Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Winter 2011 Anime Draft

Now that AniMaybe has two contributing voices, Bradley and I can spread the workload out and review shows more often. Granted, we're only human; you're not going to get twelve reviews for a twelve-episode show. However, reviews will be more periodic and thorough, about four per show. Currently, we plan to spread the analysis out in three-episode arcs, unless we really REALLY can't get through the muck of a series.

That being said, we sort know...have to pick what we want to watch. Considering Bradley and I aren't even close to each other, dartboards, Bingo ping-pong balls, and other random acts of random distribution won't do. We're going to have to do this the ESPN way. It's time for a...


Okay, time to line up and pick our poisons. From all of the shows being shown in Japan this winter, Bradley and I have chosen our top seven shows that we'd like to review for the season and our reasons behind them.

1. Geoff - Rio ~ Rainbow Gate! (Crunchyroll)
Okay, I'll admit this is my "Sam Bowie" pick here. (For those not in the know, Sam Bowie was the guy the Portland Trailblazers picked instead of Michael Jordan in 1984.) I know that Rio Rollins Tachibana is Tecmo's prized pet when it comes to slot-machine fan service, so I'm not at all surprised to see her get an entire show devoted to her. I expect bounces to parts of the body that shouldn't bounce, abnormally shiny skin, and tons of costume changes for Rio. Yes, I may be wasting my pick on a show that could be disastrously bad, but there's always the possibility of it becoming so bad it's good. At least they picked the right studio, Xebec (Love Hina, To Love-Ru), to roll out the sex factor.

2. Bradley - Fractale
It's probably fair to say that Yamakan is more famous as a critic of the industry than as a director. That's not to undersell his skills at the helm of a series though- he's made enjoyable anime despite fairly cliché premises, such as the shônen romance throwback Kannagi or Black Rock Shooter. But if he made each of these projects while constrained by trying to appeal to a small otaku base, perhaps his turn in this noitaminA series will show what his talents are like when unleashed. There are other great names attached to this project, such as media critic Hiroki Azuma, and both Yamakan's Studio Ordet and A-1 Pictures have been a reliable source of good animation. While I'm concerned that the series may just wallow in nostalgia instead of trying to break new ground, it's probably the most promising anime I've seen in a long, long time. (For more on Yamakan's opinions and what he hopes to accomplish with Fractale, read this article on Asahi.)

3. Geoff - Wandering Son (Crunchyroll)
The Wandering Son manga is currently being written by Takako Shimura, currently one of my favorite mangaka, as her past and present focus on the confusions of sexual orientation have matched quite well with her wispy style. Her other concurrent work Aoi Hana was not only one beautiful manga, but it translated well into anime and made for a very touching tale. Wandering Son tells another taboo tale, this time from the perspective of gender identity at the middle-school level. The art style looks so bright for a story that could be stained with so much self-doubt that I had to pick it.

4. Bradley - Beezelbub (Crunchyroll)
An anime about a surrogate father sounds more shôjo than shônen, so it's surprising to find out that this series originated from the pages of Shônen Jump. Even if the child is the spawn of Satan, it's hard to imagine how it appeals to the same audience that reads Bleach and One Piece. Because of this, I'm intrigued to see where it's going, if only in the hopes that it has Super Powered Killer Babies, because as we all know, those are the best kind of babies.

5. Geoff - Dragon Crisis! (Crunchyroll)
I likely picked Dragon Crisis! out of reaction. Yes, you once again have one male lead with a multitude of female characters, but there seems to at least be some good background here with the male forced to protect a red dragon who comes in the form of a young girl. Since the show has only the light novel as a resource, written by award-winning novelist Kaya Kizaki (D.Gray-man), I think the show has a lot more to present to the casual fan.

6. Bradley - Wolverine
I don't read comic books. I have nothing against them, per se, I just have too many other interests to make the time for them. My knowledge of the Marvel Universe and X-Men is about as layman as you can get, since most of it comes from the movies. But I'm still curious about Madhouse's take on Wolverine, even though anime's history of adapting American books is spotty at best and outright awful at worst.

