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Autumn ’08 impressions: week 2

Another week and the last of my autumn anime impressions. Right now, it feels like this is an exciting time to be an anime fan. There is so much that’s actually worth watching at the moment that it really seems like every day I’m adding more and more to my back-log. Naturally, I’m already having a hard time just trying to keep up with it all, but it’s been refreshing all the same.

If you haven’t participated already, please vote in my “best of season” poll. It’s just a bit of fun, but I’m becoming fascinated by the results. Casshern Sins is on top right now and I really didn’t expect that, but then again, you people do read my blog, so you obviously have good taste! (Not that I’m biased or anything.)

Mediocre anime

8. Hokuto no Ken Raoh Gaiden: Ten no Haoh

As with anything related to Fist of the North Star, a certain quota must be filled. This includes exploding heads, muscle-bound vigilantes, blood-thirsty street punks and crazy martial arts that require the least amount of movement possible, which is handy, because the animation is just as static. In this first episode, apparently all Raoh need do is stare at someone. The rest is taken care of.

You probably know already whether or not you want to see this. Just like the recent Golgo 13 anime, it delivers exactly what you expect of Fist of the North Star, but I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not. It’s just more of the same. More manly action.

Consider this: the great Raoh will only walk in a straight line. Literally. Even if there is a building obstructing his path, he won’t walk around it. He just smashes his way through and keeps on going. Does that sound stupid? Certainly. Is it funny? Most definitely. But this is not a comedy.

I’ll admit that I have a soft spot for Fist of the North Star. Taken in small doses, it’s entertaining enough, but at the same time, if you wanted to say that this is terrible, I couldn’t exactly disagree either. A guilty pleasure for sure, but now that the original series has been completely fan subbed, I might just start watching that instead.

  • tags: exploding heads, martial arts, post-apocalyptic, manly, destruction

7. Kurogane no Line Barrel

It’s rare to find a main character as unlikable as the teenaged idiot at the centre of Kurogane no Line Barrel. Selfish, petty and horny, his pseudo-Light claims of justice are nothing more than a superficial smoke-screen, all to hide his innate insecurity and shattered masculinity. He is a coward, basically. A coward that, by a miracle of good luck, can somehow pilot an all-powerful mecha. I guess he is built-up like this on-purpose, we’re supposed to hate him so that we can welcome his inevitable demise with unabated glee. Everything else in this anime is so utterly generic that it is depressing, yet I want to see this guy crash and burn spectacularly.

Vitriol aside, the next few episodes will make or break Kurogane no Line Barrel. This could turn out to be a traumatic mecha series like Bokurano, with insane teenagers in-control of things they cannot even begin to understand, or it could be just another boring action anime from Studio Gonzo. For whatever reason, I suspect that there might be something more to this story, but it will have to deliver soon.

  • tags: mecha, teenager, wimp, idiot, annoying
Good anime

6. Chaos Head

I’m finding it hard to say much of anything about the first episode of Chaos Head. It has generic bishojo characters, all of whom are inexplicably attracted to a shed-dwelling, anti-social otaku. His name is Takumi and like many otaku, he has a sexy figurine collection, an ‘odd’ relationship with his sister and admits to hating ‘3D girls’. All the while, a gory mystery seems  vaguely related to them all.

This is a promising, yet baffling debut, and, despite pandering to the otaku fan base, I’m hesitant to draw any firm conclusions just yet.  Much of this episode is particularly reminiscent of Welcome to the NHK, especially that sense of self-delusion and rampant paranoia. The line between the real and unreal is blurred through-out, so much so, I’m not yet convinced that certain characters even exist outside of Takumi’s vivid imagination.

I’ll be watching more of this. I need some answers.

  • tags: otaku, mystery, culture, romance, bishojo

5. Skip Beat

I could binge away an entire weekend on Skip Beat.

This episode ends with such a moment of pathos that I could spend hours watching this character’s rise from obscurity, to battle for fame and success. Of course, I’m talking about Kyoko. A dumped girl hell-bent on the best possible revenge.

I nearly lost faith in this ‘brand’ of nineties-era shojo after a bad experience with Itazura na Kiss, which wasn’t as much a bad series as a frustrating one. Similar to my complaints about Toradora‘s Taiga, Itazura na Kiss has a (male) tsundere so consistently obnoxious that the love-struck girl lost all of my respect by willingly accepting his streams of abuse to accommodate her love. Thank god that Kyoko is different. When she over-hears her beloved ‘prince’ insulting her behind her back, she throws a hamburger in his face and tearfully swears to get revenge! Ah, that’s the spirit!

Skip Beat could almost be described as a Shonen Jump action story, ‘I will become the strongest celebrity!’ It’s certainly as compulsive as Naruto, but where the boys might spend countless days in training trying to power-up, Kyoko just changes her hair style and starts wearing some trendy new clothes! Seriously, it’s easy being a girl!

