The Winter 2012 Anime Preview Guide
Bodacious Space Pirates episode 2
Rating: Still a 5
The second episode of Bodacious Space Pirates is in no hurry to get to the intergalactic action – instead, it's focusing on building believable characters. It opens with an important moment between Ririka and Kato wherein Ririka takes her out to the desert to teach her how to shoot, and more importantly, impart upon her some wisdom: that the ‘power of being a pirate’ is not having to follow anyone's rules and deciding for yourself when to pull the trigger. The back half of the episode focuses on an upcoming “practice cruise”, wherein fake-teacher Kane (actually the helmsman of the Bentenmaru) is taking his class on their first training mission in the school's “practice ship” (which is actually one of seven “legendary original pirate ships”, capable of cloaking itself in space) and this becomes an opportunity for Kato and Chiaki to start growing their innate ship-handling capabilities, solving problems together (in this case, a series of electronic attacks).
Okay, so we didn't rush right into space and Kato didn't immediately don her pirate captain's hat and select a space parrot and a space pegleg, but that's OK. What's happening here is sort of the opposite of what happened in this season's Lagrange – we're being shown that Kato is a competent and skilled problem-solver, someone who might not know her way around a bridge exactly but is a fast study and an enthusiastic leader. When she inevitably winds up in control of the Bentenmaru, we won't be rolling our eyes at the fact that she magically knows her way around a navigation system in spite of only barely having heard of pirates before all this. It's character building! Good science fiction has a lot of that, and it's nice to see that Bodacious Space Pirates cares enough to give us this stuff. The next episode preview suggests that the practice cruise on the Odette II will trigger something in Kato and draw her toward the abyss of space, maybe spark that yearning for adventure. This is still the best new show this season. I'll be there!
Bodacious Space Pirates is available streaming on Crunchyroll.
Listen To Me, Girls, I'm Your Father!
Rating if you think this sounds hilarious and sexy: probably 6 out of 5 or something
Rating if this makes you nauseous: stay way, Redline is out on bluray next week right?
Alright, here we go: Yuuta is an ordinary college freshman whose older sister is married to a guy with two younger daughters and has one of her own. He gets drafted into taking care of the girls while they're away.
In the meantime he's pursuing an eccentric girl he met during a strange hazing ritual for the “sightseeing club”, and she keeps putting him through these “tests” to see what his particular sexual peccadilloes are. The episode ends with Yuuta showing up at his sister's house, wherein he meets the three girls he's going to take care of: super young one, preteen blonde one (I assume – it's hard to tell how old she's supposed to be) who immediately grabs his arm and we get the “boob squashed against arm” closeup , and then the teenage one who he walks in on while she's changing. A-hyuk. The end.
So this is the latest in the “incest and statutory hijinks” genre (is it a genre? Maybe just a trend!) where the “comedy” comes from all the inappropriate and suggestive stuff that's going on. This first episode is padded out pretty hard and they spend a lot of time on what feel like pointless conversations between Yuuta and Raika, the college girl he's interested in, a relationship that feels like it was put in here so he'd have some option *other* than becoming Uncle Bad Touch at his sister's house. But they immediately set up the fact that he's going to have at least some manner of confusing feelings and “sexy” antics with the oldest daughter at least, and the thing is chock-full of fanservice (all the character designs have that weird-looking “rosy joint” thing going on that looks more like a strange skin condition than anything else) so yep, this is one of those shows. If the premise sounds like it's full of dreamy promise and the potential for gut-bustin’ “oh no he didn't!” moments to you, by all means, dig in. If the premise makes your stomach turn, stay away, there is no hidden quality here. Let's move on, shall we?
Search Your Feelings, Girls, You Know It To Be True! is available streaming on Crunchyroll.
Lagrange – The Flower of Rin-ne
Genki high school girl Madoka Kyono is a superstar athlete at school. She meets a soft-spoken monotone girl with short hair and an anime sci-fi leotard who asks if she can pilot a giant robot. Enter giant defense structure fighting off big alien robot invaders. She climbs inside the robot, which at first is on autopilot and she's losing the fight, but once she asks for manual control, she takes the robot invader down, much to everyone's surprise.
So that's it. We have literally seen this exact same premise, with some elements swapped around or changed or with some manner of a twist as to avoid plagiarism lawsuits, about a half million times at this point. What we want from this formula is something that makes it stand out even a little bit, some kind of a hook, because “same old bullshit high school mecha pilot vs. giant alien invaders who aren't what they seem” is no longer a hook. Lagrange does not have that. It seems to be under the impression that because Madoka is kind of a fun-lovin’ athletic type, that's different enough, so it's cool to just run through the rest of these tropes because people will be so enamored with her winning attitude and salmon-colored track suit that they won't notice they're watching the 500,000th photocopy of this formula. Well, you can't get anything past us, Xebec!
