Monday, May 30, 2011

Your Guide to the Summer 2011 Anime Season!

Summer is just around the corner, believe it or not! Watermelon smashing, school swimsuits, and part-time jobs at the seaside restaurant! Well, perhaps we've already seen this in all of the harem comedies from Winter and Spring, but now the temperature actually reflects the scene!

It also means that, when July comes around the corner, a fraction of the shows we've been enjoying are replaced by temporary fixes until Autumn. Here's a listing of the new shows you'll come across for Summer 2011. Enjoy the hot weather and go visit The Cart Driver for more information on the shows!

Monday, May 23, 2011

ShitsuMonDay: Double Dollar Bill, Y'all

I've got...
Nine zillion Zeni in my zapatas
I've got one hundred thousand Wongs in my way

I've got plenty of perfect Potch
Lots of Jennies on my watch
And my Miami Dollars would buy Tokyo Bay

There is nothing quite as wonderful as Beries
There is nothing quite as beautiful as Sen
There's nothing that is greater
Than handling a Meseta
With money there is lo-ots to yen

There is nothing quite as wonderful as Beries
(Beri Beri Beri)
There is nothing like a newly minted Kan
(Kan Kan Kan)

I am up to my Gils
In wondrous Woolong bills
It's accountancy that makes the world so grand
(grand grand grand)

You can always [C]s control
By extracting Extols
For it's money, money, money that makes the world so graaaaaaand!

(Tip of the hat to The Money Programme)

Simple question for this week's ShitsuMonDay! What's the best fictional currency out there? Midas Money? Teiai Dollars? Macca?!

My money's on Munny.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

ShitsuMonDay: Whoooooa, We're Halfway There

Her son's a third-grader in middle school and was studying for exams.
The late-night Cup Noodle, his mother forgot it.
The son...threw a hissy-fit.

Bon Jovi knows a good product from Japan when he sees one. Do you?

We're hitting you with this week's ShitsuMon. With the season halfway over, the breaking point has been reached. By now, it's all or nothing—if you haven't dropped some of the awful shows out there from your viewing schedule, you're stuck with watching them all season long. No matter how much you try not to, you're watching for the bad shows to flame out in a "Blaze of Glory", but you're also wise to know which shows are about as bad as EdTV.

So here's the ShitsuMon for Monday: what train crash of a series have you been unable to peel your eyes away from this season, due to the sheer love of Bad Medicine?

My choices after the break.

Monday, May 9, 2011

ShitsuMonDay: How's My Driving?

Finally, it's all done. 33 reviews are in the book for the new shows of Spring 2011, and hopefully it's been worth it. Of course, we only have another half-season until Summer 2011 comes our way, so now comes the time where I'd like to ask you your opinions!

This is where wordplay comes into play. See, "question" in Japanese is "shitsumon", so I'd like to devote a part of the blog each Monday here at AniMaybe in order to ask the readers a question and have them provide the vital feedback for the blog to grow. Ergo, "ShitsuMonDay" is an overlap of "shitsumon" and "Monday", the day for asking questions.

This Week's Topic: How's My Driving?

F1RST IMPRESSIONS: Shôwa Monogatari

We're coming to the end of our preview of the newest anime shows for Spring 2011 with Shôwa Monogatari, a story of nostalgia centered in Tokyo during the "Golden Sixties".

Storyline: 3

Picture it—Tokyo, 1964, the 39th year of the Shôwa Emperor. The year was a massive one for all of Japan, as it marked its first global sporting event in the 1964 Summer Olympics. It was the year that composer Yoko Kanno and frontman of X Japan, Hide, were born. This resurgence of Japanese culture marked a distinct change from wartime recovery and led to change even within households as they tried to bridge generations.

Such familial change is shown in Shôwa Monogatari (Shôwa Story) through changes in the Yamazaki household. While the show is narrated by the youngest in the household, 12-year-old Kôhei, we get both sides of the generational gap. The night before the New Year is a peaceful celebration in the household, but the next day brings a definite sense of change—Kôhei's father fights with his older brother Taichi when they discuss his potential career with a larger corporation, while the middle daughter Yûko attends the first shrine visit of the year and starts to develop feelings for her former senpai Yûsuke.

