December 18, 2007

This is the New Year

The Holidays are upon us, and with that, I must bid adieu. I will be on vacation until after the New Year, so this will most likely be my last post until then, but with it, I wanted to reflect on some of the great things from the past year, as well as look forward to the next one:

So what did 2007 do right?

Epic Pen Battles:

I have to say, I honestly enjoyed the original concept behind Death Note. Take the essential skeleton of a shounen adventure, and adapt it to be an intellectual battle of wits, rather than a physical battle of brawn. I think a lot of other people feel the same way, which is why Death Note continues to garner praise and more and more viewers with each passing day. While its ending did sort of fall flat compared to the brilliance that the series began with, it still transformed our expectations of what a simple good vs. evil duel could become.

Epic Cliffhangers:

2007 also brought along the conclusion of Code Geass: Hangyaku no Lelouch, and with it, one helluva cliffhanger that just leaves us waiting for Season 2 (damn you, Sunrise!) Code Geass manages to succeed marvelously at being a mecha, without trudging along the same roads that previous series (most notably the Gundam franchise) have already explored. It also executes well, and is a fun, if a tad bit shallow, watch all around.

Epic, in general:

And of course, the most epic thing of all from 2007 had to have been Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. It's a bit hard to top the extremes of this show, just because it was designed to appeal to the little kid within all of us, while still managing to be a running commentary on the state of the anime industry, the state of society, and the development of human individuals. As with most Gainax anime out there, there is more than meets the eye in TTGL, and the brilliance of it is that a viewer watching it for pure enjoyment can appreciate the bright lights and simple hero's journey presented throughout the series, while someone with a Ph.D in philosophy or literature can still explore the various allusions and symbolisms, not to mention the metaelements of the anime itself and their meaning as applied to a variety of different topics. A lot of people consider this to be overrated, but honestly, I don't think I've ever had more fun from watching an anime, and still be able to discuss it endlessly afterwards.


But what did 2007 do wrong?

Nice Boat!:

Censorship, the bane of artistic creativity since the dawn of, well, artistic creativity. Censorship does have its place, but the overreaction of many Japanese networks in the wake of the murders committed by young individuals with regards to censoring anime that they air may have gone a bit too far. It's one thing to appeal to the sensibilities of those affected, but its another all together to backlash against an entire industry. Hopefully this is just some momentary overreaction without much lingering long-term effects.

Geneon goes bust:

This was really a blow to North American anime fans, when it was heard that one of the larger overseas distributors of anime has decided to close its doors and not sell anymore in the NA market. While this may not affect those of us who only watch fansubs, it does not bode well for the profitability of anime distribution in North America in the future, which could just lead to poorer and poorer quality of imports, and eventually, might lead some other distributors to abandon the market all together.

Still no Juuni Kokuki:

I am seriously going to continue bugging people until they properly conclude this series (both anime and light novels). Come on, you were on a good roll there!


As for the holidays....

I'm finally getting around to finishing off Fullmetal Alchemist, and am watching another classic, Cowboy Bebop, as well. I'll also be watching some shows I missed the first time around, such as Shakugan no Shana and Seirei no Moribito. Hopefully, these holidays will present me with some holiday cheer!


See you next year!~

December 13, 2007

A Midseason Night's Dream

As we rapidly approach the midpoint of the Fall season (which also marks the end of the half-season shows), a fair amount has happened. Opinions on series have changed as people have finally gotten the chance to watch them, some over-hyped series did not perform nearly as well as expected, and some lesser known shows came out to surprise everyone with their quality. I wanted to present some short feedback on each of the currently airing series that I've seen, to hopefully steer others either towards or away from them, depending on my impressions.

Blue Drop ~Tenshi-tachi no Gikyoku~:


I have to admit, I picked up this series entirely because Genjo was subbing it, and I was idling in their channel waiting for them to release Ghost Hound. The first episodes didn't impress me much, so I jumped ahead and watched some of the ones that weren't yet subbed by them. Pretty mediocre fare thus far - it's basically "dropped", although I might pick up the last few episodes during a lull or something, since it is a short series. For supposedly being a "shoujo ai" series, there's not much "ai" going on, and all the characters are boring (although they aren't entirely one-dimensional, which I guess is a plus). In addition, the science fiction in this series is... well... typical I suppose is the best word for it? This series fails to impress.

