The Fall 2010 Anime Preview Guide Gia Manry
by Gia Manry, Oct 1st 2010
Gia may refer to any of the following: the Gemological Institute of America, Glasgow International Airport, Garuda Indonesia, and/or the associate editor of Anime News Network.
A boy with red, spiky hair washes ashore on a southern island of Japan, ruining a dramatic (and perhaps romantic) moment between a young blonde high school student/priestess (Wako) and a blue-haired young man (Sugata Shindo). After establishing that the three will be in the same class at their high school, the redhead- Takuto -immediately tries to break the school rules by busting into a forbidden gold mine, where he finds a kidnapped Wako and a group of people trying to user her miko status to break a seal and put together some kind of mech project. To no one's surprise, Takuto turns out to be something special.
To its credit, the first episode of Star Driver never over-explains itself, allowing the viewer to watch what's going on completely unhampered by any actual understanding of it. That may sound like an insult, but it's actually a good thing: Bones has done a decent job of inducing an "I want to know more" confusion, where the other options would have been an "I don't know enough of what's going on to care" confusion or an "I already know how this show is going to end" certainty through exhausting explication. The key to this is that the characters, while not particularly innovative so far, are entertaining and don't appear to be one-notes. The chemistry between even the secondary characters introduced seems solid, often amusing, and not overly-clichéd.
It should be noted, however, that Takuto's neck is incredibly long.
For a first outing, Star Driver shows a lot of promise for a visually attractive mech series with enjoyable characters; what remains to be seen is whether the story will carry them throughout the rest of the series.
Obsessive game-player Keima rejects reality in favor of games, proclaiming himself capable of winning over any (2D) girl out there. His ego lands him in hot water when he finds himself contracted to an attractive demoness with whom he's supposed to collect a "lost soul" by getting a girl who thinks he's a major dweeb (like, totally) to fall for him.
The World God Only Knows is a mixed bag: attractive designs that are thoroughly reminiscent of other recent popular anime series (among the titles I wrote down were Code Geass, Gurren-Lagann, Soul Eater, Jubei-chan, and Ninja Nonsense). A plot that satirizes obsessive otaku, but ultimately seems to reinforce the idea that real life can be played like visual novels. The jokes are expectedly otaku-in-joke-y, but still mildly amusing, and while the drama sports a couple of cheesy moments, there's an unexpected twist to the short-term plot...and then a thoroughly expected ending.
Still and all, it's cute, the VN otaku character is appropriately irritating without being an utter jerk, and the comedic bits have some potential. Most likely it will develop into a decent, if not outstanding, fluff series...as long as it doesn't devolve into nothing but the aforementioned otaku in-jokes and Keima turning out to be a total pimp thanks to 'training' with his VNs.
The World God Only Knows is available streaming on Crunchyroll
Yakumo Saito is a guy with the ability to see and speak to dead spirits. He's "that anime guy": dark hair, unusual eyes (in this case, cat-like heterochromic peepers), impersonal attitude. And, true to form, he gets himself roped into helping a young woman's supernatural drama almost immediately. It's hard not to compare this first episode to its supernatural sibling Ghost Hunt, whose male lead is similarly cold, though Saito lacks his unchecked ego so far. The first episode of Psychic Detective Yakumo also misses some of the personable charm of Ghost Hunt, which quickly established the light banter of the character group. At the end of Yakumo's first episode, however, it seems likely that Yakumo will have a more overarching plot thread than the episodic Ghost Hunt anime.
As for the story, it gives a reasonable excuse to put the two characters together and establishes them decently. On the plus side, they don't try to pretend the viewer won't figure out 'whodunnit' almost as soon as they see the perpetrator. On the other hand, the way that they deal with said perpetrator is a bit lame, as is the resolution of the generically tomboyish female lead's equally generic back story.
I found myself more interested in all of the secondary characters, each of whom gets about two seconds of screen time, than in the protagonists, so the series has some definite promise-- but the first episode is stuck in a rather weak "set-up" mode.
Kind, sweet, attractive big brother Haruka and sarcastic, embittered little sister Sora move out to the country after their parents' death. Sora is too weak for school (but not too weak for a miles-long walk, mysteriously), so Haruka attends alone, leaving a possessive Sora running back and forth between worrying that her brother is abandoning her, and fantasizing about banging him. 'Tis the season for siblingcest, it seems.
The first episode of Yosuga no Sora is pure eroge drama, with hints about darker pasts, sibling lust, lesbians, and enormous breasts on every high school girl you see. Each and every girl, aside from Sora herself, is introduced to us (and Haruka) with a shocked and blushing face and the same stupid piano chords, so you can't tell which ones are important, or for the most part, what the difference between any of them is. The designs don't help, as all the girls are wearing school uniforms and half of them have similar hair. (I can't decide if that's better than complaining about increasingly unlikely hairstyles and colors or not.) Haruka himself is oblivious to the girls for the most part.
There are two aspects of the show that rise above the boring mediocrity: the animation is strong and fluid, but with such dull designs that doesn't really add a lot. Also, the lead character twins remind me of slightly-older versions of the murderous gothic lolita twins from Black Lagoon, so I can imagine them going psycho and slaughtering everyone else in the show. Which would make it a lot more entertaining.
Fyi, there's also a completely gratuitous and random masturbation scene after the credits. Just so you don't miss it.