The story is meant to be a quiet and reflective one, significant steps in history drawn into the background as the Yamazaki family deals with adolescence and social change during a time of prosperity. In all likelihood, the family itself won't be remembered in history books, but at least such a show will be a considerable cross-section of what life was like in the '60's. Perhaps we could also consider it an animated Wonder Years for Japan, where thirty-something adults can understand how their own parents grew up and the elderly can smile about fonder times.

Animation: 2

While there are definitive structures and locations that have been revived through reanimation of still-life photos, the show frankly has yet to impress as an art form. Unfortunately, the animation is blended with a little bit of computer animation that doesn't help create a sense of reminiscence. If this show was completely drawn by hand, even if that pen was digital, the art would be much more impressive.

Characters: 3

To tell this story, it makes sense to produce an extended family that is slowly transforming itself into a nuclear version and to place them in an evolving environment. The Yamazaki family is a pretty good representation of core Japanese values; a blue-collar father, a stay-at-home mother, a traditional grandmother, and three children at varying stages of separation from the family. In some ways, this is a good transition between the close-knit unit seen in Sazae-san and the modernized view of the family we see in typical anime shows.

Track: 3

The music here is meant to reflect the times of the eras, so it's pushed further into the background for fortification of the show's age. However, it's good to see that the producers wisely chose songs that represent both the mid-60's and parts of Japan's past. While the songs may be unrecognizable to many viewers overseas, the music does its job effectively.

"Hype": 2

Despite the release of the story as full-length animated movie in January, it did not produce much of a splash in box offices—it failed to crack the top 10 in the box office. While the show is being animated by the same studio that produced the movie (WAO World), it is being directed by Hiroshi Kugimiya and Mitsuhiro Tôgô, both of whom are novices to the director's chair.

Overall: 13/25
It's nice to have a show like Shôwa Monogatari tell stories about life from one or two generations ago, but I'm not sure if this series will equate to a deeper nostalgia of the past. While life was a little more romantic in the 1960's, as we will likely see with the stories of Taichi and Yûko, the consumer lifestyle of the 1960's was not as difficult as life in the '40's (Barefoot Gen) or '50's (Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms). Perhaps Shôwa Monogatari can fill in the dramatic spaces that slice-of-life comedies like Sazae-san and Chibi Maruko-chan cannot touch, but it will be interesting to see how people will relive a prosperous era like the "Golden Sixties" through the show.


We're nearing the end of our preview of the newest anime shows for Spring 2011 with AnoHana, an original A-1 Pictures animation that occupies the second of two noitaminA slots on Fuji TV.

Storyline: 4

As the heat from the summer months hammer down on Jinta, a reclusive teen who has given up on going to school, he's also haunted by a different presence—the ghost of "Menma", a childlike girl with silver hair. The two of them comprised part of the "Super Peace Busters" when they were kids, playing with their other friends Tsuruko, Anaru, Poppo, and Yukiatsu. While the nicknames still stick years later, Menma's unfortunate death after a spat within the group has demolished the friendship between the remaining five.

However, Menma isn't some sort of undetectable ghost—when she hangs on people, they feel her weight, and bumps against tables upset glasses. Jinta calls it a manifestation of his "stress", but Menma's desire for a "wish" to be fulfilled stirs him to the point of revisiting the old hangout where the "Super Peace Busters" used to play. It's here where he meets his friend Poppo again and gets the sense that everyone's still attached to Menma's death in some form.

AnoHana, short for Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Boku-tachi wa Mada Shiranai ("We Still Don't Know the Name of the Flower We Saw That Day"), is basically striving for attachment to the viewers still looking for their past childhood, whether the memories are good or bad, and that's typically a good subject for a solid story. If anything, I expect the story to play like a Studio Ghibli film and focus on that conflict between maturity and familiarity, change and complacency. It should be a good show as the ex-friends reunite.

Animation: 3

While the hand-drawn animation is generally without much in terms of flaws, on par for the course with A-1 Pictures, there isn't anything overly attracting about the overall flow and art. We get some good backgrounds, but there rightfully shouldn't be much in terms of focus on how pretty the landscapes are or how fluid the characters move. This is a story-fueled show, so the art is on point to stay away from complex points-of-view.

