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.

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