Posted on 30 June 2012 with categories: Spring 2012 Kaleidoscope

#1: Natsuiro Kiseki – 12: I usually use Media Player Classic to watch episodes, but I watched Natsuiro Kiseki’s finale on Windows Media Player (on my crappy laptop I have experienced that it’s the best in terms of smoothness). Unknowingly I had the player settings stand on repeat. So yeah, I got quite a scare when suddenly the episode started looping, ESPECIALLY with this kind of episode. Apart from that, what can I say about it? Wonderful idea for a final episode and a really heart-warming finale. – ** (Excellent)

#2: Hunter X Hunter – 36: Yes, Madhouse: this is how you do action scenes. With lots of dynamic movements instead of frames that look like they have been directly copied and pasted from a manga. This episode did drag on a bit too much, but hey: this definitely is a start. Up next will be the arc that I found to be the single most boring of the 1999 series, so this is really where this show can make the difference. – ** (Excellent)

#3: Nazo no Kanojo X – 12: This episode yet again was chock-full of teenaged hormones, though they were used well. The tension between two lead characters is what makes this show fun, and this episode had more than plenty of that. – *+ (Great)

#4: Kimi to Boku – 25: Kimi to Boku goes with the “random episode”-ending, but it’s a fitting one: it’s about the future of the characters, it had a ton of Chizuru being annoying, and instead of being the most dramatic episode of the season it ended on a mellow, yet charming note. Well done. – *+ (Great)

#5: Jormungand – 12: So much for the interesting trio of last week. As for the other antagonists in this episode: the guy who killed off all of Valmet’s comrades was just another snarking bad guy who kept smiling even though all of his subordinates got killed. I know he’s a killer himself too, but wouldn’t he at least be annoyed or something? I like the guy with the many nicknames, though. That scene where we first see him with his family is exactly the thing that the other villains in this series lacked. Also, who did they get for that one great song that popped up in the middle of the episode? There is no way that that guy is Japanese. – *+ (Great)

#6: Sankarea – 12: Well, that was inconclusive… this episode definitely had its char in nothng happening, but having nothing happen also is a bit of a dwnside for an ending. I’m sure Studio Deen are going to milk this into a second season and all, but still this was a strange way to leave. – *+ (Great)

#7: Poyopoyo Kansatsu Nikki – 25: Great to see that Poyopoyo seems to continue for another season. This episode perhaps tried a bit too hard with the slapstick, but it still had quite a few inventive jokes. – *+ (Great)

#8: Shirokuma Cafe – 13: Okay, so for episode 13, this series dedicates itself entirely on to Handa and the comedy takes a much less prominent role. I think that that’s one of the main issues with this series: it dabbles tooo long on one particular subject, because Handa already was a main focus of last episode, and this episode only established that he wants to date Sasako, yet can’t muster up the courage. This episode did have its charms with the Tanabata, though. Also, Mr Tortoise’s wish had me in stitches. – * (Good)

#9: Saint Seiya Omega – 13: The fight of this episode was boring in which the main cast had to take down some strange fly guy, but I do like that the creators at least went itno his motivation for being evil (being unhappy with Athena). Oh, and Aria finally did something. – * (Good)

#10: The Legend of Korra – 11 & 12: Ouch. Amon’s background was good and all, but the ending… that was not good. Not only was it a huge Deus ex Machina ending, but it also rendered so much of the earlier episodes useless. I really found the idea to take someone’s bending away forever a great idea and it’s part of what attracted me to this series. But yeah, as soon as Korra lost her bending it became obvious that the creators were trying to look for a way to cancel all of that. And really? By having a bunch of dead people show up from out of nowhere? – – (Disappointing)

Okay, now so to wrap things up:
Number of series consistently covered: 11
Series that made the number one spot in these rankings: Natsuiro Kiseki (4x), Another’s OVA, Kimi to Boku (1x), Legend of Korra (1x), Hunter X Hunter (1x), Nazo no Kanojo (1x), Shirokuma Cafe (1x).
Series with the highest average rankings: Natsuiro Kiseki, followed by Kimi to Boku, Legend of Korra, Nazo no Kanojo and on place 5 there is Shirokuma Cafe.
Series with the lowest average rankings: Saint Seiya Omega, followed by Sankarea and Medaka Box.
Biggest improvement: Hunter X Hunter’s latest episodes. Sankare and Medaka Box also improved.
The Best Week: Week 23; every series delivered there and there were many awesome episodes to be had.
Worst Week: Week 26; endings are hard to do really well.

