A look at some of the more interesting shows from the new season.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Â£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 â€“ 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 â€œWatch Nowâ€ to see whatâ€™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 Iâ€™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 â€œGhost in the Shellâ€ 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 â€œSymphogearâ€ which donâ€™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 â€“ 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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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.
Interesting: 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. 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.
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.
The inevitable response is “No it doesn’t,” not for me anyway. A school drama with supernatural battles.
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.
Earth is invaded by supernatural monsters with murderous intentions. Soon has various cute teens engaging in supernatural battles. Rather bad. Not my thing; dropping.
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.
First impressions of the new season: Interesting & Must-watch: Disappointingly, there are none so far.
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.
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.
Genâ€™en Otakeru Taiyou (il sole penetra le illusione â€“ 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.
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.
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 Â£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.
Interesting: Red Data Girl eps #1-3
I was able to check out the first 3 episodes of this thanks to the web previews. A shy, naÃ¯ve girl named Izumiko Suzuhara lives at shrine deep in the forest, surrounded by servants who wait on and protect her. She also has a bad effect on any electronic equipment, and she zaps all the school computers during an IT session. Despite this, she manages to connect with her father in the USA in a manner that computers really shouldn’t. In her last year of middle school one of her more suspect companions assigns his hostile teenage son to protect her. On a trip to Tokyo the two try to contact Izumiko’s mother and some supernatural action kicks off. They learn that Izumiko is some sort of chosen vessel for the higher powers and grow closer in the meantime,and agree to move to a school in Tokyo. This doesn’t sit well with Wamiya, a boy in Izumiko’s class who seems attached to her. Wamiya makes his objection known in a very threatening manner. When Izumiko defies Wamiya, the results are totally different from what I was expecting.
The animation is quite good (it should look sharper when broadcast), but in the first episode I had a sense that this show was being assembled from the Usual Elements and the heroine was too wimpy. The action flows well in the second episode but the main characters still do not appear sufficiently likeable. However this show seems to be getting better with each episode, and the third episode ends with a dance scene that made me feel that I was watching something magical, in more senses than one! I’ll continue to watch this show.
Dansai Bunrio Crime Edge:(The Severing Crime edge):
Teenager Kiri has a barely repressed obsession with long hair, and when he hears a rumour about a long-haired ghost he just has to investigate. He discovers a long-haired recluse girl, Iwai, and is captivated. She wants a hair trim, but her hair is cursed and no pair of scissors will cut it. She is also guarded by a pair of odd girls, descendants of murderers, who carry their ancestors’ murder weapons, the ‘killing tools’ and they show Kiri the door.
Kiri, in the grip of his hair obsession, returns later, and is able to snip Iwai’s hair with the pair of surgical scissors whci he always carries with him. It turns out that Kiri inherited the scissors from his grandfather, who used them for some horrid murders, and the scissors are another cursed ‘killing tool’. By some convoluted logic, the pair dub the scissors a ‘crime edge’. Kiri and Iwai enjoy an orgy of fetishishm over Iwai’s long hair (the hair mostly remains uncut.)
I wasn’t sure what to make of this, but it’s quite entertaining, and it seems worth checking out the next episode or two.
Oreimo/ Ore no Imouto ga Konna ni Kawaii Wake ga Nai (My sister can’t be this cute) 2:
Second season of the popular series. Kirino has returned from America and is reconnecting with her friends. Kyosuke is disapointed to find that Kirino is brushing him off, as does Kuroneko who was showing him some affection a day or so earlier. Kirino drags Kyosuke on a monster shopping trip where she buys a vanload of anime and game goods. later she can be heard getting unhealthily involved with one of her purchases.
Viewers not familiar with the full run (12 Tv +3ONA episodes) of the first run are unlikely to be impressed by the first episode of S2. It assumes that viewers know who these characters are and what they were doing. It also seemed a bit lacking in the acute observation of otaku and other behaviour that characterised the first series, leaning more towards slapstick.
Aku no Hana (The Flowers of Evil):
School student Kasuga prides himself on reading quality foreign literature, unlike his friends who seem to read porn comics. He has a secret crush on pretty, clever, and sporty classmate Saeki. There is a strange incident in class as the teacher returns the results of a maths test. Saeki gets 98%, while a big-boned girl, Nakamura, gets zero, having returned a blank answer sheet. When the teacher tells her off, she calls him a piece of shit, to general shock. Going back to the school to retrieve his Baudelaire (The Flowers of Evil), Kasuga is tempted to steal Saeki’s sports kit. Guess who finds out, and blackmails him.
