Posted on 31 March 2012 with categories: Some Quick First Impressions

The Legend of Korra

Short Synopsis: Our lead character is the legendary chosen one.
Allright already! I give in; I’ll watch the first episode of this Avatar sequel. Normally I don’t cover American animation, but with this there were so many people requesting it. My impression is, that it’s indeed a pretty good series based on this first impression. The animation is really good: it is inspired by anime’s level of detail in its art, yet manages to retain the amount of fluidity that’s typical of American animation. There are some cliches in the cast of characters, like the spunky kid in the middle of a dignified Asian-inspired setting, which is quite common in these types of stories, and Korra herself definitely has her annoying moments. I am intrigued however by the politics in this series, although I have no idea what role the main character will end up playing in this. Everyone keeps talking about how she’s special as the avatar, but most of the problems that are presented in this episode don’t really seem like problems that can be solved by someone who just happens to be able to “bend” multiple elements.
ED: Very fast credits. Good music.
Potential: 80%

Ginga he Kickoff

Short Synopsis: Our lead character wants to found a football team.
Uh so yeah. Don’t ask me why, but we suddenly got treated to the fifth episode of Ginga he Kickoff. As for what happened to the first four… I have no idea. So I just watched the fifth episode of this series, and really, it’s fairly representative of the nature of this series. There were parts I enjoyed. The cast of side-characters is fairly nice. Better than Area no Kishi in any case. It just has one really, really big problem: the main character! Good lord, this kid is horrible. He keeps yelling and whining throughout the entire episode. In this episode he wants a certain person to become the coach of his football team, and do you know how he ends up doing it? By whining and whining and whining until the coach can’t take it anymore. Yes, the parents in the world will be thankful to this series.
OP: Very cheesy J-Pop
ED: Another dull song.
Potential: 10%

Natsuiro Kiseki

Short Synopsis: Our lead characters are a bunch of middle school girls.
Okay. I am intrigues. I’m definitely going to keep watching this series. I’m not going to say why; you just need to watch this episode for yourself. Instead I’m going to talk a bit about this episode in general. Natsuiro Kiseki was a series that I really feared would just become another copy and paste moeblob clone. However, the execution is different from your average series. There is actual tension between the characters, and not in the usual clown-straight man pairing, but it feels much more natural than usual. It still has its problems of being way too angsty. There is in particular a blond girl in this show who needs to lay off the angst, because she kept causing drama that could have been solved by proper communication. Despite that though, this series doesn’t feel random, but the characters are actually talking about something. Some characters are a tad cliched (the deadpan girl in particular), but others are actually pretty inspired (the green-haired girl in this show is actually an interesting variation on the “ditzy girl”-archetype).
OP: Dull J-rock.
ED: Dull J-pop (for those who are new to this blog: yes, I kindof dislike these genres)
Potential: 80%

Posted on with categories: Mouretsu Pirates

Okay, so the princesses are now recurring characters. Yeah, Gruier found it so much fun as a regular student that she decided to stay a while longer on Marika’s school, taking her little sister along with her. It’s a bit forced, but I get what the creators were gong for: they’re princesses, so they should be allowed to be children for a while.

The rest of this episode was a quiet aftermath, mostly dedicated to the everyone passing a year. The captain of the yacht club is gone now, and there are a few new characters introduced. Nothing special, but it did give a good feel of its characters. The downside is that we’re probably going to have to wait a while until things get interesting again. I was hoping that this series would be more like Stellvia, having just one build-up arc at the beginning, but it seems that this is much more arc-based.

My favorite part of this was probably Ririka. She’s a really interesting mother for an anime: she stays in the background, as it’s obviously not her story, but she is not a mother who is there for the sake of having a mother here. In this episode she actually thought to change jobs, in order to find something to do that she really enjoyed. It’s also interesting how Marika addresses her by her first name, rather than the usual “okaa-san” or “mama”.Rating: * (Good)

Posted on with categories: Monthly Summaries

Okay, so during the summer season of 2011, I remember how I kept saying that modern anime are too short, and how more series should try to be longer. Well, the past half year showed the other side of that extreme when a large amount of the big flops were… series that went on for longer than 13 episodes: Bakuman dragged, Persona was terribly paced, Guilty Crown was terribly written, Last Exile had a bit of a bad main character syndrome and Squid Girl II was a pointless sequel.

