The Summer 2010 Anime Preview Guide
by Carl Kimlinger,
Mild-mannered librarian by day and evil anime-reviewing supervillain by night, Carl lives in bucolic Oregon (as opposed to urban wasteland Oregon) where he splits his time and admiration between sweet-natured cuteness a la Cardcaptor Sakura and crushing dramas a la Saikano. His motto is: "If I like it, it is by definition good," usually followed by a megalomaniacal laugh.
Asobi ni Ikuyo
Rating: 3 ½
Rating: Crunchyroll is promoting Asobi ni Ikuyo as combining “the best of Sora no Otoshimono and Omamori Himari.” That is nefarious slander. If you were to combine the best of Sora no Otoshimono and Omamori Himari, the resultant show wouldn't be worthy of licking Asobi ni Ikuyo's knee-high cat-boots. Granted, the base description seems to warrant the comparison. The series, in a nutshell, is the story of an alien cat-girl who falls from the sky and flips a geeky kid's life on its head. The girl is Elis and the geek Kio, and that's the basic plot. Now that may sound one meager step beyond the "can I pay some other way, Mr. Pizza Delivery Guy?" plots of cheap porn, but the devil, as they say, is in the details.
Beginning with the action set-piece it kicks off with. An acrobatic clash between a powersuit-clad cutie and crew of seafaring gun-runners, it is violent, well-executed, and surprisingly bleak. Most emphatically not the way you expect a fan-service romp to begin. Having firmly pushed our expectations off balance, the series keeps them that way with bemused perversions of classic tropes. Eris doesn't fall breast-first into Kio's lap; Kio meets her when she's whooping it up with the local elderly at a festival. Yes, Kio later wakes up in bed with her, but when his obligatory girl-next-door childhood friend finds out, she encourages him...and then goes home to her room full of surveillance equipment and reports him to her CIA handler. You don't come across that kind of expectation-defying cheek easily, and with luck the series will maintain it. If played right, Asobi ni Ikuyo could be the first serious contender for the "girl drops in from nowhere and cohabits with loser" crown since Please Teacher! (from which it takes several cues). Sora no Otoshimono and Omamori Himari be damned.
Asobi ni Ikuyo is available streaming on Crunchyroll.
Kuroshitsuji II Episode 2
Review: As promised in its preview, episode two abandons boy-villain mistake Alois...only to make a fluffy filler mistake. Ciel Phantomhive and his demon butler Sebastian Michaels are on the job, building dikes and dams to control flooding on Phantomhive lands. His fiancé, Elizabeth, would rather he take some time to enjoy himself, however, and browbeats him (skill #1 of a child bride: The Tantrum) into a whimsical search for a mythical stag. With the event's social hangers-on betting heavily on whether Ciel and Elizabeth's engagement will survive the day (many would rather it didn't), Ciel and Elizabeth take their search to the river. Sebastian accompanies them, the better to deal with inconveniences such as Ciel's own incompetent servants (who want very badly for Elizabeth to remain Ciel's betrothed) and massive flooding followed by drowning.
The time spent with Ciel and his companions is certainly more enjoyable than that spent with Alois and his little cadre of doom. Ciel's servants add some humor, Elizabeth some cuteness (and sweetness), and Sebastian is campy fun as per usual. And Ciel himself... Well, he is a child genius and all that that entails, but he's reasonably nuanced and sympathetic, plus we've had 20-plus episodes to get used to him. That said, enjoyable is all it is. The stag-hunt is Dixie Cup anime at its worst—paper-thin and completely disposable. Which is fine if you are, say, winding down after successive battles with Jack the Ripper and the Hound of the Baskervilles. When kicking off a new series? Not so much. It may be nice to hang out with the Black Butler gang, but it's a far cry from the Victorian nightmare that the series can and should be. Happily, the next-episode preview promises further improvement. Cross those fingers.
Kuroshitsuji II is available streaming on Funimation.com.
