The Spring 2010 Anime Preview Guide
Zac Bertschy is the executive editor of Anime News Network. He enjoys bunny rabbits and vodka.
House of Five Leaves
Masanosuke is a ronin who's seriously down on his luck; he's been fired by his boss and doesn't have much to his name. His fate changes when he meets Yaichi, who inexplicably hires him on as a bodyguard. Turns out the enigmatic, seemingly carefree Yaichi is part of a small, mysterious band of noble robbers called The Five Leaves, and Yaichi wants Masanosuke – physically imposing but lacking in bravado, still hung up on the Samurai ethos – to join them.
Based on the manga by the same author who penned Ristorante Paradiso, House of Five Leaves is a deliberately paced, elegant Edo period drama that feels unlike anything else this season. It has a certain gentle, breezy quality to it, one that is manifest in the unique, elongated character designs that are so delicately rendered that they feel like pencil sketches. The tone here is decidedly overcast, grey with a little sun shining through, and it's clear this show will focus mostly on character, with Yaichi's insistently carefree, no-strings-attached lifestyle challenging Masanosuke's dedication to his Samurai principles. There isn't anything about this show that feels like it's “trying” for something particularly ambitious; it is, at least at the outset, a simple story told simply.
That said, it may be just a little too ethereal and contemplative for some. Shows that seem to try for little more than floating about in their own sense of place and atmosphere tend to strike some palettes as boring, and although House of Five Leaves succeeds admirably in evoking its period, it won't be for everyone. For now, this first episode holds the promise of an engrossing yet relaxed narrative told by talented storytellers and master artists. It's the best thing this Spring.
House of Five Leaves is available streaming at Funimation.
Kiss x Sis
In the first like 10 minutes of KissxSis, here's what happens:
The hero, Kei, sits in class dreaming about his two young sisters. His classmates express jealousy at how lucky he is, suggesting he gets to bang the two of them.
Kei goes home to his two moe sisters who greet him at the door kneeling and then proceed to flash their breasts at him.
Kei takes a bath, starts thinking about said boob-flashing and gets a boner in the tub.
The two sisters take a break from fixing Kei's dinner to fight over who gets to sniff his dirty gym shorts.
Kei goes to bed and has a dream about his sisters tying him up, grabbing his package and forcing him to feel them up. When he wakes up they're sleeping in his bed.
And then here is what happened next I STOPPED F*CKING WATCHING THIS CREEPY TRASH
Who is this garbage for?! Is A-HYUK LOL INCEST WOKKA WOKKA really that hilarious to the otaku crowd? Is this utterly tasteless, completely unsettling and like undeniably, absolutely stupefyingly creepy, skeevy garbage seriously what the hardcore otaku audience wants? Why would anyone sink THIS LOW? WHY WHY WHY DOES NOT COMPUTE
But hey if Funimation licenses this show they can sell it to the lucrative “mustachioed, balding single guy in his 30s who owns a windowless van” audience! Maybe they can even come up with a clever marketing slogan for it like “Winning the War on Taste and Sanity”!
I am going to drink a liter of vodka and hope its magical memory-erasing qualities scrub all knowledge of KissxSis from even the darkest cracks in my brain.
Arakawa Under the Bridge
Ichinomiya Kou is all set to become the heir to the vast and highly profitable Ichinomiya Corporation; he's at the top of his class and has trained himself since childhood to never, ever be indebted to anyone. Until one day a gang of punk kids steals his pants and hangs them from a girder on a bridge and, while rescuing said pants, he winds up falling into the river. Kou's life is saved by an incredibly strange blonde girl named Nino who lives under the bridge. Nino claims to be from Venus and pals around with some other weirdos, including a guy in a Kappa suit, and won't accept any form of payment from Kou – who is obsessed with repaying his debt to Nino – with the exception of one thing: she asks him to fall in love with her.
Arakawa Under The Bridge is very clearly based on a gag manga, and gag manga adaptations either work or they don't, and I'm not entirely convinced this one does. It's more obnoxious than it is funny; the hyperventilating lead character isn't particularly compelling and the situation is so contrived and obvious (gosh, I wonder if this character who's been going on and on about how obsessed he is with not being indebted to anyone will wind up being indebted to the weird girl?!?) that it's tough to care at all what's happening here. Most of the humor is based around Kou overreacting to something or Nino presenting yet another quirky weird quirky quirk, which is funny once or twice but not dozens of times; they've already worn those gags out by the end of this first episode, which doesn't bode well for the rest of the series.
I'm not entirely sure what the director was going for, either – nearly every single gag (hell, every minor plot point) is punctuated by a slow-motion shot or a bunch of dramatic scenery shots in rapid succession and it really makes the show seem overblown, like it's trying too hard to be weird and zany, and it just doesn't work. When a 22-minute episode feels padded out, as though they're just filling time by focusing too long on one predictable not-very-funny gag after another, there's a problem. I'd recommend rewatching Cromartie High School instead and skipping this one altogether. It's not horrible, it just fails at whatever it's trying to achieve.
Kaichou wa Maid-sama!Rating: 4.5
On paper, the premise of Kaichou wa Maid-sama! Sounds like every godawful creepy misogynist otaku “comedy” ever –the kind of thing I usually run far, far away from. As it happens, it's actually a shojo romantic comedy, and it's a pretty good one, too. So far at least, it's the highlight of the new season.
