The Spring 2013 Anime Preview Guide Bamboo Dong
Bamboo is the writer of both Shelf Life and The Stream, a job that fills all her waking hours with the delights that only anime can bring. When she's not watching anime, she enjoys cooking, watching a variety of professional team sports, and being a coffee snob. She's currently very excited to finally be seeing a light at the end of her graduate school tunnel.
Rating: 2 (out of 5)
Review:For a good ten minutes, I had faith in not only Photo Kano, but also the anime zeitgeist. I thought, “Here is a lovely boy who has lovely female friends, who has really embraced his new love for photography. He's going to be given a chance to do shady stuff, but he'll say no, because he's a good guy! He just wants to take nice pictures!” Look, I know what it's like to hold an SLR for the first time. You can't stop taking pictures. The entire world looks different, because you can't stop thinking about different ways to capture it.
But this is anime, after all, and anime runs on otaku dollars. So midway through the episode, lead character Kazuya is recruited by two different school clubs and is given a difficult decision—should he join the seedy Photography Club, which specializes in taking voyeuristic up-skirt shots and boob shots—or should he join the “official” school Photo Club, which takes pictures of things that aren't boobs and butts? He hems and haws for a bit. After all, artistry is nice and all, but he could be exploiting his female friends instead! Despite our hopes that he joins the Not Creepy Club, alas, he decides to go with the Photography Club. As much as rejecting them would be the decent thing to do, and probably the moral high road, this is a show that needs to sell merchandise and DVDs, and photo of lovely sunsets just don't pass the muster.
It's almost comical. The entire conflict of this first episode is, “Do you wanna be a creep???” And the answer is a resounding, “Yes, I do!!!” Why even bother giving him the choice! It's clear that the show wants to be a creep show. Hell, 70% of the women in this show are shown from pervy angles. The main character never even stood a chance. His fate as a fictional character is directed by forces outside of his control. Don't play like there was ever any chance that the show wouldn't just be a pander party.
I don't know. It is what it is, I guess. I don't even know why I thought the show might go in a slightly more enlightened direction. Shame on me.
Photo Kano is available streaming on Crunchyroll.
My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU
Rating: 2.5 (out of 5)
Review:Oh, high school. The years when teen angst reaches a fever pitch, and you can't quite seem to figure out how everyone else around you seems so damned happy all the time. When high school boy Hachiman (or Hikki, as he's called by a later character) is assigned an essay about “looking back on [his] high school days,” he writes a cynical piece that ends with, “Everyone should drop dead.” He's a nice enough boy—he's just been burned so many times in life by the usual teenage boy things (girls rejecting him, girls rejecting him, saying the wrong things to girls) that he's decided it's just better to not have any friends at all. All of this (sort of?) changes when he's forced to join the Service Club, which seems to be a thing that just exists in school anime. The club only has one other member, a dry and matter-of-fact girl named Yukino who blames her lack of friends on her beauty. The point of the club is simple—it exists to help students with whatever they need, which Yukino does patronizingly.
Despite a few cleverly written lines, the first half of the first episode of My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU is a little exhausting. Both Hikki and Yukino are wry and pragmatic people, and both have a chip on their shoulder when it comes to interacting with others, so when they're throwing barbs at each other, their conversation feels a lot more like a tiresome internet quarrel where each is trying to out-cynic the other. The moment the series picks up is with the introduction of Yui, a peppy pink-haired girl who approaches the club for help baking cookies for a crush. It's then that we realize that despite their aloof exteriors, both Hikki and Yukino are surprisingly wise, and understand social interaction a whole lot more than they're willing to admit. Only... similar to the first conversation between the two, this scene is a little verbose.
I understand that in real life, we learn from communicating with each other, but it doesn't always make for the best visual entertainment. Even though the characters occasionally say wise things, it doesn't make up for how stagnant the camera work is, especially since I feel like most of the time, nothing of importance is being said. Combined with shots of two people just talking to each other, it gets a little tedious. I imagine the intention was to make both main characters seem witty, but it doesn't quite hit the mark. Instead, both Hikki and Yukino are just vaguely unpleasant people who talk a lot, despite being set up as people who don't really like to talk.