Characters: 3

At first, I was tempted to lower my grade when I came across the plain characters and the character designs by Masayoshi Tanaka (Highschool of the Dead)—there just doesn't seem to be much on the surface to make this random display of six characters appealing. However, I'm allowing for some developmental leeway, as we see just how much some of the characters have changed in ten years. Menma does appear to be the childish sort and a little frustrating to accept as a central character, but the role fits for a ghost who hasn't matured in ten years.

Track: 4

Considering the idea that AnoHana still takes place in the 21st century, even during the flashbacks, it was nice that the staff opted for someone who had experience composing music for dramas during that period. While the REMEDIOS brand hasn't produced anime soundtracks, they've worked on films and TV dramas of the late 90's/early 00's (Friends, PiCNiC), so the music gets a great hint of breeziness. Especially meaningful is the ending theme, a cover of pop band Zone's 2001 single "secret base ~Kimi ni Kureta Mono~" that captures the final passage of summer.

"Hype": 4

The noitaminA and A-1 pictures names should be enough to lift AnoHana to a little more of a respected status, but the real reason to watch may be in the staff listing. The AnoHana project managed to lure in Tatsuyuki Nagai for direction, and his work on lighthearted dramas (Toradora!, Honey and Clover) has been commendable. I can't wait to see how this one turns out.

Overall: 18/25
Trends seem to indicate that noitaminA is opting for a bipolar approach to their seasonal shows by creating one that depends more on action ([C], Fractale) and one that depends more on drama (Wandering Son). I certainly have no problems with this approach at all, as it gives everyone a chance to appreciate the product. I'm a little surprised to find that AnoHana was the product that wasn't selected for online streaming, but it's likely that this slow sort of drama may not be appreciated by foreign fans as much as domestic fans might.

Nevertheless, if you were a big fan of Wandering Son last season and need a show that takes the edges off of the comedies out there, AnoHana is a selection that should appeal to you.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

F1RST IMPRESSIONS: The Rest of Spring (Part 2)

We're getting closer to the end of the vast cascade of new shows for the Spring 2011 season. Today, we run down Hyouge Mono, Dororon Enma-kun, and Moshidora.

Hyouge Mono

Storyline: 3
Animation: 3
Characters: 2
Track: 3
"Hype": 2

Overall: 13/25

Confidentially, perhaps due to an aftereffect from all the modernized Warring-Period shows out there (Tono to Issho, Battle Girls, Hyakka Ryôran), Hyouge Mono wasn't on my radar and likely wasn't on many others. The story does take a turn by focusing on Sasuke Furuta, a vassal of the great Nobunaga Oda, instead of Oda himself, and there is a little more insight on what aesthetics meant to the Japanese. While Sasuke understands the way of the samurai, he also desires the arts, comically fretting when priceless tea ceremony artifacts are sacrificed or involved in negotiations. However, such appreciation may cause him to conflict with the grandiose scale of Oda's own sense of aesthetics.

There are some parts to Hyouge Mono that makes the patience worthwhile—Sasuke's facial expressions when he is holding back euphoria and his vigor to preserve the arts, in particular—but there are also drier, more dramatic parts to the show. At times, its fits the general feel of the era, but other times it requires a little more resolve. For anime fans, this may be a bit too vanilla for their tastes, but for fans of Akira Kurosawa films and art films such as Rikyu it could be a worthwhile watch.

Dororon Enma-kun Meeramera

Storyline: 4
Animation: 4
Characters: 4
Track: 3
"Hype": 3

Overall: 18/25

Lately, there has been a desire in Japan to rewind the entertainment clock to the Shôwa era. Shôwa Story is currently running as an animated series after a successful run in movie theaters, and My Family's History (Wagaya no Rekishi), a live-action drama series, covered what it was like for both commoners and popular figures to live during the stretch between 1927 and 1964. Perhaps that's why Gô Nagai's famed series from Shôwa 48 (1973) Dororon Enma-kun is getting a reset.

When her friends become faceless, all thanks to a face-eating monster at their school, Hiromi is rescued by the "Demon Patrol", a quartet of Japanese yôkai from the underworld who have been sent to control the outbreak of demons. In charge is the titular Enma-kun, a fire yôkai who can detect the presence of monsters and exterminate them with a giant hammer. Flanked by the sweet snow princess Yukiko, the Muppet-like kappa sprite Kappaeru, and his trusty hat-monster Chapeauji, Enma-kun save Hiromi and her friends, but like most comedy shows, the damage from the rescue is far greater than expected.

