10/25/2007

Through Three, Fall 2007

What is eternity doing tonight? has become Mega Megane Moé. For the latest posts, please change your links accordingly. Oh no! It's the dreaded but ever-popular "here's what I think about all the new shows in a season that I've barely seen an hour of" post!

Perhaps it's one that can be considered overdone in the anime blogging world, but it certainly serves a purpose. A blogger's watchlist can say a lot about their tastes and passions, something that can be helpful when getting a concept behind the words. Not to say to form massive stereotypes on bloggers, but at least once you know the general viewing pattern of a person you can know where to turn when you need your fix of genre-specific fandom.

The seasonal review posts that pop up around the first few weeks of a show are also helpful to those of us who actually don't have the time to watch every first episode individually (major props to those who can; it's some serious effort just handling half) and need to gauge popular opinion to see what are some of the unknown shows that went previously under the radar.

As such, it's a little late but it's time for one more take on what shows suck, what shows don't, and why you should listen to me instead of everyone else. Most shows have gotten three episodes in by now (look at the title. Ooh, alliteration, exciting, I know) and that seems a fair enough time to get a reading of the series, especially with the projected 12-episode length of many of this season's shows.

I don't plan on directly ranking the shows against each other but rather putting them on an overall barometer of just how much hype a show can build in me; whether it's more likely that I'll crash the servers looking for the latest release or whether it'll pop up months later to remind me that it still exists.

If you're looking for a take on all 30+ shows I would reccomend one of the excellent summaries from somewhere else, but if you want overly biased harem / romance comparisons (plus one or two oddballs; 8 in total)...welcome home, master.

Yeah, I can't stand that line at all.


Da Capo II
Concept: Popular harem show / eroge adaptation Da Capo (a musical term for return to the very beginning) repeats itself, except this time 50 years into the future.
Why Watch It: It's Da Capo all over again; also, a fast-paced first 2 minutes with a confession before the first episode is through.
Why Drop It: It's Da Capo all over again; also, a slow-paced last 2 episodes and 23 minutes with not much relationship buildup.
Judgment: Take 10 episodes and call me in the morning. Not worth watching week-by-week.
As you may surmise, D.C. II's greatest strength and weakness is its brand pedigree. It's what keeps me watching the show, and leaves hope that the slow start will lead to a strong ending, but on the other hand, none of the really good aspects from the original have carried over...yet.

All the characters from the original show, bar maybe Sakura, have moved on (naturally, it's 50 years later), and we're left with a bunch of newcomers who are close but not exactly like the old cast. The problem is, this semi-derivative formula really, for me, hurts the longtime fans: either you'll be dissapointed that the characters have changed, or you'll be dissapointed that they haven't changed enough. They still have the school idol Shirakawa, but now she's more towards the popularity-manipulating end rather than the maturely playful side. They still have sisters as love interests, just split into two separate, almost opposite personalities. And there's still a weird banana-innuendo-loving robot, except more annoying.

Oh yeah, and no Yoriko.

The D.C. series has always been one of the more unabashedly harem harem shows out there, and as such perhaps it's quite old inner workings by now are beginning to show against tougher competition. It's still a decent show, per se, it's just that there's not much of the happening going on. It's probably better marathoned.

Bonus Harem Show Prediction: Siscon ending seems inevitable (probably with Otome, the more Nemu-like of the two), but the Chris Berman in me wants Koko to...go...all...the...way! ...but not in that sense, you perv. Nanaka, as always, loses to the Shirakawa curse by default.


ef - a tale of memories
Concept: Eroge-like adaptation romance with two parallel stories; one male lead deals with a girl with extreme short-term memory, while the other gets to know an outgoing, mysterious girl. Also, the plots are connected in some way through family relations.
Why Watch It: Novel Shaft animation is unique and good-looking; intriguing characters and plot.
Why Drop It: Novel Shaft animation is confusing and annoying; a bit too complex to take week-by-week.
Judgment: Come back when it's over and I can make sense of it in one sitting.
ef is one of those shows that I feel bad putting on the shelf for a few weeks, if only because it does have some very interesting characters and concepts.

