Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Spring 2010 - K-On!! (Season 2)

It's been hard to get a good reading on the K-On! phenomenon in the US. Recently, I had done an informal poll of an audience of around 200 people at Anime Boston 2010, only to get about five people who had heard of the series. Considering that the Internets practically weep happy tears of moe over the series, it was a bit of a shock that those sobs hadn't been heard by the average US fan yet.

However, there is evidence that even the non-otaku crowd is flocking to the series in Japan. While sales of the manga haven't exactly gone through the roof, the anime's first season and its soundtracks have driven the series to unexplored territory. The anime-character CD for the series became the first of its sort for fictional characters to score a #1 album on the Japanese Oricon rankings, while the Blu-ray disc rankings have had the anime series near the top of the record list for an animated TV series.

It's only natural that this success has spawned a second K-On!! TV series (distinguished by its second exclamation point). The show based on Kakifly's manga still keeps contact with Kyoto Animation as the main studio that has experience with animation for Full Metal Panic, AIR, the Haruhi Suzumiya franchise, Lucky Star, and Clannad. The show keeps the all-female helm that worked with the first season: direction from Naoko Yamada, composition from Reiko Yoshida, and character designs from Yukiko Horiguchi.

To describe what makes Season 2 any different from the first season would be hard to do, but there is a little more urgency for the members of the Sakuragaoka High School Light-Music Club (keion-bu 軽音部) to seek out new recruits. The core members of "Hôkago Tea Time"--Yui, Ritsu, Mio, and Mugi--now find themselves staring at the ultimate break-up as graduation looms for the seniors. While it is nice to have the endless lazy days in the club with tea and cakes provided for them, if the group can't find fresh blood for the club, the fifth member Azusa gets stuck with a defunct organization, and the problem that the original Light-Music Club faced would resurface.

That seems to be the main motivation for K-On!!, as the rest of the series resembles a "show-about-nothing" program. That's not necessarily a bad thing, as the motif has shown success in Azumanga Daioh and Hidamari Sketch, allowing for a smooth ride that combines the nostalgia of high school with the occasional bursts of comedy. K-On!! still has some good approaches for music, as the songs are dynamic, the artwork is pretty choice for some of the instruments, and the nods to guitar rock are there, from Ritsu's appreciation for The Who to the careful naming of the characters after members of the bands P-Model and The Pillows.

The strike that K-On!! seems to have against itself is that, on the surface, the characters don't appear to have been changed by the realism that all "salad days" must come to an end. Granted, this is all occurring in the earliest stages of the third year, but I'm not sure if the characters will change. We see a lot of the "lazies" that Osaka and Tomo gave us in Azumanga Daioh and the absurdities that we saw from Miyako and Torako in Hidamari Sketch and Hyakko, respectively. Time appears to be passing in the series, but it's hard to guess if any of the characters will mature, whether it be in the direction of being less goofy or less rigid.

With all of this being said, it's hard to really determine if K-On!! is a good series just from the initial episodes. To say that there is no substance to the show would be a risky dismissal of similar shows from the past as being empty, as well. However, it appears that the show was made to cater more to music otaku by introducing the moe factor, not the other way around. It's as if the show was built around the concert scene from The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya.

While Beck likely rode the wave of garage rock in Japan, K-On!! appears to be trying to handle the softer ripples. A half-decent show, but I'd like to see a guitar smashed for an encore, not polished and placed back in its case.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Spring 2010 - Mayoi Neko Overrun!

The mangaka for the collaboration Mayoi Neko Overrun!, Kentarô Yabuki, once mentioned in an issue of Newtype that he would be up for the continuation of his mildly-successful manga franchise Black Cat. Considering that Yabuki has already produced two respectably-durable manga hits (To-Love-Ru made it to 18 volumes, Black Cat to 20) before hitting the age of 30, it appears that he has plenty of time for such a return to his cash-cow.

However, it also appears that Yabuki is set on going the way of his mentor Takeshi Obata. Obata is the mangaka responsible for Shônen Jump classics such as Hikaru no Go and Death Note, but his initial solo work (Cyborg Jii-chan G) struck out back in 1989, lasting only 31 issues. Since then, Obata has rarely worked on anything without the help of a story writer, and it appears that Yabuki has been taking that approach to his last work (To-Love-Ru was in conjunction with former assistant Seki Hasemi) and his current one.

