The Winter 2011 Anime Preview Guide
Hope Chapman

by Hope Chapman, Jan 7th 2011


Freezing

Rating: 2

In the future, humanity has found itself in battle with aliens, known as the Nova, who want to conquer the world. The only people who can stop them are bio-engineered high-school age girls (WHO'S SURPRISED?) called Pandoras. However, because we need a few male characters that look even less like capable soldiers, a few small wimpy men called Limiters accompany the women to activate a technique called “freezing” within them that limits their opponents’ mobility. One such Limiter finds himself paired up with the Untouchable Queen, Sattelizer L Bridgette, because she bears a remarkable resemblance to his sister who previously died in the war. Female dismemberment and conveniently fetishistic clothes-rippage ensues.

I was going to let this one slide. After railing against fanservice shows in the past, I was fine with just letting this one slip on by. After all, the animation is pretty nice during the fight scenes. The writing is terrible and forced, but at least the episode is paced and shot well, and the music is catchy. Long story short, this isn't boring or cheap like so many competing offerings. It has often been compared to Ikki Tousen for good reason: it's pretty much exactly like it. Still, within one episode it's shown itself to be far better constructed than that embarrassing exercise in gratuitous cameltoe and wince-worthy needless violence. This is gratuitous cameltoe and wince-worthy needless violence done with…”panache,” if such a thing can ever be said.

I was all set to give this a passing grade for those looking for gore and tits attached to a surprisingly compelling science fiction backdrop. Sure. Why not? I feel like being nice. Suddenly, it ended, and that last two minutes completely destroyed whatever credibility this series had for being as “respectable” as, say, Strike Witches in its own oft-disparaged niche. Nope. This is absolute garbage, and the last two minutes is the nail that pins it to that condemnation. That aside: yes, it looks kinda nice and it's executed well. Whatever. Its hateful, creepy, intelligence-insulting harem abuse still can't be masked by any of that. It's not terrible, but it certainly can't be honestly recommended either. Proceed only should your tastes in banal catfighting allow.


Beelzebub



Rating: 4

The Great Demon Lord, eventual destroyer of all humanity and leader of the bastion for all that is evil and chaotic, is absolutely terrible at his job. He can't keep a schedule and between birthdays for yokai, commemorative chupacabra hunts and addictive PSP games, well, that darn “obliterating humanity” thing keeps getting pushed back. Suddenly, he has a wonderful, awful idea and decides to send his son (“you know, that one I recently had,” in his own words) down the river Moses-style to a human he thinks can raise him to be a monster capable of bringing about mankind's downfall.

Oga Tatsumi, a delinquent who thinks of himself as a kind and respectable gent (despite every appearance to the contrary) finds the kid and decides to have fun rearing him for a bit…until Beelzebaby gets a little too attached and he realizes the little devil's true purpose. He must become the daddy Beelzebub never had and raise him to be a suitable destroyer of worlds or be executed by his watchful demon babysitter.

Unless you're violently allergic to child-penis, (Beelzebub doesn't wear a diaper, ever,) it is really hard not to love this show a little. The premise is wacky sure, but that's not really worth much if it can't deliver with the cast or comes across as too brash or grating. Oga is already unusual for a yanki character in how comfortable he is in his own skin. He's mean and growly, but it's not a facade to hide some deeper “nice guy,” he's a nice guy on the outside too. In fact it's his confidence and easygoing nature that leads Beelzebub to cling to him, and speaking of which, well isn't he cute~?

The visual style here hearkens eerily much to Zatch Bell but it avoids the pitfalls of making the baby talk or giving him a badass attitude. Apart from setting off brain-melting explosions when he cries, the son of the demon king acts like a normal infant, sensitive, simple, easily influenced…oh no, this cannot end well. How could you not want to see where it will go? It's funny, different, and retains just enough shonen trappings to not be…too weird to stomach.


Beelzebub is available streaming on Crunchyroll.


Oniichan no Koto Nanka Zenzen Suki Janain Dakara ne—!!



Rating: GTFO.