Occult Academy Episode 2
Rating: 4 ½
Review: Episode one established Occult Academy's horror-geek credentials. Episode two is where it must establish its (own) identity. Which it does by stitching together an equal-opportunity occult conspiracy (amongst its components: Nostradamus, ghostly assassins, aliens, and time-tripping espers), wrapping it around a murder mystery and then drenching the whole shebang in its own peculiar brand of absurdity. There are smarter and more sophisticated series out there, but few as fun.
Seeing a naked guy descending from the heavens, Maya makes the obvious assumption—that he's a pervert bent on doing god knows what with her womanhood—and runs for the hills. Unfortunately the naked guy turns up, clothed of course, as the Academy's new history teacher, Uchida. Maya, having inherited the school from her dead dad, gives an extemporaneous job interview. In a room full of convenient medieval weaponry. Uchida manages to avoid skewering with a quick explanation of his very reasonable reasons for showing up naked from the sky (he's a time-traveling apocalypse averter, you see, and there are these pesky wardrobe-destroying temporal storms, you see...), and sets about his apocalypse-averting. Maya, in the meantime, discovers proof of foul play in her father's death and decides to lure his killers out. Using herself and Uchida as bait.
The plot is a joke of course, and the series knows it. It has great fun layering on the incompatible occult-isms ad absurdum, much to Maya's chagrin, and often as not the series' developments are set-ups to sight gags more than actual plot points. Mighty fine sight-gags, mind you (Uchida's high-speed privates-covering waddle in pursuit of Maya is a killer). The murder of Maya's father—and the apparent complicity of the Academy's bureaucracy in it—provides a thread of dark substance to tie together the oddball humor, but as of yet the series isn't allowing it to do more than that. Which works beautifully...for now.
Occult Academy is available streaming on Crunchyroll.
Highschool of the Dead Episode 2
Rating: 3 ½
Review: After the initial rush of zombie doom comes the expansion of the cast. Episode two is where we are introduced in earnest to the supporting players who will be fleshing out Takashi and Rei's little squad of zombie survivors. There's Takagi, Rei's primary rival for Takashi and also a classic tsundere. With her by chance is Hirano Kota, a harmless-looking otaku whose skill with a nail gun turns out to be pretty handy (and kind of scary) when navigating hallways jammed with the walking dead. Elsewhere on campus, but closing in, are ditzy school nurse Dr. Marikawa and her chance companion, ice-cold kendo ace Busujima. Once thrown together, they hammer out a working strategy: grab a car and start checking up on family members stranded in the now-hostile city.
Slowing down to introduce the school's survivors has its felicitous side effects. Unfortunately getting to know the cast isn't one of them. That isn't to say we don't get to know them—we do. It's just that getting to know them isn't a boon. Neither Rei nor Takashi is terribly interesting, Takagi's mood-swingin' tsundere thing is not as appealing as the show apparently thinks, and Nurse Marikawa's ditz shtick wears thin the minute she opens her pouty mouth. Admittedly Busujima is darned cool and accidental sniper Kota does everyone a favor by supplying the series with a sense of humor, but on a whole this is a cast you actually want to see eaten by zombies. Luckily, given the series' demonstrated proclivities, there's a pretty good chance we'll get to see exactly that. All we can do now is to root for the right ones to bite it. The Adventures of Kendo Girl and Otaku Boy in Zombie Land wouldn't be bad.
Highschool of the Dead is available streaming on The Anime Network.
The Legend of the Legendary Heroes
Rating: 3 ½
Review: As the title suggests, there's a little bit of Legend of the Galactic Heroes in this adaptation of Takaya Kagami's fantasy novels. There's also a little bit of Slayers and a lot of RPG. That it combines deadly serious politics with RPG silliness isn't the series' real surprise, though. The real shocker is that it has an honest-to-goodness plot, with an honest-to-goodness point. Yikes.
