Sunday, October 07, 2007

Fall Season -- 19 First Impressions

Of course, it's ridiculous to judge a season after one week. Especially for me, since I usually like almost everything at first. But here are some first impressions.

After the first episode, one show is clearly the best, for me: Blue Drop. It has real characters and emotions and an intriguing story combining girls-school relationships with science fiction. A yuri relationship is apparently to come. The animation and backgrounds are quite rich, the music is good, and the voice-acting is superb, featuring Yajima Akiko (Crayon Shin-chan), Sawashiro Miyuki (Shinku in Rozen Maiden), and Yukino Satsuki (Ai in Planetes). It's the only real drama this season, besides shounen adventure shows like Gundam00 and Dragonauts.

Tthere are a number of shows based on bishoujo games. Clannad is the one that impressed me most, if only for its detailed KyoAni animation and the wonderful seiyuus (Nakahara Mai, Kuwashima Houko and Okiayu Ryoutarou were the most impressive in episode one). The story and relationships are building, too.

ef-a tale of memories was also delightful. The music by TenMon, who does music for Shinkai Makoto (Byousoku 5cm), is sublime. The Shinbou-inspired animation/backgrounds are very artistic. I love them, but some people find the complexity and whimsy distracting. The show is giving us a twist on the normal harem plot by following the stories of three couples rather than one. It may have a bit of Kanon/DaCapo magic.

D.C. Da Capo II is the closest to a standard harem show, but seems to be maintaining the quality of its predecessor. The story takes an unusual turn right in the first episode, with a nicely orchestrated confession.

Kimi Kiss ~pure rouge~ is the least like a standard harem show, at least on the surface. Episode one was a little pale, but that stands to reason from the director of Honey & Clover. Hopefully it just means this will be a mature and well-modulated version of the genre. The seiyuu cast is incredible: Koshimizu Ami, Tanaka Rie, Mizuhashi Kaori, Kawasumi Ayako, Ikezawa Haruna, et al.

Myself;Yourself is another show with a standard harem feel: the protagonist comes back to the town he lived in five years before and meets the girls and boys he knew then, who have all grown up into senior high students like him. But there are interesting relationships in the offing, especially with the beautiful tsundere miko and the lovable dojikko meganekko.

Goshuushou-sama Ninomiya-kun is pure sex farce, like a version of Girls Bravo. But it is based on a novel that won a fantasy novel award, so I expect there will be more to it as we go on. It seemed to me quite well done, with a protagonist and leading lady it is possible to feel sympathy for -- even though he is indifferent to women and she is a succubus. The absurd comedy is funny. And there is lots of moe and fanservice.

We also have three slice of life-type shows. Sketchbook ~full color's~ is from a comic strip centred on a shy girl who relates to the world by constantly sketching it. Her confusions, and her friends, make her a wonderful figure. And so does her VA, the superlatively moe young actress Hanazawa Kana.

Mokke is from another manga, about two sisters living in the countryside. The younger one (Mizuki Nana) is adventurous and vulnerable to spirits. The elder (Kawasumi Ayako) is her responsible protector, who has the ability to ward off the spirits. I was less thrilled than I expected to be, but I will be back for ep2.

Minami-ke is the story of three sisters, each with their different character: onee-san (Satou Rina), crazy middle one (Inoue Marina), clever and quiet younger one (Chihara Minori). I found it a bit disappointing, myself, a very pale imitation of Ichigo Mashimaro. But it does have promise, especially with the good VAs. Inoue-san is especially good, but her character sounds too much like an attempt to copy Miu from IchiMash for my taste.

There are a couple of shounen SF adventure shows, but neither of them cured me of my indifference to the genre. Gundam00 involves a secret force of especially powerful Gundams that intends to stop the wars plaguing the world by defeating all the combatants: to stop violence by violence. This interesting premise gives me some hope, but I still can't really get into the thrill of battle. The cast is good, featuring Miyano Mamoru, Miki Shinichirou, and Kamiya Hiroshi.

Dragonaut ~The Resonance~ features an all-star cast of seiyuu most of whom have worked more in bishoujo anime than in shounen: Ono Daisuke, Chihara Minori, Suwabe Junichirou, Sawashiro Miyuki, Gotou Yuuko, Mizuki Nana, Sugita Tomokazu, Chiba Saeko, Kobayashi Yu, Hirano Aya. Aya totally floored me with a good performance as the evil, big-boobed antagonist. But my interest in this concerns only the seiyuu and the potential romance. Even when there was something that should have packed an emotional wallop, the show seemed to suck the life out of any emotion, for me.

Shakugan no Shana II seems to have a slightly more mature character design than the original, but the stories look as if they will be just as boring. I do care about the romance aspects, but I can't wade through all the monster garbage to get to them. Nevertheless, people who liked the first series should like this one, too. Mine is a minority opinion.

