Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Spring Anime 2012 round-up

Once again I am later than everyone else but to make up for it I have all my reviews in one place (so, erm, it's long, I had just hit a fourth page on Word when I was writing these up).Did not try Jormugand, Sankarea, Hyouka, Kuroko no Basuke, or Nyarko-san but might later on if I somehow get bored, they all sounded like something that may catch my fancy but I already have enough shows I'm committed to watching to keep me entertained (plus Funimation still hasn't put up Sankarea, y'all sure you know what the word "simulcast" means?). Still following Bodacious Space Pirates and Aquarion Evol in addition to Legend of Korra, thank god MLP:FiM just finished up or I'd be spending my entire Saturday watching cartoons. Funny enough my one and a half fansub shows this season are both mecha (half since I watch Evol on a weird schedule so it only half counts), and the fact that I was already committed to one and a half shows is why I didn't try out Hyouka (the entire reason this is delayed so much, I had expected it to be simulcast which obviously didn't happen). Enough mindless rambling though, let's ramble about the actual shows!

Accel World: Set a few decades in the future, high school life in Japan is similar to today’s except that the technology has rapidly progressed and everyone is now permanently wired into the ‘net. This works in Haruyuki’s favor since he uses his favorite online games to escape the bullying at his school and it turns out that someone has noticed his skills, student body president who is only known by her handle Kuroyukihime, and recruits him to help her in a different kind of game called Brain Burst. I checked out the first chapter of the manga adaptation which didn’t really catch my attention but the anime did. It’s paced well, looks good (do wish Haruyuki was a bit less deformed but I’m not going to obsess over that like some viewers have) and while the plot is a bit on the simple side it works just fine. I can’t tell at this point if I’m going to keep enjoying the series as much as I have, especially since it’s “plot twists” seem rather predictable at this point, but for the moment I’m having fun with it.

Accel World has been licnesed by Viz Media and can be viewed by USians either on hulu or on their site using the hulu player, Canadians are in a pinch here.

Dusk Maiden of Amnesia (Tasogare Otome x Amnesia): Many years ago Yuuko was a student at a strange high school and died under mysterious circumstances and now her body lies beneath the Paranormal Activity clubroom. She claims that she’s not interested in why she died or any of those details, she can’t even remember them to start with, but when Teiichi comes along and is able to see her she starts to become a little more curious and starts the club in order to find out. Honestly that’s all that has happened in the first two episodes (the majority of the first episode was taken up by a hilarious segment showing the episode first from the point of view of the club member who can’t see ghosts and then from the POV of the two who can) and the show has more fanservice than I care for* but somehow the show has grabbed me anyway and if it’s going to be a short series then I’ll be sure to stick around and see what ends up being revealed.

The show has been licensed by Section 23 and for the moment can be viewed on Crunchyroll.

Eureka Seven AO (Astral Ocean): The follow-up to the original 2005 show Eureka 7: Psalm of the Planets (which I have seen, it was just back in 2009 back when Anime News Network was starting to stream shows), Ao has grown up in Okinawa under the guidance of a local doctor when his mother (who is clearly Eureka) vanished while he was small (no mention of his father but it’s Renton almost for sure) and has endured harassment ever since for being an “outsider”. But when a monster emerges from the alien scrub coral and starts spreading havoc it seems like Ao is one of the best chances they have to save the island. But for older viewers a few things seem off, the series is set on a modern looking Earth in 2025 (instead of 12005 on a changed Earth like the original series) with scub coral attacks dating back to the 1940s. I think it’s an alternate universe here so on the one hand I want to say that people who have read a bit about the original but not seen it can follow but at this point it’s not quite safe to say. Ao is a more likeable protagonist than Renton so far and I never disliked Renton to start with, although I am a little hesitant on who seems to be the female lead Naru but I’m warming up to her fast. At first glance the two shows seemed very different but I can now see a number of similarities and I think I’ll end up liking this a lot.

Fate/Zero II: Continuing mere minutes from where the first half left off, Fate/Zero is a record of the fourth Holy Grail war (10 years before the 5th war in Fate/Stay Night) where pairs of Masters and Servants (heroic spirits summoned just to fight in this war) fight to the last pair standing to receive the wish granting grail. And fight they do, almost half the servants are gone by the time I write this and there has been fighting amongst the pairs as well, much like the first half the show loves to have long monologues on philosophy and morals between characters and then spend the next ten minutes showing a beautifully done fight sequence. I’ve really gotten into the show now, enough that I’m planning on watching F/STN over the summer once this finishes and even though I’ve guessed/been spoiled enough to figure out how this story is going to end I can’t wait to see it play out, as triumphant or tragic as it may be.

