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.

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