A Midsummer's 2003 Anime Preview Guideby Zac Bertschy and Rebecca Bundy,
Welcome to the Midsummer 2003 Anime Preview Guide. Every July, a new crop of shows hit the Japanese airwaves, and once again we're here to weed out the good from the bad and give you enough info to make your own decision.
It's worth noting that midsummer is sort of a ‘dumping grounds’ for lesser projects (like the spring and early fall for American cinema), so, you know, don't expect much.
Ranma and Rella are your basic private detective team. The male half, Ranma, bumbles his way though each investigation, but is ultimately savvy enough to pull it off. The sexy, hard-boiled Rella makes sure things stay on track when Ranma goes too far. The pair is involved in a fiery car wreck one night while on the lamb from a mob of dangerous arms smugglers. Ranma wakes up, but Rella is nowhere to be found; until the clock strikes midnight and he BECOMES his female partner!
While certainly not the worst thing on the air this summer in Japan, Cinderella Boy is definitely not worth the valuable airtime it's taking up. Perfectly good reruns of other, non-terrible shows could be aired in Cinderella Boy's timeslot. The show is, on all accounts, unentertaining, unoriginal, and just plain not fun to watch. The aesthetic of the show is so obviously cribbed directly from Monkey Punch's classic action series Lupin III; Ranma is basically Lupin with Spike's haircut (as if there were a huge difference in character design between those two in the first place) and the wardrobe of the blonde guy from Licensed by Royal, another show that tries painfully hard to be cool and fails on every front. Rella is basically a carbon-copy of Fujiko Mine, and is uniformly uninteresting to look at or listen to. The rest of the characters have poorly-drawn faces and look like they were scratched out on a cocktail napkin a few minutes before the episode was animated. Speaking of animation, this show has very little of it. The movement of the characters is incredibly choppy and awkward, and any scene with a vehicle in it is embarrassingly badly done. There's a scene in which a helicopter turns around that I probably could have animated better, and I can't even draw helicopters. Musically the show is uninspired; the theme song describes what happens in the show (“Cinderella Boy, he plays roulette 24 hours a day! Cinderella Boy, he drives around in a London Taxi!”), which is a big no-no instantaneously. The rest of the music is lame wannabe Jazz riffs, and most of the time it's mixed down so you can't hear it. Story wise, it plays out like an old 80's switcheroo comedy, where the man and the woman or the stuck up lawyer and the cool kid or the poor black guy and the rich white guy end up trading brains or bodies or situations or clothing, and it's never really even slightly amusing. They spend all of 5 minutes “developing” the characters in this trash pile, so when bad things happen (like both of them potentially dying in a horrible flaming car wreck), you won't care. Here's hoping that when the show hits 12 episodes, it'll turn into a pumpkin.
Join Ranma and Rella on their wacky adventures as they're captured by a mad scientist who merges them into the same body! Instead of cold water, this Ranma changes into Rella at the stroke of midnight. It's unfortunate that a possibly humorous idea is wasted on this sorry excuse for a show.
The biggest problem with this show is the animation. The character designs mimic Lupin's style, but the animation itself is cheap and constantly off-model. Thrill to the show's lowest moments, like the flashing yellow lines (these are supposed to be bullets from a rapid-fire gun) and the moving box with windows (cars). The jokes are nothing more than one failed attempt after another. Ranma makes fun of Rella because she can eat or drink anything without getting full or drunk, then later muses that she can't yell at him anymore because she's dead. Har har. The action sequences are about as interesting as shampooing your hair; run away from the bad guys, jump out windows to escape, repeat. Did I forget to mention that these characters have no personality aside from 'generic witty detectives'? Overall, this show is a flop and a complete waste of 23 minutes.
Asakura lives with Nemu; their parents are overseas. They're in the same class, and on the first day of school, they run in to Sakuranbo, Asakura's cousin who also happens to look like she's 12. A colorful cast of females enter the picture, including a few strange and hyperactive girls destined to make Asakura's life more complicated. Will Asakura's school life ever be the same?
