Spring anime season 2014

A look at some of the more interesting shows from the new season.

Blade and Soul
Blade and Soul
Blade and Soul:
This is the first one I looked at. It’s set in a world in which an Empire is taking over surrounding territory, for agricultural purposes. There are soldiers in odd-looking costumes, some odd-looking weapons (some of the soldiers appear to have sub-machine guns, which seem out of place in this fantasy world). There is a lot of magical violence. The lead character, Alka, is an emotionless killer and member of the Sword clan, hunted by the Empire for killing her master. In short, it’s the usual sort of just-watchable rot that one expects from a game-derived fantasy. On the other hand, the character designs of the women are so gorgeous that one doesn’t care what the rest of the show is like.
I have now watched three episodes. The action continues to be unreal, with a high death count, but it remains prettily if undemandingly watchable.

Magica Wars:
In the first episode a cute magical girl fights comical monsters and has trouble with the police. It’s generic, but amusing, and it lasts only a few minutes.

If you like slow-paced, atmospheric stories about the traditional Japanese supernatural, this is for you.

No Game No life:
A NEET (shut-in) brother and sister conquer the world of electronic gaming as the mysterious group Blank, and are then invited to come to a world where everything is decided by games. After a few encounters they start to feel that this bizarre world is more to their liking than our own. This show is rather better than I feared and looks like it might develop into some sort of fantasy quest. The second episode develops some character relationships.

Chaika – the Coffin Princess:
The eponymous princess is first seen lugging a coffin through a wood. The refugee princess talks foreign and has some surprising gadgets in the lid of her coffin. She meets two Saboteurs, a brother and sister. There are vigorous action scenes and little tedious explanation. This looks like the best show of the season so far. Action continues in the second episode, with some reveals.

Dai Shogun – Great Revolution:
The anti-hero, Keniichiro, has easily defeated all the other thugs in Nagasaki, rather to his disgust, when the police start to pursue him for a series of sex murders committed by a woman. Also in the mix are period-style giant robots which saw off Perry’s black ships. With lechery, murder, semi-nudity and robot violence, and not a single child character, this show has a distinctly adult feel. The character designs are distinctive too, but there is not much movement in the animation. This is fast-moving and funny, and seems worth a second look. In the second episode, Keniichiro tries to lose his virginity with foxy young tart Chihiro.

Nanana’s Buried Treasure:
High school boy Juugo is consigned to Nanae Island, an artificial island supporting many schools and colleges. His landlady turns out to be a sexy drunk (I’m sure I’ve met her already in a recent anime), and the room he non-refundably rents turns out to have the ghost of a murdered girl in it. The opening sequence is of an Indiana-Jones style treasure hunt. Juugo discovers that the ghost, the eponymous Nanaha, was one of the founders of the island, and left behind various treasures, not all of which have been found. Average animation, but interesting enough. In the second episode, more characters appear and it is turning into more of a detective comedy.

Ishuukan Friends:
For once, a show that isn’t offensive or unwholesome. The male main character wants to be friends with the quiet, stand-offish girl in his class, but she refuses. It turns out that she has a memory defect, and during the weekend forgets about anyone she has met in the week. The writer, Suga Shoutarou, also worked on Uchouten Kazoku. There are some pleasant character designs. There are no big surprises in episode #2.

Mekakucity Actors
Shintarou is a late teen shut-in who had his computer infected by an AI/virus sometime ago and now lives with the AI who presents itself as an annoying teenaged girl named Ene and who inhabits all of his electronic devices. One hot August day Shintarou damages his keyboard, and because a holiday is coming up he has to go buy one from a shop.
At the store he is caught up in a terrorist attack, but some kids cause a commotion, allowing Shintarou to plug Ene into the store’s network. An odd show that seems worth another look.

Ping Pong the Animation
One might expect that ‘Ping Pong the Animation’ would be just another sports anime in the vein of ‘Baby Steps’ or ‘Haikyuu’.
What a surprise then to watch the first episode and find something more like a sports anime version of ‘Aku no Hana’ . The character designs are quite aggressively crude and ugly, and the narration deadpan and sardonic. Two friends, Smile and Peco, are the best players in their high school ping-pong club, and resented by their less skilled seniors, who are drawn as much bigger than Smile and Peco. The team captain has an antler-like hairstyle. Smile never smiles, while Peco, rated the better player, is cocky and extrovert, and skips practice to play at a private club, where he humiliates an adult player.
They check out an imported Chinese player who trashes Peco.

There is no clear front-runner yet, and some much-anticipated shows turned out to be a let-down.