Oniichan no Koto—ugh, that is a horrible and cumbersome title. It translates to “I Don't Like You At All, Big Brother!!” which also makes it an outright LIE because our leading lady, oh I'm sorry, leading young girl, Nao, is so horny for and possessive of her brother this series would be repulsive even if they weren't related…which they aren't. Incredible spoilers, I know, but like most incest shows they thrust it in our face early that Nao is adopted and therefore—NO.

I remarked earlier in this very preview guide that it is better to be offended or pandered to than bored and I have had my horrible comeuppance for this generalization. KissxSis, despite its awful premise, was flat, bland, and tepid in execution. The girls had no personality, their brother was the same way, and not much of anything happened that couldn't be seen a mile away. This was a thousand times worse because, sure Nao has a personality: she loves her brother and loves that it's forbidden…because that's a healthy reason for infatuation right there. That's not mind-destroyingly creepy and psychotic.

She's disappointed when she realizes they aren't really related but reasons that at least they can have sex and get married as no consequence! In what world is this funny?! The episode is so incredibly loud and colorful and in-your-face with its awful babyish writing and disgusting ideas you'd think it was the same breed as B Gata H Kei…but this is not harmlessly, stupidly raunchy, it's just disturbing. We also see the siblings entwined in unclothed passion (dream sequence, of course) twice in this episode so I'm not sure what they can “build” to, either. The entire episode is a stream of sexual liaisons between the two, again outclassing KissxSis in sheer volume.

It doesn't help that her brother, Shusuke, is “comically” obsessed with staring at her underwear…he doesn't accidentally get glimpses, he goes “undercover” to attain them, so to speak, and loves siscom eroge, amongst others. His sister makes it a habit to throw away any porn of his that isn't incest-based, of course, to keep his intentions focused on her—I cannot do this.

This is now the worst anime I have ever seen.

P.S. The character designs are absolutely hideous. Isn't the idea supposed to be that the little sister is cute—no. No, I'm done.

Gosick



Rating: 3.5

In the fictional, picturesque nation of Sauville, (which appears to be sandwiched in some invisible dimension between England and Austria,) Kazuya Kujo is having trouble fitting in. He transferred to a prestigious school here to make his family proud, but all the European students are intimidated by his stormy features and call him “the dark reaper.” Classy. He soon finds a kindred spirit in the school's demure but haughty resident “doll,” Victorique…though notably, she thinks of him only as her new plaything or “baby squirrel,” a far cry from his gloomy reputation with the other classmates. When Kujo gets tired of being toyed with, of course, he can just leave…Victorique never steps outside the conservatory atop the library where she lives.

As it turns out, she has a talent for solving mysteries and is often consulted by Detective Grevil du Blois, “owner of the oddest hair in all of Sauville” in Victorique's words. When Kujo realizes Grevil has been taking all the credit for her deductions, he forces him to reimburse her with a sailing trip, forcing Victorique out of her glassy garden prison and into the majesty of the countryside around her and the mysteries it holds.

The bad news is that Gosick looks to be a principally episodic series, rather than exploring its characters in-depth, but we can't know that for sure. If this is the case though, it's hard to see the series holding appeal for very long: Detective Conan isn't a Victorian Lolita, but he otherwise fills out that niche too well to be usurped by this relatively tame young lass. (Honestly, the introductory “mystery” she solves may be the easiest whodunit I've ever seen, but there's apparently more to it in the coming episodes.)

The good news is that Gosick is understated, good-looking and above all, genuinely charming; it's sincere all around in a medium often dominated by bombast and manipulation. Here's hoping for some nice twists and a little more ambition from the homebody Victorique and her new pet baby squirrel. These characters have solid potential, and following episodes outside Victorique's tiny world should hopefully bring that out.

Gosick is available streaming on Crunchyroll.

Yumekui Merry



Rating: 3

Yumekui Merry needs to learn something, right off the bat. Kittens aren't scary. Kittens aren't threatening. Kittens aren't even mysterious, although goodness knows they shoot for that angle here. That aside, this is already looking to be one of the most bright and inviting offerings this season.