This season's preferred method of forcing mismatched boys and girls into awkward living arrangements: the military decides to join forces with the local monster-fighters. Soldiers in a vaguely World War 2-ish Japan are assigned to work with "half-spirits" who fight malevolent supernatural beings. The spirits are, of course, attractive young ladies with cat ears. And of course, one of our pretty-boy soldiers is phobic of all things supernatural.
Original creator Lily Hoshino's style is retained nicely in the animation; her frilly, flowery look is also a very interesting aesthetic for an episode with a bit of a shounen streak...especially surprisingly since it's based on a work by a manga creator best known for her yaoi titles. The background art is particularly attractive, and the designs are very much steeped in traditional Japanese culture.
The characters show promise, but could just as easily turn into one-notes. Our heroine, the titular Zakuro, is mildly tsundere but her sarcasm and distaste are oddly refreshing. Her male counterpart KEI is a pretty boy with the aforementioned phobia, but he can occasionally work through it by the sheer force of his will and sparkles. The secondary female cast is rounded out by a shy girl and a pair of perky, teasing twins; the remaining two men are a stolid soldier and a young go-getter. There are also a whole bunch of other spiritual beings around, and a couple of other military guys appear as well.
There are a few irritating elements to the show: in a battle scene the CG is pretty heavy, which may distract some. There are a couple of quick-sketched shots, including one that's a reaction to the battle that feels surprisingly important to be given the slapdash treatment (perhaps all that background-painting tightened up the animators' schedule). There are a couple of cheesy moments as well, though the show is willing to poke a bit of fun at itself here and there.
There's nothing particularly surprising or clever about the characters, dialogue, or story of Otome Yōkai Zakuro so far, but the combination thereof feels solid and may have some promise, at least of light entertainment if nothing ground-breaking.
Otome Yōkai Zakuro is available streaming at Crunchyroll
The first five minutes of Super Robot Wars OG: The Inspector has, on the surface, very little to do with the rest of the episode...at least if you're someone who hasn't watched any previous Super Robot Wars series. Beyond that, however, the episode is mostly comprehensible to a layperson-- the only hard part is in the battle scene that takes up roughly the final third of the episode, because you don't know who's fighting for which side (unless you cheated and looked it up).
For the newbie, however, a little cheating plus The Inspector might make for an okay introduction, assuming you don't have access to earlier titles (but do have access to Wikipedia). Sure, the nipples on the female pilot seem to grow in every shot, but hey-- there's a female pilot! And she appears to fight for the good guys! (Ahem, Gundam 00, with your effeminate-but-not-female Tieria and your psycho Nena Trinity.)
Another thing that was a nice bump up from Gundam 00 was the ages of the characters. With a couple of exceptions that appeared in the OP or ED, the characters all could legitimately be in their late 20s to 30s, at least by anime standards. I won't profess to be much of a mech afficionado, but both the machines and the characters in the series have strong designs...mostly. One looks like the goofy would-be captain from Irresponsible Captain Tylor, and another sports some pretty ridiculous shades. Also, half of the pilots wear helmets while piloting their mechs and half of them don't, although that may just be my lack of mech familiarity showing. The characters themselves seem reasonably strong without being over-the-top single-trait shells, although the two female pilots who have dialogue in the episode aren't going to win any stereotype-breaking awards.
Veteran Super Robot Wars fans probably already know whether or not they want to check this out, but if the idea of a slightly aged-up Gundam-esque political mech drama appeals to you, The Inspector may be worth your time. Just make sure you schedule yourself enough time to pause, Google, and read up a couple of times throughout the episode.
Watching the studio's latest TV series, Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt, feels sort of like being thrown into a kaleidoscope filled with merchandise for teenage girls: too much sex, too many pinks and purples, awful music, and the stuff never stops moving. Of course, it's not a show created for teenage girls so much as for older guys-- it'd be easy to guess it's being created with the Adult Swim audience in mind.
Do you remember Grand Theft Auto 4's made-up anime "Princess Robot Bubblegum" and how it was a terrible pastiche of all the awful stereotypes about anime rolled up into one ball of hilarious (okay, mildly-amusing) awfulness? Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt basically that show, except that the show actually exists, and I'm not sure if Gainax is having a joke on us or not. The girls look like Power Puff Girls (e.g. young), but spend the episode banging strange men on the fly and eating cake. And pooping.
Another show the series resembles, at least superficially, is Ren & Stimpy. The episode is broken into two separate stories, complete with the much more attractive still art shot showcasing the mini-episode's titles. There's a lot of gross humor (I mentioned the poop, right?), but there's a lot more sex, and a lot less comedic timing. Or comedy, period. Ren & Stimpy knew how to take a second to stop all the sound and all the motion and let the audience react. Panty and Stocking, again, never pauses for a breath.
In a time of constantly re-hashed high school romantic comedies, one can appreciate Gainax's attempt to do something that's different, but the result feels too much like a Nickelodeon show that overdosed on Ritalin. In the first half of the episode in particular, the "camera" never ceases moving. Combine that with a constantly-barking dog (which looks remarkably like Invader Zim's Gir, speaking of Nickelodeon), loud music, overlapping dialogue, and lots of bright colors, and congratulations! You've just won sensory overload. The second half-episode is only slightly less intense.
I'm usually pretty willing to strap in and take a ride on the Gainax roller coaster, but so far the show looks less like destination: fun and more like destination: vomit. Literally.
Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt is available streaming at Crunchyroll
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