1/19/2008

Looking Both Ways: The Fall Season Carryovers

What is eternity doing tonight? has become Mega Megane Moé. For the latest posts, please change your links accordingly. Mega Megane Moe @ Ikimashou is messed up something fierce on my end, so until that gets fixed, I'll post here.

Looking back...

And now for the Slowpoke news: we're in the winter season.

I'm still stuck in the past, not because of any traumatic accidents which have permanently scarred me and/or my memory, but because the fall season is arguably a much more robust season than the winter ones, at least in terms of new shows.

Especially for a visual novel slash romance slash restricted rock-paper-scissors fan like me, there were a lot of shows that were very appealing; many of them, despite being in tried and tired genres, brought a lot of fresh concepts to the table.

And what's interesting about this, is that unlike in the summer season, a lot of the most promising shows didn't close out at twelve episodes. Those that did, were strong shows, no doubt, but many more than that have been promised at least 20-odd episodes, double the goodness if they can keep the pace up.

As such, the winter watchlist is turning out to be strangely familiar. There are plenty of carryover shows on the list, and those that are new shows to 2008 are mostly sequels in some way or form (Zoku SZS, Minami Okawari). Not to leave a bad impression of the winter season - but there aren't any names of new shows that really stand out from it.

This doesn't equate with 'no good shows', per se - some of my favorite fall shows have been ones that have been completely off the radar - but going off the blog reactions so far, there hasn't been a standout show that absolutely blows people away, that came out of nowhere and delivered the awesome. Undoubtedly there probably will be, but for now I'm content with surviving off both fresh old shows, and some true classics that are burning a hole in my DVD collection. Today, I'll take a look at what we have to expect from some of the shows coming into their second cour in 2008.

Shugo Chara!
Understandably, Shugo Chara! was a show that wasn't exactly on my radar when the season started. Even if I was born and raised on Cardcaptor Sakura, magical girl shows aren't always my cup of tea, and I usually rely on feedback from other blogs to pick out the subsets of this genre that would be my type. In that sense, I'm a sort of elitist for magical girls - I tend to prefer only the ones that have an appeal to both genders, those that carry 'feminine' traits such as romance and a lowered focus on action, yet don't come off as too girly. I do have a pink tolerance still, despite all these years of anime watching.

Anyway, Shugo Chara! got a surprising amount of good feedback from placed that I read a lot, namely Jeff Lawson's and Owen's locales, and so it was an essential "here goes nothing" while I was scraping the bottom of the barrel one day. As has been detailed, the first few episodes were a bit too pink for my tastes, but contained enough interesting stuff to keep my interest, so I forged on; and man, am I glad I did.

It seems a bit pretentious to both proclaim it the next Cardcaptor Sakura or even compare it to that show at all, considering how times have changed a lot in the 21st century, but there's no doubt that Shugo Chara! has the potential to be THE magical girl show of this decade. I can't speak for other popular shows, such as the PreCure series or whatnot, but certainly SC seems to have the wide appeal and fanbase to make it big.

The animators seem to know this too, as the show has been slated for one of the longer continuous runs in recent memory, topping 50 episodes, and this is something that, naturally, is good and bad. The good is of course more of what we love, more of this show and it's entertaining character dynamics. The bad is that, since there doesn't appear to be a huge amount of content for the manga, there's going to end up being a lot of filler in the show, ergo, not as much of the entertaining character dynamics. (Not to mention, it'd be a pain to blog.)

What, personally, deserves the most focus is the quickly-shaping romance tetrahedron of sorts, forming between Amu, Tadase, Ikuto, and Utau. Of course, saying this is a bit simplified; Amu's torn between the goodly Tadase and the dark Ikuto, Tadase's smitted with Amu's transformed self, Ikuto's busy being the guy equivalent of tsundere (Shiraishi's "cool-dere" comes to mind), and Utau is mysteriously possesive a la Primula (that suddenly explains a lot for Stripey's fandom of Utau), and all these facts add up to make the romance side of this story a bit more appealing than your standard 'will-she-won't-she' love story.

The magical girl elements of SC are a bit overdone, personally, as Amu seems to be able to hax any X Character into submission without barely breaking a sweat, but this might just be the show's way of deemphasizing these aspects in favor of it's stronger romantic and slice-of-life elements.

So what's to look for in the upcoming episodes of Shugo Chara? To be honest, I'm worried that the answer is 'not much' - different shows handle their mid-sections in different ways, but Shugo Chara! has a lot of time to burn, and so it might not be doing much in the way of developing character relations in the near future. Hopefully it will be like many recent shows and not delay the love confessions until the end.