The animation looks strikingly different from the usual anime, and both backgrounds and figures appear to have been traced from live action (rotoscoped). Hence facial fatures and bodies appear (most unusually) in their natural proportions. The way the characters move, and chatter inconsequentially, is also very realistic. I did wonder why it had been made as an anime at all. The show seems to lack a sympathetic main character, but you should check out at least one episode for the animation style.
Suisei no Gargantia/ Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet:
Mecha pilot Ledo is despatched on a mission in a space war. When things go wrong, his force has to retreat through a space wormhole. Ledo makes a bad entry and is thrown randomly across space. He wakes in what looks like an unpressurised hangar with some primitives trying vainly to dismantle his mecha. Only later does it dawn on him that he is on the surface of a planet with breathable air and 1G gravity.
Animated by Production I.G. this is clearly a top-notch production: the space battle looks good, the scruffy setting of the second half is well-realised, the character designs look good, and the lead girl, Amy, looks decidedly cute (if you don’t mind her startling round blue eyes.) On the minus side, there was little characterisation in this busy first episode, and I remain lukewarm about comedy sci-fi. I’ll watch some more of this to see how it develops.
Yahari ore no Seishun Love Come wa Machigatteiru (OreGairu)/ My Youth Romantic Comedy is Wrong as I Expected:
Gets the prize for the longest title of the season. High school sudent Hachiman Hikigiya, following some awkward experiences of talking with girls, has become disenchanted with this thing called ‘youth’. Unfortunately he lets his student advisor know his disaffected view of life, so as a curative she orders him to join the Public Service Club. The only other member is the beautiful and talented Yukino Yukinoshita, who however is sharp-tongued and has attitude problems of her own. Soon another girl, who is having trouble baking cookies for someone, joins the club.
Overall this isn’t that great a show. It’s main strength is in the dialogue, which is clearly meant to be clever, and at least it has the merit of being one of the few shows this season to be laugh-out-loud funny. I’ll continue to follow it to see how it develops.
Skingeki no Kyojin (Attack on Titan):
The remnants of mankind have lived for hundreds of years behind concentric rings of 50-metre high stone walls. Outside roam naked, mindless, human-eating giants, mostly referred to as “Them”. The young hero, Eren, is fiercely critical of mankind’s passive stance, saying that they are cowering behind the walls like livestock. He wants to join the Reconnaisssance Corps. Mankind is complacent, and Eren’s attitude is regarded as foolish or even heretical. Unfortunately for all, on the same day that the Reconnaissance Corps comes back in tatters, a huge red giant breaks the walls and the rest of the titans stream in, smashing and devouring. Eren’s mother is eaten alive before the eyes of Eren and his sister.
This is a very strong opener, and the characters and the premise are established in a masterful way. The backgrounds are well-drawn, and the buildup and climactic action are well handled. If horror-drama is your thing, this is definitely one to watch.
Mildly Interesting: Arata Kangatari (Arata the Legend):
Two worlds: in our world the bullied and disillusioned Hinohara Arata wishes he was somewhere else. In the fantasy world of Awanokuni, Arata, a vigorous young man of the Hime clan, has to pose as a girl to solve a political problem. His clan has to produce a princess to replace the ruling princess, who has been on the throne for two reigns of 30 years each. It all falls apart when the 12-man Shinso guard revolt, kill the reigning princess, see through Arata’s disguise, and frame Atara for the murder.
At this point Arata wishes he were somewhere else … The two youths swap places. A bewildered Hinohara Arata is pursued by murderous Shinso, rescued by the Hino clan’s magic, and then cornered by the Shinso. Meanwhile the other Arata stands in the school grounds, contemplating violence. The show is adapted from a manga by Yuu Watase, who wrote Fushigi Yuugi.
This is fairly well-animated, and action packed in the fantasy part. However I was finding fault with it at various points. There is no language problem on switching worlds, a problem that two other new shows, Suisei no Gargantia and The Devil is a Part-Timer acknowledge and address. After the switch, both youths are wearing the brown school uniform. And the Shinso’s use of their power seemed inconsistent. Overall, I didn’t think this was very good, and if I watch the second episode it will be to see what impact fantasy-Arata has at the school.
It’s Edo period Japan, and the city is beset by monstrous, man-eating insects. The Shogun, on requests from commoners, has established the Insect Magistrate’s Office to deal with that problem. Junbei Tsukishima is the son of a samurai who was summoned to work at that office. Since his father cannot travel, because of a self-inflicted injury, young hothead Junbei goes in his place. Junbei meets the busty Oharu, who is subsequently seized by a giant spider. He tries to rescue her, but an assortment of warriors from the Insect Magistrate’s Office have to intervene.
