So Far… Not too Bad (Updated with more Kemeko DX)

Ok, the extra screenshots took a lot longer than I expected, because I took more than just three of them, and I had to move files back and forth across two computers. Wish I could figure out whats up with that, dammit… I should probably write a more witty and entertaining introduction, but my laziness is kicking in now. (As always.) So, it’s not a Derailed by Darry thin-slicing, but it is my thoughts on the first episodes I’ve watched. And yes, this time I’m actually posting them instead of letting them sit until the season’s over!

Weirder things have happened…

Anyway, this season is turning out to be a bit of a surprise. Unlike last season, which looked awful and turned out to be as bad as it looked, there’s several tolerable series out there, and a couple of LCD’s that might turn out to be halfway decent. (Lowest Common Denominators, otherwise known as trashy fanservice shows.) So get on with it, already.

(Edit: just realized I forgot to say, this is a worst-to-best ranking. Duh.)

Casshern: Take me away, Calgon! Far, far away, where such inept anime does not exist. Everything that’s wrong with this show can be summed up in one picture (safe for work):
Post apocalyptic world, with Lelouch vi Brittania in a superhero costume that escaped being burned for tackiness in the 1960’s. The big red ‘C’ on the front can’t be seen in this shot, but I couldn’t find the one I really wanted, that emphasized his stretched proportions to almost Code Geass level.

No, I’m not kidding about the ‘C’.

Where did this thing go wrong? Timeslip after the opening 10 seconds. Amnesiac “hero.” Tedious, overwrought opening combat sequence that was so dark as to be un-watchable. (I don’t mean negative, I mean dark. It’s a post-apocalyptic world so the sun doesn’t shine, ever?) Mysterious girl wandering around mocking the hero? Sentient robots that attack Casshern, but rust into nothing upon being defeated? Really crappy animation? (Hey, lets not draw their faces half the time! That will save money!) More tedious combat? Prophecy of doom? Robotic lolis? Robotic loli panties? Oh, thanks guys. But no thanks. (Her name is Ringo. My first thought: “Cue the death toll!” I’ve been reading too much of John’s stuff.) With Casshern’s appearance, they’re trying to remain faithful to the original 1970’s show, sort of like Birdy, but at least that waited until the end to tank. This thing, the plot is so murky, it’s impossible to tell if the writers even have any idea what’s going on.

Kurrogane no Linebarrel: Gonzo being Gonzo. Some mecha, stupid plot, stupid mysteries, busty girls, stupid bad guys, more mecha, naked woman (NSFW), massive property damage, secret plots, exciting battles with poorly integrated CG, and a thoroughly unlikeable primary character. Oh, and apparently he’s dead. Hasn’t that happened before?

I mean, if it made him more likable, I could deal with it–but it doesn’t. Wimpy, cowardly, and so tired of being protected by his friends that he starts sucking up to the bullies so he can believe he’s not being bullied. But it doesn’t matter, because he’s going to be a Hero of Justice one day! Then he gets landed on by a naked woman and a mecha that he automagically knows how to operate at expert level, simultaneously gaining superpowers…and a nasty streak. Groan.

Other than the poorly integrated CG, the battles are actually fairly cool — no speedlines here, but sometimes the mechas move too fast and easy. There’s little sense that these are massive fighting machines; they’re more like ninja on steroids. I regretted spending $1.99 to buy this from Crunchyroll. I’d pay that for the ED song though, it’s good, as is the battle music. Gonzo can’t write worth a damn, but they do draw women well, and find music that isn’t just another cup of j-pop syrup.

Today in Class 5-2: I don’t do slice-of-life, so maybe I’m giving this a bad rap, but dear god, this bored me to tears. The humor wasn’t funny, the oversexed jokes involving fifth-graders were tedious if not squicky, the characters were unappealing. I couldn’t even finish the episode, which ought to earn it a place lower than Casshern. I’m giving it the benefit of the doubt.

Toradora!: Oh look, its Rie Kugimiya playing a tsundere, Aisaka, aka the “palmtop tiger.” Small size, big anger. Forget her though, just give me Ryuji”s MILF. I’m told this is a comedy, but I kept forgetting to laugh. Only possible mitigating factor might be character development: Aisaka appears to be hiding issues — why is she living alone in a huge, but filthy apartment?