While a lot of the ideas feel like they should be Sad Visual Novel 101, with the memory loss and the random girl coming on to you and all, it really doesn't come across as such; the interactions between the characters have a decently believable feel to them.

The problem is is that ef is one of those shows that is hard to understand, especially with a week gap and 7 other shows in-between. The Shaft animation style is a bit trippy, and even though it's toned down from Zetsubou Sensei, the random cuts and silhouettes don't help in making the siutation better - although, they are good looking. But one has to wonder why a character will random seem to glow, float, or do something out of the ordinary.

The second factor contributing to the confusion is the multiple plotlines. I think there are at least two; one revolving around mysterious girl Miyako, the other around amnesia girl Chihiro, but with the AnimeSuki forums giving three plotlines, and AnimeNewsNetwork talking about only one lead guy in the show, I found out that I really have no idea what's going on here.

Which is a shame because I have this sneaking feeling I would really, really like this show if I knew what was going on, since it's relatively good-looking and the character personalities are pretty likable. Chihiro's story in particular seems like a tear-jerker, or at least one that will be very captivating.

Bonus Harem-Type Show Prediction: I'd tell you if I knew how many guys there were open. Still, I think Chihiro and Miyako are pretty solid 'win' locks, since it's not really a harem but more of a multi-thread romance.


Minami-ke (Through 1)
Concept: Three-girl slice of life, humor ensues.
Why Watch It: Tsuyuri (Doujin Work), Tomo (Azumanga), and Alicia (Aria) all in one place. Also, sexy camera work.
Why Drop It: Y'know, you've seen all three of those before. Slice-of-life is kinda a hit-or-miss genre as well.
Judgment: A keeper, but I'll get to it when I get to it.
That works better with the relaxing mood of slice-of-lives anyway.

Minami-ke is a slice-of-life (as you may have surmised), and that combined with the fact I've only watched one episode of it so far means there's not really much to say about it so far.

It has pleasantly surprised me in that it has pulled off two things I've haven't seen before, or at least in a while; 1) some great camera action (like the psuedo-Matrix scene) and 2) a girl-on-girl kiss that wasn't meant for fanservice.

Somehow I feel that people won't believe me, but in that case I've won a few converts for Minami-ke already.

The good part about this show so far is that it has excellent character interaction, in that comedy way. The super-energetic, attention-craving middle sister and the quiet, secretly-manipulative younger sister bounce off each other quite well for some great laughs, whether it be the aforementioned kiss scene or the Mysterious Love Letter.

The content doesn't feel overly stale either despite the personalities that we've seen before; although they were entertaining personalities, I must admit.


Shakugan no Shana II
Concept: Supernatural girl and mildly less supernatural guy meet and fight off bad guys, while shy girl comes in for some love triangle action.
Why Watch It: Easy to watch; has both action and romance elements; teaches you that melon-pan isn't just an innuendo for 'breasts'.
Why Drop It: Almost painfully obvious with some elements.
Judgment: At the back of the longest 'must-watch' list in romance; weekly for sure, but no hurry on a day-by-day basis.
Let me qualify my post by noting my previous Shana experience consists of solely the movie and one volume of the manga and light novel. As such, it's a bit harder for me to jump on the 'Shana, Oh God, hot, etc.' bandwagon right away.

Still, Shana is an enjoyable show, if only for simple reasons. Most of the show can be figured out easily (i.e. Kazumi has no chance in hell, Ike has less than no chance, Shana and Yuji are going to pwn whoever come their way, so on so forth), but some of the aspects could prove to be interesting on how they play out; such as the aforementioned love quadrangle, or just how the Obviously Evil Villians are going to obviously lose this time.

I'm not sure at this point whether it would be a better show as a romance-slash-action or an action-slash-romance show, as it seems to be blending the two in relatively equal amounts, although there could be a tilt towards lol-romance-drama in the next few episodes. For the sake of sanity I hope it stays away from that, as the whole "I am obviously jealous of that Not-Hecate girl but am too shy / tsundere to act on it" thing just rubs me the wrong way. I think a goodly focus on more interesting action scenes punctuated by romantic elements here and there would work well.

