Friday, July 30, 2010

Spring 2010 - Final Thoughts

Better late than never, here are Sunagan and mine opinions about the anime we've watched last season. Some good, others average and a few atrocious, spring 2010 ended up being a mixing bowl in terms of quality (or enjoyment, as I hate to label things as fundamentally good or bad). So without further ado, the shows:

Angel Beats!

Synopsis: Death and reincarnation are inescapable, but what happens in between? Without warning and without his memories, a boy who only recalls his last name - Otonashi - wakes up next to a girl named Yuri who offers him a gun and tells him to shoot an angel. Assuming it must be a misunderstanding, Otonashi is then almost killed by the angel and is drawn into Yuri's army to battle to delay the beginning of his next life. Immortality is within reach, but if Otonashi remembers how he died, will he keep fighting or allow himself to vanish? (from Anime-Planet)
Sunagan: Angel Beats was a tricky show to rate rationally, but my gut says it’s worth about 3½ stars. The premise of the story was really interesting and the atmosphere made me think of Clannad at times, although AB was more light-hearted and somewhat awkward every now and then. Most of the background stories had an impact on me, especially Yurippe’s. Otonashi’s story, though, was the one that made me cry. I loved that episode most of the entire series. I also liked most of the side characters (Hinata and T.K. were both hilarious). So, why didn’t this one manage to get 4 stars in my book? Firstly, apart from the background stories, it was for some reason difficult to take most of the dramatic parts seriously. I suspect there’s some kind of slight disbalance in the use of comedic moments and mannerisms of the characters that didn’t allow for heart-wrenching drama at the moments that should have induced raw sadness. Also, it had some overall problems staying coherent, like there weren’t enough episodes to cover the content or the show itself wasn’t entirely sure what kind of show it was. Balancing the good and the bad parts made me come up with a rating that felt satisfying.
Rating: 3½ stars.

Omurqi: Being made by the same writer of the Key VNs (Planetarian, Clannad, Kanon and Air to name a few), this show got quite a bit of attention before it started airing, and was one of the most anticipated titles of the season. Did it live up to the name? Well, yes and no. The premise behind Angel Beats is an interesting one. Interesting, but not necessarily a formula for success. There were a handful of lightly touching moments involving the different stories behind the characters, but the outlandish setting and "extravagant" cast took away quite a bit of deeper character involvement for me. Ultimately, while it made for an at times entertaining and occasionally touching show, it's not something that I'd recommend to others, especially Key fans expecting a bawfest.
Rating: 3 stars.

Arakawa under the Bridge

Synopsis: Holding strictly to his family's creed, Ko Ichinomiya has never once, in his life of privilege, owed anything to anyone – that is, until a self-proclaimed Venusian named Nino saves him from drowning in the wake of a dire accident involving Ko's pants. Eternally indebted to the supposed extraterrestrial, Ko moves into her little community under the bridge along the Arakawa river. Ripped from his life of luxury and success, the young Tokyo U graduate now must adjust to his well-appointed hovel, strange new neighbors, and peculiar lover, Nino. (from Anime-Planet)

Sunagan: This is the kind of show I usually hate: random and not making a lot of sense about any kind of relevance events might have to the meaning of the story. However, nearing the end it had touched upon some interesting themes, like what is weird and what is normal. I also came to appreciate the humor more and more by every episode (especially the Maria-Sister interactions, haha). The development of Riku and the glimpses of his (sad) youth were interesting as well. Also, Arakawa came up with one of the best quotes I’ve heard in a long time: "A 'wish'. It isn't a shimmering glass ball which will shatter if grasped firmly. It's a lustrous dark ball of mud which only firms up when one squeezes it. Its form may be uneven, but it's the form of one's own fingers. Not to make it a beautiful gem someday, but to make it the world's most beautiful ball of mud." I just really loved this quote. Anyway, continuing with my reasoning behind the rating: the show built up towards a great climax of clashing values - the confrontation with the dad - but the actual confrontation never arrived and the danger was virtually brushed away: that felt incredibly anticlimactic. Had a good climax been there, I’d have probably rated it somewhat higher. Although I somewhat enjoyed Arakawa, I still feel a bit cheated in the end.
Rating: 3 stars

