Cherry picking in autumn

A scene from Kurozuka. I hope this is animated.

Hello, my name is bateszi. I’m a generic anime blogger and this is my generic autumn preview. Please enjoy these poorly researched comments on anime that I know nothing about, talking about new series with the same pictures, synopsis and links that you can see in dozens of other autumn previews too. I guess we all copy each other, but that’s okay, right? Also, please note, I couldn’t care less about intriguing stories or unique ideas. Boring! All that matters is character design, and I think all characters should look the same, they should all be cute, with big eyes, tsundere, loli. If not, I won’t watch. Everything and everyone should be classifiable by genre. I only like romance. Evangelion is overrated. I don’t like mecha! So, please, enjoy my generic autumn preview. It’s positively ignorant!

Only kidding!

Tytania: Sweeping epic, space opera

If you’ve been following this blog for any length of time, you might have noticed that I’m often quite attracted to space operas. Last year, I really enjoyed Toward the Terra, was swept away by its poignant drama and epic scale. That’s why Tytania is on this list, but once I factor in that it’s from the writer (Yoshiki Tanaka) and director (Noboru Ishiguro) of Legend of the Galactic Heroes, then clearly, there is a very real chance of seeing something extra special.

There are certain ‘situations’ I’m expecting from this, lots of political intrigue and religious fundamentalism, some sensational betrayal of ambitious, old fashioned men, of men daring to dream the impossible, of mastering their own destiny, while their corrupt, bloated leaders destroy the lives of millions with a careless flick of their chubby little fingers. Characters will be wearing tidy, distinctive uniforms and have interesting names, while, for the fan-girls, there will be bishonen and romantic subtext.

Shikabane Hime (“Corpse Princess”): Potential fail, Gainax, horror

I’m not exactly brimming with excitement for Shikabane Hime. It’s just looking like more of the same, more Blood-esque horror, with a twist of Attitude. Our dearest high-school heroine devilishly delights in ripping through hordes of flesh-hungry zombies with her trusty machine gun, sound familiar? The first chapter of the manga reads more like an exploitative version of Bleach, with page after page of extreme gore and cheap fan service, while the anime trailer suggests a low budget. Alas, the involvement of Gainax has me intrigued. We all know what they are capable of. He is My Master. Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. This could go either way. Gainax are an enigma, capable of almost anything.

Michiko to Hatchin: Westernised anime for the masses, not otaku

I’ll take a wild guess and suggest that, just from seeing the trailer, Michiko to Hatchin will be licensed by Funimation (via Geneon) for a North American DVD release within the next 6-to-9 months, then thrown into a decent TV slot, selling well with the tagline of “from the makers of Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo“. There is nothing niche about this show, it has a clean, sexy and colourful style that’s refreshingly free of the creepy leering of typical otaku fare. It looks very cool, imbued with a Western Attitude, almost like a story based within the Mushroom Samba universe of Cowboy Bebop; sunny, desolate landscapes, big afros and kung-fu, what’s not to love? Ask the fans of Kyoto Animation.

One Outs: GAR, thriller

One Outs has a sinister, cold aesthetic, with character designs that are as hard as nails. Our dearest Madhouse reunites the staff of Akagi and Kaiji for this further round of manly tears and winner-takes-all gambling. Such a prospect is irresistible.

The premise.., hell, the mere subtitle of “Nobody wins, but I!” is enough to set my pulse racing. So it is sad, then, that many have already written it off because the plot is ostensibly related to baseball. You know, it’s not like I know anything about baseball either, but the game is just a means to an end; that end being a white-knuckle ride through the dangerous forest of failure, best faced whilst sporting a salary-man’s shabby suit and ruffled tie, as your tightly pursed, unfeeling lips nurse a slow burning, cheap cigarette.

Kurozuka: Horror, semi-necrophilia, action, science-fiction

This time last week, I knew absolutely nothing about Kurozuka. I was curious about its sparse promotional art, that was all, and it certainly wasn’t supposed to be on this list, but, well… I know more about it now. I devoured all 10 volumes of the manga over the weekend! I should have expected that to happen, but I just wanted to sample a few chapters and it hooked me. Plain and simple, I couldn’t stop reading it.

How might one describe Kurozuka? As a twisted love story, perhaps. As a doomed romance between immortals, that spans centuries, from Feudal Japan to a post-apocalyptic future.

Stop, I know I’m using words like ‘love’ and ‘romance’, but don’t be fooled, because this isn’t in any way profound or intimate. Kurozuka is about a woman desperately, madly in love with the severed head of a samurai named Kuro. In a twist that can only be described as bad luck, the only part of Kuro that became immortal was his head, and one more thing, these love birds, they feed on human blood. So, forget about all this ‘romance’ stuff, Kurozuka is a thoroughly grotesque, violent and strange story that is as stylish and action-packed as it is morally bankrupt.

One of the characters has a (Guts-esque) jet-powered dragon slayer sword (see the image at the top of the this post). I mean, seriously, do I need to say any more? Yes, I’m excited about Kurozuka. I’m anxious to see how it’s adapted by Madhouse, and whether or not it’s censored. If not, I feel safe in assuming that this will be the most ‘adult’ anime to air in autumn, but remember, ‘adult’ means sick, extreme, sex-laden and violent. Yum.

Actually, Blassreiter is quite good

When Blassreiter started airing in April, I suppose I wasn’t the only one to ignore it, but why is that? Wait, isn’t it obvious? Just two damn words are all it takes.

Studio Gonzo.