With plenty of Shôwa-era imagery in place, Dororon Enma-kun Meeramera doesn't disappoint. The comedy is fast and furious, while the animation is rather active on the screen. Even better, the interactions within the patrol and the anticipation of some creative monsters gives plenty of material to use, and the producers actually gave the reset more charm by substituting a sub-character from the original series as the new lead character (the original central character was Tsutomu, Hiromi's friend).

Dororon Enma-kun Meeramera is a great way to reintroduce Gô Nagai's funnier side with the new generation. Let's hope there's more.


Storyline: 3
Animation: 2
Characters: 2
Track: 1
"Hype": 4 (in Japan), 1 (elsewhere), so call it a 2.5

Overall: 10.5/25

There's more than one way to Kôshien, that famous location in the outskirts of Ôsaka where all high-school baseball teams strive to play. Most of the routes require hard work (Big Swing!, Cross Game, Touch), but very rarely are we shown one where strategy becomes more cerebral. However, I can't say that I have ever seen the path to Kôshien treated the way it is in Moshidora (short for "What If the Female Manager of a High School Baseball Team read Drucker's 'Management'"?).

With her childhood friend Yuki forced into a hospital for a chronic condition, Minami Kawashima opts to take charge of managing the high-school's team in place of Yuki (mind you, "manager" does not mean "coach" in this sense). However, Minami doesn't know the first thing about managing one, even though she used to play it, and accidentally choosing a book about managing a business doesn't initially help the situation. After all, what's "marketing" got to do with baseball?

Moshidora is an interesting approach to get people to read Peter Drucker's Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices, and it has apparently had some success (the Moshidora business novel has sold 1.8 million copies and will be adapted into a movie for a June release). That being said, the appeal for Moshidora overseas is likely non-existent, especially considering the series has already finished for the season, having started its 10-episode run in March. The drama will likely overtake the actual lessons taught by the book and tell its own story, but for now it's hard to really stand behind an attempt to think of baseball as a business.

Considering the labor disagreements in sports, I doubt many here will want to see baseball that way through Moshidora.

Friday, May 6, 2011

F1RST IMPRESSIONS: The Rest of Spring (Part 1)

We're getting closer to the end of the vast cascade of new shows for the Spring 2011 season. Today, we run down Gambling Apocalypse Kaiji: Season 2, Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko, and The Qwaser of Stigmata II.

Gambling Apocalypse Kaiji: Season 2

Storyline: 3
Animation: 2
Characters: 3
Track: 2
"Hype": 3

Overall: 13/25

Much like those betting small potatoes in high-risk games, it's hard to get a good feel from the second season of Gambling Apocalypse Kaiji (Tobaku Mokushiroku Kaiji), especially when I have yet to process most of the first season. Basically, the show drives the main character Kaiji Itô, a man torn asunder by gambling debts, to the depths of despair and forces him to fight back through more gambling attempts. The second season has Kaiji even further behind the eight-ball, as he is forced to work for the Teiei Corporation's secretive labor mines for peanuts in order to pull himself out of debt. Of course, his fellow laborers aren't content to just work to get out of the hole—a complex game of chinchirorin is there to test Kaiji's resolve.

There is certainly human drama and psychology that builds Kaiji into a nervous show that emphasizes the frail nature of the mind and heart, but the need to animate such a show doesn't seem to jive. Kaiji had been animated into a 26-episode arc, only to be released as a live-action film last year, so what was the reasoning behind animating a second season? Just my opinion on the matter, but I'd expect more drama if the players were a little more realistic.

Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko

Storyline: 2
Animation: 3
Characters: 3
Track: 3
"Hype": 3

Overall: 14/25

Take the talkative story of one generally-normal male with multiple female oddballs (Bakemonogatari) with the concept that one of those girls is from outer space (Arakawa Under the Bridge), and you just might have Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko (Electric Wave Woman and Youthful Man), another SHAFT-produced anime with Akiyuki Shinbo at the helm. When Makoto's parents conveniently transfer to jobs overseas, he moves to his aunt's house, only to come across her estranged daughter Erio, a blue-haired space-case who wraps herself up in a futon mattress and believes that she is, in some form, an alien.

