Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Spring Anime: 24 First Looks

After one episode, Kurenai, Macross Frontier, and Vampire Knight are at the top of my list. In fact, there are lots of watchable shows, but unless Kurenai steps up, there is nothing really in my drama sweet spot. Here are some reactions to first episodes (which can be misleading).

Kure-nai -- the director of Red Garden serves up one of the few apparently serious dramas we have going for us this season. Great VA performances from young actress Yuuki Aoi as the tsundere seven-year-old, and from Sawashiro Miyuki as her (male) protector.

Macross Frontier -- So what if it's "mecha"? It has characters and relationships, as well as the fighting, and I enjoyed it.

Vampire Knight
-- Excellent look and intriguing story, with wonderful character design and great voices (Horie Yui, Miyano Mamoru, Kishio Daisuke).

Wagaya no O-Inari-sama -- Promising little show featuring a double-gendered fox god/dess played by Nakamura Yuuichi and Yukana. Young Hayami Saori is excellent as a miko, and godly doing the ED.

Allison & Lillia -- I enjoyed the first episode, which developed at a leisurely pace, but had a bit of a feel of Last Exile about it.

The Tower of Druaga: Aegis of Uruk -- Not my thing, but this deserves to be popular. Clear homages to Gurren-Laggan.

SA - Special A
-- Gotou Yuuko and Fukuyama Jun star in this school comedy, which has echoes of Ouran HS Host Club in its atmosphere and look. It all depends on whether the next episodes develop the characters further than their quirks.

Monochrome Factor -- Whew, this one snuck up on me. Excellent voice work, especially from Suwabe Junichi and Ono Daisuke. Snappy direction by Kou Yuu (Loveless). Yaoi factor.

Kanokon -- Erotic fantasy featuring a fox girl and the shouta she loves. The first episode worked for me, especially since the fox girl is played by Kawasumi Ayako and the shouta by Noto Mamiko.

To Love-ru -- Good quality ecchi from an entertaining manga.

Neo-Angelique: Abyss -- Seems like a good version of the franchise. Some of the staff from Corda D'Oro give it a nice look and feel, the men look good, and Endou Aya makes a good Angie.

DC2SS -- I was so frustrated with the lead guy during the first season of DC2, but I watched episode 1 of the new season, and the relaxed magic of the DaCapo atmosphere took hold. I'm back to see if Takagaki Ayahi can get the guy.

Soul Eater -- Wonderful art direction. Great fight animation. Within the limitations of a formula, the characters are interesting and a bit unique. The wooden-voiced heroine puts some people off.

Code Geass R2 -- I'm not a fan, but the first episode of the new season at least made sense to me. King Lulu? CC's homeworld?

Zettai Karen Children -- The director of Hayate brings Hirano Aya on board for a new show in Hayate's timeslot. Three ten-year-olds with superpowers and bad attitudes is a good premise. Aya's high-tension Haruhi-as-Konata version of the main girl takes some getting used to, but rivets your attention. Three girls of about ten do a great job singing the OP. The ED is by the stars: Aya, Shiraishi Ryouko, and Tomatsu Haruka. [Thanks to Shana-nee for the correction.]

Crystal Blaze -- A mystery involving women who seem to be made of crystal. Shows promise. Miki Shinichirou in fine voice. Directed and animated by the team that did Saikano.

Real Drive -- A slow and beautiful Production IG start. Story by Shirow Masamune (Ghost in the Shell).

Blassreiter -- Starts well, with good racing and fighting scenes and an intriguing plot. But some people fear the Gonzo decline.

Itazura na Kiss -- I'm not sure whether it's because I've already seen the Taiwan drama based on the same manga, but this dragged for me the first time I watched it. But I got it more the second time. And Mizuki Nana seems to make the lead role her own.

Amatsuki -- Fukuyama Jun suddenly finds himself back in Edo times with Paku Romi. A good, if slow, start that feels as if it might go somewhere.

Kyou kara Mao 3 -- I started watching episode 1, but quit partway though. Nishimura Junji (Simoun, true tears) is directing it, but it felt bland to me.

Nabari no Ou -- Stylish character design in a story involving ninja fighting. Not my thing, but may be others'.

xxxHOLIC: Tsugi
-- I was enjoying its strengths until I realized I had no desire to spend one more second with Fukuyama Jun's wimpy male protagonist.

Kamen no Maid Guy -- I got through about ten minutes before quitting. I didn't really get it.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Hayami Saori: The Next Great Seiyuu/Singer

Okay, I know I'm going overboard here, but I just saw the first episode of Wagaya no Oinari-sama, and I have to enthuse over Hayami Saori 早見沙織, who plays the young priestess Kou.

Not only does she do an excellent job with her simple but important role, but she elevates herself to the top of my seiyuu/singer list with her singing of the ED.

Hayami-san is only 16 and has had only one previous major role, Momoka in Touka Gettan. This role demands a similar pure, young voice, and she has it in spades. Her voice is as clean and certain as a drop of water falling in a forest pool. I would choose her over any other seiyuu for a role like this.

But her seiyuu voice is less than the half of it. She is an outstanding singer, with a sureness and musicality that are overwhelming. Her ED for Touka Gettan is something I play over and over again. And her ED for this show is just as good.

The story is that when she recorded the Touka Gettan ED, she had it pretty well down in one take, and when she emerged from the recording booth, the staff all spontaneously applauded. Columbia already seems to have signed her to a recording contract.

Besides Momoka in Touka Gettan, her other roles have been as a student in ep1 of Clannad, as Sumire in Koharu Biyori, as a student in ep12 of Ghost Hound, and as "sweetheart" in ep5 of Shigofumi.

Hayami-san works for I"m Entertainment, an agency that was rocked by a sex scandal last year and lost several seiyuu. One post on 2channel describes Hayami Saori as "I"m Entertainment's secret weapon" for recovering from the scandal.

EDIT: Her 2channel thread is not growing that quickly, but it makes up in enthusiasm what it lacks in numbers. One person said he never expected to hear such good singing in an anime song. Another said that such a skilful, fresh seiyuu voice was good to hear, but that her singing made him a fan.

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