One shounen comedy show, Bamboo Blade, is a school sports comedy that features a nice, clean drawing style and that I enjoyed far more than I expected to. Perhaps You're Under Arrest: Full Throttle falls into this category, too. The story is extremely simple, even iconic, but it is executed well and I enjoyed this show far more than I expected to, as well. Settle in for a glimpse of the 80s.

Rental Magica is a comedy with a set-up something like Ghost Hunt: a company that rents out sorcerers of various kinds. I enjoyed it more than I expected to, as well. It seemed a simple show, but the characters and voice actors were good: Fukuyama Jun in soft mode, Ueda Kana, Takahashi Mikako, Itou Shizuka, Suwabe Junichirou.

Shugo Chara is pure shoujo comedy/adventure aimed at early teens. The protagonist is a shy and needy girl who puts on a cool, tough front. One day she finds three eggs in her bed which hatch into guardian characters that help her transform into a magical girl. There are other good and bad young wizards whose world she now becomes part of. All that having been said, the characterization and the voice-acting are excellent. Based on one episode, this show could be a lot of fun.

And then there are a couple of shows that just don't fit any category, except perhaps that they are hoping for a female audience. Majin Tantei Nougami Neuro is a comic supernatural adventure featuring a normal girl and a demon detective who loves to eat mysteries and forces her to help him, so that she has become a famous detective simply by accompanying him. I enjoyed episode one, especially since Neuro is played by the great Koyasu Takehito, and the girl by Ueda Kana.

And Kaiji follows a lazy thief and gambler who is caught by guaranteeing a friend's gambling debt and consigned to a ship on which other similar unfortunates have to compete in a gambling game to pay off their debts. A strange, hard-edged drawing style works well here. As long as we can sympathize with the unlikeable protagonist, this show could be a trip.

As usual, I enjoy a lot of the new shows. But the only one to really stand out for me is Blue Drop: a yuri school drama with a science fiction background, directed by a man whose other show was Yukikaze, which was pure psychological science fiction, and featuring some seiyuu that are real actors.

There are some shows I haven't seen yet: the interesting-looking Hero Tales, and Kawaii Jenny, which animates actual dolls. And the highly promising Shion no Ou, Genshiken and Ghost Hound are yet to come, as is Moyashimon, which has a very weird premise, involving bacteria with personalities, I believe.


deftoned said...

Kawaii JeNny was garbage. Even if you take animated Baribe dolls into consideration, and take that with a grain of salt, the show was still pretty bad. Even with a pretty good cast of Nogawa Sakura, Kobayashi Yu, Kuwatani Natsuko (I think), and Momoi Haruko, their performances were mediocre at best. I don't know if the animation was supposed to be bad, but it was. And the premise and the story were as generic as they come. Didn't find much redeemable about it other than the OP and ED songs, which were fairly listenable.

omo said...

Kawaii Jenny is a pioneer in some sense. I don't think it's "bad" but it doesn't make for good entertainment. I don't expect people to watch it for reals though :/

No surprise, my own prefs come out similar to your estimates. Blue Drops definitely made a great first impression, and so did Kimikiss...

WanderingKnight said...

You made a slight mistake: It's not Mokke the one with ARIA staff, it's Sketchbook (Mokke is Madhouse, Sketchbook is Hal Film Maker). Just thought I'd point that out.

Having watched a couple of first episodes, my highlights as of now are Dragonaut and Blue Drop. Kimikiss was not bad, Clannad didn't particularly impress me, Gundam 00 was okay though I can't make my judgment on it just yet (just kind of bothered that Sunrise apparently decided to plagiarize themselves and used a setting similar to that in Code Geass).

I'm still eagerly awaiting for Ghost Hound... The expectation is killing me.

Kaioshin Sama said...

Other than Gundam 00, nothing has really stood out for me this season. It has the highest quality of animation this season (I even think beating Clannad), and appears to have the largest scope of story (and I like my overall picture as big as possible). It's still early in the series, but it managed to do a lot with just one episode. Other than that everything else is just kind of ho hum, though Shana II and Dragonaut show some potential as well.

hashihime said...

@WanderingKnight -- Thanks about Aria. I fixed the post. I should have checked my own season preview, lol.

Anonymous said...

Kawaii Jenny was pretty funny so far. I think people bash it merely on concept alone. It certainly doesn't take itself very seriously and it mocks a lot of the stereotypes of magical girl shows. So yes, the bad animation is apart of it.

Also this season actually has a lot of good shows IMO. Clannad, ef, mokke, Bamboo Blade, Gundam 00, Moyashimon, Sketchbook.

Anonymous said...

I dont know why people bash "Kawaii Jenny". Actually I find it really funny. a break from your typical heavy themed anime/sentai series. Nonetheless its a decent show.