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Archive for April, 2011

Steins;Gate Episodes 1 and 2 – Everything’s Just a Little Off

April 30, 2011 1 comment

Once upon a time, there was a show called Chaos;Head, about a borderline hikikomori (and flat-out insane) high school otaku who was embroiled in a series of murders linked to some epic conspiracy involving mind control. Only the appearance of several beautiful girls over the course of the show would tip viewers off that the show was based on a harem visual novel.

Now Nitroplus and 5pb, the creative teams that gave us Chaos;Head, are getting another one of their visual novels put on the tv screen. Unlike the previous show, this one involves a cast of mostly college students, much better art direction and character design, and a plot about time travel rather than mind control. Like the previous show, it kicks off with a remarkably disorienting presentation style made worse by an unreliable (and mentally unstable) narrator.
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Gosick Episode 14 – A Few Tricks Left Up the Sleeve

Well, maybe I need to take in each mystery arc in full before passing judgment on it. I wasn’t very enthusiastic about how the mystery surrounding the alchemist Leviathan was introduced, and felt that the return to the mystery format was detracting from the character drama, that is, the real reason to watch Gosick. Both these issues are addressed (although not quite resolved) this time around.

For starters, we discover that Leviathan’s post-mortem murders haven’t conveniently just started now; there have been sporadic deaths in the clock tower ever since he first died/disappeared, although the victims are always foreigners or strangers to the academy. We also learn that Wang, the most recent victim, came to the clock tower inspired by the film, so the timing with that is less suspicious.
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Hana-Saku Iroha Episode 3 – Belly Flop

Ok, if last episode made me wonder about Hana-Saku Iroha’s quality, this one has me downright worried. There were a variety of reasons why I liked this show, and among them was how it remained basically respectful of its female cast—not just in terms of their personalities, but also in terms of their presentation.

That gets tossed out the window here. This episode is jam-packed with fanservice from beginning to end, all in the service of a storyline which feels very out of place. It’s yet another example of the show seeming to change gears every episode, and I have not appreciated the changes that have happened so far.
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Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae wo Boku-tachi wa Mada Shiranai Episodes 1 and 2 – Youthful Promise

April 26, 2011 1 comment

One of the smartest things Funimation ever did was work out a deal for automatic simulcast rights for any noitaminA show they might have an interest in. Thus, great shows like Tatami Galaxy, Shiki, House of Five Leaves, and Princess Jellyfish got immediate airtime in the US.

As of late, however, the execs at Funimation haven’t been as discerning in their choices. While in retrospect it was a mistake, I can sort of see prioritizing Fractale over Wandering Son, as the former had a director with a very high profile and the latter was on a niche topic bound to make viewers uneasy. (Wandering Son got picked up by Crunchyroll anyway, so no harm done.) This season, however, they picked up [C]—about which I’ll have more to say in a future review—and passed on Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae wo Boku-tachi wa Mada Shiranai (“We Still Don’t Know the Name of the Flower We Saw That Day”). Once again, it looks like they let the superior show lay fallow.
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Puella Magi Madoka Magica Episodes 11 and 12 – What Heaven Allows

April 25, 2011 1 comment

It was a nice present to come back from being overseas to find that the last two episodes of Puella Magi Madoka Magica had aired. It was even better to discover that, for once, a show had managed to break the curse of crummy endings to otherwise promising anime.

Early on in the series, I was worried that it would suffer from the same problem as Mai-Hime: an unsatisfying cop-out that placed having a happy ending over telling a dramatic story. That was before it had fully sunk in that happy endings aren’t Madoka Magica’s style.
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Hyouge Mono Episodes 1 and 2 – There’s No Accounting for Taste

It might be important for me to preface my review of Hyouge Mono with a confession: I don’t like tea. I’ve never really understood the appeal of dirtying my water with vegetation in the first place, and I don’t like hot drinks that aren’t also sweet. A show about tea isn’t likely to get my attention.

Nonetheless, I had to take a look at Hyouge Mono because it just seemed so unusual. Shows in the set in the warring states period of Japan are not uncommon, but shows treating the period with historical sensitivity are. Indeed, this show might be an outlier for anime, but it is still quintessentially Japanese: in culture, in worldview, and in choice of subject matter. But, just as modern Japanese culture is an uneasy mix of Eastern and Western, with a few frankly bizarre elements thrown in from God knows where, Hyouge Mono also has trouble pulling its various strands together. It’s one of the most unique shows this season, in a season filled with unique shows. But I’m just not taken with the result.
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Gosick Episode 13 – Fool’s Gold

Well, after two very strong character building episodes, Gosick is back to the mystery format. Unfortunately, said format hasn’t much improved since the last time it as trotted out.

Once again, there’s a hastily introduced urban legend/ghost story, and once again it becomes a focus of some criminal activity within hours of first being discussed. After Kujou watches a horror film with Avril, both of them realize the clock tower in the film bears an uncanny resemblance to the one on the academy campus, and Avril realizes that the film is based off a legend about a Rasputin-like figure, calling himself Leviathan, who claimed to be a master alchemist and once held sway over the nation’s royal family. Rivals tried to kill him two decades ago, but according to the story he survived fatal injuries and fled.
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