Sunday, August 01, 2010

Summer 2010 Anime: Shiki and the Rest

Now that we have had 3-5 episodes of the new anime series, my impressions are clearer than they were after the first episodes.

My top show is definitely Shiki. Beautiful and weird, maintaining the kind of high esthetic level that House of Five Leaves did last season -- also in the Thursday evening noitaminA time-slot. The character design, visual invention, and background music are outstanding.

And by episode four, the story begins to give us some shocks. But this is less a show for the thrill of fear than for slow and inexorable tragedy, which it will have 22 episodes to immerse us in.

Yuuki Aoi does it again, with a striking performance as Sunako: she plays her like a dark, mysterious version of Yumeiro Patissiere's very bright and open Ichigo. Is her chattering otherworldly laugh cute, eery, or both? But it is the mellow tones of Ohkawa Tohru, who plays the doctor trying to unravel the mystery, that carry the show.

Seitokai Yakuindomo's outlandish humor continues to please. I love the student council members' innocent salaciousness. Hikasa Youko proves she is a comic star, and that her meteoric rise is no fluke. Yahagi Sayuri proves that you can rise to stardom slowly, too, building gradually upward from a firm foundation of skill.

We have come to the end of the first four-episode arc of Amagami SS and have begun the second, moving from capricious senior Haruka (Itou Shizuka) to rambunctious childhood friend Kaoru (Satou Rina). Each arc portrays a complete relationship with the protagonist, and we will see him follow six alternative romances before the show ends in December. The two girls so far have been fascinating and well-portrayed.

I liked the first couple of episodes of Seikimatsu Occult Gakuin quite a bit, but the past two have felt uneven. The mystery deepens, but there is a bit too much Scooby Doo in the proceedings. Hikasa Youko's Maya is good, but there hasn't been enough of her recently, and perhaps she has been too much of a one-note tsuntsun, and the male lead too comically weak.

Densetsu no Yuusha no Densetsu has surprised me. It appears to be a standard fantasy adventure for teens, but the story and the characters are interestingly layered, and each episode brings new things of interest.

Asobi ni Iku yo! -- A complex story of interplanetary intrigue, featuring good-time cat-girls with large breasts and super weapons. The mix of romantic comedy, absurdity, and conflict could go awry at any moment, but is entertaining so far.

Kuroshitsuji 2 -- There was one paper-thin filler episode, but there is an elegance here that I find fascinating. Or perhaps what I am fascinated by is the two young masters -- played with pleasingly sharp androgyny by Sakamoto Maaya and Mizuki Nana.

Sekirei - Pure Engagement -- I didn't expect to like this, but I'm enjoying the characters and their relationships, and the fanservice is honest and somehow clean. The voices are enjoyable in themselves: Yukana, Hayami Saori, Hanazawa Kana, Endou Aya, Paku Romi, Itou Miki. I'm even beginning to get Inoue Marina.

Shukufuku no Campanella -- I loved the candy-floss moe of episodes one and two, but other episodes have not seemed as interesting. Maybe it's too much icing and not enough cake. But I do have to give the staff credit for making an anime that remains true to its ero-game source.

Highschool of the Dead -- With its tension, gore, and fanservice, this show accomplishes what it set out to do. There are two main reasons I can't stand it. One, that the characters seem to speak and act without having anything going on inside them. Two, that the situations are too extreme for my delicate sensibilities. Not so much the undead, as that ridiculous but evil teacher. Too much tension for me, and too manufactured.

Strike Witches 2 -- Nice cast, and some nice moments. But the more I watch, the less interesting it becomes. This and Highschool of the Dead are the two most popular new shows with the otaku who post to the Japanese message board 2channel.

Ookami-san to Shichinin no Nakamatachi -- I watched two episodes, but don't seem to be able to summon enough interest to watch any more. It just seemed so ordinary.

Nurarihyon no Mago -- I keep expecting this show to become more interesting. But it remains slow, boring and without much zest. Horie Yui is doing a nice job as Yuki Onna, and she, Hirano Aya, and Maeda Ai sing a top-notch ED.

Mitsudomoe -- I feel as if the makers of the anime have taken the felicitous absurdity of the manga and made it heavy, gross, and slow.

My impressions after one episode are here. For more details, check this preview post written last month.

Some new OVAs have come out in the past few weeks, too. The same staff has made the first of a new two-episode Aki-Sora OVA: Aki-Sora - Yume no Chuu. It is even a little closer to real hentai than the first OVA, which came out last December. So close that a new cast of ero-game seiyuu seems to have taken over from the first cast of anime seiyuu.

Kyou, Koi wo Hajimemasu is about the least expensively made OVA I have seen, but fairly entertaining nonetheless. It is one of the OVAs that comes out with a manga volume, and faithfully runs through some of the shoujo manga's most famous scenes.

Hen Zemi has a great, fleshy look and good animation. Hanazawa Kana does a fine job as the star. And the subject matter -- a college student's struggles to keep up with her class in abnormal sexual psychology -- is nothing if not unique. But I have to admit to feeling uncomfortable with watching her being exploited by the (male) prof and others. Not to mention by the director, lol.

And, of course, there is the Black Rock Shooter OVA, as Miria reminded me in a comment.  I thought it was excellent. From posts on AnimeSuki and 2channel, it seems it may not have had enough of the Shooter's world for the people who were most looking forward to it. But I thought it did a very good job with the ordinary world stuff, the feelings and relationships there, and I was very happy when I finally realized that the Shooter's world was like an allegory of the emotions in the ordinary world. I loved the drawing and animation, in both worlds. And I thought both Hanazawa Kana and Sawashiro Miyuki were really good.


Ray said...

I'm embarrassed to say that I like Strike Witches but I'm happy to report that I also like Sekirei Pure Engagement (maybe I should be embarrassed about that, too). I find Densetsu a nice surprise but I do wish the character and the story progess a little slower, as in a 26 episode pacing.

Anonymous said...

Mitsudomoe is a lot like Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu- a great material completly wasted on the anime made. But, since I'm not as familiar with the original of Mitsudomoe as I am with Haruka, I'd still watch it, as there is no school in summer.

As to Ookami-san- well, it could be worse, a lot worse. The acting is good enough, and Arai Satomi does a nice job as the tsukkomi narrator, not as great as Norio-chan in Hayate no Gotoku, but still a good one.

Miria said...

What do you think about Black Rock Shooter OVA?

Anonymous said...

I second your comments on HotD. Really shallow and the director is just using movie-style cinematography to attempt to make the plot deep and tragic and is failing terribly. The people on 2ch just like the big breasts, fan service, and anime stereotypes. First ep made me think it was going to be good and then every subsequent episode made me want to cry.

I also liked your comparing Seikimatsu Occult Gakuin to Scooby Doo... It seems to work lol.

And it's always a disappointment when the director converts a manga to anime and doesn't capture the same feel as when you read it (Mitsudomoe)

hashi said...

@miria -- I knew I left something out. Thanks. I've added my comments to the post.

@anonymous -- Ookami-san isn't bad. I just found it kind of nondescript.

Anonymous said...

Damn, should've prepared for HotD first by watching 28 Days Later/28 Weeks Later/Zombieland just to get "immunized" against the gore.

HotD isn't for everyone; it's clearly a throwback to low-budget grindhouse horror films.

Dakuro said...

Shiki is an excellent anime the mystery, gore, horror is just great.