Fall 2010 Mid-season Impressions

It’s half-way through another season, so it’s time for another Mid-season Impressions from The Nihon Review! There has been quite a nice variety of anime this season to fit most any taste or niche, and a number of very interesting and controversial shows to generate a ton of discussion. Thus, a few of us here at NHRV will talk about some of our favorites and not-so-favorites at the midway point.
Introduction by: kadian1364

kadian1364 on Kuragehime after 4 episodes

Excuse me for my fanboy gushing, but what a joy this show has been. As Tsukimi’s fairy god-tranny works his makeover magic on our favorite frumpy jellyfish otaku, we are reminded of all the shoujo/chick flick clichés this story is molded after, and how much better this one is by comparison. Seasoned viewers know what to expect from a for-Noitamina-timeslot production: charming characters, mature themes, and quirky, disarmingly effective humor; and Jellyfish Princess has delivered on all those fronts. But what really sets this show apart from its contemporaries in its genre is the nuanced details beneath it all. The Nunz are a scatterbrained troupe, but are as superficial and in some ways more immature than the trendy people they shy away from. There are complicated family issues, and a potential love triangle gaining steam. It all means as wonderfully endearing as this anime has been, it’s only looking up.

My hopes are that the other members of the Nunz get fleshed out and that the story continues to sidestep the easy outs and traps, but whatever may come I’m confident the story will continue to deliver genuine hilarity and meaningful emotional sincerity. Olé!

Ascaloth on Ore no Imouto after 7 episodes

OreImo is, quite frankly, something of an oddball; the title itself suggests an intent to otaku-pandering, and indeed the packaging of the entire series seems to conform to that supposed intent; glorification of the otaku subculture, shout outs to famous works and events within that subculture, and a visually attractive otaku heroine which makes even our resident stoic Aussie Sorrow-kun go “HNNNGH“. Yet at the same time, it does not flinch from a blunt portrayal of the very things it supposedly celebrates; the absurdities of typical otaku behaviour, the recognition of the stigma associated with that subculture, and an ungrateful, vindictive, frustratingly straight portrait of a real-life annoying teen imouto.

In other words, OreImo proves itself an interesting look at the otaku subculture, with fairly compelling characters carrying quite realistic personality flaws wrapped in an attractive package of moe archetypes and otaku-centric tropes. In fact, it can be said that OreImo is a series of two halves (just like its titular heroine), which mesh surprisingly well at times and sit uneasily with each other at other times, which is especially apparent in the latest episode. One cannot help but be compelled to keep watching, if only to see if this series holds its contrasting traits together in the end, or lets it all fall apart.

TypicalIdiotFan on Toaru Majutsu no Index II after 6 episodes

If you are retarded enough to be involved in the “Index vs. Railgun” nerd war, and are on the Index side, you were probably just thrilled with this sequel. The director had brought back to you the very same shit that made the first season popular in the first place. Yes, all the technobabble, fight conversations, and Gary Stuness is right there where it belongs. Character development? Interactions and relations? Anything making sense? The fuck you on? Index fans don’t need that crap! They like their shounen fighting anime with a higher budget just the way it is, thank you very much. And then episode six came around. What a cockpunch that was, eh? Multifaceted characters, friendship issues, pacing… Pacing, I say!

I won’t hide that I prefer Railgun over Index, but for me, the best thing that happened to both shows was episode six. As one person put it, Index has the plot but bad execution and Railgun has the execution but no plot. Unfortunately, the story of Railgun‘s characters does require Index to continue on. The two shows taking on the strengths of each other to round out the weaknesses would make Index a much better show going forward. And it might end this retarded debate.

kadian1364 on Squid Girl after 6 episodes

This little comic story about a squid invader turned indentured beach restaurant waitress/mascot has succeeded where it counts: humor. The mood has remained light and playful, helped by the tri-episode format. The show is content to scroll through working with a couple side characters per mini-episode, which works favorably since the cast, although gimmicky, is well-suited for this comedy series. Their feelings range from infatuation, familiarity, and fear in regards to the titular character, and in turn she plays well off of each of them. Throw in some clever gags and good comic timing, and even a treat like the sweet little vignette in episode 5 about the mini-squid girl (a short evocative of Pixar’s best), and this innocuous comedy so far has pleased everyone who cares to see.

I want to be careful not to heap on too much praise, as while Squid Girl has no real flaws, it hasn’t done anything above and beyond. It’s safe and consistently amusing; a fluffy pick-me-up that has met all the modest expectations anyone could reasonably have of it.