UK anime streaming services 2014

It may be of interest to update the earlier post:
There is a new UK streaming service at: http://www.animaxtv.co.uk/
So far, they offer a modest number of recent shows, including some from the latest Japanese season. The subscription is £5.99 per month. As a come-on, you can watch the latest episode of a few of the current-season shows for free, in what looks like standard definition.
This looks like good value if any of it catches your interest – a few months’ sub would be as cheap as buying one box-set.

Anime streaming services – UK, Feb 2012
Posted on February 5, 2012 by admin
These legitimate anime streaming services are available in the UK:

Crunchyroll: Large number of titles, including both the current Winter 2012 season and older titles. Includes the two best shows from the Winter 2012 season. Choose between a free service (ad-laden, and with hot episodes delayed one week, some titles barred) and paid-for service (no ads, hot episodes available the same day as in Japan.) Subtitled, choice of several screen resolutions, including 1080p. www.crunchyroll.com Still going.

Anime On Demand: Recently revised service, with a small but recent title list. It added its only 2012 title at the beginning of Feb. Subscription only, with free trial period. Quarterly or annual sub. available. Choice of screen resolutions. Subtitled. http://www.anime-on-demand.com/ Inactive in 2012-13. This link now takes you to Animax

The Anime Network: Select “Watch Now” to see what’s available to the UK. A modest number of shows is available, all of them several years old. First episodes are generally free as samples; to see the rest you have to subscribe. Monthly subscription available. Dubbed. (I cancelled after I’d watched everything of interest).
Link still works, but nothing seems new since I last looked.

Netflix: Recently launched in the UK, it offers a large selection of movies and TV shows, including a small anime component. Does not include any recent or current anime shows. Has “Ghost in the Shell” anime series. 1 month free trial available at time of writing. Dubbed. www.netflix.com They still advertise.

Nico Nico Douga: Nico Nico Douga started as a sort of Japanese Youtube, but recently they have started a licenced streaming service, which includes an anime channel.
Registration is required, but once you have jumped through the hoops you can watch a few current or recent anime, e.g “Symphogear” which don’t seem to be legitimately available here by other means. Annoyingly, some titles, including the most enticing ones, turn out to be for US/Canada only when one tries to start them. This is free.
The USP of Nico Nico Douga is that synchronised user comments appear on the videos – often funnier than the actual show!! Subtitled.
They also announce a one-time screening of Madoka Magica ep#1 for Friday, February 10th 20:20 PST (4.20am Sat 11th) (PST is 8 hours later than British time). I have not looked recently.

uk-anime.net:They offer streamed anime on their useful site, but this is just an interface for Crunchyroll. http://www.uk-anime.net/video-main.asp Site still active, but they don’t offer videos, other than their own output on Youtube

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Winter 2014 anime season

Cecil Sudo from Wizard Barristers
Cecil Sudo – Wizard barristers
The Winter 2014 show season was another disappointment, in that none of the new shows turned out to be a must-watch. I’m told that all the animation is digital these days, and one can see the impact in the quality and ambition of animation in recent shows, but the scripts don’t get any better. Silver Spoon (Gin no Saki), a second season of the agricultural anime, is rather good and I have been following it. A summary of the more or less interesting and the best avoided follows below.

Gin no Saki (Silver Spoon) #2:
Second series of the agricultural comedy drama. In episode 1, Hachiken tries to find out why Misaki is sad, and discovers that cows can have brassieres. In later episodes, Hachiken over-exerts himself over the school festival. Seems as good as before, so I have been watching.

Ageha Chouno - Wizard Barristers
Ageha Chouno
Wizard Barristers Benmashi Cecil
Magic-users coexist with humans, if you can call it that, for magic use is generally forbidden, and transgressors are defended by special ‘wizard barristers’ or lawyers. In the opening episodes, this looks like a police procedural show, with the police and lawyers smiling at each other, and the perps committing some truly spectacular megical crimes. Enter Cecil (Cecile) Sudo, at 17 the youngest wizard lawyer ever, and with a burning desire to defend magic users. As the script frequently remind us, Cecil is young and very cute, and impulsive to the point of taking on a case before she even checks in at her new employers’ offices.
I was not impressed by the magic, which is really over the top, or the general premise. One would write this show off as rather well-trodden and so-so, except that it looks fantastic, with great animation and character designs. I’ve carried on watching just for the look of the show. See how realistically the clothing and bodies are drawn and posed, and check the amazing hairpiece worn by Ageha.

World Conquest Zvezda Plot:
Average youth Asuta meets a strange litle girl, riding around on her bike (with training wheels) as though she was lost. She claims that she is part of a secret group plotting world domination, a claim that seems less and less like a joke as the episode proceeds. Truly bizarre, and one is tempted to tune in again just to figure what is really going on. One or two of the early episodes are deliriously bizarre, but the pace and invention seems to flag in later episodes.

