The Spring 2004 Anime Preview Guide

by Zac Bertschy, Jan 26th 2004

Welcome to the Spring 2004 Anime preview guide! Before we get started, here's an important disclaimer:

These are synopses and reviews of the FIRST EPISODE ONLY.
ALL of these shows have the potential to change drastically with coming episodes, so keep that in mind.
THESE ARE NOT INTENDED TO BE FINAL JUDGEMENTS ON THESE SERIES.
Use this as a guide to determine which shows interest you and which ones don't. And for the love of all, please don't complain that “these shows get better, you're so wrong!”. FIRST EPISODE.

FIRST EPISODE. That's it. No more. It's all based on that.

Also, there's an unusually high number of jiggle shows this season. Jiggle shows are series that focus more on big breasts and big butts than plot, character or anything else. Lots of people like them. Some, like me, prefer substance. You've been warned.


MASSUGU NI IKOU
Synopsis: Mametarou is your average mixed-breed dog, living with his caring young master, Iku-chan. Iku-chan goes to high school and lives a fairly normal life. She met her boyfriend, Akioshi Juuichi, during a walk in the park. Mametarou isn't happy about this, so he takes every opportunity to bring Akioshi down a notch. When he isn't spending time with his matser, Mametarou gets into troublesome situations with his girlfriend, the airheaded purebred Hanako.

First Episode Review: Wolf's Rain it isn't, but unless you've a heart made of solid ice and a soul as black as night, Massugu ni Ikō will bring a big smile to your face. This is truly what a ‘cute’ show should be. A surprisingly pleasant twist on the cringe-inducing talking dog comedy genre, the series is narrated by Mametarou, an adorable brown dog whose chipper but cautious outlook on life and undying devotion to his master makes him one of the most sympathetic and lovable characters in the new season. He goes on adventures with his bubble-headed girlfriend, trying to head off his master's boyfriend at every turn. This first episode deals with what appears to be a plot between Iku and Akioshi to sleep together, something Mametarou won't have. He and his girlfriend rush to school to stop the forbidden fornication, only to find out that they'd just planned to have lunch together. Wacky hijinks ensure, and of course, the dogs wind up having the entire school chase after them. Yeah, okay, it's a little corny, but it's surprisingly well written and an absolute joy to watch. The dogs are cute, and the human characters sport a stylish look by way of Super GALS and the comic Mars, a design sensibility that's quickly becoming the new look for shoujo. Massugu ni Ikou also features a handful of adorable extras, like pet care tips during the commercial break and Mame's “diary” at the end, a collection of observations about life by the show's hero. It's beautifully animated, fun to watch, and even if you're not a dog person, you can't help but just love the characters. What's not to like?


MEZZO TV
Synopsis: Got a job the cops can't know about and you can't handle? Call Mikura, Harada, and Kuro of the Danger Service Agency. They're hyper-talented, don't ask any questions and will get the job done with a minimum of property damage.

First Episode Review: What could have been a huge steaming pile of fan-pandering nonsense winds up being one of the most entertaining new shows of the season. Mezzo TV, from the creator of controversial fan favorite Kite, is a rollicking action-adventure series that isn't the most original thing ever created, but certainly isn't bad. What saves this show from being Hired Guns Anime #83747 is the characters; they aren't cool-as-ice, men-of-little-words-and-big-guns bounty hunters, they're eclectic, eccentric and downright funny. The interaction between the three of them is a joy to watch. Mikura, clearly designed as the fanservice character (complete with 16-year old body and a variety of skin-tight outfits) isn't put into as many compromising positions as you'd think, which is refreshing. She avoids the ‘annoying anime girl you're supposed to like simply because she's cute’ pitfall, as well, and manages to be both much-needed comic-relief (which the show has in spades, surprisingly) and a valuable member of the team. The animation in this show has to be seen to be believed; it's unbelievably fluid, and is easily on par with the action sequences in the Kite OAV. There's not one but two gunfights in a room full of columns (clearly the director enjoyed the first Matrix film), a set of impressive explosions and a silly, but engrossing, storyline. The episode ends with a nasty cliffhanger; it's obvious this show is going to be quite popular with fans, since it doesn't go too far in one direction or the other and remains a solid show with something to appeal to everyone. Sure, it isn't genius, but it's a heck of a lot of fun.


