Sunday, July 11, 2010

Summer anime 2010: Part 2

Once again before we get started, a few helpful links for the people who aren't completely familiar with Japanese media terms. Ecchi, light novel, moe, visual novel, and chibi.

Gakuen Mokushiroku (High school of the Dead)
Director: Tetsurou Araki
Length: 12

"In Japan, several high school students and a school nurse have banded together to escape Fujimi High School shortly after it was attacked by zombies. The group now attempts to figure who or what was responsible for this plague, and in the meantime, attempt to survive the present apocalypse. The story is initially narrated through the eyes of Takashi Komuro, one of the students who had survived in the initial outbreak." (MyAnimeList)

In short, this anime looks like it will be awesome. I've always been a fan of zombies but never seem to find good renditions of them in anime (I may just not be looking in the right places), so this anime has filled a gap in my heart. One of the most essential things about zombie survival stories is the characters, and here they've done that so very right. While the first episode isn't always the best judge of such things, if it continues in a similar fashion I know I'll grow to care for these characters and be quite sad to see them die (and they will, it's a zombie apocalypse!). The setting almost seems like it's straight out of a B-grade movie but I honestly don't care, most zombie movies are like that. Gore and fan-service are a constant so far, and I hope the show continues in that fashion as it's a perfect mix.

The animation is a 50/50 effort. The action scenes are beautifully animated, very smooth if a little off in terms of perspective at times, but many of the shots at slower moments look like they've been reduced in quality to save on money. At one point there's a large stack of chairs and tables that move as one rather than individually, and it's very noticeable. I'll praise the music for being suitable if somewhat unoriginal. Fast paced electro pop rock songs go with zombies and they use that to their advantage, but the slower music is fairly generic. The opening and ending songs are both solid but lack in substance, the opening lacking a keyboard or something else to fill the gap that makes it feel a bit empty while the ending just comes off a little too ballad like for the anime. I have to praise the use of silence as well. Normally you notice a silence and feel put off by it, but High school of the Dead uses it with excellent timing to give full effect to what's happening on the screen. I can't see myself dropping this one after five episodes and I advise you get to watching it if you're a fan of zombies, good action and characters, or just plain old bloody gore.

Densetsu no Yuusha no Densetsu (Legend of the Legendary Heroes)
Director: Kawasaki Itsuro
Length: 26 episodes

"Ryner Lute is a lazy student of Roland Empire Royal Magician's school. One day, Roland Empire goes to war against a neighbouring country Estaboole, and he lost his classmates in the battle. After the war, Lute sets out for a journey to search the relics of a "Legendary Hero" at Emperor Sion Astal's command." (MyAnimeList)

It seems this part of the update continues to be good with this series, this time adapted from a light novel. Legend of the Legendary Heroes follows its name in being somewhat ridiculous, however it does so in a good way. The show likes to cross genres, giving a lot of comedy to its action but still keeping it nice and exciting as well as dipping a bit of drama into the mix. The plot is nothing special so far, being quite similar to other shows in the genre, but it does promise a bit more of a serious tone further down the track. The characters all seem over the top but somehow a bit more human than a lot of the characters I've come across so far this season.

The animation is pretty good, but what I love is that it avoids using a chibi in its comedy sections. The magic seems to be computer generated which is the norm these days but I feel they could be doing it better. It doesn't seem quite as good as it could be, seeming on par with the same effects from anime that's nearing 5 years old now. The music is very good, fitting into the series perfectly. It's not quite free of seeming generic or over the top but it's certainly better than most shows like this. The opening and closing are both ok but once again nothing great. Overall the show seems fairly average, might keep watching past episode 5.

Nuraihyon no (Mago Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan)
Director: Nishimura Junji
Length: 24 episodes

"Rikuo Nura - a kid that is 3/4 human and 1/4 youkai. He lives in a house full of spirits alongside his grandfather who is the leader of the youkai. Rikuo is destined to take over his grandfather leadership but his human side has no interest. Rikuo is just a normal kid who has no interest to become the leader of youkai." (Wikipedia)

I won't say this show is bad, if anything it's good. However it is amazingly clich├ęd or at least the main character is. I had my fill of angst with Evangelion, but it seems I'll be getting more if I watch this show all the way through. While Nuraihyon no Mago doesn't seem like it'll get anywhere near as bad as Evangelion, I can't help but feel there are going to be similarities between Rikuo and Shinji. Anyway, aside from our angst ridden demon lord the rest of the show looks really good. A supernatural slice of life seems to be the aim for the show and I think it'll go well if it goes that way, but I can't help but feel the overriding plot will leave me disappointed. Either way, I think I'll enjoy it even if not for the main point of the show.