Inari, Konkon, Koi Iroha:
Nice middle school girl Inari lives near the Inari Shrine, and is sensitive enough to see supernatural things. There’s a boy she has a crush on, but being shy and a klutz, she gets nowhere. The Goddess at the shrine grants a wish after Inari rescues a fox-creature, giving Inari the power to look exactly like another girl, her love-rival. It’s charming and quite well-done, if you like old-fashioned shoujo series. On the other hand, the main story-line did not make a deep impression on me, and I have found some of the sub-plots with the secondary characters equally interesting. Still watching.

A show a few minutes long about a girl who sees supernatural beings that other people can’t. She has a gung-ho schoolfriend who is obsessed with the occult. Worth another look.

Average Shio Ogura goes on a school trip to Taiwan. Cue supernatural attack, and a counter-attack by “E-Gene Holders” infused with the spirits of famous historical figures. Turns out that Shio is the E-gene Holder for Oda Nobunaga and her arm converts to a machine-gun. Amusing stuff, more inventive than idiotic. Still watching.

About a minor God looking for followers while fighting supernatural monsters, and the girl who gets involved with him because she can see things that others can not. I liked the animation and the storyline and the characters. Still watching.

Nobunaga the Fool
Elaborate sort of science fantasy show, with the world divided between East and West, and with various characters named for famous historical personages. I’m not sure if the eponymous character is supposed to be Oda Nobunaga or a foolish relative of his. I liked the busy-looking animation and mechas, and the rest of it is amusing enough. I feel my interest waning after several episodes.

Tonari no Seki-kun
A short show a few minutes long. Diligent student Yokoi sits next to Seki-kun, who messes about inventively on his desk and distracts her. Amusing. I can’t help wishing that somebody would punish Seki-kun though.

Chuunibyou demo Koi series 2
A second series about the fantasy-obsessed characters, one or two of whom seem in need of psychiatric help. Part of the appeal is the characters, and there is the “car-crash” element as the slightly older characters try to ditch their embarrassing middle-school pasts as Demon Lords or fairy mages, while the obsessed younger characters won’t let them.

Hozoki no Reisetsu
About the work of a bureaucrat of Hell, working for Lord Enma, the chief devil. It’s animated busily in the style of an old ukiyo-e print. Quite amusing. Check the sadistic humour as Hozoki goes about his daily work, and the very detailed opening credit sequence.

Ichiji Raku wants to escape his yakuza heritage. There’s a girl at school he likes, but a mixed-race blond beauty transfers to his class, and he quickly gets into a highly antagonistic relationship with her, which gradually mellows a bit. Years ago, he exchanged key/lock charms with a small girl, and there’s more than a hint that this was the classmate he admires. It turns out that the blond girl is from another yakuza family, and their respective parents want them to fake a romance for the sake of inter-gang harmony. This is improbable and not altogether original stuff, but well done and the opening episodes are very funny. OTOH I rather lost interest in it later.

Uninteresting Generally dropped after one episode.
Robot Girls Z:
A 5-minute show about cute girls doing stupid things and smashing up the town with robot weapons. Not my thing, so dropping.

Seitokai Yakuindomo:
A second series – I missed the first series which was clearly no loss. School comedy drama about students with lewd thoughts. The school life is dull and the jokes are adolescent. Dropping.

Saikun, Imouto no Yousou ga chotto okashiinda (Recently, my sister is unusual):
Main character gets a step-sister with a ghost problem. Cue incest and chastity belt gags. Even if you are over 18 and like smut, avoid this awful dreck at all costs.

Witchcraft Works!:
The inevitable response is “No it doesn’t,” not for me anyway. A school drama with supernatural battles.

Buddy Complex:
Average teen gets chased by a nutter in a giant robot from the future. A cute girl saves his ass. The robot’s firepower seemed rather weak, but I quite liked the show and watched the next one, to find out what happened next. It looked like a routine giant robot show, so I dropped it.

Super Sonico the Animation:
Seems to be a trailer for an allied product. The character is a student, a model and a band member, and irritatingly never takes her headphones off. 23 mins seems much too long. Not my thing.

To Aru Hikoushe e no Koita (The Pilot’s Love for …):
An attempt to do a Miyazaki, but neither the aircraft nor the characters impressed me at all and I baled out early.

A short animation about a yellow creature with unsuitable thoughts. Amusing.

Comedy-drama about four detectives with super powers. The first episode actually had a plot which was tolerably interesting, but the characters were not so interesting and the animation goes freaky for the magical bits. Dropped.