It's very possible that My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU will turn out to be a delightful show. It certainly has the potential to do so, despite a first episode that was only sometimes pleasant and was mostly buried in tedium. Still, I think people might find Hikki and Yukino to be surprisingly relatable, and I'm looking forward to seeing what the next episode will hold.
My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU is available streaming on Crunchyroll.
Rating: 3 (out of 5)
Review:Schoolyard comedies about nothing are a difficult thing. It takes a lot of effort and ingenuity to create full length episodes about everyday fluff, and let's face it, twenty-some minutes is a really long time if you've got nothing to say. Yuyushiki had a lot of great moments that made me smile, but I can't help but wonder if it would've been better as a twelve-minute show, or one that's even shorter. After all, the original source material only has four panels at a time.
It's the first day of high school for three friends—Yuzuko, Yui, and Yukari. Like any group of girls, they spend most of their time talking about… absolutely nothing. This is both the genius and the sticking point of a show like Yuyushiki. It's great seeing a show about girls who spend their time shooting the breeze about meaningless nonsense instead of talking about boys all the time, but it's kind of like looking at vacation photos—it's only fun if you're in them. Sure, there are moments that are laugh-out-loud funny, like the scene where one of the girls keeps tripping the detector at the book store. After she figures out what might have been causing the sensor to go off, she gingerly creeps through, which is something that we've all probably done on more than one occasion. There might have been another gag or two that made me laugh, but even so, this show has half an hour to fill!
What makes the show drag a little is that of the three characters, only one plays the straight man, while the other two are near identical versions of each other. They're both cute and innocent, but just a shade dumb. One of them is a little more mischievous than the other (the dark-haired girl mostly likes to mimic the other gal's antics if she finds them fun), but their shticks are so remarkably similar that the entire setup feels like one big joke that's gone on for too long.
Overall, I found myself pleasantly entertained by Yuyushiki, but it's little more than fluff. It has his moments of brilliance, but twenty-four minutes is just too long.
Yuyushiki is available streaming on Crunchyroll.
Arata the Legend
Rating: 3 (out of 5)
Review:There was a time in my life where I would've followed Yuu Watase to the ends of the Earth. I was in junior high, and Fushigi Yuugi was my bread and butter. Years later, I still hold her works in high regard, mostly out of nostalgia for Fushigi Yuugi, but with a little more years on my life and a little more experience, I can see (and appreciate) her stories for the silly guilty pleasures they are. The latest to be animated is Arata the Legend, a fantasy (sometimes??) series that includes hot men, magic swords, frenemies, and locations/relics/special attacks that no one can pronounce or remember. I feel like I've gone back in time.
This particular story features two men named Arata—a distressed teenager named Arata Hinohara who has asshole friends and trust issues, and some fantasyland dude also named Arata. The latter is tasked with going to the capital and meeting with some magical sacred princess, but becomes entangled in an assassination plot. She's attacked before his eyes by her Twelve Hot Dudes with Magic retainers, and he's framed for it. He tries to escape into a forest, but when he gets there, some kind of voodoo happens, and he swaps lives with sullen teenager Arata Hinohara. Here's where it gets slightly confusing—we still see Teen Arata, but his friends and family think he's Fantasyland Arata. Luckily, his grandma provides us with an info dump, and we realize that this swap is mostly for the benefit of viewers, and even though we're seeing one Arata, he's actually in the body of another. But wait, that's not it. Teen Arata possesses whatever touch is necessary to also active Fantasyland Arata's family's old rusted sword, awakening the god that resides inside, which enables him to fight the Twelve Hot Dudes with Magic.
Arata the Legend is total junk food for your brain. Nothing about this show really screams out to be noticed. The animation is kind of meh, the character designs are kind of meh—even the premise, which I'm sure is lighting the pens of yaoi shippers on fire, is kind of meh. In a pure entertainment sense, though, Arata works. It combines things that are relevant to my interests—action, hot dudes, and magic—and I'm curious enough to stick around and see how things play out.
Arata the Legend is available streaming on Crunchyroll.