Mayoi Neko Overrun! is Yabuki's second venture into collaborations, a manga version of the light novel written by Tomohiro Matsu. Perhaps it has been the surge of success for light novels that has green-lighted the animated version so quickly. Matsu has been hired to direct the show himself, while AIC (Tenchi Muyô, Ah! My Goddess, Asu no Yoichi!, Sora no Otoshimono) is in charge of animating it.

The main premise behind the series appears to be an ode to the Black Cat series, as the main character Takumi Tsuzuki works in a hole-in-the-wall bakery called Stray Cats (Black Cat's initial one-shot was first called "Stray Cat"). While the patisserie is not necessarily a successful one, and the shop's owner, Takumi's sister Otome, is rarely there to supervise, it manages to stay in business. Takumi also gets help from his childhood friend Fumino, an eternally-angry schoolgirl who draws up white lies and opposites to hide her true feelings for Takumi, as both of them are actually orphans that have been rescued by Otome.

As of the first episode, Takumi's pretty much gotten into a zen-like phase regarding his classmates. Fumino constantly acts as the violent tomboy, pampered loli-girl Chise makes unreasonable demands for attention that get under Fumino's skin, and horndog Ieyasu refuses to shake his passion for 2D video-game girls. All of them manage to band together to hunt down a cake-stealer, only to discover that the "huge cat" they were chasing is the latest of Otome's rescues, a placid and unemotional girl with nekomimi-like hair by the name of Nozomi.

Mayoi Neko Overrun! really tries to make a name for itself by pulling at the heartstrings and splicing tearful drama inside of the comedy, but it falls into the misfortune of aiming too low with sexual humor. The first impression we get of Fumino is that of her past self crying over the troubles of being bullied, only for the next shot to be of Takumi getting punched from a panty-flash. Camera angles often originate from below the waist, and Chise's cosplay fetish calls for the necessitated public-nudity scene. We've seen this before in the likes of Ken Akamatsu's Love Hina and Negima! series, so why mess with the formula?

These situations performed by the usual moe suspects (tsundere, lolicon, rich-girl, nekomimi, kuudere/dandere) seem to kill the anime's momentum. Touching scenes are interrupted by expected twists like clockwork, and it seems to make the show just as bored as Takumi is of his own lifestyle. Mayoi Neko Overrun! is more like a dating sim without the joystick or keyboard, so there's no way to control the main character and liven up the situation. There's nothing there to entertain the viewer outside of the targeted male viewership, save for the things that have worked in the past in other harem shows.

I really hope that Yabuki does look to revamp his Black Cat series, since his work appears to be going to waste. Everything we saw in Mayoi Neko Overrun! could have easily been borrowed from To-Love-Ru (or vice versa), and there would be absolutely no change in plot or direction. Luckily, this series will only be around for 12 episodes. Still, with the hyped image of the three main female characters flailing about in a cardboard box like abandoned cats, I expect the same thing to happen to the show's DVDs in the future.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Friday Discussion Thread (Chi-chin Bui Bui)

Arnold can do anything in Japan. He can row faster than you. He can make gold appear out of thin air. He can win at mahjong against the best pro. He can juggle you punks like you were beach balls.

He does need a little work on his chopsticks.

See you next week!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Spring 2010 - GIANT KILLING

If there is any criticism to Captain Tsubasa, the über-successful soccer series in Japan that's been running since 1981, it's that the series has lost part of its plausibility. Granted, the series has been aimed more at the youth looking to become soccer players, but the main character's teams rarely lose, and the scores are often too inflated or lopsided to believe. More importantly, the focus appears to be more on success and less on the parts of the team that lead to success.

There seems to be something missing in Captain Tsubasa--the sense of overwhelming defeat. After all, Tsubasa moves to a town already known for its soccer prowess and barely loses a game on the teams he plays for, but what about those sections in Japan and the world where the shine of a victory has to overcome the devastation of a losing streak? For every Brazil or Spain, there is a Papua New Guinea. (Fans of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Detroit Lions, and Golden State Warriors probably know what I mean.)

