Fall 2008: Action Edition

Now that Sorrow-kun has laid the groundwork of some sample titles for the year, I’ll focus on my area of interest: action.

Much like my colleague, I’m not willing to confidently say anything about the overall quality of this season, but this is the first season where I’ve seen the first episodes of about half of all the anime that has come out.  Many have shown potential; many need polish; many have plain out sucked.  I’ll help sort out which is which.

Xam’d: Lost Memories
Episodes seen: 12
Initial Impression: B-

Thanks to the PlayStation Network, those of us who live in America have gotten front row seats to the latest BONES title before it aired in Japan.  Considering how far along the series is, it may be moot to start promoting it now, but I believe good anime deserve a second shout out.

Xam’d is a action/drama anime that follows the life of Akiyuki and his friends after a string of terrorist attacks shakes the very core of a small island community. During the attack, Akiyuki is infected with a gem that transforms him being known as “Xam’d.”  Yes, this sounds clichéd, but twelve episodes in, and the show is still showing a great deal of potential. Though flawed, this is an all-around solid production from director Miyaji Masayuki, who is showing his talents as one of the assistant directors of Spirited Away. The only reason I’m not willing to give this a higher score is because the show hasn’t actually set off any fireworks yet.

Shikabane Hime Aka
Episodes seen:
Initial Impression: B-

Shikabane Hime Aka is an anime about a school girl who is brought back from the dead so that she can fight evil apparitions with a pair of machine guns.  While the story itself is nothing special, the show is worth seeing simply because of the Gainax imagery. Sure, everything here has been done far better in FLCL but there’s some good fun to be had watching the erratic (sometimes artsy) visuals set at the pace of an action series.

Hokuto no Ken: Raou’s Story – Heavenly King
Episodes seen: 1
Initial Impression: D-

This series is about a man who is essentially a brick wall of muscles and corny one-liners that kills people in order to bring order to a chaotic, post-apocalyptic world. The aforementioned brick wall is Raou who apparently knows some hacked martial arts which essentially gives him God-mode combined with status multipliers that’s over nine-thousand. Since it’s obvious who’s going to win each an every single fight, there’s less tension here than at a NASCAR event with a 30 mph speed limit. Because this has some of the worst animation this season, I really don’t see the point in watching this show unless you happen to be very fond of watching one man massacring everyone around him in bloody ways.

Michiko to Hatchin
Episodes seen: 1
Initial Impression: B

Shoot ’em up anime are a dime a dozen, but every once in a while, there are a few each year that genuinely deserve a chance. Michiko to Hatchin is a stylish and sexy anime about Michiko, a knock-out diva with an itchy trigger finger, and her daughter Hatchin who is whisked away from her evil adoptive family. Having just broken out of jail, Michiko is constantly dogged by the police and takes up bank robbing as a professional occupation. While the show could go anywhere at this point, the first episode has shown that the series is probably going to be one hell of a ride.

Casshern Sins
Episodes seen: 3
Initial Impression: B+

Along with Nodame Cantabile Paris Chapter, Casshern Sins has become one of my favorites of this season.  The show is about an amnesia-stricken robot known as Casshern who apparently has destroyed the world by giving the once immortal robots mortality. Now, every robot and his dog is trying to hunt down Casshern because it is said that whoever eats his flesh will be saved from death.  The whole concept of derelict, post-apocalyptic worlds filled with angry, dying robots may sound corny, but you don’t complain about the cheese when Madhouse is at the helm.  The show is a far cry from what you’d expect from what you would normally expect because instead of the usual good vs. evil ploy, the show is a dark, brooding piece about Casshern’s descent into a mental hell as he helplessly watches the world rot away. Watch all your perceptions that this may be a “childish” series when you hear robots scream in agony as they get their metal guts ripped out.