This contains most of the ingredients for a fun shounen action story: swordsmen, bomb-throwing female ninja, monks with giant paper fighters, swrms of monstrous spiders and a busty female. It’s quite lavishly designed, and one or two scenes are quite gory. The spiders look like they came from a Japanese horror anime. If this sounds like your sort of thing, check it out.
The devil is expelled from an alternate world by a vengeful army of heroes. He flees to our world with his sidekick, where they find their magic does not work. The scenes of culture shock, with the devils speaking their alien language, are well-done. However I felt the pace dragging after the devil got a job in a burger restaurant, to the point that I got out of my chair to check how many minutes of the episode were left. I’m also not keen about the devils being shown as sympathetic characters. Another character from the alternate world arrives in the final scene.
Zettai Boei Leviatan:
Three magical girls live on a world which has been struck by a meterorite out of which nasty things have poured. The tiny fairy Sysop flies around trying to gather a defence team to protect life on the planet, but nobody seems very interested. The three girls are colour-coded red, green and yellow, and the blue one, Leviatan, has water magic and an impressive transformation sequence. Much of the action in the first episode has them fighting a gang of ruffians in the town.
It looks like a fairly low-budget production, and whether you will like it depends on whether you like moe cuteness and this sort of comedy. I rather liked the deadpan humour but I’m not sure I’d want to watch a whole series.
Another schoolgirl daily life anime. The backgrounds are pleasantly detailed. The opening scene, of a girl taking tea in a garden, strongly evokes young femininity, and the following scenes are nicely done. Nothing of great import happens, but this is a far better (and shorter) show than Yuyushiki, and if you’d like a four-minute dose of CUTE, you should check this one out.
Namichigiwa no Muromi-San:
Young Takeru likes fishing from the pier. One day he catches a mermaid, Muromi, and after he unhooks her she eats all his ringworm bait and keeps hanging around. She also tries to eat his lure, and gets mobbed by a flock of seagulls. There’s a question of whether she is going to grant him a favour for rescuing her from the seagulls, and how long he is going to put up with this annoying idiot.
This is a fast-paced slapstick comedy packed into a half-episode length. I did find it quite funny, especially the bit where she gets attacked by seagulls, but I probably wouldn’t want to watch a lot of it.
Uninteresting: Space Battleship Yamato 2199:
A recent remake of the classic series, already released on BD, and now transferring to TV as part of the Spring season. Much as in the classic story, mysterious aliens are attacking the solar system, Earth has been gravely damaged by planet bombs, the human race is in danger of extinction, and a mysterious data package has been delivered from a far civilisation. The WW2 battleship Yamato, resurrected as a spaceship, is about to launch.
I found a lot of this rather unconvincing – the spaceships and their battle tactics owe more to 1913 than 2013, two space cadets are allowed to visit an admiral in hospital and challenge him, the same two cadets ‘borrow’ an advanced fighter without permission. And it would obviously be easier to build a new spaceship from scratch than to convert an old rusted marine wreck into one.
I’ve never entirely understood why the ‘Yamato’ became a symbol of Japanese national pride. Sure, the Yamato and her sister ship were fine-looking ships and impressive pieces of marine engineering, but they achieved little before being sunk, and another two carriers would have given far more bangs per yen.
Could be that this means that I’m not the target audience for a remake of a science-fantasy classic – or that it isn’t very good.
Ginga Kikoutai Majestic Prince:
Mankind has reached space, but is being attacked by nasty aliens known as the Wulgaru. The humans decide to evacuate their space base at Undina, but to give enough time for the evacuation, they throw five useless space cadets into the battle, equipping them with state of the art robot suits. The five do better against the aliens than might be expected…
There is little attempt at characterisation, and a lot of noisy and flashy battle. I had the impression that it wasn’t meant to make a lot of sense. If one was not in a critical mood it might be quite entertaining, but one has to ask, when we already have sundry Gundam series, why do we need ‘Majestic Prince’?
Devil Survivor 2 the Animation:
This isn’t an anime sequel – it’s based on a game called Devil Survivor 2. The three principal characters sign up for a web service called Nicaea which tells them when a friend is about to die. It warns them that they are about to die in a subway accident, which duly happens, but they summon demons and escape. The city above has become a demon-infested wreck.