7. Geoff - Puella Magi Madoka Magica
The "magical-girl" genre has been pretty stagnant over the past few years, as franchises like Pretty Cure and Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha have dominated the airwaves and Comiket kiosks. After hearing that Akiyuki Shinbo and SHAFT (Bakemonogatari, Sayonara Zetsubô-sensei) would take their own shot at the genre, I felt it was a rather dangerous venture. However, it helps when you get the Hidamari Sketch crew back together for production work and star composer Yuki Kajiura for the soundtrack. I expect big things out of this "anime-first" project. Big things.

8. Bradley - Infinite Stratos
I picked this one because I felt bad for Geoff (I don't need your sympathy! - Geoff). His first pick was Rio, and he's also reviewing Dragon Crisis! and perhaps Kore wa Zombie Desu Ka? When it came time to make my fourth pick, I passed on GOSICK in favor of this relic, which I suspect was conceived by digging around in Gonzo's box of rejected ideas. It was a pity pick, and I suspect I will suffer for it.

9. Geoff - GOSICK (Crunchyroll)
I've been hearing some really good buzz about this show, and a little study of its author Kazuki Sakuraba has shown some surprising results. I never would have expected a light-novel author's works to even be considered for a Naoki Prize, let alone win it (she won with her story Watashi no Otoko in 2007). The series has nine novels to its name, all of them republished as mainstream novels, and I expect the Holmes/Watson dynamic between the main characters to really draw fans. Besides, the main heroine, a dead ringer for Kuroneko from the bizarrely-popular Oreimo, smokes a pipe!

10. Bradley - Star Driver: Kagayaki no Takuto
I've been following the series as it airs, and I plan to see it through to completion, so I may as well blog about it. It was one of the highlights of last season, and I see no reason why that can't hold true for this season as well.

11. Geoff - Kore wa Zombie Desu ka? (Crunchyroll)
Something feels completely acrid from the concept of this show, and I'm not talking about Crunchyroll's interesting decision to not translate the title into English. You have a necromancer without a voice (or a need for a voice actress), a magical girl with a chainsaw, a vampire ninja, a girl with a guy's name, and a high-school student who has become a zombie. It feels more like a weird Final Fantasy party to me. (By the way, if this approaches zom-cest in any way, shape or form, I'm out of here.)

12. Bradley - Level E (Crunchyroll)
Yoshiro Togashi is primarily known for his shônen fighting series, but he has well-known love for the supernatural and paranormal. Level E seems to be a straightforward way for him to indulge that love, and though I'm wary of watching another anime by Gonzo-affiliates David Production, I enjoyed the anime adaptation of Hunter x Hunter so much that I'm still looking forward to this series, if only because creative spirits are at their best when writing about what they love.

13. Geoff - Yumekui Merry
Boy, J.C. Staff—you guys need some sort of break after knocking out 22 television shows in three years. I suppose there is hope for this show, but I have this helpless feeling that it's got lots of overlap with the other shows I'm going to be reviewing. A boy who can predict dreams meets a demon of the dreams and promises to help return her to her actual realm while keeping those demons still in the dream world from reaching the real world. Okay, I'm game, but if it ends with Mario dreaming up the whole thing...

14. Bradley - Kimi ni Todoke, 2nd Season
Don't expect me to get to this series soon; I'm still watching the first season in preparation for the second. But I like what I've seen so far. It has good characters, bright animation, and some involving romance. Hopefully, the second season will be a continuation of that.

Cardfight!! Vanguard (Crunchyroll), Mitsudomoe 2nd season (Crunchyroll), Freezing, Starry Sky, Haiyoru! Nyaruani, Saint Seiya: The Lost Canvas (Crunchyroll), Oniichan no Koto Nanka Zenzen Suki Janai'n Dakara Ne!!

(We may get to some of these shows, but right now they're not on the radar. Have fun in the minor leagues, guys!)

Now that the starting lineups have been selected for the full season, our reviewing chops can be prepared for the regular season. As soon as the shows start to get rolling, we'll give you our perspectives on the shows that deserve All-Star recognition and those that deserve to be booed like an overpaid, underperforming third baseman. Until then, PLAY BALL!

Okay, I'll stop with the lame sports analogy...


  1. I would have used a Magic: the Gathering analogy, which would have been far, far lamer.