Summer 2010: First Thoughts

This season, we’re doing something a bit different with our seasonal First Thoughts article. A handful of our staff have contributed their impressions on the shows they’re following so far. It’s an intriguing season to date, but for mine, it isn’t nearly as promising as the others that have preceded it this year, and I’d say our initial thoughts on what we’ve seen from the first few weeks of the season reflect that. There have been a few interesting entries, particular those in the “horror” (using the term loosely here) genre, such as Highschool of the Dead, Occult Academy and, IMO, the most promising of all, Shiki, but for the most part, this has been as a season of blandness and disappointments. Fortunately, there’s still plenty of time for a sleeper hit to emerge.
Introduction by: Sorrow-kun

Highschool of the Dead

kadian1364‘s First Thoughts
Episodes seen: 2
Initial impression: A-
Zombies and fanservice! Two great tastes that taste great together. While this might be the most exploitative anime of the new season, it goes about its business with exemplary execution. The action is fluid, its generous with the bloodspray, and has an eye for picturesque visuals, whether it be the innocent Spring beauty of cherry blossoms, the sickening gore of zombies chomping on screaming schoolgirls, or the grotesque marriage of the two extremes. The music is atmospheric and the plot doesn’t bog down in over-explanation or angst. The sheer gratuitous nature of this show could be a turn off, but for those not adverse to squishing bodies or copious bouncing breasts, I recommend you sit back and enjoy the spectacle of the zombie apocalypse done right.

AC‘s Second Opinion
Episodes seen: 2
Initial impression: B
HOTD is produced by Madhouse, so I can safely assume that this show’s production values are in very good hands. It seems more like an action series rather than a horror one – somewhat unexpected from my standpoint – but so far, this show has been doing many things right. The action is dynamic and exhilarating, there’s blood gushing every minute or two, and there’s even considerable chemistry between the characters. Apart from the immediate effects viewers would enjoy from the action sequences, there are some undertones signifying that HOTD possesses satirical metaphors à la George Romero‘s zombie classics. It would strike some satirical chord in some viewers when there are scenes featuring a first-sighted zombie in a business suit, and one about the military’s handling of a catastrophe in light of a declining population. Whether HOTD truly is an adaptation of the American metaphorical zombie flick is yet to be confirmed but one thing’s for sure: this is among the most talked-about shows of the season.

Seitokai Yakuindomo

kadian1364‘s First Thoughts
Episodes seen: 2
Initial impression: C-
Let’s see here: one straight man sans snark or personality, one girl with her mind in the gutter, another girl with her mind in the gutter, and a third girl with a short complex to rival Edward Elric’s. Uninspired material doesn’t preclude genuine comedy, but this is a case where choppy scenes and single-minded non sequiturs just don’t deliver the laughs. They just sit around the student council room until somebody throws out some craaaazy line about masturbation; my initial surprise wore off after about half an episode, but the humorlessness never strayed too far. There’s random toilet humor and not much else; sticking around to find out what lame sex references they have in store for a full season is a distinct pleasure I’ll have to pass on.

Mitsudomoe

AC‘s First Thoughts
Episodes seen: 2
Initial impression: C+
The one thing that immediately caught my attention was the characters’ unusual oval-shaped heads that would give Family Guy‘s Stewie Griffin a run for his money. This show isn’t as bad as I originally feared: the animation is crisp and some of the gags are genuinely amusing to watch. To set the record straight, this is not pedo-loli stuff; it’s about saucy kids who deal with material inappropriate for their age, but it’s hardly ecchi. This is fine and all but from episode 2 inwards, it shows the danger of overdoing its own gags. If the show learns not to push its luck with its already amusing gags, then this can be a worthy comedy to watch.

TypicalIdiotFan‘s Second Opinion
Episodes seen: 2
Initial impression: D
Seth McFarlane gets a lot of crap for dragging out jokes well past their funny value on his hit shows Family Guy, American Dad, and that other one with the black people… Boondocks. But I don’t think even he could murder a gag quite to the point Mitsudomoe does. Though our precocious grade schoolers are supposed to be cute, I find the humor to be more childish than the girls. Despite what people have tried to say, yes it is Kodomo no Jikan without the hormones. Same jokes, less pedo-guilt.

