Monthly Archives: October 2014

Fall 2014 Anime Preview: The Watchable

This season I watched at least 10 minutes of the first episode of almost all of the series listed over at Stargazed Charts, and while some were QUITE a disappointment, the season as a whole looks promising. This time I’ll point out the series that are watchable–in other words, series which are worth watching if anime is all you spend your free time doing. Otherwise, there are many better shows to fill your time with.


Image of Angelise getting kicked in the stomach real hard. Welcome to Cross Ange.

Cross Ange

Cross Ange generated a lot of chatter around the web between people who found the rape scene in the first episode morally objectionable, and those who decided to push past the scene to stick with the series. I happen to fall into the latter category since the scene seems pivotal to the storyline. However, there’s certainly an issue with the way the rape is portrayed–along with the “TnA” that’s overly-abundant throughout the series–that makes it very clear the demographic Cross Ange is angling for. Ultimately, Cross Ange is a mix of the brutal–a baby’s imprisoned!–and the wonderfully bizarre–a baby’s imprisoned!– leaving the audience to square those two attributes. While I’m intrigued by this series, there are a number of shows that are better than Cross Ange, and it’s getting plenty of coverage elsewhere due to the hubbub it’s creating, so I won’t be reviewing it. Reader beware, and all of that.


Image of the manga store crew

Denki-Gai no Honya-San

As far as comedy series go, Denki-Gai is a watchable show, but one that doesn’t reach beyond the usual Otaku jokes and head nods to lascivious manga. It’s not bad–though the characters feel underdeveloped–just not what I want to watch this season. Otherwise, you’ve found your show.


Image of the Seha girls and their self-aware awful animation

Hi Scoool! Seha Girl

Listen, I’m aware of how much I’m SUPPOSED to like Seha Girl, but this series is limited in enjoyability to those who get a good percentage of the Sega in-jokes, and that simply isn’t me. The animation seems purposefully tacky, which works with the spirit of the show, but it’s not interesting to watch if you can’t fathom most of the references. Still, we don’t see many series of this length–10 to 11 minutes an episode–and its knowing irreverence and interest in geek culture is reminiscent of certain series on Adult Swim in the states. I’d be interested to see more anime in this mold, just hopefully one or two series that my laymen mind can pick up on.


Image of Ronia ready for her badly animated journey

Ronia the Robber’s Daughter

I can’t think of another series, this season or otherwise, that is so negatively effected by it’s animation as Ronia. The story–at least so far–is charming, if a little quaint, and that Ghibli appeal is present to a degree, but dear lord, is the artwork here abysmal. We’re talking early CGI-based FMV’s, where a character’s hair was basically one amorphous blob that lacked any single strands or even movement. All that being said, Ronia is a series that I’ll be covering this season, simply because of its role in the future of Ghibli–if there is a future–and the fact that not many professional sites are covering it on a week to week basis.


Image of Princess Yona contemplating her existence... maybe?

Akatsuki no Yona

Akatsuki no Yona certainly isn’t a bad show, and several scenes–even the overall mood of the series–make for a decently compelling watch. However, much of Akatsuki doesn’t feel like anything we haven’t seen before. Add to that, my complete and utter lack of interest in these historical fantasy shows, and I’m out.


Image of one of those nondescript Yowamushi kids... WITH A BIKE!

Yowamushi Pedal: Grande Road

A handful of seasons ago, I gave plenty of chances to the first Yowamushi series, tuning in for the first dozen episodes. The series was boring–mainly do to a complete lack of character development in the face of heavy bike and bike-race development–and it’s sad to say that nothing much is different here. I’ll be the first to admit that these bike races are a thrill to watch, but none of the characters seem too different from the last time I saw them, and glitzy bike upgrades alone, do not a widely heralded anime make… well, actually, this show is pretty popular… but that doesn’t mean I have to like it!


Image of Seiya and Isuzu in a roller coaster... also terribly animated

Amagi Brilliant Park

Though the mean-spirited humor isn’t really my thing, Amagi may be a worthwhile watch for those of you who liked Rail Wars!(not good) or Sabegebu!!(better, but still not good) from last season. Outside of that, I do wonder if the series has enough plot potential to go anywhere and the animation is pretty bad here at times. Really, Amagi is a toss up that gets barely more than a “Meh…” from me.