AC on Iron Man after 7 episodes

Madhouse, dude, what the hell are you doing here? Even after a couple of episodes, I see no substantial improvement to any aspect of the show. Your animation still sucks: I’m not a true-blue Iron Man fanatic, but I was expecting at least eye-catching production values. But no, the animation is anything but eye-catching and any scene featuring the titular character in motion just hurts the eyes.

Your characters still suck, particularly Tony Stark who is supposed to be the main cogwheel of the show. I still don’t find anything interesting about him. There’s no charisma, swagger or character about him. He’s just a vanilla protagonist who preaches cheesy anti-war messages. If the most important figure of the show is already boring to death, what else can I say about the other characters?

Lastly but most importantly, your story sucks for actually having filler episodes. It still feels like a mediocre Sunday morning cartoon when it could’ve been so much more than that. Every episode uses the Villain of the Week trope, and every episode gets the same resolution.

I just don’t expect anything more from this show; I’m simply mad at Madhouse for putting it to waste.

TypicalIdiotFan on The World God Only Knows after 7 episodes

This would work better as a live action show, if for nothing more than to avoid the hypocritical and ironic plot, but the show really hasn’t been bad. Since the only thing this show is missing from being an erogame adaptation is that there is no erogame for this to be adapted from, what I expect from it is fairly low. It’s not quite even a harem anime, since Keima doesn’t end up with anybody. At least, not yet.

And that might be my biggest problem. One of the plot points is that once Keima is done “conquering” the girl and getting the Loose Soul to come out, the girl forgets all about him. Therefore, he gets nothing out of this, except a chance to keep living, of course. Each story has been used as a platform to have Keima change a bit by the end, and yet he doesn’t appear to dwell on the previous girl too long. There’s a brief period of melancholy, but that’s it. Can you really disassociate yourself that much from a person you made fall in love with you? I wonder.

Oh, and TWGOK features the best soundtrack this season. Frankly, I don’t know why they crammed such gorgeous orchestra pieces into a show like this, but they work. I’m fairly sure this show would be utter shit if not for the rousing and mood setting BGMs.

Sorrow-kun on Yosuga no Sora after 7 episodes

I have, in all honesty, underrated this anime. Yes, it’s got less class than the underside of a table at a strip bar, and yes, the only two things that really separate it from other harem eroge adaptations are the omnibus format and the fact that it has no qualms about showing explicit sex scenes on TV. While the omnibus structure has its limitations, Yosuga no Sora isn’t doing a bad job of meeting them. It’s a lot better than Amagami SS’s take on the format because not everything is reset. They’re clear about which point in the story they’re resetting from, and everything that matters prior, such as characters’ backstories and personalities and interactions, remains in tact. Most surprisingly, the stories are actually somewhat romantic. While the standard harem formula of a male lead helping a bunch of attractive girls is in action here again, the girls’ stories aren’t completely mundane and predictable, and Haruka isn’t the banal moron that most harem anime get blessed with for a male lead.

The sex scenes are a mixed bag, but at least not all of them scream “inappropriate”, which is typically the case when it comes to how anime handles fanservice. However, I still have idea what to make of Motoka’s omake at the end of each episode. Oh, and don’t believe anything TypicalIdiotFan has to say about The World God Only Knows. Yosuga no Sora has the best soundtrack of the season bar none.

TypicalIdiotFan on Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt after 7 episodes

If the stories are right, the GAINAX creative crew came up with the ideas and concepts of PSG while snorting powdered toe nail clippings laced with the famous green slime from Nickelodeon. Hey, it’s just what I heard. I don’t make stuff up. I just know it works.

I don’t know why anybody ever says something idiotic like: “Can GAINAX ever top what they did with their last project?” because the answer is always an emphatic crotch grab followed by a “yeah, stupid.” GAINAX has continued to redefine everything awesome about anime, and somehow they still catch us off guard. Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt isn’t just another redefining of anime, but a redefining of western adult cartooning. Adult Swim, god bless them despite their senility these days, has tried to blend mature, adult humor with the classic cartoon art style for years, but has never come up with anything this good.

