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Bateszi Anime Blog

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Autumn ’10 impressions

batesziWelcome to yet another autumn run-down! Everything is loosely ranked into a makeshift top 10 and we’ve tried to keep our impressions short and to the point, but if there’s anything you want clarified, feel free to question us (and our opinions) in the comments. We’ve missed out certain series because they are sequels to things we haven’t seen (or indeed, dropped in the past,) but I hope this at least gives you an idea of where we stand with the new anime season (don’t forget to vote in our poll, too!)

The bad

10. Ore No Imouto ga Konna ni Kawaii Wake ga Nai (Oreimo)

When I sat down to watch this show, I was totally prepared for it to offend me on a million different levels.  I was surprised that the show not only ended up being only mildly offensive, but also really boring. Nothing interesting happens in the story and the show failed to make me care about the characters.  My recommendation if you want an interesting, offensive show: skip this and head straight to the recently finished Seitokai Yakuindo. (0 out of 3)

batesziI wanted to give this a shot, but in the end, I just couldn’t even bring myself to watch it. Sorry guys.

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CelesteI read some reviews, and saw some screencaps, and was kind of curious. But I have a feeling it’ll make me contemplate jumping off a bridge, so I’ll refrain.

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9. Iron Man

batesziThe first episode of Iron Man felt like a huge waste of potential. Outside of Japan, it was probably the most anticipated series of the season, yet the finished product smacks of apathy. I’ve enjoyed director Yuzo Sato’s other series (Kaiji, One Outs) but here he’s a square peg in a round hole. The woeful character designs have that chunky, post Yoshiaki Kawajiri look that’s regularly shoved down our throats every time Japan and the US try to make anime for the West, but unlike say, Ninja Scroll, the characters here just look constipated. You failed, Marvel; this is cheap and soulless. (0 out of 3)

The CG looked good but it was wasted on fights that finished after just one laser blast.  I also disliked most of the new characters.  The female reporter felt particularly gimmicky, like a pale imitation of Lois Lane.  I haven’t given up on the show yet, but Iron Man needs to quickly ramp up the plot or most viewers will lose interest. (0 out of 3)

The mediocre

8. Psychic Detective Yakumo

batesziThe better you can manage your expectations, the more likely you are to enjoy something. I wasn’t disappointed by Psychic Detective Yakumo, but I also can’t honestly say this was a good episode of anime. It was just par for a Bee Train series, which is to say; low budget, slowly paced and very serious. I happen to have a weakness for this style of storytelling, but I’m not blinkered enough to think it’s anything more than a mediocre first episode. The titular Yakumo is a moody bishounen school boy who has the power to see dead people and finds a pretty girl in need of his help; angst abounds, as you imagine. It’s like a much darker and cheaper-looking version of Natsume Yuujinchou. (1 out of 3)

7. Togainu no Chi

batesziThe first episode of Togainu no Chi was better than expected, but given I was expecting tripe, it’s probably best just to chalk this up as yet another fairly average new series for now. It reminded me a lot of Jyu Oh Sei in the sense that both are about young men isolated from society and forced to survive in a grown up Lord of the Flies scenario, which is quite exciting, but it’s also like Jyu Oh Sei because there’s a veritable feast of blood-lusting pretty boys and homo-erotic subtext to digest. (1 out of 3)

6. Super Robot Wars OG: The Inspector

batesziI really enjoyed 2009’s Shin Mazinger Shougeki! Z Hen; although it sports an intimidating amount of mythology, the story was crafted in a way that made its many references to anime of yore more endearing than baffling. My experience with the first episode of Super Robot Wars OG: The Inspector wasn’t quite as smooth. The first 5 minutes or so are great fun; an apocalyptic scale, mecha pilots screaming at each other, twisted metal and huge explosions, but things soon calm down and it lost me; the plot is way too labyrinthine for a newbie like me. (1 out of 3)

5. To aru no Majutsu no Index II

Another fairly storybook episode of To aru no Majutsu for the beginning of season 2.  The first episode preached the overused moral that there is a right way and a wrong way to fight for someone you love who is in trouble.  It didn’t even include any character development or plot advancement apart from a vague scene after the credits.  If you want to get into To aru no Majutsu don’t start here. (1 out of 3)

4. Tamayura

CelesteActually, the first episode of this aired before even writing the preview, and I have to say it was… well, it was average. I may take another peek at in the future (well into the future perhaps, when I can marathon it all) since the main character is a girl with a camera, and this is highly relevant to my interests, but I highly doubt it’ll do more than mildly amuse me. (1.5 out of 3)

