Thursday, January 19, 2006

favorite new anime, winter 2006

Hanbun no Tsuki wo Noberu Sora
Kashimashi ~Girl Meets Girl~
Lemon Angel Project

Hantsuki is shaping up as a touching hospital romance, done with taste and art. The animation is simple but effective. The main character, Rika, a 17-year-old girl with a probably fatal heart condition, is drawn beautifully and played wonderfully well by Takahashi Mikako (Yamada Ayumi in Honey & Clover). She has a tsundere sweet aggression, but also a sort of inner joy. A 17-year-old boy, who is in the hospital with hepatitis, meets her and they connect. The music is first-rate, maybe the best of the season.

Kashimashi ~Girl Meets Girl~ is a comic yuri-fest in which an unmanly 17-year-old called Hazumu (played by Ueda Kana), after being rejected by the girl he loves, is struck by an alien spaceship. The aliens reconstitute a girl. From that point on, his love-life improves dramatically, especially with other girls, including the object of his affection (played by Horie Yui) and his tomboyish childhood friend (played by Tamura Yukari). Add Asano Masumi to that cast, as a rather detached female friend of the group, and you really have something special. Especially when there is also Ono Daisuke (Yukito in AIR) as Hazumu's former best friend, who now can't take his eyes off his/her chest. Hilarious and sweetly sensual, with fanservice galore. Wonderful music and good animation, with a great look. Disclaimer: I scanlated the first volume of the manga, so I'm biased in this show's favor.

Lemon Angel Project follows the creation of a j-pop idol group. The first "Lemon Angel Project" disappeared suddenly, and the producers are now forming a new one.The story centers on Tomo, an insecure 15-year-old who was a surprise invitee to the auditions. You can guess how well she performs. I don't expect an exceptionally original plot, but the characters and emotions are enjoyable so far. The lead is played by a 14-year-old newcomer, a gravure idol called Shihono Ryou. Her voice is weird and breaking, but conveys plenty of her character's insecure emotions. Many people can't stand the sound of her, but I find her voice moving and attractive. She is far from a pro voice actress, but as in some other cases (e.g., Aishiteruze Baby) the amateurish quality of her presentation gives the character a certain authenticity. Infectious music throughout.

EDIT: Now add REC to this list. See later blog entries.

Other new shows I'm still watching:
Fate/Stay Night -- not my thing, but I'm letting it grow on me. Anything with Kawasumi Ayako and Ueda Kana is worth watching.
Kagihime Monogatari -- I'm losing some interest after three episodes, but there are moé characters and some restrained fanservice and not-so-restrained sexual symbolism, and the plot's constant references to Alice in Wonderland, and its basic theme of unlocking people's stories, are intriguing. EDIT: I'm slipping behiund with this one, so perhaps I wonlt continue.
Magikano -- well, technically speaking I'm actually not watching this any more, but it does merit attention, for its crazy humor. If you like gross and blatant fanservice, fill your boots. There are some very attractive females involved.
Tactical Roar -- An action-comedy with a kind of ambidextrous harem involving an all-female ship's crew, led by commanding but lovable straight-arrow captain Nakahara Mai, with her unrelated younger brother on board as computer tech and second object of multiple affections. Great voice actors, also including Ueda Kana (Yumi in Marimite), Takahashi Mikako (Ayu in Honey & Clover) and Arai Satomi (Kozue-chan, etc., in Mahoraba). Lots of fanservice and a bit of plot.
EDIT: Add Rakugo Tennyo Oyui to this list -- Modern high-school girls in modern times and old Edo as tennyou ("heaven-maidens"), minor goddesses come to Edo to fight monsters and interact with the inhabitants. With rakugo -- old Japanese sit-down comedy performance -- always in the background. Pink-haired Yui is the wild and crazy Miss Natural. She is determined to study rakugo with a master. And she works as a genki nutso waitress in a steamed-bun (manju) shop. Yui is played by Gotou Saori, who also plays Barasuishou in Rozen Maiden Traumend.

Continuing shows:
Noein -- gets better and better.
Karin -- is losing a bit of steam, but is still good. And the lead seiyuu, Yahagi Sayuri in her debut role, is definitely a new star.
Shakugan no Shana -- it's all in the tsundere moé, for me. The fighting is not my bag. EDIT: And I'm finding it isn't enough to keep me watching.