  • tags: shojo, attitude, comedy, romance, drama
Excellent anime

4. Tytania

Sitting down in-front of Tytania for the first time, I was worried. I’ve read my fair share of negative reviews of the first episode and the rather stiff animation used in the trailer didn’t exactly impress me either, but I am a fan of Legend of the Galactic Heroes and the last thing in the world I wanted to report was that ‘Tytania isn’t good.’ Luckily, I don’t have to do that.

I’ve criticized the new Hokuto no Ken anime series for being exactly what I expect it to be and Tytania is much in the same way, yet it is a superior series. This was expected to be another Legend of the Galactic Heroes and that is exactly what it is. The well-groomed, posh soldiers of the Empire versus the up-start rebel capitalists. In space. Both sides contain men of quality and they will clash, frequently, in battles of huge scale and importance. They represent not just themselves, but a political ideology too. Every move is calculated. This is what I expect from Tytania, and I find it fascinating. It is a space opera; a grand adventure. Each side has a different uniform, culture and unique technologies. Each side contains people of burning ambition, who stare fearlessly into the endless expanse of space and dare to dream of mastering man’s destiny. They drink tea too.

The animation was better than expected. This is a dialogue-heavy show with riveting speeches, so fluidity of movement isn’t as important as the ambience and the mood of the moment. Basically, the presentation of Tytania is perfectly fine, but then, I’m excited. I might be biased.

  • tags: space opera, tea, wine, bishonen, war

3. Kurozuka

Let’s get something straight. The Kurozuka manga never aspired to be anything more than stylish and action-packed. That is all well and good, and it does look incredibly cool, but substance was sorely lacking and it felt a tad disposable too. The manga was ripe for an anime adaptation precisely because those deficiencies were so obvious and the end result is that this opening episode that isn’t a particularly faithful adaptation of the source material, but is arguably much, much better.

Through-out this story, the one thing we must believe in, above all else, is that Kuro and Kuromitsu are deeply in-love. Most of this hinges on the seiyuu, so it is a relief that the cast includes the best voice actress in Japan, Romi Paku. In the role of Kuromitsu, she delivers a subtle and tortured performance that’s completely unlike anything I’ve heard from her in the past. Her voice is mature and restrained, a voice that understands the eternal pain of immortal life.

Ironically, so much that I like about Kurozuka has nothing to do with restrain. Bloody action, samurai, and vampires. This is a dangerous mixture of extremes and subtleties, yet what I am relishing most of all right now is that this is an adult story, with adult relationships. It is also dark, romantic and action-packed. I can’t ask for any more than that. It is everything I hoped for.

  • tags: horror, blood, romance, samurai, action

2. Michiko to Hatchin

Another beautifully animated first episode, but then, I always expected Michiko to Hatchin to look great; my questions concerned only the story, which was, at times, painful to endure. The little girl, Hana, is abused horribly by her adoptive family. Her situation is comically bad and very reminiscent of Harry Potter at the Dursleys’, but rather than Hagrid bursting in to save the day, it’s Michiko, Hana’s so-called mother; a sexy, gun-toting prison escapee who ‘don’t take no shit from no-one‘. Her moment of arrival is fantastic for obvious reasons, but even better is Hana’s own little stand, when she finally snaps and head-butts her violent sister. What a moment of relief.

I adore the blue skies, dusty roads and concrete walls of Michiko to Hatchin, where graffiti and dirt smudge across damaged buildings and poor old men sit out on the side of the street, feasting on their greasy snacks. The influence of the stunning Brazilian film Cidade de Deus (City of God) is obvious, not just in the soundtrack, which features a number of cool samba beats, but in the sun-stained, colourful clothes, the half-arsed, uncomfortable way the characters hold their pistols, the sense of energy, youth, corruption and lawlessness. In every sense, this is a liberating piece of work. A triumph of the human spirit. It is art, and it will be fun.

  • tags: gritty, urban, abuse, cool, animation
Masterpiece

1. Mouryou no Hako

In a weird, creepy kind of way, the first episode of Mouryou no Hako was a masterpiece. Understated and beautiful, dark and foreboding, the strangeness of the characters and the subtlety of their movement; I was mesmerised by this episode, utterly incapable of fathoming its direction, yet entranced by its sad progression into the beautiful weird. That it conveys no sense of logic is barely relevant, nightmares often dance their own baroque roads of thought. Simply conveying feeling is enough. Mouryou no Hako is animated, perfumed emotion, and it isn’t necessarily happy. If you value anime, allow yourself to be taken by this episode, to savour its romantic sting.

  • tags: horror, creepy, beautiful, artistic, moody

Comments

Hige says:

God, I have to add Mouryou no Hako to the list now? I genuinely intended only to follow three shows from this season. Being spoilt for choice is hard going.