The good


3. Bakuman

batesziHaving had a week to reflect, I can only conclude that the first episode of Bakuman is average. It’s a more realistic take on a familiar story, that of a couple of school boys aspiring to become mangaka. It’s introspective and emotionally driven and I got quite into it; the boys were interesting and sympathetic, but the main female character is quite, well, objectified. I’m not sure why her presence feels quite so stark and annoying, but there’s a strong sense of unbalance between the three that undermines an otherwise promising debut. (1.9 out of 3)

I think this show has a unique and interesting concept, but I’m concerned it will drag on and grow boring over the course of a season. I really empathized with the main character’s apathy and his frustration at being unable to break out from the middle of the pack. I’m a little bit more optimistic than bateszi that the female main character will fit in once she is developed a bit more. My biggest concern is that a story about becoming a mangaka won’t stay compelling for the whole 25 episode season. Still, I thought as a first episode this was a strong effort that accomplished its goal of making you care about the main character from the outset. (3 out of 3)

2. Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt

batesziPanty & Stocking with Garterbelt is the most divisive series of the season, representing a lot of what large swathes of anime fans tend to abhor in Western animation. Putting to one side the visuals for now, the humour is dirty and there’s no sense of plot or character development to chew on; it’s just intended as fun, and fun it is. As long as you’re willing to ignore any conventional notion of what an anime series is supposed to be, you’ll enjoy this; I mean, god, it even has animated sound effects! It’s so eccentric, but what else is there to say? It’s as superficial as it looks. (2 out of 3)

CelestePanty & Stoing with Garterbelt was always going to be a little bit out of left-field, but, as I suspected, 22 solid minutes of DJ Taku music makes this more than bearable for me, it’s outright enjoyable. The key to watching this anime is to not pay the plot any mind. The plot is simply a vehicle for experiments in visual representations and meanings (note the different animation styles between the ‘transformation’ sequence, the overall plot of the show, the animated soundtracks, and the destruction of the baddies at the end.) and the syncing these with music to create an audiovisual reaction in its viewers. I kind of enjoy the show as a rather intelligently done experiment in this respect. Also, a slut in anime who actually amuses me! (2.5 out of 3)

I suspected from the beginning that this would not be a show for me.  From the beginning the animation style really put me off, it made me think of the Power Puff Girls.  I understand that the show wanted to push boundaries and it certainly did that, but I also didn’t enjoy the result.  (1 out of 3)

The excellent

1. Star Driver


CelesteAfter seeing the character designs, I have to admit I was worried about Star Driver – they looked awfully stiff. I was worried we’d come away with something more akin to Shiki in terms of animation than Bones’ usual fare; the more loosely drawn style and fluidly animated of Eureka Seven or Xam’d. However, Bones is still Bones, and Star Driver moves beautifully. It’s got a weird, overdone aesthetic that I normally don’t like but am willing to humour. (3 out of 3)

batesziThe weirdness of Star Driver comes from writer Yoji Enokido. The lovely kuromitsu (a regular commenter) often points to his involvement in the likes of Utena, Ouran and FLCL, and it’s difficult to watch this first episode without feeling his influence coalescing beneath the surface, stitching things together. I’ve still no idea where it’s all headed, but there’s a sense of control here that has me at ease. I’m still in its thrall right now; the spirits of anime past urging me to believe. Man, I love Bones. (3 out of 3)

I definitely felt the Utena vibe in this first episode, and I suspect that people who liked Utena will also like this show. In fact, I actually liked this better then the episodes of Utena I saw because the pace was surprisingly fast for a first episode.  If only the episode gave the audience a chance to catch up, especially in the second half, I would have liked it more.  (2 out of 3)

Final thoughts

batesziAlthough it would be foolish to write off an autumn season just 2 weeks old, I must admit that I’m starting to feel like this is the worst I’ve seen since I started anime blogging.

It’s not that there’s absolutely nothing for me to watch, but we’re missing series like 2009’s Kuuchuu Buranko and Aoi Bungaku. In the autumn of 2008 alone, we had Ga-Rei: Zero, Kannagi, Michiko to Hatchin, One Outs, Tentai Senshi Sunred, Toradora!, Casshern Sins and Mouryou no Hako.

Obviously times change, but it just goes to show how much I’ve been relying on Madhouse to keep pushing out good anime year after year and as they are (worryingly) retreating, I’m now just stuck hoping that Noitamina’s Kuragehime comes through. It’s disappointing to feel so apathetic, but out of everything I’ve seen so far, it’s only really Star Driver that feels like something I could come to love.

CelesteWhile it seems Autumn 2010 is thin on the ground, truth be told I can’t find myself to come anywhere near bateszi’s cynicism. If I examine my own anime watching habits over the years, I tend to only keep up with one to two currently-airing shows to begin with – thus, Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt and Star Driver representing the two that show the most promise, while worrying isn’t distressing.