The plot focuses on Ryner Lute, a powerful magician cursed with demonic eyes that can decipher any spell. When we first meet Ryner, he is an apathetic adventurer searching for relics of the "Legendary Heroes" at the behest of his king Sion Astal. A little Indiana Jones/Lina Inverse business later and we flash back to Ryner as an apathetic student at a military academy for unwanted children. There he meets Sion, then the bastard son of an important noble. Sion knows all about Ryner, and immediately tries winning him over via a compelling mixture of rousing rhetoric and blackmail. His plan is upset, however, when a war breaks out.
The series kicks off with a very Slayers-esque mixture of comradely bickering and dungeon-crawling hijinks. It continues in that vein for most of the first episode, failing all along to inspire confidence. Until, that is, it expends its final breath hinting at something very dark and very ugly hiding in the wings. A hint that episode two follows up on, grooming Sion for his Galactic Heroes rise to power and carefully preparing a life-shaking tragedy for Ryner—a tragedy that promises to be no less powerful for being telegraphed far in advance. And with just that, Legendary Heroes leaps straight from the discard pile into the must-watch queue. You should never underestimate the power of a little direction and purpose. Though that might just be the moe-lowered expectations talking.
Legend of the Legendary Heroes is available streaming on Funimation.com.
Review: Let's brew! After being animated once, Masayuki Ishikawa's manga about a college freshman who can see microbes gets its second spin on the little screen...in live-action. And as it turns out, the live-action version is more of a cartoon than the cartoon ever was. The story begins on the campus of an unnamed agriculture college, where Tadayasu Sawaki is searching for Professer Itsuki, an old friend of his family. Dr. Itsuki is one of a select few who are privy to Sawaki's big secret: he can see microbes. The little buggers are floating everywhere, cracking wise and generally making nuisances of themselves. Itsuki is an expert in fermentation so he has uses for the lad, which is more than can be said for his assistant, scary leather-clad beauty Hasegawa. She doesn't trust Sawaki as far as she can kick him with three-inch spikes and demands a test to prove that he can indeed do what he claims.
Moyashimon the anime was a low-key charmer with a bizarre premise and a too-cool sense of humor. Moyashimon the live-action drama, on the other hand, is a broad comedy about a microbe-spotting goofball and his craaaazy college life. The difference can be blamed pretty much entirely on the cast, all of whom mug shamelessly throughout. The college itself, with its parades of livestock (complete with bovine pooper-scoopers) and human-sized carrots, shares some of the blame. But not much. The anime's college was similarly outrageous, but Sawaki and his unflappable best friend Kei kept things grounded and deadpan funny with their unshakeable sangfroid. Here Sawaki is just one over-acting clown amidst many, and Kei has yet to appear at all. That isn't to say the show isn't funny. It can be quite amusing when it wants to be. But in striving too hard to be so, it ensures that it is neither as effortlessly cool nor, ironically, as funny as its animated predecessor.
Moyashimon live-action is available streaming on Funimation.com.
Review: Another Noitamina winner. Though definitely horror, the series in Fuji TV's anime-for-adults time slot this time around is no Occult Academy lark or Highschool of the Dead splatterfest. It's an atmospheric mystery set in a bucolic backwater, and a patient one at that.
Sotoba is the backwater, a quiet community comprised largely of farmers and town merchants. There's nothing terribly unusual about Sotoba—aside from its ominous primary export, coffins—which is what drives loli-goth wannabe Megumi batty. She wants nothing to do with her hometown. She spends her time strutting about in spiky leather sandals and pink faux-European dresses and deluding herself about her future in the big city. She vocally spurns the attentions of nice local girl Kaori, and treats pretty much everyone else like the hayseeds she thinks they are. Her only interest in Sotoba, besides the out-of-town guy she stalks in her spare time, is the European castle someone built on the hillside above town. One day she walks up to it, and disappears.
That Shiki is about vampires besieging a small town is pretty obvious from the get-go. Even if an early crime scene—in which an outlying community of three dies at staggered intervals without noticing the corpses among them—didn't make that clear, any synopsis you're likely to read will. The real mystery is who the vampires are, what they want, and how the good people of Sotoba will deal with them. The leisurely pace ensures it will be some time before answers are forthcoming, but the series' subtly unsettling atmosphere, funhouse stylization and humorously even-handed characterization promise a spooky good time in the waiting. Too bad about those goofy character designs, though.