While not licensed per-say in the US, each new episode can be viewed on the Japanese NicoNico site with English subtitles and on Crunchyroll a week later. 

Hiiro no Kakera: When Tamaki's parents suddenly get jobs oversees, something that seems a bit suspicious to her, she moves in with her grandmother and discovers that she was brought there to be the next "Tamayori Princess," someone who deals with the spirits in the area and whose power seems to be growing. In a twist that shows it's dating-sim roots there are five attractive men assigned to look after her and the chemistry begins! While I can easily see the appeal of dating-sim games I don't really see the appeal of the animated adaptions since they take out the best part, actually getting to choose what to do and which guys to get closer to. So this one gets a pass from me, although I am tempted to make a plushie out of that adorable fox ghost mascot.

Hiiro no Kakera is streaming on Crunchyroll. 

Kids on the Slope (Samakichi no Apollon): One of my most anticipated shows of the season, Kids on the Slope makes up half of the noitaminA spot and focuses on transfer student Kaoru who has just moved to Kyushu in 1966 for his father’s job and expects this move to be like all the others, another chance for him to be isolated and lonely in his new surroundings. But things go a little differently this time around thanks to the friendly class president Ritsuko and delinquent classmate Sentarou who introduce the piano playing Kaoru to a new kind of music, jazz. I’ve only had a chance to check out the first episode so far but I really liked the vibe it gave off. The setting was different, the music was great and the characters already feel a bit rounded. I am really worried at how this show is going to compress all nine volumes of the manga into just 12 episodes, especially since it sounds like their aren’t any subplots that can be easily cut out, but fingers crossed and hoping for the best!

Section 23 has already licensed the show and it can be viewed on Crunchyroll.

Lupin the III-A Woman Named Fujiko Mine: I saw the first episode of this show on accident actually, I was watching a livestream and the streamer decided to show the latest incarnation of the Lupin the III franchise (which can be summed up as Lupin is a famous thief who likes to steal difficult things because of the challenges they present).  As I had already figured out from the reviews I’d read, this isn’t the show for me but it’s a pretty cool show. I’m not a big fan of Lupin, like many my only experience with the franchise is The Castle of Caligstro (which I didn’t  like that much) and the whole phantom/gentleman thief genre is hit or miss with me to start with. All of that said, you don’t need much familiarity with the Lupin franchise to follow this show and it looks gorgeous (to quote a friend, “they blew the budget of three anime studios in the first five minutes of this show”) in it’s super detailed retro style. Funny enough the copious amount of fanservice in the first episode didn’t bother me either which I think might be because the show not only has a female writer (Mari Okada whose work I’m plenty familiar with) but also a female director (Sayo Yamamoto who did Michiko to Hatchin which I still need to get around to seeing) and I wonder if that had just enough of an influence on the show to make the fanservice less annoying. In any case, Funimation is now streaming the show and if this sounds at all interesting I recommend people check it out (just be careful where you do however, the first episode is seriously NSFW because of Fujiko’s frequent stripping to distract the male characters).

Show is being streamed by Funimation on their website, you do need a free account to view it however due to the boobies.

Medaka Box: Tried this one out because, well, it was on Crunchyroll and I was bored? I also had a raging headache at the time and I’m not sure if that contributed to my feelings on the show or not but this just didn’t quite work. The premise is simple enough, Medaka is the new president of her high school and her first act is to create a suggestion box for the students and her first request is to clean up the kendo dojo, and by clean out they mean kick out all the delinquents who have taken up residence there. The problem is that Medaka just isn’t that interesting a character, she feels a bit like a Maniac Pixie DreamGirl to the male lead whom I suspect is actually the main character, and is simply so out there (with her proclamations that she will fix everything for no reason other than the joy of helping others) that I couldn’t take the show seriously and didn’t find it funny either. The premise reminds me a lot of Sket Dan, which I read the first chapter of a year or so ago, but at least there the series focused on comedy, here the show just feels disjointed and like it’s trying to do two different things at once.

This show is streaming on Crunchyroll as I mentioned earlier.

Polar Bear Café (Shirokuma Café): The lone josei offering of the season is a strange one, a comedy series set in a world where humans and animals live everyday lives with each other, the first episode shows the character Panda (who, true to his species, is rather lazy and would rather lay around all day eating bamboo) trying to find a job and eventually ends up with part time work as a panda in the local zoo. A large chunk of the show also takes place in the eponymous Polar Bear Café which shows off the best bits of the series humor with it’s strange puns and odd situations (plus, if you’re familiar with Japanese seiyuu then there is plenty of humor to be had in hearing them voice various animals). I did laugh a few times but I don’t think that this kind of humor would stay funny to me for an entire season (and in general I prefer series where humor is a secondary genre, not the main one like here), but I’m sure plenty of other people will enjoy it enough to make up for me.

