Winter 2012 Anime -2nd week

Robot above city
Aquarion Evol: It’s 12,000 years after a previous round of warfare, and the ‘Aquaria’ robots are manned by pairs of boys, or pairs of girls, against the threat of invasion. The boys and girls are forbidden to meet. An attack from another dimension, plus a character who is able to fly, scramble things up, with the boys and girls pairing up and the Aquaria linking with a spacecraft to make one giant robot.
The animation is impressive, with complex backgrounds, and elaborate robots flying busily about, but the spiritual hocus-pocus and suggestive ‘couplings’ are adolescent and not my cup of tea. Definitely of the ‘magical super-robot’ genre. 2/5

Brave 10: In 17th century Japan, pretty priestess Isanami flees a massacre at her temple. She asks ronin Saizo Kikagure to help her, but he is reluctant to do more than fight off an attacker who assaults the pair of them. She seeks the help of lord Sanada Yukimura, but he also is unwilling to help till he sees the power of the jewel that Isanami wears.
Despite the dark events, the overall tone is humorous, with some sexy scenes. There will clearly be a lot of battling between super-powered ninja, but while this could be entertaining, my expectations are not high. For one thing, Isanami looks like she escaped from some entirely different anime series. 3/5

Inu x Boku SS: Ririchiyo, a daughter of the powerful Shirakiin family, is moving into the security-conscious Maison de Ayakashi apartment complex. Her motive is that she wants to be alone while she comes to terms with her character: awkward and lacking in self-confidence after being bullied at school, she has a tendency to be aloof and unpleasant with people rather than let them get close to her. However, on moving in, she finds that somebody has appointed for her a personal Secret Service bodyguard, the overly attentive and over-helpful Soushi, an attractive young man with mis-matched eyes, who declares that he wants to be her dog, and offers to die when she tries to dismiss him. Eventually, she tells him that since he’s going to ignore what she says, he can do as he pleases. This could be a mistake…
An ordinary burglar breaks into the complex, and it at this point that we discover that both Ririchiyo and the bodyguards are more than they seemed…
This is the most psychologically interesting of all the new season anime so far, as Ririchiyo’s character is clearly laid out – she is a self-aware tsundere who doesn’t want to be one. Some of us will identify with her difficulties in dealing with others. There is also a slightly stock romantic situation, and some other baubles thrown in to increase the appeal to fans: sexy views of Ririchiyo, and there’s a comic lesbian guard character. There’s considerable potential here, but it remains to be seen how well the series will exploit it. 4/5

Thermae Romae: An ancient Roman is at the public baths when he slips down a time-hole to a more recent Japanese public baths. He doesn’t quite realise what has happened to him, and thinks he has surfaced in the slave baths, but he likes what he sees, and also the refreshments. When he regains consciousness in Rome, his companions tell him he almost drowned. However, he opens a new baths, with pictures and advertisements, and bottled drinks, with great success. This is an amusing sketch, but the heart sinks at the thought of watching a whole season of it. 2/5

