Saturday, February 05, 2011

Winter 2011: Reviews of the New Shows

Hourou Musuko
After one episode, I was blown away by how much I enjoyed just about all of the new shows.

After two episodes, I lost interest in everything but Hourou Musuko ("Wandering Son").

Now, however, after 3-5 episodes, things have shaken out and I think that yes, Hourou Musuko is the best of the season, but Madoka Magica is an excellent show, too. And there are several other enjoyable offerings, as well. (click images to enlarge)

the best:
Hourou Musuko -- Best show of the season by far, for my taste. Subtle emotional tapestry of the lives of two middle-school students: a boy who wants to be a girl and a girl who wants to be a boy. The thirteen-year-old lead seiyuu is doing a great job, as is seiyuu veteran Nanri Yuka as a girl with a long-standing crush on him.

second best:
Madoka Magica
Mahou Shoujou Madoka Magica -- The most unusual and enjoyable magical girl anime I've seen. Another triumph for Shinbou and Shaft -- and for Kajiura Yuki, who does the music, and Urobuchi Gen, the game-writer who wrote the story. Brilliant contrast of a fairly dark magical girl world with the sunny character designs of Aoki Ume (Hidamari Sketch). Overwhelmingly popular on 2channel, with already over 180,000 posts.

also good:
Gosick -- Yuuki Aoi creates a new icon as the "golden fairy of the tower," an unfavored lesser daughter who is banished to a library tower, where she sits in gothic lolita outfits reading several books at a time and easily solves any mystery brought to her. A little too easily, but her character design and Ao-chan's performance make up for it.
Fractale -- It took three episodes for this show to round into shape, but now it has become interesting. Adventure, science fiction, a bit of romance. Director Yamamoto Yutaka says he will quit anime if this old-fashioned, fairly moe-free show isn't a success. The result remains in doubt.
Dragon Crisis -- Kugimiya Rie all dere and no tsun, as a dragon in the shape of an innocent young girl who attaches herself to our beleaguered hero. Far more enjoyable than it has any right to be.
Level E -- One of the season's pleasant surprises. The adventures on Earth of a highly irresponsible alien prince, played by Namikawa Daisuke.
Kore wa Zombie Desu ka? -- Our hero is a zombie who now lives as the slave of his pretty demon killer. It's a comedy. And there is some romance here, too.
Yumekui Merry -- Merry is a great character, with very attractive character design (especially the face-paint, the navel, and the tough expressions). The stories don't do a lot, but Merry's feelings and problems come across well, so I'm still watching. Good work from new seiyuu Sakura Ayane.
Haiyoru! Nyaruani: Remember My Love (Craft-sensei) -- Hilarious little four-minute episodes featuring ancient deities in the form of weird young girls. Asumi Kana, Kitamura Eri, Matsuki Miyu, Kataoka Azusa.

not so bad:

Onii-chan no Koto Nanka Zenzen Suki Janain Dakara ne!! -- Excellent bony character design and a story that seems banal -- horny sister trying to keep other girls away from her beloved brother -- but has some nice moments. Kitamura Eri and Marina Inoue.
Starry Sky -- Competent little reverse-harem show, with an amazing male cast: Midorikawa Hikaru, Suzumura Kenichi, Sugita Tomokazu, Nakamura Yuuichi, Hoshi Souichirou, et al.
Beelzebub -- The baby king of hell attaches himself to a high-school tough, who tries and repeatedly fails to find someone else tough and nasty enough for the baby to bond with. Crazy, violent, hilarious -- at least for a few episodes. Konishi Katsuyki as the tough, and Sawashiro Miyuki as the baby demon.
Houkago no Pleiades -- An enjoyable four-part short OVA with sparkly Gainax animation and financial backing from car-maker Subaru.
Goulart Knights -- Net OVA that slipped under the radar when it was released in December, but that is worth watching by anyone for whom the words "bishounen knights" are not a turn-off.
IS: Infinite Stratos -- Popular fighting comedy set in a school for girls -- and one boy -- who can pilot suits to fight invading monsters. Quickly became boring, for me. Little emotional depth. But good work again from Hikasa Youko.

not interested:
Kimi ni Todoke 2 -- Popular manga gets a second anime season. I find the main characters' pathological self-doubt and unwillingness to actually communicate a big turn-off and am no longer watching.
Mitsudomoe Zouryouchuu! -- I did not enjoy the first series and have not watched any of this one. Somehow, I'm just turned off by grade-school girls purveying potty humor and innuendo in embarrassing situations.
Rio - Rainbow Gate -- Not for me. The stories are simple and uninteresting, and I don't like casinos.

For more details about each show, check my season preview.


Pure said...

After the fall season of anime, I liked about 12 different anime series after one episode and ended up finishing only 3-4 series at the end. So I can understand the feeling of losing interest in a few series after a few episodes.

Right now, I have three must watches in Madoka Magica, Kimi ni Todoke 2, and Yumekui Merry.

Haven't seen any of Hourou Musuko pass the first episode, but it definitely still peaks my interests. I'll probably marathon it through when the series ends.

Wongsta said...

I tried picking up kimi ni todoke this season after dropping it last season for the same reasons you've given...and now I've dropped it again.

Mockman said...

I'm really enjoying this season (with a few exceptions). I'm watching over a dozen shows somehow, with my favourites being Gosick and Madoka Magica.

Other shows that I'm enjoying include Beelzebub, Dragon Crisis, Fractale and Hourou Musuko.

While Hourou Musuko showed promise, I found that it wasn't really until episode four that we started to see what's below each character's surface. They seem more complex, more real and more interesting now than they did for the first few episodes.

For what it's worth, I think that the first two series were riveting from the beginning. And if they can keep the great stories going, they'll end up amongst my all-time favourite shows.

The second group took time to gel. The baby maou cried too much early on, the first opponent in Crisis was perfectly uninteresting but George is going to mess everyone up, the end of empire is always fertile ground for a great story, and I think the kids are all positioning themselves to take remarkable action in pursuit of their newly considered goals.

I don't think that Onii-chan has figured it out yet but I'm hopeful. After the blockbuster news came out, everyone just went to the beach. Meanwhile, the wheels are falling off for Infinite Stratos. Freezing started as a train wreck. I still look forward to Kimi ni Todoke every week but a paralysis affects all the characters, even Kazehaya.

But overall, I'm very pleased with this season's offerings. It's been the most enjoyable since the fall of 2009, the first season I watched anime.

The Extroverted Otaku said...

It's funny how my taste kinda mirrors yours, hashi, with the only exception being Level E should be with Hourou Musuko too ^^

Was ecstatic when Hourou was given the green light and the voicing is superb. Fits each character perfectly, including personality and sublime tones for each scene.

Hourou - ★★★★★