I’ll be doing my Anime World Cup feature a little differently this season. This time around, I’ll be doing full reviews of the 2nd through 4th episodes of each series and then giving each episode a letter grade. After all four series in a group have been reviewed, I’ll total up the wins/losses to figure out which three series I’ll be doing episode reviews of, and which three I’ll be doing season reviews of. We’ll start things off with Tribe Cool Crew, which is more shounen than slice of life, but I have to massage some of these shows into quasi catch-all genres.
With Haneru–our move-bustin’ boy wonder–privy to the dance sensation Rhythm’s secret identity–the shy and introverted Kanon–he attempts to persuade her into forming a dance troupe. Kanon tags along with Haneru, skating past his requests, until he makes a bold move that may just change her mind.
There’s no question that like many of its shounen peers, Tribe Cool Crew is an easily disposable series when it comes down to it. It hits the usual shounen beats with a similar pacing to series like Pokemon or One Piece–our hero is passionate about a specific endeavor and implores others to join him on his adventure. Even the characters are conventional, if you’re used to the genre–Haneru feels like Ash Ketchum with less height and more eye liner–but their relationship to one another and their specific passions, is what makes Tribe Cool Crew a shounen show worth looking at.
Haneru and Kanon’s relationship is a vital part to keeping the audience engaged. We’re given two dancers who are equally skilled–Kanon maybe more so than Haneru–and they each have such an intense deference to the abilities of the other. It’s directly stated at one point, that neither has romantic feelings for the other–though I have my doubts from the Kanon end–but both Kanon and Haneru are deeply in love with each other’s dance moves and interest in the art. It’s a refreshing remove from series where the main guy and girl are either antagonistic towards one another, or in love in spite of their need to answer to their higher calling. Even if Kanon turns out to have a thing for Haneru, he is so seemingly asexual–good too, since he looks to be about ten or so… JAPAN–that the dynamic between the two would still be engaging, because he’s much more interested in her dancing than he is in Kanon herself. I could be forgetting a series or two, but there seem to be so few shounen series where our heroine can almost one-up our hero in skill set to the point where he is in admiration of her. Of course, her powerful dance grooves are outweighed by her intense self-awareness, but it’s a start. By the fourth episode, Kanon is the more “together” of the two, since she’s anxious to learn from her peers–in the form of Mizuki and Yuzuru, two of the three dancers in a quasi-popular and local dance troupe called Tribal Soul–while Haneru is somewhat stand-offish and annoying in his unrelenting pride. While Tribe Cool Crew starts with a focus on the typical male protagonist, bouncing off the wall with excitement over the possibilities of his own success, it quickly turns to Kanon who is more subtle–and thus, more likable–in her appreciation of herself. Where other shounen series hang on a hero that is full of themselves, Tribe appreciates its heroine’s willingness to better herself through the help of the talented individuals she meets.
Beyond the dynamic between Haneru and Kanon, lies the central idea behind Tribe Cool Crew; the power of music, dance, and the arts in general to unite and move people. This ideal sets Tribe apart from its pack, with “battles” becoming less about physical violence–what we’re used to in almost every shounen series–and more about performance and artistry. Granted, that makes this series meant for kids sound a little lofty, but Tribe gives equal importance to its dance battles as other series give to their fights, portraying characters as defined by their dancing abilities and their status amongst the dancing culture at large. Tribe never gets preachy about any of this–art over violence–but the contrast is still present, as given in a scene where Haneru mistakenly believes that an “adversary” is looking for a physical fight, when the guy really just wants a good ol’ fashioned dance battle. Characters exchange shit eating grins, challenging each other loftily, but it’s all to say, “My dance grooves are better than yours.”, rather than, “I’m going to kick your ass!”. Even a show like Pokemon–and I get that I keep going back to that well, but that’s the era of shounen that I grew up with–which doesn’t have physical fights between humans, still revolves around their chosen creatures battling one another until the pokemon passes out from exhaustion. Tribe even creates a world where a countless number of people discuss dancing and collect to watch such dance battles, intrigued to see the artful skill of each challenger, not to mention the chutzpah of live performance.