My plans for the next season.
Overall, I really enjoyed these posts, so next season I’m going to do them as well. There are six series that look interesting enough to weekly blog. The rest of the series will be summarized in these Kaleidoscope posts. Now, there is only one thing: Phi Brain doesn’t deserve an entire post dedicated per week anymore after what it pulled for the past arcs, so that series will too be delegated to the Kaleidoscope serie. So what should I replace it with? I’m currently toying with a few too many ideas, so I need a bit of guidance.

What should I do next season?
  
Posted on with categories: Anime Reviews

By far the biggest surprise of the past season was Natsuiro Kiseki. I mean, it looked like an unoffensive series about four girl who live together, like a Tamayura light or something. The end result being so damn good though… I did not expect that. Natsuiro Kiseki turned out to be completely different from Tamayura. And even better.

So, this series is about this very sadistic rocks that takes the wishes of a bunch of teenaged girls and grants them in a way that troubles all of them. It’s pretty much a writer’s excuse to throw all sorts of wacky situations at the lead cast, like making them invisible or getting the literally stuck at each other. What makes this show so good is how well it makes use of this.

All of the rocks diabolical plans force the characters to develop, grow closer together, face things they have been avoiding, all sorts of stuff lfike that. It’s also a great way to flesh them out and makes for some really varied episodes in which there is always something interesting happening. This transforms a show that could have been just another group of stereotypical girls to a heart-warming full fledged character study with well rounded characters.

There are two main weaknesses with this series. The first is that it’s obviously forced: the characters are always put into the situations most convenient for their development. In this context, I didn’t really mind that though. No, the biggest flaw of this series that I can find is that it can be a bit overacted at times. The characters themselves are easy to create drama, and while they act very subtle on some occasions, on others they just try to hard. But heck, this was incredibly heart-warming in any case and a very enjoyable series from start to finish regardless.

Storytelling: 9/10 – A versatile series and uses its own plot devices wonderfully for the points it wants to make.
Characters: 9/10 – Well developed characters who are continually challenged and forced into coming to terms with their issues.
Production-Values: 8/10 – Sunrise solid animation and production values.
Setting: 8/10 – Juts based on one summer holiday and some local folklore. Works well though.

Suggestions:
Hana-Saku Iroha
Sasami Mahou Shoujo Club
Windy Tales

Posted on with categories: Eureka Seven Ao

With this, I’m sure: ever since creating Eureka Seven, the creators watched Evangelion. When thinking of this series as a cross between these two, it all makes sense, and that only means that things will get even more interesting when the second half hits. This episode once again was really awesome and it loved playing mind tricks on the characters.

This is the kind of series that, once it pulls a background episode, completely changes the characters in question. Elena has mostly been a side-characters o far, but her real background got revealed in this episode and it just kept taking twists and turns, especially since the reason why she did all that hasn’t been revealed yet. The only thing this episode showed that she was spy that somehow ended up performing as a rock star all over the world and that she finally buried that part of herself at the end of this episode. This episode revealed so much, only to kill this off again, yet I can’t help but hope that there will be many different consequences from this episode.

What has impressed me the most here is the interesting things that this series does with its character. Not only Elena was great, but the rest of the cast also had some nice and funny touches, like cutting off George’s nose, or how everyone, ranging from her father to the secrets, are teasing Fleur with any possible hint of romantic development.
Rating: **+ (Excellent+)

Posted on with categories: Anime Reviews

When I try to sample each series at the start of each series, I try to look for potential. I mean, some series are undoubtedly worth watching, but others perhaps might need a bit more time to get going or take off. Sankarea was one such series: it was difficult to sit through, but it definitely had its strong points. After watching the entire series, I have to say that it definitely had its redeeming moments. I’m just not sure whether they are enough to make this series worth watching.