Currently the show is unlicensed but it is streaming on Crunchyroll.

Saint Seiya Omega: I’m not familiar with the original Saint Seiya at all, beyond a basic plot synopsis that is, but I really liked the art style for the show and that I was familiar with. From the same people who did Casshern Sins and Heartcatch Precure (which I really need to see) I had been reminded of just how much I liked their retro-esque designs last fall when they did an episode of Mawaru Penguindrum and I decided that was enough of a reason to give this show a shot. And it seems that not much knowledge of the original Saint Seiya is needed to get this show, it seems to be a sequel where we start off with main character Kouga who is being put through some brutal training to become a “saint” who will one day protect the goddess Athena and he’s not particularly happy with this choice. It’s a super shonen-esque show with calling your attacks, hot blooded determination trumping experience and mysterious mentors calling upon Kouga to use some kind of inner strength he has, although I have no idea if the original show had magical girl-esque transformation sequences as well (looking at the team’s previous work I could easily see this being their own flair). In the end the show didn’t do enough things differently for me to want to continue, think I’ll just track down Heartcatch Precure sometime to get my fill of the artstyle that way instead.

Saint Seiya Omega is streaming, like a lot of other things this season, on Crunchyroll.

Space Brothers (Uchuu Kyodai): Set a few decades into the future, brothers Mutta and Hibito both had the same dream as kids, to become astronauts and explore space. Of the two however only Hibito has been able to achieve this dream while Mutta has been recently fired from his lucrative job as a car designer for head butting his boss. But even if Mutta has pretended to forget his dream his family hasn’t and he soon finds himself taking the JAXA [link] exams to become an astronaut. Hmm, realistic, near-future science-fiction (can it even be called that?) with an older protagonist? Sounds fun and sounds different, the pacing is a bit slower than most of the other shows out here but it sounds like the show will be running for a full year so it has the time to set a steady pace. I am a bit amused that Mutta has the same VA and similar appearance to Kotetsu from Tiger and Bunny last year, then again I remember the VA (Hiroaki Hirata) joking last year that after that role he’s now the “ojisan” actor and maybe that’s coming true…

Streaming on Crunchyroll.

Tsuritama: The other half of this season’s noitaminA timeslot and from the same director who did [C], Mononoke, and Trapeeze, Yuki is also a transfer student as he moves to Enoshima, has also moved around a lot and despite that also still gets panic attacks whenever he tries to introduce himself at his new school. Given the, odd nature of his panic attacks (outwardly he just makes strange expressions but inwardly he imagines being swallowed up by a rising wave) he’s also short on friends and not expecting to make any but self-proclaimed alien Haru, also a transfer student, has taken an interest in Yuki (as well as moved in with them) and seems intent on dragging him and two other guys all over town fishing. This show gave me a lot less to go on than Kids on the Slope and if it wasn’t noitaminA I would’ve considered dropping it since it was just so odd (actually, given who the director is and my strong feelings on the ending of [C] this still isn’t out of the picture). Right now I’m going to give it a few more episodes and see if I get into the swing of it since I have absolutely no clue right now what it’s trying to do.

Like Kids on the Slope, Tsuritama has been licensed by Section 23 and is streaming on Crunchyroll.

Zetman: In a dark and edgy setting, Jin was created as an experiment, a “player” with superhuman and near demonic abilities, but rescued as a baby by a man he grew up to call Grandpa. His grandpa was killed by a rouge player and soon after Jin’s own powers activated and ever since he’s tried to not get close to others to keep them safe. Another case where we’re getting a severely compressed adaptation (the entire manga series in one cour, sounds like they’ve already had 20+ chapter timeskips) but it wasn’t the pacing or such that put me off the series, as a non-manga reader the first two episodes flowed alright even though you can see it was compressed, I’m just tired of seeing “dark and edgy” shows. I might give this a go again later if I get bored, although given how much I have to watch I don’t foresee that happening. So it’s a case where the show isn’t bad, just not for me.

Just like this post started, Zetman has been licensed by Viz Media and is being streamed by them as well.

And that's all from me! So, seven new shows to follow, two continuing, four or five I might try/follow anyway (since it seems like every season I end up following one show I don't even mention here), and a giant backlog for when I get bored. And, given that all the shows I watch air between Thursday afternoon and Sunday evening I do get a bit bored by Wednesday, or I could use that time to catch up on live action shows.... 

*yes Japan, boobs are squishy and bounce when you don’t wear a bra, moving on

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