And at the same time, the three best endings of this season… all were from series based on manga that are still on-going. Hmm…

#23 (new) – Hiiro no Kakera – (4,5/10) – Yet again Studio Deen keeps making the same bloody show that is as lazily executed as ever. Yet again we have a really dull bishie show with cardboard cut-outs. And what I really don’t get is why this show has the character designer of Ergo Proxy. I mean, the characters in this series look utterly terrible. What was the need to bring a guy like him around if you’re not going to use him?
#22 (new) – Gakkatsu – (6/10) – A random flash show, thankfully better executed than usual. It still was very dull and gimmicky, though.
#21 (20) – Guilty Crown – (7/10) – I… guess that this month wasn’t the worst month in terms of plot, but it was the month that convinced me what a huge waste of time it was to keep up with this series. I really got nothing out of it, other than bragging rights that I managed to finish such a dull and badly written series. And heck, even the ending was full of the most stupid plot twists. I am not looking forward to Accel World, considering how it shares the same scriptwriter.
#20 (new) – Ozuma – (7,6/10) – Considering Ryousuke Takahashi’s involvement, this was a bit of a disappointment in how sloppy it was, and how annoying the main character is. I like the idea of a sand submarine though, and with that the creators played a nice homage to the likes of Das Boot and other submarine flicks. There is way too much techno-babble, though. You can really see that this is a story from the early 1980s that got adapted almost page to page, without any attempt to give it a modern edge aside from the graphics.
#19 (18) – Black Rock Shooter – (7,75/10) – Thankfully Black Rock Shooter redeemed itself in its second half. Finally there was a bit of a link between the two worlds beyond both having similar characters. Having Mari Okada as the scriptwriter really helped in making everything come together, even though it also lead to perhaps a bit too much sappiness at times. Still, the action was awesome as well and while it’s definitely among the least interesting Noitamina series, it wasn’t the disaster that Guilty Crown turned out to be.
#18 (17) – Papa no Iukoto ni Kikinasai – (7,9/10) – I disliked the open ended nature of this series, because there still is some stuff that really needs to be tackled for the main characters. Still, I can’t deny that it was a very heart-warming month for this series, that really put emphasis the situation that they’re in. This also was the least annoying month for Papa and I’m glad that I kept watching it, despite the very obvious flaws it has.
#17 (19) – Smile Precure – (8/10) – Heartcatch Precure was immediately awesome: right from the start you knew that you were watching something special, so you didn’t have to sit through a string of really boring episodes, just to know whether it was worth it or not. With Smile Precure, this was not the case: the introduction episodes were really boring. I kept watching because of how it wasn’t entirely stupid, unlike Fresh Precure and Suite Precure. The patience was rewarded when this show actually immediately after the introductions got significantly better. The main character is still really annoying, but the characters are actually getting some very good development already.
#16 (15) – Last Exile – Ginyoku no Fam – (8/10) – Thankfully this series didn’t fall apart with its ending. Everyone thankfully stayed true to his or her character, and that’s what made this ending work. The plan of the final villain still was a bit flimsy, and he definitely should have been better fleshed out, but at least he did close off the series well. The final action scenes were again beautifully rendered, but this wasn’t the amazing comeback that Gonzo hoped for. For that, they needed to put more creativity in the plot and characters, beyond the world building.
#15 (16) – Ano Natsu de Matteru – (8/10) – That final twist with Lemon… urgh. The final episode overall was interesting in how it was completely different from the rest of the series. It worked, but the ending was nowhere near the best of the season, nor the highlights of the series itself. Still, it’s a solid ending.
#14 (11) – Nisemonogatari – (8/10) – The strongest point of this series for me was probably last month. The final arc of this series still was pretty good though, and the time that this show was side-tracked was thankfully rather short compared to Shaft’s other series. The pointless incest wasn’t necessary in the slightest, but the creators got a good story out of the characters when it actually tried to be on topic. The gorgeous animation also helped.
#13 (14) – Danshi Koukousei ni Nichijou – (8,25/10)

The ending was pretty good. The final episode in particular had a lot of sketches that worked really well. Overall the abusive girls parts definitely got annoying and repetitive, but once again this month had a number of great jokes.

#12 (5) – Another – (8,25/10)

Another’s ending was not as good as what I hoped. It put a lot of build-up into it, but the finale was full of strange leaps in logic. Still, the revelation of the ghost was very good, the aftermath was well done, and as a gory horror series, it definitely did its job.