Ivy says:

So we have an excellent section and a masterpiece to end it all. This batch is much more impressive, compared to the first editorial. Kurogane seems like the kind of show I’d watch to mock and make fun of. The main character is asking for it. If they go with the whole demise case, they’ll have to make him a few notches more likable. Judging by the way things are moving, it seems like an unattainable feat. Chaos head is great, somewhat typical and cliched but having that hallucination hook really brings things to a whole new level. Skip Beat is lovely, I’ll need something to tide me over after Itazura no kiss (I enjoyed it very much, those who waited were rewarded!) ended. Tytania felt a little robotic to be honest, its ok with what its trying to do, but it needs to have more of a heart and soul. It should learn a few things from Terra He, now thats some great space-opera. Kurozuka has the best first episode showing and I’m glad its one of your top shows. Romi Paku is amazing, each line she articulates sends shivers down my spine, the lady knows how to keep you on your toes. Michiko to Hatchin has that atmosphere to it, I think its that south American feel, that dry, summery, beachy and casual mannerism. I thought the bullying scene went to the extreme side and played against the show, moderation is your friend Manglobe. MnH has fantastic art and its very thought-provoking. Though the lesbian part really turned me off, as animes tend to have a very odd and stupid depiction of same gender relationships, I hope this one doesn’t drown itself with these cameos. One more thing, Madhouse seems to be on a roll this season. Great season to be an anime fan!

kuromitsu says:

Glad you liked Mouryou no hako. I agree that so far it’s an exceptional show and as far as I’m concerned, easily the best show this season. If it doesn’t slip, it might even overthrow Natsume yuujinchou as the best show of the year.

As for Kurozuka, my primary reason for watching it (aside from being curious how they adapted the manga) was the cast – Miyano Mamoru as a badass fighter? Paku Romi as a femme fatale? Nakata Jouji as… well, Benkei? I was sort of prepared for a train wreck, but I was very pleasantly surprised. Miyano finally uses a voice that’s different than the one he’s been using everywhere since Ouran and Paku is excellent as Kuromitsu. I’m not completely satisfied with Nakata (his voice doesn’t really suit the role IMO) but nevertheless I approve of hearing him in this sort of role.

(But man, it’s so weird to see Kuromitsu Kuromitsu everywhere. ^^;; I’ve had this nick even before I knew Kurozuka existed, and it’s late now to change it, but it’s a bit awkward nevertheless…)

kuromitsu says:

Augh. I know English, I really do. orz;;;

coburn says:

I just got through the first episode of Kurozuka: spent the first half wondering whether this was the same insane series you’d recommended in pre-season, spent the second half fixed to the screen. Every show I’ve seen this season is good to look at, but when the blood got to flowing Kurozuka has to be the most viscerally satisfying of the lot. That tense pause followed by a total break from restraint towards the end was awesome.

And if there really is a series impressing more than Michiko to Hatchin right now, I am going to be a very very happy person when I watch it.

Martin says:

Chaos;Head left me with mixed feelings but I’ll give the second ep a watch tomorrow and see how it pans out. I can see the potential there but I’m worried about fan-pandering getting in the way of some Kon-inspired psychological shenanigans. Tytania was fantastic – the second episode gives some quite telling insights into the clan and its workings. It’s not the most exciting show out there but in term of intelligence and playing into my analytical side, it’s hard to beat.

I knew you’d love Michiko to Hatchin but the bold, loud Westernised type of anime often leaves me cold (Cowboy Bebop being the only exception I think). If it turns out to have heart as well as attitude it should be fine…it’s one of those that I want to like. I’ll see how it goes.

Kurozuka’s next up my list though – a vampire love story sounds great. I must confess that I’ve not even heard of Mouryou no Hako, but whether it’s your knack for screencaps or what, but that looks stunning. It looks like…I honestly don’t know! ‘shoujo-noir’ or something? *laughs*

wildcard says:

Weird you should reference the Dursley and City of God in relation to Michiko to Hatchin since they were exactly what came to mind when I watched it! Still, probably one of the best pilot episodes I’ve seen this season, hopefully there are good things to come.

Kurozuka also seems like it could be brilliant. I haven’t read the manga but the atmosphere so far is superb; creepy but tinged with a bizzare sentamentality. It’s in the hands of Madhouse so I’m expecting great things again.

The only other thing from the list I’ve seen is ‘Kurogane no Line Barrel’, but to be honest I think your tags for it sum up my thoughts: ‘mecha, teenager, wimp, idiot, annoying’. I’m actually feeling a little sorry for Gonzo these days.

Kim says:

I was intrigued by the 1st episode of Kurozuka but didn’t really care for the second too much. However a lot of my friends seem to like it so it is probably just me. But since I am following too many series I am going to drop this one for now.

However I loved Michiko to Hatchin for some reason it gave me vibes of Matilda and Harry Potter with how Hatchin was treated by her foster family. But of course with Michiko it will end up being something very different. I also adore the setting. This is a definite keeper.

I also loved the 3rd episode of Casshern Sins and the 2nd episode of Tytania so those are also definite keepers for me now.

I did really enjoy the 1st episode of Mouryou no Hako: The 2nd episode was not as strong but it still shows lots of promise. But I need to watch a couple more episodes to decide on this one. But for some reason it reminds me of Baccano (not in plot and characters of course) but in the way it seems to be one of those series where everything will make sense and come together in the end like a puzzle sort of.

