Winners and Losers, Fall 2007 (Updated)

Well, now that we’re two episodes into the season, I’m getting a feel for the series that I said I might follow this fall. My original plan had been to follow only two series this season. One reason was because I was getting obligated on too many series, and the other was that I was actually finding myself disappointed that there wasn’t much “new” coming out to buy and watch — if I was interested, I’d seen it already. (Black Lagoon being one of the few exceptions.) So I have been buying animé just because it was “new,” only to have it sit on the shelf because I wasn’t really interested in it. This is known in many countries as “a waste of money” or “government spending.”

But the best laid plans o mice an men gang aft agley….

Clannad: Loser. I’m just not enjoying this series. It’s got a whole lot more depressing and angsty vibe to it than Kanon. The main character is obviously troubled; saddled with an alcoholic, gambling father that he no longer loves, or even respects. The “otherworld” aspects are not really in place yet, and frankly, look even more depressing than the real world. I think the defining moment for me was when Tomoya ran to the school to find Kotomi waiting in the rain to play basketball with him, only he finally admitted to her that he could not play ever again, thanks to a shoulder injury from a fight with his dad. KyoAni is damn good at hitting all the right notes perfectly in tune — and they did here in how it came out. It’s just not a song I want to hear.
Sadly, I may have to take KyoAni productions off my “must see” list after two straight losers in a row. I can’t say as I was even motivated enough to take screencaps for this one.

Rental Magica: Winner (tentative). It’s shaping up to be a decent show, I think. Honami’s witch-hat costume is a bit off-putting. I can forgive Tweeny Witches that folible, but this is aiming at an older audience. Still, all the other elements that I was afraid would be stupid are turning out to have some hidden surprises. The first episode sets up three elements I expected to drag the story down: the guy at the center (Iba Itsuki) getting no respect, the obvious “eye trump,” and the harem. I’m not sure yet if the latter is two girls, three, four, (or even five if the loli counts). One is Honami, Astral’s Celtic magic expert, and Iba’s childhood friend. She’s determined to make something of his magical skill, even if it kills him, and flips from despising to mothering him, constantly. I’ve never seen a guilt-tsundere before, but Honami has some issues relating to their shared past. Surprisingly, the other major rival, Addie, is a foreigner, being a blond wizard from the UK, whom Honami also shares a history with. Why exactly Addie falls for Iba has yet to be shown; she’s mildly tsundere and somewhat unscrupulous — and Astral’s archrival for business. (Interestingly, she uses no honorific when addressing Iba. Oversight, cultural authenticity, insult, or something else entirely?) Of course it turns out that all three of them attend the same school, along with at least one of the other girls.

It’s hinted that Kunugi, a classmate he saves in the first episode, might be a third girl, and the fourth (possible) is the apprentice, Kuroha. We’ve seen little of her so far. The fifth, assuming they add the loli, is Mikan, a Shinto magic expert. It may be that none of the three are interested in him, and I’m just equating “cute school-age females” with “haremettes.” It’s also possible that Syria didn’t have a nuke assembly plant fresh off the boat from N.K., and the Israeli pilots just got lost on the way to band camp (while coincidentally carrying a full load-out of bombs), but I can’t find any takers for that bet either.

There is one other guy present, Nekoyashiki, who quietly supports Iba when the others are down on him. Unsurprisingly, with that name, he’s a shikigami-controlling cat enthusiast. It’s evident that the writers plan to roll the backstory out a bit at a time; the second episode occurs some weeks or months prior to the first, just after Iba took over Astral and became president, and apparently before Kuroha arrives. We see Iba’s first meeting with Addie, and learn a bit about how his eye ended up being his greatest asset — and curse. So far, this show hasn’t been outstanding, but it might be interesting. Worth following, for now.

Shakugan no Shana II: Winner, and how. It’s still got the teen angst, but that’s been toned down to a tolerable level. In season one, I tended to dismiss Yoshida as the “also-ran” who existed just to add angst to the show, but I’m really starting to like her as a character. She is determined to win, and while Yoshida may be intimidated. she isn’t backing down an inch to Shana. Yoshida is fighting on her terms and knows even so, that she’s outgunned, but is determined to win anyway. She’s forcing her opponent to gamely try and learn the rules of a war Shana is unfamiliar with, and even Wilhelmina is getting a bit angsty, upset at losing influence over Shana to Yuuiji and his mom. (Earns quite the rebuke from Alistor for inattention, too.)