And does anyone else feel talked down to by the omnipresent announcer recapping the previous episode at the beginning of the next one?

Bonus Romance-Type Show Prediction: I'd only lay about 75% odds on any relationship getting resolved at all; for all we know the second season might not be the end of the adventure, so they wouldn't want to tie Shana up with Yuuji yet. Ike has nearly 100% chance of confessing to Kazumi, though, while he has a 0% chance of going anywhere. The Shana-Yuuji-Kazumi triangle is going to outlast time.


Myself; Yourself
Concept: Same old ren'ai / harem formula, same decent taste. Now with 500% more childhood friends!
Why Watch It: Chiyo's VA voices a hyper girl with breasts, glasses, and an addiction to reading, and the lead male gets slapped.
Why Drop It: Been there, done that.
Judgment: Best consumed within a few days of release.
Myself; Yourself is the opposite of ef; I should be groaning with disgust at the raw derivative-ness of it all, but I'm finding myself enjoying this series quite a lot.

Perhaps it's that the characters, as cliche as they are, still are entertaining. While the raw amount of standard moe elements that Aoi contains is staggering, she's still a very appealing character, and, failing that, obvious candidate for the Nayuki Award for Losing Osananajimis Who Are Awesome. Nanaka fulfills the tsundere quotient, Asami's the relatively normal yet cute random acquaintance, and Shuri can be a Mayumi-alike. You've seen it before, but you still might enjoy seeing it again.

M;Y has a bit of a fresh feel to it as well; the amount of initial coldness Nanaka had towards Sana was surprising, the overwhelming cast of childhood friends effectively negated that cliche, and they seem to be going in an interesting direction in hinting that Sana cut himself. Even the typical Aoi fanservice is novel, which I find amusing in the "what will they come up with next?" manner.

Or maybe it's the entirely awesome OP as well, which seems to have some interesting aspects to it beyond the music as well; what's with all the clocks?

Myself; Yourself comes across to me as a 'greater-than-the-sum-of-it's-parts' anime. It might just, though, be that the simpler, 'lower denominator' style of the show (while not stooping to, say, Ninomiya level) is easy to digest and enjoy.

Bonus Harem Show Prediction: Aoi might come close with the raw power of the fanbase pushing her on, but Nanaka's got this one in a lock. Asami will probably take second.


Clannad
Concept: Moe sad girls in spring interact with witty male lead (and incompetent male runner-up) in plot-tastic fashion. Also, some family overtones.
Why Watch It: It's Key, it's KyoAni, and the male characters are nothing short of awesome.
Why Drop It: It's KyoAni, it's Key, and the female characters are mostly incompetent or overly moe.
Judgment: Still sold on the formula, although I'll cut back the dosage. Watching it week-by-week for sure, but it just doesn't have that 'same-day' power.
Clannad is surprising, because while I'm not quite drawn to the female cast as much as past Key works, the male cast is by a mile the best and funniest I've seen in a long time.

Perhaps it's because, this being the third Key game, the girls are beginning to overlap a bit, and you can start describing one in terms of the other:
Nagisa equals Shiori's courtyard stalking skills minus her resolve and ice cream addition, times Misuzu's social incapability.
Fuuko equals the mental age of Ayu times the maturity and gullibility of Makoto.
Ryou equals Shiori plus Tsukasa. (OK, that's Lucky Star, and actually not too bad of a combo)

I've ranted about most of the female characters of Clannad before as unrealistic, which may be harsh, but the point stands that, well, I don't like them that much. There are still a few out there that are good - like the aforementioned Ryou, the badass Tomoyo, or even the Kotomi who has a shard of possibility; but it's not like the choices in Kanon that seemed like having to pick between a Ferrari and a Lamborghini.

On the plus side, Sunohara is a hilariously stubborn male runner-up that makes for a great butt end of a lot of jokes or running gags, Nagisa's father lives in his own macho mental world, and Tomoya Ethanol is pretty amusing himself without being a carbon-copy Kyon.

There's not much to say about the plot of Clannad yet; there seems to be some great (and grounded) family aspects, some decent supernatural aspects, and undoubtedly a million plot twists that will leave us in despair again, but I can't say for sure.