Winter 2012 Anime – first looks

Sea scene from air
Rin-ne no Lagrange

I have viewed first episodes of most of the new TV anime in the 2012 Winter season.
New Prince of Tennis: A distinctly shounen sports anime. In the first episode, 50 junior high school players are invited to an elite tennis academy, and have to prove themselves against older players. Full of fantastic tennis feats and tough-guy posturing, this isn’t bad but it’s not really my kind of thing. 3/5
Amagami SS+ A school anime, and sequel to the Amagami SS series and game. I didn’t see the earlier show, but this looks intriguing. Tsukasa Ayatsuji is a smart and pushy young miss who will clearly go far in adult life. She is standing for President of the student body and means to win. Her boyfriend is the wimpy Juinichi. A new character, Noriko Kurosawa, is a rival for President. Both girls nominate Juinichi for vice-president without telling him. After a straw poll is rigged, Ayatsuji steps up her campaign, but Kurosawa invites Juinichi to a meeting (he spinelessly agrees) and snogs him in an effort to de-rail Ayatsuji’s campaign. Clearly school elections are serious business 🙂 4/5
Kill Me Baby: An anime adaption of 4-panel gag manga revolving around an airheaded, but otherwise ordinary high school girl, who befriends an assassin classmate. Not all that funny, and each episode is made up of unrelated short gags, which doesn’t work too well. 2/5
Recorder and Randsell: An anime about two school students, one of whom is of elementary school age and but looks like an adult man, the other being a senior high school girl but looking like a little kid. In the first episode the guy is arrested as a suspected child molester after over-enthusiastically greeting one of his little classmates. The purpose of this anime seem to be to set up child-molesting jokes like this. Not very funny and rather slimy. 1/5
Highschool DXD: The hero, Issei Hyoudou, is a dim-witted, lecherous second-year high school student. A cute girl chats him up, but on his first date ever, she transforms into a devil and kills him. Issei is revived and reincarnated as a devil, and from that day onwards, he serves as an underling of red-haired Riasu, a high-level devil who is also the prettiest girl in the school. This is rather dire, and its main excuse for existing is to provide views of lots of underwear and semi-nudity. 1/5
Senki Zesshou Symphogear: An original anime (i.e. not an adaptation). Another show in which pop music is used to battle against alien invaders. Two girls in a top vocal unit named Zweiwing fight to save humanity against an alien threat known as “Noise.” The show starts with a cemetery scene and then jumps to a concert interrupted by an alien attack. The singers transform and mount a counter-attack. One has to say that this anime looks good, and the alien attack, which turns people to dust, looks suitably scary. However it’s hard to suspend one’s disbelief about an idea that wasn’t too convincing when first used in “Macross”. The action is also so busy that one is left unsure which of the principal characters is supposed to be dead. 2/5
Area no Kishi (The Knight in the Area): A soccer anime, focusing on the high school hero’s relationship with his aloof big brother, who is an international youth soccer star. A football-playing girl from their past joins the school. Our hero has been acting as club manager, but Big Bro leans heavily on him to play again. This isn’t bad, and could be interesting even if you aren’t into soccer. But ‘Cross Game’ it’s not. 3/5
Bodaceous Space Pirates: Before seeing this, I took a very negative view of it: there’s nothing funny about ‘pirates’ when one’s fellow-countrymen are hijacked by Somali thugs, and I hate that lazy branding of sticking on a tricorn hat, a skull and crossbones and a 18th century jacket to associate with 18th-century piracy that wasn’t very romantic in the first place.  On the other hand, in the first episode we see our perky heroine expertly landing a space-ship belonging to the ‘yacht club’, waitressing at the family cafe, learning that her absent dad was a licenced space privateer, and evading some Men in Black who mean her no good. All good harmless fun. 3.5/5
Nisemonogatari: The sequel to “Bakemonogatari’. In the first episode, the hero Koyomi has been tied up and is beng tormented by his girlfriend for no evident reason. In other scenes, he verbally spars with one of his sisters, and hassles that irritating elementary schoolgirl. This episode has the same clever, spiky dialogue and odd or mildly pervy scenes as the previous series, but so far one feels that it’s merely re-introducing the characters.  3.5/5
Zero no Tsukaima F: This is a particularly boring swords-and sorcery by numbers show. It’s the Fourth such series, so unless you saw and liked the previous ones, you should avoid this at all costs. 1/5
Poyopoyo Kansatsu Nikki:An ultra- short episode about a spherically fat cat that insinuates itself into a family and proves very adept at detecting food, knocking things over and generally being annoying. Not particularly funny. 2/5
Rinne no Lagrange- Flower Declaration: Perky heroine Madoka rescues somebody from drowning while still on her way from school, and manages to lose her school uniform in the process. During the day we establish that she’s popular and an ace athlete as well. A mysterious girl in a rather brief semi-uniform turns up and returns Madoka’s clothes, before asking her if she has ever piloted a robot. The mysterious secret base just happens to be nearby, Madoka is shown a shiny robot which just happens to respond to her touch, an alien attack just happens to hit this very area a few minutes later, Madoka of course agrees to get in the robot and pilot it, and and of course she instinctively knows how to operate the thing and defeat her opponent.  This anime looks and sounds great, and the sea-side scenes are beautiful. Madoka is an appealing heroine. On the other hand the scenario of schoolgirl robot pilot fights to save the world is a clunker; it’s been done many times before, and generally with greater finesse than this. 3/5
Ano Natsu de Matteru: A school romantic comedy in which the normal hero, Kirishima Kaito, fools about with his movie camera, and is persuaded by his friends that he should make some sort of film. His eye is caught by mysterious red-head Ichika, who later turns out to be an alien. Ichika insinuates herself into Kaito’s house, and while semi-wrapped in a towel is caught giving Kaito some alien first-aid when Kaito’s older sister and the girl who has a crush on him turn up. Awkward! It’s all quite pleasant but the first half of the episode was a bit dull. 3/5
Another: A creepy drama about a school where a girl called Misaki died 26 years ago, and the students acted as though she was still alive. Student Koichi Sakakibara transfers to the same classroom, and encounters a girl with an eye-patch called Misaki Mei whom other people maybe can’t see. It’s quite well done and the atmosphere, animation and music all seem to be of a piece. 4/5
Daily Lives of High School Boys: Exactly as the title says, three bored and sex-obsessed high school boys hang out together and mess around while bemoaning their lack of success with girls. The first episode has four or so self-contained comedy sketches. Often, while they try to be rational, stupidity is multiplied by three. They role-play talking to a girl, and when they visit one boy and find some of his sister’s clothes, they dare each other to try them on, but only one falls for it, with embarrassing results. When one of them reads a book by the river bank, a literary-minded girl turns up, but their encounter is a failure. While the show is not visually interesting, the comedy-sketch format works well. 3/5
Listen to me girls, I’m your father: First-year university student Segawa Yuuta has just met a busty girl who is interested in him, when he rather reluctantly obeys a summons from his married sister to look after her three daughters for a few days. The older two daughters are children from the husband’s previous marriage. At this point the show starts to look a bit slimy as there is  fan-service involving Yuuta and his young (but actually un-related by blood) nieces. One’s anxiety is not dispelled by the news that the same production people also did the steamy incestuous Yosuga no Sora. It’s only a mild spoiler to disclose that Yuuta will find himself looking after the girls permanently. 2/5

Junkers Come Here – movie

Girl and dog in room
Hiromi and Junkers
Junkers Come Here, 100 mins, 1994, dir. Junichi Sato, prod. Bandai.
Eleven-year-old Hiromi is a Japanese schoolgirl from a well-to-do Japanese family. She lives in an upmarket home, complete with housekeeper and a live-in tutor. Her parents, a director of commercials and a top executive, work long hours and are often absent. Hiromi’s most constant companion is a cute schnauzer dog called Junkers, whom she thinks can talk to her. Her parents’ marriage is breaking down because they rarely see each other. Both of them think that Hiromi, a smart and precocious child, will cope with this well, but only Junkers and the tutor can see how lonely and upset Hiromi is.
This much overlooked movie is some distance in style from the usual anime comedy. It gently explores the effect of parental absence from the child’s point of view. The tutor finds himself acting as a substitute Dad, while also being an object of love interest for the maid. It’s attractively animated and the script is good, the direction giving it more of a live-action feel than is common in anime. It achieves the rare feat of being funny, while also dealing seriously with serious matters. The animation is attractive and the character designs are Oriental, which makes a refreshing change from the big-eyes so prevalent in anime. Far more than just another anime for anime fans, this is a movie that any parents should watch with their kids. The visuals too are as good as anything from the Studio Ghibli stable. Highly recommended.