Onee-san ga Kita:
3-minute short. 13 year old Tomo-chan gets an older step-sister who seems madly in love with him. Unappealing.

Mikakunin de Shinkoukei:
The heroine turns 16, and finds that she has been engaged without her knowledge to a 16-year old from the mountains, who arrives to stay along with his rather mature and bossy little sister. However the heroine’s older sister turns out to have a thing for little girls. Very odd. Most of the characters are irritating. I watched some more episodes but did not feel like watching the whole thing.

3-minute episode: A fantasy series about a detective agency, who seem better at wrecking things than at anything else. Amusing, but it did not make much impression on me. Dropping.

Go! Go! 575:
I saw the raw version. I liked the character designs, and one of those girls looks familiar (like Ayase in ‘Oreimo’), but could not make much more of it. Saw the subbed version and found it uninspiring. It’s supposed to be about composing short poems.

Z/X Ignition:
Earth is invaded by supernatural monsters with murderous intentions. Soon has various cute teens engaging in supernatural battles. Rather bad. Not my thing; dropping.

Sakura Trick:
High school lesbians kissing and so on. Asides from that, the school daily life is is quite tedious. Dropping.

The much-trailed horror show appears as a 4-minute short. The first episode has some blood in it but explains little; it’s more of a teaser than anything else. Watched a bit more and found that it’s a bloodbath of no particular interest.

Mahou Senshou (Magical Warfare):
Takeshi goes to school early for morning kendo practice, finds an unconscious girl who turns him into a magician. They are attacked by some moody magic-wielding teens, and then Takeshi’s friends show up and get turned into magicians too. Not my thing; dropping.

For reasons doubltless connected with the success of Moyashimon and Silver Spoon, this is set in a rural agricultural college. The hero is creepily obsessed with an idol singer, Yuta, and secretly sends her root vegetables. Meanwhile, the idol singer gives up her career and a student called Ringo Kinoshita who looks a lot like Yuta enrolls at the rural agricultural college.
There is a lot of coarse humour, and I enjoyed this more that I should have done, given the improbable premise. The second epsisode killed it for me, as it contained a lot of adolescent ‘humour’ that was about as amusing as watching paint dry.

Wake up Girls:
Keen but inexperienced troupe of seven idol-singer girls wants to achive professional success, despite the absconding and inept management. Routine stuff.

Eduardo Paolozzi at New Worlds

Book cover Eduardo Paolozzi at New Worlds
Science fiction and art in the sixties. David Brittain, Pub. Savoy Books, Dec 2013, 184pp, rrp £17.00

I have a complete set of the large format New Worlds – #173 to #200, which were published from 1967 to 1971, so I was particularly interested to see a book about the magazine and its art.
Michael Moorcock took over editorship of the science fiction magazine New Worlds in 1964, and began changing it from a genre SF magazine to a ‘new wave’ magazine of “speculative fiction.” In 1967, Moorcock obtained a modest Arts Council grant that enabled him to change the format from a paperback to a monthly magazine with half-tone reproduction.
Both Michael Moorcock and leading contributor JG Ballard knew Paolozzi personally, and were interested in modern art, as were other people who worked on the magazine. The purpose of changing to a larger format was to include art that complemented the radical fiction content of the magazine. Paolozzi’s science-fiction tinged art was thought to mesh with this. In the event, very little of Paolozzi’s art appeared in the pages of New Worlds (there was a review article about his work in #174, and an illustration in #178), but he was listed as ‘Aeronautics Adviser’ and was clearly an influence.

Moonstrips Empire News - Paolozzi
Moonstrips Empire News -Paolozzi

David Brittain’s book examines the magazine during it’s prime period, throwing light on the interactions of the art of the time with what Judith Merril and Harlan Ellison called ‘the new wave of science fiction.’
It places Paolozzi’s ‘science fiction’ art of the late ’60s in the context of the new SF and offers fresh insights into the way images and a fragmentary, collages approach to writing informed the controversial prose of Ballard, Moorcock, Brian Aldiss, Norman Spinrad and others.
The book contains rare and unseen images from the archives of New Worlds and the Eduardo Paolozzi Foundation, together with excerpts from what is thought to be an unpublished science fiction novel by the artist. There are also new interviews (by Brittain) with Moorcock and key members of his circle about the magazine and others.
Covers, with Paolozzi's 'Diana as an Engine'
Covers with Paolozzi’s ‘Diana as an Engine’

The book contains many illustrations in monochrome and colour, including many colour images from Paolozzi’s ‘Moonstrips Empire News’, and most of the New Worlds covers from this period. Footnotes and bibliography are included. David Brittain is a senior lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University.
If you are interested in Paolozzi’s science-fiction inspired art and his influence on the magazine, or merely in this exciting period of the magazine’s history, this is a book well worth acquiring.

