Sunday, May 6, 2012

Anime Survivor: Spring '12 - Week 3

Lots of competition down here in the Blue Grass State this weekend. Yeah, there was that pretty famous race over at Churchill Downs, but I'm referring more to the "my-hat-is-bigger-than-yours" competition by the ladies in the galleries. Serious cosplay contests for the ojô-sama crowd. If people ever make fun of your anime or manga hobby or conventioneering down in Kentucky, easily refer to it as "the Kentucky Derby for nerds".

I suppose Anime Survivor will start to look more like a horse race from now on. I feel content that we've gotten rid of the worst shows that were bound for the glue factory—now it feels like the remaining shows at least have something in their arsenal that could get them to the finish line. That doesn't mean that some shows won't hit the dirt at the first turn.

I also noticed that a few people feel that Medaka Box is the next to go. Surprising? Perhaps not. I think Nisemonogatari, Nisio Isin's last anime, jaded a lot of people, so I don't blame some people for thinking it's too talkative. Perhaps we might be jumping the gun on this next project—I'm willing to let this show incubate another week.

So let's get this race over with. The fourth show kicked off the island in this season's Anime Survivor is...

Selling Point: When you're talking about otome games, you're normally talking about the heroine finding herself in a situation where she must brave the elements while being protected by at least a quintet of bishônen male subordinates. While struggling to learn about her own position, she depends on the security of her protectors. It's worked in shows like Pretear, Hakuôki (which will be back this summer), and Uta no Prince-sama, so it should totally work if the random setting is changed to that of a Shinto shrine.

The heroine in this case, Tamaki Kasuga, visits her grandmother at the town of Kifumura during the fall season, the mountains covered in vibrant autumnal leaves and...uneasy godlike creatures. After being rescued from them by Takuma, a protector of the shrine, Tamaki learns that she is a descendant of Tamayorihime, a bloodline responsible for keeping the seal on Onikirimaru, an artifact held by the shrine. If she is unable to awaken her abilities, the seal will weaken, and the resulting power that comes from Onikirimaru could destroy the world.

Tamaki ends up transferring to Kifumura with this intent and befriends the five guardians—Takuma (Grumpy), Yûichi (Sleepy), Shinji (Bashful), Suguru (Doc), and Mahiro ("Dopey", by default, as there is no "Tiny"). Her job, however, gets twice as hard when the team discovers there is another fivesome, led by the diminutive Aria, who seeks to destroy the seals and release its power.

Defense: In complete honesty, this show is not geared towards my sort, but if you are a female who prefers hunks that constantly tell you they are there to protect you, you may end up half-liking this show. You do get the feel of this being a lot like a Shinto version of Fushigi Yûgi, two teams butting heads while their figurehead heroines have the story swirl around them. However, it's also good to feel that the guardians are not exactly chummy with Tamaki—she isn't treated like some sort of damsel that all of the guardians fall in love with.

The story itself seems a bit weak, but it has potential, especially once we find out why Aria is challenging the stability of society. Once it can focus on purely driving the urgency of the situation, things may get a lot more exciting, especially when the "Logos" figure out which guardian they match up with. However, one has to wonder if there is much to chronicle—would eleven or twelve episodes be too little?

Final Judgment: Everyone who has fallen in love with Tomokazu Sugita for his deep-voiced characters (Kensei, Bleach; Gintoki, Gintama) need to be jolted into reality. No matter what he manages to do for Takuma and his tsundere-like personality, he won't be able to improve the quality of this show.

First of all, after watching the first few episodes, I find myself yearning for better animated art in Hiiro no Kakera. The still-life character designs and foliage-fueled backgrounds are nice, but I feel the movement itself is stifled. For a show that preaches about spiritual emergency, I find a lot of talk and very little action. Granted, it's great to hear Tamie Kubota return to anime after her performance as the matriarch Sui in Hanasaku Iroha, but I want more than just vocal acting.

Second of all, for a male-dominated show, I find myself not liking the male characters. Not agreeing with Tamaki is one thing, but constantly interrupting her is another thing, and frankly I find myself tiring of that in Sugita's character, especially after getting so much goodness out of him as a comic character. Most of all, someone decided that Mahiro had to be the Edward Elric of the show, constantly screeching at Takuma for a fight. I can just hear all of the emails being sent to Vic Mignogna for him to play Mahiro (Please don't actually email Vic to do this. - Ed.)

In the end, there's just so little for me to like about the intangibles in Hiiro no Kakera that the actual tangible thing, the average plot of the story itself, leaves me high and dry. Superhuman pretty-boy guardians protecting a girl whose "blood" hides a secret? That's Hakuôki to a T—why would I want to watch it a third time? In fact, I'm so drawn away from the "heroes" that I'm actually pulling for the Logos to win the war. It won't happen, but one can dream, can't he?

Next Week: Another two shows hit the road, Jack!

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