Fall 2011 anime – Last Exile – Ginkyo no Fam, etc

Ben-tou shopping scene
Ben-tou shopping scene
I’m still following about half a dozen titles from the current season, basically the titles I’ve written about at greater length earlier.
Last Exile – Ginkyo no Fam has done nothing to dispel the reservations I expressed previously. Looking around the Web, I see that it has attracted a fair amount of comment. Much of this is uncritically favourable, or goes into great detail about the personalities of the various characters. There are a few negative reviews that raise some awkward and pertinent questions, such as:
Why are we constantly told that Fam is a great pilot, and not shown so that we can judge for ourselves?
Why is more not made of the potential of the small “vanships” to usher in new kinds of weapons and new ideas about how to conduct military operations?
Why introduce “fan-service” and idiot behaviour by the principal characters at the opening of the 2nd series?
Why are sections of the plot so jaw-droppingly implausible? Such as the sequence where the older princess is snatched off the deck of her flagship. (What a stupid place to stand! What an unlikely manoevure!). Her friends figure out exactly where she is, fly through a battle zone, infiltrate the Ades flagship through a gap in the hull (somebody really ought to tell the Turan general staff about that hole in the armour belt), fly around inside the vast hull encountering only light opposition, finally to confront the enemy commander.
Why set up the Ades Federation as the bad guys plotting genocide and killing the princesses’ father, and then confuse this simple but fit-for-purpose plot by having a scene that depicts Turan as land-grabbing invaders?
When is the show going to bother explaining what is going on and fill in minor but interesting details like what exactly happened to the Turan flagship and its crew?
One would like to think that there’s a clear resolution of how the nice princess suddenly has super-powers that allow her to vape a city with an interplanetary spaceship that pops up like a rabbit out of a hat, but in view of the above, I doubt it very much.
And why are the pirates, who should be a pragmatic and self-interested bunch, aligning themselves with Turan, which has just lost the war, and against Ades, the most powerful military machine on the planet? (Clue: most of them fled from territories over-run by Ades).
Clearly one is supposed to ignore these awkward questions and instead enjoy a predominantly young and female set of characters expressing their feelings and generally acting up like uncontrolled adolescents for much of the screen time.

Fall 2011 anime – second week

Scene from Guilty Crown
Guilty Crown
Continuing my reviews with the second week’s shows:
Chihayafuru #2: The second episode is entirely a flashback to elementary school, where Taichi and Aruta have a karuta battle. Maintains the high standard of episode #1.
Tamayura – Hitotose: #2: The second episode was pleasant, but doesn’t greatly change my opinion about this show.
Phi Brain: Kami no Puzzle: #2: The second episode introduces an annoying character, and the second puzzle, with car-shunting, was rather silly. Goes down in my estimation.
C3 #2: There is more action in episode 2, when a powerful and malign character appears, but I didn’t feel involved and it felt formulaic. Will probably drop this.
Kimi to Boku (You and Me) #2: One of the boys tries to help a fierce little girl who resents his efforts. A bit blander to watch than it reads.
Maken-Ki #2: More of the same lingerie catalogue. See comments on episode #1.
Mashiro-Iro Symphony #2: The boys try to ingratiate themselves, with mixed results. There was little to tempt me to watch any more.
Last Exile – Ginkyo no Fam – Preview: It looks like the flying mecha will be great, but with mention of pirates and princesses, I don’t have much confidence about the plot. The show has been heavily promoted at overseas anime conventions, and is licensed to Funimation already.

Ben-Tou #1: The hero lives in a dorm, and so has to provide his own lunch and dinner. The half-price bento in the supermarket look tempting, but whenever he tries to buy any he is knocked unconscious and trampled underfoot by hungry and violent students. A friendly girl accosts him, but he can’t remember who she is. The most violent of the bento-buying girls offers to let him join her club. It’s quite amusing so far.

Mobile Suit Gundam AGE #1: It’s another Gundam series, and so far quite similar to the earliest series. The young hero, Flit, is handed a memory chip by his mother, who is dying in a collapsed and burning building. It contains plans for a giant robot suit. Years later, Flit, now a teenager, is helping develop that mobile suit, now called the Gundam. He has a cute girlfriend, and a bouncing ball robot pet. Unknown raiders, called the UE for short, attack the space colony in a graphically animated attack, causing considerable destruction, and Flit starts up the untested Gundam and defeats one of the UE machines. Flit looks about ten years old, and one has the impression that this series is aimed at a young age-group. BTW, when I was a boy, “Flit” was a popular brand of insecticide, but that’s not the only reason I am unable to take this show very seriously.