#11 (9) – Poyopoyo Kansatsu Nikki – (8,25/10)

Akitarou Daichi for god’s sake: stop doing these small comedy series. Don’t get me wrong, Poyopoyo is awesome and hilarious, but a guy of your caliber deserves to work on an actual ambitious full series. Go and have tea with the people from Noitamina or something, because I really do miss that brilliant serious side of yours.

#10 (10) – Mirai Nikki – (8,25/10)

It took a while to get there, and being spoiled in the process definitely wasn’t fun, but now that we’re getting near the end I have to say that the plot took quite a number of entertaining and intriguing turns. In a way, the second half of this series is everything that Guilty Crown should have been, save perhaps from the production values.

#9 (12) – Rinne no Lagrange – (8,25/10)

Overall this was a very solid midway climax. It actually closed a few things off, while giving a hook for the second season and there was a nice amount of character growth. Overall its first half was probably the weakest of the three sci-fi series of Winter 2012, but still the witty direction also was very enjoyable to watch during its final episodes.

#8 (6) – Hunter X Hunter – (8,25/10)

The most annoying thing about watching this series is my patience. I mean, with Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood, the recap just took 15 episodes. It was a bit annoying, but it was manageable. Hunter X Hunter has been going on for 25 episodes and we’re still nowhere near any new material, and to this point while there are some minute differences. At this point, I do not feel like it’s worth it to watch this series. Sure, there are hints here and there to later on in the series and all, and when we get to them it will probably be awesome. But still: 25 episodes. Still, at the very least this series goes at a faster pace, which really helps during the building up arcs. This month also delivered the background of Killua, which also again was quite good. What I currently like most about it is how it still keeps changing with every episode. It’s not as strong as when the series first started out, but it’s still very much there. That’s exactly what a shounen jump series needs to prevent itself from dragging on horribly.

#7 (8) – Aquarion Evol – (8,25/10)

Aquarion Evol still is consistently enjoyable. It’s over the top romance action, but it combines them all so well that along with the action and the best soundtrack of the season it remains a ton of fun to watch. The past month spent a lot of time on its characters, which also really helps for the second half of this series.

#6 (7) – Mourestu Pirates – (8,4/10)

The conclusion of the Serenity arc was above all very interesting science fiction. Seriously, the promotional material for this series looked very silly, but the creators did deliver some really good ideas, and twelve episodes in they still take their audiences seriously and they don’t just spoon-feed everything on a silver plate. Overall, out of the three big sci-fi series this season, this one turned out to be the most solid.

#5 (4) – Phi Brain – (8,5/10)

The annoying thing about finales that schedule them on April 1st is that I can’t comment on them in these compilation entries. Damn you, high school basketball for delaying that finale one week! Seriously though, everything so far is heading into the direction that we’re going to get a very good midway climax. I still have no clue how on earth the second season will be able to top this, but this is Sato Junichi: he did this before. Seriously, this month has shown some really good twists that fit in perfectly with the story and characters who keep developing. The focus on solving puzzles has gone to the background now: the creators turned them into very creative action-scenes instead, while at the same time the concept of puzzle solving remains the central theme of the series.

#4 (3) – Tantei Opera Milky Holmes – (8,5/10)

Bizarre. Just completely bizarre. The finale of the first season took its ending with a lot of grains of salt, but at least it still was a bit comprehensible. The finale of this season, made no complete sense. Oh, it still followed the general conventions of what a finale should be. But the context was just.. completely weird. The intentional cheese was particularly hilarious.

#3 (13) – Inu X Boku SS – (8,6/10)

And so, out of bloody nowhere, Inu X Boku suddenly got 10 times better in its final two episodes. I did not expect that, but the finale of this show was really well written, and everything just came together wonderfully. This show really is weird. There were long strings of episodes where it felt like it could have been so much better… and here the finale comes and delivers with a great character study. It consistently put a smile on my face, and Miketsukami was the first time in a long while where a show actually did justice to a bishie, and actually portrayed one well, rather than making him a walking stereotype. This still is David Production’s worst series, but damn: this made up for a lot here.