Fall 2014 Anime Preview: The Enjoyable

This season I watched at least 10 minutes of the first episode of almost all of the series listed over at Stargazed Charts, and while some were QUITE a disappointment, the season as a whole looks promising. Today we’ll look at the enjoyable shows–in other words, series that will probably be fun to watch this season, but may not change your perception of life.


Image of the demon knight holding up a baby

Garo Honoo no Kokuin

I have a built-in appreciation for shows like Garo after getting addicted to Berserk in my formal years. Like that series, Garo gracefully balances on the line between being an over-the-top action series and pondering over the beast-like nature of man. It hits far more often than it misses, and Garo‘s first episode left me with a strong sense of anticipation for what comes next.


Image of the Musashino Animation crew

Shirobako

Shirobako is about as “inside baseball” as anime gets; the show focuses on an animation studio which is in the midst of producing a new series. We get the usual cute anime girls as our protagonists, but if you’re interested in how a show gets made–and mind you, this COULD all be exaggerated or glamorized, depending on your outlook–this Shirobako is here for you. I doubt the plot will get much more complex than that, but this entertaining behind the scenes look at the anime industry, is at least engaging enough for 24 minutes of your time.


Image of Kaoru and her husband living their humdrum lives

Danna ga Nani wo Itteiru ka Wakaranai Ken

Across the web, I’ve mostly seen disdain for this series, and I can’t quite understand why. It was one the only tiny show–those lasting all of three to five minutes–that actually had something interesting to say. These series are usually so flippant, due to the short amount of time they have to set up a storyline and character traits, but Danna ga Nani makes haste to define its characters and push the audience to psychoanalyze the two protagonists’ marriage. Granted the series likely won’t delve too much into the profound, but it’s critique of those who let life happen to them, is a theme rarely touched upon–or at least one that doesn’t get the attention it deserves.


Image of a woman arriving from the stars

Shingeki no Bahamut Genesis

There’s nothing spectacular about Bahamut Genesis story-wise, but its dynamic main characters and fantastically animated shots put it far beyond the quality I’d expect from a series based on a card game. Maybe I’m putting Bahamut Genesis on a pedestal because of its unexpected premiere episode, but I’m looking forward to seeing where things go from here.


Image of Kyouya pulling Erika behind him

Ookami Shoujo to Kuro Ouji

Ookami Shoujo fills an interesting niche of the shoujo genre, one that involves easily dislikable characters in juxtaposition to the usual sappy protagonists who we just want to fall in love. Most specifically, Ookami Shoujo seems to be a reaction to series like Ao Haru Ride, where a sweet female protagonist falls for our asshole male protagonist. Sure Kou–the male lead of Ao Haru Ride–helped Yoshioka to realize certain truths about herself, but overall he treated her badly, even suggesting that he could sexually assault her at one point in order to “scare her straight”. Ookami Shoujo, on the other hand, deals with the same kind of asshole male figure but features Erika–the female protagonist–who is the only person that sees all of his worst aspects, and is fully aware of how terrible he is. This is all wrapped in a domination-lite storyline, so there’s plenty of room for things to go horribly wrong, but this premiere episode definitely won me over in its seemingly fresh take on the most annoying type of shoujo romance.


Image of Meliodas and Elizabeth looking towards adventure

Nanatsu no Taizai

At times, this series plays so close to the lowest common denominator–I counted two or three random boob grabs–that it’s hard to want to keep up with it. Generally though, there was a mood that I can’t yet articulate that reminded me of equal parts Trigun and Berserk. The consistent uprooting of assumptions keeps the viewer on their feet, and the action keeps us interested. Most importantly, Nanatsu seems to play in the world of moral ambiguity that last season’s Akame ga Kill! delved into, but Nanatsu never takes itself as seriously as Akame does. This makes the journey–getting our characters from dubious assassins to heroes of the day–all the more enjoyable, in a time when dark and brooding characters have begun to saturate the media landscape.


Image of Kohina holding up a bowl of ramen religiously

Gugure! Kokkuri-San

Gugure! is one of those rare anime comedies which has an almost impeccable grasp of timing, using pauses in dialogue or character reactions to build the comedic effect. At times, the series feels a little bit like Barakamon‘s impish, and certainly odd, younger brother. We have an older male protagonist–who thinks highly of himself–meeting up with an elementary-aged girl in order to protect her and pass on his philosophy. Of course, much like in Barakamon, said little girl proves to be just as influential on her “sensei” as he is on her, if not more so. Gugure! is a sillier and less triumphant Barakamon, if 90’s Tim Burton had directed it.


