One way to be sure this gets done: write it as the week goes along! Like last week, this week has been an emotional mood-whiplash rollercoaster, but through it all there’s always time for watching and blogging anime (and making music). Not sleeping helps! Worth mentioning: I finally got my driver’s license this week! Woohoo!
We’ll do the shows in the order that I enjoyed this week’s episode.
Fate/Zero (ep 2): Talked about it extensively here, so this will be brief. Early in the episode, I thought, this show might not be able to uproot Steins;Gate as my favorite show of 2011, just because Steins;Gate is more playful and fun. Then the Cthulhu scene happened and all the doors reopened.
Chihayafuru (ep 2): Unsurprisingly, this continues to be the Good Fucking Show this season. I love that we’re still seeing the past, because I’ll take as much adorable kid Chihaya as I can get. I think I’m in love with her, regardless of time period. If there’s one thing that bothers me about this show, it’s that being a great sports anime makes it predictable; though this isn’t a fault of the show so much as one of my experience. That’s where the visual flair and gorgeous character designs give me more than enough to not find it a stale viewing experience.
Seeing the matches almost makes me want to learn a bit more about the mechanics of Karuta, which seems like a pretty simple game anyway. I’m really enjoying watching Chihaya run away with at first vicarious passion, and how she’s so forward, simple-minded, and optimistic, no matter the circumstances.
Ben-to (ep 1): I was worried that this season would be the definitive point wherein light novel adaptions stopped mattering to me, what with Haganai and C3 being different levels of bad. Then I got Ben-to, which is every bit as great as I wanted it to be, and totally light novel. I gotta hand this one to Itagaki Shin, because the directing was the strongest part of this episode. Everything had this dry, strangely mysterious feel, where characters would suddenly appear and disappear from the frame in scenes, and everything had a natural flow which punctuated the action scenes wonderfully. And the action scenes were visceral and chaotic enough to be totally awesome.
Yuuki Aoi-voiced Oshiroi Hana is my favorite character so far, being as she’s blatantly insane, but in a strange, unpredictable way, totally the opposite of the bland craziness from the likes of Haganai characters. The beautiful Ice Queen is secretly Casshern, voiced by Ise Mairya who tends to be more in the background, so it’s nice to see her in a leading role again. The protagonist hasn’t done much yet except at least show us that he’s a fighter. I’d love it if he powered up and became a true contender in the Bento War.
This plot owns. I’m the type of person who fights over food. Last year, my brother and I got into a fight over a friend’s leftover hamburger. I was getting owned because my bro is way stronger, so I slammed a microwave door into his face. (I still lost). Food violence is serious business, and I love its presentation here, especially through the dialog of the diesel store worker.
Maji de Watashi ni Koi Shinasai! (ep 2): This episode kept up the ballistic energy of the first, and combined it with gallons of the best kind of fanservice. It’s starting to bring to mind the best parts of last year’s Ichiban Ushiro no Daimaou, though that show had better character designs than this one. Aside from not-great character art, I have no complaints about this show. There’s action everywhere, tits (looking forward to the blu-rays) and a hot archer girl who wants to get all over the main character’s “lance.” (I can’t begin to understand why he’s avoiding her.) The action scenes, while not the most fluid, exhibit nice attention to detail, such as even showing the bullets inside of a gun that got cut in half. I enjoy the interactions of the characters, sparse as they may be, because they actually work well as a team. Looking forward to where the plot might go.
Phi Brain – Kami no Puzzle (ep 2): I enjoy this show’s over-the-top shounen anime nature. It creates a world revolving around puzzles, with stuff like “the pyramids were ancient puzzles.” This is awesome because it justifies huge, crazy puzzles. I’d really love it if this show ended with a puzzle on the scale of a city or something. I also enjoy the title system because it’s stupid but fun.
What really sold this episode, though, was a combination of great character design and vocal performances, especially Gammon, played by Fukuyama Jun at his most uproarious and insane. The one thing that bothers me about this show is how it doesn’t actually explain the puzzles and how they’re solved. Maybe this is to let the viewers have a chance to solve it themselves, but it’s not very fun, unlike the rest of the show. The whole baka morse code thing was brilliant, though.
