Winter ’11 Impressions

I don’t have Bateszi’s gift for intros, so let’s jump right into the Winter Preview.  This season does not have any wildly anticipated shows, nor have I seen something of Star Driver’s caliber.  Still, even if the shows don’t blow you away, anime is definitely still well and kicking.

Wolverine

This incarnation of Wolverine features lots of action and not much story.  I think this fits Wolverine’s personality well.  He’s always been someone that focused on primal urges and never lets thinking get in the way of trashing the bad guy.  I think he is a better fit for an anime than Madhouse’s last subject, Iron Man.  Iron Man lacked any deep connection to Japan and the resulting show felt contrived.  Wolverine already has a deep background in Japan in the comic and the show looks like it is drawing from those stories.  The show started strong, hopefully it will succeed where Iron Man failed. (2 out of 3)

Fractale

In Fractale, humans have created a paradise (or distopia depending on how you look at it) where no one has to work.  People enjoy a life of isolation, and spend their time socializing through virtual avatars that appear like holograms.  In the first episode, a young boy named Clain discovers a young girl riding a flying machine that reminded me of the glider in Naussica of the Valley of the Wind.  The girl is injured after she falls (or jumps) off the glider and Clain brings her back to his house to recover.  The girl is gone by the morning but she leaves another mysterious girl in her place.  Although it does not reveal much of the story, the first episode provided an interesting background for whatever is going to come next.  I usually prefer shows with a bright, sharp art style (like Star Driver) but the pastel, washed scenes used fit this show well.  The first episode introduced more questions then it answered, but the world it previewed is worth keeping an eye on. (3 out of 3)

Infinite Stratos

Infinite Stratos is set in an academy that trains pilots of exoskeltons called (unsuprisingly) “Infinite Stratos.” The catch is that only women can control the suits.  Well, except for the main character Ichika, a first year student at the academy and the first man able to pilot an Infinite Stratos.  This show reeks to me of a harem waiting to happen.  To make matters worse, Ichika’s childhood friend and kendo partner Houki is also at the academy.  Ichika hasn’t seen Houki in six years and distance has certainly made the heart grow strong.  The animation itself is the sharp style that I prefer and the fights between the Infinite Stratos are enjoyable.  Still, the plot isn’t interesting nor is the concept new, Mai-hime introduced exoskeletons piloted by women before.  I hope something interesting comes of this, but I don’t expect too much given the plot so far. (1 out of 3)

15 thoughts on “Winter ’11 Impressions”

  1. I was looking forward to Fractale but if it’s to do as many good things as I hoped it will, it’ll need more than eleven episodes! Unless there’s a second season or other episodes planned, it might not physically have enough time to deliver on its promise. I was kinda hoping the first girl would stick around longer though, since we didn’t really get chance to get properly acquainted with her (she strikes me as more interesting than the second one, at least to me).

    I got some Miyazaki-esque vibes too – if we’re lucky we might have the next Xam’d on our hands here.

    Infinite Stratos sounds a bit generic but I didn’t know the Wolverine anime existed at all; maybe I ought to check it out. Even so, I suspect that the real gems of the current season may actually be the likes of Wandering Son or the second season of Kimi ni Todoke – the slow, understated ones that take a little while to really grow on you.

    1. I didn’t see season one of Kimi ni Todoke, I guess I’ll have to check it out.

      Eleven episodes will go by awfully quick. I have high hopes for Fractale too, I guess I’ll have to bank on a second season. I wonder if the shorter season will lead to a less serious, more light hearted show. The setting of the show, an overcrowded, collapsing society, seems to point towards a serious show, but some of the humor in the first episode made that seem unlikely.

  2. I’ve just come to the conclusion that this isn’t a complete failure of an anime season, after all. Three interesting shows out of five that I’ve checked out so far.

    Fractale has enjoyable art and animation, but based on the first episode, the basic idea seems stupid as hell (are they trying to make Earth’s population dwindle by having people not socialize and, you know, make babies?) and the characters are boring, I couldn’t get any kind of connection with them. Nevertheless, I found myself slightly intrigued by the plot, so I may give the second episode a chance.

    I really didn’t expect much from Infinite Stratos, since I heard that it lacks any originality whatsoever, and mecha isn’t really my thing. Plus, the idea of only women being able to operate those mecha is idiotic. However, I was pleasantly surprised. It’s incredibly clichéd alright, but I’ve never let that bother me as long as there are enough redeeming qualities. I like the comedy, I like the characters (especially the protagonist, the first one for me this season who isn’t a boring wimp), I like the art and animation, and the storytelling might actually be the most skilled out of the 5 shows I’ve checked this season. I wouldn’t go as far as to say it’s great, but it’s good, and so far it’s my favourite this season.

    Dragon Crisis is subject-wise just up my alley. It’s got good musics (love the OP), Kugimiya Rie, and the second-best protagonist this season. The art and animation are kinda mediocre and the characters and storytelling are, I’d say, overall quite decent. I’ll watch this, and so far I like this, but I don’t expect a masterpiece, just a fairly enjoyable fantasy story.