Rating: 2.5 (out of 5)
Review:Mushibugyo exists in a world that is basically my worst nightmare. If I was born in that alternate reality, I'd lock myself up in a cellar and never leave again. The series takes place in some version of ye olden times Japan where samurai were still a thing, and you could walk around town with a sword. The big difference is that Japan (and maybe the entire world?) has been completely overrun by gargantuan bugs. As a means to combat this utterly revolting threat, the government has created the Insect Magistrate's Office, which employs a variety of ninjas and explosives experts and other shonen anime-type heroes to fight these critters. I assume that their extermination duties also extend to arachnids, since most of the awful creatures we see in the first episode are, indeed, arachnids and not insects. I guess the Insect and Arachnid Magistrate's Office was too verbose.
Anyway, our lead protagonist is a scrappy samurai named Jinbei, who has come to Edo in order to answer the Magistrate summons intended for his lauded swordsman father. Immediately, Jinbei meets his love interest, a sweet gal with enormous tits. We know she has enormous tits, because the show shows them and talks about them a million times. She's captured by a big evil spider, which we learn is just one of a GIANT NEST OF SPIDERS, who also has a GIANT MAMA SPIDER the size of a two-story, single-family home. All of them have enormous mandibles and spit sticky, viscous threads, and eat children's dreams for dessert. The head of the magistrates' office tells Jinbei he doesn't have what it takes to join them, but this is shonen! Of course he does! It's just a matter of time before he becomes the greatest Insect and Arachnid Magistrate of all time!
Mushibugyo is not brilliant, but it is pretty solid entertainment. It doesn't bring anything to the table that you haven't seen a billion times before—none of the characters are particularly fresh, nor is the tried-and-true story about a determined young [occupation] who goes to the city to make his dream come true, nor the fact that there are massive, HUMAN-KILLING creepy crawlies lurking around—but it's executed in an entertaining fashion, and I'm willing to see where this series takes us.
By the way, the love interest has huge boobies!!! Oooooagga bagga booooooooooo! HYUK!
Mushibugyo is available streaming on Crunchyroll.
Flowers of Evil
Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)
Review:It's impossible to watch Flowers of Evil without noticing its unique and sometimes jarring animation style. Everything is rotoscoped, meaning all the characters move with the uncanny realism of real people, but details are sparingly added. From a distance, characters faces are blank, but up close, certain features are drawn with alarming detail, giving way to cavernous mouths with teeth and gums, and the sudden realization that, in real life, not everyone is so attractive. It lends a shocking amount of realism to the series. Even the first scene, in which main character Takao saunters down the street, he has the amble of a living, breathing human. Characters interact with each other naturally, with elbow nudges and back pats, and the kind of off-course veering that happens when you're not paying attention to where you're going. Background walla is remarkably detailed as well, with snippets of conversation about the latest television program, or a new snack shop. Basically, Flowers of Evil feels real, and almost as a result, it's slightly disturbing. Something feels off, and the toothy faces don't help; it's like a nightmare where you can assign identities to everyone present, but you can't quite see their faces.
This nightmarish quality lends a quiet beauty to the series, which is enhanced by the supply drawn backgrounds and the minimalist background music. Some scenes are just long, drawn-out, quivering violin notes. It's likewise unsettling, because it carries a sense of foreboding. It's like the opening scene of Paul Thomas Anderson's There Will Be Blood, for those who've seen it, in which you feel like something awful will happen, but you don't know when t will happen, or what it will be. In the case of Flowers of Evil, it's merely a suggestion. Protagonist Takao is obsessed with Baudelaire's Les Fleur du Mal, its words and imagery whisking him away to what we can only imagine are daydreams. The other light in his life is his classmate, Saeki, whom he has a crush on. One afternoon, when he's in the classroom alone, he spies a satchel containing some of her items. But then, something dark grows inside him—a spiky, gnarled eye-balled flower that intones over the ending theme with a metallic voice.
The first episode of Flowers of Evil is as vague as it gets, but it shows considerable promise. Its animation may take a while to get used to—if even you want to try and get used to it—but the series is definitely something worth keeping on your radar.
Flowers of Evil is available streaming on Crunchyroll.
Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet
Rating: 4 (out of 5)
Before I even started watching Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet, I told myself that I wasn't quite ready for yet another space epic. There are simply too many of them. But as I watched, I found myself sucked into it and desperate for more, like how I felt the first time I read Asimov's Foundation trilogy. Not the science part—Gargantia is pure science fantasy, but an evocation of something intangible—humanity's deep love for our home planet. It's a feeling that's hard to pinpoint—one part melancholy, one part nostalgia, one part reverence. Our inherent emotional attachment to our planet makes the “reveal” at the end of the first episode of Gargantia an easy home run (no pun intended), even though it's one that we've seen many times. Maybe because it gives us chills knowing that one day, we may abandon this rock.