Hunter X Hunter (ep 2): Hunter X Hunter continues to look ridiculously good and display perfect directing and pacing. Persona 4 could learn a thing or two about how to do a good job super-condensing a story from this show. That said, while this episode was technically solid, I didn’t find it as enjoyable as the first. It feels like the show is rubbing in our faces how intelligent and badass these three characters are, and all this “that was the true purpose” type of dialog irks me a little. By the way, I’ll be pissed if we start meeting hunters who are complete jackasses, considering how much of the requisite for being a hunter involves being a good person. Anyway, I’m still looking forward to more of this show.
Mashiro-iro Symphony (ep 2): Mashiro-iro Symphony is like a really cool guy whom you want to be good friends with, but you can’t get too close to him because you know he’s a drug addict. Most of the show is a smart, well-produced visual novel adaption with gorgeous character designs—but every once in a while, the main character walks in on girls changing and faceplants into their tits. I can be forgiving of these stupid antics, but here it’s doubly frustrating because the stupid moments start defining the relationship between the leading guy and girl.
Other than that, everything in the show is great. Most of the characters are likable right from the get-go, and of special importance, so is the protagonist. The scene with all the guys stuffing themselves into a food coma was lots of fun, and I’m actually genuinely interested in the gender politics of the school merger. I really want to think this show is going to be great—if it weren’t for the stupid shit, I probably wouldn’t doubt it.
Guilty Crown (ep 1): Here we have a show about DFC cleavage. No really, it wasn’t easy to decide where to take the screenshot for this ep, considering how much of it was close-ups of Inori’s rack. Comparisons between this show and Code Geass are apt, and it’s being a noitaminA show by Production I.G. puts it in the tradition of Eden of the East, though it feels a little more Fractale, in whatever good way that can be said. What kept coming to mind for me was Final Fantasy VII, with the (very pretty) run-down cyberpunk feel, the girl singing in a sunny garden within a dilapitated building, and then the real money when Gai showed up, looking like Sephiroth. (It also looked like his gang was in trenchcoats.)
A lot of notable seiyuu are on the cast roster, but so far it’s about Kayano Ai playing Inori, and she’s pretty good. This will surely be an important role for the up-and-coming star. Kaji Yuuki is a bit more lukewarm as the protagonist, who’s generally lukewarm. That doesn’t matter because this episode is about being action-packed in media res, and possibly beats out Majikoi and Horizon in the quality of doing such (though it wasn’t as purely fun to watch as Majikoi ep 1).
There was a lot to like. Most especially, the soundtrack. Gai’s entrance and the music that played during it was so good I practically got up and gave a round of applause. Besides that, all the music is great, and I was impressed to learn that the soundtrack is composed by Supercell, OP and ED included. Very cool. The TV rip doesn’t do these visuals justice, and I can’t wait to see the episode on blu-ray. All that said, this episode didn’t do anything wrong, but it didn’t leave a strong impression with the characters or story. At least there’s 22 episodes for that, and hopefully it doesn’t fall apart when characters start talking.
Working’!! (ep 2): I’m happy. This was probably my favorite episode from either season of Working, and displays the directing style that we’re likely to see throughout the series (which wasn’t really evident in the pilot). Here, the show tackles the main issue that I had when I started watching S1 last year, which was that it stretched out the jokes too much and didn’t match the successful comedic timing of the superior manga. Now, the delivery is way more tight and crammed with laugh-out-loud moments. It certainly doesn’t hurt that the episode centered wholly around Poplar and Yamada, who are by far my favorite characters in the show and seemed to get the least screentime in the first season. If this is a continuing trend (the first episode also had a lot of Poplar) then I’ll definitely enjoy this season a lot more than its predecessor.
Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai (ep 2): I enjoyed this episode a lot more than the first one, primarily because Sena is moe. I can’t say I care for her design, what with her gargantuan tits, but I love the way she seems to have nothing but time to waste. She’s the type who’ll go all-out with anything she actually finds an interest in, which she does on a whim because she doesn’t have any passion on her own. It only takes someone nudging her to get her rolling, and she doesn’t stop. Aside from the fact that she doesn’t get along with the others in the club, she’s actually really into it. I’d kill to have her as a friend.