For all of those fans who hope that the arrival of one key element could help slay Goliath, Giant Killing is speaking to you. The story comes from the collaboration of writer Masaya Tsunamoto, who has already penned the stories for soccer manga U-31 and Goal Den Age, with artist Tomo Tsuji. The anime series is being directed by Kou Yuu (Loveless, Zero no Tsukaima), while Studio Deen is providing the animation.

The story covers the disappointing season for the East Tokyo United soccer team. With morale low on a losing team, fans becoming more apathetic towards the squad, and the threat of demotion looming, the team turns to one of its success stories in Takeshi Tatsumi, an athlete who abandoned ETU just to join an amateur club in England as its manager. While Tatsumi has managed to turn the ragtag team into a "giant-killing" squad that challenges for a prestigious cup in only its third year, ETU is more desperate for success, managing to draw Tatsumi back to Japan as their coach.

The team and its fans aren't so sure Tatsumi, a loafing sort who seems unwise in his methods, can get the job done. The public-relations head already is fed up with his demands, and the fans are bitter about Tatsumi's allegiance to England over Japan. The players themselves aren't so sure about his talents, as the star athlete--"Mr. ETU"--is being benched in favor of the team's fastest players!

Considering that soccer has predominantly been reserved in anime for the younger crowd (Inazuma Eleven, Whistle!), the approach that the creators have taken with Giant Killing is somewhat refreshing. The movement of the players on the pitch is more realistic, and even though some animation is replaced with photography at times, more attention is being placed on the storyline and less with flashy movement. Tatsumi himself is probably no real unique prototype of a character, perhaps a lot more GTO in his cobbled-together ways, and there appears to be no real Shaolin Soccer energy that powered Captain Tsubasa and Inazuma Eleven's animation. Still, there have been some good choices made in voice-casting, including the use of an actual foreigner for the voice of a European footie fan.

However, the main concept of the story--that a team without superior talent can still beat the best on any given weekend--could really help fuel Japan's hopes for the World Cup (although it's likely Tsubasa will still be associated with the national team). The game in Giant Killing itself may not have energy from its players yet, but the roar of the fans and the European flare in the soundtrack just might make this show more of a hit with actual J-League fans. Considering this is the first anime geared towards the hooligan crowd, let's hope Giant Killing pulls off the upset.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Spring 2010 - Arakawa Under The Bridge

Manga and anime has grown to embrace the power of comedy, both in the traditional styles of the rakugo performer and the modernized perception of the manzai duo. While most comedy depends on the quick give-and-take exchange between characters, sometimes the plot requires a long build-up to a quick punchline (ochi). This style has been what fueled recent anime hits such as Cromartie High School and Sayonara Zetsubô-sensei; each small story comes to an abrupt and unexpected end.

It's with this style that Hikaru Nakamura created the Arakawa Under The Bridge manga, leading to its current series run. Nakamura is also known for the Saint Young Men manga, which tells the story of a reincarnated Jesus and Buddha, so his mind for comedy is in the right place. Considering that the series is being directed by Akiyuki Shinbô and animated by Shaft, both of which were involved with the entire Sayonara Zetsubô-sensei anime, the show should have a very familiar feel to it.

"Familiar" is likely more appropriate than we think, as we are greeted by the voice of Hiroshi Kamiya (Zetsubô-sensei himself) in the form of Kô Ichinomiya, a self-made youth whose future appears bright as the inheritor of a corporation. Fate, however, plays a trick on young Ichinomiya, as he is saved from a freak fall from a bridge over the Arakawa River by Nino, a placid blond girl who claims she's from Venus. Kô is grateful, but he is more decimated by the fact that he's in the girl's debt, which affects him like an allergy. When asked if there is anything Kô can do to repay her, Nino tells him to be her lover.

From this point on, Kô is forced to follow the rituals of the village that has gathered under the bridge and cope with the oddest of characters. The kappa village chief seems too fake to be real (what's with that zipper?), the star-faced Hoshi has a thing for Nino, and the local "sister" is a scar-faced, battle-tested soldier who preaches religion with ammunition. All in all, the village is Kô's own Wonderland, and the citizens are getting curiouser and curiouser.