Verdict: do not watch

Clannad:

One of the more hyped series of this season, unfortunately, Clannad began with a whimper and has remained lackluster throughout. While Kyoto Animation does stay rather faithful to the Key source material, it comes at a price. The introductory episodes are complete snooze-fests - each character is introduced in literally a scene that looks to be lifted directly from the game, complete with a setting change that indicates you are on a different path. When Okazaki Tomoya (the male lead) is talking to one of the girls in the beginning, you get the feeling as if none of the previous events actually occurred. That same feeling carries through into the beginning of the "new arc". I suppose that the way the last arc concluded required it to essentially be "written out" of existence, but you'd expect to see at least some subtle hints as to the previous events occurring outside of a blatant, contrived flashback that doesn't really lead to anywhere.


It's not just the structure or the plot of the series that gets to me, it's the characters themselves. Physically, there's really no variance, which I suppose is true for most Key adaptations. The females look like they just had their hair and eyes changed, everything else looks pretty much the same. Also, gigantic irises, and I do mean gigantic, dominate this series, to the point where you have to begin to wonder if Nagisa's family is made up of aliens, with their large, beamy eyes and their antennae-like ahoges. Psychologically, the characters are fairly one-dimensional, and their development is pretty much forced upon them by artificial circumstances or some not-so-subtle hints dropped by the writers, saying "hey, this character has changed, TAKE NOTE OF IT".

Despite these faults, it's
not a terribly bad series. It has its share of comedic moments, even if the romance and drama tend to fall flat. However, it definitely does not live up to its hype, or even the hype of the studio producing it. It's a decent watch if you're already a fan of the genre, but it likely won't appeal to anyone outside of its exclusive target audience.

Verdict: watch if you are a Key/KyoAni fan, skip otherwise

Ghost Hound:


This series started out abysmally slow, but has picked up since then. The visuals are stunningly beautiful, and the premise of the plot is quite interesting. It doesn't seem to be as philosophically deep as Ghost in the Shell or Serial Experiments Lain, the previous "big works" done by the creator and director (respectively) of the series, although there's definitely room for some psychological exploration as well as ontological questioning in the second half. The juxtaposition of the different psychological problems each of the three main leads experience against the backdrop of the paranormal events they experience together are proving to be quite the interesting tale, especially with the different ways each of them respond to their out-of-body experiences and the anomalies that they see. The focus in this series is very much introspective - how do the characters deal with being themselves given what's happened in the past, and how does their self-interpretation affect their immediate surroundings, specifically their familial relationships. A word of warning: the series does get pretentiously intellectual at times, although not nearly as much as Ergo Proxy did, especially with its psychological and medical terms. It feels like most of them actually serve a purpose though, even if a lot of the events could have been explained in more laymen terms.

Verdict: an enjoyable, if somewhat overly intellectual, watch

Goshuusho-sama Ninomiya-kun:


As I mentioned in my previous entry, Ninomiya-kun seems to be going nowhere with its plot or characters. It starts out decently well, or at least as well as an ecchi fanservice anime can begin. Recently, however, it's devolved into boring, nonsensical plotlines with a cast of ever-increasingly annoying characters. The fundamental problem with Ninomiya-kun is that it does not know how to end - it had its moments as a mindless fanservice comedy, but ask it to do anything "serious" from a plot and character perspective, and it fails miserably. If you really want to pick this up, make sure you realize that only the comedy is worth watching, none of the romance.

Verdict: not entirely terrible, but only watch if you need some mindless laughs

Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Kai:


One of the carry-overs from the previous season, Higurashi Kai has turned into quite the thrill-ride. The same murder that created the "Nice Boat" incident also affected the airing of Higurashi Kai, forcing it, perhaps, to cut down on the violence shown in the later episodes that occurred after the incident. Because of this, Kai is no where near as gory as its predecessor, but it converts that violence into a fast-paced roller-coaster plot that is quickly pushing the entire series to its climax. On its own, Kai probably would not be generating the excitement it is from me, but it's the prospect of finding out all the answers posed during the first season, as well as finally getting to see events reach their conclusion that constantly drives me to eagerly anticipate the episodes every week.