#2 (1) – Chihayafuru – (8,75/10)

One of the most difficult parts about compiling this month’s ranking is deciding my favorite series of the season. Usually I have a clear winner: Penguin Drum, Ano Hana and Level E were obviously the best for me in 2011. Here though, I have no idea: my number 1 and 2 are both awesome. Both were by far the best of the past three months, yet lacked that extra oomph to really give them a rating of 90/100. With Chihayafuru, it’s the lost potential of not having a second season. But really,despite such an obvious disadvantage, this series still delivered an amazing ending that managed to push the characters forward. Yes, all of them. Really, the creators should not have bothered with that sequel hook at all. Without that, this really would have topped this montly list.

#1 (2) – Natsume Yuujin-Chou – (8,9/10)

This month however, I really have to give the edge to Natsume Yuujin-Chou. Here is the thing with the fourth season: when compared to the other seasons, its middle arc isn’t as good in comparison. The beginning and end however, are the best so far. The arc with which the creators decided to end was just wonderful. It was an arc that we’ve been waiting for ages now, and really: if it turns out that no more sequels of Natsume Yuujinchou will be made, then I’ll be happy with this as an end. The third season already developed Natsume incredibly well. With this, he got even better.

Posted on 30 March 2012 with categories: Anime Reviews

The past winter was a pretty interesting one for comedies; we were treated to no less than three good ones: Milky Holmes, Poyopoyo and Danshi Koukousei no Nichijou. Out of those three, I’d say that I found Danshi Koukousei to be the least funny. But heck, it’s still great to see a comedy that manages to bring so much creativity in something as overused as following the lives of a bunch of high school kids.

Every episode pretty much consists out of a collection of pretty short sketches, ranging from one to five minutes in length. In terms of humour, it uses the shotgun shell approach: deliver as many and as different jokes as possible in the hopes that some hit. Because of that, it’s always a bit of a question whether a sketch will work or not, and the ones who don’t work indeed fall flat pretty badly. I’ve got a lot of praise for the ones who do work, though.

As said before, my favorite thing about this series is how creative it can get when it wants to. It loves subverting generic high school cliches, but it also isn’t shy for random slapstick and it also loves to poke fun at Japanese cultural values. The direction and delivery for the jokes is also pretty well done, and in particular Tomokaze Sugita (who also played Gintoki in Gintama) really is on fire as the voice actor of one of the characters. This series also has the same director as the first 100 episodes of Gintama, so it’s no wonder that this guy’s acting talents are used to their full potential. The cast does have a few problems though, most of it has to do that half of the cast can’t decide what kind of character they want to play, and the other half that did decide on this ended up with a cardboard cut-out. Yeah, characterization is not this show’s strongest point.

Probably the weakest sketches are when this series tries to swap gender roles. I’ll leave it in the dark for the sake of spoilers how it exactly does it, but these sketches are too overused: they drag on for too long, they repeat each other too often and they appear too often. The best sketches can’t really be labeled like that. It’s completely random whenever the creators got a brilliant idea, and part of the fun of this series is waiting for those ideas to come. I’d say the ratio between the good and dull sketches is about 50/50. It’s not consistent enough to be a great comedy, but it’ll definitely give you a few good laughs.

Storytelling: 9/10 – Very funny and creative when it works.
Characters: 7.5/10 – A few too many cardboard cut-outs. The characters are funny, but have their moments of annoyance.
Production-Values: 8/10 – Solid sunrise production values.
Setting: 8/10 – Doesn’t get in the way for a comedy.

Suggestions:
Gintama
Hyakko
Mitsudomoe Zouryouchuu

Posted on with categories: Anime Reviews

I remember Astarotte no Omocha last year. It was a show that looked like pedo-bait, yet seemed to have something deeper and charming, only to reveal after a few episodes that it turned out to be even worse pedo-bait than what it had originally seemed. I still regret giving that show a second chance, and at the start of this season I really was not keen on doing the same to Papa no Iukoto o Kikinasai, a show about a guy who suddenly finds that he’s the father of three cute girls.

Yet, this turned out to be the surprise of the season. I thankfully picked it back up after a lot of people started to recommend it again. And thankfully, this series avoided the Astarotte route and instead it actually tried to tell a very genuine story. It’s not perfect (believe me, it still has a lot of problems), but this series actually delivers quite an interesting look of what it takes to take care of teenaged girls and a toddler, especially when you yourself are only of college age with a measly paying job. It’s quite a heartfelt series, and I definitely did not expect this when I first learned about it.

