Blue Drop is the show that I had the most hopes -- and fears -- for in the fall season. The first episode has fulfilled all my hopes. Now we'll see if it can maintain the high standard.
This is a drama with yuri undertones that combines school life and science fiction. In the first episode, the drama works, the animation works, the music works, and the voice-acting is outstanding. Real acting by experienced professionals such as Yajima Akiko (Crayon Shin-chan), Sawashiro Miyuki (Shinku in Rozen Maiden), Yukino Satsuki (Ai in Planetes), Nakata Jouji (Alucard in Hellsing), and others. I have made a characters/seiyuus page that gives pictures and descriptions of the main characters and their VAs.
The story is set in a world created by mangaka Yoshitomi Akihito (Eat-Man, Ray). The overall situation is an incipient invasion of Earth by a race of humanoid aliens, all of whom are female. The Blue Drop mangas are generally shounen/seinen comics involving yuri and gender-switching sex, and plenty of nudity, set on an Earth ruled by libidinous female aliens. The anime seems to be rather different, somewhat more serious, and it is set (so far) before the invasion has really begun.
(click photos to enlarge)
The protagonist, Mari, was the only survivor of a disastrous incident five years before on a small Japanese island. In the "incident" -- which was actually a battle with the aliens -- she lost her parents, and she lost her memory. She was taken in by her wealthy grandmother, who was concerned for her and decided to have her tutored at home. Now, five years later, she realizes that Mari must learn how to get along with other people, and sends her to a private residential girls' school.
The story begins as Mari is being driven to her new school. She feels -- quite wrongly -- that her grandmother is just getting rid of her. She does not want to go. As they approach the town where the school is, she sees a girl standing on a rock by the sea, surrounded by wheeling flights of terns. The dramatic and graceful image is seared into her brain. At the school, she is rather sullen with the head teacher, but the headmaster treats her well, aware that she is only just now beginning to attend school.
Mari tries to get rid of the humble girl, Michiko, who is told to guide her to her room in the residence. But Michiko follows her and the ice is broken between them. Hagino, the queen of the school, comes to see her in her room. Hagino is a cool beauty who is an outstanding student, a top athlete, and a kind person. They greet each other warmly: Hagino was the girl by the shore, surrounded by seabirds. But suddenly Hagino seems to snap: her eyes turn to blue mirrors and she begins to strangle Mari on her bed. When Mari begins to scream, she comes out of it. Mari angrily tosses a pot of flowers at her, asks her what on Earth she was doing, and storms out.
Michiko eventually finds Mari by a lake on the school campus. Michiko tells her about her comparatively ordinary family, in contrast with the wealthy families of most of the girls at the school. You can see a friendship beginning as they walk back to the dorm. At dinner, Mari is introduced to everyone. Hagino comes up to shake hands with her, but Mari slaps her hand away angrily and throws a glass of water over her. A brawl breaks out, as Hagino's supporters swarm Mari. Mari breaks free, but a senior stops the fight and sends them all to their rooms.
That night, Mari hears something outside and sees Hagino sneaking away from the school. She follows her down to a foggy dock area. Mari watches Hagino stand by the shore, and is shocked when a monstrous vehicle with banks of flashing blue lights suddenly rises out of the water in front of Hagino. Hagino turns, and we can see that her eyes have again turned to blue mirrors. End of episode.
Director Ohkura Masahiko did the five-episode OVA Battle Fairy Yukikaze in 2002. It was the strong and psychological story of a pilot and his AI-controlled fighter aircraft, in battles with an invading alien force. The lead writer is Takahashi Natsuko. She has worked on many shows, including FMA, Marimite, Bleach, Gankutsuou, School Rumble, Jigoku Shoujo, etc., and was lead writer on Gakuen Heaven. She was actually producer of Aishiteruze Baby. The script itself is credited to the director and the mangaka.
It's not often we get a first episode with real characters, exquisite voice-acting, and nothing childish. Maybe they can keep this up. And there are only a few shows that I immediately watch again as soon as I have seen them once. For me, that category includes Simoun, Suzumiya Haruhi, Bokura ga Ita, Lucky Star, Touka Gettan -- and now Blue Drop.
I won't have time to blog any show this season, but I just wanted to alert people to the possibility that this might be a worthwhile show. The Simoun-Fans group is subbing it.
To be precise, the name of this series is Blue Drop -- Tenshitachi no Gikyoku (BLUE DROP ～天使達の戯曲～), which means "Blue Drop -- The Angels' Play" ("play" as in dramatic performance).
The show is animated by Ashi and BeSTACK, with 3DCG by Gonzo. Cast members yet to appear include Gotou Yuuko, Kawakami Tomoko, and Nabatame Hitomi, all as alien officers. Nonaka Ai plays a student.