Peter S says:

Michiko looked great, but those endless abuse scenes irritated me so much that wound up skipping the later ones. But maybe now Hana’s free the series will get down to business.

Mouryou, well, the two girls’ story bored me but they kept tossing out surprises that kept me watching. Like that sudden hallucination of a battle in the train.

Wasn’t so crazy about Tytania, but maybe that’s my taste talking, rather than its execution. Maybe I need to get used to a show that likes to take its time doing things.

I didn’t much like ep 1 of Chaos;head, but ep 2 kept me second-guessing the characters’ motivations. That had me intrigued. Yeah, there’s a strong Welcome to the NHK feeling here (The main character even looks like Satou at times), but this time maybe the hallucinations are for real.

Brack says:

I find Mouryou no Hako incredibly average and a lot of things that I hate in anime. Average visuals attached to literature do not equal a masterpiece. Considering there’s a live action version of the same story already, I don’t see the need in creating a cartoon that is so slavishly trying to create a real looking world, albeit one populated by people with poorly traced CLAMP heads on their bodies. In fact, the more I think about the show, the more annoyed I get at it. There’s been a preponderance of Yokai shows this decade, and frankly this just doesn’t cut it. This feels like an adaptation first, cartoon second, unlike Requiem From The Darkness which was determined to do something that could only be done in cartoons with Natsuhiko Kyogoku’s material.

Michiko to Hatchin is the only show this season that doesn’t make me feel I have to work to find something I enjoy in it. The character design and movement is simultaneously more realistic and cartoony than anything else this season. It’s pretty much everything I want from a cartoon, and may well be the only show I bother following from this season’s shows.

I just watched MichiHatchi and I was moved. I had real issues with the length of the torment scenes of Hana, but that was just an investment which matured into her last stand. The beatdown she gave was pure win. How the anime builds on this is something I’m looking forward to.

And after not agreeing much on the initial fall thoughts, here comes the turnaround. Then again, these were the shows I figured I would like in the first place, so it’s not terribly surprising I enjoyed them.

Chaos Head – First episode was kind of interesting, second was predictable and boring. Dropped due to massive load of shows.

Skip Beat – Agree with your take on it.

Tytania – This show has been the target of a lot of dumb criticism early on. For starters expecting the show to be as good as LoGH is silly, as is expecting the characters to be carbon copies. In pretty much everything else ever people would be annoyed if Fan was exactly like Yang, but those watching Tytania seem to want a clone instead of someone new who might make the series different and not a waste of time for people who have watched LoGH. It’s like how playing Okami is like playing a not-as-good Legend of Zelda, why even bother? It also baffles me how, for being a crowd watching a show heavy in dialogue and plot, no one seems to have any patience. Two episodes in and people are judging the entire series with blatant disregard for the fact that they’re only a thirteenth of the way through the series. Not to mention that one of the fun parts about watching a show like this is being able to analyze the episodes as they come out, then look back and see where you were right, wrong, and how the big picture has developed. Sadly the typical analysis for an episode of Tytania thus far is “waaaah, spoon feed me plot points and change my diaper which I soiled because this isn’t as good as LoGH!”

Kurozuka – The first episode was pretty great, the second episode left a bit to be desired. Not in the cool looking action department, just in how it skipped around oddly between scenes and didn’t make a whole lot of sense. I’m guessing that will be cleared up with time…or we’ll forget about it entirely and go on to hacking more people up. Either will suffice.

Michiko to Hatchin – I would say you summed up my thoughts on this pretty well. Even though the abusive family angle has been done numerous times, I thought it worked better than usual here since Hana really is cornered. She either has to stay and put up with the abuse or be thrown out in the streets where she will probably suffer as much if not more. As such the impact when Michiko showed up was even greater than it would’ve been otherwise.

Mouryou no Hako – While I greatly enjoyed this I wouldn’t praise it quite as highly as you have. In terms of animation production it was superb, but the story hasn’t unraveled enough for me to judge if it will be great all around or just a nice piece of eye candy. Still, I’m hopeful that it can live up to the high standard it has set for itself in the first episode.

As for the poll, Casshern Sins? Really? I mean I like it, but not nearly as much as the other top voted shows. Then again I’m more surprised that someone voted for Kurogane no Linebarrel which I watched, but can’t muster up the will to rant about how it’s yet another show along with the 5+ loli high school comedies every season that make me want to hate anime as much as I enjoy it.

TheBigN says:

Basically, there’s too much stuff that I’m interested in watching this season. Which is great. :P

Celeste says:

Glad to know i wasn’t the only one who liked Tytania. I was worried about the animation at some point though: there’s a scene where it looks like they’re walking off a spaceship (note: walking important here) where the animators literally just… moved the cells as opposed to animating. it rubbed me the wrong way, as did some of the voice acting – it felt too emotional for such calm-and-collected characters at times. but i find the plot of Tytania a little to compelling to back out from just that.