Even when you ignroe the first impressions though it’s really easy to look past this series. Because it also tries to appeal to the otaku crowd. The result makes this seris a whole lot more annoying than what it should have been. There is a ton of pointless fanservice in this show, and I mean of the worst kind (characters randomly walking into each other changing or bathing. Over and over again…). There also is one particular character: the fat guy. This guy somehow managed to pull it off by being consistently annoying in every single scene he appears in. No exceptions. You’ll get what I mean when you see him.

So yeah, Papa no Iu Koto ni Kikinasai is a slice of life series that at first sight seems really bad annoying, but is very warm and charming on the inside. I wouldn’t recomment it immediately, because there is a lot of fluff in this show, but it’s not a bad watch either if you want to watch something that’s light, yet with substance. My one complaint about the substance is that the ending is a bit flimsy and doesn’t really solve anything. The final episode like, focuses on a problem that pretends to be the climax, yet leaves a bunch of stuff unresolved that really should have been addressed.

Storytelling: 7/10 – Why on earth did this show try to be as annoying as possible?
Characters: 8/10 – Bad moe cliches at first sight, but the development is actually pretty good and heartfelt./td>
Production-Values: 8/10 – Nothing special, nothign that stands out, doesn’t get in the way, although the character designs are pretty bad here…
Setting: 8/10 – An intersting look at parenting. Perhaps not as detailed as with Usagi Drop, but still good in its own way.

Suggestions:
Usagi Drop
Hanamaru Youchien
Kimi to Boku

Posted on with categories: Anime Reviews

The most difficult review to write thsi season is Inu X Boku. Most shows were fairly straight-forward to evaluate: the likes of Chihayafuru and Natsume were really, really good, Guilty Crown was pretty bad, Black Rock Shooter was pretty decent. Inu X Boku however, is slightly more difficult.

Those who follow this blog probably know already that I’m a big fan of the producers behind this series: David Production. They really spend time into making shows work best, they don’t bind themselves to genre conventions and their stories are always very creative. It’s because of this that Inu X Boku is the worst TV-series they have done so far, because for a large majority of its airtime, it didn’t really seem to be doing that. Instead we got a fairly mellow series about a girl and her bodyguard with a bit of a combination of shounen and shoujo elements, paired with a large and mis-managed cast of side-characters. The plot and characters never seemed to be really trying to do anything, and while it certainly wasn’t bad, if you compare it to the standard that David Production has set before, then it just ends up a bit borign.

And yet, this show has flashes of brilliance. For some inexplicable reason, this series, despite its boring moments, was able to put a smile on my face with nearly every single episode. This show spends a lot of time on the insecurities of its main character, and the way they play out is actually surprisingly heart-warming. Despite having obvious trouble to keep finding enough things for the characters to do in only 12 episodes, there are quite a few really heart-warming characters in this series.

And then the final two episodes arrive and deliver one of the best finales of the entire season out of bloody nowhere. It’s only here where the writing suddenly gets 10 times better, the build-up all comes together, the characters develop brilliantly, and for the first time in years I can say that I found a show that does the bishie genre justice. Seriously, this show closes off amazingly.

These flashes of brilliance can be found throughout the series, but the big problem with the first 10 episodes is that they don’t use this often enough. The cast of side-characters in particular didn’t work out for this series, as there are a bunch of characters who have a lot of potential, yet hardly get any screentime, while there are also a few characters who just have one gimmick and keep using that over and over. The fangirl lady is by far the worst offender of this.

But you know what? Because of these flashes of brilliance, I’m going to give this show a relatively high rating, because it at least HAS them. Seriously, there are not a lot of shows I can say that of. It’s not like this show falls apart in the middle and I really have to say that I enjoyed watching it a lot. If you want to know why I’m a fan of David production though, this is not the series that best shows their talents. Instead, go pick up Level E or the Armed Librarians or something.

Storytelling: 9/10 – Surprisingly heart-warming, it knos when to get creative. Amazing finale.
Characters: 8,5/10 – Loses points on its side characters: some are fun, others are badyl written, others are underutilized. The main cast is surprisingly well developed.
Production-Values: 8/10 – Crisp animation, though nothing special.
Setting: 8/10 – The seetting is far from the main focus of this series. It’s got some nice dieas, and it’s solid, thtough.