Autumn (Fall) 2013 Anime Season – First Looks

Kill La Kill
Kill La Kill
First impressions of the new season:
Interesting & Must-watch: Disappointingly, there are none so far.

Mildly interesting:

Coppelion: Three schoolgirls, genetically modified to resist radiation, are sent to investigate a ruined and radioactive Tokyo. Interesting visuals and concept, but sending three ditzy and unprotected girls seems dumb.
Kyousougiga: A remake of an original net animation, with hyper-active visuals and interesting urban setting.
Kill La Kill:The place is ruled by the School Council who have super-powered school uniforms allowing them to enforce a murderous fascist regime. They are challenged by a transfer student with some power-assistance of her own. Over-the-top and hyperactive violence and visuals, but seems to be enjoying the fascism rather too much.
Strike the Blood: People with abnormal powers live on an artificial island. A vampire-boy finds himself being trailed by a schoolgirl. For some reason I found myself enjoying this show and its characters.
Little Busters! Refrain: It starts with anodyne school stuff, but the scene in the second half where a girl character turns on some schoolgirl bullies may have viewers cowering in their seats.
Gingitsune: Schoolgirl lives at a shrine where her father is the priest. She is the only one who can see the resident fox-spirit. Not bad, but the girl acts far younger than her apparent age (her classmate has a boyfriend), which is pretty irritating.
Aoki Hagane no Arpeggio – Ars Nova
In this sci-fi drama, it’s 2039 and mankind has been driven from the seas and skies by a mysterious enemy known as ‘the Fog’ and their superior but WWII-styled warships. The opening sequence contains enough pseudobabble to make it a relief when a torpedo hits a Fog cruiser and the vessel actually blows up and sinks. A Fog submarine, U401, mysteriously defects to the humans, and turns out to have as its guiding intelligence a cute-looking but robotic young girl, who is programmed to make contact with our hero, a naval cadet whose father disappeared in a naval battle years earlier. U401 with these two in control goes on an anti-Fog rampage. Then it is revealed that all the Fog vessels are controlled by a cute young girl figure. So we have a battleship and cruiser with the personalities of spoiled schoolgirls. For me the style doesn’t make up for the irritations.
Tokyo Ravens
Tsuchimikado Harutora was born into a prestigious family of sorcerers, but can’t see spirit energy. Despite this, his idle life is disrupted by a childhood friend and the new head of the family bugging him to become a sorcerer. Then a flashy sorcerer-general turns up. A formulaic mixture of slice of life and supernatural battle, but quite well executed.
Unbreakable Machine-Doll
Science and magic supposedly combine to create humanoid weapons with intelligence and personality. Raishin and the cute teen girl Yaya, who is actually his “machine doll,” enter the Royal Academy, apparently sited in a steampunk version of Birmingham, England. His fighting skills are good, but his exam results are poor, so he has to make some shortcuts. Well-animated, with cute girls and supernatural fighting. Yaya has been programmed with a sex-drive, and is continually trying to bed her master, which is something we could really do without.
Galilei Donna
A fanciful adventure which starts with an attempt to kidnap three clever sisters, all descended from the medieval astronomer Galileo. There are some very exotic mecha, including a gold-fish-shaped airship, and a really annoying villain whom one hopes will be hit by a 1-ton hammer real soon :-). Good fun. OTOH ‘descended from Galilei’ is much less significant than it sounds (how many great-great- grandparents do you have?)