Verdict: must watch if saw the first season, pick up the first season if you're in the market for a good, violent mystery.

Kodomo no Jikan:


Another show that I picked up since Genjo was subbing it, this one didn't actually turn out to be that bad, for what it's worth. A fairly amusing comedy about a grade-school teacher and the nine-year old girl who's in love with him - decent setup, decent execution all around in this series. The humor does get a bit on the awkward side, what with the sexual humor surrounding a group of three nine year olds and all. Due to this, the aired version of the show actually loses a lot of its humor to censorship, to the point where sometimes, you can't even guess at what's going on. Basically, expect to see a lot of this:


Despite the heavy censorship, it's still a decent watch, although it's honestly probably worth it to wait for the DVDs just so you don't have to put up with the obtrusive censorship.

Verdict: funny, but need to wait for DVDs to get the full humor

Minami-ke:


Probably the best show of the season thus far, I made a little blurb about Minami-ke on my old blog over at MAL, where I said that "it manages to excel in its humor by providing one situation after another that will just leave you rolling on the floor laughing". I stand by my statement after having seen episode 10 of this delicious series, where they ramp up the gender-bender humor and introduced a female character who wants to be a boy. In addition to the hilarious situational humor brought about by these girls' everyday activities, the nuances of each individual character are also fleshed out, making for character humor just based on the expression on their face, or their reaction to a given event. Overall, this series is worth picking up, not only because of its humor, but because of its simplicity, which is something that is missing in today's shows, who have entirely too many contrived plots and situations.

Verdict: the closest thing to "must watch" this season, pick this up as soon as possible!

Mobile Suit Gundam 00:


In the same entry that I plugged Minami-ke, I also bashed Gundam 00, criticizing it for essentially being an unimaginative reinterpretation of Gundam Wing, which itself was not really a good show. In retrospect, I may have been overly harsh: thus far, this series shows more promise than Wing and SEED both did, and really has the potential to go places in terms of breaking through the old mold that all previous Gundam series have essentially been cast in. Hopefully, they will properly flesh out the characters - while I'm already somewhat annoyed by the very, very clich├ęd schizophrenia of Allelujah Haptism, the maddened ravings of Tieria might actually be good, and sets him up as a possible future villain. If they can pull off a proper Gundam civil war in this series, excitement will definitely follow.

Verdict: obviously watch if you are a Gundam fan, but might be worth picking up if it gets better - keep an eye on this series's development

Moyashimon:


Admist the spew of new shows this season, Moyashimon, or Tales of Agriculture, really stands out as a sleeper hit. The premise is interesting, if a bit odd - a student enters a school of agriculture in preparation for taking over the family business. Oh, and he can see microbes. With the naked eye. What's interesting is how this series uses the opportunity of an educational show about microbes and takes it much further. One of the more delightful aspects of this show is its purposeful comparison of urban and rural agricultural life, by setting this college in the middle of urban Tokyo, even if a hint of the city at large around them does not exist at all. In effect, the addition of the visible microbes helps to transport the (most likely urban) viewer to this rural world, by presenting something blatantly out of the ordinary and meshing that with the subtle differences in the two cultures and how they live. Other than that, it's just a damn fun program: educational, with a sense of wit and humor, especially the almost cynical sarcasm of the main lead Sawaki towards his ability to see otherwise microscopic organisms. This series is definitely on the rise, as more and more people are becoming aware of it. Definitely watch it.

Verdict: another "almost" must watch - combines humor and education in a good way!


Well, there you have it, the midseason report on a few, select series. I'll be coming back and visiting these at the end of the season, so maybe we'll see how my verdicts turned out, and if the full-season shows (Clannad, Ghost Hound, and Gundam 00) can either turn themselves around in the second half, or continue to build upon the foundations already laid down during the first half.

December 8, 2007

Ninomiya-kun 10: Ninjas on Parade

Just got finished with watching Ninomiya 10, and I have to say, boy am I glad that this series is only 12 episodes. It really felt like they ran out of comedic material sometime around episode 5, and the dramatic romantic backstory that they are trying to weave into the show is bland and, to be honest, doesn't make sense more than seventy-five percent of the time. Hopefully they can at least wrap up this series gracefully, although from what happened in this episode, it looks like that could be a long shot.