And that's it. There are other characters that introduce themselves to Makoto's new school life, but the plot isn't exactly cumbersome or hard to handle. In fact, with all of the talkiness in this show, including a rather lengthy discussion about Erio's existence, it feels like Shaft is trying to get away with presenting a story that isn't all that exciting visually. In fact, Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko doesn't feel much like a Shaft anime at all.

Who knew that Shinbo could make something so plain?

Qwaser of Stigmata II

Storyline: MAKE
Animation: THE PAIN
Characters: GO AWAY
Track: 1
"Hype": 2

Overall: 3/25

Hey, wait a minute. Even I don't know why I'm delving into this madness.

Look, there were so many warnings coming from people that have seen the first season of Seikon no Qwaser (The Quaser of Stigmata), but it's hard to ignore the temptation to press a button with so many hazard signs placed about it. Plot be damned—near as I can tell, there's this guy from Russia who is part of some Christian police force, but his powers can only be magnified if he feeds off "Soma", which just happens to be breast milk. Great. One episode in, and we get twelve minutes of chitter-chat as the already androgynous "Sasha" infiltrates a girls' academy as a female student, five minutes of breast-wobbling fights, and three minutes of Sasha trying to suck on a different girl's udders as he searches for Soma.

Good grief. Even the censors aren't flinching at this show. The breast shots are explicitly blurred out with both bright and dark patches, erotic movements are put on pause, and anything even close to the sound of an orgasm is removed from the soundtrack. Hell, this is soft porn trying to masquerade as a serious show. Even worse, it gave fans just enough of a SPROING! to give it a second go-around.

Let's be honest here. Put the remote down, and run away.

Thursday, May 5, 2011


Spring marks the return of many cherished things—baseball, cherry blossoms, fresh weather (Allergies, too. - Ed.)—but it also means a resurgence for shows that had taken a holiday for a season or two. While the likes of Bleach and Naruto never rest, Crunchyroll has been more than happy to roll out three shows that make their well-awaited return to their streaming schedule. To keep things short and sweet, we review the new renewed anime shows with pocket-sized reviews.

Gintama' (Season 5)

Storyline: 4
Animation: 4
Characters: 5
Track: 4
"Hype": 5

Overall: 22/25

How in the world did I miss the first 200 episodes of Gintama? At what point did Shônen Jump comedies return to being true comedies and not just some strength contest in disguise? Perhaps it was due to the fact that I stopped reading the anthology in 2004, back when the manga from Hideaki Sorachi first made its appearance. Needless to say, I hadn't known the show beforehand, and I am fully regretting my ignorance to it.

The best thing about watching the stoic Gintoki and his odd-jobs partners fumble about the modernized version of samurai-era Edo, one complete with alien presences and gadgets that samurai would never be seen with, is the fact that the writers have completely lost all control of the fourth wall, often devolving the established characters into parodies of themselves before re-establishing the status quo. The sight gags are priceless, while the drama and energy are over-the-top, leading to even funnier conclusions. Best of all, the loose nature of the show brings the best out of the actors and some superior chops when the straight man yells at all the dumbasses the other characters have become.

Prior knowledge is not that big a deal—it took just an episode or two of Gintama' (it's still pronounced "Gintama" even with the apostrophe acting as a "secondary sex characteristic") to understand the show's direction. Of course, it helps to have characters that are about as lost as you are.

(Gintama' is simulcast on Crunchyroll every Monday at 5:30 AM EDT.)

The World God Only Knows II

Storyline: 4
Animation: 3
Characters: 3
Track: 3
"Hype": 4

Overall: 17/25

When last we left Keima, the galge otaku so absorbed in 2-D fantasy that 3-D girls turn him off, he was roped into helping a demon from Hell, the atypical scatterbrain Elsie, in her retrieval lost souls from the hearts of maidens. He does a nifty job at it too, if he doesn't say so himself, but the arrival of Elsie's senior from school Haqua, a steadfast hunter in her own right, signals a change in the weather. Apparently there are lost souls so strong that they can occupy the heart of demons, making Keima's job all the more riskier!