If I have had any complaint about the first season (aside from the angst), it’s that Yuuiji was wishy-washy with the women. In the past, I thought this was inconsistent with someone with his level of empathy for people. How could he string Yoshida out like that? I finally realized that he’s actually being very consistent — the problem is, he’s too empathetic. Remember how he swallowed his disappointment over Hiragi being sweet on Iké, instead of himself, and promised to help get them together, even before the Rinné killed her? And how he idiotically defended the Rinné that looked like a beautiful woman? Face it, fighting a Tomogara is nothing, but when a pretty girl is involved, Yuuiji’s got all the spine of your average bowl of oatmeal. Spoiler: Afraid to offend either of the girls, he eats both lunches they offer him in the second episode, making himself ill in the process. Idiot.

“Second episode animation drop syndrome” is evident, although the overall quality is still up (edit: way up, I just looked at last season to compare, and it really doesn’t), and I note that fuzetsu are now done in the same style as the movie; that’s apparently a permanent art change. The new song is hard rock, and overall, I think this OP is the best I’ve seen in a while. J.C. Staff obviously spent a dime on it, and the images hint of new villains… or allies — and that Iké’s threat to “take action” wasn’t just words:

Story-wise, they did a bang-up job of summarizing the first season, setting up the second, and ratcheting up the tension. The Bal Masque is moving, and Yuuiji is not even certain of the reality he sees….

Spoiler: No sign of Rammie, “the geezers,” or Blutsauger yet, but Marjorie and Willhelmina are here. It’s stated that Yuuiji, thanks to Hecate’s interference, picked up the backflow from the serei den’s pool, and he now has an existence as large as a King of Guze. He also appears to have a strange defense mechanism guarding the Reiji Maigo, and I suspect we’re going to get into its origin before the season’s over. Is Peles the green-haired woman in the OP? Then there’s the new girl that just joined their class…who looks one hell of a lot like a certain autistic child-like Tomogara.

GoshÅ«shō-sama Ninomiya-kun: Winner. Maybe. The animation isn’t great (better than HIMM, I’ll grant), logic and common sense are for the birds, and I have no clue what Ryoko and Mikihiru think they are doing. I’m not sure they do either, but that doesn’t change that this wish-fulfillment sex fantasy is off to a pander-rific start. Swimsuits, school uniforms, bondage, meido, aggressive sexual harassment (by girls), cosplay, tsunderes, strongly implied yuri, chicks in guys’ shirts, a little sexual “roughhousing”…. that’s just the second episode!

Looks like we’re about to get into the supporting characters next. My major problem is how this show is handling the primary characters. It’s hard to say whether Mayu or Reiko is being more inconsistent, because it’s not yet established what a succubus is supposed to be like. Sometimes she just seems to turn the brain off and go on instinct. Or insane, take your pick. But the OP is growing on me. It’s, er…. energetic… and, uh….. bouncy. Yes, bouncy. Bouncy, bouncy, bouncy…. and appears to be sung by both of the haremettes’ seiiyus.

One plus for this series: no lolis!

Dragonaut: Loser: Questionable cell animation, crappy 3D. I mean almost Misaki Chronicles crappy. Tries too hard to seem different, but so far has come out as just another generic “boy with [x] gets roped into secret project” show. The [x] here appears to be his triple connection to the Big Secret: His entire family was killed by it, his ex-best friend is enrolled in the secret agency to fight against it, and (Spoiler): this girl that shows up out of nowhere to save him and become inexplicably attached to him, is apparently something the secret agency wants: another dragon known as “the album.” What, aliens don’t have CD’s?