Shiki is available streaming on Funimation.com.
Review: The second season of Kuroshitsuji (AKA Black Butler) begins with a mistake. Its first episode focuses exclusively on new butler/boy pair Claude Faustus and Alois Trancy. The mistake is Alois. Alois is one of those cackling little boy villains: all duplicitous spite, whiny mood swings, and casual cruelty. To say that the thought of him as lead character is dispiriting is akin to saying that Hitler was eccentric. Claude fares better, if only because he has so little personality. It's harder to piss your audience off that way. The other new faces fall somewhere in between. They have less personality than Alois and more than Claude and are consequently situated somewhere between the two in intolerability. That no one—not Alois's other servants, nor his scheming uncle—is as vivid or amusing as the characters in season one furthers the sense that the series is dooming itself.
And then Sebastian shows up and everyone breathes a sigh of relief. It isn't hard to root for him as he wreaks havoc on Alois's household and humiliates the little turd and his butler. And when the next-episode preview includes nary of frame of this episode's cast, the relief is complete. It may be too early to count Alois completely out, but at least he won't dominate every episode. Even with him gone, though, the series will still have to work hard to erase his stain and recapture the rich darkness it once laid claim to. Whether it manages will be largely dependent on the skills of new director Hirofumi Ogura and the ability of screenwriter Mari Okada to dig up Victorian ugliness on par with Jack the Ripper and the burning of London to exploit. Cautious optimism seems the proper response.
Oh, and if NAMBLA-friendly butler/boy relationships freak you the hell out, you probably shouldn't watch.
Kuroshitsuji II is available streaming on Funimation.com.
Strike Witches 2
Review: Will you like Strike Witches 2? Ask yourself one question: Did you like Strike Witches 1? Your answer to the second question is your answer to the first. Though the series moves from Gonzo to AIC and there's some shuffling in the cast, season two looks and feels indistinguishable from season one. For fans of this panty-flashing, alien-fighting hodgepodge of historical figures and older-than-the-hills anime tropes, that's good. For the haters...well, it kind of goes without saying: You'll hate it.
Season two begins with the arrival of a new and particularly aggressive variety of Neuroi, one not inclined towards the kind of friendly contact that Fuso witch Yoshika Miyafuji once initiated. Yoshika is back in Fuso, healing the birds and beasts of the world and generally living in rural bliss. When yet another letter from her dead dad arrives, she re-enters the world of the Strike Witches, ultimately heading towards Europe and a new battle with the laser-spouting death machines that have overrun it.
There's something weirdly winning about the unmitigated artificiality of Strike Witches. Sure none of the characters is a character so much as a warped otaku concept of what a character should be, and the same can be said of the humor, plot, and emotions, but the show's so obvious about it, so happily unrepentant, that it's hard to hold that against it. Easier to resent is the resetting of season one's already paltry plot advancement (the Neuroi are re-evilled and Europe re-invaded) and the continued reliance on lolicon fan-service. This is not, nor will it ever be, a "good" series—it's appeal arises mainly from its mixture of pants-less girls, midair combat, and just-this-side-of-lesbian friendships—but it can be an enjoyable one, particularly if you're familiar with the real aces that the series so gleefully perverts.
Strike Witches 2 is available streaming on Crunchyroll.
Highschool of the Dead
Rating: 3 ½
Review: Sam Raimi got his due in Occult Academy; now it's George Romero's turn. Tetsuro Araki's adaptation of Daisuke Satō and Shoji Sato's manga is a dizzyingly violent gut-cruncher of a very traditional nature, a zombie survival story that could have come straight from the progenitor himself. A deadly virus enters Takashi Komuro's school when what appears to be a vagrant bites one of his teachers. The disease quickly kills the infected, and then turns their corpses into rampaging flesh-eating monsters. Takashi witnesses the initial attack and pulls his childhood crush Rei and her current boyfriend Hisashi from class. As panic and the living feasting dead spread through the school, the three head for the observatory, where they believe they can barricade themselves in. On their way there Hisashi gets bitten and their little love triangle takes on a rather nasty edge.
