Here comes the dump truck! There are several series each season that have very short run-times, that are continuations of series that I’ve never watched, or which are aimed at very young fans. Even though I might not have as many things to say about these types of anime, they still deserve a sliver of the spotlight.
This post will be updated as I add more reviews.
5/30/2012 - Updated with impressions of Kimi to Boku 2, Phi-Brain season 2, Cardfight Vanguard Asia Chapter, and Jewelpet Kira Deco.
6/27/2012 - Updated with impressions of Eureka Seven AO and Kore wa Zombie desu ka? Of the Dead.
7/24/2012 – Updated with impressions of Saki Episode of Side A and Folktales from Japan.
7/25/2012 – Updated with impression of Gon.
8/15/2012 – Updated with impression of Yurumate3Dei
Choco loves the occult. One day while she’s trying to summon Cupid, she accidentally summons the dark witch Gyubid. Gyubid can’t go back to the netherworld until Choco becomes a full-fledged witch. When Choco gets to school, she hears about mysterious hauntings going on after-hours, and learns that one of her classmates is feeling depressed over a nickname he doesn’t like. That night, Gyubid and Choco return to the school and discover that a vengeful spirit has been causing trouble, and Choco uses her magic to address the situation.
Episodes of Kuromajo-san ga Tooru are seven minutes long, fairly lengthy for the “shorts” category. This is reflected in the fact that the first episode manages to introduce a short-but-complete story and introduce several plot elements that may come into play later. Because most anime in this format are gag comedies, having a bit of a plot to invest in is a nice surprise. The downside is that including the amount of information needed to establish and resolve the story causes the entire episode to feel rushed. Still, there’s a nice moral at the end (don’t make fun of people), so there’s at least some insight to be gained even if it’s simplistic and flashes by at light speed.
At this middle school, homeroom is left up to the whim of the students. The student president asks the class about a “bumpy thing,” which turns out to be the bump on their wrist. No one seems to know the name of bump, until one student busts out with “Ulnar Styloid Process.” Because this term is unsexy, the class votes on a new name for it. Their choice? “Miss Bumpsies.”
This show is of a more expected format for its short run-time. Its introduction of a topic and the ensuing discussion is played for laughs, but like so much that’s meant to pass for comedy nowadays, comic timing has been replaced by a lot of yelling on the part of the main character and dopiness on the part of the supporting cast. All the hullabaloo about wrist bumps is probably intended to be silly and offbeat, but its pointlessness shines through loud and clear all the same.
Flash animation has become very common for these types of series, but I just can’t get past how cheap and lifeless it looks on screen. Part of what appeals to me about anime is its hand-drawn nature, and this technique removes the majority of that from the equation. On one hand, I realize that there are reasons forgettable series like this are rendered in this manner (cost is probably a big one), but I find it almost unwatchable a lot of the time.
Atsumi is still mistaken for a grade-school girl despite being in high school, and her younger brother Atsushi is tall enough to pass for an adult. Several episodes later this concept is still trying to prop up a very weak, often shady short anime series.
It was sort of a toss-up whether or not to include this with the sequels or the shorts, but in the end I decided that it doesn’t really have enough meat on its bones to include in the former category. The primary thing I wanted to mention is that the concept itself is still really off-putting to me. The primary “gag” (because it certainly makes me want to gag), is that Atsushi’s adult body gets him into uncomfortable situations with women much older. His classmates at school wonder whether he’s a teacher, or perhaps their female teacher’s boyfriend. I’m sure this is meant to be seen as cute and endearing, but all I see is a poor kid with unfortunate looks who’s probably going to end up getting assaulted someday.
Oh, and did I mention that the imagery during the end theme totally sexualizes him? It does, and it’s disgusting.
Shibainuko-san is a middle school student who looks just like a shiba inu.
Based on my love of cute animals, I should be very interested in this, but there is literally almost nothing there. The entire run-time of the first episode is only about two-and-a-quarter minutes, part of which is taken up by a commercial for the Recorder to Randsell DVD set, and another part of which is a theme song that goes on for several seconds longer than is required.