Suggestions:
Tactics
Meitantei Loki Ragnarok

Posted on 29 March 2012 with categories: Winter 2012 Kaleidoscope

And so, I’ll end this Winter 2012 Kaleidoscope the same way I started it: with Inu X Boku SS. This really was a series that got on my nerves a lot. Not because it was bad or anything, but because it’s David Production. These are the guys who always try to do something extra. They take their series, and add stuff, try to do something new and really put thought into how to make their series work best. Inu X Boku did not have that. There were flashes in which it was really good. That’s the reason I originally picked it up to blog. And yet it got side-tracked so often. It’s not like it was full of filler, but instead all of the episodes didn’t even seem to be trying to be engaging, and the underdeveloped cast of side-characters also didn’t help either. It really was just this series that was fun and watchable, but really not much more.

And then the final two episodes aired. And what do you know? They were actually quite brilliant. In fact, save from perhaps Natsume and Chihayafuru, they were the best final two episodes out of the entire season. I did not expect that. At all.

I’m not sure what happened. Suddenly the writing got like 10 times better. In two episodes this series actually succeeded in breathing a tiny bit of life into the bishie genre, which has been so overly polluted during the past few years by the likes of Studio Deen, A-1, Production IG, etc. For the first time since… Kuroshitsuji II I think we’ve gotten another romance involving bishies that is actually really good. The main couple totally redeemed themselves for me here. Like it’s nothing, this series suddenly took all of the build-up of the first 10 episodes, and brought it together, and did it creatively. In fact, this creativity is what set this series above Ano Natsu de Matteru for me. They both are flawed, but where Ano Natsu depended on well executed cliches, this series actually delivered some creative twists that I absolutely loved.

The previous episode was already wonderful in outlining Miketsukami’s background and how everything fits together, I expected this episode to be a boring aftermath again, and it sure started out this way, save for some well written very last minute character development on random side-characters that suddenly made them a lot better. The bartender and his kid in particular. The time capsule was fairly standard for an inconclusive ending… and then Ririchou from out of nowhere realized that she got two letters mixed up. This is a common trope, but I can’t think of another anime in a long time that did this as well as this episode.

It came out of nowhere that this happened, since everyone was treating this as a very sentimental moment, and afterwards the creators went really deep into the characters’ minds. Both Ririchou and Miketsukami were forced to deal with their own insecurities, after the entire series has built them up as being so distant and afraid to show their own feelings. It was an amazing conclusion.

So yeah, reviewing this series will be a bit of a problem: I loved these past two episodes. The majority of the rest of the series though… not so much. I need to get my thoughts sorted out on this a bit.

Overall though: I’ll be keeping my eye out on this new director, because he has shown to be able to get good stuff across in his adaptations. He has flashes of brilliance, but at the same time you can see that he lacks experience, due to all of the wasted potential of this series. If I had to give him one advice, it’s this: keep a leash on your side characters. There are a few who really ruined the fun a bit. The worst offender is the fangirl: she only did one thing over and over. Balance that character out more. You also had this great and colourful cast of characters in the staff of the hotel everyone is staying in, but you hardly ever used them. Such a waste of potential! I know this is an adaptation, but it’s still the job of the anime staff to choose what to focus on, what to cut, and what to spend extra attention on. You may have excellent source material, but if that results in an adaptation like Persona 4’s, then it doesn’t really matter.
Rating: *** (Awesome)

Posted on with categories: Anime Reviews

Amongst the studios that focus too much on moe, I find JC Staff among the better ones. Sure, they have their bad shows, but you can see that they put more effort into their series, compared to the likes of AIC, Xebec or ARMS and their lazy recycled premises. Ano Natsu de Matteru is a great example of this. Yes, it unfortunately has all the cliches: the main character living together with a hot girl, a childhood crush who is in love with him, him being the bland likable guy, spiced up with the deadpan snarker and the ladies’ man. It’s a very bland romance, but ultimately surprisingly well executed.

The best praise that I can give this series: the romance actually goes somewhere. Yes, in a genre that thrives on indecisive characters and pointless and annoying drama, here for once we have a romance that actually develops naturally. The main characters actually realizes what he wants, and rather than waiting for the final episode to get to some sort of confession, this show deals with that stuff slightly earlier than usual in order to actually give everyone the opportunity to sort out their feelings. The result is a surprisingly good drama.

In the character department this series also demonstrates that you can go an end with cliches when they’re well developed. It unfortunately doesn’t apply to every single character, but half of the cast here is actually pretty interestingly developed. To contrast with unfortunately, there are a number of uninteresting characters that drag this show down a bit. The main character ultimately is too bland to really carry this series. The childhood friend also completely gets caught up in her role as childhood friend, without having much else to offer, and the deadpan snarker also has just one gimmick that gets old fast. There also is this horrid beach arc in the middle that shoehorns two very annoying side-characters into the picture who end up doing nothing other than turn this show into a harem.