It's unique to watch Keima, who should be the untalented average male in the show, stealing the spotlight by acting so confidently during challenges. While his techniques may be far-fetched and logical only to other otaku, it's nice to see a brave male lead who admits his lack of talent instead of a souped-up male lead with the spine of a chicken. While the show is predominantly a parody of harem shows, the main concern I have is that this will turn into a Rumiko Takahashi scenario where all the girls end up fighting over the one guy.

Decent in presentation and animation, The World God Only Knows II is good for Shônen Sunday's health as it gets some good representation in the Shônen Jump-dominated Spring 2011 schedule.

(The World God Only Knows is simulcast on Crunchyroll every Monday at 2 PM EDT.)

Tono to Issho: Eyepatch's Ambition!

Storyline: 2
Animation: 3
Characters: 3
Track: 2
"Hype": 2

Overall: 12/25

I'll be dreadfully frank—I didn't like the first Tono to Issho season at all. It was way too short to even count as an "animated short", each episode merely a one-minute slice from the 30-minute OVA. I'm not sure if other fans had the exact same complaint, but it looks like Media Factory and animation studio Gathering might have actually listened.

Surprisingly, the shows have dramatically improved, even though the 90-second shows have only been doubled in duration. The animation is not only cleaner and brighter, but it has allowed for more movement for the characters. The creative license even appears to have been pushed further, some superdeformity scattered with the stoic characterizations. As an after-effect, the comedy's actually a little better now that some time has been allotted and the jokes have space to breathe.

Tono to Issho: Eyepatch's Ambition is still hardly a great "show", but compared to the past season, even this rickshaw looks like a Rolls Royce.

(Tono to Issho: Eyepatch's Ambition is simulcast on Crunchyroll every Monday at 2 PM EDT.)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

F1RST IMPRESSIONS: Bridge to the Starry Skies

We continue our look at the newest anime shows for Spring 2011 with Bridge to the Starry Skies, an anime adaption of the visual-novel game published by Feng.

Storyline: 0

Kazuma Hoshino's a good older brother to his sibling Ayumu—because of Ayumu's frail constitution, he decides to move back to the countryside that he was raised, all to give him fresh air and peace. However, the town of Yamabiko is not exactly the easiest place to maneuver. While chasing down a monkey who has taken his brother's hat, Kazuma meets Ui, a beautiful green-and-blue-eyed(?) girl in the forests. Of course, like many adaptions of visual novels and eroge, Kazuma accidentally kisses Ui when he trips over his feet.

Kazuma's embarrassments don't finish there. He's kicked in the face by Ui's angry friend Ibuki, who naturally flashes her panties in the process. He's seen naked in the bath by the inn's assistant and the innkeeper herself. At least the next day of school is decent, but of course the small town of Yamabiko has only one school, and all the new friends (tsundere and not) share it.

So what's new? Bridge to the Starry Skies (Hoshizora e Kakaru Hashi) is Yosuga no Sora without the creepy incest angle, although seeing Ayumu in the opening sequence making cute smiling faces towards the camera with the other female characters doesn't help. There's no real plot to the first episode, except to establish Kazuma as the main character and his friend Daigo as the token "perverted friend". Other than that, there's nothing but sightseeing, and if you can't sit through a slide show and pictures from vacations to the Grand Canyon, you're not going to be able to sit through this.

Animation: 2

Yes, we have the entire Crayola box for this series. The animation is depressingly simple with hues that were never thought to exist being used to color in the lines, and it's a wonder that the characters' glasslike eyes don't break in the process. There's some good background shots that likely came from research, but is the animation here to sell the show or the towns that no one goes to anymore?

Characters: 1

1. Normal high-school male.
2. Central female with a black hole for a stomach.
3. Childhood friend of normal high-school male with a fear of men.
4. Tsundere friend of the central female.
5. Assorted other females.
6. Incredibly jealous and perverted male friend.

Well, if you had all those on your Bingo card, come up to the front and claim your prize. There's nothing new about the cast here, and I shouldn't be wasting your time explaining why.

Track: 0

For the first time this season, I've come across a soundtrack I would try to pawn off in an instant. The opening theme "Hoshikaze Horoscope" waffles between keys and melts from syrupy warbled lyrics, and the ending song "Dash do Cinderella" is unexcited karaoke. The acting itself from the voice actors is quite uninspiring, and the selection of voices is confounding.