DAPHNE IN THE BRILLIANT BLUE
Synopsis: The Ocean Agency is an organization dedicated to cultivating natural resources in the big blue. They also function as a maritime security force. Maia, a spunky young girl, and her friend Tsukasa, have dreams of becoming Ocean Agency operatives. When Maia is turned down from the Ocean Agency, she's got nowhere else to turn. That's when she runs in to a crime-fighting agency composed of large-breasted women wearing very little clothing! They shoot her in the gut to stop a criminal, but they still need her help!

First Episode Review: Finally, a great balance has been achieved. For all these long years, anime series aimed at college-age men featured only women with giant breasts; ass fans, your day has arrived! Daphne in the Brilliant Blue, a jiggle show masquerading as a drama, is all about the young and naive Maia, a brunette who joins up with a crime-fighting organization out of desperation. This first episode, paced like a snail race, is all about Maia getting rejected from her dream job and then subsequently rejected from every crappy job available on the other side of the tracks (the other side of the tracks being the dumpy, ugly part of the city she's forced to move to after the government takes her house away, notably separated from the nice part of town by a bridge and a wall. It was very thoughtful of all the poor people and criminals to just move to a separate part of the city.). Not a whole lot else happens, except the bit at the end where two women with giant breasts show up wearing little more than skin-tight tops and thongs, chasing after a criminal. Since the preview shows Maia also wearing a skin-tight top and a thong, we can assume where this show is headed. As I said before, while on the surface the show is about Maia's journey, really it's about women's butts and the effect of a thong on said butt. Daphne in the Brilliant Blue takes place in an amazing future society with hovercrafts and laser guns and underwater breathing technology, but clearly the most research money was spent on an amazing new thong that manages to cover just the important bits without needing any string to hold it up. They seem to be specially designed for use during hoverbike chases, where the hoverbikes require the women to ride around with their butts sticking up as high as they'll go. Get the picture yet? Daphne in the Brilliant Blue is a jiggle show, for jiggle fans, and everyone else should probably find something else to do. I'd recommend beating your head against a brick wall until it bleeds. That would be substantially more fun than this show.


DIAMOND DUST DROPS
Synopsis: Diamond Dust Drops, based on the dating sim of the same name, is a series of a short stories, each featuring one of the girls from the popular game. This episode features Atsuko, a 20-year old who works in a fish market. She's betrothed to Minoru, a well-to-do hotel heir, but she isn't ready for a relationship with him and the consequences of marriage. As it turns out, she likes Kurata-san, a hipster with an eye for rare vinyl. When the bank forecloses on her mother's fish market, will she take Minoru's financial help or stand up for love?

First Episode Review: Yet another entry in the newly-exploded dating sim genre, Diamond Dust Drops is a forgivable yet routine series that doesn't break any new ground but isn't totally offensive. This first story focuses on Atsuko, who unfortunately suffers from ‘I'm cute but have no other redeeming qualities’ syndrome. Atsuko is brash, selfish, annoying and indecisive, but we're supposed to like her and sympathize with her because she's oh-so-adorable. She has a rich boyfriend who tries to help her and be good to her, but since they were betrothed, she doesn't want him (which is the clichéd response for ‘independent’ women in TV shows, who reject arranged boyfriends simply because they're arranged). She'd rather hang around the 40-year old hipster doofus who keeps visiting the fish market. Why? Well, we're never really told why. Minoru brings up marriage a few times, and she says she isn't ready for it, but what's stopping her from warming up to him a little bit? He's supposed to be the ‘bad guy’ here, but doesn't do anything bad aside from, uh, offer to save her family business. It's ridiculous, undeveloped, poorly written characters that stop this show from being a little bit better than it is. Regardless of the lame plot developments and frustrating characters, Diamond Dust Drops is still amusing enough. Bishoujo fans will find a lot to like here; I suspect that the many folks who found last season's Kimi ga Nozomu Eien so endearing will warm up to this one really quick. It's paced a little faster than some of its brethren and features an interesting (if completely predictable) story, which is more than you can say for about 99 percent of other shows based on dating sims. If only the characters weren't so maddeningly obnoxious, this series might be a diamond in the rough.