Misaki is the headstrong, self-made student body president at Seika High, a school overrun with slovenly, poorly-behaved boys. She takes it upon herself to clean the place up, ruling with an iron fist, enforcing the dress code, confiscating suspicious manga and in general keeping the boys in check while coddling the school's limited female population. She's got a secret, though; her family's flat broke and living in a run-down apartment, and in order to make ends meet she works in a maid café. Usui Takumi, the Coolest Boy In School ™, stumbles across Misaki in her work costume one day and immediately takes an interest; he won't sell her out, but he certainly plans on using this information to his advantage.
What could've been kind of a nasty series is, ultimately, a pretty sweet, surprisingly funny little romantic comedy with very strong characters, excellent comic timing and a solid, well-written and entertaining story. There's kind of a Boys Over Flowers vibe going on here; the hints of contentious romance between the self-reliant and likable female lead and the aloof but secretly kind-hearted handsome guy definitely feels similar, although there's a bit more comedy involved this time and the male lead is a lot more endearing (and at least in this episode, less borderline abusive). The whole maid café thing is treated like an unfortunate but necessary job and at no point is milked for fanservice, which is really refreshing.
The production values are solid, too; although this isn't exactly a challenging series to animate, the pleasant, distinctive character designs all stay on-model. If you're in the mood for a romantic comedy, you can't really go wrong here; it's like a throwback to the lighthearted anime romcoms of the 90s with a thoroughly modern twist and some genuinely fun characters who have real potential for depth. I'm looking forward to more.
Ichiban Ushiro no DaimaoRating: 2.5
Ichiban Ushiro no Daimao is another in a line of anime series like last year's Asura Cryin', where the writers just kinda throw a whole bunch of tropes from a few different genres into a pot and turn the heat up and see how it turns out. Fortunately, Ichiban Ushiro no Daimao isn't nearly the disaster Asura Cryin' turned out to be (nor does it attempt to cram nearly as much in to the first episode).
The premise is thus: Akuto Sai is a hapless transfer student at
Hogwarts Constant Magic Academy and when the Sorting Hat Cigar-Smoking Magic Job-Determining Crow tells him his future occupation will be the Demon King, the whole school freaks out and starts treating him like the antichrist. 100 years previous, some other Demon King ravaged the land and screwed everything up, and now Akuto is seemingly destined to walk that same path. Along the way he meets Hattori, a sword-wielding girl in a short skirt who follows a strange religion and has a combative relationship with Akuto; there are a bunch of other magic girls in short skirts that they stuff in near the end of the episode and it's pretty clear this is all going to get way too complicated for its own good in short order.
Still, it's not terrible. Most of the jokes fall flat (with the exception of the crazy rumors constantly being whispered by the student body in the background about Akuto's demon powers), there's some awkward fanservice and it's a little tough not to yawn at the oh-so-zany proceedings, but the lead character is somewhat likable and his particular situation has the potential to be entertaining at the very least. They are piling on the plot devices and gimmicky supporting characters a bit thick in this first episode (not to mention the promotional art seems to suggest this is going to take a wrong turn toward crappy-harem-comedytown pretty quickly), but there's just enough going on to make me want to check out the next episode. There's nothing new here, but it's not awful. The animation's not bad either. Give it a spin if you're bored.
B Gata H Kei
Rating: spro-oi-oi-oingggg!! aoooooogggaaahh!
Here's the premise of B Gata H Kei: Yamada is an abnormally pretty, sex-obsessed 15-year old about to enter High School. Her goal? Bang 100 dudes! But fate has other plans in store for the perverted Yamada, who's too embarrassed to sleep with an experienced guy, convinced she won't be any good in the sack. So she meets Kosuda, a virgin, and is determined to have him be her first, even if he's too timid to return her aggressive advances.
Yep. That's what this show is about.
B Gata H Kei is yet another in a long line of crappy anime sex comedies that seem to rely completely on lame “envelope-pushing” boner jokes and increasingly underage girls who have oh-so-wacky issues with sex. Last season we had Chu-Bra!, which pretended to be about female puberty but was really just an excuse for otaku to leer at a high school girl who wouldn't shut up about her panties; B Gata H Kei at the very least tosses out the pretense (so there probably won't be any “no guys it's really a show about [insert well-meaning but obviously bullsh*t topic here] and it isn't just creepy otaku bait!!” arguments) and is mostly a series of unfunny tiresome gags about how badly Yamada wants to nail Kosuda. Surely there's a segment of fandom out there that will find this gut-bustingly hilarious, but it's about as funny and inspired as those straight-to-DVD “National Lampoon Presents” movies with titles like “Sorority Ass Party 2: Boner School”, except it's an anime so of course everyone's underage, which means not only is it just a bunch of lame sex gags, you're going to feel like a total creep watching it. Fun, right?
In the middle of the episode they (of course) try to tack on some cheap “tender” moments that suggest the budding relationship between Yamada and Kusoda is really an innocent one between two kids who are just so gosh-darned confused about sex and might really have feelings for eachother outside of Yamada's burning desire to jump Kusoda's bones as her first conquest toward her goal of boning a hundred other guys (every time she brings up that plot device my stomach churned a little). It doesn't work, and they're not fooling anyone, especially when the climactic joke is that just before their first kiss Kusoda gets an erection and Yamada – even though she's a sex-crazed nymph – just can't handle even seeing it! Oh, the hilarity!
Sometimes these sex comedies have weirdly high production budgets and so the animation winds up being pretty good, but that isn't the case here; this was produced on the cheap, so the animation is mediocre at best. The character designs are all really generic and uninspired too, so it's not particularly fun to look at either. This is lame, lazy junk aimed at some phantom audience out there that I'm not part of. Skip it if you value your personal dignity.
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