Super Seishun Brothers: Looks pretty, but the dialogue is boring.
Diabolik Lovers: Nasty show, for rape-fantasists only.
Miss Monochrome: Android wants to be an idol.
Kyokai no Kanata: School characters have violent supernatural powers, and seem involved in a love triangle. Unfortunately one is bland and another is annoying and self-centered.
Nagi no Asakura: Two villages, one underwater and one on land. The underwater school closes so the students have to attend the dry-land school. Life underwater looks exactly the same as life on land, except for the fish. Zero plausibility and some annoying characters sink this one.
Outbreak Company: Total otaku is hired to represent Japanese otaku culture to a magical kingdom.
Infinite Stratos 02: More of the robot/harem show
Golden Time: Romance problems of university students. Less interesting than it sounds.
Yuusha ni… I couldn’t become.. The Dark Lord is defeated, so the heroes are all out of a job. Misses its opportunities for everything except fan-service.
Log Horizon: The characters are trapped inside a gaming world by a technical fault. Do we care?
White Album 2: School music club drama
Sekai de Ichiban: A singing idol unwisely accepts a challenge to get involved with female pro-wrestling. The heroine is no wispy little girl and looks the part, but the revealing costumes, crotch shots and humiliating abuse add up to unpleasant exploitation.
Walkure Romanze: Romantic antics at a high school in an un-named country with medieval jousting in the curriculum.
BlazBlue-Alter Memory
Adapted from a bounty-hunting game , it’s a confusing mess of flashy action, odd designs, and fighting.
Non Non Byori
Shy Hotaru moves from Tokyo to the countryside with her parents. Her entire school now is one class: a multi-age group of four girls and one boy. The show is a series of short slice-of-country-life sketches, which is quite pleasant if you like this sort of thing.
Yowamushi Pedal
High-school freshman Onoda rides a heavy old women’s bike everywhere. One day, a road-racing cyclist in his school notices how strong he is on the bike. But Onoda is an otaku and wants to join the anime club, which unfortunately has been disbanded. He also meets a girl who is into cyclists but not into anime.
Ore no Nounai Sentakushi ga,
A rather rude school love comedy about a boy forced by a voice in his head to choose idiotic and embarrassing actions. There is a long and irrelevant introduction, and it doesn’t improve much after that.
Samurai Flamenco
A young cop detains a naked young man, who confesses that he was trying to act the part of a superhero but got beaten up. Further investigation reveals that Hazama Masayoshi is a male model, has a collection of superhero suits and movies, and an obsession with Justice. Despite warnings, Hazama soon gets himself into the same trouble again, revealing his idealism, and indicating that the buddy relationship is going to continue. Suspicion that Hazama is also looking for a boyfriend will do the show no harm with female viewers.

Summer 2013 anime – viewing

I confess that I have dropped most of the titles I mentioned in my previous anime post, in addition to those that were an obvious miss.
Rozen Maiden 2013: dropped as depressing and unengaging.
Kinmoza!: dropped as iritatingly twee.
Gen’en Otakeru Taiyou (il sole penetra le illusione – Daybreak Illusion): Dropped.
Gifuu Doudou! Kanetsugu to Keiji: Dropped. I felt no inclination to watch a second episode.
Servant x Service: Dropped.
Kami Nomi Goddesses: I’ve rather lost interest.

Still watching:
Uchouten Kazoku (The Eccentric Family): Imaginative and funny.
Monogatari Second Series: Not the best of Shinbo Akiyuki, but worth watching if you are familar with the rest.
WATAMOTE: This is proving a bit of a disappointment. It started off well, but each succeeding episode underlines that Tomoko is a hopeless case and is making no progress to becoming socialised. Episode 8 was painful to watch.
Gin no Saji (Silver Spoon): This was rather different from the usual fantasy-based stuff in that it is about a youth who opts to attend an agricultural senior high school as a boarder. Cue lots of real-life stuff, much of it icky or smelly, and mostly a shock to our hero who seems to have chosen this school on a whim. He seems out of place among the other students, who all come from agricultural or food-processing backgrounds and are often not strong on academic subjects. Inevitably there is one cute girl who attracts our hero’s attention. This reminds me rather of the bio-tech series “Moyashimon”.
Genshiken Nidame: The story of college-age otaku and their obsessions continues. Suffice to say that I have now ordered the DVDs of the previous two series. The obsessions of female otaku in this 3rd series are rather adult-rated – let’s just say that Vladimir Putin wouldn’t like Genshiken Nidame 🙂
Dog and Scissors: A rather pervy tale of dog abuse, which also takes in the world of literature, and magical-girl battles. Rambling, rather silly, but fun.
Stella Jogakuin Koutouka C3-bu: Initial publicity gave the impression that this was another girls-with guns show, but it’s something quite different. A group of nice girls have wholesome fun with war-gaming. The story centers on shy, retiring new girl Yura, who as the series progresses develops into a gun-toting war-game fanatic. There’s no fan-service or suggestiveness other than a couple of episodes showing the girls in swimwear. The girls have fun – you will too.

Return From The Wild

Wild Return From The Wild by John Roberts Warren (Michael Butterworth, 2012, 306pp, £9.99)
As a youth in the 1950’s, John Warren adopted a puppy born to a collie dog that had gone wild before being shot for sheep-killing. The puppy had been dug out of a fox earth after its mother was shot. John named the red-coated puppy Lassie. The pup turned out to be very wild and unapproachable, but John was determined to keep her on the farm, and was allowed to do so because Lassie did not harm any of the livestock (apart from one gander) and proved her worth as a working dog on more than one occasion, becoming for instance an expert rat-killer.
John became strongly attached to his dog and determined not to let her return to the wild.
Various experts came to look at Lassie, and there was much dispute about whether she was a fox-dog cross. On one hand, this was thought to be impossible, but on the other hand Lassie looked like a fox and behaved like a wild animal.
Some years later, Lassie ran off and gave birth to two fox-coloured pups, which turned out to be much more tameable.
Because of Lassie’s wild nature, John never allowed her to be subjected to the trauma of a DNA test, but a good case is made in the book for Lassie being a fox-dog hybrid. These days scientists should be able to get the DNA from a few dog hairs but not then, I suppose.
The book is illustrated with drawings by wildlife artist Philip Snow.
The glimpses of country life in the 1950’s and 1960’s, and of Warren’s own life, are interesting.
Return From The Wild should be of particular interest to people interested in dogs, country life or social history.