"Hype": 2

The only hype from this show might be from its sales as a visual novel and the reputation of its animation studio, Dogakobo. Their main body of work is comprised of visual novel adaptions (11eyes, Koihime Musô, Myself; Yourself), so having them work on Hoshizora makes too much sense. This is also Takenori Mihara's first attempt at directing, so the staff looks a bit lacking in experience.

Overall: 5/25
I wish I knew why Japan keeps going for the sort of animated show Hoshizora would qualify as, but perhaps there's a chance it's due more to the idea of reminiscence than sheer moe appeal. It's unofficially categorized as being a "soothing" game (iyashi-kei) where the main character is transferred to the countryside, so it's possible that the creators were looking to send otaku back to their hometowns. that doesn't belittle the point that the show has no direction and no objective in mind. It's just a harem show that glorifies the towns people have left.

If you miss your home enough to watch Bridge to the Starry Skies, here's an idea—turn off the TV, put down the remote, and give your mother a call.

Bridge to the Starry Skies is simulcast on Crunchyroll every Thursday at 1:30 PM EDT.)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

F1RST IMPRESSIONS: Deadman Wonderland

We continue our look at the newest anime shows for Spring 2011 with Deadman Wonderland, based on the science-fiction manga from Jinsei Kataoka animated by Manglobe.

Storyline: 4

In the year 2023, Japan has reduced all of its incarcerations to a central, privately-owned prison that doubles as an amusement park, "Deadman Wonderland". Its prisoners are its cheap labor, painted clowns, and athletes to be used to entertain the throngs. Since it is a corporation, all rules are dictated by its own authorities, armed by self-reliant police forces. Prisoners are forced to dine on candies that provide an antidote; not taking one in 72 hours leads to automatic death.

In a middle school in Nagano, Ganta Igarashi hopes to visit that entertainment district during a field trip, only to be the lone survivor when a floating man in red slaughters his entire class. Twists of coincidence and blatant evidence tampering leads to Ganta's death sentence, his emotional plea unheard as minors such as Ganta are not immune to being sentenced to Deadman Wonderland. It's here that Ganta is doubly surprised—after befriending a carefree girl in white called "Shiro", he somehow activates a destructive force from his hand to save her from a falling structure, a force that might come from the red gem implanted in his chest by the "red man".

The plot may seem Hollywood-like by leaning heavily on corporate-state rebellion, but shows like Deadman Wonderland tend to keep the action running. Perhaps creator Jinsei Kataoka is playing with fire by introducing a penal system where the main character is jailed at a young age, but the story seems to have some interesting chess pieces in place.

Animation: 4

Manglobe has produced some pretty solid stuff in the past (Samurai Champloo, House of Five Leaves) and present (The World God Only Knows), so getting some nice approaches to animation and still-life is to be expected. The manga designs from Kazuma Kondô (who Kataoka also worked with to create Eureka 7) are adapted quite well for the animation by character designer Masaki Yamada.

Characters: 3

Deadman Wonderland does provide at least a stronger male lead than expected, voiced by the weathered Romi Park (Ed, Fullmetal Alchemist) to make Ganta nervous without making him feminine. The manipulative Tamaki and his brutal head-guard Makina make for some despicable characters, but there should be plenty of room for others as we meet the prisoners. The drawback comes from the applicability of Shiro to the series—not only does she feel out of place, but Kana Hanazawa pretty much reprises her role as Nessa from Fractale for the role. It's hard to like her assignment for the role.

Track: 4

NARASAKI has been a good producer for music in general, having teamed up with Kenji Ohtsuki for the Sayonara Zetsubo-sensei shows, and he provides good background for this show. The opening track—"One Reason" from DWB feat. fade—is a powerful English track that sets the stage for this trip to the insane asylum, while the ending theme "Shiny Shiny" just brings the day to an end.

"Hype": 4

Deadman Wonderland was supposed to have been animated for the Fall 2010 season, but delays pushed it back six months, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. This actually has made the show more anticipated than before, if not the most anticipated show of the spring. While the show is being directed by first-timer Kôichi Hatsumi, the fact that the show is being animated by one of the better studios out there and the manga's popularity definitely gives the show more of a hyped feel.