Mirai Nikki (Future Diary) #1:
In the opening scenes, we see the hero wandering around school, obsessively texting a diary of trivia into his mobile phone, and evading the attention of bullies who dislike him partly because he doesn’t mix with his classmates. He has a rich fantasy life in which he talks to an all-powerful God in his bedroom. Unfortunately, a serial killer starts knifing people near the school, and then the God turns out to be real, and hands our hero a smartphone that predicts the future.
I agree that the hero clearly needs psychiatric help, but one can empathise with his fear of the bullies. The bully mentality (needing somebody they can feel superior to, and getting annoyed when the victim doesn’t follow the script) is depicted quite accurately here. This develops into one of the most riveting anime episodes I’ve seen for ages. For this guy, having that girl take an interest in him would be enough to scare him witless, but she keeps appearing in front of him as he tries to run away. What does she want? Is she connected to the serial killer? He dosn’t want to die horribly just yet. We suspect that in fact she just wants to talk to him, but it’s still thrilling. Actually she has a future diary too, and she wants to save him. It turns out that the future diaries predict deaths, and in the God’s deadly game, the last player to foil the predictions and survive, will gain supreme power.
Sure, it’s about as plausible as a political party manifesto, and seems set to cross off one killer every week, but it looks like an exciting entertainment.

Un-Go #1: This is a detective comedy thriller, set in a near-future Japan which has passed through some sort of crisis. A politician about to be arrested on corruption charges holds a party. Unfortunately he is murdered during the party. There are two rival teams of detectives, reclusive Kaishou with his computers and cameras and his daughter Rie, and the “Defeated Detective” and his odd assistant Inga. Rie attends the party, but her team is out-thought by the “Defeated Detective” and the unlikely killer unmasked. That’s a lot to fit into 25 mins without rushing, and this show could have used more time to set out its stall. However it’s a stylish-looking show and has promise.

Guilty Crown #1: In a near-future Japan which has had a plague crisis and is now occupied by a foreign force, the GHQ, Shu Ouma, a nerdy boy, explores a deserted site and comes across a wounded girl. She has a secret something which she insists he delivers for her. He recognises her as a well-known idol singer, and she urges him to take a cat’s cradle from her. He hesitates, mesmerised by her partial state of undress. GHQ thugs arrive and drag the girl away, while Shu cowers on a platform above. He does, however, deliver the object, and a band of insurgents led by a long-haired bishie collect it. Minutes later, the GHQ launch a general attack, ostensibly to cleanse the area of infection. While citizens are shot down in the streets and the insurgents counter-attack with a kind of mini tank, Shu somehow finds the escaping girl and tries to get her to safety. At this point it all goes a bit supernatural, with him taking the girl’s essence and going off to smite the GHQ mecha with a long swordlike thing. Phew. It’s all vividly animated and the action hardly ever stops. Wish-fulfilment rules OK. It looks good, which may be enough to persuade one to overlook a certain lack of plausibility. And did I mention before how the Fall anime come in pairs?

Fall 2011 anime -first looks

Beautiful girl

It’s time to have a look at the latest TV anime from Japan, starting with the best, and working downwards. Most titles are licensed for streaming.

Chihaya furu:
The heroine, Chihaya, is a beautiful, confident and strong-willed girl who is fascinated by the card-game karuta. In this, a poem is read out, and the players have to grab the card with the second verse on it. On starting at a new school she tries to start a karuta club, but with seemingly little success. She also re-encounters a boy, Taichi, who was in her class at elementary school and is rather disappointed to find that his interest in the game has waned. In an extended flash-back we learn how Chihaya became interested in karuta. A poor and unpopular boy, Arata, reveals his passion for karuta and fires Chihaya’s interest in it. The younger Taichi bullies Arata, angering Chihaya.
We are told that Chihaya, despite being a bijin is not popular with boys, but the first episode fails to show me why. Seemingly the immature and idealizing minds of teenage boys are to blame. Does Chihara like being sociable? This is left unclear. Chihaya’s sister is a model, but Arata tells Chihaya that she should have a dream for herself.
I’d never heard of karuta, so I Googled it a few days ago. Seems there are many karuta variants, and the poem-based 100-card game in the anime is one possible variant.
In the first week of the season, only with Chihaya furu did I experience the excitement of seeing a show I might actually want to watch.
Altogether, interesting, and no supernatural or ultra-violent content.
Streamed by Crunchyroll, inc. UK

Pretty long-haired girl
Yozora - no friends?!
Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai (My Little Friend):
Hasegawa Kodaka is a half-English transfer student who has recently enrolled in a Japanese high school run by a religious order. Because he looks foreign and has difficulty in acting normal, his classmates think that he is a delinquent and want nothing to do with him. One day after school Kodaka finds a classmate named Mikazuki Yozora talking aloud to an imaginary friend in an empty classroom. Yozora is a sarcastic, aloof girl,has poor social skills, and turns people off easily. The two talk warily, and find common ground in that neither of them knows how to make friends, yet they both want to have friends so that they will be perceived as being more normal.