Naturally, the backlash of anime hipsters is in full swing, trying to drag this show down. Is it talked about a lot? Yes. Is it hyped up a bunch? Yes. Is it flooding animation forums and image boards? Yes. Do people really like it? Yes. And do you know why? Because it fucking deserves it, asshole! Deal with it.

kadian1364 on Star Driver after 7 episodes

There are a number of things that irk me about Star Driver. One-and-done villains that are hardly heard from once they are defeated. A “friendship” between the three main characters whose only evidence is the ED sequence, and otherwise we are informed of rather than shown. A girl in a cage and a secret society that have remained the same mysterious eccentrics they have been since the first episode. Stylistic animation changes during mecha fights that seem spastic and unnecessary. There’s just a confluence of details about how Star Driver conducts itself that make me doubt whether it can fulfill the blockbuster potential it was billed to have pre-season.

But then it has shown some of that potential. The graphics are still gorgeous, the musical score is as majestic and grandiose as they come, and there are developing plotlines that give me reason to hope. Simply put, its pedigree is too good to give up on. But there comes a time when a title can no longer tease with “promise” and “potential” and it has to actually show what it is capable of. It must deliver that one signature moment that fans can hang their hats on and say, “See? This is what it was all for.” And that moment has to come soon.

Ascaloth on Bakuman after 7 episodes

It probably shouldn’t have taken as long as half a season to come to this conclusion, but there is truly a lot to recommend about Bakuman. The dated animation and music could easily have made this series feel just that (dated), but with the hands of the maestro Kasai Kenichi, it brings to mind the best of 80s/90s slice-of-life instead. And speaking about Kasai, the highly interesting study into the workings of Japan’s manga industry is reminiscent of another of his works, none other than the josei favourite Nodame Cantabile. And of course, Bakuman offers probably the best bromance this year, which works incredibly well within the setting. There is nothing quite like two best buddies joining forces to attain a dream, and the effort and setbacks that accompanies such an endeavour.

There’s only really a couple of complaints I could make about this series. One is about the female lead, who still seems more like a plot point than a character at this stage. And the other is; from the same writer/artist team who came up with that cult hit Death Note, where’s my epic potato chip eating scene?

AC on MM! after 7 episodes

Oh boy, where do I start with this crap? Yes, it was fun seeing Fukuyama Jun voicing protagonist Tarou, who gets his sick kicks from getting abused by cute girls… at first. But the novelty effect wore out right by the second episode, and any scene with Tarou getting turned out just isn’t funny anymore.

To make matters worse, we have another Kugimiya-tsundere archetype Mio and her good friend Yuuno, who’s a poor man’s carbon-copy of Inami from Working!. Talk about unoriginality, indeed. These three characters are just the tip of the shitberg: the rest of the cast are just a group of random goofballs consisting of a cross-dresser, a morally messed up mother-sister pairing, and a loli genius.

What’s just as deplorable is the story (or the lack of it). Episodes 2 and 3 are a pathetic attempt at juggling serious drama and lulzy comedy, and things just don’t make sense anymore for the subsequent episodes. Just to give you how asinine the story gets, one episode even created a new phenomenon: “Pervert Energy” that turns you into Super Saiyan à la Dragonball Z.

TypicalIdiotFan on Fortune Arterial after 6 episodes

Honestly, after six full episodes I’m not sure exactly what to think about Fortune Arterial. One aspect of it that sticks out as completely unnecessary is the vampire stuff. Sure, the class president is several generations old and has apparently been at the school a long time. Sure, his vivacious sister is not nearly as old and hasn’t been there very long. But… really, what does this matter? Aside from the class president drinking blood from a student once way back in episode one, there hasn’t been anything about vampires in this that has mattered one ounce worth of shit. They could have been werewolves or liberals and it wouldn’t have mattered for what the show’s plot has done with it. So it just is. For no real reason.

I’ll tell you one other feeling I have: this shit is boring. I actually fell asleep watching episodes 4 and 5, dealing with the setup for the sports festival and the festival itself. Like Shukufuku no Campanella last season, Fortune Arterial simply has no conflict. It isn’t slice of life enough to be an interesting look at high school society, so what the hell is there in here that moves the plot? Been a great sleep aid, though.

Sorrow-kun on Shinrei Tantei Yakumo after 6 episodes

The only thing remotely challenging about Psychic Detective Yakumo is trying to stay awake while watching it. This is a snooze-fest, filled with mundane, emotionally suppressed characters that interact with each other like they’re all constipated… or just desperate to get away from each other and the same boring conversations that they’ve had over and over. The characters are bland, but the mystery stories are even worse: predictable and run-of-the-mill. There’s an attempt at horror in here somewhere, but you’d barely know it because the “scares” are so docile. Oh, and how does the music suck!