Overall: 19/25
Deadman Wonderland follows the track of movies like The Running Man and Rollerball by introducing a fantasyland where the wall between entertainment and death sentence is paper-thin in reality, but meters thick in perception, the general public treating the corporation as a savior. It will be interesting to see the direction of this show to witness just how the feelings towards such an institution change. While Ganta doesn't have the build of a hero, it's good to see him molded into one by the second episode, as unfathomable as the results may feel. I just hope Shiro doesn't turn the show into a dramatic version of Idiocracy.

It's because of Ganta that I also watch with trepidation. Build aside, he's going to need some maturity to make this show a classic. Let's hope it comes quickly.

Deadman Wonderland is simulcast on Crunchyroll every Saturday at 1:30 PM EDT.)

Monday, May 2, 2011


We continue our look at the newest anime shows for Spring 2011 with A-Channel, a slice-of-life manga from bb Kuroda that has been animated by Studio Gokumi.

Storyline: 1

In 2002, Azumanga Daioh, the four-panel manga that finally convinced otaku that yonkoma comics can be moe, ended its run in Dengeki Daioh and on television screens. The next year, Manga Time Kirara Carat, a comic anthology magazine devoted almost exclusively to moe yonkoma comics, began its run. Since then, the magazine has had a series of uber-successful franchises, mainly in the form of K-On!, Hidamari Sketch, and Dôjin Work.

With that comes the launch of the latest anime adaption, A-Channel, based on the serial from bb Kuroda. For second-year high-school student Run, life is a mindless chase after the butterflies, enjoying her classroom activities with her friends Nagi and Yûko. However, Run has left another friend in a little bit of a lurch—the petite Tôru is elated to finally be in high school with her older friend Run, but she's having trouble accepting the situation, chasing off boys with an aluminum bat and giving death-stares at Nagi and Yûko. Run, however, reassures Tôru that nothing has and will ever change between them.

And...that's about it. Tôru obviously has issues when it comes to making friends, while Run obviously has issues with intelligent thought. The comedy is expected to come from all that. If you ask me, that's a bit too vague of a "slice-of-life" concept, and it's a little hard to understand the selling point of A-Channel. Unlike Nichijô, the funnier cousin for the season, there's nothing that really makes A-Channel distinct.

Animation: 2

There's some nice animation when it comes to aesthetics, but the average animation takes a step back when computers are used to produce the background. There's just too much obvious clashing between regular and digital animation. Nothing spectacular to grab the viewer here, as Studio Gokumi (Koe de Oshigoto!) has yet to test themselves in animation.

Characters: 2

Aren't we getting a little tired of how the same quartet of yonkoma girls can be used over and over again? There are so many that fit this pattern who have already come before, so a show that involves them doing little to nothing doesn't seem to really have the charm that a K-On! or Lucky Star might have. A few points could be scored with Tôru being so infatuated with Run, but Run's ditziness just leaves me shaking my head.

Track: 3

Well, we do get some good music for the series. Satoru Kôsaki has an extensive resume and has provided some excellent background music in shows such as Kannagi and the Haruhi Suzumiya series. At least his music is capable of making the show feel breezy and gentle. The opening and ending themes, "Morning Arch" and "Humming Girl", are light and fitting of the show's airiness. If you're going to fault the series, it's definitely not in the music.

"Hype": 2

There wasn't much coming from A-Channel in terms of hype, even though Aniplex is involved in its production. Director Manabu Ono has been involved in only a handful of under-the-radar shows (Dragonaut, Saki), and only two volumes of the manga have been released so far. No streaming outlets have picked the show up for screening in the United States, so there doesn't seem to be much demand for it either.

Overall: 10/25
For the most part, there's nothing to really detest about an innocent show like A-Channel, but there doesn't seem to be much to praise it for either. Why animate another show about four girls chirping about very little? The comedy is occasionally flat, and Run seems like just another clumsy Tsukasa from Lucky Star. A-Channel may appear friendly as a manga, but the show stitches all its vignettes together and tries too hard to smooth the wrinkles out into a fluid show. Awkward and a little deflating, A-Channel just doesn't have anything on its menu for fans to digest.