It should go without saying that there’s little time left after all of the unnecessary content to introduce the titular character. It’s frustrating that something that seems like it should be so effortlessly cute manages to be so vapid and empty to the point where I don’t even want to bother with a second episode.
Yurume thinks she’s moving to metropolitan Tokyo, but when she arrives at the dubiously-named Maison du Wish, she realizes that Tokyo really is rather large. She’s moving into the place to study up for her entrance exams, but she doesn’t take into account the fact that her housemates are a bunch of goofballs who will work their hardest to distract her.
I popped in the first episode of this series, and without noticing, I was suddenly about six episodes in. That’s one of the problems with series where the episodes are so brief – the quality really isn’t all there in a lot of cases, but it’s so darned easy to keep watching in spite of any negative opinions one might have. Seven episodes in (yes, another episode started while I’ve been writing this), and my impression is that this is just another gag series of zero consequence. The episodes revolve around mundane activities like watermelon-splitting and arguing over the last popsicle in the package. They’re things which might be more entertaining were the characters more engaging, but there’s little time to waste on character development when eight (yes, eight) episodes can pass in the blink of an eye.
Oh good grief, episode eleven just started.
Winter. It’s a time for tangerines, hot-pot meals and warm baths. After sharing the former at school, the boys invite themselves to Kaname’s house for the latter two. Gazing into the telescope turns into a mythology lesson, and then a session of poking fun at Kaname’s preference for older women. Before they finally get to bed, they talk about what everyone was like as children.
Whenever I decide to watch a series “if I have time,” I almost never have the time to actually do so. This series fell off my radar soon after I reviewed the first episode of the first season. It’s cute and pleasant, but that doesn’t always cut it when there are other series around that are more immediately compelling. As before, this episode proves that the “girls sitting around and talking about this-and-that” format translates perfectly well to a cast of male characters. The show ups the ante with some cute interstitial pictures of cats, whose actions seem to mimic the emotions of the scene and what the boys are doing at the time. There is nothing about it that’s any more complicated than that.
Though I didn’t watch much of season one, I get the impression that I gathered most of what worth knowing about the relationships between the characters in this episode. This is perhaps the consequence of anime’s tendency towards moe - though the characters’ personalities aren’t as well-developed as I would like, at the very least it’s easy to jump in cold to this type of series without having to do a lot of research on the plot or relationships. It’s not ideal, but it does make the job of reviewing a bit simpler. All-in-all, this doesn’t stand out as a must-see, but the second season is friendly to new viewers who feel like jumping in late and there’s a subtle blending of humor and sentimentality that rubs me the right way.
Things seem to be returning to normal, until Kaito and his friends arrive at school only to find the entrance blocked with yellow tape. Kaito rushes in despite the warning, and the others discover a secret message as the bridge blows up. On school grounds, he discovers a mirrored pyramid. Inside is a murderous maze made of mirrors, and Kaito only has 60 seconds to escape. Kaito uses his knowledge of light refraction to solve the puzzle just in time. His adversary warns of betrayal as he leaves the scene.
Though the premise of this series is still silly to me, I really have to admit that this episode was incredibly tense. There’s nothing like the combination of a looming countdown and a brain-teaser involving angles and mathematics to get the heart pumping.
This is one of those sequels (or, I suppose, continuations) that manages to juggle continuing story elements with bits that are easy enough for non-fans to understand. I spent the first few minutes wondering about the extent of what had transpired during the first season, and then enjoyed the rest of the episode as-is without too much trouble. I’m actually impressed by the complexity of this episode’s central puzzle and logic around how it was solved; it takes a creative mind to come up with a scenario like that, so kudos to the creator. I don’t know how much I buy into the whole idea of several shady organizations running deadly puzzle-solving rings and battling one-another, but my guess is that the plot-related items could be ignored in favor of the puzzles if one wanted to do so. This continuation seems to be pretty good; if I had to watch a shounen anime, I’d rather it be this than something more focused on guys beating each-other up.