Maybe they're thinking that letting us know the aliens aren't really aliens – it's a fleet of mecha being controlled by this big invisible spaceship that's hiding out on the moon, staffed by a Mysterious Society of Dudes who all have different pastel hair colors – is the big hook, but that can't be, because nobody is intrigued by Mysterious Society of Dudes in the first episode, and that's also a totally worn-out thing to have in your giant robot show. It is kinda funny that the bad guys’ mecha invader suits are clearly heavily “inspired” by the machine design in Tron: Legacy, but other than that, there's nothing here aside from some pleasant music.
There's a moment early in the episode where Madoka shows up at her home and her older sister is there, who yells at her to pull her panties down (one of many strangely awkward, forced moments of fanservice in this show, as though it's not comfortable sexually exploiting the lead character but knows it has to) and checks her ass, clearly looking for some kind of mark (which is obviously setting up the fact that her sister works for the big defense thing and knows Madoka is one of the chosen few who can pilot thzzzzzzz zzzzzz zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz). For a moment I was hoping she'd pull out a scanner and beep a barcode on Madoka's butt, slap her forehead and say something like “Ah, shit, you're supposed to be the plucky sidekick girl who helps the angst-ridden teen pilot, unaware he has innate robot-piloting abilities in the postapocalyptic mecha combat series Fantasia-C ~kami no tsubasa~ which doesn't air until NEXT winter! Christ, we need a new filing system. ” and the show would just end there.
This show is like a kid who showed up to the science fair with the same old baking soda volcano and put an album on you kinda like in the background. Get some new ideas, kid, for reals.
Lagrange is available streaming at VizAnime.com.
So once upon a time, according to the ~spooky ghost voices~ that narrate the top of Another, there was a girl named Misaki in Class 3 of the 9th grade who one day up and died. One student pointed to her desk and said “She's not dead, she's right there.” All the other classmates laughed and joined in, claiming to also be able to see Misaki. But it was all a big joke… OR WAS IT?! (spoiler: it was not all a big joke)
Cut to 1998 and a countryside hospital where we're introduced to Kouichi, who has just moved in with his extended family after his mom croaked and pops ran off to do research in India. He's in the hospital with a collapsed lung, gazing out the window when he's visited suddenly by three would-be classmates from his new high school, who claim they're there as the welcoming committee but really they're there to have awkward pauses and uncomfortable silences in order to suggest something ~spooky~ is really going on. He runs in to another classmate in the elevator; she has red eyes, wears an eyepatch, speaks in official “ghost girl monotone” and is even carrying a creepy ball-jointed doll. WHO COULD IT BE?
Naturally once Kouichi shows up to school he immediately sees the ghost girl from the elevator, Misaki, sitting in the corner, with his classmates ignoring her and instead putting on this big “everything's normal here!” show for him. But obviously a whole lot is wrong with Class 3, as evidenced by the parade of weird little clues that float past Kouichi until he finally sees Misaki on the roof sketching something during PE and goes up there to investigate. She tells him that his classmates associate his name with death, and that Class 3 is “close” to a grisly murder, and that she should stay away from her. If he did, Another would be a really short show, I'd wager.
Alright, so this is the horror show this season and boy is the artistry here sharp. The character designs are nice and distinctive and so is the background work (gloomy as it is); the show's peculiar beauty makes up for the relatively limited animation, which seems intentional. The music is really pretty as well, even with the out-of-place pop opening song. This first episode is all atmosphere-building, and thus is paced like a snail race; your appreciation of this show will begin and end with just how intrigued you are by the mystery they're barely starting to tell. Personally, I felt it was trying a little too hard, to the point where I couldn't take it seriously. Creepy dolls, crows everywhere, constant overcast skies, dead trees, more than one “I'm so scared and/or stunned my pupils are dilating” shots. I half expected an inset of Vincent Price rubbing his hands to slowly pop in from the corner right (note to Crunchyroll: if something like that could be added in post to future episodes, I would love you forever) It's a slow, quiet show, but I wouldn't call it “subtle” by any stretch. The whole thing is well-crafted enough, however, that if you're a fan of horror anime, you should give this one a shot. At the very least, the story is straightforward enough to where you won't feel like there was a visual novel or something you should've played before attempting to watch it, and given the way a lot of horror anime are these days, that low barrier of entry is quite welcome.