When I first heard the title for this series, I thought it was a new anime show based on the life of 50 Cent or some other rap star. I just know “Da Capo” is either going to be or already is the name of a platinum-selling rap album. The show, so obviously based on a dating sim, is unfortunately not my cup of tea. I've never liked dating sim-style shows. I just don't see why they continually harvest story ideas from a game genre that is, intrinsically, devoid of story. Sad girls standing in the snow that eventually take their clothes off do not generally make compelling characters. ~Da Capo~ is one of these shows, through and through. They introduce no less than 8 pretty schoolgirls in this first episode, and it's clear that more are coming. They fall prey to all of the creepy dating-sim clichés, and even tips its hat to several icky Japanese fetishes (this girl may look 12, but we've added a plot device to make her 18, so it's okay to lust after her, boys! Did we mention she's related by blood to the kid she's in love with?). The girls in the show are all very similar looking; it's basically the same girl eight to ten times, except with different hair colors or coquettish accessories. The main character has zero personality (presumably so the fanboy watching can project himself on to him), and really, the girls have very little personality outside of the “overreact to everything and act shy and cute the rest of the time” cookie-cutter persona that plagues every girl in shows like these. ~Da Capo~ is a handsome production, to be sure; very little expense was spared in bringing the entirely routine proceedings to life. The animation is smooth and fluid, and the computer-assisted coloring and lighting are brilliant to watch at times. It's too bad so much money was wasted on what is, ultimately, something only fans of dating sims and dating sim-style shows (Sister Princess, etc) will enjoy.
Does the world really need another story about a boy and the girls who obsess over him? Not really. The only 'original' idea Da Capo has to offer this tired, worn-out genre is the addition of Asakura's mysterious ability to use magic. The opening, narrated by Asakura as he moves past images of sakura trees that make up someone else's dream, enticed the senses with lovely music and beautiful animation. The high hopes I had after seeing this opening were squashed as soon as Asakura awoke to the sight of Nemu and the jingling bell around her neck.
The character designs for the females are awkward at best, their heads and hair filling up most of the screen while their bodies wilt away under the weight of flesh and hot air. The characters themselves have little in the way of personality. Nemu's overly jealous wannabe-girlfriend attitude and Yoshino's super-hyper-cute persona will give anyone a headache. Asakura somehow tolerates these two, adding a masochistic element to the otherwise generic boy-next-door formula. The animation is nice but wasted on poor character design, just as the background images and lovely music are also wasted on this horrible excuse for a story. This show might turn into a somewhat tolerable series if it decides to focus more on Asakura's magic as the series progresses. If not, then I'd suggest finding something else to watch.
Misaki, Kotoko, Maria and several other women are elite mecha pilots on board a starship designed for taking out Ghouls, evil space creatures that have it in for Earth. Misaki seems to have some strange connection to the Ghouls, and when she's trapped in a fight to the finish with one, her true form reveals itself and takes the beast out.
I didn't think it was possible to get worse than Air Master. I was wrong. So horribly, horribly wrong. Divergence Eve has the dubious honor of being one, if not the, worst thing I've ever seen in my life. This is the ugliest, least interesting, lamest show I've seen in a very long time, and that's putting it nicely. Divergence Eve centers around a vapid, personality-free girl with blue hair and nature-defying breasts (every girl in this show has gigantic breasts. There's one, named Kotoko, who looks like she's 10 years old and therefore does not have Z-cup sized mammaries, but she dies in the first episode, so they solved that problem) who has some connection to the gigantic, poorly-designed Ghouls that show up inside “gravity rifts” in space. When she fights one, she transforms into this huge ugly CG monstrosity and destroys it, but not before her clothes get ripped off. Over half of the episode is comprised of people (okay, okay, two strange-looking men and a boatload of hyper-endowed females) shouting incomprehensible technobabble at eachother. It was difficult to discern what was actually going on, since most of the technobabble was, I believe, intended to disseminate plot information, but since none of it made any sense, I was totally lost. Story problems aside, this show has the absolute worst CG I've ever seen. There are fan-made Babylon 5 episodes that have better CG work than this abomination. To make things worse (if that were possible), the show has serious color palette and design problems, and the entire thing is bathed in hideous, contrasting shades of green and blue and black. It's aesthetic diarrhea, and if you have any sense about you, you'll avoid this show. I think this is as bad as it gets, although there's always something out there to prove me wrong.
Every preview guide must have at least one series that goes above and beyond the call of duty to make Zac and I hate our jobs. The spring had Mouse, the summer had Air Master, and the midsummer guide has Divergence Eve. This series has nothing even remotely interesting or worthwhile, putting it at the top of the 'oh my god I cannot believe they made this anime' list.
