Winter 2009: First thoughts

winter2009

Northern hemisphere seasons always stuff me up, since I’m writing a post titled “Winter 2009” despite the fact that it’s over 30°C outside. I’m not watching all that much this season, for two reasons. First, other than the slew of sequels (again), there’s not too much that seems interesting. Second, I’m too busy right now to waste as much time on anime as I usually do. Anyway, here are some first impressions on what I’ve seen so far this season.

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Maria+Holic
Episodes seen: 2
Initial impression: B
Shh… genius at work. It’s ironic (although possibly intentional, given Shinbo‘s involvement) that this show has come out in the same season as a new Marimite series, since there’s an ongoing derision of certain ideals that permeate throughout yuri fandom and are embodied by Marimite within the show. I guess some people aren’t going to be able to tolerate how much this show hates its characters, since the entire premise revolves around one student sadistically manipulating and bullying another, but it’s not really all that different to the way Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei “hates” the more ridiculous aspects of society. In other words, it’s a parody, but a very subtle one. But, more important than anything else, the key question is “is it funny?” The answer is “we’ll find out later”, but the first two episodes have had their moments.

Akikan!
Episodes seen: 2
Initial impression: C-
Brains Base, why!?! I think all we can really do is accept that under the current economic climate studios are going to be a little more inclined to make titles that are cheap and are more geared towards profitability (it still surprises me that these kinds of titles sell as well as they do, but I guess the prospect of the uncensored DVD version is too overpowering for some). But, my major problem with Akikan! is that, for what’s supposedly a fanservice anime, there’s actually very little fanservice. In fact, I’m pretty sure that so far we’ve seen more half-naked men than half-naked women. The animation is pretty poor as well, but it’s nowhere near ~Cabbage Love~ proportions. It’s also pretty tame, considering all the perverts in the cast (which I initially found refreshing, but they’ve yet to really make anything of it). What this show needs is a desperate injection of chaos, ala Girls Bravo, because right now it’s a mild fanservice anime that isn’t even titillating.

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Minami-ke Okaeri
Episodes seen: 2
Initial impression: B-
What happened to the Bible Black faces? It’s a lot better than Okawari is, so far, because unlike the second season, at least it hasn’t forgotten that it’s a comedy. It’s not as funny as the first season of Minami-ke yet, but it’s trying it’s best, and there have been the occasional LOLs to be had in the first two episodes, especially one scene where Hosaka gives an impromptu recital in a supermarket (only Hosaka could do that sort of thing). I guess the problem with this show is that, after sitting through twenty-six episodes of it, the latter thirteen of which were pretty ordinary, it’s lost a lot of its freshness. Also, the character art is woefully inconsistent. It’s almost an exercise in spotting QUALITY.

Maria-sama ga Miteru 4th Season
Episodes seen: 2
Initial impression: A-
The thing about Marimite is that if you’ve come this far, then, like me, you probably love the characters. So when Marimite offers more of the same, it’s not just totally OK, it’s awesome. Sure, the show is an embodiment of an idealized image that, as I mentioned earlier, Maria+Holic is railing against, but what makes Marimite so enduring is that pretty much everything that happens contributes to the character and/or relationship development. And the plot, while suitably on the slow side for a show like this, is always constantly moving, never stalling or stagnating (except in a few moments during the Marimite OVA series). It seems that the important issue of Yumi’s souer, something I wanted to see addressed during the OVA series, is about to come to a head. I think most people have a fair idea what’s going to happen, but it’s not the “what happens” that the audience will probably find most rewarding, it’s how it’ll happen.

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Ride Back
Episodes seen: 1
Initial impression: A-
I was surprised how much I enjoyed the first episode of this. It’s a Madhouse anime, so the production values are excellent, as expected. The animation is superb, the atmosphere is typical Madhouse, very engrossing, the choreography is great, etc. And there’s a potentially massive scope given the setting and the premise in a time of political upheaval. There’s about a million different directions this can go in, as it explores the politics of its world from the point of view of a grass-roots student organization. And the main character so far is great; she’s strong, ambitious, but also flawed and endearing. And having the voice of Mizuki Nana makes her oh-so cute, Mizuki Nana currently being my temporary favourite seiyuu. (I have two favourite seiyuu, a permanent favourite seiyuu, which is Horie Yui, and that never changes, and a temporary favourite seiyuu, which depends on the times and who’s impressed me a lot recently. Previous temporary favourite seiyuu have included Noto Mamiko, Kawasumi Ayako and Inoue Marina.) This was easily the best first episode of the season, and the show has massive potential.

White Album
Episodes seen: 2
Initial impressions: C+
As guilty as I am to admit this, my concerns for this show are less borne out of what I’ve seen on screen than they are out of what people “in the know” are saying about what could happen later on. People have unflatteringly compared this with Kimi ga Nozomu Eien, which is all well and good because people say things which may or may not eventually hold water, but the show has done nothing to indicate that they’re wrong, and that it’s not going to be in the same vein. The characters have yet to show anything genuinely likable about themselves, and, with a few exceptions here and there, most of them are fairly uninteresting. The directing uses a lot of unconventional techniques, but it almost feels superfluous, like it’s there to hinder the storytelling, not aid it. It’s almost saying “pay attention, or you won’t get anything out of this”, but if the reward for paying attention is an overwrought dramatic cataclysm involving a whole heap of unlikable characters making stupid mistakes, then that’s not much of a reward.