Michiko to hatchin was exactly what i expected it would be, and that’s not a bad thing at all :p then again, i wasn’t expecting haru’s outburst against her sister (but i sure as hell enjoyed it) so this show clearly has some punches to throw, literally and figuratively. that, and shinichiro watanabe was so entirely the right choice for music production.

downloading moryou no hako now. will watch it when i get home, but those screencaps sent chills up my spine (in the good way). i honestly couldn’t care less what it’s about, it’s gorgeous.

usagijen says:

Gotta love that scene in Michiko to Hatchin when Hana finally decided to FIGHT BACK! It’s always great to see shows with character that break the typical “damsel in distress” mold.

I couldn’t help but agree with what you’ve said about Skip Beat, fans of the manga would usually say it’s actually a shounen manga disguised as shoujo. Though unlike most Shounen Jump! series, the author behind this is a true genius, everything was well thought, and the series progresses leaving no plotholes behind (and I can only hope it will remain that way till the end of the manga!) The plot isn’t all original or superb, but the way the entire cast develops… is totally amazing.

Now that I think about it, Skip Beat is one of the few shoujo series out there that’s able to evoke PATHOS (all caps for emphasis) throughout its run (it only gets better), so if you already felt that ‘power’ in episode 1, prepare to be blown away with what’s to come. I know I may be waxing lyrical here, but I’m also aware that I’m in a proper “objective” mindset, and I’m confident that you’ll see Skip Beat’s AWESOMENESS :D

Johny says:

Well now, I am yet to see any of the above series. I think I’ll wait till there are around 5 episodes out and start watching then. The shows that I’m more and more convinced to try out are Michiko to Hatchin, Mouryou no Hako, Skip Beat and Kurozuka. Maybe I’ll give Toaru Majutsu no Index and Casshern Sins a shot too.

Oh, and btw, I think you meant “mesmerised” not “memorised” in the description of Mouryou no Hako. ;)

Slee says:

Can’t agree with u more on Kurogane no Line Barrel. Never made it past the 1st eps cause he was so freakin annoying.

ThatQuebecGuy says:

Heavens be praised, Bateszi liked Tytania! With all the negative reviews I have read I thought that the best thing about the series would be the promo arts, but your opinion outweighs those of the naysayers. No such things as being biased. On another matter, Kurogane no Line Barrel art looks atrocious. I already dislike Hisashi Hirai’s character design, but that’s just pushing it.

bateszi says:

Oh jeez. Apologies for the relative lateness of this, but I have another spate of epic comment replies below (which took me over 5 hours to write in total). Quite clearly, there is too much for me to watch and too much for me to write.

***

@Hige: There is so much anime that’s worth my time this season that I’m basically watching it all! Which is, to me, quite heartening, given that this time last month, I could probably count all the anime I was intending to watch on one hand. And that’s one hand with five fingers; I’m not a mutant!

***

@Ivy: The odd relationship between the two girls in Mouryou no Hako didn’t strike me as explicitly lesbian because their interactions didn’t seem to be particularly driven by lust or desire, rather, it was deeper than that, more like a one-sided obsession. Both of the girls came off as a tad creepy, which is why I used to the word ‘perfumed’; the objective beauty of the animation, the flowery, romantic mood, is probably concealing something deceitful and ugly.

Anyway, I have to agree with you on Madhouse. They are on top form this year; Kaiba, Kurozuka, Mouryou no Hako and Casshern Sins. Each one is so different; I love how they produce challenging, mature anime that refuses to pander to anime viewers on almost every level.

***

@kuromitsu: I don’t usually pick-out the seiyÅ«, but the cast of Kurozuka is an ensemble of quality. I could watch anything with Paku Romi attached, such is my affinity for her talent. That she keeps poppping up in excellent anime (Dennou Coil, Kaiba and now, Kurozuka) is surely a good sign too.

Oh, and bad luck with the nickname. Now everyone is going to think you’ve been inspired by a blood-crazed, immortal vampire; could be worse, I guess! I just had a look through my archives and your first comment on this blog was 13th of May, 2006 (on a post about homo-eroticism in Jyu-Oh-Sei! [click]). How time flies!

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@coburn: I’m glad to see that you’re enjoying Kurozuka so much. If it’s anything like the source material, enjoyment will be the key factor, really; it’s as pulpy an action series as you’re likely to find this autumn. I’ve just got my fingers crossed Madhouse can maintain the animation budget, if so, some of the latter episodes will be very interesting indeed; jet-propelled broad-swords being one of the more memorable devices.

***

@Martin: ‘Shoujo-noir’ would be a fantastic name for a genre, but at this point, it’s hard to tag Mouryou no Hako as anything, despite the strong elements of horror, drama, young love and mystery. Could be best described as a ghost story, with hints of romance. But whatever the case, I think that you will love it. I’m quite anxious to read your opinions of this and Kurozuka.

***

@wildcard: Gonzo came through with Blassreiter and Bokurano, which were both good, solid, interesting series, but at the same time, they are pissing into the wind with genre tripe like Line Barrel, Strike Witches and Rosario to Vampire.