Okay, so here is the thing that sets Sankarea apart from your average moe series: the acting for the main cast is very believable. The male lead, while weird and a geek, isn’t the same harem lead you see everywhere, but instead his characterization is subtle and his worries are very grounded. Rea, the main female lead feels fresh and her father and mother makes for some very interesting and diabolical villains. The combination of these four ingredients didn’t really take off right at the start, but across the series they have quite a few interesting moments and developments that make great use of how genuine and well characterized they all are.

The big problem is that that is about the only noteworthy praise i have for this series… and it has its moments in which it gets really, really annoying. The male lead has this pointless love triangle with this very annoying cousin shoved in, his classmates somehow managed to accomplish ticking me off in every single scene they appear in. I understand having these light-hearted moments in order to balance out the dark stuff, but the light-hearted moments completely fail at being funny, they break up the atmosphere rather than contribute to it and they have the characters trying way too hard to be archetypes.

And that’s strange for a series that really aims to get its basics right. Seriously, it really feels like the writers only read parts of “writing 101”. It’s got a whopping three characters who are entirely dedicated to just one side-character in order to give them background and development, but in the meantime, it forgets to be interesting. I would really recommend watching up to episode three of this series, because that really is where this series shines. After that though, it dabbles on a bit with a good moment here and there, but not really enough to stand out anymore, which is a shame because this really had the potential to go somewhere.

Storytelling: 7/10 – This series puts too much emphasis on the basics it feels like it often struggles to find things for the characters to do.
Characters: 7/10 – Some characters are really good, others are really, really bad and are a pain to sit through. That should not be the case in an anime you watch for entertainment.
Production-Values: 8/10 – Granted, Studio Deen has been improving on its visuals lately. It’s the completely wrong area for them to improve on, but granted this show looks pretty when it wants to.
Setting: 8/10 – Neat ideas, especially around Rea’s character. They could have been used better, though.

Suggestions:
Phantom
Natsu no Arashi
Asatte no Houkou

Posted on with categories: Sakamichi no Apollon

Reading this volume of the manga makes me appreciate the ending of the anime even more: they actually successfully stuffed one entire volume of 180 pages in just one 20-minute episode and cut things out brilliantly. More on that below though, because first I wanted to talk about the rest of Kaoru’s years.

What I loved was how Kaoru returned to his mother, and how the two developed a healthy relationship. Beyond that, we’ve seen Kaoru grow up very well through college, and him seeing his family back was also very memorable. The manga had a lot more room to fill in a lot more details, and show how Kaoru subtly changes. Instead of randomly running into Yurika by accident, these events were all set up by Kaoru first running into Jun (that was another part that I loved here, as they showed two different versions of musicians growing up into normal jobs; his change was one that I really missed in the anime version). But as for the question which version I prefer, I’d have to say that I consider the anime ending to be better.

The way in which the love triangle was solved didn’t really work for me . It was all just too concrete: instead of everyone going their own ways, there is this random twist pulled with Ritsuko’s boyfriend turning out to be just some random dude she invited, and at the end Kaoru goes back to where everyone was and the love triangle moves from “resolved” to the eternal “will they won’t they” again.

What I loved about the anime ending was how much it focused on leaving things to the imagination, and how much effort it put in saying as much as possible with as little as possible. The entire college years were cut, but that doesn’t matter when you see the grown up Kaoru: him choosing to be a doctor was also cut, but when you see him it all makes sense. He must have built up a new life in Tokyo with his own friends and when he finally hears of Sentarou again, he can’t resist the urge to see him again ad telling Ritsuko all about it (there only was one shot of a letter, but that was enough to show that they had been keeping up correspondence), cutting out that pointless twist with he boyfriend completely. What happens after they see each other again? Who knows? There were no romantic hints whatsoever unlike with the manga ending, so things really could go anywhere: they will probably remain in contact with each other while living their own lives.