The animation is quite nice, showing off a very nice transformation between human and demon, probably the best I've seen in an anime so far. The character designs are very nice, especially for the demons giving them all a unique look even if there are so many of them. The music I can't be so nice about. Again it's very generic. With the amount I've said that so far in these reviews I'm not sure if it's just me or if music in anime just sucks except for the few good ones. Either way, nothing stands out about it in this show at all; even the opening and ending are generic. Oh for another Cowboy Bebop!

Overall, Nuraihyon no Mago is definitely a decent anime but I'm concerned about how it will end up, especially considering its length. I imagine I'll stay with it pats episode 5, but we'll have to see when we get there.

Seikimatsu Occult Gakuin (Seikimatsu Occult Academy)
Director: Kitakubo Hiroyuki
Length: 13

"The story revolves around Maya, the daughter of the former headmaster of a private Japanese academy dedicated to the study of the occult who died in 1999; and a time travelling agent Uchida, a mysterious young man who travels back in time from 2012." (Anime News Network)

This wasn't originally on my list as I thought it was a sequel, however it turns out it wasn't so I'm watching it. I'm glad I am as well, it's a surprisingly good mix of horror, comedy, and school life. While it's hard to judge from one episode, it looks like Occult Academy will have a very good plot with great characters, I'm already interested in the female lead and her companions. I don't normally watch these sorts of shows, the closest I've come being Rosario + Vampire (which already is extremely different) but I think I'll enjoy this one.

The animation and music are both excellent, with a special mention going to the opening which has both an amazing song and the best visuals I've seen in an opening for a series to date. The rest of the show follows the opening's footsteps and has beautiful animation that's used well in both the action scenes and in the slower paced parts of the show while the music suits the moods perfectly even if it doesn't stand out as amazing. The ending is the worst part of the show, having somewhat generic music and only displaying still shots of what I can only guess to be live action versions of the main characters.

Occult Academy is definitively staying on my watching list after episode 5 unless it does something very strange to make me hate it (but it won't).

On another note, Shukufuku no Campanella has been confirmed for 12 episodes (my guess being 1 off), Seitokai Yakuindomo has been confirmed for 13 episodes (my guess being correct) and I've discovered that Tono no Issho only had 1 minute episodes, so I have dropped it. As for part 3 of this section, you'll unfortunately have to wait until the 17th of July at the earliest as Cat Shit One doesn't air its first episode until then. I may decide to give it its own update and post the other two as early as tomorrow, but I'm not sure how likely that is.

All images from MyAnimeList. Most descriptions found there as well. It's pretty handy for stuff like that (:

Monday, July 5, 2010

Summer Anime 2010: Part 1

Before we get started, a few helpful links for the people who aren't completely familiar with Japanese media terms. Ecchi, light novel, moe, and visual novel.

Amagami SS
Director: Hiraike Yoshimasa
Length: 24 episodes

"Amagami SS is based on a PS2 dating game featuring six different girls. The story of the anime will be arranged in an omnibus format, with each heroine getting her own version of the story animated." (MyAnimeList)

The format of Amagami SS seems interesting, and since it was a game popular enough to get an anime, I presume it will have a very good story to it. However, it gives off vibes that ring too closely to Kimikiss for me. I'm willing to give it a chance since it's likely to develop in a very different manner to Kimikiss, but some of the similarities between characters and plot are more than a little concerning.

The animation is definitely good, but the music comes across as very generic. Classical music is used in abundance with 'pretty girl still shots' and 'romantic' moments, but don't really add a whole heap to the atmosphere, another similarity to Kimikiss. I have a feeling this will be one of the series that I drop after 5 episodes, but I'm willing to give it a chance since it feels like it can go somewhere good.

Ookami-san to Shichinin no Nakamatachi
Director: Iwasaki Yoshiaki
Length: Unknown (guessing 24)

"A love comedy parodying fairy tales such as "Little Red Cap", "The Ant and the Grasshopper" etc. Okami Ryoko (Okami-san) is a spunky high school girl. She is a member of a "fixer" club so called Otogi High School Bank. She runs about to fix the problems of the school with her partner Akai Ringo (Akazukin-chan)." (MyAnimeList)

Adapted from light novel, this seems like it could come along nicely. The concept is a little whack and very unbelievable, as are the characters, but the plot seems fairly solid and the characters do work well together. I'm reminded slightly of Working!! with the oddities of characters, but the environment doesn't seem to be anywhere near as good for the type of humour I think the show is gunning for. This series really don't know what it wants to be, judging by the first episode, as there are elements of comedy, romance, action, and slice of life. While a few shows have done this well before, such as Toradora!, this doesn't seem to be shaping up to be one of those. I may well be wrong however as it is handled by the same studio who did Toradora! (and the similarities are pretty obvious).