Rosario + Vampire – Capu2 : Yes, I downloaded it. Sue me. Stunningly, this show manages to land in the middle of the pack, at least based on the first episode.

Gone is the horrible animation of the first season; clearly, someone found their wallet. The ED (which was actually completed before the show started this time) is a technicolor riot of motion and reasonably fluid animation (well, it still looks like it was done “on the threes” but that’s an improvement), and Moka gets a new, much more absurd (but pretty) transformation sequence. Whether or not they found a writer might be more important, as the animé has clearly abandoned any pretense at following the manga. I suspect it’s going to be whacky hijinks with a very thin veneer of horror. And music. In short, Tskune’s remaining a normal guy with a slightly offbeat harem of magical girls, and lots of J-pop will be sold at inflated prices. And there are still lots of panties.

The horror aspects hinted at by the original season’s ED are completely gone, and the show is now played (mostly) for straight hijinks. Seriously, all four of the girls now have what can only be described as groupies among the new freshmen. Ruby, Gil, Neko-sensei, and the creepy bus driver are all back. Several new characters are introduced, including, briefly, Tsukune’s cousin, before he whiffs off to the start the second year at Youkai Academy.

I don’t think the new writers have a good grasp of the characters though, since I can’t see alt-Moka getting involved in settling a school riot. She almost seemed to be showing off for all the girls, rather than treating them as annoyances. (Of course alt-Moka accidentally got released. Be serious, it’s like that damn rosario is a magnet for Tskune’s hand.) There is obviously a multi-episode, if not seasonal, arc to start the new series, involving a new challenger; a new girl with the stated intent of killing Moka.

Guess what? It’s her sister, which has so many implications for the Moka/alt-Moka paradigm, it’s not funny. Oh, and yes, the bat is now an actual character. He still breaks the 4th wall.

Edit: Kemeko DX: No, Sanpeta, it’s not a dream. The girl from ten years ago really did turn into a hawt babe that lives inside an incredible combat suit and is doing the Rambo thing, protecting you from the electric rice cookers and combat droids of the evil megacorp. (“You consumer-grade electronics have no chance against me!”) That is a spaceship sticking out of the roof of your home. The girl does want to marry you. (She also seems to forget she’s in that ugly combat suit way too much. It would be more romantic if she got out more often.) And I don’t know what that seed she made you eat ten years ago has to do with it, but I suspect it’s what makes your head glow green, not that you’ve noticed it happening yet. Oh, and if you don’t want your shapely tsundere not-really-a-girlfriend from school, I’ll take her.

Silliness, battles, and shapely girls are the standard here. The nonsensical lyrics to the ED have to be seen to be believed. Like Macademy, it’s an absurd, energetic harem show with a poor, bewildered male lead in the center. However, I’m sensing some angsty undertones, suggesting less straightforward comedy, and more relationship drama might be in the offing. Meh.

Macademy Wasshoi: I think I went into this show with a “Show me what you got, sucker!” attitude, and that’s not the right frame of mind to approach a whacky harem comedy. So far, the show seems to be emphasizing highly kinetic humor, silly character sketches, and sexual references as opposed to witty dialog (which still isn’t half-bad), but we’ll see how that goes. Oh, and cute girls, which generally goes a long way with me.

I’m liking the characters especially the, um, highly possessive silent cousin who has to write everything because she’s too shy to talk (except when she takes off her hair ribbon, which you don’t want her to do for reasons that have nothing to do with talking…). Speaking of characters, I so want a dog-girl (?) familiar that carries a large broom with a pike blade on the other end. I hope she has a fairly large part in this show. I was also surprised to note that magic is secret, practiced and studied in an alternate world, where the Academy exists. This means explaining Tannarote in our world is going to be difficult…especially given her “elf ears.” (Though it occurs to me that they may have ways of handling that if the dog girl or other unusual familiars have ever crossed over.) The visuals are nice, although the CG is sometimes almost as jarring as in Kurrogane. If I have to give this show a black mark, it’s that the hapless guy at the center of the harem seems pretty much along for the ride; I get the sense that he exists for the purpose of playing straight guy and figurative punching-bag to the crazy women around him. If he’s just a passenger on the insane train, there’s no sense in buying a ticket for this ride.