The series works with ruthless efficiency through all of the requisite zombie conventions: The initial attack, the spreading carnage, the fleeing survivors. The comrade turned by the living dead plague, the scenes of panic and selfishness, the uneasy alliances formed to fight the dead. And of course, the gut munching. Araki delivers all the requisite shocks, gore and terror, plus a grueling intensity that is uniquely his own. The series also stirs some romantic angst into the carnage, with surprisingly effective results. Unfortunately, along with his expert handling of tension and violence, a few of Araki's less favorable directorial traits also make themselves known. The series is entirely humorless, even by the earnest standards of Romero's films, and echoes of Death Note's juvenile misanthropy can be seen in the gratuitous scenes of BFFs throwing each other to the cannibalistic hordes and mindless mobs trampling the weak. As effective a work of horror as it is, there are times it leaves you thirsting for the knowing cheek of Raimi and his ilk.Highschool of the Dead is available streaming on The Anime Network.
Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan
Review: Take no risks and you won't fail. Of course you won't succeed either. What you'll get is Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan: something harmless, bland, and devoid of even the spark of creativity. Not a show: a template for a show. This particular template is the one about the reluctant part-demon expected to lead his clan to glory. But he doesn't want to be a yokai lord. He wants to be a Normal Human, with his Normal friends and Normal maybe-girlfriend. But the patriarch of his family won't hear of it and his yokai underlings follow him around incognito. Plus, when stressed, he transforms into a studly demon swordsman who wants nothing but to lead the 10,000 retainers of his demon clan. What a pickle.
You won't find anything offensive or overtly awful here. Main character Rikuo Nura is passably sympathetic, as are his obligatory quirky friends and silly-looking retainers. Nothing unpleasant happens, nothing ugly or ungainly enters the dialogue. Probably the closest the series gets to eliciting an actual negative reaction is when Nura's preening alter ego takes the stage.
But the reaction doesn't last long, and neither do the positive ones. The series is a vast vacuum, a featureless nothingness that never varies from established plots, characters, or settings. While you're unlikely to hate the show (there's nothing there, and thus nothing to hate), neither can you miss the moldy stench that wafts from its every nook and cranny. From Nura's conservative grandpa to his grandpa's duplicitous vizier, from his rebellion against his quarter-demon blood to his friendship/budding romance with the skeptical class cutie, from the tatami-and-rice-paper mansion of his clan to the creaky abandoned school he explores at night: nothing makes it into the show without having been test-run in a small army of anime. You should probably watch one of them instead.Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan is available streaming on VizAnime.com.
Shukufuku no Campanella
Review: Quick, hide your wallets and your adolescent sons! It's another "we took the porn out of your favorite porn game and turned it into a meaningless slice of weirdly sexualized whimsy in hopes of bamboozling you out of more money" show, come to suck the life from you like a fluffy televised succubus. This particular hellspawn involves a handsome repairman and a veritable fleet of pliable women with forgettable designs and poorly defined jobs, all living in a poorly defined, vaguely Renaissance-ish city. After fawning over the repairman for fifteen or twenty minutes, the fleet of women head to the church roof to watch a meteor shower, whereupon one of the meteorites heads right at them. Unfortunately it doesn't turn them all into crackling wicks of burning fat and flesh, but rather hits a tower where it revives a girl who takes the repairman for her Papa.
It's hard to imagine how exactly something like this gets made. I imagine an AIC executive going to the bathroom in Akihabara and spotting a note scrawled in sharpie on the wall: "For a cheapo show call 1-900-Windmill." Or a group of animators in a room full of fragrant smoke and pornographic PC games. "What should we make next?" one asks. Another gestures with his cigar at the third animator, facing a wall stacked with random bishojo games. "I dunno, ask Watanabe, he's got the dart." My favorite scenario, though, is the one in which Aria wanders into a seedy bar, gets wasted and wakes up next to a pair of porn movies and a harem comedy and goes "Oh sh**." However it came into being, this is as vapid, transparent, and terribly written a show as it'll ever be your misfortune to watch. So don't.
