May 29, 2011

Spring 2011 Mid-Season Impressions

Now that I'm no longer as busy as I was previously and laziness is my only obstacle, I have decided to get around to this post, so here we go! It's going to be a lengthy one.

Hanasaku Iroha
Straight away, this show easily has the best animation of the season, then again that's to be expected as it's P.A Works 10th Anniversary piece. From the first episode, this show has been great at mixing both comedy and drama, and even at it's lowest points it's still more than satisfactory. Every Monday I check to see if this has been subbed before doing anything else. The plot centres around Ohana (above) and her life at the Kissui inn after being forced to move their after her mother in Tokyo runs away from tax collectors with her boyfriend, leaving Ohana alone . Ohana is instantly likeable, as is most of the supporting cast and the plot is usually progressed through their interactions and the rivalry with a nearby rival inn. I couldn't be happier with the fact this is going to have a 26 episode run and I'm confident the quality won't drop.

Tiger & Bunny
This season's superhero offering comes in the form of Tiger & Bunny, set in a world where 45 years previously individuals with superpowers called NEXT started appearing. Not one to miss out on a party, Capitalism jumps in, resulting in each superhero working for a specific sponsor, with uniforms containing sponsors from real-life companies who paid for them to be featured in the anime. Their work to bring down criminals is then broadcast on Hero TV, which often affects their way of working thanks to advert breaks and the need to show off sponsors. Whilst catching criminals, each Hero accumulate points based on their contributions. The story focuses on one particular ageing hero Kotetsu (above green), otherwise known as Wild Tiger, and his new partner, the young Barnaby (above red) whom Kotetsu has nicknamed Bunny. This new boy Barnaby seems to care more for points than catching criminals, resulting in a number of clashes in opinion with Kotetsu. The animation for this show isn't anything special but it's certainly good enough, and the CG used to animate their costumes works well enough despite some awkward moments. The story too isn't anything special but it's fun and interesting enough to keep you hooked, with characters which are equally interesting. I don't know how long this show will be lasting, but I certainly wouldn't complain if it carried on into the next season.

Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai
Whilst certainly winning the award for longest name (translating to "We Still Don't Know the Name of the Flower We Saw That Day." for anyone who cares), this show also looks pretty promising, at least as a tear-jerker. A group of six childhood friends have drifted apart since the death of one of them, Menma, dies in an accident. Ten years on, leader of the group Jinta "Jintan" Yadomi has become a social recluse who sits in his room playing games rather than go to school. That is until one day when a slightly older looking Menma appears in front of him, asking that he grant a wish for her that she asked him when they were young, but which they've both forgotten. This blast from the past motivates Jinta to become more sociable and get closer to his old friends, including Naruko "Anaru" Anjou (above). The old group then starts to gradually get back together and work to grant Menma's wish, although they're not all too sure if Jinta actually can see Menma but they seem to be happy enough to be back together nonetheless. As I said earlier, this show sets out to be a tearjerker from the start, playing mainly on the nostalgia of old childhood days. This emotional angle compliments what is quite an interesting plot (although I feel it's been lacking lately) as the friends reunite and old feelings are brought back up along with new ones. Each character is unique and interesting in their own way and the animation is pretty good quality too. Although (if Wikipedia is to be believed) this is set for a slightly shorter run than other of 11 episodes it seems to be moving along at a good enough pace and good easily be one of the gems of the season.

Carrying on with what is a season of rare quality is the animated adaptation of the visual novel Steins;Gate. To keep it relatively short, this show is centred around the concept of time travel and it's affects on the world and the lives of the main characters, as well as an evil company in the form of SERN (so, basically CERN). The sci-fi angle is interesting, with constant twists and turns to hold your attention, and the eccentric main character Okabe "Okarin" Rintarou is endless fun. The other characters each have their own unique personality and are as equally fun and interesting as Okabe. Much like Tiger & Bunny, the animation isn't exactly ground-breaking but it does the job very well. This is easily one of my favourites of the season and with it's 24-episode run it'll likely be one of my favourites of the next. I may even get around to playing the visual novel some time.