Image of Kanon and Haneru dancing in sync

Tribe Cool Crew

This series plays out in usual shounen fashion, with a central passion that our main characters give themselves over to. Unique to Tribe Cool Crew, is the relative sweetness of the show, which isn’t beat over our heads but instead plays out quietly. Our protagonists are in such awe of each others’ talents, that even “dance offs” feel cordial and built on a ground of equal respect. There’s nothing wrong with the antagonizing which happens in shows like Pokemon or Bleach, but this function of Tribe definitely helps to set it apart from the rest of the pack. The series also portrays the art of dancing as fun and amusing, without subtracting from the importance which the main characters have attributed to the form of expression. I can’t abide by the CGI animated dance scenes–which look out of place, next to classically animated shots–but Tribe Cool Crew is a winner, otherwise.


Image of Rin staring off into the horizon

Fate/Stay Night

Fate/Stay Night keeps up a tradition this season of having outstanding animation but a mediocre story. Perhaps if I was a big fan of the franchise or the original visual novels, this new iteration would be right up my alley, but as it stands, I just marveled at the artwork for the 44 minute duration of the pilot. I won’t be reviewing this one–once again, plenty of coverage–but Fate/Stay Night has at least redefined the way I view the franchise at large, after the criminally bad Fate/kaleid liner blah blah 2wei!. Fate/Stay Night doesn’t involve 8-year olds making out with one another, so it gets the patented Thin Black Line stamp of approval.


Image of a giant space mech being prepped for take off

Gundam Reconguista in G

Reconguista‘s biggest problem is its incoherence, or at least a disinterest on the part of the writers/director to fill in those of us not familiar with the Gundam universe. That being said, the throwback art style–which feels straight out of the 70’s, but in high definition–is magnificent, and I love the designs of the mechs. As a fan of mecha series, it looks like I’m down to this, GBF Try or Cross Ange this season, and the combination of the nostalgic animation and the action direction here, puts Reconguista on top.


Image of Kaori playing the melodica for some children

Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso

Shigatsu is an extremely pretty series–kudos to A-1 Pictures for that–but it ultimately feels hollow. Even as a fan of anime about musicians, I’d probably only stick with this show for the artwork. Otherwise, the characters are dull and don’t seem to move the story along at the right pace. Still, there’s potential here, so getting on board now could pay off if you have the patience.


Image of a mech battle with the sun shining brightly

Gundam Build Fighters Try

Having only caught an episode of the first season of GBF, I found this second season to be readily accessible. We get a quick idea of where each character stands and then we’re thrust into the action. Even though this series is more of a commercial for Gunpla–Gundam plastic models–than anything before it, the show still has a way of reaching beyond that simple goal and contains a level of action-packed gravitas. Were I to be following more shows this season, GBF Try would be on my list.

Fall 2014 Anime Preview: The Essential

Now that Mushishi Zoku Shou S2 has FINALLY premiered, I can get on with my previews of the Fall 2014 anime season. I watched at least 10 minutes of the first episode of almost all of the series listed over at Stargazed Charts, and while some were QUITE a disappointment, the season as a whole looks promising. I’ll start with those series which I think are essential viewing.


Image of Akane and Mika, the new girl, prepped for action

Psycho-Pass S2

When deciding between Parasyte and Psycho-Pass S2 for the most promising Fall series, it was a difficult decision. I ended up going with Psycho-Pass S2 for all the wrong reasons. For starters, the first episode was enjoyable but nothing to write home about. It digs into the familiar “twisted police procedural” theme that the first season employed so often in the first half of that series. Several of the best characters from the first season of the show are ostensibly missing here, although all logic points to them popping back up in time, but it’s a disappointment to be sure. All that said, this episode is still better than the premiere of the first season of Psycho-Pass. While that episode clearly illuminated the type of dystopian future our characters would be traversing through, it ended up being considerably more over-the-top than the rest of the series–I often find myself suggesting Psycho-Pass as a series for non-anime fans to pick up, but quickly warn them to push past the first episode. Clearly, the first season went on to grossly out-achieve its meager beginnings, so I have hope that Psycho-Pass S2 is itself, still getting its sea-legs. If it’s half as philosophically probing as the first season of Psycho-Pass, this follow-up I will welcome with open arms.