The first half of Gargantia is beautiful, both visually and atmospherically. I loved the austerity and cold mechanical precision of the military strike. We're introduced to a calm, career soldier named Ledo. He's informed by his AI unit that, after the current mission, he'll be allowed to visit Avalon, humanity's new home planet, for four weeks. He regards the news with calm indifference. We also quickly learn that humanity has been embroiled in a deadly war with a weird alien plant species known as Hideauze. The Galactic Alliance of Humanity has decided to throw all of its military manpower at them in a surprise attack, and similar to Ledo's calm, emotionless persona, we see this battle unfold with stark precision. Spaceships line up in perfect attack formations, everything synchronized down to the last meter. But alas, it's not enough, and as all the units retreat, Ledo's robot spins out of control and ends up in a mysterious corner of the universe. The last we learn is that the planet is none other than Earth.
The contrast between the goings-on of the Galactic Alliance of Humanity and Earth is remarkably well done. That's due in large part to the gorgeous space battle that takes up the first few minutes. Rather than seeing mecha zipping around, or pilots yelling in their cockpits, we see everything from afar. We see attack formations and the charging of super lasers, and it accomplishes two things: firstly, it just looks cool. Secondly, there's a disconnect between watching this conflict take place, and seeing the actual humans involved, so everything is cold and distant, much like Ledo's personality; we get the sense that in the future, humanity has been bled of all character. In comparison, Earth is vibrant and a little janky, filled with bright colors and loud characters (who, for whatever reason, are dressed in weird outfits reminiscent of a high school play about cowboys and Indians). It's exciting, and I feel like I'm rediscovering Earth through Ledo's eyes.
I inherently have a soft spot for any science fiction property about finding Earth. It's not a new idea, but it's always a good one, and I'm eager to see what Gargantia does with this premise.
Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet is available streaming on Crunchyroll.
Severing Crime Edge
Rating: 3 (out of 5)
Never before were a pair of lovers so star-crossed, or perhaps so destined to be. Kiri is obsessed with cutting hair, carrying around a pair of serrated shears wherever he goes, emotionally wounded because his family members no longer go to him to get their locks styled. One day, he gets off at the wrong bus stop and stumbled across a secluded mansion. Inside is a beautiful girl named Iwai, who has lustrous black hair, all the way to her ankles. But alas, her hair is cursed and cannot be cut.
Wait, it gets weirder. Iwai's father (and last guardian?) is dead, so she's under the care of two girls whom she's convinced belong to an organization of psychotic killers. This may or may not be true, but it turns out, Kiri is descended from a serial killer, a man whose weapon of choice were those very same serrated scissors that Kiri now possesses. (We know this because of an awkward scene in which his father knocks on his door and basically asks him, “Are you upset by your name? Because, you know, you're descended from a serial killer.” Thanks Pop.) Struck by sudden inspiration, he takes his shears to her hair, and lo! she is freed from her prison of resilient hair.
I guess this is romantic, in a kind of creepy, twisted way. Kiri and Iwai are bound to each other in ways that only hair fetishists and girls with cursed hair are. They need each other—he needs to smell her hair, and feel it pour from his fingertips; she needs his grandfather's murder weapon. I haven't quite decided yet if this is a comedy, or just a very strange romantic drama. It is very different, though. I can't say that I've ever seen this type of pairing before (although it is less weird than that infamous spit-eating show from a few seasons back), and I'm intrigued by its bizarre amalgam of romance, fetishism, and morbid fascination with serial killers. I'm eager to see what the next few episodes have in store for us.
Severing Crime Edge is available streaming on Crunchyroll.