Yozora goes off and starts a “Neighbors” club, enrolling Kodaka without his knowledge, so that they can learn how to make friends without going through the social discomfort and problems of joining an existing club mid-term. But just as they get started with the club they are surprised as another student wants to join – a girl named Kashiwazaki Sena who is smart, beautiful, athletic, and popular with boys. It turns out that Sena wants to have a normal friendship with other girls, but instead scares off other girls because they feel that they can’t compete with her. But this is a club filled with strife as Kodaka doesn’t really care to be in it, and Yozora and Sena can’t stand each other and fight incessantly. [Thanks to Dave Baranyi for help with the synopsis :-)]

This immediately caught my attention because it is well-scripted and deals with a real teenage problem. Some people (and not just teenagers) just don’t have the knack of making friends easily, and teenagers are quick to reject anyone who seems a bit gloomy or different. It’s also quite funny, and it’s quite believable that two of the friend-seekers actually can’t stand each other. It’s less believable that Yozora (when she’s lively) is much prettier and more personable than some social outsiders I’ve come across (in fact she’s near enough as pretty as princess Sena.) One has to go to the anime “Princess Jellyfish” for a more forthright depiction of social failure girls. Sena is blonde, but this seems to be just anime hair-colour artistic licence, not an indication that she too is foreign.
An interesting show, and I’m eager to see how it develops.
(By the way, don’t bother watching the “episode 00” preview. It tells one nothing about the flavour of the TV show, beyond suggesting that there will be more female characters, which is scarcely an enormous surprise. A complete waste of time.)

Tamayura – Hitotose: A TV series based on a slice-of-life OAV series from last year. A girl whose father recently died takes up her camera again, and her mother decides to move them back to to her father’s hometown. A well-produced and well-meaning show, but the first episode could have done with a bit more substance and less tearful emoting from a minor character. A series about looking and photographing can work well as an anime, but one will have to see whether this one maintains one’s interest or not.

Phi Brain: Kami no Puzzle: The hero, Kaito, is a smart student at a private high school, but looks like a delinquent. In the opening scenes, he rescues an adult gamer who has become trapped in a life-threatening puzzle maze. He scorns the approaches of the school’s gaming club, but succumbs to the lure of a mysterious and dangerous challenge. Soon he is off attempting to solve a maze. This isn’t the world as we know it, but a magical world in which huge puzzles are constructed near schools.
On his quest, he is trailed by the violent Childhood Friend, Nanaho, who for once isn’t just there to bring him lunches and beat him up when he gets out of order, but provides vital puzzle-solving assistance.
We’ve seen these elements before, but this isn’t badly done, and it will clearly progress through the quest week by week, so may be worth checking further.

Persona 4 the Animation: Apparently this is a game adaptation. A fairly ordinary school student finds strange things happening around him. At midnight a TV set tries to suck him in, then in a TV showroom he and friend fall through a giant set into a very strange world where they are confronted by a puppet thing and then chased by menacing giant tongues, which the hero defeats by somehow summoning a Persona. It was hard to suspend one’s disbelief in the face of this rapid succession of implausibilities. I think you need to be familiar with the game to dig this, so I’m dropping it.

Fate/Zero: A prequel to Fate/Stay Night, which I never saw. The first episode has more talk than action, and I’m not a fan of this sort of elaborate supernatural combat drama, so will drop.
Streamed on Crunchyroll, inc. UK

C3: The hero receives a mysterious cubic box by post from his adventurer father. The box soon turns itself into a naked magical girl who proceeds to turn the boy’s life upside down. Fiya claims that she has been “cursed” and is looking for a cure. None of this is particularly original or well-done, but I thought the scene where Fiya insults the Childhood Friend was hilarious. In the ending preview there are hints of some heavy-duty baddies to be introduced. Whether the Childhood Friend has any special ability remains to be seen.
Not great but it had some tasteful nudity and a bit of panty-flashing, and some humour.

Kimi to Boku (You and Me): Slice of life school story, but this time with the startling novelty of a group of boys instead of girls. They spend the first episode trying to persuade one of their number to join a club. Not exciting, and the characters are not particularly interesting.
Streamed on Crunchyroll, inc. UK

This season the less appealing anime come in pairs:
Maken-Ki: An insignificant youth enters a high school which has just gone co-ed. He has just graduated from an all-boy school and thinks his luck is in. Even more so when he meets his former dojo sparring partner and finds that she is now his sempai and has grown into a beautiful, buxom, and micro-skirted girl. Like everyone else, she fails to point out that this is a school where the students fight each other in magical battles. To school, where our hero soon fall foul of a combative girl who clearly hates him. Forced to fight at the school entrance ceremony, our hero is rescued by a purring sexpot he has never seen before, who claims to be his fiancee. We can skip over the rest, except to point out that there are so many bouncing boobs, crotch shots, tight white panties and firm thighs in this that the startled viewer may briefly wonder if he’s having a sex fantasy himself.

Mashiro-Iro Symphony: In the first part of episode 1, the hero spends some time trying to locate his cute but apparently mentally defective sister, who has got herself lost on the way to the shops. This touching study of disability ends when she is rescued by another cutie, also lost, but in possession of a working cellphone. In the second half we learn that our hero is joining a girls’ school which is in the process of merging with another school and going co-ed. At the assembly, the new boys are confronted by the cutie, who announces that she is the headmistress’ daughter, is totally opposed to the merger, and will not welcome boys. This is an adaption of an ero-game, but the character designs for the girls are in a generic moe/shoujo style. I nearly forgot to mention the bouncing globe creature that looks alarmingly like the sinister Kyube from “Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica”, and the generic guy friend.

Maji de Watashi ni Koi Shinasai: Two school classes battle it out. An appalling show full of senseless violence, super-powered nonsense and tired cliches. To summarise it and explain its many annoying defects would be to give it more column inches than it deserves. Avoid.

Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon (Horizon on the Middle of Nowhere): The human race has gone back into the past, we’re told, to re-create its history. Cue a school training camp and a lot of senseless violence, super-powered nonsense and crude racial stereotyping. There isn’t even any plot to summarise, as far as I can see. Avoid.