Image of Shinichi and Migi peeking around the corner

Parasyte

Parasyte plays in the same realm of body horror that the first few episodes of Tokyo Ghoul did, except Parasyte portrays the Kafka-esque notion of body transformation in a much more interesting way, with less soap-operatic drama clogging up the storyline. In that same direction, Parasyte plays much more like a Cronenbergian horror film than Tokyo Ghoul, since the latter morphed into a straight-up action/fighting series with some sci-fi elements, after the first arc. Basically, if Ghoul pumped you up for a horror anime only to let you down, Parasyte picks up the pieces. It’s part The Thing, part Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and even Evil Dead II gives a hand to elements of the storyline. Best pun ever.


Image of Andou stuck in a bubble

Inou-Battle wa Nichijou-kei no Naka de

It’s gotten to the point in my anime fandom, that any series with a single male protagonist surrounded by cute girls immediately sounds warnings sirens in my head. Imagine my concern when I noticed that Trigger–the studio behind Kill la Kill who have proven themselves, in just a few projects, to be some of the more creative producers in the industry–had a new series with one male lead and four female leads. Luckily, Inou-Battle quickly proves that its female dominance in number of characters permeates through to the script. While the audience may be meant to root for Ando–our male lead–it is out of pity rather than admiration, as we learn that each of the girls have god-like powers in comparison to Ando’s ability to create a useless black flame with his hands. Add to that a thoughtful representation of the more mundane moments of a super-heroic life, and Inou-Battle feels like another Trigger success. Let’s just hope that Ando doesn’t have some sort of power upgrade before the end of the series. Knowing anime though… *sigh*.


Image of Ginko talking with another mushishi

Mushishi Zoku Shou S2

This second installment in the Mushishi series really did it for me back in the Spring season. Now comes its second season–the second installment’s second season, that is–which has every reason to be just as good as the first, although the hour long mini-movie that starts the new season out is one of the slowest pieces of fiction I’ve ever seen. Mind you, I’m used to the usual pacing of an episode of Mushishi; slow and steady wins the race, to the point where we are really lounging around in this week’s setting. This unique pacing works about 95% of the time–letting us really sink into the characters and situations of each episode–but sometimes Mushishi overstays its welcome. All that said, I’m going to chalk it up to this episode being longer than most, and thus stretching the story out even more than usual. The issue could also be that this season opener went much further into the world of a mushishi, something that I think is better served as a sort of unexplained mysticism.

Epidsode Eval: LocoDol (Eps. 11 & 12) – Locally Grown

In Episode Eval, I take a look at a singular episode from one of the eight series I’m watching this season. At the end of the week these will be collected in the weekly Streaming Anime Round-Up for easier consumption.


Image of the Nagarekawa girls and company between events

LocoDol, Episodes 11 & 12: B

With their new theme song written, the Nagarekawa Girls prep for the Local Idol Competition, eagerly anticipating their chance to perform on a national stage. When it turns out that Nagarekawa’s summer festival occurs on the same day as the competition, Nanako and Yukari will have to decide between a chance at their big break or staying true to their roots.

It’s easy to read a synopsis of an anime series and quickly dismiss it because of certain tropes or character types, which run rampant throughout the medium. This face-value rejection is practically necessary with the large number of simulcast series we get in the states these days. Locodol would have easily landed in this category for me; at a glance, it’s more pop-fueled idol worship. Though the first few episodes were dicey–with several attempts to pull in an otaku crowd through blatant, quasi-relevant, fan-service–Locodol became considerably more enjoyable as the friendships evolved and the series carved it’s own niche in the growing idol genre.

Picture a tolerably saccharine narrative–much like the ones seen throughout Locodol–and you’ve got the feel for these last two episodes. Fitting perfectly with the mood the rest of the series has aimed for, these last two episodes have the idol-show tendencies of examining the price and meaning of fame, mashed-up with a slice-of-life aesthetic that luxuriates in the mundane qualities of Nagarekawa itself. Unlike other series about idols, Nanako and Yukari have a small, but tight-knit following, and are only able to perform for a larger crowd in the final episode. Yet, Nanako and Yukari aren’t failures. The two girls struggle with how they are perceived–what it means to be an idol and if they are serving the town of Nagarekawa in the best way–but neither complain about their lack of fame on a national level, even if the bright lights do entice them. With the girls reviewing local restaurants and eradicating a hive of bees from a nearby farm, in one instance, Locodol lands somewhere between an idol show and a series like Working, or Servant x Servant, wherein our heroes are caught up in their “minor-league” roles. Certainly Nanako and Yukari reach a level of success–we see Nanako’s classmates become deep fans of the Nagarekawa girls over the breadth of the series–but our heroines are still small fries once they participate in the local idol competition. Here they “face off” against groups that have garnered more success, notably the Awa Awa girls, local idols that have hit upon national fame within the last year.