With the director of Ano Hana behind this series, Ano Natsu is definitely a step down in comparison. Yeah, it’s probably a bit more realistic due to its slower pacing, but I dislike how this show uses half of its cast as walking plot devices, rather than actual characters, when it on the other hand tries to deliver a somewhat realistic romance. More than anything, this feels like watching a mellow version of the first season of Birdy the Mighty Decode with a lot less emphasis on action and its setting.

Yet, I liked this show, and you can definitely see that a lot of attention went into making it work. The romance that works really works here, and it’s got a healthy amount of character development. The animation is also consistently vibrant, successfully bringing these characters to life.

Storytelling: 8/10 – A romance that actually goes somewhere and that doesn’t drag on. Finally!
Characters: 8,5/10 – Half the cast is bland, but the other half is great and well developed. Does that make them worth watching? Yes, actually.
Production-Values: 8,5/10 – Not the best of this season, but that animation still remains very expressive.
Setting: 7,5/10 – The backstory of this show is nice, but it does have its very flimsy sides that are hard to buy at times.

Suggestions:
Introducing the rating of 81/100 back again (rounded down from 81,25, which would be way too specific). When I scraped this rating I did this because I couldn’t really explain the difference between 81/100 and 80/100. Now I can, though: these are very good series, who have a few highlights here and there that make them enjoyable and worth watching.
Birdy the Mighty Decode
Aoi Hana
Ano Hana

Posted on 28 March 2012 with categories: Anime Reviews, Chihayafuru




Most people here will be unfamiliar with the game of Karuta. Its rules are fairly simple: two people sit around a bunch of cards that each contain a half of a poem. Someone on the sidelines starts reading cards that contain the other halves of these poems, and it’s up to the player to get each corresponding card as quickly as possible. At first sight it doesn’t seem like your interesting game that you can make a full series off, unlike games as Go, Shougi or Mahjong. But after 25 episodes of Chihayafuru, I had to change my mind about this. This series really managed to show what makes Karuta a great game.

The execution of this series is simply stunning. When you take a look at the animation, for example, movement is incredibly fluid. Scenes are directed with a lot of force and energy behind them. Every single time a character claims a card, it feels like a ton of energy is devoted to just show how difficult this is. The acting also is really excellent, with just about every character and actor giving off a memorable performance.

What really sets this series apart is the way it handles its characters. Seriously, this episode has a cast of about five main characters. Every single episode manages to add something to these characters. Seriously, from the moment they’re introduced, this series very actively tries to flesh out these characters as much as possible, and every episode feels like we get to know more and more about them. The consistency with which this series does this is almost scary, and even the minor characters are colourful and surprisingly well developed.

What this show also does brilliantly is making the skills in Karuta of each of the characters grow. I mean, most training arcs in anime consist of “character trains for a while, character is stronger”. Chihayafuru goes in-depth to this much more than I at first thought it would. It examines what it takes to get good at Karuta, how the best players out there are playing, and it shows the full train of thought of the characters as they try to get better, and try to find out their weaknesses. I mean, this series closes off with an open-ended cliff-hanger (ongoing manga…), but even here the creators managed to actually make all this focus on training come together wonderfully at the end.

If I had to mention a flaw, then it’s this: the series takes place at a high school and is focused on a club whose members enter a bunch of tournaments. The detail on karuta is amazing, but beyond that this series uses a set-up that has been done so often already. This series is just karuta match after karuta match after karuta match, with very little variety along the way. It really solely relies on the karuta and the characters to spice up its story, and it does so brilliantly, however, it also is a bit of a monotone series because of this.

Storytelling: 8/10 – Amazing direction, wonderful pacing. Needs perhaps a tad more variety in its story, but really brings its story to life. The unfinished ending will leave you wanting more, though.
Characters: 9/10 – Amazing characters who keep getting developed and fleshed out. Every epsode adds something new and interesting about them.
Production-Values: 9/10 – Lots of eye candy, very fluid animation.
Setting: 9/10 – When this series started, I thought Karuta was a bit of a boring game. Right now however, I don’t think that anymore. This show really showed a ton of the different sides of the game.