Review: Getting by on little more than slick style and a hard-hitting female lead, Occult Academy is, if not the best, certainly the most entertaining of the series to emerge from Animplex's Anime no Chikara project. It concerns an isolated academy dedicated to all things occult, from UFOs to spirits, and the return to it of the deceased principal's daughter Maya. Maya returns for her father's funeral, which given the setting naturally ends in a battle against her father's possessed corpse. Throughout it all, Maya insists everything is a stunt staged by her father, even when she identifies the evil spirit that's using his corpse and banishes it the only way one can: by chopping his dead head clean off. Why the denial? Maya has some serious occult-based family trauma, and she really, really hates the idea of the supernatural. Which means, that guy she sees descend naked from a glowing hole in the sky? Doesn't care for him so much.
Though littered with the requisite shadowy mysteries and evil conspiracies, as well as deadly supernatural violence and dark back-stories, Occult Academyis more Sam Raimi than Tite Kubo. How else do you explain the Three Stooges business mixed in with the fights, the tape-recorded demon-resurrections, the lamia, or the green-goo-and-axes climax? Fans of the Splatter Master's Evil Dead-era work will be delighted by the inventive energy of Tomohiko Ito's horror action-comedy, if not by its graphic content (or lack thereof). If nothing else the series captures the spirit of fun those films had, and the addition of Maya—an axe-wielding, apocrypha-spouting dominatrix—only amplifies it. Surrounded by all that amusement, the bitter power of Maya's confrontation with her "father" is something of a shock, but it's a pleasant one: though fun-loving, it turns out the series is far from frivolous.
Occult Academy is available streaming on Crunchyroll.
Review: Hanamaru Kindergarten too cute and Kodomo no Jikan too disturbing for you? Then Mitsudomoe is the answer to your prayers. Twenty-five minutes of poorly drawn grade-school girls heckling their teacher in a variety of mildly perverse ways: yay. Actually, against all probability, there is a little yay-ness to it.
Basic premise: A new teacher gets his new class of sixth graders, among them the Marui triplets, three very different but equally hellish students. There's Hitoha the antisocial loner, Mitsuba the hardcore sadist, and Futaba the breast-obsessive with mad karate skills. Together they conspire—if unplanned contrariness can be so called—to make rookie teacher Satoshi Yabe regret very much his choice in careers.
The first half of this episode is spent introducing all of the principals via a tricked-out game of musical chairs. Silly, mildly funny, but largely uninteresting. The second half of the episode is split into two further parts, the first of which consists of the three girls trying to hit Yabe in the balls (the better to hook him up with the school nurse) and the second of which revolves around an extended gag about a hamster named Nipples (sample dialogue: "We want to touch Nipples too!"). Crass to be sure, and heavily dependent on worn-till-they're-smooth stereotypes, but also very funny. Think of it as South Park minus the social conscience plus the production values to make the ugly character designs look out of place. The mix of kids and perversion may put some off, but that's their loss. More problematic is that first half of the episode. If the series' comedic success rate stays at fifty percent, it hasn't much of a future.
Ookami-san to Shichinin no Nakama-tachi
Review: JC Staff's fairy tale spoof is everything you want in an action-comedy: funny, clever, a little cool, and a heck of a lot of fun. And a little bit sexy...which doesn't hurt. Sure it's aimed at anime-steeped otakus, but it's entertaining enough that casual viewers may well end up as collateral damage. Ookami Ryoko is our protagonist, a brusque, aggressive girl with a killer right straight and an equally mean stare. Her sidekick is Akai Ringo, a tiny slip of a girl who favors red couture and picnic baskets. Both work for the Otogi Bank. Actually, officially they belong to the school club called the Otogi Bank, but given the ruthless business model their club uses, it's more analogous to a job. They take requests from students and fulfill them on the understanding that the favor must be repaid with a future favor...at usurious favor-rates.