The Monster Hunter parody was pretty well-done, most especially in the animation, which created the appearance that the characters were doing the stiff and programmed movements that they really would in a game. Best of all was when Yozora put down an exploding barrel, and the barrel just sort of appeared in midair halfway through the character animation—nice touch. I couldn’t help the whole time thinking about the far superior MonHan parody in Gintama, though, which made me want to rewatch that instead of this lol.
I’m looking forward to getting more characters since the main girls’ designs still aren’t doing anything for me, but at least I’ve latched onto someone to keep me watching.
UN-GO (ep 1): It’s starting to feel like Studio BONES has given up on their male audience, between this and No. 6. UN-GO is a girl’s show in every way, being a murder mystery episodic starring a cast of pretty-boys designed by none other than Kouga Yun (Loveless, Gundam 00). The first episode is pretty good, primarily by way of smooth directing, and writing which holds up even though the mystery isn’t particularly interesting. The staff and production are solid, and of note is a pretty cool soundtrack backing it up.
Here’s where things get weird: this show is based on a novel by Sakaguchi Ango, a Japanese author who lived from 1906–1955. He happens to be the guy who wrote In the Forest, Under the Cherry Blossoms in Full Bloom, which was the second and most insane story adapted in the Aoi Bungaku series. This opens another dimension of questions and intrigue about the show and where it could go.
But for now, we’ve got what’s here, a girly mystery show. My brother said of Inga that “he looks like some chick you’d see at Nekocon, and you’ll probably see a bunch of chicks cosplaying him soon.” Yeah, probably. But wow, he’s voiced by Toyosaki Aki! I never would’ve guessed until I looked it up. Toyosaki continues to show that her voice range hasn’t even been fully explored; she’s always full of surprises. And there could be no better choice for someone who has to transform from a loli-shouta into a big-breasted harlot. On that note, I don’t know what to make of the supernatural element, except that it’s even girlier this way.
Horizon on the Middle of Nowhere (ep 2): I’m actually impressed by the extent to which I have no fucking idea what’s happening at any given time in this show. Every single aspect of it is complete chaos. The character designs are chaos; the dialog is chaos; the directing is chaos; the Sawashiro Miyuki character’s backstory is chaos—by the way, I have no idea how she’s connected to anything else in the show. Is she even in the same class as everyone else? None of the scenes flow into each-other at all—it’s like watching random bits of late episodes of a long-running show about which I know nothing.
And yet, pieces of it are totally appealing. Namely, Fukuyama Jun’s character jumps off the screen with more charisma and presence than any other character this season (that’s two amazing performances from him this season!). He’s a joy to watch, and the other characters are so bizarre and chaotic that I feel like I want to make sense of them—I just hope the show intends to give me such an opportunity.
Mirai Nikki (ep 1): I wonder if /a/ is loving this, since it’s adapting one of their favorite manga and Norio Wakamoto is in it. I read and enjoyed the first two volumes of Mirai Nikki years ago. To me, it felt like a NISIOISIN-esque light novel in manga form, and I appreciated the breakneck, murderous pacing and expressive artwork. The manga already reads at the speed of an action film, so when adapting it, it was bound to get slowed down. Unless the anime version was particularly stylish, there was no way it could measure up to the manga. I knew this and went in with low expectations, which were met and not exceeded.
I’ll keep watching for now because it’s not bad and there are some cool scenes I’m interested in seeing animated, but my hopes are rather low.
Mobile Suit Gundam AGE (ep 1): My favorite part was the ultra-cute Emily Armond. Over-the-shoulder ponytails always make me uncomfortable because wearing my hair like that would be infuriating, but on her, it’s damned excellent. I was surprised to learn that she’s voiced by Endo Aya, whom I’ve never heard as a young girl before. Usually she plays okaa-san roles or has a deeper voice (Sheryl Nome, Engi Three-Piece, Takara Miyuki). So far, she’s doing alright here.