Several sequels:
Hunter x Hunter, Shinryaku!? Ika Musume, Bakuman 2nd Series, Working. I had enough of these first time around so I don’t need to check them again.
Hunter x Hunter is streamed on Crunchyroll.

“Eccentrics” Manga scanlation

I have added volume 1 of the “Eccentrics” manga to the other scanlations (of Himetarou, Hyouge Mono ch #4,#5, & Atsushi Kamijo’s “SEX” ch.#1.)
It’s about a schoolgirl who runs away from home, falls from a station platform, loses her memory, and encounters various strange people.

See also the revised presentation of the “Himetarou” manga. It’s a particularly wordy manga, requiring a lot of hyphens – and variably sized fonts - to make English text fit in the original speech balloons.

10 Sept- revised all my online manga to work with “click on image” to advance to next page.

Summer 2011 anime – first looks

The Summer Anime season is starting, so here’s my impressions of the first items to be shown:
Yune in the Galerie du RoyIkoku Meiru no Croisee: In 1890’s Paris, a French trader brings back from Japan a small Japanese girl, with the notion that she can work as a maid at his grandson’s decorative ironwork shop, and attract customers. The grandson, initially, isn’t at all keen, and there are some cultural misunderstandings between the child, (fully dressed in traditional Japanese costume) and the French.
The plot of the first episode hinges on the characters speaking two different languages and being largely unable to understand each other, and for me the effect was ruined by having the whole thing dubbed in Japanese. [I should declare an interest in that I understand French and a little Japanese.] Perhaps things will improve in following episodes when the characters are all speaking the same language.

Sacred Seven: In this one, a loner schoolboy sees a supernatural monster destroy a passenger ship. There’s also a nice girl in his class who takes an interest in him. So far, we’re on familiar ground. However, when the anti-monster squad turn up, and turn out to be headed by a teenage girl addressed as “Milady” and driven around in a limousine, and their footsoldiers are gun-toting young women in sexy maid outfits, one starts to think that this anime may not be taking itself too seriously… Anyway, Milady tries to recruit our hero, much to his annoyance, and is rebuffed. The monster goes on the rampage again, and our hero does his transforming thing, and wins this round of the battle. Sacred 7 isn’t great, but looks like it could be good fun.

Rou Kyuu Bu! A high school boy is pressured by his older sister, a teacher, to coach an elementary school girls’ basketball team. Sis’s motives are partly to alleviate the lad’s basketball deprivation, his own team having being disbanded because of a scandal involving an under-age girl. Determined to create a good impression the five girls greet their coach dressed in maid outfits. Not much coaching gets done.
if you like a loli-fest, with semi-nudity, panties, and sex jokes, this could be for you. Personally, I prefer to keep this sort of thing at arm’s length. Nothing suggests that Rou Kyuu Bu will rise above this undistinguished start.

Double-J: An anime short with a running time of about 4 minutes. It seems to be a school slice-of life comedy. In the first episode, two girls visit a school club dedicated to the preservation of traditional arts. However the members seem to be doing pointless stuff like carving on the ends of toothpicks. It was quite amusing, and since it’s so short, seems worth the effort of following for a while.

Blade: Another anime with an American Marvel Comics link. The eponymous hero is a tough dude who despatches vampires with his silver-edged sword. This looks like the most satisfactory of the Marvel Comics co-productions, with plenty of action, and a vampire deletion-count running into double figures in the first episode.

Kami-sama no memo-chou (God’s Notepad):The characters include an ineffectual high school student, Narumi, and a teenage shut-in (hikkomori), known as Alice, and Alice’s gang of slackers, who with her form a detective agency. Alice, who spends all her time dressed in her pyjamas, in her apartment full of video screens, is definitely a loli. Narumi witnesses a violent incident, and thus meets Alice’s gang, who are investigating a mystery involving paid-for dating. The series has a relatively adult feel to it, and there’s some “fan-service”. Possible influences come to mind, perhaps too quickly (Victorique in “Gosick”, and “Durarara” to name two) and there’s the ubiquitous nice high-school girl taking an interest in our hero. Despite that, this is a well-made and gripping opener that holds the viewer’s attention over the opening double-episode, and is the best item in the new season I’ve seen so far.

Yuri Yuri: Three schoolgirls attend their first day at middle school, and soon form the Amusement Club. The red-haired girl in particular is a klutz, who wakes late and forget’s it’s her first day at school. Gag-based comedy with yuri elements. Don’t expect much of this juvenile stuff. Sasameki Koto it’s not.

Kamisama Dolls (God Dolls): College student Kyohei has escaped his oppressive village to study in Tokyo. Unfortunately it follows him there in the form of his younger sister Utao and the kukuri or god-doll. Their conversation is interrupted by his insane elder brother who has escaped from a cell in the village, with his kukuri, and has been leaving a trail of slaughter. On the plus side, a nice girl from the village lives nearby, and she and her father offer Kyohei and Utao somewhere to stay after Kyohei’s apartment is wrecked.
This is a straight supernatural drama, but I wasn’t altogether convinced, and there is a nagging feeling that I’ve seen something like the kukuri before.

Morita-san wa Muguchi (Taciturn Morita): TV anime with episodes a few minutes long, about a girl who thinks so much about what she has to say that she never says anything. Mildly amusing, and an idea I can relate to, and since it’s so short, it mightn’t hurt to watch some more episodes to see if it’s any good.