After winning a Vanguard tournament, Aichi and team Q4 temporarily disband and play the game on their own. Aichi goes to the local game store and finds it empty except for a young boy he’s never seen before. They decide to duel so that Aichi can show him the ropes. The inexperience act turns out to be a ruse, and the mysterious stranger goes on to describe how real the Vanguard card game may actually be.
The problem with game-based anime is that so much time is spent explaining techniques and strategies. I would estimate that about half of this episode is given up to an extended explanation of the game’s basics. At the very least I have to give credit to the show for creating a contextually-appropriate reason for doing so - the mysterious stranger who appears in the game center helps to re-introduce the basic game rules in an organic way. The downside is that all the techno-babble is unfathomably boring to those of us who aren’t invested in the game, and the middle section of the episode just drags because of the time spent on boring details and overly-intricate strategies.
This might be a cheap shot, but I found it terribly ridiculous that the mysterious kid’s story seemed to imply that the world in which the game takes place is actually a real planet undergoing some current strife. I’m all for fantasy elements in my anime, but I just can’t take a reveal like that seriously. It’s enough that the game seems to encourage players to use their imaginations; don’t cheapen it by suddenly claiming “it was real all along.” This is the kind of uncreative muck that I don’t much care for, and I don’t see that much has improved between the beginning of season one and now.
The inhabitants of Jewel-land, all animals with eyes made of gemstones, spend the day eating cute foods, decorating items with gems, and occasionally watching intercepted satellite TV from Earth. One day, an ancient tome is discovered that tells the forgotten history of Jewel-land, including the story of jewels that have been scattered to every end of the planet. The Jewelpets begin their search for the jewel shards in the forest. While searching, a meteor drops from the sky carrying with it something entirely unexpected.
You know, I’ve reviewed the opening episodes of a couple of seasons of this series, and in both cases, the premise seemed to at least involve something about humans and Jewelpets working together and the humans learning to have confidence in themselves or whatever platitude-of-the-week was en vogue. I think that, at this point, the staff has given up. This is honestly, aside from shows that are outright insulting and misogynist, one of the worst episodes of anime that I have ever seen. I can give a lot of leeway to a series if it’s aimed at younger viewers, and this obviously has a very youthful target market. I’m only human, though, and my patience goes only so far. Having to listen to another voice actress torture her voice into the type of pouty uguu~ nyan-nyan that all these characters use to speak would be enough reason to drop anime altogether, I think.
Seriously, I enjoy cute things, but this made me grit my teeth. The episode felt about three times longer than it actually was. The only solace I found was the fact that most of what happened was so utterly ridiculous that I could imagine that the staff might actually be secretly trolling the audience in some way.
Eureka Seven: AO
I’d originally wanted to give this episode its own review, but I realized several minutes into it that, rather than a loosely-related sequel to the original Eureka Seven, this was more of a direct sequel, complete with a whole lot of terminology that I didn’t understand in the least. This isn’t really something I fault the show for, but I did have different expectations considering how many years its been since the original series was broadcast.
That said, I think the success of a sequel, primarily one which follows a series I haven’t seen, is how much it prompts me to seek out the original source material. This episode accomplishes that within the first few minutes with its gorgeous visual style. I am a pretty big fan of Studio Bones, and this seems to be one of its better recent efforts. The character animation is pleasant to watch, the vehicle animation (primarily accomplished in the same hand-drawn style of the rest of the show) is well-rendered, and the special-effects animation is gorgeous and colorful. I’m interested in what’s going on even if I don’t quite understand the logic of it. I’m not quite as interested in watching another series about a little boy having an adventure, but I think that there are plenty of other factors that would make up for it in the long run. At the very least, there seem to be a couple of named female characters, so it’s not as if the cast is a complete sausage-fest.
It may be about time for me to poke around and find some DVDs of the original Eureka Seven. I’ve heard that it compares favorably to Xam’d (though there are several debates as to which series is better at telling what is a similar story) and I feel assured that I’d be in store for some good eye-candy at the very least. This sequel works out as some pretty good advertising for the original and, time allowing, I think I might check it out.