Kannagi: Intriguing. Good leads; all the characters seem likeable. However…

There’s no obvious overall plot working here past the setup, but that’s not always a flaw…except with me. Remember, I don’t do slice of life. Gentle sense of humor, with an unworldly goddess suddenly incarnate and discovering things like TV, telephones, and bathrooms. “Even a goddess has to go to the toilet.” Shades of Sluggy Freelance.

The problem is, it’s hard for me to say more, because this show didn’t make a strong impression — except it was pleasant to watch and I wouldn’t mind spending time with these characters at all. On the other hand, I don’t feel compelled to do so, and that may be this show’s one failing. Compared to the competition, it just doesn’t demand attention. (In that way, it’s reminding me of Shingu, actually. I wonder if it will turn out to be the same kind of show?) It’s possible that ho-hum reaction has been shared with others; one of it’s seven broadcast stations in Japan has canceled it. At this point, it’s position in my rankings is based more on perceived quality rather than desire to watch more.

I suspect, that if it turns out to be that kind of show, I could end up passing on it as a fansub (to watch more high-energy “entertaining” fare), and then end up buying it when I’m looking for something pleasant to watch. But only if it’s that kind of show. If it degenerates into the kind of show that is suggested by the title “Crazy Shrine Maidens” then it’s not going to be worthy.

Toaru Majutsu no Index: Based on the first episode, it could be a contender for best of season. Very much with a plot, but it takes time out to introduce some interesting side characters, especially the hotheaded female level 5 esper Misaka Minoto, who can call lightning and shape magnetic fields into a railgun. Apparently she’s the star of her own spinoff manga, which suggests that they may be doing some kind of mash-up plot.

Science has clarified esper powers, and a quarter of Tokyo is given over to the schools that study and teach them. Magic? No, it’s science! So Kamijou, level 0 esper and the most unlucky of high-school students, after barely surviving a run-in Misaka through an odd ability he has is somewhat flummoxed when a strange girl named Index lands on his balcony. She’s hungry, and after he feeds her some near-rancid food, she claims to have 103,000 magical grimoires in her possession, and that she’s being chased by mages.

Kamijou is rather skeptical but it turns out her clothes are the product of something unusual (magic, she says), as his right hand can dispel them. She concludes, after biting him repeatedly for rendering her naked, that his hand must be magical, able to cancel magic or esper powers… and his good luck, rendering him subject only to bad luck. Then she leaves, lest she lead the bad guys to his door.

She’s far from the strangest girl in this show; that might just go to Komoe, the loli teacher of Kamijou’s class.

Who occasionally has a potty mouth.

Still, it looks like Kamijou’s right hand is going to… come in handy…uh, is going to be very important, er, not like that, (oh, no, you didn’t go there! Shuddup.) — especially after Index ends up mortally wounded or dead on his doorstep, with someone calling himself a mage aiming to make Kamijou next. Cue the cliffhanger please…

I suspect that this show is actually going to turn out to be the best of the season; it’s got a lot more original going for it than the one I’m actually giving the top spot to, which is….

Akane iro no Somaru Saka: I shouldn’t like this one as much as I do. It’s yet another entry in the harem genre, that comes across as a mix between Ai Yori Aioshi and any Rie Kugimiya tsundere vehicle — which it would appear to be.

When I try to analyze it, I come up with a lot of the same elements that can be found in many other high-school harem romances:

Tsundere female lead? Well, yandere so far, but I’m betting on reversion to form.
Non-delinquent (but has the rep) slacker male lead: Check.
Cute little sister: hubba-hubba — she ain’t that little, either.
Handsome bishie teacher? Check–add that he fakes yaoi to irritate the male lead and make the fangirls squeal.
Boisterous friends that cause trouble? Check. Male and female.
Protective butler for the female lead? Check. Don’t know if he’s a combat butler yet.

So far, I can’t figure out if it’s winning because I had such low expectations (flip side to Macademy Wasshoi), or if it’s just really that good; I’ll definitely give it points for being a hentai adaptation that almost entirely lacks fanservice. I’m not sure it deserves the top spot, but it is my favorite among first episodes. Index could pass it quickly though, if Akane falls into the yawning pit of mediocrity that threatens any clichéd romance comedy. Theron Martin thinks it’s already there, but I’m leery of his review; the things he misses are the things I don’t; the things he slams are the things I like. I had to struggle not to get sidetracked watching it again as I grabbed these screenshots — I enjoyed it that much. YMMV.