Suggestions:
Hikaru no Go
Ookiku Furikabutte
Shion no Ou

Posted on 27 March 2012 with categories: Chihayafuru

So it was pretty obvious from the start that Chihayafuru and Natsume Yuujinchou would have the best final episodes of this season. But what about the ending? Ironically the best shows this season are both based on manga that are still on-going. Natsume Yuujin-Chou solved it wonderfully. Chihayafuru’s ending did some things really well, but at the same time, it unfortunately also did what I feared for ever since this show was announced: it made me hungry for more. There is so much potential with that ending… that we’re never going to see animated.

But don’t get me wrong though, I loved this episode. Perhaps it wasn’t as intense as the previous episode, but it really brought this series to a great closure, while pushing the charcters even more forward. And yet again it does that for every single member of the main cast. The King match taught the characters a lot about themselves that flowed so naturally from the rest of the series. This episode emphasized even more how different the playstyles of these people.The creators also brilliantly used Arata at the end. Finally he is thinking in-depth about karuta again, and ironically it was Taichi of all people who he needed to remind to do this as well. Everything fitted together amazingly.

And yet, then the second half came, and that teacher suddenly made the deal that the club will lose their position if they can’t recruit five new members. Five new characters will be joining the Karuta club to add to the current main cast!? Talk about potential here! I mean, fleshing out such a large cast is difficult and all, but this is Chihayafuru: if anyone can do it, it’s these guys. This is by far the series that is in most need of a sequel, out of the entire season.

Overall though, I absolutely love sports series. And yet, I have no interest in sports series whatsoever. In fact, I find myself not looking forward to most sports series, because of their premises. And yet, for some really weird reason, the majority of them is incredibly well executed. And this standard just keeps on going. Sure, we have a Knight in the Area once in a while, and I wasn’t really charmed by Major either, but for those series in return we have such beauties as Chihayafuru, Cross Game, Ookiku Furikabutte, Giant Killing, Touch, Shion no Ou, Hikaru no Go, and that list just goes on and on. Net season will have two new sports series: one shounen jump adaptation and a NHK show about a kid and his football team. These two series are really going to challenge this trend, but heck. I have been pleasantly surprised by so many sports shows already. It’s entirely possible.
Rating: *** (Awesome)

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  • Emma
    (Sunday, Nov 23. 2014 12:16 PM)
    It was only really entertaining for how nuts it got.
  • Emma
    (Sunday, Nov 23. 2014 12:15 PM)
    Aku no hana’s manga never really felt like much more than “crazy shit happening and femdom” = guilty pleasure to me.
  • Bam
    (Sunday, Nov 23. 2014 12:07 PM)
    @Emma: Gankutsou was fine in my opinion tho, as it was so out there that I never saw it as a real attempt at adaptation.
  • Emma
    (Sunday, Nov 23. 2014 12:06 PM)
    I don’t have much exposure to Cumberbatch beyond seeing him talk on film programs and also his role in that Star Trek movie, kind of want to see him in imitation game.
  • Bam
    (Sunday, Nov 23. 2014 12:06 PM)
    @K-off: Don’t give ‘em ideas m8, that actually sounds like a pitch that they would pick up.
  • Emma
    (Sunday, Nov 23. 2014 12:04 PM)
    There is a shoujo manga adaptation/rework of King Richard, there is also a romeo and juliet anime, it was one of the worst thing Gonzo produced, still didn’t dislike it as much a gankutsuou though.
  • k-off
    (Sunday, Nov 23. 2014 11:58 AM)
    @Bam He’d probably find some dumbass way to make it into shonen. Maybe Raskolnikov battles Alyona Ivanovna before he kills her.
  • Bam
    (Sunday, Nov 23. 2014 11:55 AM)
    Whoever made Aku no Hana should totally make a Catcher in the Rye adaptation tho, as they’re both fittingly pretentious and empty.
  • Bam
    (Sunday, Nov 23. 2014 11:52 AM)
    @K-off: and that was the great Tezuka, now imagine whoever’s writing Akame ga Kill attempting that lol
  • Bam
    (Sunday, Nov 23. 2014 11:49 AM)
    There used to be a long-running and widely internationally syndicated anime series known as World Masterpiece Theater, which adapted many famous stories and novels into anime format. Interesting some stories such as Jean Webster’s Daddy-Long-Legs turned into a pretty decent Shoujo.

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