Most 'mecha in space' shows have decent production values, enough to make the mecha fights look good. Divergence Eve's effects team (with probably consisted of two kittycats and maybe one of those drinking birds) decided to ignore this and instead incorporated computer "effects" that would make Reboot look impressive in comparison. The outer space scenes are choppy and try to incorporate detail that the computers could not handle, resulting in a confusing mess of colors and textures at the climax of the battle. The traditionally animated section of the show is atrocious, made worse by the stale character designs. Did I forget to mention that almost every female in the show has their own set of quadruple D breasts? Are these things given to girls as gifts on their 14th birthday and protect them from being killed early on in the show (the only girl who died was also the only one without a set)? The lack of personalities forces the viewer to identify the girls according to their hair color, while the two male characters could easily be renamed 'old guy' and 'young guy'. The music finishes up the list of Eve's atrocities by being unmemorable and unable to ease the suffering of the viewers. If you have a choice between watching this show and having teeth removed without painkillers, I'd suggest the latter of the two.
Shiina's decidedly mundane life takes a turn for the bizarre during a fateful summertime trip to her grandparents' house. Shiina, determined to be a more outgoing person, dares herself to swim all the way to a Shinto shrine out in the ocean; when she does, she discovers a strange starfish-like creature that later shows up outside her grandparents' home and offers the girl a ride through the sky. Later, a strange girl with tribal markings appears, riding a giant sea dragon. Just what the heck is going on here?
Based on the somewhat-popular manga Shadow Star, Narutaru is an interesting and unique little show with some unfortunate pacing problems that prevent it from being a breakout success right off the bat. Cute and charming, Narutaru focuses on a fairly common girl who enters a strange world of fantasy and excitement, and while we've seen this plot done and redone a million times over, Narutaru throws a few curveballs at the start and has potential to be something special. The little starfish guy Shiina digs up is cute and enigmatic, and the show has some real mysteries about it, but you don't get a good sense of the series' scale with the first episode. There are some severe pacing issues to be dealt with as well; virtually nothing happens in the first half of the episode, and then a few events pop up later, but they all happen at such a deliberate, slow pace, I found myself struggling to keep awake. If Narutaru sped things up a little more and gave out a bit more plot in each episode, the show would truly shine. Visually the show is something of a mixed bag. The character designs aren't as pleasing as they are in the manga, which I've heard is much darker in tone than this show (hence why hardcore fans of the original comics are decidedly disappointed with the anime version); I can't help but think that a darker tone for a show with a workable and interesting premise like this one would have been a better way to go. Narutaru is one of the few decent shows this season, so keep an eye out for it when it comes to the states.
Narutaru is a masterpiece when compared to the previous sub-par series, even when it's nothing more than a sweet and slow children's show. This first episode follows Shiina as she visits the island that her grandparents live on. The viewers are immediately treated with a visually pleasing string of scenes that emphasize the slow and quiet life on this island. The animation and character design are basically the quality you'd expect from a children's show, but this helps to emphasize the innocent nature of this series. The screenwriters did an incredible job establishing Shiina without a lot of awkward dialogue and have established her as an innocent and spirited girl for whom the younger audience can identify with and admire.
The scenes between Shiina and her grandmother, as well as with her friend Satoru, are incredibly sweet and touching moments (Shiina at one point comments that the earth would be the only canvas large enough to draw all her dreams upon). This show isn't without its flaws; there are pacing issues, and a seemingly rushed introduction of random fantasy elements at the end of the episode. The first half of the episode, while beautiful, dragged a lot and the music emphasized the peacefulness a little too much. The fantasy elements, including a starfish that can turn into a flying surfboard, seem forced and rushed. The audience doesn't need to see the beginning of three or four storylines forced into the last five minutes of the episode when these elements could've been introduced later on. Even with these flaws, the show is an enjoyable treat in an otherwise lacking list of new shows.
Maiku is pretty happy with his life; he has his own place, and raises money for rent with his programming skills when he isn't at high school. Life gets turned upside down when a girl with his same eye color named Miina shows up at his doorstep, claiming to be his long-lost twin sister! They both have the same childhood photograph, but can Maiku stand this unwelcome houseguest? To top it all off, a third girl with the same eyecolor named Karen shows up; they can't possibly all be related, can they?