Another thing that the anime changed was how we were introduced to Sentarou. In the manga, the chapter starts and we see him again. In the anime however, we’re slowly introduced to him through the story of the people that he has been living with for the past eight years. We never see him cause trouble, but with his character we can imagine what he has been up to. And yeah, with music the church scene works so much better. He hears the organs playing, and knows immediately what’s going on. That was a perfect example of how to condense an entire volume into just one final episode.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on with categories: Anime Reviews, Sakamichi no Apollon



Last year Kunihiko Ikuhara of Utena fame made a surprise comeback after many years of absence. This year, it’s the turn for Shinichiro Watanabe to direct his first full series again after Samurai Champloo. Sakamichi no Apollon is a full drama. He already experimented a bit with this with the surprisingly good Baby Blue of Genius Party (much like how Masaaki Yuasa’s entry there became the prototype for Kaiba), but here he could go all out with a 12-episode Noitamina series.

Now, this series is a teenaged romance, which unfortunately is a very, very over-saturated genre, so the creators really had to do something in order to stand out. They found several ways. The first way is bringing in music. Playing instruments is a huge theme for many characters in this series, and it deserves to be praised how well the musical performances in this series look. the creators made use of Rotoscoping in order to make the animation of every single musical performance play synchronous with the actual music. This is something i have never seen before in a Television-series, especially with so much detail. Because of this, the creators are able to say so many things throughout these performances alone, and they often are the stand-out moments for every episode.

Second of all, there is the way in which this series portrays its characters, which is a huge level above what you normally see. At first sight they look like the ordinary stereotypes, but they immediately set themselves apart through their acting and by how self-aware they are. The series very subtly shows many different sides of them. On top of that, the series is chock full of events that force them to change and adapt. These are by far the most well-rounded, dynamic and fleshed out characters out of any other series this season. Probably of the entire year.

This season of Noitamina was definitely what the time-slot needed after the disaster that was Guilty Crown. There is jut one downside to it, and that is the huge amounts of angst that the creators use to keep the story going. Kaoru in particular is a character who is hard to like due to his social anxieties, and there is this constant tension between the characters that depends a lot on this angst and social phobia. Unlike other series though, the characters are fully aware of this and it gets used brilliantly for their development, rather than stalling for time.

Storytelling: 8.5/10 – Keeps the twists coming, very well paced for a Noitamina-series. A bit too much angst though.
Characters: 9/10 – Really well rounded characters in the end. Their acting is definitely a step above the norm.
Production-Values: 9/10 – Amidst all of the series with great visuals, Apollon stood out with its amazing rotoscoped musical performances. Plus, Yoko Kanno is awesome.
Setting: 8.5/10 – The setting isn’t the main focus of this series, but really allows the creators to do stuff with the characters that would not have been possible if the time period was any different.

Suggestions:
Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae wo Boku-Tachi wa Mada Shiranai
Nodame Cantabile
True Tears

Posted on with categories: Sakamichi no Apollon

So, while Tsuritama may have edged Apollon in terms of the pre-finale episodes, in terms of the ending Apollon is far superior. In fact, this was by far the best ending of the season, and the type of ending that I’ve been waiting for a long time. The episodes leading up to this indeed were a bit soap-opera-ish, but this episode turns all of that around and completely makes up for them.

This was one of the best epilogues I’ve seen in a long while, and it made brilliant use f how Noitamina is aimed at an older audience. Because of this, it was able to give a great characterization to the characters in their versions of eight years later, in which they all went their own ways. In Tsuritama, the epilogue just showed random couples forming, or people chasing their dreams, but this was so much better, as it showed of nearly everyone how they ended up groing up and the people that they turned into.

I have been especially waiting for a romantic ending like this. I mean, romance endings are usually of two types: the characters finally confess to each other and live happily ever after, or nothing happens and they remain in a state of “will they won’t they”. Then this episode came along with Kaoru finally making his moves… only to screw up completely.

I love how that one played out: romance in anime is always made out to be this absolute factor. Here however, things just didn’t work out. Ritsuko had her moments where she really disliked what Kaoru did, but in the end she still likes him, just not enough to get into a relationship with him. Too bad. And after that everyone just goes on with their own lives. Thank you for this ending, Apollon. Your characterization was always a step above the rest, and this episode cemented that.
Rating: *** (Awesome)

Posted on 29 June 2012 with categories: Random Posts

Hello everyone, there are only eight blogs left in the Aniblog Tourney, and we made the Quarter Finals. Caraniel’s Ramblings is up next, be sure to check it out before voting.