Far too much happens too quickly, and next day I struggled to remember what this show had been about. The characterisation is minimal, the girl character being no more than a generic ineffectual girl. I expect that I’ll drop this.
A lot of flashy supernatural action involving a bishie boy being seduced by a spider-woman, his rescuer, a kidnapping on a train, explosions, and a couple of agents from a mysterious organisation called ‘Circus’. Do I care what happens next week? Not much.
The main character, Kazuya, is given an expensive digital camera by his father as a hand-me-down. Camera in hand, Kazuya finds that he is able to interact well with various pretty girls, and soon attracts the attention of the Photography Club president. It turns out that the Photography Club members are lechers solely interested in taking fan-service photos of the female students. The rival, all-girl Photo Club, which takes scenery pictures and official school photos, also tries to recruit Kazuya, but he decides to join the boys.
The animation features many still fan-service shots of various girls. I found this all rather dispiriting. Is a fan-service picture gallery the best Japanese TV animation can manage?
Date A Live:
In a world with a slightly alternate history, Japan is subject to frequent ‘spacequakes’ which cause localised destruction, and are the result of ‘spirits’ arriving on Earth. One solution to the arrival of the spirits is to kill them, and another is to try a softer approach and date them. And the commander of an intruding warship turns out to be the schoolboy hero’s younger sister.
In common with some other reviewers I found this show utterly lame, and I won’t watch any more of it.
Three junior high school girls do daily life type things. The animation and backgrounds are nothing special, two of the girls are very dim and irritating, and some of the voices are irritatingly squeaky. It’s thoroughly tedious. Avoid.
Valvrave the Liberator:
Geeky schoolboy hero finds robot battle suit and defeats enemies. Sounds familiar? Dire attempt by Sunrise to do a Gundam clone.
Is Blu-Ray worth the money?
If you’re asking UK fans of Japanese animation, the answer seems to be a resounding “no”. You need only look at the shelves, and when I asked an assistant at a major store, he confirmed that sales of BD anime were very low.
Why? Possibly because there’s not much point having a BD if you’re going to play it on a 19″ 720p TV in your student bedroom. And then there’s the patchy availability of titles. I got a BD player along with my HD TV with the intention of buying BD instead of DVD in the future, but that was over a year ago, and the number of BD titles I have been able to buy remains very small. In several cases I was balked because the title of interest was not issued on BD at all, or only as a region A.
One had the region annoyance with DVDs, but in that case the answer was to order a player modified to play all-regions. Problem solved. Unfortunately this just isn’t possible with BD players. All is not lost however, and there seem to be several ways around the problem, none of them particularly satisfactory. Some models of player, now discontinued but still available second-hand or ‘reconditioned’ could be altered quite easily to region A or ABC, usually by the expedient of downloading the firmware for another region version of the player and installing it. (The catch is that if you are foolish enough to connect the player to the Internet, it may self-update its firmware…) You could order a new ABC or region-free player, possibly hacked and definitely premium-priced. You could import a new player from the region of interest, in addition to your locally bought BD player. There are two problems with this: the high cost of carriage, and what to do if it goes wrong.
Then there is the PC. If you have a recent model PC capable of handling 1080p HD, and with a BD-ROM drive in it, this will play BD disks of your local region, and apparently some easy software hackery will allow it to play BDs from any region. If you already have such a machine stood next to your TV, that looks like the best way to go.
[Actually I would strongly recommend having a small-form-factor PC stood next to your TV, as it will handle lots of things that a smart IPTV can’t quite handle yet, such as display streaming from Crunchyroll and 4OD or other TV archive services, or bittorrent downloads.]
NHK World is a Japanese news, current affairs and features show from Japan – a Japanese equivalent of BBC World. All material either has English audio or is subtitled in English.
The programmes are often quite interesting. I have recently caught a documentary about the recent fatal tunnel collapse (which revealed that crumbling infrastructure is a large problem), news about a China-Japan naval confrontation, and a weekly show about anime and manga. The latter is “imagine-nation”, (Wednesdays, 11.30 am our time). Programmes are free-to-air (no card or subscription needed).
In the UK you can find NHK World on the BSkyB satellite system (in HD), and on the Freesat satellite system (in HD).
In Europe (including UK) you can get it on satellite from 13 deg.E, 11137H in SD. (There are lots of other satellite channels covering other parts of the globe).
Alternatively, the website at http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/ includes a small live feed, and the full TV schedule.
Note: Don’t confuse NHK World with JSTV, which is a Japanese-language subscription service.