Looking back, it has been a downward spiral for them since Gankutsuou, and given that is a masterpiece (along with the nearly-masterpiece Last Exile), it’s obvious they are capable of so much more than they are showing right now.

Finally, it’s nice to know I’m not the only one feeling the City of God vibe in MtH. Actually, it’s just nice to know that somebody else on this blog has seen the film.

***

@Kim: Heh, I’m glad that I’m not the only one getting vibes of classic children’s literature from Michiko to Hatchin. I can’t quite put my finger on why, but it may be a combination of the bright colors and the cartoony style of character design? Everything in that first episode felt very accentuated, as if through the eyes of a child; like the scowling, malevolent faces of Hana’s family?

Also, I find it interesting that you are enjoying Casshern Sins. I don’t know why, but I didn’t expect you to like it; it seems to be a bit darker and humorless, compared to your usual favourites. Anyway, it has to be one of the biggest surprise of the season; I don’t think anyone (certainly not me) expected Casshern to be as good as it is.

***

@Peter S: I find your reaction to Michiko to Hatchin quite interesting, if just because you’re not the only one I’ve read that had to turn-off from the treatment of Hana. Of course, I found it really frustrating to watch her be abused like that too, but it’s a massive pay-off moment once she does finally fight back; you won’t really get that overwhelming sense of relief if you just skip over all of her struggles until that point.

As for Chaos;head – I think you’ve convinced me at take a look at the second episode. The elements of mystery surrounding the main character are interesting, it’s just a shame the rest is very cliche bishojo romance territory.

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@Brack: Fair enough. Suffice to say that I totally disagree with your opinion of Mouryou no Hako (and your sentiments on this season as a whole), but it’s clear that you strongly dislike it, so I can’t really say anything that might effect your opinion either way. Also, I didn’t realise that there was a live action version, so I looked it up on IMDB and the average rating is 4.9/10. Not good.

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@ghostlightning: Totally agree and, same as you, I’ve no idea where MtH might be heading. I suppose, if comparisions to Bebop and Champloo are valid, it will develop into an episodic/coming of age/travelling style of narrative, but regardless, if the pedigree of the creative staff are to be trusted, it should be good. Or rather, better than good.

***

@Absolutely_Steve: If you liked the first episode of Skip Beat, you’ll love the next two. I watched them both last night. Kyoko is such an incredibly addictive personality.

Actually, I’m fairly sure that the series will become one of my favourites of this season; the characters are so endearing and funny.

As for the incoherency of Kurozuka, all I can say is get used to it. The manga is the same. Hundreds of years pass in little more than the blink of an eye, not to mention the destruction of the civilized world. It’s a very strange story, really, and I enjoyed it for its bizarre novelty value more than anything else.

By the way, thanks for such a detailed comment. I’m interested in how my opinions of these new series are stacking up against others, mainly because I’ve avoided many of the reviews elsewhere, and, like you have already noted, it seems like we are agreeing on a lot more this time.

I’m just as surprised as you that Casshern Sins is leading the poll (and by some margin, too). It’s cool though, because it is shaping up to be a really good series, with a cool new aesthetic, and I’m proud to have readers of this blog capable of appreciating such a thing.

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@TheBigN: For sure. I can’t work out whether I’m letting my standards slip, or if the autumn season really is that good. And you have my condolences; you have seen more than one episode of Linebarrels. Not sure if I could do it.

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@Celeste: If you have seen it by now, I hope you liked Mouryou no Hako?

Also, I shared your concerns about the production values of Tytania, until I actually started watching the first episode, by which point, the plot took centre stage. I suppose, if there is an anime this season that doesn’t need as much animation as usual, it’s Tytania; the sheer amount of dialogue sees to that. My only real complaint is the way they shoe-horned in the cliche moe girl; she served little to no purpose in the first episode, perhaps only to confirm that, yes, women do exist in Tytania too.

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@usagijen: It encourages me to think that you’re such a fan of Skip Beat, and now I’m confident that it will capitalise on all that potential seen in the first episode. Last night, I watched episodes 2 and 3. They were great and, yet again, I just want to binge on the manga; only 20 minutes per week isn’t nearly enough!

I guess I’ve always really enjoyed watching this bouncy, lively, purposeful kind of shojo; Skip Beat is about more than romance, it’s about the characters striving to do something more with their lives, it has an existential quality which leads to this PATHOS. It isn’t an immediately stand-out series and has fairly mediocre animation, but it’s solid, funny and moving, and quickly becoming a personal favourite.

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@Johny: Ah, you got me with that typo! I did run this article through the MS Word spell-checker and I remember correcting that specific word, but I guess my eyes had glossed by that point and I chose the wrong option. Well spotted, anyway. *Looks embarrassed*

Anyway, your picks look good, including the ‘possibly maybes’ of Index and Casshern, both of which are surprisingly very good (Index has some wonderful and excitingly-animated action scenes for what is essentially a very straight-forward bishojo/shonen fantasy series). You might want to add Shikabane-hime to that list too, but obviously, we’ll know more about it in 5 episodes time.

