Thursday, December 9, 2010

Fall 2010 - Rest of the Best

Sumimasen! Sumimasen!
(We're sorry! We're sorry!)

We can't do it. AniMaybe cannot review everything.

There's no way that one person can watch ALL of the shows from the fall anime season. It's impossible. You find someone who can watch hundreds of hours of anime over a three-month span, and I'll show you a skeleton of a person who is trying to claw his way through the walls from either too much anime or too little sunlight. Moderation for all, and until AniMaybe manages to get a second reviewer, you won't see me going through hell and brimstone to get this all done.

What we can do is review what we could watch. The next few entries in this blog will be a review of the shows we were able to catch, along with those shows we just couldn't continue to watch, no matter how much tape you put over our eyelids to keep them open.

Star Driver: Kagayaki no Takuto

Synopsis: "Southern Cross Island" off the shores of Japan is not frequented by many visitors, so the arrival of a new student, Takuto Tsunashi, makes a serious splash, especially when he is discovered washed up on its shores by two high-school students. While Takuto instantly becomes friends with Wako and her proposed fiancee Sugata, the friendly environment between himself and the rest of the student body is only a mirage.

The island itself houses many secrets. The organization known as the "Glittering Star Crusade" is investigating the legendary mysteries of the "Cybody" machines and attempting to destroy the maidens of the island that keep the Cybodies from escaping a neutral war ground known as "Zero Time". With their destruction, the Cybodies can be piloted in real time and space, but the arrival of Takuto signals the fated conflict with the "Galactic Pretty-Boy", as he has his own Cybody that he can pilot to battle the "Crusade".

Thoughts: Dare I say it, possibly the most interesting mecha show since Giant Robo? Star Driver is a fantastic new approach to mecha that deserved to be animated. Not only are the machines inventive in their design, but they are inventive in their operation and battle simulation. The characters are colorful in their school setting, yet vicious and vain when turned against each other. Takuto has just enough youthful energy and suspicious background to make him an excellent main character, and his association with Sugata and Wako could make for an interesting relationship.

Why wasn't it reviewed?: Simply put, outside of its premiere at New York Anime Fest in October, there just hasn't been enough exposure. Funimation, Crunchyroll, and ANN have all stepped away from streaming the show. Considering that Aniplex has ventured to release their own materials on DVD, they could be sitting on this series for an non-streamed release, but it's a shame that we haven't seen more of this online. The tease in NYAF, however, does make me hopeful we'll see Star Driver in some form in the US.

Synopsis: Once again, Kô Ichinomiya is wrapped up in the absurd community utopia on the shores of the Arakawa River through his proclaimed relationship with "Nino-san", a blonde Venusian who approaches life through a childlike perception. Straight-laced Kô finds himself suddenly faced with a variety of oddballs, including a star-faced guitarist in love with Nino, a war-scarred male "nun", and a kappa in charge of the community who denies he's wearing a costume (despite the zipper).

While Kô's situation in the first season of the show forced him to butt heads against his demanding father, the second season switches the focus onto Nino's nature as an alien. While the cast of the bizarre increases, Nino is told of her imminent return to Venus. Kô finds this to be an opportunity to get to know Nino more, while of course, the cast of characters sees this as a free trip to Venus.

Thoughts: Once again, Arakawa jabs and needles its viewers with small absurdities before it drops the punch line on them like an ACME anvil. However, we may be seeing the extent of its ability to rib people with surrealism; the new characters don't grab enough attention with their quirks, and the existing supporting cast has their own background held in check. This is definitely good for the Kô/Nino dynamic, in order to build their relationship, but I can't see this series going further than a second season.

Why wasn't it reviewed?: Again, most of it is due to the lack of exposure, but the show doesn't really step away from what made it so good in the first season. That's not to say that director Akiyuki Shinbo and animation studio Shaft have revised the formula that made the first season so great, but considering the show really has not improved or devolved, there's just no need to review it. Seriously, it's still the same and still good, perhaps to the point that a revision of the show's title was unnecessary.

Synopsis: Yakumo Saitô is a college student that doesn't appear to have much interest in college at all, hiding all day in the Film Studies room. Although he clearly doesn't have much direction, he still draws rumors from the student body, leading to a visit from Haruka Ozawa. Haruka has heard about Yakumo's extraordinary ability to use his red eye to see the souls of the dead bound to victims. Considering her friends have been either killed or hospitalized after they all trespassed into an abandoned school, she needs answers from someone who can interact with the supernatural.

This then leads Yakumo and Haruka onto an awkward partnership—Haruka wants to make Yakumo more of a social creature, perhaps even one more helpful towards criminal investigation, but Yakumo appears to have too much past baggage to comply. The rest of the series involves Yakumo's apathetic involvement in cases, all while a man with two red eyes follows in the shadows...

Thoughts: Psychic Detective Yakumo was originally a novel and a live-action television series before it was animated, so there are very realistic parts to the animation and story, sometimes to the point of drowsiness. There is certainly a minimalist approach towards the show, but considering the detective-show competition, Yakumo looks pretty decent in comparison to Tantei Opera Milky Holmes. It's interesting to see where things will go with the antagonist lurking in the shadows, and I'd watch this a bit more...

Why wasn't it reviewed?: ...if access was easier, and the show had just a bit more impact. I won't go as far to call the series "bland", but Yakumo's personality clashes with the program. His relationship with Haruka almost feels forced, a positive female with a negative male, but there still seems to be direction with the show. I'd watch some more of it if Psychic Detective Yakumo was made available as an alternative to some of the online shows out there.

Synopsis: Lag Seeing is a "Letter Bee", a postal carrier who risks his life to deliver messages to and from the people of AmberGround, a cold and dark society that must operate on the warmth of an artificial sun. His job is a dangerous one, considering that the giant spirit insects called "Gaichû" that fly about the land want his letters for the "hearts" that reside inside them. Along with his "dingo" partner Niche, Lag fights to be as brave as Gauche, the Letter Bee Lag had met when he was a child and who had rescued him from the Gaichû.

However, the first season ended in a cliffhanger, as Lag was actually betrayed by Gauche himself, the latter stealing away the letters Lag was to deliver. Apparently, there is an organization called the "Reverse" that wishes to stop the Letter Bees from making their rounds, and Gauche's amnesia has left him vulnerable to their manipulations. Lag's new mission is to stop the Reverse and rescue Gauche in the process.

Thoughts: Letter Bee REVERSE is a very imaginative anime, no doubt. At times, the show is so imaginative that it becomes a little cumbersome to its own story and requires a solid mind to follow the trails. Now that a counter-organization has surfaced to oppose the Letter Bees, there is a lot more urgency towards a conclusion and a motivation for Lag to become a better employee.

Why wasn't this reviewed?: It will be reviewed at some point, but the series needs a thorough review from Square 1, not Square 26. There's just too much in terms of previous episodes, and since Crunchyroll is content to call Letter Bee REVERSE a continuation of Letter Bee, so shall I be content to start it at the very beginning.

Next time: We're sorry for not reviewing the half-decent shows!

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