Thursday, July 12, 2012

Summer 2012 Anime Write-up

Following up last week's continuing spring shows I'm enjoying post it's time for me to talk about all of the new shows I've tried out in the past four days (yes, I've seen all of this in four days, fear for my sanity). As usual there were one or two shows that sounded like they might have been kinda interesting that I didn't get around to watch but might pick up later. I'm trying to be picker with what I watch so I have more time to catch up with older series and, since summer is one of the "weaker" anime seasons, I might actually have some luck with that this time around! So I'm just going to go and make one post for all the shows, sorry to anyone whose using an RSS reader since I probably just killed your feed.

Arcana Famigila (La Storia della Arcana Famigila)
The Premise: On a small island ruled by the local mafia, the head of the family is retiring and has ordered all members who have made a contract with the tarot (as in tarot cards) to participate in a fighting tournament to determine the next head and marry his daughter. His daughter is not happy about this and decides to fight as well.

Another anime adaptation of an otome game and I was looking forward to this one based on the original artwork, which was of course made rather generic looking for the anime (I know I know, it's easier to animate, still doesn't make me less sad about it). As for the rest of the show, that wasn't a very good opening episode, I'm hard pressed to think of a single well-done part of the episode. Everything felt clunky and wooden, all the characters felt like walking stereotypes (yes they haven't had character development yet but plenty of other shows manage better than this in their first episode), and the info dumps seemed rather pointless. Between all of that and news that the show is probably going for a romantic route I wouldn't like* I've dropped this show and am starting to lose faith that good, interesting reverse harems show exist.

Arcana Famigila is streaming on Crunchyroll and has been licensed by Section 23.

The Premise: Japanese tourist Goudo goes to Japan to return an artifact owned by his grandfather, kills a god and receives the title (and powers) of Godslayer.

Honestly I tried out this show just because the idea of  a "Godslayer" amused me and I certainly enjoy flashy action shows, provided that they have a plot that holds together. At this point it's a bit hard to tell if Campione has that however, the first episode was paced much to fast (according to fans of the original novel they compressed an entire light novel, which run about 200-ish pages in my experience, into one episode) and instead of starting out in media res (as the first novel does, I read some of that and it worked alright there) they also chose to adapt the third novel, which was a flashback to how Godou got his powers. I can understand why they did this part first and fast but the episode could have been much sleeker and really makes me worried how the rest of the series will be paced. For the moment I'm giving it another few episodes but I'm much less optimistic about it now.

Campione! is also streaming on Crunchyroll and has been licensed by Sentai Filmworks (another name for Section 23).  

Humanity Has Declined (Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita)
 The Premise: In the far off future the world may look bright and cheery but the human population has dropped precariously and many places struggle with things such as food shortages. Our protagonist, let's called her Mediator, is from the UN and her job is to mediate between humans and faeries, tiny, perpetually smiling creatures who now have a larger population and more advanced technology than humans.

Oh where to begin with this show, if you want weird, black comedy this is the show of the season, I'm torn between thinking the show is too strange and over the top and laughing at the worst of the jokes. All of the comedy involves some form of absurdism, dead-panning on the part of at least one character, and for good measure some of them involve puns as well (oh kami....). At this point I'm kinda torn about continuing the show or not, at times I find it too strange but I am enjoying it and it's only one cour so for the time being I'll continue following it.

HhD is streaming on Crunchyroll and has also been licensed by Sentai/23.

Lagrange- The Flower of Rin-ne (season two)
 The Premise: Continuing about a year from where the first part ended, Madoka has never quite recovered from making the closest friends she's ever had, Lan and Muginami, to have them leave her, go to fight in opposite sides in a war, and her own abilities to pilot the mysterious Vox Aura have vanished as well. But all of a sudden Lan comes back into her life with Muginami in hot pursuit, although it seems like both of them want Madoka for their side's own, manipulative purposes, all the while Madoka's cousin attempts to puzzle out just what happened all those thousands of years ago to spark the legend surrounding the Flower of Rin-ne.