Although, regarding that, what's really keeping me interested in this anime (aside from denying cute traps) is that I can't really decide who Amu's going to 'win' at the end...presuming she does at all. Both Tadase and Ikuto have their appeals, both to Amu and to the viewer, and it's not as clear-cut as other shows which one will end up being the 'main' guy. Tadase is undoubtedly the more traditional choice, being the good guy who fights along her, but Ikuto's been getting a lot of attention recently, and being the somewhat rebellious yet soft-hearted personality he is, I can't help but root for him.

Oh, and the mysterious evil motives of Easter, I suppose I have a little vested interest in; who knows if it will be some typical "parents vs. kids" endeavor or not. I can't get a lock on this either.

Shakugan no Shana II
Shana II was not exactly the most popular anime around the blogosphere recently, having eschewed it's action and love-triangle aspects for more of a repetitive drama that failed to be really engaging. But with the recent episodes having kicked the series full throttle ahead, it might be time to pick up interest in the show again.

For me, Shana II has always been a show that was sort of a bread-and-butter watch - something it would be a little painful, other times a little more intriguing, but most of the time it was relatively typical supernatural-action-romance fare, with the action part just getting into gear now. However, with some of the plot points that I think lie ahead, both involving a few Torches (accidental spoilers, whee) and the story of Pheles and the Reiji Maigo, Shana II might have an opportunity to prove itself more than that, and show that the hype for this show isn't just irrational love for melon-bread-eating tsunderes.

In that regard, it might have actually been a wise decision in the end for the beginning parts of Shana II to be so slow; it could be considered that the animation team was merely getting the filler out of the way so that the rest of the show can be exciting from here on out. Maybe not a good business decision, but if it holds true it will be promising for the second half of Shana.

As for what will happen in what episodes remain, I don't really know. I'm really unfamiliar with this series as a whole, and so what I can say is that there will be a lot of fighting, a few romantic scenes, and a lot of terminology spamming to come. It's pretty cut-and-dry that Shana and Yuuji are into each other, but I can't decide whether we'll get true confessions and conclusion with this season, considering the retcon we got this time. If there is enough material for Shana III, that aspect might just be held back on. Kazumi doesn't look like she has much to go on; we already know she likes Yuuji, and now she's in that limbo between backing off and going on the attack, neither which would really suit her. As such, I think all she's good for so far is some romantic insights, what with her virtues of patience and all.

And so my hopes for this show lie with Ike for reasons too numerous to count. He's your glasses-sporting "just as planned" smart guy, he's gotten shafted through the whole cultural festival arc, and he seems pretty level-headed and likable as a whole. Not to mention, he's shooting for the moon in going after Kazumi, who even he knows prefers Yuuji; he's effective working off a rationale of 'well Yuuji likes Shana, so someone's got to be there to catch Kazumi'.

I really hope he gets his fair share of screentime considering how much he's been made fun of recently, as I think he could be a really strong character. I'm hoping they have time to fit him in among all the more standard storyline fun with the green-haired ladies.

Gambling Apocalypse Kaiji
I think I will forever tout this as the reason why blog hype is important; I would not go within a million miles of a show featuring ugly men (and no moe girls) fighting it out in rock-paper-scissors, yet undoubtedly some of the latest arcs of this show have been nothing short of stunning.

It's funny; what makes this show work is that it's not pure macho, nor pure mindgames, but sort of a mix of both, and then some. There are moments that make you think, there are moments that make your blood boil, and sometimes, there are even moments that make you tear up. Sometimes, there are all three at once. I mean, for the love of whatever deity I worship now, I thought Aozora was going to start playing during Ishida's scene in episode fourteen. It was absolutely wrecking, in that way that made you contemplate the nature of man while crying manly tears and shouting "ISHIDAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA".

Kaiji rivals the best of the visual novel genre in having disturbingly touching insights; while those deal more with the romantic irrationality of man, Kaiji goes more into the nitty-gritty stuff. The difference between the haves and have-nots, the wants and want-nots, how everyone is selfish in being kind and kind in being selfish. (A bit of a stretch, but I heart parallelism)

And it's a great mix of predictability and unpredictability as well. You know that Kaiji isn't going to win millions every time soon, but you know they can't quite kill him off either. You know that he's going to work his way out of this hole somehow, but fall back into another. It keeps the mind racing, and to be honest, I still don't know how the Brave Men Road is going to come out. We know he's not doing to die. So what is he going to do to get rid of the money? I'm guessing give it all to Ishida's wife, because there's got to be another yakuza-sponsored game on the horizon; the other aspect that keeps it interesting. It's that 'what will they think of next?', both in the fourth-wall and in the storyline sense.

It's that strange mix of disgust and delight when you see the shoving in Brave Men Road, that puts you disturbingly close to the action, in a similar position as the 'rich bastards'. It's eerie in a sense, how unwittingly we are becoming like them, being the viewers watching something like this for pleasure. It ties you into the show like what nearly no other show can do, and so that's why I can reccomend Kaiji as one of the top shows - especially if you hate moe - of the fall season.

