One week into a new season, here are quick impressions of most of the new shows. Nothing leaps out at me as being at the level of last season's Aoi Hana or Bakemonogatari, but I'm enjoying a number of shows. (mouseover images for captions, click to enlarge)
My favorites so far? White Album 2, Kimi ni Todoke, Darker than Black 2, Sasameki Koto, Seitokai no Ichizon, Yumeiro Pâtissière, Tegami Bachi, and To Aru Kagaku no Railgun.
Here are brief comments on all the new shows I've seen, in order of broadcast:
Koishigure -- Beautiful and unique, but not really an anime. Love stories read by a young actress over illustrations by well-known artists. If you speak Japanese, give this a try.
Queen's Blade: Gyokuza no Tsugumono -- It is what it is, boing boing. Wonderful ensemble voice-acting cast: Kawasumi Ayako, Hirano Aya, Noto Mamiko, Yuzuki Ryouka, Kugimiya Rie, Nabatame Hitomi, etc. They sound as if they're having fun.
Asura Cryin' 2 -- Romance(s), people that seem to turn into mechas, a lovely ghost, superpowers. If you liked the first season, you'll like this. It sounds good, but didn't hook me. Maybe I just don't get the mecha part, or maybe the story didn't really hang together.
Kämpfer -- Boy occasionally turns into girl and has to fight in a kind of war game with other girls, each with her own weapon. This is not getting much love in cyberspace, but I found it watchable, through one episode.
Nyan Koi -- Boy who is allergic to cats will turn into a cat if he doesn't do good deeds for cats. I'm not that fond of the lead character, or of the cats, which don't seem much like real cats to me (I'm a cat lover). The humor pleases many people, but just didn't strike me -- although I did like it better on second viewing.
Tatakau Shisho - The Book of Bantorra -- Interesting set-up: a mediaevalesque future world in which people's souls are stored as rock-like "books," defended by armed librarians. Episode one didn't do a lot with the set-up, but was a watchable introduction. Amazing cast: Paku Romi, Ogawa Toru, Sawashiro Miyuki, Tomatsu Haruka, Nakamura Yuuichi, Ishida Akira, Hirohashi Ryou, Irino Miyu, Kawasumi Ayako.
To Aru Kagaku no Railgun -- Good yuri/moe fighting/comedy anime. Our heroines protect the academy city from harm with their super-powers. Spin-off from Index, but may be better, based on one episode.
White Album part 2 -- I hadn't remembered how rich this show was. Still as difficult to follow as it was in its first season, but fascinating and rewarding. Our apparent protagonist still can't quite dare to get closer to his rising idol girlfriend, but keeps giving in to his urges with her manager. We can't even be sure what many characters' motivations are.
Seitokai no Ichizon -- I loved episode one, but many people didn't. Is this a fresh, hilarious gem of self-referential moe humor? Or a tired and unfunny rehash of a genre that wasn't funny in the first place? Five lovable and humorous characters: dojikko (clumsy) moe, bishoujo moe, elder sister tsundere, cool tsundere, and a blithe devotee of ero-games who openly declares he will make them his harem, an idea in which none of them has any interest. Destroys the fourth wall within thirty seconds of opening. Young cast does well. My Kanamemo of the fall season, lol. No nastiness anywhere.
Seiken no Blacksmith -- Good-looking mediaeval/monster fantasy. I liked the heroine, who is unrealistically determined to be a knight, following in her father's footsteps. This is not getting much love in cyberspace. Neither male nor female shounen fans like a girl who can't fight effectively. Romance and magic. Toyosaki Aki (Yui in K-on) plays an elf.
Shugo Chara Party -- New structure, with live intros, two new girl-groups, a mini-anime starring the guardian characters, and the main episode reduced to 15 minutes. Buono! still does the ED -- very, very well.
Tegami Bachi -- Well made and entertaining fantasy about a young boy who loses his home and becomes a messenger carrying letters through the wilds. Sawashiro Miyuki and Fukuyama Jun.