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@Slee: Heh, at this point, the guy is probably the most hated main character of the season; I can’t decide whether or not he is worth wasting any more of my time on, just vaguely hoping that Line Barrel gets much, much better.

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Can someone\anyone tell me if the next few episodes of Line Barrel actually show an improvement?

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@ThatQuebecGuy: Ah, I’m flattered; I just hope that my opinion doesn’t betray your trust! Tytania is definitely an acquired taste, in that it’s a very talky, tactical space opera dealing with politics, war and cultural ideology, it takes itself very seriously.

For those reasons alone, I’m not surprised by the negative reviews. People probably expected another Macross Frontier or something, but that isn’t Tytania. I hope you like it, anyway.

Celeste says:

Mm, i’ve watched the first two episodes of Moryou no Hako. I see where Brack’s coming from with his criticisms, but I actually think that CLAMP was the right choice for this anime as character designers.

It occured to me when I was watching Code Geass that, somehow, the plot and the world and the mannerisms of the characters had to “live up” to CLAMP’s character designs for them. Lelouch could’ve been more akin to Light had he a different character design, I think: but the elegance, the gothic sense of the designs almost lended to his character the Byronian heroic-ness we have come to associate with Lelouch. I think if they had gone with anyone else for character designs, the entire series would have had a different feel. In alot of ways, the melodrama that occurred near the end of R2/throughout that caused the world to scream “trainwreck”, I think, was a result of this character design.

That said, I think CLAMP suits Moryou no Hako perfectly. I don’t know who else could draw a head in a box and not have me creeped out, but instead, entranced. I suppose I come from a generation of female anime fans who put a bit of a halo around CLAMP works (as lead by Mokona) though – infinitely elegant, always with cherry blossoms blowing in the wind and a threateningly large moon in the background. The mood and themes that Moryou no Hako are trying to portray, to me, are a “fit” for CLAMP’s art where Geass somehow wasn’t.

As for Tytania, as soon as i saw the moe girl i started to wonder if i was watching Code Geass again. I understand where you come from with the idea of Tytania needing less animation, but i’d bring up the example of .hack//SIGN for an anime that, while being dialog-heavy (to put it lightly), still had a decent animation budget. (the sliding of the cells really, really irked me in a way i cannot describe.)

Kim says:

Also, I find it interesting that you are enjoying Casshern Sins. I don’t know why, but I didn’t expect you to like it; it seems to be a bit darker and humorless, compared to your usual favourites

Well I admit at first I wasn’t sure if I would like Casshern Sins because I found Casshern himself sort of boring and I found the tone unnecessarily somber and depressing. I don’t mind dark (I mean one of my favorite series is Now and Then Here and There) but it is all how it is presented and I am not really sure if I can explain that. But with Casshern Sins I decided it had more positives then negatives: The side characters we met in each episode were very interesting, the animation and style are stunning, and I am interested in the whole mystery behind the ruin and Casshern so now I am looking forward to how it all turns out. I also like friender. :)

Equitan says:

Ah, Bateszi, it has been too long since I was last here looking up your comments. I guess last season’s uninspiring output meant I wasn’t too concerned with fellow fans thoughts on the matter. Besides, after gourging myself on the original SDF Macross series some months ago – oh-so-awesome, was quite surprised to see it live up to its reputation – everything else felt a little lame by comparison for a while.

Anyway, I’m not yet done watching most of the recent first episodes, but it has been good to read your opinions. Some I agree with – Mouryou no Hako for instance – and some I don’t – really, such praise for To Aru Majutsu no Index ? But you always write well so your blog is always a joy to read.

Keep at it and I’ll keep reading!

bateszi says:

@Celeste: That’s a very insightful way of looking at Code Geass and, to be honest, I think you’re totally right. There’s nothing else I can really add to that, except to say that you’ve provided me with a new way of looking at anime like Code Geass. So, thank you for writing such a fascinating comment! :)

@Kim: Like with Kaiba, I’m finding myself holding off from watching Casshern. It’s so unique, visual and thought-provoking that I can only watch it when I’m able to devote myself to it completely. Almost every aspect of it is excellent, so I’m glad your enjoying it too. It’s still winning my poll too, which is as good a sign as any that other’s feel the same way. Here’s to a great new series. Even if there is too many of them this autumn!

@Equitan: Ah, it’s always nice to hear from a long time reader and some genuine thanks for your encouragment too; such nice sentiments do inspire me to keep on going. As for Index, I’m admitedly and utterly defenceless against well-animated, stylish action, even when it’s wrapped around such admitedly generic character design (thinking of the pointlessly moe-blob teacher, for example).

As for the original Macross, I’ve always heard people complaining that it hasn’t aged well. Like, specifically, whenever people talk about it, that has always been noted, and it puts me off. Given what you’ve been saying here, I take it that this isn’t as much of an issue as I’ve been led to believe? I mean, at the moment, I’m treking my way through the original Fist of the North Star TV series and lets just say it ain’t exactly the Mona Lisa either.