COSMOPOLITAN PLAYERS
Synopsis: Misuzu has always wanted to be a super hero. When she finds a strange bracelet on her hand, she gets her wish! A team of super-powered girls calling themselves the Cosmopolitan Players shows up, dressed in strange outfits and fighting back a mysterious evil that threatens the nation of Japan! Can Misuzu tame the Charm bracelet and become a defender of truth and justice?

First Episode Review: With the episode length hovering at around 5 to 6 minutes, there's not a lot to say about Cosmopolitan Players, except that it's amazing how little you can accomplish inside of 5 to 6 minutes. The story, which centers around an insecure shrine maiden who wants to be a superhero, doesn't go much of anywhere and succeeds only in confusing the audience. It's a little hard to figure out just what's happening in this show. Once the large-breasted, totally bitchy Scarlet shows up (a character who just loves to transform, stripping down to her undergarments every minute or two), we realize that oh, this is a fanservice magical girl show, and really, it doesn't matter what the story is. Scarlet is an ice-cold jerk, and smacks Misuzu for even suggesting that she's a cosplayer, even though Misuzu has absolutely no clue who Scarlet is or why she's dressed in a nun outfit. Seems like a reasonable reaction, right? The animation is top-notch and the character designs are pleasant enough, but it's light as a feather and winds up being totally disposable. It's a wonder why they even made this in the first place; was there a need for yet another 'jiggle ‘n panties’ show? Is that demographic not getting what they need? I submit to you that the answer is a resounding “no”.


AREA 88
Synopsis: On the war-torn battlefields of the Kingdom of Aslan, two men whose destinies will intertwine meet for the first time. Makoto, a news correspondent with on a personal mission and an unblinking camera, finds himself fascinated with Shin Kazama, a moody ace pilot. On the blood-stained mercenary airstrip of Area 88, together they'll meet their fate.


First Episode Synopsis: A mature show with mature characters and a mature storyline, Area 88 is a welcome and refreshing change of pace for anime fans sick and tired of tournament fighting, magical girls and panty shots. Based on the manga of the same name (there's also an OVA series from 1985 that was barely notice on this side of the pacific), Area 88 starts out with some fairly unimpressive cel-shaded CG planes, but once the dark and highly intriguing characters open their mouths, the show slowly starts going uphill. The action shots – and there are a lot of them – are the only thing that keep this show from being truly great. The animation of the mercenary airplanes is stilted, choppy and very cheap. It's a wonder the camera spends so much time admiring the planes. Thankfully, the characters are wonderfully developed. Once their motivations are revealed, a much deeper and darker storyline is hinted at. Kudos goes to avex mode for putting together an upbeat and exciting Trance soundtrack; the music fits the action perfectly. While the show is paced a little slow, this is the sort of storytelling you just don't see very often in anime anymore; it's worth a look from any serious anime fan.


YUMEIRA
Synopsis: Mikuri Tomokazu was your average 15 year old high school loser, until the eve of his 16th birthday. A dream set in a mysterious world produces a young girl named Mone who somehow exits his dream and enters the real world! Naturally, since he's 16 and a loser and this is an anime, he's surrounded by a cadre of beautiful girls who all wind up in skimpy battle costumes by the end of the episode. It's superhero harem MADNESS!

First Episode Review: At this point, we need more ecchi harem shows like we need more reality television series featuring Z-list celebrities like Kathy Griffin or Carrot Top. That apparently wasn't enough to stop the production of Yumeira, a sort of combination superhero – magical girl – harem series that follows the established formula for a show like this right down to the letter. There's a girl for every major fetish represented and there's plenty of up-skirt and down-shirt shots to keep the fans happy. The lolicon girl, Mone, wakes up next to the lead character naked, follows him to school, and then gets propositioned by his teacher while being ogled by the rest of the men in his class. Apparently everyone in the world of Yumeira likes 'em prepubescent, which is creepy and unsettling. Mikuri is a little less of a loser than your average harem show hero; he actually enjoys it when his hands wind up on some girl's breasts, and expresses himself beyond “Oh, no, this is all a terrible misunderstanding, how did these panties wind up on my head?!”, which is more than you can say for the Tenchis and Keitarōs of the past. The whole thing is, unsurprisingly, based on an action-dating game of the same name that was apparently pretty popular over in Japan. Of course, this thing will get lapped up by anyone who still buys harem shows like Ai Yori Aoshi, so it'll prove to be fairly popular here as well. If you've got the stomach for yet another show featuring some milquetoast loser surrounded by personality-free, hardbodied girls, then you'd best get a hold of Yumeira. Everyone else, feel free to avoid this.