KimiKiss Pure Rouge
For as many times as I've used this phrase, KimiKiss is one of the shows that I think could most fit the idea of being 'unpredictably predictable.' It's a very vanilla show in a sense, one that's refreshingly down-to-earth and real, and at first the romance seemed pretty much a straight shot. It could be easily seen how Kouichi will be with Yuumi, how Mao will end up with Mai, and how Kazuki will snag Eriko.

But, since this show is so multi-threaded, it's easy to see how these threads will intertwine as well. The show seems to be dropping plenty of hits of possibly tying Mao and Kouichi together. Plus, it's tough to tell whether Asuka or Eriko is the true girl for Kazuki.

Let's go with the latter first. Eriko is probably the more likely shot - on-screen kisses aren't taken lightly these days, and it seems all too sensible to have the romance with Kazuki be the thing to introduce Eriko to the world of emotion - I would say break her out of her shell, but Owen has another way of putting that.

Still, like in Shugo Chara's similar dilemma, I can't help but root for Asuka, the underdog here. It just seems wrong that the one who seems to be more passionate will lose, although I think that instead of Asuka winning here, she will just get some major development instead. She seems the strong, fiercely independent type, and she could definitely learn how to fly on her own with her love for soccer instead of Kazuki.

Mao and Kouichi's situation is even tougher to call. Certainly it seems like it would be impossible to break the romantic bonds between Kouichi and Yuumi, given the collective amount of time they've stared at each other. And certainly it seems hard to split Kai and Mao, who seem the reverse of the Eriko - Kazuki situation; Kai is an interesting character, the 'frequently misunderstood delinquent' type that's cold, but has a big heart.

But there still remains that possibility that Mao and Kouichi will in the end, be together; after all, she had to come back from France for a reason, and the anime has certainly dropped more than a few hints. I could see how Kai could live independently, like how Azuka could. And Yuumi could - could, the imperative word - be removed from the story with her moving away.

But that's the catching point, that it would just seem too sad for her to be alone; she doesn't look like she has a fallback, she seems much more emotionally invested in Kouichi. Enough to nearly clinch the 'with enough effort, you'll win' romance award, but not enough to go yandere. So somehow I think Kouichi and Yuumi is the most likely combo, which will probably set Mao up with Kai. I wonder, if maybe Mao will be the one who has to understand who her true feelings are for.

(Oh, and don't leave Hiiragi and Mamiko Noto out of the picture, either.)

There's a lot to think about for such a simple-looking show, which is why KimiKiss is one of the strongest romances running so far. I look forward to seeing how it can do so much with so little in the future.

Clannad
Visual novels are probably the toughest shows to predict for, which is why I enjoy them so much. Others may not be as fond of the wild, rampant plot twists and overly idealized characters that these shows frequently make use of, but this is probably an issue of cliche more than anything else.

The visual novel genre is full of them, with childhood friends left and right throwing themselves at some undoubtedly bland guy. That's probably part of the reason why I've always been a fan of the Key shows - AIR, Kanon, and now Clannad - because they do things differently.

Yeah, a lot of things are the same. Everyone's still love-love toward one guy, and most of them have a history with him, but it's not always about that. Clannad is a show that feels more balanced - it's not just romance, but it's comedy, it's not just about the girls, it's about Tomoya as well, and when it is about the girls, it's more about them discovering themselves rather than their affections for Tomoya. In that sense it really is a show that anybody can enjoy.

The beginning episodes and the Fuuko arc were a great representation of this; people left and right both enjoyed the comedy, and when it came down to things, spouted fountains of tears at her story. Despite its somewhat derivate roots of Ayu, Fuuko's arc managed to work well because it wasn't just straight Tomoya - Fuuko interaction, but since it also involved Nagisa both helping them and helping herself.

Nagisa's probably the reason why Clannad works, in that despite her soft, pushover personality she's a very strong character all her own, and a great complement to Tomoya. She's not one-tenth as adorable as Kotomi or Ryou, but that might be exactly the reason why: she's more of a real character, with real thoughts and emotions, instead of a cardboard moe cutout. Yet she doesn't renounce those roots either.

Recently I think the anime has slumped a bit with Kotomi's arc - I love her character, her story's interesting and all, but it's just so typical. I think any visual novel anime could pull the 'reclusive childhood friend with dead parents' concept off, since it just seems so perfect storm, the sort of dream that any lonely guy would wish to have, to be the only one there for a girl like that. Clannad needs to be different.

Luckily, I think we're getting into the best parts of the show, with what arcs we have left. Despite not knowing anything about the show, I have high hopes that Fuuko and Kotomi, as interesting as their arcs may be, will be utterly shamed by the powers of the three (four) girls remaining.