Omurqi: This came as a pleasant surprise. SHAFT really is hit or miss with me. While I happily rode on the Bakemonogatari bandwagon, their other recent title Dance in the Vampire Bund came as somewhat of a letdown (bar a few moments). Luckily, Arakawa made it happen. The random comedy was hilarious most of the time, and except for the episodes 7 through 9, I thoroughly enjoyed it. So why the downer during those three episodes? They weren't vastly different from the rest of the show after all. The answer is: it got a little stale. As much as I loved the nonsensical hilarity of the bridge-dwellers, watching too much of it at once eventually bored me. Luckily though, the climax was pretty good, even though I felt it dropped some of the comedy for a little more cohesive plot. Overall, Arakawa under the Bridge is an entertaining, and at times even hilarious show for those who enjoy random comedy with a wide range of hilarious characters.
Rating: 3½ stars

B Gata H Kei

Synopsis: Fifteen-year-old Yamada has just entered high school and is gung ho about achieving her ultimate goal: to have one hundred sex partners! There’s just one problem: she’s a virgin, and she hasn’t even had a boyfriend! To get the ball rolling, Yamada decides to target a shy boy named Takashi from her school; but even though he is also a virgin and she ruthlessly aggressive with her feminine ways, it’s not as easy as Yamada hopes. Though they begin to have feelings for each other, will Yamada and Takashi ever get past first base? (from Anime-Planet)

Sunagan: Looks, tastes and smells like one of the worst shows ever to project itself unto the retinas of my eyes. The OP is so atrocious that it makes you want to bang your head against a wall – and hard, that is. I’m really embarrassed about it because it truly doesn’t have a lot of redeeming qualities, but I did enjoy this xD. Our protagonist’s quest for sex somehow woke some of the faint remainders of my pubescent self slumbering deep within me and made me feel all like a horny, ignorant 14-year old again. It was a somewhat funny experience, actually. Also, I gotta give it at least some credit for making it past the kissing phase, a feat rare in most non-josei and non-hentai anime. Maybe I’m secretly just a really shallow, cheap person who only said she liked Lain to mask her inability to understand deep shows, and, and, and…! Whatever xD.
Rating: 3 stars

Omurqi: THIS was one I did not see coming. With a premise only challenged in badness this year by Chu-Bra, I really wasn't expecting it to be anything but "meh". Luckily it did turn out to be something rather enjoyable, and although not reaching to the comic OR romantic height of the better RomComs, left me satisfied aplenty. The awkward advances of Yamada towards the shy and average cherry-kun, otherwise known as Takashi, were surprisingly adorable. The only character this show would've been better without was Miyano, the innocent, well-mannered, glass-wearing neighbor of Takashi. I'm not sure what triggers my irrational hatred towards this arch-type, but I have a very low tolerance for them. Characters aside, the development between the two leads went further than I thought it would, and overall, B Gata H Kei made for an very enjoyable, though not amazingly good comedy.
Rating: 3½ stars

Ichiban Ushiro no Daimaou

Synopsis: Akuto Sai enters the Constant Academy for Magick Arts hoping to become a high priest and change the world for the better. But when the school's oracle declares his future profession to be 'Demon Lord', he finds himself feared and hated by the entire student population. Now, instead of making comrades and studying for his exam, Akuto finds himself fighting off monsters, bullies, and well-meaning classmates in various states of undress. If navigating a magical high school as a transfer student wasn't difficult enough, Akuto now has to deal with a cute android ordered to observe him 24-hours a day, the precocious attention of the flying, invisible and naked Keena Soga and the advances of the school's most popular girl. Will he be able to overcome his fate, pass his classes, and mend his friendship with the violent Junko Hattori, or will he succumb to his demonic destiny? (from Anime-Planet)