Amagami SS

TypicalIdiotFan‘s First Thoughts
Episodes seen: 3
Initial impression: C-, and Grade A 100% Wisconsin Swiss Cheese.
High school romance has been done many many times. If the direction is good, like with KimiKiss, you can get some really good drama going. If the characters are interesting, like with KareKano, you can have a damned good time no matter how dumb shit gets. I’m not quite sure where to place Amagami SS yet. The first thing that leaps out at me is how much more advanced, knowledgeable, and interesting the girls are over the guys. Listen to some of the dialogue amongst the females in this show. It sounds like they’re all fascinating people with interesting stories to tell. Now listen to the guys. Sounds like a-typical boring as hell seinen bullshit. I suppose that’s the point. Nobody gives a damn about the guys. But if you’re going to do a romance drama, I can’t suspend disbelief long enough for an interesting girl to get with a complete dumbfuck. Oh, and who wrote the scenario for this first arc, a fourth grader? What the hell was episode 3?

Akira‘s Second Opinion
Episodes seen: 3
Initial impression: D
I’ll start with the good news. The chicks are hot. Every single last one.

But that’s about it. Our bland-as-paper protagonist, Tachibana Junichi, is… well, not quite bland-as-paper. Think of him as a piece of paper with a giant shitsmear on it. While he doesn’t quite live up to the legendary Itou Makoto (with whom he shares a hairdo, incidentally) in terms of sheer repugnance, his intelligence rivals that of a three year old’s. At the same time, his current love interest, Morishima, is just about as dumb. Their conversations are intolerable. The situations they get into are incredulous. Sure, Amagami isn’t your run-of-the-mill romantic comedy… but after seeing Episode 3 of Amagami, I might want some of that instead.

Ookami-san

TypicalIdiotFan‘s First Thoughts
Episodes seen: 3
Initial impression: C-
It’s shit. The question, though, is whether it will remain entertaining enough shit to the end. I’m not really sure what purpose exists behind trying to set this up as some sort of pseudo-fairy tale theatre, complete with narrator, and having the characters take on personages of well known story characters. I thought a lot of things while reading Red Riding Hood, but never did “how tsundere is that wolf?” cross my mind. Nor did I ever think a high school setting with a problem solving group was a good place for said wolf to be. In any event, there are some humorous moments but overall there just isn’t enough here to really give a damn about.

Sorrow-kun‘s Second Opinion
Episodes seen: 3
Initial impression: C+
I feel the onset of a tsundere relationship developing between myself and this show. There are some moments that are just awful, stupid to the point of unwatchable (the second episode was full of them), yet there are equally others that are strangely enchanting. Ookami-san seems to be at its best during the over-the-top shenanigans that take inspiration (and borrow laws of physics) from fairy-tales. It’s dumb, but it’s at least campy fun. I hoped this show would mostly revel in its inanity but the hints of relationship development make me wary, because the characters just aren’t compelling enough for that sort of narrative to be at all interesting. Oh yeah, and do you want an example of how not to do narration?

Legend of the Legendary Heroes

Shadowmage‘s First Thoughts
Episodes seen: 2
Initial impression: C
Imagine a typical J-RPG headed by a less than charming version of Trigun‘s Vash the Stampede, and you’ll have a solid grasp of everything Legend of the Legendary Heroes is about. Quirky but superficial characters are placed in an undeniably Japanese rendition of the Dungeons & Dragons setting, and they must undergo some epic quest for some relics. The first episode goes the typical 90s fantasy anime slapstick route and bombs horribly, but the second episode gives a taste of political intrigue and a narrative that may actually be worth watching. Though the show probably won’t be significantly above mediocre, it’s a perfectly watchable fantasy anime that’s good killing a few hours.