On my recent trip to Japan, a friend of mine told me that the gothic lolitas aren’t around anymore. “Five years ago maybe, but you don’t see too many of them these days.” Simply put, the state of the country’s youth, and thus the target audience for anime and manga is changing. Fluctuations in the volume and types of entertainment available are about as normal as fluctuations in the stock market, it’s simply a matter of when the next peak is, and what new things it brings.

My experience with anime is that the season gets better a couple of episodes in.  I’ve seen a number of shows (like Darker than Black) that started off slowly but finished strong.  So don’t worry if this season seems a little weak.

Comments

Peter S says:

Oh, I feel an urge to rant and/or rave at all the choices and rankings here. Happily for all of us, I won’t. I will say that it is indeed too soon to write off a season. Bateszi mentions Toradora as an example of a fine show, but who knew it would be as good as it got to be after only two episodes?

I’m forgiving some shows for the inevitable table-setting that mar first episodes. Ore no Imouto had an endless scene, but now maybe they’ll settle down. I was pleasantly surprised by its restraint. For similar reasons I forgive Index’s simple opener; they clearly wanted to reintroduce some characters and their relations to one another before plunging into an important story arc.

Star Driver is my favorite so far as well. What worries me is that we haven’t seen anything really intelligent or quirky yet. As Bateszi pointed out: no Trapeze, no Aoi Bungaku.

dengar says:

I say, feel free to rant and rave as much/as little as you like.

I am curious to know more about your view on Ore no Imouto since my sense is that not many people will watch it. I agree that it was restrained, although as a result I don’t know if the show is just going to be gross or whether it will provide some intelligent commentary. What made you decide to check it out?

Peter S says:

I shall rant and rave! Well, not here. I’ll just reply.

I checked out Ore no Imouto out because, with a couple exceptions, I’m checking out every new series I can get my hands on. I was pleased that the characters didn’t do spastic facial distortions every time something embarrassing happens. The siblings have a good, snarky rapport. As for that long scene, well, it’s only episode one. I must give the show a chance.

bateszi says:

I’ve heard that Oreimo is better than expected. It’s just… not my kind of thing, I guess. Regardless, I’ll be an interested observer via the blogoshere as the series progresses.

bateszi says:

I think it’s fair to say I’ve probably judged the season a little too soon, but even still, I really missed that sensation of watching something and being surprised by how good it was; it all just seemed to pan out exactly as expected, but a week on, I’m even more excited about Star Driver after episode 2, and Bakuman’s second episode was also quite good (again though, undermined by the crazy sexism of its writers,) so I’m definitely more ‘up’ now than I was at the weekend. :)

kuromitsu says:

Ooh, I’ve been mentioned~ *blushes* :D

Anyway, for me there are two shows this season: Star Driver and Otome youkai Zakuro (which is utterly predictable and rather trite, but it looks pretty, Kei is amusing, and the girls are so cute!). As for Star Driver, I’m not exactly happy about the character designs, especially Wako’s (what’s up with her eyes??) but they’re serviceable, I guess, and the animation is good. I like everything about the show so far, and the only thing I’m worried about is that it won’t be long enough to fully realize its potential. ANN lists only 13 episodes, and I’d be seriously disappointed if it was really that short. Then again, it is a rather weird show and I wonder how the viewership reflects this… As far as I know this is the second original Bones project airing in a “special” timeslot, and the previous one didn’t end too well (I’ll never forgive Japan for not giving enough attention to Ayakashi Ayashi… it had its flaws but also had such utter potential and a really interesting take on the usual mythological theme) so I wouldn’t be surprised if Bones were wary about how much the audience can swallow.

And of course I’m looking forward to Kuragehime.

As for the quality of the season in general, I’m inclined to agree with Celeste. Also, maybe it’s because for a long time I’ve never watched more than two shows per season (partly for not having enough time, and partly for simply losing interest even in otherwise good shows – I usually watch those later), and many of them were of the “mindless amusement” type (oh, Sengoku Basara!), I don’t this season was particularly worse than the rest. I think as long as I can find at least one “quality/serious” show and one “enjoyable (for me)” show per season, I’m satisfied.

kuromitsu says:

“don’t this season was particularly worse…” -> “I don’t think this season is particularly worse…”

(I know English, I really do!)

bateszi says:

You’ve been commenting on this blog for nearly as long as I’ve been writing it, so I couldn’t not mention you when it came to highlighting Yoji Enokido. Thank you for reading, dear kuromitsu :)

Also, I wouldn’t worry about Star Driver only being 13 episodes; it’s down on MyAnimeList as 25 and I remember reading elsewhere (possibly related to Bones’ recent panel at NYAF) that Bones’ specifically said it was going to be a 25/26 series. BTW, the second episode was crazy awesome :)

Krozam says:

I’ve somewhat expanded from my earlier post where I said I’d only watch 3 series – it’s 5 already and possibly 2 more.