Sunagan: This was one of the shows I really loved after watching episode one. I’ve always been weak to fantasy settings and strong, unconventional and poorly understood protagonists who try to change the system they live in. I thought it could turn into something highly entertaining and even interesting, if the protagonist’s struggles against the system were executed well. The ‘ecchi’ tag gave me a slightly bad premonition about Ichiban’s level and overall quality, but I tried to tell myself that it would turn out ok. The problem is that it didn’t T_T. While Ichiban wasn’t atrocious in itself, it did a heck of a job by turning the show I loved most into the greatest disappointment of the season. The story took a backseat to the ecchi-elements, the sidekicks sucked, villains were poorly developed and the potentially interesting political/ethical angle it might have pulled off was flashed out so meagerly that it would’ve been much better if not used at all. Finally, the ending was rushed and didn’t make all that much sense, and what could have been epic moments were now blurred in a swamp of hastiness and panty shots. How did such an awesome protagonist as Sai Akuto end up in such a mediocre anime? Surely, it wasn’t wrist-slitting atrocious. It was a somewhat ok, though clearly under-average harem anime, the humor was modestly funny at times. The story had typical harem and ecchi developments and threw in some fantasy and ‘save the world’ gimmicks to make it feel original *still feeling angry about it*... Ah well. Maybe I’m just pissed off how this show ruined my expectations. Ichiban in two words? False promises.
Rating: 2½ stars.

Hakuouki Shinsengumi Kitan

Synopsis: Based on Idea Factory's romance adventure game: Yukimura Chizuru has come to Kyoto looking for her father, a doctor who has gone missing. While there, she witnesses a fight between an Oni and the Shinsengumi. Taking her into custody, the Shinsengumi debates on what to do with Chizuru when they discover that she is the daughter of the doctor they are also looking for. The Shinsengumi then takes Chizuru along on their search after the missing doctor, from adventures to adventures. (from ANN)

Sunagan: I fell for the sweet seduction this show emanated. The seduction’s called samurai, sword fights and bishounen xD. The story was actually average and I didn’t care that much about the lead characters. Still, I looked forward to it every week just to be able to see the gorgeous faces of the cool, purple haired Saitou and the incrediby sexy Okita *drool*. This show could be the best yaoi-series ever, if it tried :-P. Anyway, for all those people not giving a rat’s ass about bishounen, is this show worth your time? Most likely… not. Am I going to watch its sequel? Hell yeah!
Rating: 3 stars.

Sarai-ya Goyou (House of Five Leaves)

Synopsis: Akitsu Masanosuke is a shy, self-conscious and slightly cowardly man with a goal of becoming a great samurai. However, when he is dismissed from his job after two days he must live the life of a ronin until he can return to service. So when a man named Yarai approaches him offering food and a job as his bodyguard, it all seems too good to be true - that is, until Akitsu learns that this confident stranger is in fact a gangster of the Five Leaves who specializes in kidnapping and lives in the city’s red-light district. While the ronin’s sense of justice makes him think twice about accepting the offer, Akitsu’s grumbling stomach, his growing familiarity with the rest of the Five Leaves, and Yarai’s determination to recruit the budding samurai, may well have other plans... (from Anime-Planet)

Sunagan: It has an unusual animation style and a refreshing kind of realism, not seen in many shows. Seeing our cowardly samurai protagonist getting dragged deeper and deeper into a band of criminals makes for a nice watch. The story is carried mainly by powerful, detailed imagery and conversation. All of the characters feel well-developed and mature, the story is slow-paced but keeps succeeding at holding the viewers’ attention, save for the first few episodes which were bordering on uninteresting. My only real complaint with the show, though, is that it stopped when it finally got moving, when there was growth, character development, interesting character interactions and the revelation of the past of one member. In other words, it felt like it stopped somewhere in the middle. I really hope there’s going to be a sequel!
Rating: 4 stars