TypicalIdiotFan‘s Second Opinion
Episodes seen: 2
Initial impression: B
Boy did episode two save this pile of drivel. Okay, not entirely, but it at least took the show in a better direction. Episode one was a metric tonne of pain, harkening me back to the episodes of Slayers that weren’t funny or entertaining. Fam & Ihrie did this better. No, wait, nevermind. Fam & Ihrie sucked. Anyway, episode two seems to be taking us on a back story route showing how a group of misfits banded together, destroyed a corrupt empire, and set out starting their own more idyllic country. What this has to do with Legendary Heroes and their giant mecha is anybody’s guess at this point. Personally, the less we see of that, the better.

Occult Academy

Shadowmage‘s First Thoughts
Episodes seen: 2
Initial impression: B
Unless Shiki can pull a Higurashi with its narrative, Occult Academy probably will be the anime of the season. At its core, this is a fun, well written series driven by the dominating personality of lead character Maya. Her demeanor, her class, and most importantly, her varied facial expressions, give the series a certain presence and charm that no other anime this season has. The story may not be a work of Shakespeare but the show has solid characters and a genuine sense of direction. If you hold any pretensions of having good taste, give this anime a try.

TypicalIdiotFan‘s Second Opinion
Episodes seen: 1
Initial impression: B-
At first light-hearted, but now somewhat sinister, Occult Academy looks to be doing, ironically, exactly what the lead heroine is trying to avoid: draw us in with every occult fantasy model that exists and keeping us enthralled. With plot elements straight out of the movie 12 Monkeys, I’m not really sure how well this is going to work. I mean, 12 Monkeys at least had a deranged Brad Pitt. Still, there seems to be enough combination of camp and thrill to make this a worthy ride.

Strike Witches Season 2

Akira‘s First Thoughts
Episodes seen: 2
Initial impression: A+ for Strike Witches fans, F for everyone else.
There really isn’t much to say about this show. If you liked the first season, watch it. If you didn’t like the first season, or if you didn’t watch the first season – don’t. It’s not worth your time. Absolutely nothing has changed between Seasons 1 and 2. The plot is still awful, the dialogue is still asinine and the characters are still as flat as most of their chests – but really, that’s not going to stop you from watching Strike Witches if you liked the first season, would it? The animation has increased in quality, which is quite a feat, considering the original series’ animation was one of its only objectively redeeming points. So, for fans of Strike Witches, rejoice – the long wait is over, and it’s more of the same goodness. For those who didn’t like Strike Witches, stay far, far away.

Shiki

Sorrow-kun‘s First Thoughts
Episodes seen: 2
Initial impression: B
The first episode served its purpose as a set-up episode, but nothing really jumped out and convinced me that we had a winner on our hands. After the second episode, I’m still not totally convinced, but things are definitely jumping now. The aesthetics evoke a Higurashi-esque dichotomy, with bright pastel character designs pitted against a drab, sinister-feeling country background. It doesn’t work quite as well as Higurashi, but the intention is clear, as an idyllic setting veils a morbid culture of death and a mysterious endemic. The second episode has set up a clear mystery and given us some characters to follow. This one has potential.

TypicalIdiotFan‘s Second Opinion
Episodes seen: 2
Initial impression: B+
I’ll give Shiki one bit of credit so far, it really does seem to be trying to set up an interesting murder mystery. Even we, as the audience, are getting a bit of the run around because all we’ve seen so far is exactly what the director has wanted us to see. So far we’ve gotten some human elements, some potential red herrings, and a whole lot of confusion. In other words, it’s shaping up nicely. Now if only the character designs didn’t bug the hell out of me.

Shukufuku no Campanella

TypicalIdiotFan‘s First Thoughts
Episodes seen: 2
Initial impression: C
What started out as a moe-moe shoujou romp through a very Aria-esque environment has turned into a moe-moe RPG romp with monsters being defeated by a good consoling. I don’t really know what to make of this one yet. There is about ten different directions they could go with this and make it entertaining. Cynical as I am, I’m fairly sure they’ll choose one of ten different directions that it’ll fail miserably, but I’ve got zero expectations. So, as Anton Ego said in the movie Ratatouille: “Surprise me!”

