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Monday, July 27, 2009

& Summer 2009 Thoughts

So, we're now several episodes into the summer 2009 anime season. I've been meaning to write mini-reviews of new series for a few seasons, now, but never got around to it; we'll see if I actually make it to the end of (writing) this post, this time.

First of all, I always get my first looks at new series from Random Curiosity's season previews. and I'll probably end up quoting some of their descriptions here (and go in the order they're listed in the preview). With the exception of one, all the ones I'm going to list here piqued my interest at least enough to give them a shot (at least the first episode).

Charger Girl Ju-den Chan [that's the official English name on CrunchyRoll; it's listed as Fight Ippatsu! Juuden-chan!! on the preview]

Preview says:
Let me start by saying that I’m not convinced that this series is anything other than a vehicle for fanservice and nudity. Originally by the author of Mahoromatic and KissXsis, Juuden-chan is a story about a clumsy girl whose job it is to inject energy into people who are depressed. If that doesn’t tip you off on what kind of series this’ll be, then maybe a visit to the official site where you can remove some of the main character’s clothing will. And then there’s the promo video (see below) that’s got the main character orgasming during a transformation sequence.
Verdict: who could say no to that? Me, for one.

Umineko no Naku Koro ni [When the Seagulls Cry]
Genre: mystery, drama, psychological
"Sequel" to Higurashi no Naku Koro ni [When the Cicadas Cry], another mystery murder series, about a rich family getting together to hash out the details of their inheritance after the patriarch dies. From there things quickly go downhill, as six people are murdered on the first night.

Higurashi, as I mentioned, was quite a strange series. I didn't particularly like the characters, nor did I like some of the excessively slapstick comedy [OMGWTF @ Higurashi Rei 1], but it had an awesome and intelligent high-level story, and it was told very well. As such, I liked Higurashi as a whole, and I've been waiting for Umineko ever since I heard about it (it was originally a game, like the Higurashi series). So far it seems to be more drama than comedy, although there's also been some of that.

By the way, I hear that the Higurashi games have just been licensed, and will be released in English pretty soon.
Verdict: definitely watching

Taishou Yakyuu Musume [Taishou Baseball Girls]
Genre: slice of life, comedy

High school girls forming a baseball team in the early 1900s. I was/am pretty wary about this one. I've seen entirely too many (which is to say a few) "cute girls do (often boy) things in cute ways" series that rely on girls being cute as the primary attraction (a genre I've named Shoukawa). E.g. while I did watch and enjoy "the definition of moe" K-ON! (girls forming a rock band) last season, it really had entirely too much moe, and I would have liked it more if it had less.

There was, however, a shred of hope with this series. Japan is in some ways even more conservative than the US, so it would be unheard of for there to be a girls' baseball team in that time (e.g. how in the first episode one girl refers to baseball as "that thing boys do"). If they could create a realistic depiction of the cultural and social clash of something like this (as opposed to simply saying "Here's some cute girls doing funny things! Watch!"), that could be interesting enough to justify watching it. So I decided to take a look and see.

Well, thus far only the first episode has been translated by a decent group, so that's all I have to go on. It wasn't bad, to sum up in a couple words. There were indeed signs of exploiting moe, but there were also signs of interesting cultural material - enough to keep my hopes alive, for the moment. I'll know more after a couple more episodes.
Verdict: still watching

Two of the girls (the rest all ran away immediately) on a field trip to watch boys play baseball, after seeing the batter nail the pitcher in the head with the ball.

[I'm told this is wordplay on 'bakemo monogatari', which would be something like Supernatural Story]
Genre: supernatural/mythology, comedy, randomness

This one I hadn't really planned to watch, though I decided to take a look after some of the WTF stuff in the first episode summary on Random Curiosity (the girl stapling the guy's cheek comes readily to mind). It's a rather weird story about a guy who encounters a number of supernatural phenomena in his daily life; in the past he himself had been a vampire, and in the time of the series he encounters a number of girls with various supernatural problems. Sounds like a dating sim adaptation to me (which was part of why I didn't initially intend to watch it), though I really hope that's not the case, as the second girl has to be in elementary school.
Verdict: still watching. I don't know if I'd say it's good; but I really hate to drop series after I've watched a few episodes, and it hasn't been bad enough to do that. It really doesn't help that it's by SHAFT, who I rather dislike; they can certainly draw pretty pictures (as you can see in the summary), but they have an incredibly distinctive artistic style that I find quite disorienting and relatively difficult to follow.

Girl #1. She can probably kill you with each of those.

Canaan [main character's name]
Genre: action, drama, fighting

Another series about an inhumanly good gunfighter girl with underworld dealings, lots of action and gunfights, and something about bio-terrorism. It sure sounds (and looks, thus far) like its girls-with-guns predecessors Noir and Madlax, though as far as I can tell it's not by any of the same people. As a matter of fact, it's an adaptation of a video game, so I suppose the fact that it seems pretty decent to even people who haven't played the game is noteworthy.
Verdict: pretty decent

Kanamemo [not too sure about this one; Kana could be the main character's name, but the only thing I could think of for "memo" is some misapplication of the English word to refer to newspapers]
Genre: comedy, slice of life

Story of an orphan girl who gets hired to work and live at a newspaper delivery place, and her daily life. That was enough to make me take a look, as slice of life comedies are one of the things I'm most into. While it's always possible I'm not giving it enough of a chance, the one episode I saw lead me to believe it was merely the sum of it's parts, as listed by AniDB (categories): coming of age, large breasts, lolicon [pedophilic], shoujo ai [lesbian], small breasts.
Verdict: taking my ball and going home. Perhaps if I'm ever desperate for something to watch I might see if the second episode was like the first; but not any time soon.

Sora no Manimani [Following the Sky? This is a really tricky name to crack, for somebody with limited knowledge of Japanese]
Genre: comedy, slice of life, romance

Another slice of life comedy, this time about a small astronomy club at a high school. Of course this one also caught my attention for something to at least check out. Out of the first two episodes it seems pretty average, as far as slice of life comedies go, though it's difficult to come up with something more cliche in anime than the harem [multiple girls that all like the male main character]. This will probably end up in the slot of "something to watch when I'm out of better stuff to watch".
Verdict: better than nothing

Spice and Wolf II
Genre: drama, comedy, romance, medieval slice of life

Based on a series of novels, this series is about a traveling merchant in the middle ages and his (sage wolf god) traveling companion. This is one of those series that features more mature topics than most, such as economics and politics. I liked the first season of it a couple years ago, and I've been looking forward to a second season ever since. If you're looking for something outside the ordinary anime, this is one to consider.
Verdict: good

Wolf and hangover. In case anybody is wondering, these are all pictures I took while watching the series, not ones taken specifically for this post.

Yoku Wakaru Gendai Mahou [something like Modern Day Magic to Be Well Learned]
Genre: comedy, fantasy

In this world, like in Serial Experiments Lain, reality is fundamentally composed of information, and like data in a computer this information can be altered; this is the nature of magic. I thought that creative take on magic was interesting enough to warrant checking out. Unfortunately, the first two episodes lead me to believe that an interesting premise is all this show has going for it, and in general it appears to be a dud; and with an average rating of 6.4 out of 10, it seems like a lot of people concur.
Verdict: on life support. If I'm feeling generous, I might watch the third episode (next week) and see if it manages to improves any.

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