In recent years, despite the odd exception, their name has become synonymous with bland, conventional, boring anime. Hence, somewhat unfairly, I had Blassreiter pegged from the start as one to avoid, as a dumb, generic action series. For a while, that seemed to be working just fine, no-one was talking about it, really, especially as The Tower of Druaga, Blassreiter‘s video streaming partner on the likes of YouTube and Crunchyroll, was attracting the admiration of many. Alas, everything changed when I read this timely review at Sea Slugs!; according to them, Blassreiter wasn’t as bad as first thought. It was a surprise for them, and that was enough for me, the mere idea of someone actually enjoying Blassreiter was sufficient enough reason to intrigue, especially as I had expected nothing less than abject failure. Suddenly, excitement had gripped me. This was a new series to watch, a series I knew nothing about, another obscure little adventure.

[12 episodes later.]

I expected a dumb, generic action series, and there is no denying it, Blassreiter is stupid, unoriginal and adrenaline-fuelled. Yet I loved it, because it is fun, exciting and compelling, a kind of back to basics, refreshingly straight-forward action anime that is stylish, well animated and thoroughly well crafted. It harkens back to something like Gungrave, an unashamedly action-packed story that mixes tried-and-tested themes of science-fiction and horror with melodramatic, serious characters. Like Gerd Frentzen.

Note that Blassreiter is set in Germany. Not that this is important, but that’s a relatively exotic locale for anime, right? Anyway, the square-jawed Gerd Frentzen is a champion motorcycle racer who, in the very first episode, has a terrible crash on the circuit and is paralyzed from the waist down. His career is finished in an instant, his life left in tatters, but just as all hope seems lost, a voluptuous scientist, having mysteriously lurked forth from the shadows, springs our vulnerable Gerd in the throes of absolute despair to offer him a delicious reprieve; “Swallow this pill and you’ll be healed!” Suffice to say, she is not exactly telling the truth.

In any other series, Gerd might be the (anti) hero, but six episodes in, he dies. It’s the first in a long line of surprising deaths, but this illustrates an important point, that no-one is safe in Blassreiter. Rather, this is apocalyptic science fiction in the vein of another personal favorite, Wolf’s Rain. The first half of the series concludes at the end of episode 12, an iconic, exhilarating episode, but true to form, this isn’t a happy end. In fact, when a bomb is literally dropped on top of our escaping heroes, via a tearful old comrade no less, such is the sense of hopelessness that one suspects that the end of their world might not be such a remote possibility after all.

Blassreiter is the kind of series where, when a character dies, he has just enough energy left to offer one last, melodramatic speech. I know you might be rolling your eyes, I suppose it is a tad cliche, but regardless, it’s a nice touch, I think, and lends some meaning to that end, conjuring a really quite potent pathos with a sense of tragic beauty. This is a show with colorful motorcycles, huge guns, hulking monsters and military maneuvers, it is stylish, macho and serious, but without that pathos, the rest is merely superficial. I never anticipated caring this much about the characters in Blassreiter, but I do, undeniably, I do. It won’t win awards, but it is solid, exciting and compelling, and that is so much more than I dared hope for.

A romantic interpretation of Kaiba

I was always going to like Kaiba. Even before it started airing, I had, somewhat dangerously, convinced myself that it would be good. After all, with someone like Masaaki Yuasa directing, I had to expect it would special and well, some five months later, here we are again, I just finished Kaiba this weekend.

Lets allay some fears right now. Despite its polarizing visual style and artsy pedigree, Kaiba absolutely isn’t high falutin or pretentious, it is heartfelt and emotional, exciting and twisted, and most of all, character driven. It’s true that Yuasa occasionally indulges in daunting surrealism, no doubt the last episode is a testament to that, but I really hope that you watch Kaiba, because it is lovely.

Well, that’s a half truth. Kaiba is lovely, and sweet, and romantic, but it’s also tragic, and sad, and harsh. I’m recalling a line from Kino’s Journey that comes to mind, that “The world is not beautiful, therefore it is”. This is Kaiba, I think. An idealistic, almost child-like search for some meaning in life within a universe where human memory, the very essence of individuality, is ephemeral, readily transferred into tiny, fragile metal chips and where dreams are copied, fabricated and deleted.

People are weak little things, really. Our dreams are many, and many of them are impossible, but we strive on anyway. One watches Kaiba and feels this romantic melancholy for life, that every person, all of us, might as well be reduced to a grain of sand on a golden beach, one of countless millions, yet we all keep on believing that we can make a difference, or do something important. Sometimes we find happiness, other times not. Kaiba is beautiful for allowing a human life to blossom, like how a flower might sneak through the cracks of a concrete road, only to then be crushed underfoot. A life that was once so hopeful can be extinguished in an instant, lost forever, just another grain of sand. But if life is so insignificant, what is the point of living? Why not just give up?

Above all else, Kaiba is a love story. When Warp and Neiro fall from their lost palace and slip into the amnesia cloud below, Warp’s only concern is for his beloved Neiro’s memories, even at the cost of his own. They roll around in Neiro’s room, drunk, happy, absolutely content within the intimacy of the other’s company, they remain scared, fragile and lost, but they have each other, and that’s enough, I think. Likewise, Popo only realizes the hollowness of his rise to power after his last remaining friend has had her memories erased, “Don’t forget me!” he screams, but it’s too late, everything he strived for has been forgotten. We live for each other, a mother for her son, a boy for his friend, one lover for another. That’s why giving up isn’t an option, our dreams might be hopeless, but they keep us alive long enough to find a friend, a kindred spirit.