Asobi ni Iku yo!

kadian1364‘s First Thoughts
Episodes seen: 1
Initial impression: C
This season’s quota for magical-alien-catgirls has been filled, conveniently condensed here into one ditzy fanservice machine character. From the magical girlfriend tropes to the harem-like substance to the zealous concentration on full body camera pans, this anime has all the transparent intentions of other male-oriented wish fulfillment shows from 2001. Quaint really. The one curious twist is that all the other girls, in addition to filling stock harem roles, also seem to be conspirators desiring to cultivate their own vision of first contact with aliens. Honestly, this novelty might bring me back for a second episode, if just to see what idiocy will ensue.

TypicalIdiotFan‘s Second Opinion
Episodes seen: 1
Initial impression: C
What the everliving crap is going on here? Cutesy alien-cat bimbo arrives on earth and ends up in the household of a complete weenie of a teenager. Seen that before. Secret organization A with awesome technology defeating bad guys while serving with the military. Seen that, too. Secret organization B wants to keep alien encounters under wraps so the public doesn’t find out. Yep. Psychotic and powerful secret agent girls. No prob. All of them together? What the fuck am I watching? Hands down the best animation of the season, but looks aren’t everything. Picasso‘s works are gorgeous. They’re still confusing as hell.

Nurarihyon no Mago

AC‘s First Thoughts
Episodes seen: 2
Initial impression: B-
It really looks like Natsume Yuujinchou, yet it doesn’t quite feel like it. It’s not as tender and sentimental as Natsume, but since it has a different storyline, demanding the same sentiments doesn’t seem that warranted. It has shounen elements at least two episodes into the show, but they’re not full-blown ones and totally about dynamic action sequences. The first episode lays out the foundation of the show, while the second shows the plot cogwheel finally turning. Although it has a number of questions to answer, it’s a decent show for and it has the potential to be a good one as the show progresses.

Cat Shit One

AC‘s First Thoughts
Episodes seen: 1
Initial impression: B-
Imagine CounterStrike or Medal of Honor, in full CGI glory. Here’s a catch: Our soldier heroes are furry bunnies! If I can be nitpicky about the aesthetics a little, the CGI isn’t Pixar-standard. The shading can be a little awkward and the desert scenery may lack life, but for all the action the first episode offers, it’s quite entertaining. There’s a hint that this show may actually have plot but I doubt that. From the way things are going, plot may only play second fiddle to flying bullets and missile explosions.

Sorrow-kun‘s Second Opinion
Episodes seen: 1
Initial impression: B
Here is, undoubtedly, the most distinct anime of the new season. And while its aesthetic sense and concept are certainly creative, I’m not sure it’s the most original work of the Summer. At first it seems to take inspiration from the recent wave of relevant American films that explore the current Middle East conflicts, but once the novelty of furry animals brutally shooting each other up dies down, the action sequences become rather predictable. Rather than focusing on the tension of a wartime setting where any false move results in death, our cottentailed heroes fight through elaborate action set pieces against innumerable foes and impossible odds, yet make it through unscathed. The slow-mos in particular are the obvious cues… they telegraph upcoming plot twists. Now that the novelty is finished, the show must fall back on a solid plot to reach its potential. The setting and tone is right, it’s just a question of whether it takes more inspiration from Kathryn Bigelow or Michael Bay.

16 Responses to “Summer 2010: First Thoughts”

  1. Comparing Nurarihyon no Mago with Natsume Yuujinchou doesn’t quite work, does it? They have minor superficial similarities in premise, but beyond that you might as well be comparing, say, Bleach vs. Mushishi.

    Also, isn’t HSoTD quite overrated for such a generic zombie show? People are heaping praise on it for promising to do in 13 episodes what every other decent zombie show has done in 2 hours. I guess we really are too easy to please..

  2. theres way too much sexuality in this post.

  3. @Hogart

    NnM and Natsume really looks alike because they deal closely with the protagonist who can see and interact with demons, and that these demons aren’t always evil. It’s pretty obvious during the prologue on every episode. But the similarities stop there: NnM is darker and more shounen than Natsume, which is more dramatic and emphatic. I do like how the show achieves the necessary setup within one episode and sets the plot wheel turning in the next. And no, comparing Bleach with Mushishi is just vulgar.