Image of Yukari and Nanako returning for the Nagarkawa summer festival

Ultimately though, these last two episodes clearly paint the fame which the Awa Awa girls have garnered as illusory, and never as fully realized or as rewarding as the love which they received from their hometown fans. While the Nagarekawa girls do well in the local idol competition, the importance is not given to their rank, but to how quickly they can make it back home in time for Nagarekawa’s summer festival. The series consistently points out how staying true to one’s roots will result in true happiness, and is thus much more rural and mundane in nature than series which focus on the allure of the big stage. In this way, like Gin no Saji and Barakamon, Locodol carries a praise and appreciation for rural and small town life. Though Locodol‘s never as charming or as thoughtful as those two fan favorites, it at least warrants a skim through, if for nothing else than to catch the poignant series wrap-up.

One potential turnoff for Locodol is the characters, which, at face value, have a number of moe qualities. Nanako and Mirai are especially bashful or clumsy–depending on the day–while Yui is very petite and cheerful. However, these qualities are rarely exploited by the writers in the same way that many otaku-geared franchises tend to infantilize their female protagonists. Nanako’s shy nature is charming, and rarely cloying or distasteful. When an issue arises for one of the four heroines, they turn to each other for help or guidance, instead of an outside source. Yukari knows much more about speaking in public than Nanako, for example, so she acts as a guide through the world of a local idol for the amateur. Meanwhile, Nanako is more grounded than Yukari in her social status–Yukari comes from a wealthy family–and is able to help Yukari better understand socializing in a more personal way. Though Nanako’s uncle is a driving force for certain plot points, no male hero steps in to save these girls from themselves. In similar series, a male protagonist exists for the female characters to hang their sorrows or worries upon. This vanilla hero serves the role of constant savior for our downtrodden female characters, making their world seem chaotic and void at the thought of his departure–think Kanon or the even worse, If Her Flag Breaks. Locodol never stoops to this level, and even the Nagarekawa girls’ manager–the figure of authority here–is a woman by the fourth episode. She may have obsessive tendencies towards the girls at first, but she tends to mellow as the series progresses, and her role evolves from a male gaze insert to a motherly figure by the end of the series. Most importantly, Nanako’s growth from a shy girl who can barely handle the requirements of the stage to a young woman ready to accept the responsibilities of a hometown idol–as glib as those goals may be–comes solely from herself, instead of from an external character who “rescues” her.

Image of the Nagarekawa girls before their competition

Locodol is by no means a perfect show–and honestly, with as strong as the summer season was, it doesn’t even crack my top five of the season–but it is a series that’s easy to dismiss because of this character’s clumsiness or that character’s camera-shy tendencies. Like some of the best anime series, Locodol actively bucks the trends of its genres, both the alluring depiction of fame found in series about the idol lifestyle, and the lack of female independence rampant in “cute-girl” anime. It’s good for a lark, and most importantly, for as easily digestible as it might be, Locodol doesn’t feel like a waste of time. That’s high praise, at least among its peers.

Toondiculous Podcast: Episode 2 – Josie and the Pussycats

Each episode, musical aficionado Dennis Harvey and I take on a beloved–or not so beloved–ridiculous cartoon from cartoon history, pointing out the crazy, the inane and the downright awful. Of course we love them too, so there’s that.


Image of Dr. Mandro eyeing one of his ape men
[podcast]http://thinblackline.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Toondiculous-02-Josie.mp3[/podcast]

We check out Josie and the Pussycats this week, with an episode about a mad-man manufacturing ape men. The history of furries ensues.

This episode is dedicated to the hard working men and women of the small towns of America that support our delightfully mad scientists. May we always remember your dedication, in lieu of their evil deeds.


Check back next Saturday morning for a Josie and the Pussycats aftermath. How many racist episode titles can one 1970’s sitcom for kids come up with? Find out next time, on the Toondiculous Podcast.