The plot is kind of beside the point though. Basically it's an excuse to bash traditional fairy tales against anime staples like misfit mercenaries and mismatched romances, just to see what comes of it. Strangely, it works. The hybridization of fairy tale characters and anime archetypes is inspired: the Big Bad Wolf as a pugilistic tsundere, Little Red Riding Hood as her secretly scary tyke of a sidekick, Cinderella as a startlingly athletic ex-tennis ace. Even the narrator (Satomi Arai in A Certain Scientific Railgun mode) is a bewitching mixture of Disney voice-of-God and Norio Wakamoto from Hayate the Combat Butler. But the real treat is the way hoary anime obsessions are allowed to pervert Grimmsian classics. Prince Charming (AKA the Prince of Tennis - no relation) doesn't just want to see if the sneaker from his mystery girl fits, she has to kick him in the face like the girl of his dreams. Again, and again, and again. Prince Charming as Prince Masochist. Who knew?
Rating: 3 ½
Review: Seitokai no Ichizon done right: No otaku in-jokes, no shoddy romantic overtones, and plenty of real live humor. Same basic setup though. Takatoshi Tsuda has just begun high-school at a recently integrated girl's school. First day in he is accosted by the student council president, who takes a shine to him and summarily inducts him into the council as vice-president. Given that President Shino Amakusa is freak of nature with wild misconceptions about the male gender (and an oddly academic interest to match), and the other two members—both female—are reasonably determined to have fun at his expense, the position isn't exactly ideal, but Tsuda has the self-possession to swing it. Though he's more of a straight man than a functioning administrator.
Seitokai Yakuindomo removes the adolescent wish-fulfillment from its romantic-comedy premise by chopping the romantic part clean off. For all of Shino's gutter-minded interest in the opposite sex, there is zero romantic tension between her and Tsuda, and even less between Tsuda and the rest of the council. Yakuindomo is only interested in your funny bone, not your heart or your libido. And its knowledge of anatomy is good enough that its intended target ends up under fairly constant assault. Shino's assumptions about men are a kick (apparently real men carry condoms), and her two council-mates toe the line between amusingly odd and irritatingly antic more often than they cross it. Tsuda doesn't supply much humor on his own, but he plays comic foil to the other three with a wry sangfroid that is both funny and endearing. Director Hiromitsu Kanazawa also mixes things up with the occasional pure sight gag and comic stylistic flourish, all while parlaying the four-panel gag-manga pacing into a staccato comic attack.
Review: Given its attachment to the most loathed military force of all time, perhaps SS wasn't the best choice for title postscript. Or was it? Think of it this way: attach initials associated with war crimes to your show, and is there any way it couldn't exceed expectations? If that was the aim, it was a redundant strategy. All anyone really needs to poison their expectations to death is Amagami's plot synopsis, and maybe a little background information. Based on the eponymous (minus the Nazi reference) PS2 dating sim, Amagami SS is the story of Junichi Tachibana, your standard-issue nice guy—complete with personality lobotomy—and his smorgasbord of bishojo stereotypes. He falls for one—confident school idol Haruka Morishima—and his tale of romance begins.
For the first time. Reportedly the series will reboot as each new heroine hooks up with our erstwhile schlub. That's isn't a promise, it's a threat. Watching one girl falling for a horrendously unworthy cardboard cutout of a man: that's bad. Watching girl after girl do it in some hellish harem perversion of Groundhog Day? You could use that to squeeze intel out of prisoners at CIA black sites. The decision removes all potential for romantic drama (after all who cares who a guy hooks up with when he'll eventually hook up with everyone), leaving only the mush. Mush starring the Ghosts of Harem Romances Past no less. It's to the series' credit that it doesn't make the romantic process easy on its cardboard cutout of a man (the episode ends with him rejected yet again), and the girls are pretty in a muted kind of way, but it is hardly up to the golden standard set by the sneakily bittersweet Kimikiss, to say nothing of non-dating-sim romances like Toradora!
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