    HSotD is very overrated; I’ve seen how people have been claiming the show to be the show of the year and even a “god” among action anime series. They’re seriously hyperbolic but I do admit that every episode has been entertaining (especially in a fairly disappointing season such as this one). When you have a show that features American-style zombies (IMHO something unique for an anime), blood-gushing scenes and sex (in anime context, fanservice), it’s bound to grab people’s attention. Apart from the above-average action, I want to see if my theory that this show also bears social commentary is justified after watching more episodes. Even episode 3 seems to discuss the effects of a media blackout.

  4. HSotD is just a well done show that unfortunately seems to be the exception, not the rule.

  5. O mais promissor, viram menos episódios.

  6. @Hogart
    Without having seen Nurarihyon no Mago, I thought it was a weird comparison as well. Evidently there are some superficial similarities, but these seem mostly constrained to the premise. HotD is an example of an anime that has no ambition but excellent execution. I doubt it will be the best anime of the season (let alone year), but it is polished and entertaining. At the very least, it does a good job of embracing a no-restraint over-the-top approach. Too often, other anime that try to do this just come off as fumbly.

    @Tamashii
    In that case, we’ve put together a fair reflection of the season.

    @Panina Manina
    Sure thing… o_O

  7. So Cat Shit One will be a series? I thought 2nd episode was coming out next year.

    Although the production seems to be leaning in favour of cuteness rather then realism. Everytime the animals got shot they just ended up with a hole in the back of their clothes.

  8. @NoNa
    My understanding is that the rumours are unconfirmed at this point, but they suggest that it’s going to be a 12 ONA series, and the second episode will be released next year.

    The lack of blood was one thing, but the implications were unambiguous: the animals that got shot, stabbed or blown up were dead… very, very dead. That’s why I don’t think they’re messing around, even without the blood splatter.

  9. I usually don’t take part in season bashing, just because I have a lot of time on my hands (and, thus, hilariously low expectations), but this season has sucked so far. I’m enjoying HSotD and SenBasa 2, but they’ll likely be nothing more than amusing fluff, Amagami is fun for the WTFery of it all, Shiki is still finding its groove (but I think it will soon) and Occult Academy is the one show I have any confidence to grow higher than my basic expectations (that is, “be a good show”).

    I do need to watch Cat Shit One soon, though …

  10. I feel like people killing people has the potential to be more effective than animals killing animals. I mean… we eat animals (most of us). So it’s hard to feel too sorry for them without some amount of cognitive dissonance.

    People say we’re desensitized to killing, but I think it’s all in the presentation.

  11. @DrIdiot
    If it’s all about presentation, then why can’t we be sensitive to the killing of animals if it’s presented in a certain way?

    Although I won’t disagree with you in regards to “potential”. It’s the same reason why anime characters are rarely able to garner the same level of sympathy as a live-action actor on the screen (well, one that’s good, anyway).

  12. ^
    Ehh, I find it to be the opposite for me. In anime happyland, I feel bad when bad things happen because of the events contrast to how everybody’s always so nice. But in live action, it’s the same messed up reality as myself, and I feel less inclined to feel sorry for other people when I don’t feel sorry for myself.

    I’m mad at Madhouse now. Just when I recommended them to some friends for not doing trashy stuff, they do a dumb fanservice show. Way to bite me in the ass.

  13. I’m not mad at Madhouse about this (ooh pun :B)

    Madhouse is and always shall be my favorite animation production studio because it has always been producing top-notch shows, so many that I don’t know where to start. I’m not mad at them producing HSotD even 3 episodes into the show: the fanservice is very distracting, but the show has been one of the highlights of the season. For that, I’m actually thankful to Madhouse, although I know it’s hardly the best it has done.

  14. @Sorrow: We can. I was just pointing out that the choice of animals over people doesn’t really enhance it in any way I can see past a sort of novelty effect. Anyway, I suspect it’s because it’s easier to make CG animals than people… or because of the manga it’s based on.

  15. HOTD seems to be on the right track so far (3 episodes watched) but I recently heard that they already started doing a recap in episode4 and that didn’t sound promising.

  16. It did. Thankfully, it lasted only 7 minutes. Unnecessary but forgivable, nonetheless.

Leave a Reply

Gravatar enabled.