Tamayura: Hitotose Episodes 1 and 2 – Still Life

October 30, 2011 2 comments

Slice of life shows can sell themselves in one of two ways. The first way is through humor, trying to create funny situations out of normal events. Usually this happens either from making the cast a bit crazy, or appealing the common absurdities of everyday life. The other way is something which I think only exists in anime: through a wistful celebration of youthful innocence. This is the sort of show where nothing really happens, but it doesn’t happen in a soothing way.

The thing about the second method is that it never really appealed to me as anything worth spending my time on, at least on its own merits. That’s not to say I’ve never liked a series that fell into the second camp, but when I did, it was for another reason. Natsume Yuujinchou, for example, has actual drama and character development (not to mention a real plot every episode) to keep the show engaging. You and Me has a low level but constant sense of humor. Even Ikoku Meiro no Croisée played around with dramatic themes involving class divisions in a modernizing France.

I went in to Tamayura: Hitotose not expecting any of those things, and was almost pleasantly surprised during the first episode. Not enough to put up with the return to soothing nothingness in the second episode, but it was a surprise.
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Un-Go Episodes 1 and 2 – The Truth Will Out

Well, having taken a season break after wrapping up their lovely but ultimately flawed Gosick, it looks the animation studio Bones is ready to try their hand at another mystery series, this time set in a near future Japan. And like with Gosick, the mystery trappings of the show are just that: trappings. It’s clear that the heart of the show is elsewhere.

I suppose that’s a good thing, because if Un-Go was meant to be a mystery series, it fails horribly. Thus far the mysteries have been mostly predictable and easily solved (particularly in the second episode). The feeling of a just resolution that comes from seeing the guilty be caught and punished is also absent, for the guilty more or less get away with it. This show is not about crime solving because solving crime is about discovering the truth. This is show concerns itself with a more basic question: whether it is possible for the truth to win out in an age of mass media and government manipulation.
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Mashiroiro Symphony Episodes 1 and 2 – Reluctant Opposition

I wrote yesterday about a series that I went into with extremely low expectations, and how I was thus pleasantly surprised when it turned out not to be the bottom of the barrel sort of show I anticipated it would be. Mashiroiro (“Pure White”) Symphony is another show I thought would be utterly wretched, and, to be fair, it’s not. It’s not particularly interesting or innovative, or even worth your time. But it’s not flat-out offensive, which is a shock in itself.

The basic premise is that Shingo Uryuu’s school is closing down, in preparation for a merger with a local all-girls academy for the elite. That by itself should set off multiple warning bells, partially because it would make absolutely no sense for a school whose reputation is built on providing a female-exclusive educational community catering to the upper crust would let in plebeians of any sort, much less male ones. But aside from destroying the school’s brand, it also offers a hackneyed excuse to get Shingo into a female-heavy classroom with an opulently wealthy setting.
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C3: Cube x Cursed x Curious Episodes 1, 2, and 3 – Nothing to Fear but Fear Itself

For reasons I might explain in a later post, I made a pledge to myself to cover every series debuting this season, with the exception of obvious kid stuff and Hunter x Hunter. (I’ll let other people have a flame war over whether I just repeated myself.) That did not get me out of reviewing C3, even though it was a show I didn’t even want to waste my time watching. The basic outline sounded suspiciously similar to last season’s The Dark Rabbit has Seven Lives: a contemporary fantasy harem show whose pretensions to horror would be promptly deflated by harem antics and absurd amounts of panty flashing.

I was not wrong about the harem problem, or about the fanservice. Where I was wrong was in thinking that these elements would overwhelm the show, keeping it from succeeding at the darker content inherent in the show’s premise. Because, when C3 decides it does want to be serious, it pulls that off far better than it has any right to.
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Future Diary Episodes 1 and 2 – My Own Worst Enemy

Two seasons ago, Deadman Wonderland gave an example of a traditional shounen action show being taken in an extremely dark direction, while still maintaining the core concepts of its inspiration. Last season, Kamisama Dolls took that same type of story and modified it for the seinen demographic: not just aging up the cast, but also subtly subverting and challenging the basic themes of an overused plotline.

Future Diary predates both of those works, but almost feels like a combination of the two. Like Deadman Wonderland, it’s far darker and more lurid than your standard shounen fare. Like Kamisama Dolls, it takes a story type traditionally used for one demographic and targets it at a a different one. But Future Diary ages down rather than up, taking traditionally seinen plot tropes from series like Battle Royale and Death Note while changing the age of the lead to something shockingly low.

The end result is a series that is high on concept and perhaps a little low in its execution. Taken purely as a shounen show, however, it’s looking to be far more interesting than Deadman Wonderland was.
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Usagi Drop Episodes 8 and 9 – How Can I Make You Remember Me?

October 23, 2011 Leave a comment

Last time I wrote about Usagi Drop, I wrote about Daikichi’s cousin, and my discomfort with the show’s insistence that she remain in what seemed to be a demeaning and unfulfilling existence. The show’s emphasis on traditional Japanese family values has been something of a reoccurring theme so far, and it comes back again strongly here, with its most untraditional female character.
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Last Exile: Fam, the Silver Wing Episode 1 – Stalled Flight

October 20, 2011 1 comment

Last Exile is a famous and iconic anime series from the once venerable Gonzo Studios, which has struggled over the past half-decade to produce anything decent. But once upon a time, Gonzo was the map for cutting edge use of CG animation combined with traditional hand-drawn work, and Last Exile was the shining star of that portfolio. So when Gonzo announced they were finally doing a sequel series, set two years after the end of Last Exile, longtime anime fans immediately started salivating at the prospect.

Those fans would include yours truly: Last Exile was the first anime series I ever bought. While it probably doesn’t make my top ten list now, I still recognize it as a quality series which has stood the test of time. The only question was whether the new series could possibly live up to the standards set by the previous series. The answer, of course, is that it does not.
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