Index II – I have yet to check it out, but it’s a must watch. More on that once I’ve actually watche dthe first episode.

Fortune Arterial – I’m still disappointed none of you have picked this up. It’s based on a fantastic visual novel, and although I’ve yet to see the first episode (no decent subs out yet), I have fairly high expectations.

The World God Only Knows – Based on the second most psychologically interesting anime/manga work after Mushi-shi, I was both afraid of a failed adaptation and really looking forward to this. After watching the first episode, I let out a sigh of releaf: it seems like a succesful adaptation. The plot follows the plot of the first manga chapter pretty closely, and the mood is similar to that of the manga. You should pick this up as well, I doubt you’d regret it.

Yosuga no Sora – the summary sounded interesting, so I checked it out. I wasn’t disappointed. The first episode presents a likeable male protagonist, some difficult themes such as incest, and rather outstanding direction. I’ll definitely continue watching this.

I also plan to check out Ore no Imouto and Star Driver, since so many people seem to like them, but I’m not expecting much.

Krozam says:

Oops, forgot Yakumo.

It seems like a very interesting, though not particularly original, story. The genre is definitely my cup of tea, and I like the seiyuu of the main characters: Ono Daisuke and Fujimura Ayumi, who also voiced the main character pair of Kaze no Stigma, which is a very nostalgic anime for me. I doubt this will be really special, but it should be entertaining enough.

dengar says:

I’ll ask you the same question I asked Peter S, why Ore no Imouto? I was starting to wonder whether I was the only one that felt the show would be interesting, but I guess I wasn’t.

Krozam says:

The same reason I started watching Yosuga no Sora: the summary sounds vaguely interesting and there’s a promise of some difficult themes. Although, based on your review, I suspect I’ll decide that Yosuga no Sora is 100 times better and there’s no reason to watch them both, especially at the same time. But, I intend to at least watch the first episode before making such a decision.

Krozam says:

Well, now that I’ve watched it… It’s pretty amusing at times, but it’s true that the characters fail to make you care about them (well, the protagonist isn’t bad, but the others…). As for the themes… well, not to underestimate the social pressures in Japan, but compared the Yosuga no Sora, where the protagonist’s sister has a weak body and they’d just recently lost their parents, where those two actually kissed in a flashback scene, where the first episode ends with the sister coming to the brother’s room and undressing (in the middle of a stormy night), this one kinda… lacks impact. Both thematically and dramatically. As I thought, if you want to make an anime about a brother-sister relationship bordering on incest, looks for an adult visual novel, not a manga. :P Besides the occasional sparks of good comedy, the only reason why I’d consider continuing to watch is Tachiki Fumihiko voicing the father, but since his role is minor, meh. Dropping this one – with so many good series coming out this season, I don’t have the time for the mediocre ones.

bateszi says:

The World God Only Knows is the one on your list that I’m most tempted to try and comparing it Mushishi certainly doesn’t hurt your case (Manglobe’s animation is usually lovely, too!)

paper says:

Star Driver~~ I love it. At first, I was feeling uncomfortable with Takuto’s seiyuu because his voice would always remind me of Kida. But slowly, the voice is starting to fit Takuto. They both seem to have similar personalities.

I just love it when he transforms. It cracks me up. :3

bateszi says:

I’m glad you’re enjoying it, it’s definitely the craziest (but most interesting) series of the season! :)

Celeste says:

I always feel like there’s a weird contrast between the more… serious bits of Star Driver and then things like Takuto’s voice and overall demeanor. It’s interesting to see the clash of styles and influences in the show (in terms of what its creators bring to it). It’s a bit of a mess, but it’s interesting to watch for those reasons! :)

Krozam says:

I just watched the second episode of Yosuga no Sora. It’s just as good as the first episode, maybe even better. Even if you skip Fortune Arterial and Thew World God Only Knows, I’m telling you, YOU DON’T WANT TO MISS YOSUGA NO SORA! It’s that anime with offensive themes, characters you’ll love, above average production quality and great direction that you were looking for in Ore no Imouto and several other series that you checked out and apparently were disappointed by. And a healthy dose of fanservice, but I don’t know if any of you were looking for that. :P

Michael says:

I’m grateful for this year. I thoroughly, thoroughly enjoyed Tatami Galaxy. One masterpiece a year is more than enough.

Krozam says:

Uh… Okay, I’ll watch Star Driver. It’s freaking hilarious. Still leagues behind Yosuga no Sora, and probably not as good as The World God Only Knows and Index II, and it’s not exactly my cup of tea genre-wise… but it’s funny enough to be worth watching.

Joseph says:

Anybody know the name of a series that was blurb-reviewed in Newtype this summer, in which the reviewer likened the style to David Lynch? The review also mentioned that each episode was told from a different perspective,. I know that’s very vague, but I fgured somebody here might know. Thanks!

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