Yozakura Quartet
Episodes seen:
Initial Impression: D+

I don’t mind clichés in moderate amounts or when it’s suffused with doses of exciting action and mindless fan service, but when every single scene feels like a drip down déjà vu lane, I know that something is very wrong.  Yozakura Quartet is a rip of rip-offs that doesn’t even bother trying to be original.  It’s essentially a shounen action series about a group of individuals who hunt down demons in present day Japan to keep balance between humans and demons. The characters are boring, the story lacks direction and the action is extremely generic.  The show probably will get better as the viewer gets more acquainted with the characters, but there are so many solid shows this season that this one isn’t even worth a glance.

Gundam 00 Season 2
Episodes seen: 2
Initial Impression: B-

I’ve long accepted that the Golden Age of Gundam has forever died when Tomino first lost interest in the franchise back in 1994. These days, all I look for in the franchise is some mindless fun derived from the clichéd but oddly compelling stories, the flashy action and the strong J-pop. The reason I gave such a high rating to the first season of Gundam 00 is because it provides just that (though the fact that this came after Destiny probably helps).  All I expect season 2 to do is the same except without the lackluster first half.

Linebarrels of Iron
Episodes seen: 1
Initial Impression: D

When I first watched the previews of this anime, I expected another Xebec-esque giant robot anime except with Gonzo at the helm… Well, Gonzo was sure as hell at the helm, and they managed to sink any interest I had about the show permanently. Along with QUALITY animation, this show has one of the worst protagonists I’ve ever seen in this genre. Cocky, cowardly and childish, Hayase Kouichi is now my new poster-child of how not to make protagonists. Unless you want to watch another crappy Evangelion knock-off, stay far, far away.

Tales of the Abyss
Episodes seen: 2
Initial Impression: C

I believe that the most titles should stay within their respective mediums because that’s where they’ll shine the brightest.  This is why I am against the idea of a live action Metal Gear Solid movie and (an even more frightening prospect) a MGS anime. Tales of the Abyss is originally an anime-esque RPG by Namco that has been adapted by Sunrise. I originally, expected this transition to be a homecoming of sorts, but my hopes were dashed within two episodes.  Let’s ignore the clichéd plot and characters for a moment to look at why this should have remained only a game. You know how in video games seemingly simple quests become prolonged because the developers needed you to go through a forest/swampland/ocean/cave instead of the well beaten road? Well, that’s essentially all that’s driving this anime. Instead of a natural flow of events, the show goes down a list of RPG tropes to forcefully introduce the characters and create an artificial sense of conflict. I may be willing to accept these conventions in a game but not in an anime.

Episodes seen:
Initial Impression: B-

The concept of samurais in post-apocalyptic Japan might sound clichéd, but in the hands of Madhouse, it’s hard to not give it a chance to prove itself. Kurozuka is a blood-soaked action series about a swordsman named Kuro who falls in love with a mysterious woman Kuromitsu and is forced to fight the hordes of enemies coming after him and his newfound love. Though the romance is clunky, the violence is top billing with a few nods to Shigurui spiced up with some gravity defying stunts. The story is really poised to go anywhere at this point, but so long as you can appreciate some good action, this is worth a watch.

Mouryou no Hako
Episodes seen: 1
Initial Impression: A-

Yes, yes, this is not an action anime and thus breaks away from the theme, but I believe it would be a severe disservice to not mention this title simply because the first episode has shown so much promise. Mouryou no Hako starts out with the story of two girls who become seriously transfixed with one another in a passionate yet elegant display of love. The people at Madhouse have done an exquisite job creating the atmosphere and drafting dialogue that’s meaningful but natural. If Mouryou no Hako manages to keep up its current quality, this may be a serious contender of the best of 2008.

One Response to “Fall 2008: Action Edition”

  1. I’m glad you included Mouryou no Hako because all of a sudden I have another anime on my “must watch” list. Which isn’t healthy considering how many series I’m already following. As for the rest… only Xam’d and Casshern Sins have got my attention, and I think I’ll see what people have to say about them after they’re over before I decide I want to watch them.

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