I plan to follow only two series this season to keep from over-committing myself. Given the shows I’ve seen thus far, it looks like I’ve got three candidates: Akane, Index, and Wasshoi. Despite being given the top spot, I’m betting Akane is going to fold, and I’ll end up following the other two. We shall see….

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10 Responses to So Far… Not too Bad (Updated with more Kemeko DX)

  1. It strikes me that Suzuho and Suzuka are kind of like the dark reflection of Cynthia and Grace.

    At one point Suzuka says, “He’s mine!” and then she corrects herself and says, “He’s ours!” So they’re really two different personalities. But since Suzuho deliberately released Suzuka, it’s obvious that she’s not afraid of the change. Further, once Suzuka took control, she seemed to understand the situation and know her mission. So I think they’re both aware at all times, and also that they like each other.

    That’s one of several aspects of Macademi Wasshoi I fully expect to be explored in the series before it’s over. It’ll be interesting to learn just how two personalities ended in the same body, and which one is the original.

  2. Ubu Roi says:

    Hmm. That’s a good point. I caught that, but went “huh?” I went with the assumption that she was embarrassed to admit she had such a personal stake in her cousin, and so expanded the statement to include the others she was with. Of course, that explanation doesn’t quite work, given her actions at the end of the episode, unless she’s really far gone into denial.

    Still, I’m not sure it’s two different personalities; I take the hair ribbon to be a seal on her power that has to be so strong, it interferes with her ability to do things like talk. I didn’t catch the difference in names though, and that may be telling.

  3. I wonder if it’s really more like Moka, with the hair ribbon being like the Rosario?

  4. jgreely says:

    From the description, R+V2 doesn’t necessarily diverge from the “second season” manga that much. They just skipped 20 chapters to get past all that nasty “plot” and get right to the important stuff: a killer loli with a pet bat that transforms into whatever weapon she needs. Her CD single comes out at the end of the month, and while she won’t get an oppai mousepad like Moka and Mizore, I’m sure there will be at least one figure with interchangeable weapons and a removable skirt.

    [note that there doesn’t seem to be a Kurumu mousepad, either; I suspect they cancelled it after test users were unable to reach the mouse]


  5. Ubu Roi says:

    Re: Kurumu mousepad — Bad j! Bad! Bad! Making me have that vision! No cookie!

  6. jgreely says:

    Well, then I’d probably lose my cookie privileges for life if I mentioned that the seventh CD single announced for this season features all six girls singing with the bat.


  7. Ubu Roi says:

    I first read that as slinging with the bat. Huh?

    You don’t want to know where my mind went. Not only do you get no cookies, now I’m taking your milk away!

  8. Wonderduck says:

    At least through one episode, I’d move Index above Akane, and I think I like Toradora! more than you, but otherwise I’m agreein’ wit’chu. I’m glad to see that my initial, kneejerk reaction to both Casshern and Linebarrels was right; no WAY I’m putting those on my hard-drive.

    Of course, I’m eagerly awaiting the widescreen version of Clannad After Story, at which point it should go right to the head of the list (I’ve peeked at the 4:3 version a little), but that’s still at least a week away.

  9. Ubu Roi says:

    I’m just not interested in the latest tearjerker from KyoAni. Love their art, hate most everything they’ve done since Kanon. Well, Melancholy, maybe. I found Kanon mostly tolerable, though it’s offbeat for me.

    Honestly, I think I shorted Macademy, if anything, by putting it below Kannagi.

    I’m checking a few more series out tonight, and the 2nd episode of Akane. As for Toradora!, I’m tired of hyperviolent Rie Kugimiya vehicles. I look at Aisaka, and mentally see pink hair and a riding crop.

  10. Griffin says:

    Taiga’s initial nastiness put me off a lot too, but she thawed a lot in the second episode, I thought. If she doesn’t regress, it’ll be fine for me.

    I tried watching episode 2 of Linebarrels, out of desire to support licensed streaming anime. My impression: You’re already dead! My giant robot landed on you. But then I used its magical powers to revive you, so now you have a connection to it. OMG I’m already dead! Angst angst — (Griffin changes the virtual channel)

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