So what does Tribe Cool Crew get wrong? The reliance on CG in what should be the most engaging scenes, really drives down the quality of the show, since the animation quality just isn’t up to par. Characters that move smoothly and flow through each traditionally animated scene, came off as stodgy during the dance numbers, moments when they should move the smoothest. Granted, this has gotten better as the series has progressed, but much like in last season’s Sailor Moon Crystal, the transition from cell-drawn to CG animation is jarring, the characters moving from energetic 2D motion to rubbery CG movements. It’s a bummer too, because Sunrise–or whichever company they contracted out to–does such a great job with the traditionally animated shots and character designs. Haneru and Kanon, while having an undoubtedly shounen vibe through their “cartooniness”, are still very unique looking and easy to recognize amongst a crowd–Kanon’s pink blob of hair, specifically. In an era of anime when more and more shows are upping the amount of CG animation per episode, there’s a feeling that these studios are running before they can walk. There’s just so much to improve with the way that computer animated characters and shots fit into a show that is otherwise cell animated, that it often feels like someone is dropping the ball, and Tribe is no different.
Aside from its animation woes, Tribe Cool Crew isn’t looking to reinvent the wheel, even if it may be giving a new lease on life to the shounen genre, for those of us who have grown weary of its numerous tropes. Instead, Tribe is best enjoyed as relatively mindless entertainment that’s fresh enough to not fall into the “seen it, thanks” category. What more can you ask for?
Ep 2: B-
Ep 3: B
Ep 4: B
Check back next time for a review of the first few episodes of the romantic/anti-romantic shoujo series Ookami Shoujo to Kuro Ouji.
Now that Mushishi Zoku Shou S2 has FINALLY premiered, I can get on with my preview 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 , and while some were QUITE a dissappointment–*cough*THESE*cough*–the season as a whole looks promising. Today I’ll look at the worst shows of the season; those I wouldn’t wish on any poor soul. I’m calling this as my first “click bait” post, since there’s more pictures than text. Don’t worry, the think pieces are just around the corner! Well, as “think piece” as anime reviews get.
Most 3-5 minutes series are fairly empty at their core, but Orenchi has to be the most pointless yet.
Wouldn’t it be nice if this were an interesting and enticing new entry in the Tenchi Muyo franchise? Yes. Yes it would.
One of the goofier series of the season, Twintail may be unique but it’s obnoxious obsession with ‘twin tails’ gets old real fast.
One of the MANY sword & shield fantasies of this season, and–like most of the others–easily forgettable and full of busty girls jumping around a lot.
I’m certainly not the first to say it, but this show has some AWFUL artwork that it’s throwing down, and the writing isn’t much better.
These were the three shows most easily forgettable, to the point where I’m currently blanking on what any of them are. I think one of them has many young girls that like one boring guy, so they’re really aiming for the fences with these series. And don’t hold my feet to this one. I get that I’m not meeting my full journalistic potential here, but I’m just putting in as much effort as these creators did. Ice burn!
This one gets my “Worst of the Season” award, with one dimensional characters, on top of a harem framing. Even BAD shows are better than this droll.
Now that Mushishi Zoku Shou S2 has FINALLY premiered, I can get on with my preview of the Fall 2014 anime season. I watched at least 10 minutes of the first episode of all the series listed over at , and while some were QUITE a dissappointment, the season as a whole looks promising. Today I’ll look at the series that are neither watchable nor incomprehensibly awful, but just… meh.
The dystopian-future setting, mixed with the inner-species war, had me excited for Terra Formars, but the end result is rather stilted and cheaply animated. Add to that the censorship that plagued Tokyo Ghoul, and I’m putting this show on the back burner.
I’m really digging the character designs of this series, but Kaitou Joker is clearly aimed at a younger audience, and not in that ‘adults will have something to get out of it too’ way, either.
I’ve a feeling that with patience, this show could evolve into something interesting. As it stands though, the first episode carries on with little insight or info about its characters, and the story seems catered to Detective Conan fans–the series that Kaito is a spin-off of.
Yet ANOTHER series this season where the guy:girl ratio is way out of whack and in the favor of the male protagonist. Trinity Seven at least has an interesting synopsis and a few strong, female characters, but I’d have too hard of a time watching the seven young women fall over the protagonist one-by-one as the series continues.
This is another example of pure viewer taste. I’m simply not interested in the setting of Log Horizon S2, the characters are certainly dull, and the fact that I haven’t even seen the first season, made this one all the easier to drop.
Yuuki is just as run of the mill as all the other “cute, young girls” shows this season. The one exception is the show’s superhero worship, which is intriguing enough, but ultimately nothing to warrant a consistent watch.
I was really looking forward to a new food-based series–as there are too few in anime–but this premiere episode only focused on pretty boys. It could trade up from a focus on the patented shoujo love interests to discussing proper mixing techniques, but I’m not holding my breath.
The moe girls from the onslaught were just too much for me. There’s a disk hanging above their city, so if that seems worth it to you, have at it. The animation IS pretty, so there’s that.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.