Much like SZS, Arakawa Under The Bridge rides on the panic from Kamiya's paranoia-laden voice and the quirks of the characters. The art may not be as experimental, as perhaps too much attention is placed on Kô's eyes, but Arakawa also runs on the story's overall plot for guidance, as Kô attempts to fit into Nino's life and repay his debt to her in the form of life experiences. Unlike SZS, the smaller stories fit together to make a complete twenty-minute "bridge" for each episode, but the comedy does fit the pattern, the ochi coming out more like milk from the nose than a chuckle from the gullet.

Will all of the jokes be easy for the foreign audience to appreciate? Likely yes, but the slow pace of the show leading to the punchline may make those with shorter attention spans hope for something a little more energetic. This anime appears to be more refined than expected from Shinbô and Nakamura, as Arakawa hopes to fulfill a gentle story under the discarded jokes at the surface. Hopefully, what lies at the river's delta is just as good as what floats midstream.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Spring 2010 - Kiss×sis

For some time, anime has been venturing in certain topics that would be considered taboo in certain cultures. Go to a Toranoana store or a three-day Comiket weekend, and if you aren't expecting it, you'd be blindsided by fetish upon fetish. Cross-dressing, yuri, yaoi, lolicon--the envelope has been pushed over and over, but there really hasn't been an anime TV or OAV series out there that has pushed the moe and incest Venn diagram so close that the two circles overlap.

I'm not suggesting there should be any overlap, but in the span of a year, we're getting TWO series focusing on forbidden relationships between siblings (Akisora will be released in the summer). Based on the initial suggestions of the Kissxsis (pronounced "kiss-sis") TV series, that seems to be two too many.

To some in Japan, this may be old hat and not such a big deal. After all, incest, in itself, isn't exactly the biggest end-all taboo in Japan. Heck, without spoiling too much, the suggestions of brotherly/sisterly love have even been approached in anime such as Durarara!, but the subject has never really breached anime as the main topic in a series. In a very literal sense of the word, Kissxsis really doesn't count as "incest"--those involved are step-siblings and not blood-relatives--but the act that this is pushing "sisterly love" is seen in the title itself.

The manga from Bow Ditama was originally released as a one-shot manga way back in 2004. The serialization itself surprisingly ran along with the OAV last year, as later manga tankôbon volumes were released with an anime DVD. The animated TV show tells the story from its own beginning, directed by Munenori Nawa, the director of shows such as Da Capo and Otome wa Boku ni Koishiteru. Studio Feel, which also was involved with both of these shows, is involved with the production.

There's not that much to really cover in terms of plot. The main character Keita is the youngest kid in a rebuilt family, his father marrying a woman with twin daughters of her own. Like many twins in anime, these girls are diametrically opposite to one another; Ako is the sensible half of the two and exhibits talent in cooking and housework, while Riko is more of a blunt and tomboyish sort who speaks honestly, but exhibits a shyer side. Both girls seem to have closeted sides to them and dote heavily on Keita, causing the younger stepbrother to have attractions for them that he initially abhors.

Of course, it wouldn't be an anime if it ended there. Keita's father and the twins' mother agree that Keita should and will marry one of the girls in the future, so the anime turns into a competition between Ako and Riko, both looking to tempt Keita. Keita seems to have a clear tongue fetish himself, as some of the kissing scenes alone are mighty graphic, and much of the first three episodes cover the twins plotting to make Keita their own, all while Keita just wants to study for high-school exams.

The series ain't shy. Some of the subject matter gets pretty heavy without getting past softcore porn, but there's also no real attempt to shy away from the taboos or remind the viewer that they are not blood relatives. Keita appears to be one of the weakest main characters in recent memory--while he doesn't come unglued like super-perverts of the past, he's also completely bereft of any sort of willpower. The guy caves to kisses from his "sisters" like he was tissue paper.

The ultimate sign that Kissxsis has already jumped the shark? By Episode 3, the overused banana phallic symbol has already made its appearance. What was once the staple for Eiken has become a gag in Kissxsis, complete with chocolate...ahem. (I think you can guess what I mean.)