Yumeji Fujiwara, the star of our story, has the power to predict dreams through the color of people's auras, but has no luck controlling his own visions: perpetual nightmares of Disney-like talking kittens in gloves and booties wielding bazookas and maces in pursuit of his body. (Maybe it's a children's show and…? It's still not a very scary nightmare. Even Yumeji only seems annoyed by it.) Of course there's another character present, the catlike amnesiac Merry Nightmare. (This is another children's show, isn't it?) Her arrival in Yumeji's life seems to trigger the merger between dreams and reality and allows the master of his nightmare, a faceless apparition named Chaser John Doe, to find him and prepare to claim the young boy's body for himself and wreak havoc on the real world. Merry saves Yumeji from being possessed but is terrified by her new surroundings and turns to him for answers in a puddle of tears. This looks to be the pattern for the next few episodes to follow, if I had to venture a guess.

This isn't to be demeaning, however. Yumekui Merry, while nothing revolutionary, looks nice, a bit of a chimera between Bones and Kyo Ani techniques. It's not scary, no, and it's not serious despite seeming to think it is, but maybe I'm wrong and it wasn't attempting so. The cats border between adorable and annoying, and The Villain With No Name in question is more campy than threatening, so maybe the tone dissonance will resolve itself. I hope so, because the pilot is a very pleasurable watch, well worth checking out even as a quick diversion.

Yumekui Merry is unusual, paced nicely for a first episode (something a lot of new series are having SERIOUS issues grasping,) and most importantly: it goes down easy. Looking forward to more.
 

Puella Magi Madoka Magica



Rating: 3

Kaname Modoka has found herself lost in a dream. To be more precise, it's an entire dream world with diverse shades and flipped perspectives like some lost tale of Mahiro Maeda in Wonderland. She watches with a mixture of awe and horror as another young girl battles with an unknown entity…and apparently loses. The girl reaches out and Kaname is offered the chance to save her by a creature that…well it looks so much like every other anime mascot and yet none of them that I cheated and provided a picture instead of describing it. Enjoy. That's Kyube. Isn't it darling?

But then…it all kind of stops. Kaname goes to school and hangs out with her blue and green-haired friends, gets embarrassed in class, talks about how pretty her mother is, etc. It's all very soft and pretty but it's not the most welcome transition from the excitement we were given a brief taste of at the start of the episode. The visuals are still lovely, very soft and understated in the real world which really accents the transition into tissue-paper pastiche-land at various points. Still, by the end of the episode very little has happened and Kaname and friends (I assume by their trademark colors they're to be given powers,) haven't been initiated as magical girls at all…it's sort of implied that they're getting there, but it's all very content to putter around.

Provided mahou shojo is your kind of thing to begin with, this is absolutely worth a second episode, if for no other reason than the first didn't quite give us enough. There is no doubt, however, that a great deal of promise lies sleeping here.

Infinite Stratos



Rating: 1

Review: Ichika Orimura is the only qualifying male pilot in the Infinite Stratos Academy, a school for young cadets in-training to be mech soldiers in a conflict…that hasn't occurred yet. Japan seems pretty peaceful actually, but no sense twiddling your thumbs while you wait for the war, I guess. Orimura's not sure why he's able to pilot a mech only women should have the ability to handle, but neither is anyone else, so he's long since stopped wondering about it. When he and his female compatriots aren't engaged in mock combat (and they aren't for nearly the entire episode,) there are waaaaacky mixed-gender hijinx to amuse them in between boring historical lectures over the mechanics of their combat suits.

Somewhere before the halfway point in this episode, I found myself presented with a vision. The rows upon rows of languishing high-school mech pilots slumped over their classroom desks that compose most of the scenes in the episode faded and shifted to a different setting in my brain: rows upon rows of animators and colorists slumped over their workdesks, moaning “I don't wanna do this anymooooore.”

I swear I was sober. I've been in that position often enough to recognize its reflections on the screen.

Not only is Infinite Stratos dull and cheap-looking, it doesn't even summon the energy of the more audacious fanservice-driven titles. Being offended or pandered to is still better than being bored. Nothing about this premiere gives us any reason to invest one braincell, much less the two it takes to understand it. There's no real conflict hinted at, the characters aren't endearing on even a base level, the visuals are painfully plastic, none of the humor works or even flails wildly in an effort to get a laugh, it just hangs there like a big sopping towel of shrug. That is the worst verdict one can receive. Skip this.

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