Yumeiro Pâtissière -- I understand why most people may have little use for this show, but I adored episode one. I've watched it three times. Young-shoujo story of a girl who is determined to be a pâtissière (female pastry-maker). Complete absence of dramatic tension. Pure and talented young heroine is clumsy about anything other than baking, but has magically acute taste-buds. This is popular entertainment at its best, doing a great job of creating emotionally fulfilling versions of positive stereotypes. Brought tears to my eyes. Stars Yuuki Aoi, who was Murasaki in Kure-nai. She is uneven here, but excellent in places.
Sora no Otoshimono -- Big positive reaction in cyberspace to this one. I am somewhat less enthusiastic. Harem comedy involving perverted guy and a buxom, soft-voiced "angeloid" who can fulfil his every whim. Some interesting science-fiction concepts to go with the ecchi humor. Good cast stars Hayami Saori, Houshi Souichirou, Takagaki Ayahi.
Natsu no Arashi 2 -- Minority hit of the spring season returns. Shinbou, time-travel, good cast (Shiraishi Ryouko, Sanpei Yuuko, Nazuka Kaori, Nabatame Hitomi, et al.). Its fans consider this a higher class of anime. Maybe they're right, but somehow it just hasn't yet clicked with me. Until Bakemonogatari, I didn't really get Shinbou's humor.
Miracle Train: Ooedo-sen e Youkoso -- Pure bishounen damsel-of-the-week, set on the Tokyo subway. Strange but intriguing fantasy premise: each bishounen represents a different station, and only a damsel in distress can board the "Miracle Train" they ride. Well directed by Kasai Kenichi (Aoi Hana, Honey & Clover). Surprisingly watchable. Kenn, Sugita Tomokazu, Okiayu Ryoutarou, Ono Daisuke, Miyata Kouki, Yoshino Hiroyuki -- and the return of Sakai Kanako (star of REC).
Shin Koihime†Musou: Otome Ryouran Sangokushi Engi -- I liked the first season of this Three Kingdoms parody, in which all the heroes are portrayed as moe girls and fanservice abounds. But six episodes was about enough, and two seasons is four times too much, for me.
Anyamaru Tantei Kiruminzuu -- Magical girls who transform into analogues of domestic animals to get their powers. The look was wonderful. But the show was slow and boring, for me.
Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu: Purezza -- I defended season one of this moe romantic comedy, but once again, six episodes was about enough. If going to a hot spring in the first episode seems like a good idea, this is for you. Watch the unfogged version. Lovely romance between the leads, although it's frustrating that the guy lacks the confidence to realize how much Noto Mamiko's character loves him.
Kobato -- Clamp strikes again. Clumsy heroine may be the cutest ever, beautifully drawn and with Hanazawa Kana's voice. She comes to Earth with her tough-talking animal sidekick/handler on a mission to heal people's scarred hearts and fill a magic bottle with the scars. Beautiful look. Well-made and enjoyable first episode.
Kimi ni Todoke -- A great manga gets a good anime. Despite some minor reservations, this is one of my hits of the season so far. Real shoujo romance, with interesting characters and character development, and some actual comedy. Noto Mamiko, Namikawa Daisuke, Sawashiro Miyuki, Sanpei Yuuko. Good drawing and animation.
11eyes -- Bloody fighting and the supernatural. Good characters. Good backgrounds and character design. Intriguing so far. From an ero-game.
Sasameki Koto -- Takagaki Ayahi is outstanding as the heroine of this yuri school romance. Not as subtle, or as subtly directed, as Aoi Hana. The manga is funnier than Aoi Hana, but you wouldn't know it from episode one.
Darker than Black 2 -- Great drawing and animation, intriguing story, good action, terrific backgrounds, especially good sound effects. And a cast featuring Kuwashima Houko, Hanazawa Kana, and Kiuchi Hidenobu. Outstanding first episode.