The OP hints at yuri, huge boobs, angst, broken friendships, and more angst. Does anyone make shows about folks who can focus on saving humanity, or are we doomed to a diet of crappy sci-fi soap operas? If WWII had been like this, Roosevelt would have looked like Professor X and have been crippled years ago by his quasi-enemy, Super Seiyjin Stalin; Hitler would have been the lunatic madman out to conquer/end/dominate/destroy the world, Mussolini would have been the jilted bishie lover of both Roosevelt and Stalin, Churchill would have been an angsty teenager, and Hirohito would have been a cute female high-schooler in a sailor outfit trying to end world militarism in time for this semester’s finals.

Crap, I think I just wrote the plot of at least one of next season’s new shows.

Well, finally there’s Night Wizards. Loser. Uninspired art and character design, no doubt stolen straight from the game. Forget character development, we got flashy powers, cool moves, forced humor, a put-upon hero, a loli leader, two loli villains, and as thin of a plot as you can expect from an RPG adaptation. The battles are definitely the strength of the show, although I like Angelot’s standard question before sending Hiragi or one of the others on a mission.

I do want to know how they kidnapped Yurika Misamaru for this show, though. She can teleport, after all.

Yes, that’s even a miko outfit she’s wearing. All we need is for her-dad-the-admiral to show up and compliment her breasts.

So anyway, I’m definitely following Shana II, plus GSNK and Renta Magica for the moment. If either of the latter two start to suck too much, I’ll drop them. Despite my fascination with Mayu, I suspect it’s GSNK that will get dropped, and it’s Renta Magica I’ll be most disappointed in if it doesn’t pan out.

UPDATE: Just watched the 3rd episode of GSNK. Good lord, maybe Shungo is an incubus? I can’t explain how every girl in the class seems to have the hots for him otherwise. You’d think all the guys would want to kill him for that, woudln’t you? Well, he does seem to lack for friends, I notice. Scarily, Mayu turns out to be a sports-animé otaku. And if that’s child-Shungo and child-Mayu in the flashback dreams, then when did Shungo get the lobotomy and castration, ’cause he had the mack goin’ back then. He liked Mayu’s kiddie kisses so much, he went back for seconds. And for a meido, Reika sure has a lot of time to follow Shungo and Mayu around. When it comes to logic, the writers of this show didn’t abandon it on the side of the road like an unwanted pet, they actively drove it to the pound and tossed it over the fence in broad daylight, just to make sure it didn’t come back. C’mon, you think at some point, he’d turn and ask Mayu, “Would I be safe from you if I used a rubber? “By any chance, have we met before?”

Dragonaut: It’s Album, not “the album;” or “Alwurm,” depending on your fansub of choice. Cue the useless angst and ridiculous plot contrivances, along with cool-but-useless action scenes. Yes, I was stupid enough to watch the third episode. ARGH! I want that wasted time back.)

UPDATE2: Moved the prior updates to the end so they’d be easier to find. After the horror of Dragonaut last night, if either of the two series “on the bubble” gets bumped, I may promote Night Wizards to replace Hayate, which shows every sign of being an ongoing, 100+ episode series. I lost interest when it started hyping the Butler Wars… the show is just going to become an endless rut with nothing new. I just don’t follow those–I have a hard time keeping my interest up after 40 episodes or so (the point at which I stopped watching Inuyasha, in fact). If Code Geass S2 ever gets underway, and I follow it to the end, it will be the longest animé series I’ve ever followed from start to finish. (Except for CCS, which I bought as a package deal).

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9 Responses to Winners and Losers, Fall 2007 (Updated)

  1. Regarding Shana: [spoiler]You mentioned that as a result of the weird scientist’s machine, that Yuuji’s well of power-of-existence is now immense. I fully expected that. It seems it isn’t just Guze and Flame Hazes who get involved in this war. The guy who gave Shana her sword was a torch, who had been killing Guze for years. Of course, this means Yuuji is now more than just a hanger-on. Between that ring and the Blutsauger, he’s now a full participant and at least as dangerous as a full Flame Haze would be.[/spoiler]

  2. Here’s another Shana speculation I fully expect to see fulfilled eventually: [spoiler]Khamsin gave Yoshida an amulet which permits her to operate inside one of the time-freeze zones. But if you look carefully, it’s actually part of the physical manifestation of Behemoth. Behemoth’s manifestation is a bracelet, and the amulet was one of the dangly pieces from it. I don’t think this is something that was done lightly.