A Channel
Breaking with the rather serious trend of the rest of the show's I'm watching is my "cute girls doing cute things" show for the season. There isn't really much of a plot to explain here, it's just essentially the everyday lives of four schoolgirls, focusing slightly on the younger of the group and perhaps the sole reason I'm watching this show, Tooru. From what I've heard, this show has a rather low budget, yet I think it's done pretty well with it as it's rarely noticeable. The characters are nothing new, but each is likeable in their own way and are different enough to keep it interesting, especially Tooru. This definitely isn't one of the greatest slice of life shows to be made, but it's good enough to be some simple fun to wind down with after a long week and the other more serious shows I'm watching. I'm basically seeing it as a mediocre version of K-ON!!, and the (not-so-subtle) yuri undertones are enough to please my guilty pleasure.

Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko
This is SHAFT's offering for the Spring season, and although it definitely doesn't live up to their previous offering (and I doubt anyone expected it too) it is far from a disappointment. The main character Makoto Niwa has moved to a seaside town to live with his rather strange aunt Meme Touwa (above) and her daugher Erio Touwa, who after an incident some time ago thinks she is an alien and walks around wrapped up in a futon. The story is mainly based on Makoto's interactions with his aunt and cousin, as well as a couple other girls he meets, with him constantly monitoring what he calls his 'adolescence points' (a point system he's created based on living the perfect adolescence). The animation is what's to be expected of SHAFT. It's pretty good in close-ups and in background, but the character animations can really suffer at times, especially in wide shots. However, it isn't too distracting and will likely be improved greatly with the blu-ray releases, as is SHAFT's usual method. Although not as great as the first three shows on this list, Denpa Onna is a fun, interesting and good quality series, and would probably shine brighter if not for the numerous great shows this season. The main female characters are also quite possibly some of the most attractive seen in a long time.

Ao no Exorcist
Okumura Rin is a normal 15-year-old boy living at his father's church with his twin brother Okumura Yukio. Little does he know that the world is full of demons, and that his father is an exorcist. Although this is not strictly true either, as Rin discovers he is in fact the son of Satan, born of a human mother, and as such is part demon himself (his twin brother isn't because Satan deemed him too weak in the womb or something). After Satan then kills who he thought was his father Rin vows to become an exorcist too, and starts to go to what is basically exorcist school. I'm really unsure about this show. It started off looking like a fun enough series about fighting demons with plenty of action, but it seems to have just deteriorated into a mediocre school life show with a few demons thrown in. The characters aren't anything too special and the plot is rather predictable, with the rather good quality animation being it's only redeeming feature. Because of this I'm not sure if I'm even going to bother downloading the new episode as it's become a bit of a chore to watch and I could really do with one less show to watch (I've already dropped Dog Days earlier in the season).

This is KyoAni's Spring offering, and seeing as they're yet to produce a show I haven't loved I had high expectations. Nichijou can more or less be summarised as a sketch show centred around a group of school students and their school, in particular the three friends Yuuko, Mio (above) and Mai. I have to say, this show is rather hit and miss. Some of the sketches are brilliantly funny, whilst others are good enough to bring up a chuckle but often suffer from lasting far too long. The common overreactions from Yuuko in particular are also hit and miss, with some being funny and some just being plain annoying. However, almost all characters are very likeable even outside the main group, with a certain eight year old professor, her robot Nano and their cat Sakamoto being certain highlights. The animation is also what's to be expected of KyoAni, being fluid and of very high quality, often raising some scenes from mediocre to excellent all by itself. Despite some rather frequent misses which are the fault more of the source material than KyoAni themselves, Nichijou remains to be more than enough fun to keep me watching, with the characters and animation being particular reasons. Whilst I'm not sure how it can keep this charm going into next season (as I'm sure I've heard in several places it's going for a 26-episode run) I'll certainly carry on watching to see.

All in all, this Spring season has certainly been one of, if not the, best I've seen so far (then again, I've only been watching anime for about 18 months and never saw the highly-acclaimed 2007 year of anime as it aired) and seeing as at least three of them are carrying into next season I may not even pick up anything new other than the second season of BakaTest, as from what I've seen the Summer 2011 season seems pretty weak. Although the fact I'm watching eight shows (nine if I hadn't dropped Dog Days) resulted in me spending incredibly long on this post, I'm glad that there are so many high quality shows airing, and it certainly gives me something to do.

Now that I'm not so busy any more I've also downloaded Bakemonogatari, Lucky Star and Death Note (as it appears I'm one of very few anime fans that have never actually seen it), so expect posts on each of them as I complete them over the next few weeks as well as possibly a couple more as I've cleared up a fair pit of hard drive space.

1 comment:

  1. I just found an ep of Tiger & Bunny online. I'm laughing at the corporate sponsorships. There needs to be a giant viagra robot!!

    ~My Own Private Idaho~