making its point very efficiently at a pace that never feels idle. And the visuals are as striking as they've ever been.

This obviously whets my appetite for Kizumonogatari (the prequel people are actually looking for, describing "the Vampire incident on Spring Break" we've only very briefly flashbacked to until now), whenever that comes out ; and the "second season", apparently slated for later this year.
 

Rainfall

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Now, this is a rough first episode. The (deliberately generic) backstory is rushed through in a terse narration infodump so that we can get to the one scene that matters, with our two leads meeting. This makes the Dark Lord's infatuation come a bit out of nowhere, although the episode does manage to eventually sell it by its end. Similarly, the Hero's final decision feels a bit too quick.
It kinda comes out of nowhere because that's an original anime bit. At first she sells it as basically a political marriage, the relationship grows fairly quickly, but in a really uneventful way, they just end up really liking each other after spending time together.

I was afraid they'd do something pathetic like that. :(
 
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Bremen

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It kinda comes out of nowhere because that's an original anime bit. At first she sells it as basically a political marriage, the relationship grows fairly quickly, but it's does in a really uneventful way.

I was afraid they'd do something pathetic like that. :(
I have to admit I liked the more confident Demon King from the manga I read much more than I liked the more stereotypical anime female lead Demon King this show went for. But other than that I think the show has a lot of promise.
 

Rainfall

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I have to admit I liked the more confident Demon King from the manga I read much more than I liked the more stereotypical anime female lead Demon King this show went for. But other than that I think the show has a lot of promise.
Oh, I'm sure it's going to be a good show and I really hope it will be popular. But it's a bona fide dealbreaker for me. I will not be able to watch it without wanting to kill something, and I like my cats too much to risk it. :p

To be fair, I'm barely capable to stomach anime these days. Oh well, it's not like this show caused the manga to suddenly burst in flames or anything. But dammit Japan!
 
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Ikselam

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Not quite ready to say that Demon Queen has been ruined forever, but she does seem a bit more... soft. Less overtly nerdy. Doesn't go for the hard-sell quite as aggressively. Still, it seems like amping up the deredere hasn't actually made her stupider. We'll see how it turns out.

Spoiler: Show

Seriously, the first thing she offers is to manage Hero's finances and do his taxes? Total dream girl.
edit: Shame about the horns, though.
 
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Rainfall

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Not quite ready to say that Demon Queen has been ruined forever, but she does seem a bit more... soft. Less overtly nerdy. Doesn't go for the hard-sell quite as aggressively. Still, it seems like amping up the deredere hasn't actually made her stupider. We'll see how it turns out.

Spoiler: Show

Seriously, the first thing she offers is to manage Hero's finances and do his taxes? Total dream girl.
Yeah, she's basically Twilight Sparkle in the manga. :D

And she's basically the main character, with the most face time and most significant interactions. Wich means it's rubbed in my face a lot and change a lot of the thing in a lot of little ways. It stings a lot.
 
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Ikselam

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Yeah, she's basically Twilight Sparkle in the manga. :D
While I prefer to leave ponies out of it, I can agree that the version of Demon Queen drawn by Akira Ishida is indeed the total package.

...I think the thing that disappoints me most about the anime is that her "name" isn't being translated as Demon Queen. Which is perfectly legit, but draws attention to the "zomg non-gender-specific-but-assumed-to-be-male demon ruler is a WOMAN" misunderstanding, which never happened in the aforementioned manga because it starts right there in the demon throne room with Hero all, "YOUR REIGN OF TERROR IS OVER," and DQ like, "FIRST CHECK OUT THESE GRAPHS."

So I guess my issue is basically the same as yours, when we come right down to it.
 

Rainfall

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While I prefer to leave ponies out of it, I can agree that the version of Demon Queen drawn by Akira Ishida is indeed the total package.

...I think the thing that disappoints me most about the anime is that her "name" isn't being translated as Demon Queen. Which is perfectly legit, but draws attention to the "zomg non-gender-specific-but-assumed-to-be-male demon ruler is a WOMAN" misunderstanding, which never happened in the aforementioned manga because it starts right there in the demon throne room with Hero all, "YOUR REIGN OF TERROR IS OVER," and DQ like, "FIRST CHECK OUT THESE GRAPHS."

So I guess my issue is basically the same as yours, when we come right down to it.
Sorry, didn't intend to drag ponies into it, but it's not like there are any other examples of that character "type".

Note the scare quotes, because knowing of TWO female characters who are intelligent, nerdy AND leader types does NOT make it a type. :(

... Dammit.
 

Rose Embolism

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The anime isn't bad per se, it just suffers in comparison with the manga, where Demon Queen is a fantasy Adam Smith. t's good enough that I'll keep watching a couple episodes more to see if they bring in the potatoes and other ideas for reforming the economy of the human world. That was a really important part of the manga, but I have a nasty feeling it'll be skipped over for the "Human interest" elements.

Damn I wish there was an official translation of the manga.
 
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