2007 Season of Romance - And the Rest...

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And you always thought that was spring...

Adaptation season may be closer to the truth, as pretty much every show I've followed so far is based on an eroge or ren'ai.

This probably says something about the creativity of harem shows nowadays, with probably one completely new romance (Code-E) and one completely new visual novel adaptation (sola) in recent memory, but the content is all fresh to me anyway.

Not to mention, the logistical challenges of adapting premade content still are fairly high, especially with the branching nature of harem-types.

The point still remains that there are a lot of the same shows out there this fall season, and while the moe-bishoujo-hater is probably off cursing somewhere, lovers of either harem, romance, or just general fanservice/moe are having a busy time.

As such it's time for another triple take, taking looks at three more first episodes, bringing the total to six fall anime so far...

ef - a tale of memories is perhaps the most and least traditional of the harem shows so far. The concept is almost blindingly average; there may not be many ways to introduce the male and female "leads" to each other other than a chance meeting, but when you get two pairs of utter strangers united in the first episode, one starts to wonder just how many times you've seen this before, and the mind instead turns to wondering just how are they going to make the established (i.e. osananajimi) characters lose this time.

On the flip side, being a Shaft show the art style of ef was spectacularly nonstandard, with plenty of innovative camera angles, cut-out shots (i.e. black background with the sky background filling in a girl's profile), and more. It was refreshing as always, and yet was sane enough that it didn't really kill the mood of the show at all.

The show features what appears to be a parallel story as well, with two male leads (which took a long time for me to figure out with their similar designs, I must admit) befriending two different girls, with the connection seeming to be through a six-degrees-type relation between some sisters. It certainly seems promising, as more and more shows are moving away from the one-strong (or weak)-male-lead syndrome that gets a bit ridiculous at times.

Overall, ef does a great job at proving that the first episode really doesn't tell much about the series, as it could really go either way at the moment.

The two lead female characters are adorable, especially the eyepatch-girl, but they tread the line between believable and just overly weak, whether it be being ridiculously friendly or emotional around their respective "partners." The male leads don't seem too bad, and I enjoyed their little speech about "wanting to be the knight in shining armor," but really, they're just so nondescript at this point I can't say much about them.

This seems to sum up my opinion of the whole show so far, in that it feels awfully...done before and forgettable. I remember watching this episode, liking it a lot - and forgetting about it. Maybe it's the fault of watching so many shows, maybe it's the passage of time - but ef hasn't made an imprint yet. This isn't to be confused though with a lack of promise; I hope that the second episode will bring back the good memories of...3 days ago, and prove that Shaft can do romance as well as they did despair.

On a final note, any show that features a combined Lucky Star / Touhou reference (and, yes, a Nice Boat) deserves at least a double eyebrow raise.

Next up on the list is KimiKiss Pure Rouge, which gives off the feel that it's more of a romance aimed at girls, or at least at both genders. I say this because of the impressive gender-neutral feel of the show. Again, there are two equally balanced male leads, and the female cast is varied without pandering to any particular stereotype.

It's a different type of show than the other ones airing so far which certainly seem more fantasy-based in either setting or characters; KimiKiss gives off the feel that you're entering a show that has been going for quite a while now. The characters are established, whether it be the three guys, the quiet girl that Kouichi likes, or even the returning childhood friend, Mao. Even the chance encounters between Mao and Rebel Guy, or Kazuki and Delinquent Genius, don't feel overly forced.

As such, KimiKiss is an anime that's a bit harder to grasp onto, especially with a slow opening like the first episode provided. Mao's return and the first half as a whole was admittedly on the bread and butter side but once the school day started the episode picked up in pace, introducing many of the characters above, and probably some more. The sheer complexity of the possible relationships certainly has a girls'-show feel to it (a la Marmalade Boy) compared to most harem show "triangles", where you take all the girls and draw lines to one guy in the center.

All this means though is that KimiKiss will be a noteworthy show if only because it will sort out those who like more 'real' romance than those who just enjoy the simplistic harem romances. I can't claim to swear allegiance to either side yet but KimiKiss will be a test as to how much concentrated relationship-spaghetti one can handle.

It certainly leaves a lot of interesting ends open at the first episode anyway, with the "secondary" male Kazuki getting his first kiss already, the issue of the relationship between Kouichi and that quiet girl he always blushes at, and the reason for Mao's return among others being interesting discussion topics. At which point though this ceases to be interesting and instead becomes confusing, though, is an excellent question.

Shakugan no Shana II is the odd one out here, being of the supernatural action-romance crossbreed variety. The Shana series is a strong one with a wide fanbase and something along the line of 17 light novels, a couple games, a manga, a movie, and two anime series, and I'm beginning to see why.

As mentioned extensively in my review of the movie, Shana isn't a series that's designed to randomly mindrape you, and instead is more of a show that surprises you with the path from point A to point B. It lays out most of the cornerstones for you - time loop enemy, increasingly-complex Shana/Yuuji/Kazumi/Ike love square-type, action happens, but how everything is going to get resolved is the interesting point.

Time loops or repetition in general are always a somewhat controversial topic for me in anime; on one side, it's kind of cool to see what you've seen before; on the other, you're seeing what you're seen before. Still, the logical fallacies and the inner desires/conflicts of characters which can be seen in the dream-like sequences in Shana can still generate some interest (case 1: Yuuji jumping off the ladder yet still floating to the top), although, as in the case of the Torch theory, I may be giving Shana more credit than it desires.

A lot of my enjoyment from Shana, and confusion as well, may stem from my relative newness to the series as well; what's old to some people is still new to me. This applies to both canned-ish footage from the first series, and, more crucially, to terminology and characters as well. As such, anyone outside of the core love triangle and (the soon-to-be-defunct, I imagine) Friange are completely new.

Hopefully figuring out just what role the obscurely named villians, Maid De Arimasu and Minami Nagato Green-Hair Girl play in the scheme of things won't be a huge trial by fire. It seems that they're trying to keep things relatively straightforward so far, at least in the romance section, with the apparent recap of Shana's non-confession, Kazumi's obsession, and Ike's challenger entry.

Shana seems like the series that could work relatively well, at least with me, as long as it doesn't devolve too hard into a monster-of-the-week show; there seems to be an overarching plot or conspiracy at least, but we'll find out. It certainly can occupy the status of 'light watching' for now, anyway, compared to all the budding drama/tear-fests that we know visual novel adaptations are. The best way to put it is; I like what I see so far, but I don't know how much of it I've seen.

And, with one more off-hand comment, the Shana OP rocks almost as hard as the M;Y OP. Literally.

So far the fall season has been quite pleasant so far on the adaptation side as a whole. A lot of series have shown a lot of possibility to become great shows; instead of being a huge, breakout show, there's a bunch of solid shows. Clannad and Myself;Yourself are top picks from the old school of harem shows with strong and way moe characters. KimiKiss looks good for the more traditional romance crowd. ef's the Shaft title which could go any way. Shana II is Shana, which I understand means a lot.

D.C. II is the one show that's really dissapointed me so far; the second episode failed to continue with any of the interesting "progress" from episode 1, and the characters aren't anything spectacular. But even with this show, I expect to make it to the end, if only to prove myself that there was nothing there.

With any luck though, this could be a very thrilling fall season...if you can keep your characters straight.



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