Rating: 2.5 (out of 5)
Muromi-san is amusing, I guess. It's at least weird, which allows it to milk a good number of jokes from absurdity alone. Takuro is your normal everyday high school student, except one day, he accidentally catches a mermaid named Muromi. Inexplicably, she takes a strong liking to him, even asking him to fertilize a mound of eggs for her. She's not the brightest fish in the sea, though. She's fairly incompetent at defending herself against seagulls and cats and what not (because she's a fish, see), which I guess is supposed to be “cute” and “quirky.” Disconcertingly, she also gets fish hooks stuck in her mouth, not just once, but twice. As one might surmise, the humor in this show is a little on the dark side. Oh, also, Muromi doesn't believe in global warming, which just provides some extra bizarro icing on this already strange cake.
Muromi-san is a comedy in the same way that Youtube videos of kids falling off skateboards can be considered comedy. It doesn't really go anywhere. It simply just exists, with the joke being that everything's a joke. That Muromi matter-of-factly exists (and goes after the same bait as fish) is the backbone of this hyuk, with everything else hovering around it in various planes of surrealism. At some point, she picks up a handful of starfish, and they, too, talk. Why does she pick them up? She doesn't know either, but notes that they are shaped like shuriken. Later, she moans a little and insinuates that she gets erotic pleasure from jellyfish, who also talk. Because, you know, why not. Anything and everything qualifies as humor in Muromi-san. Perhaps in later episodes, she'll be caught in a trawling net or two, and everyone will chuckle merrily. Maybe she'll pout a potato-faced pout, squirm a little, and complain to a nearby tuna, who will pat her on the back good-naturedly, and we'll all share a laugh. Who knows. The possibilities for this show are endless, because it seems to operate on little more than half-formed gags whose only prerequisites seem to be that they involve marine life.
Visually, Muromi-san is like watching lumps of dough slowly sag in the summer heat. Everyone looks vaguely like gnocchi with googly eyes, accompanied by a mop of unruly hair. Interestingly, Muromi can stand upright on her tail, which makes me wonder as to the musculature of mermaids. Is standing an activity they do often? Does she develop calluses? Maybe they'll discuss this in a later episode, either before or after Takuro threatens her with shallots and a pan of clarified butter, and she shakes her nubby little fist at the liberal agenda.
I don't mean to be too harsh on Muromi-san, but it is what it is. It hurls one joke after the other, and sometimes, they stick. Sometimes they don't. That's the subjective nature of comedy. The upside is that each episode is only twelve minutes long, so even if one particular episode doesn't strike your fancy, you haven't lost too much time. The premise is silly and neat, and although I wouldn't object to seeing more episodes, I'm not holding my breath.
Muromi-san is available streaming on Crunchyroll.
Zettai Boei Leviathan
Rating: 1.5 (out of 5)
Zettai Boei Leviathan is perhaps good for its cosplay opportunities, but not much else. It is mind-numbingly boring, and filled with forced character laughter, in a pathetic attempt to tell the audience, “See how lighthearted we are?” Zettai Boei Leviathan is indeed lighthearted, but that quality usually needs to be bolstered with something else in order to make the show appealing. Humor, perhaps, or an interesting story. At the very least, interesting characters. Alas.
The first episode of the series is called “I'll Make You My Friend!” which tells you everything you need to know about this show. It's about three dragon girls, or something, who can use elemental magic. At least that's what I assume, since they have wings and lizard tails, and they're named after mythological sea creatures. Heading this pleasant, but dull little troupe (who are sure to be the best of friends) is Leviathan, the title character of the show. She's hanging out by a lake, working on her geyser magic, when she accidentally shoots down this spunky little fairy named Syrop (but it's pronounced Syrup, because she's so gosh-darned adorable). Wouldn't you know, even though this little critter is the size of a guinea pig, she has an enormous appetite, which is super hilarious, because she's small. She sure does love carbs! Also, she's a total firecracker, which is also funny, because she's so adorable and tiny.
If there's one big positive to this show, it's that it's really big on promoting women and gender equality. It's really awkwardly done, but it's certainly a major proponent. One of the three dragon girls is really strong, for instance, and can probably lug more coal than your average lumberyard worker. At another point in the series, a bunch of skeezy dudes are creepin' on some girls, and they get an earful about respect, which is then diffused by awkward canned laughter. Don't get me wrong, the show's not shattering any gender myths, but it does seem to be trying really hard to be pro-female, which is always appreciated.