Of course, while lolis are an integral part of the Gundam franchise, the real point of this show is the giant robots. The design of Gundam AGE, while decidedly not unique, feels really good the way it’s drawn in this show. It has personality, and seems cool and manly. By the way, talk about manliest Gundam pilot ever in the form of Flit. Has a pilot ever been so ready and willing to take up his mech and kick robot ass? Of course, this is because Flit pretty much built the damn Gundam, which is an interesting twist on the usual fall-into-cockpit-take-reigns-of-history route.
I really hope that this show ends up on Cartoon Network, and not in the morning slot with Bakugan and Beyblade and Pokemon, but in the prime-time action block.
Persona 4 the Animation (ep 2): Even moreso than the first episode, the pacing in this one was complete shit. There was enough content here to fill a two-episode arc, and it was burned through very awkwardly. It’s bulldozering through plot points with no consideration for presentation. Adding to that, I really don’t care for the character designs, especially the school uniforms. The white-on-black stitching isn’t attractive and lends to way too much inconsistency with the difficulty that must come from animating those things.
There’s potential for greatness lying underneath this show. Stylistically, it looks like it wants to be very cool, but just isn’t working. The next episode previews make me think of Boogiepop Phantom and how much better this show would be if it had that level of atmosphere. Whatshisface coming to terms with himself to create his persona could’ve been an interesting character building exercise, but it was so fast and haphazard that there wasn’t time to take anything in.
Persona 4 is on the chopping block. I’ll be dropping it if the next episode is more of the same.
C3 (ep 2): I appreciate the variety of visual techniques used in the second half of this episode. Oonuma Shin is giving himself a run for his money in that regard, and it’s clear that he brought some more friends from SHAFT to work on this episode, as evidenced by the cut-out-paper scenes. And that’s as far as I can praise this show, because it’s complete shit otherwise.
C3 feels like it’s trying to win some kind of trite marathon. Every single line of dialog and every situation is trite. Even the voice acting is shit—Chihara Minori, who is a good seiyuu, and Tamura Yukari, who is a great seiyuu, add nothing to the leading women. They’re flat and boring like their characters. I don’t know the metal claw woman’s name to match her up to a voice, but she was completely fucking annoying. No one gives a shit about the lead guy—I barely remember he exists. The character designs are boring. They’re so boring that even though the OP should be a collection of super good-looking character animation, I didn’t find myself enjoying it, because I don’t enjoy seeing the designs.
This episode does that light novel thing where it goes from dumb comedy to heavy drama at the drop of a hat, and the transition isn’t even jarring because the first part of the episode was so boring, it took the second half just to wake me up. Tons of people bitch about mood whiplash in shows, but I happen to love two shows known for it—Angel Beats and Kore wa Zombie Desu ka—because those were good shows. Kore wa Zombie was hilarious in the comedy parts, and the drama bits were so over-the-top in storytelling that they were cool. Angel Beats was just solidly produced all-around and made whatever it did work. C3 pales in comparison to either series. I promised that I’d give this show a three-episode test, but I’ll be utterly bowled-over in shock if the third episode is somehow good.
Shows I Dropped
Maken-ki (ep 1): At this point, I don’t need to give a speech about how fanservice action shows can be great—Seikon no Qwaser is one of my top 30 favorite anime. But I don’t need to watch more than one episode of this to tell that it’s no Qwaser nor Queen’s Blade nor even Freezing. It’s flatly bad. I find it funny that effort was put into making some of the backgrounds pretty, but the character designs are fugly as sin. The animation in fights is decent and there are some neat directing quirks, but the choreography is weak. Panty shots and retarded girl-falling-on-guy scenes have never done anything for me, and they make up a huge amount of this show. Also, there’s this weird shaky-cam effect used almost constantly, which is totally annoying. There aren’t even any notable seiyuu, though I rather liked Yahagi Sayuri as the blonde. Takeda Hiromitsu should stick to manga about girls climbing a wall of dicks.
That’s all for this week! Please submit your ideas for what NEET should stand for next week in the comments! Also, next week, I’ll introduce The Chopping Block. I’m looking forward to it!