Steve Berry says:

Re: Macross, my opinion is also that it has aged quite well. Yes, the animation has its bad moments– most notably those farmed out to Korea. And they’re not just bad, but very bad– easily like watching a so-so 70’s anime show. And there are some moments of goofiness, with 80’s jpop and teens being obnoxious. I mean, it _is_ an 80’s mecha show.

But, and this is a big But, the story is very engaging, and the development of the characters is wonderful– even by today’s standards, I still find the paths and changes that characters like Misa and Hikaru (some of the good guys) and Breetai and Exedore (ostensibly some of the bad guys) go through interesting and complex. The show is, like many Japanese shows, rather pacifist in nature, yet it picks no real bones about being a war story, and having important characters who you like support war as an “good” option. Basically, I found it morally complex– more and more so as the show continues, and some of the characters get placed (or place themselves) in double binds where there is no real good answer. Also, there are many times that the animation is still smooth, and the illustrations excellent. I also like that it jumps right in to the plot– no “warming up”, and that characters really begin developing by 5 to 6 eps in.

Basically, there’s a lot in it that I think still hasn’t been topped– for mecha shows, and for anime war stories. It’s got its problems, no doubt, but it absolutely…. __absolutely__ ten times better than Hokuto no Ken. Easily worth watching.

bateszi says:

@Steve Berry: Thanks for vouching for Macross. I really needed that extra little push and it’s definitely on my soon-to-view list now. I’m especially attracted to the idea that it “jumps right in”, a lot of modern anime seems to waste time with pro-longed plot build-up. That’s one of the reasons why I liked Gurren Lagann so much, that every episode seemed to progress the plot. Of course, that we’re talking about the famous Macross also helps, no doubt that we’re even mentioning it twenty years later is as sure a sign as any that it is a good anime series.

Anyway, I don’t know what it is about these winter months, but right now I’m really attracted to diving into these epic, long stories. That’s why I’m watching Hokuto no Ken; although it’s mostly mindless violence, the over-arching plot is massive, with armies and conquests involving thousands. Or at least, that’s what I hope.

Johny says:

I finally started watching the new season shows and 2 thing come to mind:
1)The amount of awesomeness this season boggles the mind
2)Immortality seems to be “in” this time of year ;)
So, without further ado, in random order, my views on the anime I’ve decided to start watching (in brackets the number of eps seen so far):
Kurozuka (3) – it’s hard finding something not to love about the show. The not completely sane characters are compelling thanks to the great voice acting, the plot is appropriately crazy for the dense atmosphere and the stylish animation is top notch if somewhat trippy. The wonderfully executed, bloody fights are simply breathtaking and can be treated as the icing on the cake.

Casshern Sins (5) – I was a bit reluctant to start watching this, but I’m glad I finally convinced myself to give it a shot. As soon as I started watching the first ep I was so immersed I couldn’t stop until I’ve seen all the subbed eps. Each and every episode is thoroughly thought out and in a class of it’s own. The characters are so great, that it’s hard not to love them (although Casshern’s design annoys me a bit). Hell, even the dog, Friender (I always wondered how they keep coming up with such idiotic names…), has character development. I liked the idea of him becoming sort of Casshern’s guardian, preventing him from going too far. Oh, and the little robotic girl – Ringo – reminds me of Tima from Metropolis somehow. Did anyone else get the same impression?

Mouryuo no Hako (4) – third on my list and third including something among the lines of immortality (if a living severed head isn’t immortality, I don’t know what is). Honestly, I’m a bit disappointed with this one. Sure, the visuals are great and the plot is wierd and utterly confusing (which is good in this case), but I find Mouryou no Hako to be lacking. I can’t really put my finger on it, but I guess it has something to do with the dialogues. They often seem forced and unnatural. Maybe the subs are at fault (AeroSubs)? Still, I’m far from dropping this.

Skip Beat (3) – This show made me laugh more than once every episode. It’s just great entartainment watching Kyoko storm into showbusiness just because she wants vengeance. The balance between comedy and drama is exactly the way it should be – just before the drama starts getting tiresome, the over-the-top visual jokes provide the much needed comedy release and vice versa. I can only hope the show maintains it’s great level.

Toradora! (7) – I started watching this ’cause I was bored and looking for something easy and fun. Toradora! didn’t disappoint. I find it hard not to like the show. Even though it’s far from being either original or visually stunning, it achieves what it was set out to do without breaking a sweat. Toradora! simply provides easy entertainment without being overly pretentious. Plus, Taiga reminds me of myself in high school. I still can’t beleive what an asshole I was on the outside back then ;)

Michiko to Hatchin (1) – This seems to be exactly what I expected it to be. Nothing deep, just stylish, visually stunning, over-the-top, guns blazing action with a nice chick on a Vespa as an added bonus. It’s still more than most shows deliver. Maybe it’ll turn out to be more than that, but we’ll have to wait and see.

Tatum says:

any updates coming ???

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