I am quite happy this show is back since it developed into a great show last winter that took a number of old, mostly mech, tropes and just slightly subverted or played with them. By now Madoka is broken for sure (she probably wasn't in the best mental state when the whole show started but by now she really doesn't seem to be in a good place), the politics seem to have gotten a bit more complicated, and Earth is in serious trouble this time when two of it's three Voxes, the only hope they have in case either of the "alien" sides decide to fight, are now possibly against them and the last is out of commission. While I don't like the new ED and miss the old OP the rest of the show is firing on all cylinders so far and, while I don't expect the show to end in tragedy, I am curious to see how much of a happy ending it can produce and what the characters have to do to work for it.

Lagrange is licensed by Viz media and can be found streaming for US audiences on Hulu.   

Moyashimon Returns
The Premise: Not more than a month after the first season ended in-universe, the gang returns for more hijinks involving fermentation, college life, and microbes with microbe seeing Sawaki as the main character.

Well, if you've seen the first season you know what to expect and if you'll enjoy it, if you haven't you really need to start at the beginning of the show. Actually, the most note-worthy thing about this first episode (which, like many other shows, had weak pacing which I'm hoping will get better) was that the character designer was different this time around which resulted in some of the characters looking radically different, stolen from RandomC (here's the comparison for Sawaki as well, ultimately all the characters look much less detailed this time around). Between those two things it didn't make for the strongest first episode but I do like the series so I'll obviously be sticking around.

Moyashimon Returns has not been licensed/simulcast by anyone so fansubs are the way to go for this show (unless you know enough Japanese to keep up with a discussion on microbiology and fermentation that is).  

Natsuyuki Rendezous
The Premise: Hazuki, a man in his 20s, has a crush on the owner of a local flower shop and gets hired on as part time help after several months of stopping by nearly every night to buy flowers. He's trying to grow closer to her when he discovers that not only is she a widower but he is the only person who can see the ghost of her husband who is constantly nearby.

The second noitaminA show of the season and I enjoyed the first episode much more than I expected it to. It was a paced quickly but perfectly, no scene felt too short or too long and, considering that the original manga is only four volumes long (and completed!), I think this show might fit perfectly into the 11/12 episode constraint of the timeslot. I'll need another episode or two to really like the characters but already they've started being fleshed out and I also really like the look of this show (I know everyone is talking about HhD and SAO but I really liked the use of color here and the character designs were nice and distinctive). The show is a slice of life romance, not my favorite combination of genres, but hopefully with older characters I'll enjoy it.

The show is both streaming on crunchyroll and has been nabbed by Sentai (proving that they don't really care what a show is as long as it stays still long enough for them to grab it).

Sword Art Online
The Premise: The year is 2022 and full immersion virtual reality video games have finally arrived and the creator of the technology (a helmet like apparatus) has created his own game called Sword Art Online and limited the sales to just 10,000 volumes. But after the beta has ended and all the new players have logged in they discover that there is absolutely no way to get out of the game, unless as a collective group they beat all 100 levels of the game without dying since death in the game means death in the real world too. 

Probably the most hyped and anticipated anime of the summer season, written by the same author who wrote the Accel World light novels^ I seem to be in the minority here by finding the pacing a bit rough. Funny enough it's similar to the problems I had with Campione!'s first episode, I can see why they had so much happen in one episode but felt like a few things could've been cut down (do we really need to know so much about how the mechanics of a game that we can never play work?). Also unlike most people it seems (well, unlike most non-light novel readers anyway) I actually didn't have any problems with the "there is no way out of SAO except my way" part, I'll admit that I've read so much background on the show that I've forgotten exactly what was outlined in the episode (and hopefully the parts that were left out of the first episode will be addressed soon) but they went to such extremes to show how there really is no way to get out of the game internally or externally^^ that I have no problems with the set-up. So with all of that out of the way hopefully the pacing will smooth itself out a bit and make for an interesting ride.