It can be ordered via booksellers or direct from the publisher:
Michael Butterworth

Invictus Horror

by Kris Guido Invictus Horror by David Britton (Savoy Books, 2013, 134pp, HB)

In Britton’s books “Lord Horror” is a fantastic character inspired by William Joyce, Lord Haw-Haw, of wartime infamy. The principals of Invictus Horror are Meng and Ecker, twins subjected to “scientific” experiments by Josef Mengele. They’re not nice – Ecker is rational but violent and Meng is a mutant with a huge cock and tits. In this novella, the terrible twins are celebrating Christmas at Lord Horror’s residence in Manchester with some unsavoury violent and anti-Semitic activity.
Would-be readers should be aware that, as in his previous Lord Horror novels, Britton counters the ghastliness of Fascism with a ghastly ironic satire. The irony has sometimes been lost on those offended by Britton’s works, his first Lord Horror novel being the last work of fiction to be banned in Britain.

The novella is illustrated by a riot of colour and monochrome illustrations by Kris Guidio, which evoke the fantastical world of Lord Horror but have no direct connection with the text.
Although published this year, and after David Britton’s illustrated Lord Horror novel ‘La Squab’ of 2012, this short novel is a riff on the ending paragraphs of Britton’s ‘Motherfuckers’ which ends with Christmastime in Porchfield Gardens, Lord H’s Manchester residence where the Twins are holidaying.

“Invictus Horror” was fun in its gruesome way. I liked the illustrations a lot, though they’re not matched to the text (there’s no La Squab in the text, for instance.) Not sure if it really develops the Horror opus any further than the four previous books did, but with the artworks it’s a nice book to have.
Savoy Books

by Kris Guido
Frontispiece L to R: Horror, Squab, Meng
Meng (art by Kris Guidio)
Meng (Kris Guidio)
 (art by Kris Guidio)
(art by Kris Guidio)

Summer 2013 Anime – first looks

Genshiken 2 image
Genshiken Nidame

There were some watchable things in the Spring season, but the stand-out item for me was Chihayafuru, which was carried over from the Winter.

Returning to the Summer season, so far I”ve checked out:

Genshiken Nidame: A college anime/manga club tries to recruit new members to replace those who have graduated. Cue some more strange characters to add to the weirdos and misfits. However I found that I believed in these characters and wanted to see more about them. The three new members are all female – or so it seems till one turns out to be a cross-dresser. This series has a lot of fans, and I start to see why. I haven”t seen any previous Genshiken except for one episode I downloaded last year. I’ll be watching the next few episodes.

WATAMOTE: Tomoko Kuroki is a thorough social misfit, who plays dating sim games at home but has hardly spoken to real boys. She hopes that things will improve when she enters senior high school but they don”t, and she starts to resent her more socially accomplished classmates. When she tries to alter her appearance, the results are just embarrassing. It”s very funny, but at the same time anyone who has suffered from self-inflicted social isolation, either now or in their youth, will sympathise with Tomoko. It”s not that Tomoko is ugly; she could be quite cute if she tried, but it just isn”t in her. She might be a natural punk rocker if she broke out of her shell. The opener ignores many of the usual anime cliches to create a really interesting character. One to watch.

Monogatari Second Series: For the easily confused, this is another series from the Shinbo Akiyuki stable (Bakemonogatari, Nisemonogatari, Nekomonogatari Black). I loved the first two series, but find this latest one a slight disappointment. Some of the quality seems to have gone, and for newbies there is little to latch onto. In the first episode, the focus is on Tsubasa. She sees a giant white tiger, then when her house burns down, takes refuge in an abandoned school. A worried Hitagi takes her home and then provocatively teases her.