Sadly, though, Zettai Boei Leviathan is excruciatingly dull, from its generically pleasant characters, to its lackadaisical pace, to the fact that it takes twenty minutes to tell a story that shouldn't really last longer than five. It's great that these three dragon girls are friends now, but maybe if the camera had spent less time lingering on their vacant smiles, or less time on slow reaction shots, we could've snipped a few minutes off the runtime. There is absolutely nothing in this show that is remotely new or interesting, and who knows how they'll fill an entire season's worth of episodes. I could barely make it through one.
Zettai Boei Leviathan is available streaming on Crunchyroll.
Rating: 1 (out of 5)
If you're seriously craving some fanservice, I guess it's kind of a good sign that one of the first scenes you see is a gal with no pants sweeping the steps of a shrine. If you're into that kind of thing, I mean. I know that when I do chores, I often find that pants get in the way, so I also just opt for a loin cloth and a midriff-baring sailor top. It just makes sense.
Samurai Bride takes place in some alternate world where the Tokugawa still rule, meaning that samurai still exist, but they get to use iPads and stuff. Specifically, this particular season is set sometime just after the subprime mortgage industry collapse, and the Yagyu dojo (named, of course, for the family of Jubei Yagyu who is one of the characters) has lost all of its savings. Naturally, they decide (for this episode, anyway) to convert their dojo into a maid cafe, in which hilarity and sexy shenanigans ensue. Upon first learning of this, Male Protagonist Muneakira Yagyu comments, “Can't we do something more decent?” which is quickly followed by a tidal wave of nerds screaming, “Nooooooo!”
A direct sequel to the first series, Samurai Girls, this show will make little sense to viewers who haven't seen the original, but there are many aspects of it that can still be appreciated. I speak, of course, of the fanservice, which has equal opportunity butts and boobs. There are also panty shots galore, as well as a heaping handful of cute girls doing cute things (they do work in a maid cafe, after all), so male viewers jumping into this series for the first time need not be turned away at the gates. All you really need to know is that the girls can unlock “Master Samurai” powers, and sadly, Jubei has lost hers. This season also introduces some new samurai villains, all of whom have more power than the last batch of bad guys, and all of them sexy ladies. One of them wears an open shirt that is perpetually tantalizingly close to revealing the nips, but alas, anime physics are there to intervene. When there are scenes of nudity, though, the series follows suit from the original by covering up the naughty bits with ink splotches, which is admittedly much more creative than beams of light or stars.
While time will ultimately tell, the first episode of Samurai Bride is tiresome. The whole “maid cafe” shtick is one that has been used so many times that even in this neo-retro-Tokugawa setting, it falls flat. There are only a limited number of jokes that one can create around maid cafes, and this series doesn't really shatter the mold. It's possible that it'll go in a wildly different direction and turn into an epic samurai swashbuckler, with killer action scenes and breathtaking fights, but somehow I doubt it. Even in the first fight, the choreography is lackluster, and is mostly comprised of lengthy posing and smack talking. I'm not terribly optimistic about future fights.
Samurai Bride is available streaming on Crunchyroll.
Rating: 1.5 (out of 5)
When the mechs are zipping around in space, guns blaring, cannons firing, Majestic Prince is a whole lot of fun. When it's just the human characters standing around, it is an exercise in tedium. Never has 25 minutes felt so long as it did in this first episode, as I watched a sluggish camera slowly pan from one uninteresting walking stereotype to the next. Our only reprieves are the two fight scenes at the end, which is also where most of the budget seems to be clustered.
Majestic Prince is based on a manga by Rando Ayamine, who also penned Getbackers. You wouldn't really be able to tell, though, because all of the character designs have been Hisashi Hirai-ified. Meaning, if you've seen such shows like Gundam Seed, Infinite Ryvius, or Fafner, then you've seen this guy's monotonous, one-trick character designs parading in front of your eyeballs like a Vine loop. Gone are Ayamine's perky little noses and expressive eyes, replaced with a sea of noseless, dopey faces that seemingly melt from their own ennui. Only two characters really stand out, personality wise, if only because they're louder than their comrades. The first is the hero of the show, Izuru, whose gung-ho ambition to save the day makes him the obvious, if predictable, leader for this ragtag team of scrapsters. The other is the token annoying girl, who's single-mindedly obsessed with boys, because she had the misfortune of being born with a uterus. Blessedly, this is a mecha show after all, so when we're not drowning in an ocean of uninspired teenagers, we get a nifty palette of robots, designed by genre veterans like Yasuhiro Moriki, who's lent his mechanical design talents to properties like Banner of the Stars and Gravion.
