Thursday, April 27, 2006

New Season Favorites -- A Very Personal Selection

After four weeks, I've pared the incredible wealth of good new shows down to a manageable selection -- one that I have some chance of actually being able to watch. But my selection is not the same selection as that of any other reviewer I've read.

I like shows that concentrate on character and relationships. These usually turn out to be shows that are at least partly aimed at women. And I don't like most shows that involve fighting. I think of most of the shows I like as being for intelligent adults, but that may be just me being self-serving, especially since three of these are in family-show time-slots. See what you think.

1. The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi
2. Simoun
4. Saiunkoku Monogatari
5. The Good Witch of the West
6. Kirarin Revolution

1. The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi. If this show maintains the quality it has shown through four episodes, I may consider it the greatest anime ever made. The hilarity and subtlety of the humor are matched by the outstanding animation: the best I've ever seen in a TV anime. And there is a strange spiritual depth to this show that continues to move me. I feel as if there is something behind the characters' eyes. Kyon promised to protect Mikuru from Haruhi's depredations, but when he saw Haruhi force her into a bunny suit, he had to admit his weakness and let the depredation continue. Such humanity sets this show above other anime.

2. Simoun. I admit I started watching this show because of its yuri reputation, but that's now the least of it. This is real science fiction, creating a unique alien world where everyone is born female and some change into males when they reach 17. The main characters are priestess-pilots. Their ships are the most beautiful mecha ever designed, strange and feminine. But despite this strong setting, the show is really about the feelings and relationships of the pilots themselves. A great show, with some of the oddest and most wonderful background music ever.

3. NANA. I enjoy the manga, although not as much as some people do. And this is a very faithful adaptation, only juggling the order things are presented in a bit. I like it much better than the movie that came out last year. These are unique contemporary people with interesting feelings and relationships. No wonder the ratings are so high, higher than any but the early-evening family animes.

4. Saiunkoku Monogatari. A classic story of the moral and beautiful girl who enters the palace to help train the wastrel young king. Outstanding voice-acting from Kuwashima Houko. And such beautiful costumes and settings, based on a fantasy version of Tang Dynasty China.

5. The Good Witch of the West. A fast-moving gothic romance that will apparently gain some science-fiction aspects as it continues. With Orikasa Fumiko at her best, and Saitou Chiwa in a new, serious role,

6. Kirarin Revolution. A show definitely made for kids, but with comic and personality appeal for the whole family. Kirari is determined to become an idol in order to be with the boy she loves. She is veeery cute, and she is a biiig eater. And she has the funniest animal mascot I've ever seen. The voice actress who plays Kirari is a real idol from Morning Musume. She's not great, but it doesn't impair my enjoyment.

Those are the shows I won't miss. But I'll try to catch the following shows if I can:

Ouran High School Host Club is an excellent anime. But it's surface-funny for me, and I don't find myself feeling much for the characters. Others do, however, so your mileage may vary. The look is fabulous. Bishounen galore.

Higurashi no Naka Koro ni is a deliciously disturbing supernatural slasher mystery. I haven't seen many episodes, since I need to wait for the fansubs to understand enough to really follow this one. The animation is simple but very clean and bright. Vicious lolis galore.

Utawarerumono is also a nice show, and Eruru is one of the most moé characters I've ever seen. But something about the plot and the look makes me not take the show as seriously as I'd have to to really enjoy it.

And there are two guilty pleasures I will keep trying to watch: Strawberry Panic and Joshi Kousei. Neither is as poor as people thought at first. Strawberry Panic is a pastiche of other yuri school shows, played for laughs on the surface, but the stock emotions actually work. Joshi Kousei is a panty-fest, and that puts some people off, but it is also the first anime I've seen that deals with sex from a normal randy teen girl's point of view. The crazed interactions among the girls are hilarious.

And I will keep watching Rabuge CHU Miracle Seiyuu Hakusho for glimpses of seiyuu life, even though the anime really hasn't distinguished itself in any way, so far.

The multi-part OVA Dai Mahou Touge is also worth watching, if you liked Puni Puni Poemi or Bokusatsu Tenshi Dokuro-chan. The first broadcast was at least as good as either of those, both of which I enjoyed a lot.

And that isn't the end of it in this great season. Other shows worth looking at: Gintama, Renkin Sankyuu Magikaru(?) Pokaan, Witchblade, Inukami, xxxholic, Black Lagoon, Yume Tsukai, The Third, Ray the Animation, and others.