Spoilers be ahead, so turn back now if you don't want to know what happens in this episode just yet:

My face pretty much looked like Reika's when I was watching this - an exasperated state of confusion as I was trying to make sense of the whole thing by paying attention to the nonexistant details of plot and character that I may miss from just a casual watch-through. Unfortunately, it was a fruitless venture - it feels like there should be some backstory to a lot of the character interactions, but they're mostly just glossed over. Take for example, this:

Yes, we finally find out that Mayu, Reika, and Shungo did all know each other as kids. While we already know that Shungo has pseudo-amnesia or something, and that's why he can't remember either Reika or Mayu, they don't really explain why Reika and Mayu don't remember each other, or, if they do, they show no signs of being acquaintances from the past at all, given their interactions with one another at the start of the series.

This is just one of the faults I find within Goshuusho-sama Ninomiya-kun, the other being the inconsistency of the plot. Apparently, the writers have really begun to run out of ideas, and instead, are serving up portions of RANDOM NINJAS into the episodes:

I'm not joking when I say they pretty much appear out of nowhere either. It's like one moment, we're having an ecchi fanservice moment with Reika and Mayu dressing each other up in costumes, and the next, a parade of ninjas begin to attack. Luckily, these ninjas apparently weren't trained very well, since even an average high school female student like Hinako can dispose of them easily.

After a long-winded chase through the streets of Kyoto, culminating in a gigantic ninja vs. high school student battle (complete with Ryoko and Mikihiro cameo roles), it ends with a simple kiss between Tatsuke (creepy guy) and Irori (glasses-kun). No further explanations are provided, and the gang is just let go.

As if this wasn't confounding enough, apparently the true villain all along has been Hosaka, as he throws Shinobu off of a helicopter after Reika reverts to her succubus self. Great, you kill off (or maybe they'll bring her back to life, Zero no Tsukaima second season-style) one of the better and funnier characters in the series, and focus the attention on the person who's been nothing but a lackey all along.

Honestly, if Ninomiya-kun wasn't a half-season show, I'd be dropping it right about now. But since there's only two episodes left, I'll probably just keep on watching this helicopter-wreck of a series until the bitter end. Who knows, maybe it'll redeem itself with some cheap breast humor.

December 7, 2007

Minami-ke 09 - The 10,000 word report

Minami-ke 09 out today by Ayako. Really entertaining episode. They shifted away from what they were doing in the previous several episodes and decided, once again, to focus purely on the three Minami sisters. Overall feeling was positive, although we don't really get to see anything new from this episode that we don't know already (aside from one moment from Haruka). Spoilers be ahead, so if you don't want it spoiled, don't read on just yet!



Haruka is looking extremely bored here on her day off. This first part really cements her as the character who really invests herself heavily in the well-being of her siblings - perhaps too heavily. Left to her own devices, she doesn't really know what to do.


Cake scene was also awesome. She's finally showing her self-indulgent side. Kana's reaction upon arriving home was also priceless - exactly as would be expected from the BOSS. Chiaki, on the other hand, seems to be far too mature for her age. I guess the years that Kana should have developed socially instead went over to Chiaki.


We're also getting down to the root of why Kana is such a baka in the first place. Chiaki apparently has a lot to say on this subject - enough to fill a 10,000 word essay. Kana, in her baka-ness'ed attempt to keep Chiaki up all night due to waking her up by sitting on her, decides to make Chiaki explain exactly why she thinks Kana is such an idiot. Of course, like any conversation that drags on into the night, they start to become unintelligible.


Also, pulling down someone's pants is the best way to prevent them from leaving the room, true story. The sickness part was also quite humorous. Guess no matter how nice Chiaki might seem to Kana, she still has those sinister intentions behind her words. Kana, on the other hand, is nice, and wants to feed Chiaki an apple when she gets sick:


After a grueling battle against her vegetables and some exchanging of clothes, Chiaki makes a cheese lemon custard chiffon pie, which turns out to reveal that.... the BOSS is a tsundere?


Next episode is "Boy x Girl", and from the preview, is there another possible trap coming onto the show? Will Mako-chan have some competition?

Kicking Things Off

Finally completed the setup on this. Soon enough all my blog posts will be here rather than the MAL blog, so look forward to it!