I really expected to hate this show, but thanks to excellent production design and less-than-terrible writing, I didn't. Onegai Teacher was a gigantic smash hit of epic proportions in both the US and Japan, and this sequel series will no doubt please fans of the original; for newbies to the premise, it might be a bit of a stretch, but it's far from being a bad show. It seems to be cursed with the “forbidden incestuous love” thing that a few other shows this season seem to be stricken with, but it's fairly obvious that the ‘twins’ will wind up being related in species only, so it's forgivable, provided they clear the air before too long. The character designs for the show are extremely well-done and the animation is handsome, to be sure. Fluid, smooth, and constantly on-model, Onegai Twins clearly had a lot of money dumped into it. The color palette is vibrant and a joy to watch. That's not to say the show isn't fairly vapid and routine; the character interactions are nothing new. The main character is your typical antisocial type, and is unfortunately written to be a total jerk. He won't allow Miina, who is exceedingly polite, to stay in his big, empty house with lots of extra space. Why not? She can clean and cook.. oh, he's written to be a jerk, that's why. There's really no other reason for it, which is sloppy on the part of the screenwriter. There are a few contrived bits in which sexual tension is artificially produced, but like every other shounen romance on the planet, these moments have to exist to please the fanboys (I can hear it now: “Oh, Miina-chan, he's touching your breast!”), so it's pointless to complain about them. The plot isn't totally uninteresting and while the “cute girl shows up on guy's doorstep and wants to live with him” premise has been done to death, this show manages to make it somewhat entertaining again. Basically, if you liked Onegai Teacher, you'll be pleased as punch with Onegai Twins. For those of you that found Onegai Teacher to be a creepy exercise in Japanese fetish pandering, Onegai Twins might be a little more bearable, but you'll still be better off finding something else.
The sequel to Onegai Teacher is a bag of mixed nuts that will have fans of the original going... well, nuts. Maiku lived a fairly normal life by himself before Miina and Karen came along, both claiming to be his long lost twin. There is little doubt that the incestuous moments from the first episode will continue to prevail throughout the rest of the series. The two main characters are the epitome of 'pushy, annoying girl' and 'sweet and innocent girl' that are constantly being employed by shows like this to satisfy the fanboys' desires, and I can't say these personalites are any more engaging here than they are in the myriad other shows like this one. This series, however, does have some redeeming qualities. Maiku is a realistic and likable character who supports himself while going to school. He politely refuses any advances and doesn't play games with other people's emotions. The animation is smooth and easy on the eye, while the character designs are very nice. The music compliments the events perfectly and works as a great distraction if you grow bored with the 'whoops, your towel fell off!' moments. If you've never seen Onegai Teacher or didn't like it, I'd suggest giving Twins a shot. For fans of the original, you've got another series to obsess over.
Subeka Miyamo no Cosmos-sou
Shizuo lead a fairly normal life until Tanpopo, a girl claiming to be from somewhere extremely exotic, shows up with a ‘transform belt’ that will allow Shizuo to turn into a strange-looking heroic robot with the power to stop the bizarre supervillains that are turning up in his hometown! He'll get a little help from a mysterious female superhero, and it's revealed that at the end of the day when the silly costumes come off and the heroic theatrics are over, all of these crazy characters – heroes and villains alike – live in the same apartment complex!
There are a lot of parodies in the anime world today, and while Cosmos-sou is one of them, it manages to avoid the pitfalls that so many have succumbed to over the years. Cosmos-sou is a highly entertaining, fun little diversion that actually made me laugh, which is a lot more than I can say for nine-tenths of the other anime parody shows out there. The concept of the entire cast living in the same apartment complex after fighting eachother all day is refreshing and unique, and has a lot of potential. I'm surprised this hasn't been done before. The show tries a little hard sometimes, resorting to the “giant letters slamming on the screen” gag that several other comedy shows have used, and rehashing some jokes from other sentai parody shows that, at this point, are no longer funny. The characters are amusing to watch and the show has plenty of funny moments in it, so if you're looking for decent comedy, look no further. The animation is well-done and fluid; the show has decent production values and the color palette is bright and cheerful. The opening theme is especially catchy. If you can forgive how undeniably goofy this show is, you'll probably enjoy it a great deal.
It's nice to see a show that can make fun of itself. Wasting little time on slow introductions, Cosmos throws its characters right into an episode-long battle that involves a lot of confusion as the main character adapts to his new part-time job, saving the world from insane bug-riding bad guys. The character designs are pretty corny, making fun of a wide range of generic battle costumes, while the characters themselves are unique and fun to watch. The end of the episode introduces a running plot (the bad guys and the good guys are living in the same apartment complex) and the series has room to grow as the characters interact among themselves. Any fan of DBZ will enjoy the main character's similarities to the Great Saiyan Man, complete with random funky poses before and after the fight. If you're looking for a good comedy this summer, Cosmos is the show to see.