Blood-C: An original vampire story, from Production IG and CLAMP. It retains the name of the heroine from the original “Blood”, but here she is a cute-ified schoolgirl, tall and elongated in a distinct CLAMP style, and so clumsy she can’t run in a shrine costume without falling over, and so goody-goody she can’t pass a piece of litter without clearing it up. Despite that, she manages to deal with an attack by a malevolent stone statue efficiently enough, though getting blood-spattered and nearly killed in the process. Her dad walks down to check on the result, and Saya’s dialog can be paraphrased as “Hey dad, I killed the old one. No I’m not hurt a bit!” I wasn’t impressed, and I don’t think I’ll be following this one.

Poka Poka Mori no Rascal (Rascal of Snag Forest): Another short animation. Rascal Raccoon was a World Masterpiece Theater anime some decades ago. It’s not entirely clear whether this is an updated remake or a parody. Anyway, this anthromorphic character wakes up, and we have a raccoon version of the anime staple: gets up late, dresses in hurry, bolts breakfast, forgets bento box, rushes to meet waiting childhood girlfriend. Ho Ho. Small kids might enjoy. You’ll probably agree that one episode is enough.

Kaitou Tenshi Twin Angel – Kyunkyun Tokimeki Paradise: (Twin Angel Twinkle Paradise) a magical-girl show in which two schoolgirls transform in order to fight the bad guys. There identity is secret, and there’s a masked youth who helps them out. There’s a rather old-fashioned feel about this show. It’s played for laughs, and it’s as dumb as it could be without being a parody. Kids might enjoy it, but I shan’t be lingering here. Looks like evidence that Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica inflicted fatal damage on the magical-girl anime genre.

Nyanpire: A kitten is dying in the street, when a vampire saves its life by feeding it vampire blood. Revived, and with a human mistress, kitty keeps demanding blood, and guzzles red products from the larder, while turning its nose up at raw fish. Ho ho, or rather, yawn. On the other hand, the live-action ED, with various young persons in costume doing a song and dance number and waving blood bags etc. is a riot. I recommend that you get this video and fast-forward to the ED.

Natsume Yujincho: Sequel of show in which young man releases youkai who have been bound to his grandmother’s magic book. It’s not bad (same quality as before). A direct continuation – Crunchyroll tag the first ep as #27.

Usagi Drop: Thirty-year-old bachelor Daikichi attends his grandfather’s funeral. Here he learns that his 79-year old grandfather had a mistress and an illegitimate child. None of the other relatives want to have anything to do with the silent little girl, Rin, so Daikichi asks her if she wants to come home with him.
The artwork looks good, and the storytelling skewers its marks without being overstated. The relatives are driven by selfishness and social convention, and the other child at the funeral, Reina, legitimate and wanted, is an annoying and attention-seeking brat. Daikichi’s caring feelings towards his child-aunt are well shown. While Rin is quite cute, there’s no hint of impropriety here. This looks well worth following, and looks to be one of the best of the new season.

No. 6: In a hi-tech city of the future, Shion, a bright and privileged 12 year old boy, spends his birthday at school and with a female friend. During a rainy night, he shelters a runaway boy, Nezumi, who is wounded and clearly comes from a much more brutal environment. Nezumi, when questioned, alludes to unpleasant facts about the city that Shion shouldn’t even want to know. In the morning, the police ring Shion’s mother’s door bell…
An intriguing opening, in a show that doesn’t stretch credulity. It will be worth following it to see how it develops.

Mawaru Penguin Drum (Penguin Drum Circle): A terminally ill girl, Himari Takakura, collapses while her brothers are taking her out for a special treat and dies in hospital. Everyone is shocked when she abruptly revives and seems fit to go. It seems that the penguin hat which one of the brothers bought her had something to do with it. Three blue penguins that nobody else can see arrive in a packing case and start helping the family. However it seems the magic world wants something in exchange.
A really strange show! It seems worth following to see how it shapes up.

Mayo Chiki!: Kinjirou discovers that the cold but beautiful boy who is employed as butler to his wealthy classmate is actually a girl. The butler attacks Kinjirou and the two enforce his silence with physical threats. This is nothing new to Kinjirou since his mother and sister are martial artists, and his sister regularly uses him as a punchbag. So, another ecchi gender-bending comedy. However, with a butler, a filthy rich classmate, absent parents, and cross-dressing, it’s so far removed from real life that one is left contemplating the idea that patterned panties are supposed to be funny.

Uta no Prince-sama Love 1000%: Haruka succeeds in getting into an elite high school for the performing arts. Her goal is to become a songwriter. On her first day she encounters several male bishounen. Seems she eventually has to choose one as a performing partner. Adapted from a game for girls.
This is clearly aimed at young celebrity-obsessed girls, and while it may succeed admirably with its target audience it did absolutely nothing for me. Also, the heroine has strange eyes that make her look like one of the undead.

Itsuma Tenma no Kuro Usagi (Black Demon Rabbit Someday): Another case where the fad for using the Japanese title, even though few know what it means, could look a little stupid. Nobody could forget “Black Demon Rabbit” (or, less literally, ‘A Dark Rabbit has Seven Lives’) in a hurry, even though it seems to have nothing to do with the story so far. Ordinary student Taito keeps having dreams about a girl who bites him in a vampirish way, making him her lover and slave for ever. This girl isn’t to be confused with nice girl Haruka, who is interested in Taito, and apparently isn’t the red-head who hangs around arrogant student council president Gekko Kurenai either. Taito is run over by a truck, and after putting himself back together (which makes him realise he’s not normal), he remembers what that girl did when they was six (rather precocious, when you think about it), and goes to meet her. Apart from Haruka, it seems that all the major characters have magical powers. There’s quite a lot of fan-service.
Overall, I wasn’t particularly impressed.