Another is available streaming on Crunchyroll.
Bodacious Space Pirates
The Space Pirate Captain Gonzaemon Kato is dead, and two members of his loyal crew from the pirate ship Bentenmaru have come to a frontier planet to recruit his only living heir, a wide-eyed, naïve high schooler named Kato who moonlights at a retro maid café. She's reluctant, of course, and has a hard time believing there's such a thing as “legal pirates” (the crew of the Bentenmaru has a Letter of Marque, naturally), but adventure finds her soon enough when she's pursued by a gang of thugs who show up at her workplace. Good thing enigmatic, cold-eyed nerd Chiaki is there to save her.
Okay so the name suggests that this is some oversexed cheeseball fanservice show more concerned with cleavage than storytelling, but here's the big shocker: this is a competent, rousing bit of sci-fi action-adventure that has a ton of promise. The tone is a little hard to describe, but I'd compare it to Martian Successor Nadesico (the two shows share a director, so that's no surprise, but it's nice to know he's still got it) – it has a real sense of adventure to it, and the sci-fi worldbuilding is done very well without dumping a ton of exposition on you. It's got a decent sense of humor but takes itself just seriously enough to where you find yourself wrapped up in the story. The lead character is fun to watch; she's naïve, but the kind of bumbling that's lovable and leaves a lot of room for character growth down the road. The story takes a few strange twists – it's not really clear why the helmsman from the Bentenmaru poses as Kato's substitute teacher, for example, and while we know she'll eventually become a space pirate, this episode doesn't get her very close to becoming one, but hey, that's what the rest of the show is for. The animation's really nice, the closing theme in particular is great, the art design is lovely and the show isn't all larded up with the sort of pandering garbage you'd expect from a show called “Bodacious Space Pirates”. I liked it a lot – my only gripe is that episode 2 isn't out right now so we have a better idea of exactly where this is all going to go. This is all potential, and they're in no rush to tell the story so we'll have to wait and see, but so far this is wins the prize for “show that had no business being good and wound up being probably the best new thing of the season”.
Bodacious Space Pirates is available streaming on Crunchyroll.
High School DxD
Hyoudou and his boob-obsessed pals are some of the first male students at Kuou Academy, a formerly girls-only school where there are a lot of boobs. There's an old school building that houses the occult club, where a bunch of demon girls with different hair colors and breast sizes hang out. They take an interest in him, so Yuuma, the demon girl with the second-largest breasts (and black hair, that's important, because if she had red hair she'd look exactly like Rias, the leader of the demon girls) pretends to be someone from a neighboring school and begs him to go out with her. Then she kills him, and he begs for his life, so Rias saves him, and after another battle with a “fallen angel” wearing a trenchcoat, Hyoudou is Rias’ slave, and she's sleeping in the nude in his bed the next morning. To which he responds with “WHAAAAAAT?!” and we're all supposed to find that hilarious.
So this is a fanservice show, one that yet again plays with the master/slave relationship, except this time the female character is the one in the “master” role. Is that progress? I don't know. She's naked for what seems like most of her screen time in the episode , and is introduced to us by stripping in front of the camera and showering. Maybe this is the fanservice show that caters to dudes who want to be dominated, because that particular fetish hasn't quite been mined to death yet. I'm not sure – I have no clue where the story is going, but they really want you to think that all the bloody “death ‘n demons” stuff is super edgy and totally dark, so I can't imagine this show not just wallowing in overwrought angsty nonsense when it isn't overanimating the breasts of every female character.
I'll throw this out there – can we start some kind of charity where for only fifty cents a day you can sponsor an anime screenwriter's sex life? It feels like shows like this could at least have the potential to be better if they weren't so singularly focused on pleasing the “craven middle-school horndog” mindset. This show feels particularly juvenile about the whole thing – the main character is so obsessed with tits that he comments during his death scene that he'd “be OK dying if he just got to fondle some boobs first”. Maybe we need some sort of program where you could contribute a monthly donation to ensure that the guy who writes this stuff gets laid at least 45 minutes before he starts working, and thus doesn't load up his entire pilot episode with “BOOBS BOOBS BOOBS BOOBS BOOBS”.
Some people just need a release, you know?