Synposis: Self-professed lover of all things small and cute, Souta Takanashi finds himself dragooned into working at the Wagneria family restaurant by the diminutive and vivacious Poplar Taneshima. Though the pay is reasonable and the clientele polite, the high school student finds himself nearly at wits' end in dealing with the quirky staff. If the indifferent and street-tough manager, katana-carrying floor chief, and terminally weak Poplar weren't enough, Souta soon finds himself fearing for his life, as every encounter with the violently androphobic Inami ends in injury. How long can he survive such a before the combined stress and harm does him in? (from Anime-Planet)

Sunagan: This anime annoyed the hell out of me for the first few episodes. However, somewhere around ep 5 the humor suddenly started clicking with me and I fully enjoyed it for its delightful jokes, not to mention the geniusly-appropriate OP and OST, instant favourites. I loved the weird antics of the leads, Takanashi in particular, and how couldn’t I worship that lovely, shameless Sanji-ripoff? Entirely the same down even to the haircut, mannerisms and smoking. Only the eyebrows were missing, essentially. Anyway, if you’re in for a funny slice-of-life show and if you aren’t too bothered by a slight repetitiveness due to the abundance of running gags and certain gimmicks, you’re gonna have a blast with Working!!
Rating: 3½ stars

Omurqi: A slice-of-life comedy in it's purest form, and quite successful at it. The concept of an entire show within a family diner would be horribly dull if it wasn't for the great interactions between the crew, and making it work they did. Takanashi's "mini-complex" and otherwise levelheaded responses made for a good lead among the controlled chaos caused by the other employees. Another enjoyable comedy from last season, and well worth the watch if you're up for something light.
Rating: 3½ stars

 Yojouhan Shinwa Taikei (Tatami Galaxy)

Synopsis: A third year student from the Kyoto University finds himself entrapped amid a plethora of unsatisfying possibilities to change his life. Accompanied by his mischievous best friend, Ozu, and a stern engineering student, Akashi, the nameless protagonist trudges through each path as he tries to grab the opportunity that seems to dangle right in front of his eyes.
When a college dropout stops for a late night bite at a mysterious ramen stand, he crosses paths with a self-proclaimed deity of matrimony. This bizarre meeting sends the young man hurtling through a horrifying flashback to his not-so-glorious college days when the influence of a cruel new friend turned him from a hopeless romantic into a mischievous “black cupid.” (from ANN)

Sunagan: I was ready to drop this show after episode 1 because it was weird and made no sense at all. I almost made one of the biggest anime-related mistakes in my life. RaizaSunozaki, a fellow fan on Anime Planet, insisted on me giving the show a second chance, and trusting his judgment I took the plunge. The show actually ended up in my toplist on the 11th place (out of the 150 shows I’ve seen up to date). How did this happen? Well, the whole thing started when I decided to sit down and watch episode 2. Its slimy tentacles grabbed my limbs so that I couldn’t move a single toe, and I was completely entranced by the weird style of animation, the occurrence of unusual and disturbing characters to say the least, and a highly intriguing time loop that kept replaying itself every episode. But that wasn’t all. It wasn’t simply a time loop changing the story a little every episode in a possibility-of-the-week fashion, the story really evolved. The protagonist starts realising things about his own attitude, the choices he makes, responsibility and happiness. The side characters, that seem flat and stereotypical after the first encounter, obtain more perspective every time a time loop is added. Episode 10 is the absolute epitome of greatness. I don’t want to spoil anything but let’s just say I was blown away by its sheer genius, the completed product of episode 1 – 9 evolving. The last episode (11) made for a very satisfying conclusion with a clear-cut message, albeit not very open to a personal interpretation. A reaction to this show somewhere on the internet summarizes my feelings well: “This kind of show makes you realise once again what anime actually should be like.” Greatness.
Rating: 4½ stars

1 comment:

  1. ...So much to say, I think I'll not say any of it, and instead boil it down to a few points.

    1. I <3 that you used cassie and my descriptions for the animeys (I did Ichiban, Arakawa, and Working!!, she did Five Leaves). Makes us feel like we mean something.

    2. I am now interested in Tatami Galaxy, which had otherwise completely slipped under my radar. You make an interesting pitch.