There’s just no energy about this anime. No urgency, no tension, no drama… you know, usually the types of things you want to see in a supernatural mystery horror show. It’s a genre that I really like, but between this and Ookamikakushi, it’s given us two of this year’s worst anime.

AC on Arakawa Under the Bridge x Bridge after 7 episodes

The material’s not fresh anymore. Fair enough. Nothing has really changed since the first season: Kou is still living under the bridge with probably the most likable bunch of whackos ever. But I still find it funny. The Arakawa gang are still quirky, the seiyuu work is wonderful and the chemistry among them truly works. There are two new additions to the “asylum”, who are quite a mixed bag, but generally the show still delivers with the gags. I still laughed a lot in every episode.

But what came as a pleasant surprise was episode 3 because the show took a step forward by focusing on the relationship between Kou and Nino. It’s a considerable development which we want to see since they are the focal pair of the show. Other than this, I must say that I’m enjoying every minute of this sequel. It’s not one of Shinbo Akiyuki‘s best works and probably not his highlight of the current season – that being SoreMachi – but it’s doing just fine.

TypicalIdiotFan on Super Robot Wars OG – The Inspectors after 7 episodes

There is just way too much going on in this show crammed into a mere seven episodes. I think I’ve counted roughly six different major storylines revolving around the different factions and entities that have been introduced. You’ve got the Federation people, the DC people, the Aliens, the people from the future, the School people, the Chokijin and whatever they mean, and there’s probably about four that I’ve forgotten.

Normally, I would be thrilled that an anime takes the initiative to weave together intricate storylines to create an epic tale. The problem is that they’re doing it at a pace that causes severe head trauma. They introduce one story and then five minutes later we’ve got another one. Just too much shit going on with little to no explanation. If they’d have paced this out over fifty-two episodes or something then it might be one of the better shows we’re seeing but it’s not. If the cram any more shit in here, Super Robot Taisen OG will achieve the mass necessary to begin fusion.

And yet, I’m not bored with it. The characters (the number of which could fill a Chicago suburb) are interesting even if none of them are given screentime sufficient enough to spell out their names. Gotta love the whacked out fashion of “military” soldiers and the mecha, which range from realistic to ridiculous.

Sorrow-kun on Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru after 6 episodes

An anime directed by Shinbo Akiyuki about a girl named Arashiyama who works in a maid café. If this sounds familiar, then you must be one of the few people who saw Natsu no Arashi!. Soredemo Machi isn’t Shinbo’s best anime, but it’s a serviceable random sitcom infused with all the usual Shinboisms, and it does have a good number of entertaining moments. The funniest sequences almost always involve the interplay and conflict between main character, Hotori, flighty and carefree, and her pedantic, humourless maths teacher, Mr. Moriaki, played immaculately by Tomokazu Sugita.

Shinbo has caught a bit of flack for this anime, since by and large it is just an array of his old tricks. He’s not reinventing his own style here, and it’s easy to list a handful of his very own comedies that are better than this. On the other hand, if you can’t get enough of Shinbo’s eccentricities, there’s plenty to like about Soredemo Machi, and execution-wise, the voice acting is excellent. Also, the OP and ED songs “Downtown” and “Maze Sanjou!” are two of the best this season.

7 Responses to “Fall 2010 Mid-season Impressions”

  1. The one thing I ask myself nowadays whenever I watch a Shaft production is “What does this show bring to the table that’s not just Shinbo’s regular antics?” and “How does Shinbo’s artistic flair help the show?” Some shows, like Bakemonogatari, answer both with explosive confidence. Other shows like Arakawa get a general pass for fulfilling one criteria well enough to be entertaining. My problem with Soredemo is that it doesn’t answer either of these. I think Shinbo needs to be a little more selective of what he adapts, because there are times when I feel he just doesn’t have enough to work with. OP and ED are classy though.

    The rest look just about right. Only one I disagree with is TWGOK, and that’s for the trivial fact that I have the exact same impression as TIF of the show, just for different reasons. I’m also disappointed that the community as a whole hasn’t seen a breakout hit or an atrocious failure that betrayed our expectations. Either we’re getting too good at this or anime is becoming way too predictable.

  2. Oh, and don’t believe anything TypicalIdiotFan has to say about The World God Only Knows. Yosuga no Sora has the best soundtrack of the season bar none.

    I demand a poll!

    Only one I disagree with is TWGOK, and that’s for the trivial fact that I have the exact same impression as TIF of the show, just for different reasons.

    Elaborate.