You can vote here: http://aniblogtourney.wordpress.com/2012/06/29/quarter-finals/

Posted on with categories: Anime Reviews, Tsuritama



Back in 2006, Kenji Nakamura surprised probably everyone with his three episode masterpiece that was Bake Neko, part of the Ayakashi-television series. It was trippy intense and brilliaantly written and built up, Together with Kenichi Kasai’s adaptations, it defined and popularized Noitamina and brought it to a mainstream audience. Ever since, Kenji Nakamura has been releasing a new series every now and then, with 2012’s installment being Tsuritama, at which he completely diverges from the types of shows he normally does.

I loved all of his previous works, but they collectively all had one downside: the characters. Relatively little time was spent on fleshing them out, and most of them were pretty one-sided and didn’t really come to life. Tsuritama is entirely dedicated to attempt to do this correctly, and it works. The plot is simple on purpose exactly to allow the characters to play themselves out naturally. There are relatively few action-packed climaxes in this series, but all of them have clear meaning and kick ass and ultimately make it a really fun show to watch.

And even though this series takes it easy in terms of pacing, it definitely doesn’t take it easy in terms of the ideas it has. This series really thrives on originality: it may have a teenaged cast, but within that it has many fresh ideas, like an alien with a watergun, a duck named Tapioca, or how about an entire series dedicated to fishing? Especially in the second half of the series the scenarios get particularly creative.

A downside is that this series does take a while to get going. The first half of this series contains a lot of build-up and is pretty much fishing 101 as it drills the necessary fishing skills into the main charachter in order for him to function properly in the second half of the series. While this can get a bit boring at times, I can’t deny that this series has a really well written structure: it knows exactly how much story it should have to not get rushed, it knows how much time to spend building up an make its characters feel alive, while stil having enough time to actually deliver on the fun and action-packed bits. Noitamina-series are infamous for their pacing issues, but Tsuritama is a series that gets the balance and format just right.

Storytelling: 8.5/10 – Fun to watch and a greatly paced out structure and a creative scenario.
Characters: 8.5/10 – The series is fun because the characters are fleshed out well and get to play themselves out naturally.
Production-Values: 8/10 – Not as trippy as you’d expect from Kenji Nakamura, but still has a unique and colourful look and wild animation where it matters.
Setting: 8.5/10 – Really tries to be original amidst all of the teenaged series that try to see who can rip each other off the most.

Suggestions:

Posted on with categories: Tsuritama

The animation of this episode was slightly rushed, towards the end some distorted faces popped up. But still, this really was fun. Perhaps not as fun as the build-up that preceded it, but this definitely was a worthy way to end this series.

Really, this season is full of interesting endings (not counting the ones that cut off for another season). There is a lot of refreshing stuff amongst them that tries to do things differently from the norm. The best examples of this were Fate/Zero and Lupin, but Tsuritama also had a great climax that was full of emotion, yet avoided hammy drama completely. The big bad guy turned out to be completely different from the evil overlords you usually see. We already knew that he was of Haru’s kind, but for it to be such a fidgety guy is completely different from what I expected.

The epilogue was great too, but I have one problem with that one. This is a series that thrived on originality, and yet one cliche slipped through: the one where a lot of drama is created around the characters saying goodbye to each other. The characters had a great time together, but now it’s time for everyone to move on and go their own ways and… wait never mind! They just return as random transfer students!

Overall, Tsuritama was Kenji Nakamura doing something completely different, and succeeding at it. I wouldn’t sy that it was his best work: Bake Neko still stands out as his masterpiece, and I’d also consider Mononoke to be more interesting. And ultimately C’s ending was more interesting because of how well things came together. Despite all that though, it definitely trumped all of those series in terms of characterization and fun: the character in Tsuritama really felt alive and the plot feels complete and not rushed at all.
Rating: *+ (Great)

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