ANN Morio Asaka page

My average ranking: 6.67

Director Pantheon: Morio Asaka Rating
Chibits (special) Weak

As a bonus with the Chobits collection it's welcome, but as a stand alone item Chibits is entirely unremarkable. Micro-persocoms Sumomo and Kotoko go looking for Chii believing she has forgotten to wear underpants. That's about as interesting as it gets.
Chihayafuru (TV) Good

The charm of this series comes mainly from the main character, the awesomely lovely Chihaya, who, on the surface, is sweet and vacuous but, thanks to great writing, direction and artwork, has a rich and complex inner life as she follows her ambition of being a master of the card game karuta. Her two closest friends - the rivals Arata and Taichi - are also compelling. Arata is the catalyst behind everthing in the show: he inspires Chihaya to go beyond her self-imposed limitations; and unknowingly pushes Taichi to support Chihaya in her endeavours. The slightly chilling Arata is a fine contrast to the generous Taichi. Chihayafuru is at its best when it focuses on the emotional interplay between the three, even if they do emote unrealistically at times. One of the failures of the series is that Arata is absent for long stretches at a time. The other members of the karuta club - Kanade, Nishida and Komano - are pleasant enough without being outstanding.

In episode 15 Chihaya loses a climactic match to her arch-rival, Shinobu. Thereafter Chihayafuru forsakes its most charming element - the emotional development of the principal characters - and becomes something else: a sports anime with a flimsy plot. Worse, the karuta games entirely lose their electricity. Even the once beautiful visuals decline: the face faults and deformations become more frequent while there is considerably less detail in the backgrounds or even in the characters themselves.

Despite all that, the series ends with so much more left to explore. If the type of lapses evident in the last third can be avoided then a further series would be something to look forward to.

Extended review (scroll down)

Chihayafuru 2 (TV) Good

Happily the second season doesn't fall away towards the end as its predecessor did, which is odd in a way because, as in the last third of the first season, this forsakes the character examination and relationship developments in favour of the karuta tournaments. It's very well done though, making it more compelling than the first season though, paradoxically, less interesting. Face faults and other comic deformations aside, it is a pretty franchise, while Chihaya must be just about the most handsomely designed female character in anime: an attractive lead who isn't fetish fodder is such a welcome change in anime. And, as bonuses, she has a distinctive and appealing personality. The romantic rivalry for Chihaya between Taichi and Arata is largely glossed over, as is her own sporting rivalry with Shinobu (pictured left), while the rest of the cast play out their designated roles proficiently. Chihayfuru may not be great anime but it is refreshing in a way so many of its contemporaries aren't and the unerring direction from Morio Asaka (this time around, anyway) mean that it rarely flags. More would be most welcome.
Chobits (TV) Good

Early in Chobits the male protagonist, Hideki Motosuwa, tries to get a handle on the English word, "respect". In a series that veers from soft porn to sentimental romance it is easy to miss CLAMP's feminist agenda that this scene is subtly bringing to our attention. Many commentators have remarked upon the series' disparate halves but, it seems to me, that there is a deliberate idealogical structure to Chobits, a series that examines the male fetishisation (what an awkward word) of the female body. The first half gently mocks male fetishes from pornography to peep shows to underwear fantasies to magic girlfriends. Having put these fetishes in the spotlight, the creators then undermine them by showing us their destructive effect on women - in the tales of Takako Shimizu and Yumi Omura - and by constructing an alternative, insisted upon by Chi and her builders, and based upon, dare I say it, respect and an understanding of our limitations. Still, the soft porn and the sentimental romance are good fun but at least the viewer can point to the underlying purpose as a justification. Watch out especially for Ueda's story in episode 21 (19 if you exclude the recap episodes). This 10 minute segment has got to be amongst the most affecting in all anime. Also noteworthy is the 2nd ending theme, Ningyo Hime, an instrumental version of which powerfully underscores the climax to Ueda's tale.
Gunslinger Girl (TV) Masterpiece

This series is my shameful secret: the transgressive masterpiece that somehow turns a sow’s ear into a silk purse. Abused pubescent girls as psychotic killers. Oh dear. Forget fan service. Forget insatiable vampires and zombies. Nothing I’ve seen in anime this side of hentai pushes the envelope the way this series does.

The marvel is that the series works. It is beautifully written and the girls are sympathetically portrayed. That the girls understand their situations (only somewhat, admittedly), are grateful for their second chances and cheerfully make the most of their circumstances gives Gunslinger Girl an emotional power you would not have imagined was possible at first. By concentrating on the intense relationship between each girl and her handler, rather than their roles as assassins the writers are able to avoid many potential pitfalls. They also use irony and sentiment to lighten an otherwise heavy mixture. Amazingly, there are even sublime moments of beauty. Perhaps it’s the pervasive sense of fragile beauty that lifts Gunslinger Girl from the morass in which it could have found itself.

Mermaid's Scar (OAV) Decent

As in Chobits and Gunslinger Girl, surface innocence glosses over some very disturbing undercurrents. A small boy initially presents himself as vulnerable but proves himself capable of the most appalling violence - a sort of pre-echo of Gunslinger Girl, although the girls of the Social Welfare Agency lack his gleeful relish for mayhem. The little boy and his meat cleaver are far more chilling than anything in Higurashi - When They Cry because it so much better constructed as a drama, the hero and heroine, Yuta and Mana, properly earn our sympathy, and the villain beautifully embodies both evil and innocence.