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Zoku Natsume Yuujinchou
Episodes seen: 2
Initial impression: B+
If you’ve seen the first season of Natsume Yuujinchou, you pretty much know what to expect, but this is another case where more of the same isn’t a bad thing. The big hints from the OP sequence, other than a few new characters, is that we’re going to find out more about Natsume Reiko this season, who’s been this series’ big enigma so far. The first episode was par-for-course for this series, but the second ep was really good, filled with the emotions and subdued human drama that make this show so heart-felt and touching.

I’ve also got a few other titles on my “To see” list, such as Kemono no Soja Erin, Genji Monogatari Sennenki and Munto TV, which, as of yet, haven’t been subbed (to my knowledge) but that’ll be all for this season. So far, on what I’ve seen, it’s a fairly standard season, with some good shows and some crap shows, but there’s not a huge number of standouts. So, what are your thoughts on this season so far?

10 Responses to “Winter 2009: First thoughts”

  1. Maria+Holic is already a “yes” for me. And I’m one of those minority that has a “pretty ok, but not worth the hype” reaction to Ride Back.

  2. For me, Maria+Holic, Zoku Natsume Yuujinchou and Hajime no Ippo are the best of this new season. Rideback is good, but I’m with gaguri on the opinion that it’s been pretty underwhelming (almost as if it’s a Production I.G anime). Overall, I’m not all that excited for this season, but there seems to be a solid core of shows for me to enjoy.

  3. I have some serious issues with QUALITY in Okaeri. Yeah, it’s not cabbage, but there are definitely points where it gets pretty bad. Watching the same episode five or six times over in order to sub it… you end up catching everything. I definitely thought the first season was the best, although I have to admit, I loved Hosaka’s impromptu rehersal.

    For me, this season is extremely slow. Now that Hetalia has been cancelled, I don’t know what exactly I should watch other than Akikan! I might pick up Maria+Holic but I’m starting to get a bit tired of SHAFT. It seems their insistence on pushing the boundaries of visual expression has turned into a cliche… I’m a bit disappointed and I do wish they would come up with something new.

  4. Technically, Hetalia has just been canceled for a TV appearance. Not that it affects me in any way.

    About Ride Back, I’m digging it the most out of anything this season. Personally I like the understated nature of it, and the promise of transforming motorcycles is always a plus in my book.

  5. Awwww….I was actually looking forward to Hetalia a bit. I guess maybe it shows that Japan is becoming a little more sensitive to issues of political incorrectness.

  6. For me, I liked Ride Back and I guess I am within the crowd on this one. But, it certainly does seem to have a stronger premise then most shows out there. Although, shows like a Maria Holic is certainly not my cup of tea at all and I would probably hate it after watching the first two seconds. Zoku Natsume Yuujincho is definitely a show I would say is stronger then the rest. (Excluding Ride Back.)

    Other then that, the only other show out there that has a pretty strong debut is Genji Monogatari Sennenki Genji from Tezuka Pro. The subtitled version for it came out recently and it was released just yesterday, I believe. There is a kind of “wtf” surprise or two in the debut episode, but I do feel the show is very promising.

    For Kemono no Soja Erin, there are only RAWS out for now and I don’t know if a good fansub group will pick it up eventually. But, my three shows for this season clearly are: Zoku Natsume Yuujinchou, Ride Back, and Genji Monogatari Sennenki Genji.

  7. I’ve yet to watch Zoku Natsume Yuujinchou and RideBack – I’m intending to marathon both later – but judging from what many have said, I hope that I won’t be disappointed. I don’t know about Marimite because I’m having the impression that I can only fully enjoy if I’ve watched its prequels. I may need a second opinion from someone for this. Maria+Holic seems to be a lot of fun to watch; that’s all I can say for now.

    I am watching Akikan! right now, and I’d say that it’ll be a guilty pleasure for me this season, akin to Rosario + Vampire Capu2 of the previous season. I’m surprised at how little fanservice it offers (as of now) but I’m not so affected by it, perhaps because in exchange, it offers some priceless one-liners and zany characters. It’s not a good anime but I’d be lying if I say that I’m not enjoying it at all.

  8. I want a pic of the tits of the first big screencap. Everything needs more tits.

    Also, good read. I LOVE YOU SK <3

  9. Might be a little disappointed with your request there 7even.

  10. @AC: You can’t watch the current series of Marimite without watching the previous ones, or else it won’t make a lick of sense. And the difference between Akikan and R+V is that at least R+V was pretty to look at. Nor do I think it’s quite as smart of R+V was (not that R+V was terribly smart, but it was at least smart enough to realize that it shouldn’t take itself seriously).

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