    Beelzebub is a great manga, but the anime adaptation is a disappointment. Every time the story strays even a little from the original work, it just gets worse. No skilled storytellers working on this one. The good BG musics and great original material save this into watchable and even enjoyable at times, but I’m not sure that’s enough to keep me watching.

    GOSICK has a bland and uninteresting protagonist (though he shows some potential, the story just might mold him into a good character), but his partner, Victorica, whom I proclaim the Loli of the Season, steals the show spectacularly. The plot shows some promise, and I’m getting a vibe that reminds me of Umineko no Naku Koro ni. It’s highly unlikely that GOSICK will turn out half as good as Umineko, but if it has even a fraction of Umineko’s brilliance, it’ll be worth watching. Oh, and the ED is very good.

    1. Oh, well, the protagonist of Beelzebub isn’t a boring wimp, of course, I just subconsciously dismissed him because he’s an old acquaintance from the manga. If Beelzebub was completely new to me, I might be more interested, but since I have the manga to compare to, and the manga is clearly superior, I see little reason to watch it. Except maybe for the musics. Some fights should be worth watching with BG musics, colours and animation.

    2. After third episodes, GOSICK rose to the first place on my list and Dragon Crisis sunk down to barely worth watching. That is because GOSICK’s main character gained a level in badass and Dragon Crisis ep 3 suffered from some seriously clumsy storytelling.

      Yumekui Merry is kinda… bizarre, but I like the musics (including the OP) and the art. There’s some pretty strong atmosphere in this anime. Some interesting characters, too. After watching three episodes, I think this is almost as good as IS and GOSICK.

      Kore wa Zombie desu ka is occasionally funny, but most of the humour isn’t quite my cup of tea. It’s quite unpredictable, though. And it does have a few scenes with good atmosphere, although too often the annoying comedy breaks the mood too early. It’s on the borderline, I think I’ll continue watching, but I may drop it if I’m short on time – there are 4 other shows more important for me.

  3. Wolverine is better than last season’s Iron Man. But Beelzebub is the best this season, followed by Yumekui Merry, and Fractale. I just wish they would put some clothes on that green-haired baby, but the manga did not have him clothed.

  4. I said I will watch the second episode of Wolverine but I just can’t force myself to do it. At the moment I don’t have a list to watch yet. I’m still trying to make up my mind about it.

  5. I’m surprised no one has talked about Puella Magi Madoka Magika. Sure, the story is as routine as it gets (“Hey, wanna be a magical girl?”) but there’s nothing in the other new shows that comes close to its direction and strange visuals. Watching ep1, at times I was thinking “Hey, this looks kinda like Hidamari,” or “I smell a whiff of Bakemonogatari here,” no surprise since all three shows share the same director. And that’s before the visual weirdness REALLY hit the fan. When it did, I sat there with a drooling grin on my face. The last time that happened was ep1 of Star Driver.

    I’m behind in my viewing, having undergone six Internet-free days and a work week from hell, so I’m catching up with the shows. Gosick, Beelzebub, and the noitaminA shows have promise. Level E’s alien is terribly annoying, but the show has good comic timing. The rest seem generic.

    1. Madoka could be good if not for the visual randomness sullying the battles. Few things come as close to epic fail as an impressive battle with a gruesome, sad ending – while the audience laughs or facepalms at strange visuals. This isn’t Bakemonogatari, there he had the good sense to leave his lunacy out of the battles. Plus the script is many times better, but that’s beside the point.

      1. That’s interesting. I’ve had a completely different reaction to the battles. The surrealist cut-out monsters and the simple girls’ animation give me the feeling of a bad dream, not fluid or thrilling, but grotesque. It may be that the artistic similarities to Bakumonogatari and Hidamari makes them resonate further. At any rate, I am addicted to the battle sequences in this show.

        1. Yes, well, my tolerance for surrealism is pretty low. Didn’t stop me from rating Bakemonogatari 4.5/5 in Anime-Planet, but in Madoka it’s seriously harming my enjoyment. I’m constantly on the verge of dropping the series, but something keeps me watching. Probably the musics, Kajiura Yuki is one of my favourite composers.

  6. I forward Puella Magi Madoka Magica. Three episodes in, and it’s essentially Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha crossed with Shadow Star. Not to mention also being visually impressive and shockingly dark at times. This early in the season it’s hard to tell where it will go–maybe the show will train wreck later on–but right now it has enormous potential.

    Or maybe it’s hard for me to fault a magical girl show with Faustian overtones, or where one of the main characters takes on mustachioed demon cotton balls with a baseball bat. I don’t know. At any rate, it’s probably the closest I’ve seen anyone come in animated form to, say, Sailor Nothing. That’s no mean feat.

  7. No Level E?
    My favorite so far for the season would have to be Level E even though several other shows have exceeded my expectations. Madoka really surprised, I didn’t expect for the lurking darkness.
    As for Infinite Stratos, clearly it’s heading towards the path of harem which I dislike but I’ll continue watching it for the fights and the story.

    1. I didn’t watch Level E until after I posted. I planned to do a Winter Impressions part II but it’s late to do one now, but I agree that Level E has real potential. I would rate Fractale higher, but Level E is my second favorite so far.

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