Unlike Eiken, however, Kissxsis seems to be serious with its attempt to tell the story of a brother and his two horny stepsisters without venturing into actual sexual situations. That's too bad, considering that some of the situations are totally unfathomable (Ako uses her body as a notepad to teach Keita English, while Riko tries to tempt Keita with chocolate lipstick). However, in the end, it is just another series trying to capitalize on sophomoric humor and moe, and the incestuous situations are just another lock to be put on the door to "There" that should never be opened.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Spring 2010 - Working!!

Once Azumanga Daioh shut down after a four-volume manga run and a twenty-six episode season on TV, there were bound to be imitators. While the yonkoma ("four panel") style wasn't a new thing in Japan, originally sparked by the likes of Rakuten Kitazawa in the early 20th century and fueled by Ryuichi Yokoyama and Machiko Hasegawa in the 1940s and 1950s, Kiyohiko Azuma managed to cross it with more energy and a hearty serving of female characters to gear it towards a more otaku-centric audience.

Cue the flood gates.

Azuma's personal dare to make the yonkoma cuter and less 'toony was the first ping-pong ball in the moe chain reaction. Ever since we were introduced to the Azumanga crew, mangaka have attempted to replicate the success with different formulas; K-On! threw in music, Sketchbook and Hidamari Sketch toyed with art, Kanamemo played around with publishing, and Lucky Star just threw everything in the pot and waited to see what bubbled out. That isn't to say that these formulas worked in their own way, but the yonkoma revolution has spawned shorter situational comedy vignettes in anime.

Karino Takatsu's Working!! manga and the new TV series further tweaks the formula, this time transferring the characters to a dining atmosphere. The anime series has gotten the blessing from Aniplex's subsidiary A-1 Pictures, which has been working on the current series Fairy Tail, Senkô no Night Raid, and So Ra No Wo To, as well as the direction from Yoshimasa Hiraike, who directed the aforementioned Sketchbook.

Working!! takes place at the "Wagnaria" family restaurant in an unnamed town in northern Japan. While business is good, there is still a need to fill a part-time position, and the manager sends off the petite Poplar (voiced by Kana Asami who also voices...surprise!...Yuno from Hidamari Sketch) to flag down a potential employee. She recruits Sôta, a teen who absolutely adores small things to the point of creepiness, and the first episode pretty much runs down Sôta's sudden hiring and crash course in learning the tools of the managerial trade in the restaurant.

The rest of the ensemble is comprised of a primarily female cast that has their own quirks. Mahiro turns out to be a shy waitress with severe androphobia, clobbering Sôta on their first shift together. Yachiyo is the cheerful sort with the smile of a fox, but the ever-present katana by her waist gets her nervous glances. The lazy manager Kyôko has the "customer is always right" mantra in reverse, dealing with bad customers equally badly. All of this is happening while Poplar plays the role of Chiyo ("I'm not small!") Mihama.

And that's...pretty much it. If you've ever worked at a family restaurant, you probably can identify with the ennui.

There are some attempts at comedy from Sôta fawning over Poplar's size (he calls her as cute as a "water flea"), Poplar's inability to accomplish tasks due to her chibi stature, and Kyôko's surges of anger. Mahiro and Yachiyo will likely make scenes uncomfortable, but it's the chefs in the show--Sôma, a laidback happy guy, and Sanji from One Piece Satô--who absolutely kill the energy. Sôta is the only male with personality, a flawed one that could constantly tie him into more lolicon situations, while Sanji Satô and Sôma become invisibly drab with their blather. In fact, the show seems to lack sincere energy and impact--it's as if the series could take place at any restaurant in Japan. By the end of the first episode, the introductions have ended, but it's hard to envision this group doing much other than getting through the work day.