    Khamsin is very old, thousands of years I think, and nobody’s fool. (Marjorie Daw is hundreds of years old and she calls Khamsin “oyaji”.) You don’t survive in Khamsin’s game that long without being extremely canny. He learns enough about what’s going on in that town to realize it’s something special. (The presence of the Reiji Maigo is enough for that.) What I predict is that Behemoth is in that amulet, in addition to being in the part which Khamsin retained, and through it he’s observing everything that happens. Partly that’s because it allows Khamsin and Behemoth to know if something’s going down that they need to be involved in. But I expect that eventually Behemoth will move through Yoshida in some critical situation.[/spoiler]

  3. Ubu Roi says:

    You know, I had completely forgotten about that, but the problem is that ANN doesn’t include either of them in the credits.

    I also suspect we’re going to see Yuuiji start do something along the lines of magic, once he focuses his power– based on the movie, and then Shana’s suggestion in S2, it’s pretty much a lock. (I’m not going to say what, even in a spoiler, because it would mess up the movie.)

    I may have had a ball kidding around about Mayu the last few days (now why do I keep hearing “I Just Died in Your Arms Tonight” in my head?) but it’s Shana II that I’m looking forward to each week. I do expect them to go off the rails into an angstfest at some point though. Hopefully, with only 13 episodes, they won’t waste much time with it.

    Edit: I just went back to check the bracelet… Yoshida was wearing the bead as a necklace, but I don’t see any sign that she’s wearing it in II. She could be keeping it under her dress though…

  4. baseball68 says:

    I think we both had similar concerns about how Shana II would hurt Yuuji’s status as one of the more empathetic and intelligent anime heroes, and I’ve also been pleased as to how they’ve handled the situation. The Shana/Yoshida “conversation” in ep. 2 was really quite well done. And as you know, I’ve been for a while a big advocate of Yoshida’s character, although I think Shana’s the more compelling and interesting figure.

    CLANNAD had a great start–I loved the opening, with the monochromatic scene transitioning into color–but it really has been downhill from there for me. I find some of the comedy lame, and the angst at times is rather contrived. I do really like the “look” of the show, am charmed by Nagisa’s character, so I won’t give up on it yet, but it’s been disappointing.

  5. baseball68 says:

    After reading your appraisal, I’m going to give Rental Magica another chance. I really was put off by it after the first episode.

  6. Ubu Roi says:

    It’s possible that I’m being more generous than I should… I tend to score higher at first and then lower the grade later. Episode 2 does help explain some of Honami’s issues, but if she doesn’t start treating Iba with a bit more respect or or explain why she stays despite how she acts, I am going to have a hard time staying with this.

    Really, the bottom line is Iba. He’s got to suck it up and show some worth aside from the eye trump (which I was pleased to see it didn’t get used in ep. 2.)

  7. baseball68 says:

    Iba seemed to show a bit more spunk in ep. 2, and at least the character has some potential. Who knows where they go with it, though. That being said, I guess I just find Honami’s witch costume a bit too lame. I guess I just find the premise a bit pointless–okay, witches for hire. Okay…. One of the reasons I liked Shana is how it dealt early on with the issue of how much we value other peoples’ memories of us, and of our identities, and it returned to the same issues at the end of season 1 with regards to Shana’s conflicting loyalties. I think Noein also deals with existential issues in an interesting way, even though that series can be so uneven in so many ways.

    Hey, I do think Magica’s better than Gundam! 🙂 I sometimes just watch that, precisely because I find it SOOOO lame and preposterous.

  8. Ubu Roi says:

    You couldn’t pay me enough to watch a Gundam series.

    Rental and GSNK are both on the bubble. Episode 3 may be make or break for both, and I’m looking for replacements, just in case. I checked out Bamboo Blade, but 15 minutes of that was all I could take. Honestly, other than Shana, Zetsubou, and Zero (which I’m not following) it feels like everything out there is assembled by Wile E. Coyote from an ACME “Do It Your Self Anime Kit” Nothing original at all.

    And Zetsubou may be funny in its own weird way, but it’s not telling a story.

  9. Pingback: Mahou Meido Meganekko » Blog Archive » I Was Just Kidding, Dammit!

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