Tomoyo's always been a riot in character, and she looks to have the story to back it up, if it involves her trying to change the way she's seen, like it sounds so far. It's definitely potential for her to develop a lot on her own, into a strong person.

Kyou and Ryou are perhaps a more typical bunch but one I'm much more willing to fall for than Kotomi. Kyou is a great personality, with her light-hearted, flirtatious attiude absolutely captivating, combined with more of a sisterly love for Ryou, equaling something fierce. Ryou, well, she's a mix of Shiori and Tsukasa, and that I'm willing to overcome any sense of logic for. I just wonder what their story could be about, and that's what really interests me.

And of course, we'll close with Nagisa, where it really could go any way in the world. Whether they expand more on her story or Tomoya's story, them or their parents, the real world or the imaginary one, time can only tell. I can only hope it will be legendary like everyone is making it out to be - right now, it is a good show, but the potential astounds me.

-CCY

Looking forward...

13 comments:

Actually I find Tadase a little to girly to be a fit for Amu. XD Ikuto is the older, cooler character that most 11 yr old would idolise and given the audience the series is targeting, I'd say we'll be getting a Ikuto X Amu ending :P

Poor Utau. At least she'd get plenty of underdog love from us. :)

As for Kimikiss, I love your description of it being "unpredictably predictable". It's so familiar yet refreshing in the way it deals with the love-triangles. I enjoy the Mao-Koichi-Yumi entanglement most because I'm torn between rooting for either of them. All of them are great characters, wonderful for each other. If bigamy was allowed, I'd say the ideal conclusion would be a Mao X Koichi X Yumi ending.

But alas, the world is not as enlightened as Shuffle's god realm. XD A Mao X Koichii end would be very interesting to watch but also most challenging since Koichii X Yumi is so far ahead it seems impossible for Mao to mount a credible assault. Of course she has her arsenal of childhood relations/memories to boost her chances and I can't wait for her to use them :)

Sorry to hear that 3M's biting the hand that types it, good luck getting that sorted out.

The idea that some seasons have a 'standout' show, which impresses everybody - well, let's say a reasonable majority, since opinions always differ - is an interesting one. Logically, there's no necessity for this to happen, but it does seem to occur from time to time.

It was blog hype which made me look twice at Kaiji too, and I'm very glad I did. I've been watching Akagi alongside it, which has been fascinating.

And I continue to defiantly refuse to turn up to Clannad's services, slightly modulating my stance by extracting material for a blog entry out of it.

I don't see anyone else fit for Amu but Ikuto. I think you'll have the same sentiment once you get to read the manga, CCYoshi ;)

ahh KimiKiss, the vanilla show of the season which managed to stand out with its simplicity and pure unpredictability. I've found all the characters of KimiKiss endearing, despite hating Mao before. Although I can be happy with whoever gets to end with who by the end of the series, I'm still hoping we'll see Mao x Kouichi, and Asuka x Kazuki :3

Stripey: Hmm, yeah, I really wonder if Tadase is the type to think about girls like that in a serious way yet. Good point on Ikuto and how he does seem the cool type for a lot of the target audience.

On the other hand, since I like Ikuto too and I'm a male heading to college next year, I don't know what that says about me. XD

Personally I think Utau's tilting towards the annoying side so far, but I like her singing and I imagine she'll do something to grab our hearts, but really, I'd rather Ikuto be happy with Amu, or whatever.

I can't decide for either the Kouichi- or Kazuki-centric triangles still, but that's a good thing because then I'll be happy with any ending. :D As long as the loser in love doesn't end off too bad, I suppose.

Personally, though, I will fight for Yuumi to fall behind in these mid-stages and fight back to the top near the end, with Mao realizing after fighting for Kouichi, that Kai has always been there for her, or something.

IKnight: From what it sounds like, those of us at Ikimashou have been domain-squatted, so we might end up transferring domains again. Keep your blogrolls at the ready. >_>

Incidentally, how mahjong-noob-unfriendly is Akagi? That's the main thing keeping me away from it at the moment.

Usagijen: I've heard that Ikuto in the manga is a lot more interesting (i.e. less depressive) than in the anime, and considering that I'm pretty happy with his character as is, I will definitely have to dig up a copy of the manga someday. I know I've seen 2 volumes in Barnes & Noble before.

For some reason I saw you writing "Asuka x Eriko" and I was like :O, and then I realized I'm going blind. I think Asuka does have the bigger 'right' to Kazuki, but I'm captivated by Eriko's cool demeanor, so, logic for me is hopeless. XD

for kimi kiss i get the feeling that the story is going to unfold to the childhood romance. the story he wrote kinda feels like a foreshadow of the ending to come with anime.

it will be heartbreaking a little bit selfish and bitter sweet but so very worth it to see mao end up with koichi.

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