Senki Zesshou Symphogear
Alright, here's what happens: there's a super popular pop duo called Zweiwing that attracts a massive audience for their latest bombastic concert, and among the attendees is a girl named Tachibana, a girl with the worst haircut in the world who is attending her first live show. An evil alien (?) menace called The Noise shows up partway through and we learn that Zweiwing is actually a force for combating this menace, and they bust out a bunch of 90's style power armor and fight back, with splashy title cards for each attack filling the screen. Tachibana is wounded fatally in the fight and the redheaded member of Zweiwing saves her life by sacrificing her own, singing a particular song that I guess kills her and the enemy but saves everyone else. Or something.
Flash forward to present day where Tachibana, now enrolled in a prestigious music academy and obsessed with Tsubasa, the surviving member of Zweiwing who's still releasing albums and apparently also attending the same music academy, even though her character design suggests she's at least 10 years older than everyone else. Tachibana runs to the store to buy Tsubasa's latest CD, only to find herself ambushed by The Noise, and once she's cornered, she starts singing a song that awakens her power, meaning a bunch of 90's style power armor starts growing out of her back and she gets vampire fangs and plant vines start growing in her heart. Oh, and they're using a bunch of tired Nordic words to describe all this. When, oh when, will they get sick of Nordic fantasy words?
As you can tell by that synopsis, this show is all over the place; not only in the storytelling but especially in the aesthetic. It's hard not to just flat-out call this an ugly-ass show, even though it's so clearly ambitious; the animation would be considered “good” if the director would stop with the incredibly unflattering camera angles. I haven't seen this much inappropriate and unnecessary Dutch angle use since Battlefield Earth, and there's some shot composition in this episode that makes even that classic turd look good by comparison. There's a ton of tilted, awkward closeup and the animation doesn't really hold up; the big bombastic concert scene that opens the episode isn't fluid or consistent enough to reach whatever level of visual splendor they're going for, so it looks like it's badly rotoscoped. The biggest offender by far, however, is the color palette; whoever put together the art design for this must've been colorblind, because good lord – the alien creatures are all blinding neon, and everything else in the world is saturated; radioactive orange, purple and green seem to dominate the way this show looks. It's hideous. It all kinda screams “we had a bunch of money and didn't know anyone who knows how to make a show look attractive at all”. What a waste.
For the most part Symphogear seems to mostly be about selling soundtracks and Figmas and whatnot; there are something like 3 musical numbers in this episode alone, and the characters are animated so you know they're actually singing during battle, which looks really goofy, but they really want you to buy those soundtracks, so whatever. It's a big pile of mediocre ideas and crass commercialism in a bizarrely ugly package. Skip it.
The Knight In The Area
Kakeru loves soccer. So does his asshole brother, Suguru, who also happens to be Japan's star player at the moment thanks to a decisive winning kick in a major game against Brazil. So Kakeru – humbled and in a bizarrely obsessive show of worship for his brother's skill – winds up managing his high school team instead of playing, convinced he'll never outshine his superstar brother. His brother, as previously mentioned, is a colossal asshole and thus has become cold and abusive toward his little brother as a result, insisting that he's a coward for running away from the field.
Then a pretty girl from Kakeru's past shows up, nicknamed Seven. There's a love triangle thing going on here between Seven and the two brothers, although she clearly prefers Kakeru. Turns out she's transferred back to their high school and will also manage the soccer club alongside Kakeru.
So all this leads up to Kakeru inevitably being forced back on to the field by his brother, who won't let him out of it – Kakeru's gonna play forward whether he likes it or not. So now they're on the same team, with Seven managing. Let the sports drama begin!
The Knight in the Area is a good-natured, earnest little show – it's very unassuming, paced pretty well, and focuses on character more than the game itself (which is nearly every sports anime, if we're being honest). The setup here is interesting enough if not mind-blowingly original or unexpected, and the characters – well, Kakeru at least – are compelling. It's enough to make me want to know if he learns how to use his left in the game (prediction: he will!) and like, wins a decisive match against a dangerous rival team during a penalty kick or something (prediction: this will also happen at some point!). This is good Sunday afternoon watching, something calming and entertaining to watch after the game. It doesn't quite have the grit of something like Giant Killing, and seems less interested in soccer than in the relationships between its leads, but hey, that's cool. I like what I've seen so far. It's also nice that stuff like this has found a home streaming since the audience for it here is comically limited and a DVD release would be retail suicide, so hey, at least we have a place to watch it legally, right?
One more thing: the production values are OK, ranging from decent for TV anime to kinda weak, but they do seem to drop as the episode goes on; look out for a shot near the end of the episode where Kakeru is passing a ball back and forth with another kid for some of the least convincing ball animation since Hoop Days!
The Knight in the Area is available streaming on Crunchyroll.
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