Izuru and his buddies are at some kind of generic robot piloting school, where their stern teacher carries a whip and their head mechanic has giant knockers. They're known around campus as the Fail Five, because they're pretty bad at what they do. So naturally, even though they keep failing at their simulations, some guy with a Cyclops-looking visor decides to throw them into real robots, in a real combat situation, against real aliens. That seems legal. But not before Izuru is appointed leader, by the way, which results in a long scene of each character getting a close-up and intoning, "…Leader????"
Money seems to be a problem for this show, because when there aren't cool robots everywhere, the animators are trying their damndest to stretch a yen. This results in lengthy pans over static shots—characters frozenly stare into the distance while riding a tram, or burly mechanics talk while permanently glued into bicep flexes. Every character gets his or her own reaction shot, because it fills up time. Near the end of the series, we're led to believe that there are refuges still stranded on a planet being pummeled by aliens, but because it would've cost money to animate these people, they just stand around like they're waiting for the bus.
I have a weakness for good mecha shows—and in fact, I was giddy like a little kid while I was watching the actual fight scenes—but Majestic Prince needs to figure out how to balance its action and exposition scenes. It is just going to run out of steam otherwise.
Majestic Prince is available streaming on Crunchyroll.
Devil Survivor 2 The Animation
Rating: 3 (out of 5)
A hot new smartphone app called Nicaea is sweeping Japan. No, it doesn't help you take pictures of your food, nor does it help you get crazy deals on airfare. Nicaea shows you footage of yourself and your buddies dying, right before you kick the bucket. It's kind of a neat concept, until you see yourself and your best friend crushed under the weight of a derailed subway, or trapped in a nightmarish conflagration. I already get stressed out when I hear email notifications—I can't imagine the stress incurred when you hear the telltale ”bloop!” of a new death vid. Luckily, right before our trio of protagonists are killed by the runaway train, the app asks them if they'd rather live than die. Clicking on “Live” automatically downloads another app, one that allows you to summon demons to fight for you and protect you. As fortune would have it, all of this also coincides with an influx of demons that are ravaging Japan, so our teenage heroes must now help save the country from evil.
Even though the name of the series, Devil Survivor 2 – The Animation, sounds as if it were a sequel, it's not. It's named for the Nintendo DS RPG Devil Survivor 2 (which, by the way, is a sequel). The production team is no stranger to video game adaptations, though. The series is being led by director Seiji Kishi, whom fans might remember as the director for Persona 4: The Animation, as well as the Ragnarok anime adaptation, both of which are available domestically. Although I can't speak for the gameplay of DS2, I'm cautiously optimistic for the anime. It's a little on the silly side—the series is asking you to accept a reality in which teenagers fight monsters using avatars they've materialized from a cellphone—but the first episode was action-packed and entertaining. The avatars are varied enough that all their fighting styles are different, and already, we can tell that the invading monsters will be just as diverse.
Visually, the animation is dynamic, and production studio Bridge does a good job. The series makes good use of lighting and color, with scenes that feel like they're lit only by the glow of technological devices. If there is one minor complaint to be made, though, it's that the CG on the demons occasionally stands out in a jarring way. The scene that's coming to mind is the fight with the Ice Cream Cone Demon, a creature(?) that continuously swells its potato-looking ice cream top and shoots shrapnel from its pores. (Bizarrely, even though the top explodes like a standard bomb, when Hibiki's digi-tiger shreds through it, it still manages to bleed, rather than pop.) Before it bursts, its outer membrane pulses with a network of throbbing veins, resulting in a slightly disturbing visual that conjures either stomachs or scrotums. Perhaps if the veins weren't so lovingly shaded and rendered, that scene wouldn't feel so visually out of place, but if anything, it does a good job of making the viewer slightly queasy.
Overall, Devil Survivor 2 looks like it could be a lot of fun. Having not played the original game from which this series is based, I can't speak for how true to the source material it is, but from the perspective of an anime viewer, I am looking forward to seeing where the next few episodes go.
Devil Survivor 2 is available streaming on Crunchyroll.
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