MISAKI CHRONICLE DIVERGENCE EVE

Synopsis: A detailed, in-depth look at how stupid girls with freakishly gigantic breasts deal with intensely stressful science-fiction situations.

First Episode Review: Have you ever tried to have a conversation with someone who had a hot dog stapled to their forehead? You'd have a hard time listening to that person; chances are, instead of hearing what they had to say, you'd spend the entire time being totally preoccupied with the fact that they have a hot dog stapled to their forehead. Misaki Chronicle Divergence Eve, the sequel series to last year's abominable train wreck Divergence Eve, is a lot like that scenario. The characters go on and on about military academies and training programs and Misaki's dead father and special operations and all that, but all you can do is stare at the gigantic breasts that fill the screen. Literally every female character in the show is cursed with breasts that look as though they're suffering from Elephantiasis. Why? Why in the world would you make a show like this that isn't porn and takes itself seriously? It doesn't matter what happens in this show. It doesn't matter what the characters say or do, or even what their names are. All that matters are the HIDEOUSLY MASSIVE BREASTS that cover the screen at all times. Misaki Chronic Divergence Eve is a headache-inducing disaster of epic proportions and should be avoided at ALL COSTS. This show is proof that God hates us all. Wait, maybe he just hates me.


MARIA-SAMA GA MITERU
Synopsis: This is the tale of Yumi, an insecure young girl in her first year at the prestigious and elegant Lillian Girls' School. The school's high council has a system in place by which older students, known as 'Grandes Soeurs”, mentor the younger students, known as ‘petites soeurs’. Yumi is chosen as the ‘sister’ for Sachiko, the school's most popular girl and star student. Naturally, this causes all sorts of problems; there's much more to Sachiko than meets the eye, and the stiff student council won't tolerate anything out of the ordinary.

First Episode Review: A brief, pleasant and somewhat hypnotic reprieve from the onslaught of bouncing voluptuous women, Maria-san ga Miteru is something of a riff on the old shoujo standby series nobody's ever seen, Oniisama E... Taking place in an all-girl's school and dealing with issues like sisterhood, women's social politics, acceptance and even a little homosexuality, Maria-san ga Miteru is destined to please anyone looking for something paced a little slower than your average hyperactive shoujo drama. The main character, Yumi, is given plenty of time to develop slowly over the course of this first episode. She narrates the goings-on and gives the audience a decent amount of insight into the feelings she's having about what's happening around her, and becomes a sympathetic and likable character almost immediately. The show is told through her eyes, so the other characters are shrouded in mystery, especially the admired Sachiko, the popular girl who takes Yumi under her wing. The relationship between the two is hard to decipher at this point; whether or not the show is aiming for a sisterhood angle or a lesbian angle is really difficult to say. Either way, it's a dignified and entirely pleasant experience; the progression of their relationship is clearly going to be the focus of the series, and it's written very realistically. Thankfully, there's no fan service. Merely the presence of shoujo-ai overtones doesn't make this something for yuri fans. The character designs are highly stylized and angular, and are on par with something like Revolutionary Girl Utena or Hana Yori Dango. Amazingly enough, the girls' faces really set them apart, which is very important, given the fact that everyone's wearing the same costume. Keep in mind that this is an incredibly slow series and is very deliberately paced. Things don't move quickly, and that includes the plot, so you'd better make sure that your attention span is fairly long before committing to this one. There hasn't been anything like Maria-sama in a long, long time, so if this sort of thing is your bag, you'd better snap this one up as fast as you can.


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