  3. @Elineas

    Soredemo is the pitch-perfect show for Shinbo. It makes the most of his artistic flare, without him feeling that he has to overshadow the source material. His touch improves it, unlike most of the stuff he directs. I can’t see this show working as well for any other director. Other stuff like Bund and Bakemono could have been much better if handed to a director/studio that didn’t try to overshadow the source material. I agree, he needs to stick to what he’s good at, or actually try to break out of his stylized rut.

  4. I suppose it’s about time I started watching at least one of these. Your pick.

  5. @Elineas
    I’m more inclined to lean with Hogart on this one. Without knowing what the Soredemo Machi source material is like, it almost feels like Shinbo is working with a blank slate with this anime, so he’s free to paint what he likes without really compromising the source all that much.

    @TIF
    Look into your heart, you know it to be true. When it comes to music, my opinion > your opinion. 😛

    @Hogart
    As I said in my response to Elineas, I’m inclined to agree with you. I’m not so sure about Bakemonogatari potentially being better with a different director though. Shinbo’s take on it was pretty damn good. I guess, if we want to see how a different director might handle a Nishio Ishin story, we need only look at Katanagatari. It’s good, but I’m not prepared to say it’s as good as Bakemonogatari.

    @Baka-Raptor
    We wrote this article with you in mind. 😛 Read the article again, and I’m sure one will jump at you and scream “watch me!”

  6. Soredemo’s first two episodes didn’t impress me. There wasn’t anything creative about it, the comedy material didn’t work for me and it doesn’t help that Chiaki Omigawa’s voice grates on my nerves. Then episode 3 came, and I began to see how this show was starting to pick up.

    Almost everyone has reflected this stance: it’s not Shinbo’s greatest work – the same thing I said for Arakawa x2 – and if there’s one thing that Soredemo should be better at, it’s consistent bite in its punchlines.

  7. I wouldn’t say that Soredemo is a bad series, just that it’s mediocre with not too much to redeem itself. If I were to reinterpret the two questions I brought up at the beginning, I’d state them as thus: “If we strip away Shinbo’s artistic license or had someone else direct the series given the same material, would the series stand on its own?” and “If we add in Shinbo’s artistic quirks, does it make the material better?” At times the material is good enough but Shinbo’s antics don’t really help. At other times the material is poor but Shinbo’s tricks make it more entertaining than it could be on its own. And when Shinbo’s at his best, his material comes out as extremely strong and his flair pushes it over the top. Coming from Sorrow-kun’s standpoint of having never touched the original material, the conclusion I draw from Soredemo is that it’s original material is weak. The comedic timing is generally poor, and not too many of the character or setting aspects really catch me. Throw in the fact that although Shinbo’s throwing his style left and right I can’t really see his craftsmanship accentuating the show in any way, and I’m willing to call Soredemo one of Shinbo’s far weaker works. It doesn’t help that 80% of the time Hotori and Moriaki aren’t on the screen at the same time I end up wishing they were.

    @TIF
    As a person who originally read the manga, most of TWGOK’s fun comes from Keima’s arrogant attitude and the series’ way of asking you to predict its approach. If I may point out a limitation of the anime, Keima’s character doesn’t seem to have the complete standoffish attitude of the manga, which I actually chalk up to the anime’s portrayal needing movement and voices. I can imagine Keima shouting or saying something any way I want in the manga, but the anime is limited by the voice actor and the need for consistency in animation. As a result, Keima’s character is less endearing. It doesn’t help that the anime seems to focus a lot on Elsee…

    From the approach standpoint, which I’ve already disagreed with you in the forums, I think the entertainment arises not from the consistency of plot, such as the implications of Keima causing everyone to fall in love with him, but from the very irony and hypocritical humor in its material. It asks us, as experienced viewers of these tropes, to predict how it goes like a fan of mysteries predicts the conclusion before every detective story. Its tongue in cheek approach to this is something that I and you and AC vehemently disagree about, which I’m willing to accept.

    Going back to the criticism of this in the anime, it’s the pacing that really wrecks the approach. Ayumi’s arc was way too short, and Kanon’s way too long. It either doesn’t give the audience time to fully evaluate it or else spends too much time beating what is already a foregone conclusion by the end. And these were all decisions made in the anime, as it added and cut stuff in the manga. Of course, I don’t think you guys will find the manga entertaining either, and I think I’m giving the manga too much slack, but from what has happened so far, my view toward the anime is lukewarm because it’s a boring and poor adaptation.

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