R-15: Takuto is enrolled in an elite high school full of brilliant and unconventional students. Takuto’s particular talent is for writing porn fiction, which he justifies by pointing out that sexuality is a central part of human nature. Various misunderstandings ensue in this ecchi comedy. With its fan-service, suggestive situations, and rude words, this show will rapidly put right anybody who still thinks that animation is just for little kids. It remains to be seen whether this show is just a succession of naughty incidents, or if it has anything serious to say.

Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu 2 (Baka and test: Summon the Beasts 2): I was quite amused by what I managed to see of the first series. In the opener of the second series, the principal character arranges a trip to the beach, but the boys end up being harassed by females who with equal violence resent being fancied and resent being ignored. Contains mild fan-service. Somehow it all seemed a bit pointless.

The IDOLM@STER: This is a series about a promotion agency, 765 Productions, training a dozen young women to become singing idols. It shows snippets of their daily activities: messing around at the office, making a hash of interviews, singing lessons, handing out flyers, and so on. Much of the dialog consists of text questions (originally in Japanese) posed by an unseen and unheard interviewer. Each character gets a big screen label (in Japanese) when she first appears. This show is quite funny, and with its adult characters and semi-documentary style is refreshingly different. I’ll be checking the next episode.

Hyouge Mono manga – new Ch.4 scanlation

Furata in temple gardenI’ve done my own scanlation of chapter #4 (vol #1,pp 95-114) of the largely untranslated Hyouge Mono manga. (This part is also covered in the anime fansubs of episodes #2 & #3. ) As it turns out, the scenes and the Japanese dialog in the anime are remarkably similar to the manga.  This chapter is about a tea ceremony to which Furata, our hero, is invited by Oda Nobunaga’s tea-master, Senno Soueki. I could never quite get the point of tea-houses and the tea ceremony, but after reading this chapter I understand better why it was an important part of Japanese culture. Curiously, Furata does not seem familiar with tea-houses either, though he is clearly an avid collector of tea-bowls and tea-kettles. You’ll find the new chapter via the manga translations part of the nav-bar above.

Spring 2011 anime mid-season

Dororon Enma-kun
Dororon Enma-kun - new or original?

I have found several shows worthy of continued attention:

Hanasaku Iroha (Personal Growth ABC): The rural melodrama continues to charm, as the rather noisy Ohana tries her best to make her mark and get on with her teenage work-mates, who seem to have personality problems of their own.

Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai (We Still Don’t Know the Name of the Flower We Saw That Day): a.k.a. “Ano Hana.” The hero, encouraged by the ghostly Menma, contacts his former junior school buddies and tries to patch up their relationship. Seems his friends have problems of their own, related to Menma’s death.  Continues to be an interesting drama.

Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko (radio wave woman and laidback man): Bizarre moe comedy. The hero continues to try to sort out his weirdo and extremely cute-looking cousin while a couple of other girls take an interest in him. He also has to fend off his youthful-looking and very tactile auntie, who is nearly as flaky as her presumed child. Continues to be amusing, and interesting story-wise.

Kami Nomi 2 (The World God Only Knows 2): Gamer gets to grips with real girls. It’s still maintaining much of last year’s quality. In the latest episode, our hero is depressed by a particularly scornful real girl. However I just noticed that the school uniforms, scarlet last year, have become more brown.

Moshidora (Drucker in the Dugout): Full Japanese title is: Moshi Kōkō Yakyū no Joshi Manager ga Drucker no Management o Yondara (“What If the Female Manager of a High School Baseball Team Had Read Drucker’s ‘Management’?”). It’s about a high school girl who is “manager” of the school baseball team, and who while looking for a baseball manager’s book, picks up Peter Drucker’s business management classic, and tries to use it to help her manage the team and aim for the Koshien. The ideas are interesting, the characters and the play less so.  In terms of characters and game play, it was much inferior to an Adachi Mitsuru baseball anime, but the ideas were interesting. Which is why I watched the whole thing, 10 eps.

Hyouge Mono: Cynical historical comedy. Still watching this excellent series. Only 3 eps subbed so far.

Showa Monogatari: Still watching this period drama. Interesting how different these characters are from the present generation. The 20 year old son has no idea how to dress for a date and clearly has little experience of girls, and the mature-looking daughter is trailed when she goes out on her own. Only 2 episodes subbed so far.

Steins; gate: Time travel SF. I’m still watching. However the principal character continues to be a pillock and there has been little real development of the theme, so I’m losing hope.

C – The Money of Soul and Possibility Control: Supernatural drama. I watched 2 eps and found it fairly good if a bit over-imaginative, so am not actively following it at present.

Dororon Enma-kun Meeramera: Rude horror comedy based on Go Nagai original. Not bad, but I’m not following it.

Ao no Exorcist (Blue Exorcist): Orphan in care of exorcism- performing religious order discovers that he can “see things” and that he possesses a strange power. Saw impressive 1st episode. I’m not actively following it.

Gothic: A 26-episode series, set in 1924. The cute Victorique and her Watson-like foil Kazuya continue to amuse.

Hen Zemi (Strange Seminar): Watched 2 episodes. Amusing and well-crafted smut. I’m not actively following this – guess I need to be in the right mood…

The rest: Dropped.