Music is once again generic, although somewhat better than Amagami SS as it does work to build atmosphere just a little bit, but the voice acting is cast extremely well. The characters all have extremely fitting voices and I'd love to see where they can take the narrator role to. Hopefully they can manage it as well as Hayate no Gotoku did, but so far it's been a bit lacking. Animation is slightly above average but nothing to call home about. Character designs are very interesting and I'm looking forward to seeing what they can do with them later on in the series.

Seitokai Yakuindomo
Director: Kanazawa Hiromitsu
Length: Unknown (guessing 13)

Adapted from a four-panel blue joke manga written by Ujiie Tozen. (MyAnimeList)

So, this is essentially a cross between two genres. The student council slice of life comedy genre and the ecchi genre. The two best normal examples of these genres are Seitokai no Ichizon and B Gata H Kei. I'm not looking forward to where this anime is going. At best it will be a few laughs an episode with some sort of coherent plot nearing the end of the series, at worst it will become unfunny, stupid (although in most respects it already is) and downright boring. Seitokai no Ichizon was an amusing look into an oddball student council of one male and four females, Seitokai Yakuindomo is the same look into a very similarly oddball student council of one male and three females. The male is slightly different in Yakuidomo, but in all respects I feel that I'm watching the same anime but with worse animation, characters, and music. The episode set up is nearly identical with almost all events taking place within the student council room and the jokes are nearly identical. I wouldn't be so annoyed if the jokes were different or at least better, but as far as I can tell, Yakuindomo is a carbon copy of Ichizon with more perverted jokes. And the pervertedness isn't even subtle, it hits you over the head with it making it go from somewhat funny in an immature sort of way to just plain annoying.

I don't think Yakuindomo will be staying on my watching list, but I (unfortunately) have to give it a chance until I get to episode 5.

Shukufuku no Campanella
Director: Ushiro Shinji
Length: Unknown (guessing 13)

"The story takes place in a trading city Ert’Aria. Leicester Maycraft is an item engineer belonging to an adventurer guild "Oasis". One night, he is at a party with his friends to see a meteor stream on the rooftop of a chapel. One meteor grazes them and hits the steeple of the chapel. There he finds a secret room and a sleeping girl. The girl wakes up and says "You must be my father!". The encounter with the mysterious girl brings an unexpected adventure to Leicester." (Amazon Japan)

Oh dear sums this one up. Based on an adult visual novel, this anime promises ecchiness, average (at best) plot, and silly characters. The first episode gave two of these, being somewhat less perverted than I would have thought. The first episode has done almost nothing to explain the plot of the show, nor what it's really about. We're introduced to the characters (who all seem a little too perfect or moe for my liking), the setting (which seems quite nice actually), and...Well, that's all actually. I have no idea where this anime is going, none at all. The next episode preview promises action and plot, but I don't trust it in the slightest.

The animation is pretty good, nothing spectacular once again. I really want there to be a Ghost in the Shell or Cowboy Bebop hidden among this seasons anime, but the way it's going the chances are slim. There's an over use of still shots, chibi interludes, and out of scene characters. In moderation these can be good, but almost every second joke or conversation in general used one of these. The music has been the best I've heard so far but that's not saying much. The ending song is quite horrible and the episode didn't feature an opening one so I can't comment but I doubt it'll be any good.

The anime I'm most reminded of with this series is my least favourite anime of all time. Zero no Tsukaima. If things begin to go the same way, I'm certainly not staying with this past episode 5. I'm not sure I'm happy with watching it for that long either.

All images from MyAnimeList. Most descriptions found there as well. It's pretty handy for stuff like that (:

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Summer 2010

So, anime has reached a new season entering the Summer releases (Winter for me) and I thought I'd try something a little different. Normally I sit down and choose two or three animes from the new season and follow them, dropping them behind a bit if they aren't great. This time, all for the sake of you, I'll be following a large majority of the new animes being released. I won't be following sequels, nor shows that look outrageously bad (I'm looking at you Mitsudomoe).

To give you a run down of the Summer 2010 seasons, the guys over at Chart Fag are gracious enough to always put together season charts for the new releases. The one pertaining to this challenge is this one. Out of a possible 21 animes, I will be watching 11 of them. 7 of the 10 I'm missing are sequels and the other 3 really look terrible, either in art, plot, or both.