The art is decent, and like Azumanga Daioh and Lucky Star, there's a lot of dependence on the moe factor for drive. However, unlike the other two examples, there does not appear to be any advancement in the characters; while school comedies are fueled by the prospects of graduation, Working!! has nowhere to go. The series takes place in a quieter section of Japan (Hokkaidô is no bustling metropolis), and it appears that the episodes could get repetitive:
  • The crew works.
  • A new character is introduced.
  • The crew reacts to the new character with punches, droll observations, and jokes about Poplar's size.
  • Ad infinitum until the series ends.
It's hard to say if that formula can keep working, but Working!! likely will not be around for that long. If it does, it will likely need to come up with a better menu.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Spring 2010 - Kaichô wa Maid-sama!

Of all of the new shows being pushed for this season, the one that I recognized right away was Kaichô wa Maid-sama! ["The (School Council) President's a Maid!"], an anime adapted from the manga running in Lala by Hiro Fujiwara. The anime is being produced by J.C. Staff, the studio responsible for Excel Saga, Utena, Azumanga Daioh, and the proposed Bakuman anime run in autumn of 2010. The series is also being directed by Hiroaki Sakurai, who has directed Sakigake! Cromartie High School and Daa! Daa! Daa!

The general gist of the story fits in place with the current trend of the "maid-cafe" phenomenon in Japan--Misaki Ayukawa has a reputation to uphold at Seika High School as the first female school-council president in its history. Since Seika was once an all-male school that had been converted into a co-ed school, the student body is still primarily male and rooted in its laxness concerning student code. Ayukawa is rough on the boys for not sticking to the rules, often overworking herself to straighten the ship. Guys see her as a dictator, but fear her wrath; girls see her as a savior, but don't have the voice to protest things yet.

However, Ayukawa has a second side to her personality, as poverty at home has forced her to moonlight as a waitress at Maid Latte, a quaint maid cafe. Ayukawa works hard to support her mother and sister, all while trying to hide her identity to the student body, but when one of the popular boys at school, the expressionless Takumi Usui, discovers her situation, Ayukawa is forced to work harder while her paranoia drives fear for her status in school.

Pictures in the opening theme indicate that things will likely get romantic between Ayukawa and Usui, but there seems to be something...different between the character designs between the manga and anime. In the anime, Misaki appears to be a little too...what's the word...chipper? Perhaps it is due to the brighter colors, especially in the irises of the characters' eyes, but there's something that just sugarcoats Maid-sama! into something that is a little brighter than the original manga.

Am I being picky? Probably.

The other thing that really doesn't sit well is the introduction of time into the anime. The original manga took pride in presenting the stories as contained chaos--conversations would overlap, and as much empty space as possible was filled by art and word balloons. The anime takes that compressed area and expands it into a decent storyline that sticks to the original manga (at least for the first episode). For those that read the manga, this might take some getting used to.

Those aspects aside, Maid-Sama! isn't your moe presentation of the maid-cafe culture, and that's a refreshing way to look at the obsession. I actually think the number of maid-cafes in Japan could be stagnating at the moment, so it is hard to say if a shôjo depiction of the trend would increase or decrease business. The series will likely steer the concern for the maid-cafe in the direction of the effect of work on teens in school and Japan's economic downturn, possibly in the way that Hana Yori Dango viewed class structure in schools. The focus appears to be more on Ayukawa's ability to hide such a different role from her peers, all while trying to prove that being a maid-waitress doesn't mean she's below Usui.

I do hope that Maid-sama! can outlast some of the cutesy depictions of maids that anime has been used to presenting in the past, but I have my doubts. An okay start to the show, but I hope that something is added to the anime that keeps the manga's engaged spirit in mind.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The 2010 Spring "Maker-Oudan" Anime Guide

One benefit I got from going to the Tokyo Anime Fair this year was the opportunity to get some insight on the struggling anime industry. For the past few years, I had been drawn closer to manga than anime, but with the approach that anime has slowly been making towards online viewership, the gap between Japanese release and overseas release, either as a fansubbed version or a commercial venture, has been shrinking.

This bridging of the gap appears to be not only temporal, but physical--I was pleasantly surprised to see the number of foreigners that had visited the Tokyo Anime Fair both as tourists and as employees in Japan. It's probably no surprise that I've also been hearing more and more about the anime titles announced for the upcoming Spring season and beyond. Some titles seem good, some seem bad, and some...are questionably in the mix, but all were announced in the free "Maker-Oudan Anime Guide" catalog made available March 24th.