One thing for sure about Clannad, is that, being a KyoAni work, it will recieve a lot of attention both positive and negative (look at the size of its entry); not to say it's undeserved, but Clannad is dangerously leaning towards the overhyped side despite being still a very good show; just not a great.

Bonus Harem-Type Show Prediction: Nagisa wins, if she lives. Joking, joking; she will. I'd be worried about her family, but they seem too comic to lose. Something about the wheelchair shot in Tomoyo's OP segment seems ominous.


Gambling Apocalypse Kaiji
Concept: Down-in-the-dumps delinquent goes aboard a mysterious gambling cruise run by yakuza in a last-ditch attempt to save his life from the gutters of poverty.
Why Watch It: Great yet simple mind-games, and some brilliant human emotion and interaction.
Why Drop It: Typically scary art quality, gives itself away sometimes.
Judgment: Like a gambler, always greedy for more. Watch within a few days for sure.
To compare Kaiji to other shows with stars and cards in it like Yu-Gi-Oh almost feels insulting; although that may have just been the power of 4Kids and time corrupting my memory of that show.

But Kaiji is a show more than the gambling, but about the emotions as well. The game is so simple (and decidedly, ahem, not open to deux ex machining) that a lot of the show relies on the human interaction, the playing of each other like a fiddle. It's how Kaiji gets snookered out of two stars, and how he manages to win 2 more back later with 4 scissors in a row.

If it was just straight rock-paper-scissors, where everyone selected randomly and the only tension was who would win, Kaiji would be very boring. But since there is a mild degree of strategy, in trying to outthink your opponent and trying to talk him into submission, Kaiji works very well with its semi-mind-games.

It hurts that the announcer gives it away half the time - we'd like to think that Kaiji has the possibility to lose - but the way in which Kaiji pulls off the seemingly impossible still isn't always obvious, so there is a little bit of possibility to try to think ahead of the show without being spoiled.

Kaiji is more spiritually like Battle Royale than any ordinary card game, in that it's a relatively simple, yet complex - and very deadly - game.

Bonus Competition Show Prediction: I don't think Kaiji has the potential to lose completely, given that this show seems to be slanted in his favor (as opposed to being neutral in position), but he'll probably legally "lose" at least once, only to make a comeback.


KimiKiss Pure Rouge (Through 2)
Concept: A bunch of people fall in love with each other.
Why Watch It: The ordinary tone makes it very believable, more than one main character for each side, potential to be unpredictable.
Why Drop It: Ordinary tone may turn off those looking for escapism, gets a bit confusing and even shoujo-like with its storytelling.
Judgment: Infatuated so far. See if it can keep that 'day-after' viewing appeal.
The plausible nature of KimiKiss is probably what has kept it near the top of the list so far; all the characters seem like the type that you could reasonably see in real life - even Mao doesn't stretch the disbelief box too far, surprising for an osananajimi.

The female characters have a decent charm to them, whether it be the oh-so-adorably-shy girl, the genius delinquent, or Mao herself, and I'm sure there are two or three more to be added into the equation.

And none of them seem to be too typically over-the-top in character; they all seem built pretty sensibly, with a lot of possibility to them. Like the genius girl; is she really hot for Kazuki, or just messing with him like she says? Was Kouichi the reason Mao came back, or will she be content playing on the sidelines? Will Kouichi's shy-girl crush last (and vice versa)...or even ever come to fruition?

It's these kinds of questions that, while you think you know the answer to, leave an opening for alternate solutions that could really turn the show on its head. Perhaps the largely gender-ambiguous audience of the show (it's not orientated towards one specific genre) may turn some people off, but I'm looking forward to seeing more of a romance vibe in this show than an unrealistic harem aspect.

I suppose, two leads are better than one.

Bonus Romance Show Prediction: Mao's got good odds on Kouichi, being an osananajimi, but I'll go on a limb and say shy girl might be able to pull it off, with any luck. Kazuki's a question mark whether he will end up with anybody at all, but I doubt that it is genius girl.

-CCY


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