While not licensed, people are speculating that Aniplex plans to release this series themselves (oh god those prices) the show is legally streaming on crunchyroll.  

Tari Tari
The Premise: After screwing up in her club's musical performance last year, Konatsu isn't allowed to sing this year. To get around this she finds four other classmates to join her club so that she can sing as part of her new club.

I feel so odd for saying this but I do like slice-of-life, there just happens to be more than one kind of sol and this isn't the kind I like. The characters, even the Austrian exchange student (do the Japanese really think the travel guides are written so poorly?), are just too mundane to be interesting and sadly the characters look just enough alike that I started confusing some of the female characters, something that I do rarely. The show looks pretty, really pretty and makes me wish that I liked the show more, but it just bored me and I see no reason to continue further with it.

Tari Tari is streaming on crunchyroll and has been added to Section 23's ever-growing horde of anime titles. 

UtaKoi (Choyaku Hyakunin Isshu: Uta Koi)
 The Premise: A "liberal interpretation" of the hundred poems used in games such as karuta, each episode focuses on one or two of the poems, all of which are love poems, and speculates on how they came to be.

I'll admit it, I wouldn't have looked twice at this series if it wasn't for Chihayafuru and I imagine most wouldn't have either (which makes this either great planning or the luckiest coincidence ever for the show). Love stories on their own generally aren't my cup of tea but, due to their short nature and the visuals of the show (which indulges in the non-moving plaid technique and adds a thick line around all of the character which produces an effect I rather like) I'm hooked. I'll admit the animation isn't very high quality (and considering I normally can't tell that's a bad sign) and the ending song is the strangest pairing I've ever found for an anime (the opening song is hit or miss it seems, the singer certainly could be less nasally but the song has charmed me) but so far I've had fun with this show and at one season I can spare the time to watch some more. 

UtaKoi is streaming on crunchyroll.

There's an interesting bit of variety for me this time around, including my continuing shows I'm watching two mech shows, one or two more with strong sci-fi elements, three action heavy shows, two romance heavy shows, a few that are half slice of life half something else, a mystery show, and two shows where one of their genres is "just plain weird." It's a nice mix, and I'm watching some high fantasy on the side to balance out the sci-fi, so here's to a summer with a few unexpected gems and hopes that none of these shows crashes and burns!   

*the only reason I'm squicked out is because it appears they are going to pair up Felicit√° with either her cousin or her nephew, which I do recall noticing in the preview material but ignored. Actually, I agree with this poster on what the best route would be since that would totally be the route I'd go for in the game (well, if there wasn't an option for dating everyone, if it's a dating game I demand the option to date as many people as I want!)

^all the author has given a no-comment comment on whether or not the two series are related thus far (from what I can tell there is an extra story somewhere where the leads from the two series have a duel, somehow) although I'm inclined to think that they are alternate universes. Honestly I just can't believe that the NerveGear technology from SAO had progressed so far in just eight years (it's only about six or nine month's old at the start of SAO) that people were putting the internet connectors onto babies (which is one of the rules for brain burst in Accel World and the oldest brain bursters would have been born around 2030). Someone could probably make a very good argument to convince me otherwise but for the moment I'm sticking to my position.

^^unplug them? Has a battery. Battery is unconnected too long? Explodes. Try to disconnect battery? Same idea. Hack the servers? Government tries, fails, can only monitor from the outside. Take helmet off? Explodes. People die of starvation? Creator left a two hour window and info for all players for the government to move everyone to hospitals. Shouldn't safety concerns have been raised? Dude created SAO AND Nervegear and was the first to completely take advantage of all of it. Plus, see that this platform is less than a year old and has a battery that likes to explode when people mess with it, might not have been reverse engineered yet (I will also say that the original web novels for this were in 2002, before everyone and their mom started jailbreaking iPhones and the like, it was written in a slightly different culture). I'm also betting on the theory that he did almost everything on his own and that the company doesn't really exist so there was no one to stop him.