The Maker-Oudan Anime Guide covers works from 11 different companies in the anime industry (Aniplex, Avex Entertainment, King Records, Geneon Universal Entertainment, T.O. Entertainment, Bandai Visual, Flying Dog, Frontier Works, Pony Canyon, Marvelous Entertainment, Media Factory). Hence, it is a "cross-section" (oudan, 横断) of the industry that provides insight as to what they are hanging their collective hats on for the next year. Flipping through the pages and observing the cover, I noticed there is certainly a lot to choose from for the upcoming season.

  • あきそら〜夢の中〜 Akisora ~Yume no naka~ ("Akisora ~ Within a Dream ~")
  • あそびにいくヨ! Asobi ni iku yo! ("Let's go play!")
  • 荒川アンダーザブリッジ Arakawa Under The Bridge
  • いちばんうしろの大魔王 Ichiban Ushiro no Dai-maô
  • 一騎当千XTREME XECUTOR x 真・恋姫無双〜乙女大乱〜 Ikki Tousen XTREME XECUTOR x Shin Koihime Musô: Otome Tairan
  • いばらの王 Ibara no Ou - King of Thorn -
  • うたわれるもの Utawarerumono ("Songs of Legend") [OVA]
  • Angel Beats!
  • オオカミさんと七人の仲間たち Ôkami-san to Shichinin no Nakama-tachi ("Mr. Wolf and His Seven Friends")
  • おおきく振りかぶって〜夏の大会編〜 Ôkiku Furikabutte ~Natsu no Taikai-hen~ ("Big Windup ~Summer Tournament Chapter~")
  • 会長はメイド様! Kaichô wa Maid-sama! ("The School President's a Maid!")
  • 刀語 Katanagatari ("Sword Story")
  • kissxsis
  • K-On!!
  • さらい屋五葉 Saraiya Goyô
  • 屍鬼 Shiki
  • 祝福のカンパネラ Shukufuku no Campanella
  • 世紀末オカルト学院 Seikimatsu Okaruto Gakuin ("Seikimatsu Occult Academy")
  • 聖痕のクェイサー Seikon no Qwaser ("The Qwaser of Stigmata")
  • セキレイ Sekirei ~Pure Engagement~
  • 閃光のナイトレイド Senkou no Night Raid
  • 戦国BASARA弐(ツー) Sengoku BASARA Two
  • ソ・ラ・ノ・ヲ・ト So Ra No Wo To
  • Tales of Symphonia - The Animation: Tethe'alla Episode [OVA]
  • デュラララ!! Durarara!!
  • TRIGUN - Badlands Rumble [Movie]
  • ぬらりひょんの孫 Nurarihyon no Mago ("Grandchild of Nurarihyon")
  • 薄桜鬼 Hakuôki
  • ひだまりスケッチ x ☆☆☆ Hidamari Sketch x Mittsuhoshi (Hidamari Sketch x Three Stars)
  • ブレイク・ブレイド Break Blade (Broken Blade)
  • 文学少女 Bungaku Shôjo ("Literature Girl") [Movie]
  • 銀幕ヘタリアAxis Powers:白くぬれ! Ginmaku Hetalia - Axis Powers: Paint it, White (Shiroku nure!)
  • 迷い猫オーバーラン! Mayoi Neko Overrun! ("Lost Cat Overrun!")
  • マルドック・スクランブル Mardock Scramble
  • みつどもえ Mitsudomoe
  • メジャー Major: 6th Season
  • ルー=グルー Loups=Garous
  • Working!!

I'm also stunned by just how much of the next season is composed of light novels that were adapted into manga before they were adapted into the anime. I don't believe I recall just how much of manga used to be its own entity before anime adaption in the past, and I can't recall the one light novel that created such an explosion in the entertainment business in Japan.

Either way, this is the first time my curiosity has been sparked this much by a single anime season. Granted, that doesn't mean I will be impressed by what gets released out there, but it's a start.

The goal: to try to review at least the opening sequence of all of these titles in the next month or so. Yes, it's probably smart to "not judge a book by its cover"...

Luckily, these don't exactly have a cover.