After I've seen the first episode of the 11 I'm following, I'll give my first impressions on each and leave it alone until episode 5 of each. At that point I'll decide which shows I'll continue following until their conclusions and which ones I'll be abandoning with all haste. Hopefully this will help you guys choose which animes you want to check out after the season is over, or catch up on while they're still running.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Anime Review - Working!!

Director: Yoshimasa Hiraike
Length: 13 episodes
Year: 2010

Well, I should start the review ball back rolling with one of the few animes I've watched in the 2010 seasons and enjoyed. Working!! is based off the original 4 panel manga written by Karino Takatsu and is still current
ly being printed in Young Gangan in Japan. I hadn't heard of this series before seeing it pop up in comments on a few forums and being intrigued by the setting and genres it promised, I started watching it.

Working!! is a mix between comedy, r
omance, and slice of life. It follows the working days of the staff at the family restaurant Wagnaria. When the main character, Takanashi Souta, is recruited into the team, to say that wacky hijinks ensue is an understatement. All the characters have wonderfully unique (if unbelievable) personalities to them and the interaction between them becomes like that of a family. Even with such unbelievable personalities, you begin to fall in love with each one of the restaurants staff, learning to accept their little quirks (although some are far from little). While the main characters all receive a good chunk of exposition, there are a few characters that don't really appear for more than one episode. Somehow both these characters don't feel forced or rushed in their introduction and execution, but I would have liked to see just a little more of them. There's also room for an excellent spin of series to be found in the Takanashi family home. All of his sisters are introduced in the anime but they all feature very minor roles bar one who features for one episode. A short 13 episode series of their home life would be great fun to watch and I hope it's in the works. There is a slight overarching plot mainly concerning two of the characters while others look on, but it doesn't kick in properly until the final few episodes where it starts to become the spotlight of the show. In this sense it's a slice of life, but it doesn't quite have the same feeling as shows like Lucky Star or Quiet Country Cafe since it isn't focusing on the characters in different environments so much as focussing on the environment itself and how the characters change within it.

There's nothing special about the animation of Working!!, a thoroughly standard affair throughout until the final episode in which one or two scenes have noticeably had much more time put into them, being extremely fluid and graceful in movements. Clearly some animation budget was left over. The contrasting styles throughout the anime were a nice change of pace, keeping the somewhat Moe style of normal events but using fully chibi comical interludes. Quite a common thing in these sorts of shows, but done very well here. It also helps accentuate the fairly common visual gags that pop up throughout.

The Working!! opening credits takes it's spot in the limited set of anime openings I refuse to skip since the song is so good, earning a position next to both Haibane Renmei and Moyashimon. It's a fast paced rock song that refuses to let you feel anything but happy while listening to it, the perfect song to start the show off with. The ending theme is quite a bit more mellow, but still upbeat, ending the episodes nicely but not as well as the opening. Background music throughout is average, nothing jumping out to be amazing or worth getting the soundtrack for, although I did find myself tapping my foot along to the songs occasionally. The voice work was very good overall, all the characters had very fitting voices but once again there wasn't anything that jumped out and said PERFECT! to me.

Working!! is definitely an enjoyable watch for a lot of people. The strange characters will probably put some people off, as will the genre in general. Until I see Azumanga Diaoh, this is my recommendation as a more accessible Lucky Star as it doesn't have the specific knowledge gags and is set in a more open environment. Working!! is great for a lot of laughs, big grins, and plenty of chuckles, but also has some sweeter 'awww' moments as well. I'd advise watching this not only for the fun you'll have whilst doing so, but to see some of the more ridiculous character personalities you'll come across on TV.

Plot 8/10
Animation 8/10
Sound 8/10
Enjoyment 9/10
Overall 33/40
Grade B+

- Unique and loveable characters
- Great use of location for the show
- Characters maybe a little too out there for some

Friday, June 18, 2010

Slight redesign

As you can see, there's been a bit of a visual change. I thought that my previous column sizes were far too small so I made them much, much larger. I'll also be adding some more banners around the place and getting some links going (hopefully) to make the post easier to find and navigate. Give me your opinion on what the site looks like now (especially if it scrolls sideways, I don't wish that upon anyone) so I can improve it some more. It's all a work in progress.

On the review front, I'm currently slogging through Heroes of Might and Magic V (and enjoying it) and Overlord. I've also got quite a few animes and mangas that I can conjure to review. First however comes a lot of band practice, so you won't be seeing these reviews until Monday at the earliest.