Uchouten Kazoku (The Eccentric Family): Kyoto is a city inhabited mainly by humans, but also by tanuki who scuttle around, sometimes in disguise, and also by tengu who fly through the skies. The story centres on Yasaburo, a young adult male tanuki (racoon dog), who spends the entire episode in the shape of a high school girl, while indulging in such adult behaviours as smoking and drinking. Yasaburo looks up his old professor, and is sent to give a message to Satomi, also known as Benten, a powerful and rather menacing human with tengu powers. The first episode has a breezy, conversational feel, and one suspects that odd details of the animation, such as Yasaburo not posing in a girly way, are quite intentional. Definitely an interesting opener.

Servant x Service: Three new employees start work at a Government office, and are immediately put into public-facing roles. It’s a plus that this has adult characters and is about civil servants vs. the public, but I found the humour heavy-handed and there is at least one really annoying character. I”ll watch some more episodes to see how it goes.

Inu to Hasami wa Tsukaiyou, which was quite amusing, especially if you’re not a dog-lover (and I’m not). Any show that”s about reading and authorship is OK with me. The second episode is a mixed bag, with a rather unconvincing fight scene.

Gifuu Doudou! Kanetsugu to Keiji: set in the 16th century, was amusing, colourful and decidedly Japanese, with a lot of dialogue about strange Japanese customs and notions of honour and respect. It’s about the reminiscences of two manly larger-than-life heroes, both drawn with rippling muscles. And did Japanese courtesans of the period really have such plunging necklines? Enjoy this for the camp artwork and comedy.

Free! was about four youths who used to be in an elementary school swim team; one of them still obsessed with water. Despite the obvious potential for male near-nudity (fan-service for girls?), it was the most boring thing I’ve suffered in ages, and only fatigue and a hope that it might get better prevented me from rising to switch it off. It was also poorly animated – note the miniature cat near the beginning, if you stay awake that long.

Kita Kubu Katsudou Kiroku (Going Home Club: Some schoolgirls form a ‘club’ for students who go home after school instead of participating in club activities. I found the characters stereotypical and the whole thing an irritating bore, and switched off before the end.

Gen’en Otakeru Taiyou (il sole penetra le illusione – Daybreak Illusion): This reminded me a bit of last year’s “Kotoura-san” which also had a girl with psychic powers. Gen’en Otakeru Taiyou, which seems to be about magical battles with good and bad tarot cards, is mildly diverting, but the heroine, with her weak, high-pitched voice is a bit irritating. I stopped paying attention after she rushed past the firemen into a burning building. It soon stops looking cute and becomes rather dark and menacing, but I”m not sure that I’ll continue with it.

Kinmoza! (Kiniro Mosaic): Middle school girl Shinobu gets a week’s home-stay in the English countryside, though she can barely speak a word of English. She still manages to get along with the foreign family’s blonde daughter, Alice. This set-up episode is satisfyingly bilingual, and some extra if unintended hilarity is added by the English being spoken with an American accent, the family living in the kind of cottage that only rich people can afford, and the father driving a Morris Minor, a species of old banger now obsolete and never seen these days outside a classic car meet. In the second half of the episode we jump forward by perhaps two years, with Alice turning up for a stay in Japan, now fluent in Japanese. It seems that the body of the series will be about Alice in Japan at Shinobu’s school and home. Contains much gentle humour.

Rozen Maiden 2013: The third Rozen maiden series. The opening episode is a variant of the opening of the original series, and this is apparently a kind of rework of the original story with the hero now some years older. It is a bit early to say if this will match the previous series, but the signs so far are really not good. In a rush to cram other stuff in, this episode fails to bring out the personality of the doll Shinku. I thought the first series was great, the second so-so and slightly redundant, and fear that this one is another example of a great original being flogged till dead.

The World God Only Knows: Goddesses: This is the third outing of this franchise, and it skips several story arcs of the manga, which could be a mistake. In the original, the charm lay in the game-obsessed hero having to deal with real girls, and being tasked with winning over some confused and spirit-possessed maiden. Now, it seems that the original girls are possessed by various goddesses, and a cute original concept has turned into an over-complicated save-the-world RPG style comic drama. I fear that this is yet another example of a great original being flogged till thoroughly dead.

Fantasista Doll: young heroine Uzume gets five cards, from which emerge five cute fighting dolls. Looks like it”s intended for girls. Not very interesting.

Bakemomogatari DVD release in UK

It seems that there will be a R2 DVD release of Bakemonogatari (eps #1-8)in the UK on June 17 from MVM. It is already available to pre-order from the usual outlets for around £17.75 upwards.
A R4 DVD release of eps #1-8 is already available from Australia.
A UK BD release later this year, in conjunction with an Australian partner, seems highly likely.

I’ve no information about a US DVD release, and given the above this would be of little interest to me.
There is a US region A/B BD box-set of all 15 episodes available – at an eye-watering price.

If you’re wondering why all the fuss, check my earlier review: