Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Hirano Aya-only TV ep3, plus Kawa no Hikari

Aya and the show's staff are starting to get it, I think. I found episode three the most entertaining of all. Despite its very simple premise, it gave Aya a chance to react naturally and be the entire centre of the show.

The simple premise? She went to a zoo (Fuji Safari Park) and had her picture taken with a list of 42 animals there, in alphabetical order. Some, like a lion cub, she could hold in her arms. Others, like the adult lion, had to be photographed with her safely inside either a viewing tunnel or a van.

But she mugged her way through all 42 stops, making a highly entertaining 57 minutes of pure personality-power. And the lion cub giving her a lick was clearly her favorite moment:

I also liked it when she was getting tired and bored about halfway through the day, and became subtly petulant. Some posters on 2channel wanted a more complex premise, but this kind of thing works for me, and I suspect for most people who would even consider watching a show like this.

And early in the show, especially, I think we even got to hear her natural voice, as she interacted with the staff.

Also last week, on Saturday, Aya played a dog in the Miyazaki-esque NHK eco-anime Kawa no Hikari ("River-Light"). This 75-minute anime special is the story of three mice who make a journey into the city, which is encroaching on their homes by the river. The dog befriends and helps them a couple of times.

The mice are played by Orikasa Fumiko, Kaneda Tomoko, and Yamadera Kouichi (Spike Spiegel), with Tanaka Atsuko (Kusanagi Motoko in GITS) as a cat who eats only fish, and Ohtsuka Akio (Black Jack) as a surprisingly benevolent old rat. Some posters on 2channel felt Aya's performance was the only one that didn't work. And it is definitely in a different style from the restrained and conventional performances of the others. But she really gives the feeling of a happy, exuberant young dog. As usual, Aya doesn't give us the norm, but tries for something beyond it.

Nice animation and backgrounds, and good characters and voices, but a fairly limp story line and pacing for anyone who isn't under ten years old. The novel on which it is based recently ended a two-year newspaper serialization.

Here are some more screencaps from Hirano Aya-only TV episode three. First, Aya as a sheep:

Sometimes, the lovely Aya by herself is all it takes:

Not sure a kick to the groin is Aya's style of fighting, but it appears to be that kangaroo's:

Feeding the hippos:

It was a good thing there was strong glass between her and the leopard she had been teasing:

The strength of the lion amazed her when she poked a bit of food through to it on a stick:

But the lion cub was her baby, especially after she had fed it a whole bottle of milk:

After playing with the cub for a while, she suddenly realized where she was and said, "Oh, cameraman, I forgot," and started to pose.

Feeding the giraffe at head-height:

And her best imitation was of the hyena's smile:

Summer 2009 Anime Schedule

The new summer season gets going tomorrow and Thursday, with two new series: Umi Monogatari and Fight! Ippatsu Juuden-chan.

Just in time for the season, here is a weekly anime schedule. I use these to help me keep track of the shows. Some cast and staff highlights are included, and there are links to the Anime News Network page for each show, and to the official sites. Click image to see the schedule:

On Wednesday, the first series of the season is Umi Monogatari, a story of two mermaids who find a ring in the sea and come to the land to return it to its owner. The show is directed by the director of the ARIA series, and stars Asumi Kana (Yuno in Hidamari), Kotobuki Minako (Tsumugi in K-On), Horie Yui, Sawashiro Miyuki, and Toyosaki Aki (Yui in K-On).

On the same day, two new OVAs are released. There is an Utawarerumono OVA, with the same great cast as the original series but a new staff. And there is a Saint Seiya - The Lost Canvas OVA, featuring Hirano Aya.

Then on Thursday, the new ecchi comedy Fight! Ippatsu Juuden-chan begins, directed by the director of Mahoraba and starring Fukuhara Kaori, who was Tsukasa in Lucky Star.

On Friday, there are two more new OVAs: one called Akane-iro ni Somaru Saka Hard Core, and the second and final Cobra the Animation - Time Drive OVA episode.

Last Saturday, we already saw NHK's 75-minute Miyazaki-esque eco-anime Kawa no Hikari, starring Orikasa Fumiko, Kaneda Tomoko, Yamadera Kouichi, and Hirano Aya.

The season gets started in earnest on Wednesday and Thursday of next week, with five more new shows. See the season preview for full details.

Happy summer anime season, everyone!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Yamakan to Direct Special OP OVA for Tonari no 801-chan Manga

Bad-boy director Yamamoto Yutaka 山本寛 (Yamakan) will direct a 90-second OP animation to be released with vol4 of the comic Tonari no 801-chan, on September 10.

Maybe it's more common than I realize, but I've never heard of releasing an OP animation with a manga. A special anime episode, yes. But OP/ED animations are Yamakan's forte (Suzumiya Haruhi ED, Lucky Star OP, Kannagi OP), and it could work so well as publicity for the manga that it starts a trend.

In an added twist, the vocalist for the OP will selected by public vote on NicoNico Douga, based on an open audition call.

Character design will be by Yamakan's close collaborator Kadowaki Satoshi. Music will be produced by Nishimura Masatoshi (City Hunter, Prince of Tennis) and written by A-bee (who did the remix for the Kannagi OP).

Info from anineanime.jp, via Anime News Network.

In other Yamakan news, the man himself will be at Otakon in Baltimore July 17-19. Other guests include Inoue Kikuko and Kanon Wakeshima. Info from Anime Vice.

I also came across a report of an interview with Yamakan published earlier this year in Behind the Nihon Review. Among other things, he says he does not believe in originality, that what we see as original is actually just "deft plagiarism."

He criticizes anime fandom for having become too exclusive, and anime producers for just catering to niche audiences. He also criticizes Miyazaki, for having retreated to an ivory tower and not kept contact with the rest of the industry, while just lobbing criticism at it.

Yamamoto Yutaka directed Kannagi for his own company, Ordet. He also directed the first four episodes of Lucky Star, until Kyoto Animation fired him, for reasons that are still not fully explained. He was assistant director of Suzumiya Haruhi, writing and/or directing four episodes, including the movie and concert episodes, as well as doing the storyboard for the Yuki reading episode.