Kore wa Zombie desu ka? Of the Dead
In a moment of personal weakness, Kore wa Zombie desu ka? roped me in with its first episode which, while more ecchi than I’m normally willing to tolerate, was also pretty darned funny. The rest of the series devolved quickly into the expected harem comedy, though it did feature an unusually strong mid-season climax (if the series had been only six episodes, I might have found it worth recommending, but the second half wasn’t as strong as the first). I suspected that the sequel would most likely not be able to offer anything more compelling than the first season, and that assumption seems to be in line with reality.
This episode is virtually a rehash of the first, its main difference being that it introduces another haremette who is so utterly annoying that I had to fast-forward through her scenes. This new pink-haired, squeaky-voiced, drunken nightmare is so abrasive that I honestly cannot fathom her appeal. Cute character design aside, she is truly nightmarish.
I find it amusing that protagonist Ayumu spends so much time in this episode as a dried-out husk, because that’s exactly what the show is at this point. All the delicious creative moisture has been squeezed from it and whatever is left is just dried-up and sad. Oh and I shall I mention how tired I am of the idea that cross-dressing is tantamount to perversion? Because I am so, so tired of it. To paraphrase Iggy Pop, I don’t think that dressing as a woman is shameful, because I don’t think that being a woman is shameful. Thanks but no thanks, you dopey anime series.
Saki: Episode of Side A
Transfer student Nodoka is a city kid who dresses in frilly clothing and doesn’t quite fit in once moving to the countryside. When her new friends discover that she enjoys playing Mahjong, they invite her to a local club and a whole world opens for her. In a few years, though, the group has dismantled and the friends have gone their separate ways. After seeing Nodoka on television in a prefectural tournament, her friends decide to reunite and aim for the nationals.
As many people would imagine, I watch a lot of anime. Most are forgettable, but there are a few images that always stand out to me months and even years later. The one thing that I remember of the original Saki series was a particular scene in which a character, standing in the rain, had rivulets of water flowing down her legs, the implication being that she was supposed to be sexually excited. This incarnation of the series begins by featuring younger characters, but also leads off on the wrong foot by making a big deal out of Nodoka’s (a sixth-year elementary school student, mind you) breast size. There are also several very questionable wardrobe choices - Shizu wears what looks like a track jacket with nothing underneath, and in the final scene of this episode, Nodoka appears in a set of pajamas that are almost pornographic. It would be so nice to watch a series about high school girls (and this seems to be exclusively about girls) which isn’t about some inferred amount of fetishized sexuality. I spent several years as a girl before somehow stumbling into womanhood, and I don’t recall ever sexually-harassing my female friends or making a big deal out of their chest size. I suppose these elements are drawn from the same well that suggests that all sleep-overs become sexually-charged pillow-fights.
On the other hand, I’m more interested in the mahjong element of the series. I was a big fan of Mahjong Legend Akagi, and while this series is completely different in tone (emphatically so), they both seem invested in portraying genuine Japanese riichi mahjong in an accurate way. That said, I think knowing the basics of how mahjong is played would be helpful in getting the most out of this series or Akagi, because in spite of some on-screen notes, the few gaming portions this episode has are still a bit out-of-reach for the casual anime fan. As someone with a very basic understanding of the game, I could probably survive a viewing of this series for the mahjong-centric material if I were so motivated.
Unfortunately, the creepy breast-focused scenes are a little bit too much for me. Sometimes I really just wish that manga and anime creators would reconsider their tendency to sexualize children and stop ruining shows that might otherwise have some positive aspects worth sharing.
Folktales from Japan
This anime series is a bit unconventional in that it features several bite-sized stories during a half-hour episode rather than a serialized story over several episodes. It’s also narrated rather than explained through dialog, which may be annoying to some viewers. However, I found the first episode to be charming, and if I were in the market for easily-digestible morality tales, I’d surely be watching more of this.
That said, while I certainly have a direct interest in Japanese culture and would like to know some of these stories in order to get a fuller picture of the cultural history of the country, this delivery method is a bit too childish for me. This of course brings up another issue – the target audience for the show is rather young, yet most of them probably aren’t reading at a level to comprehend the amount of subtitles that pop onto the screen. For most adults, I assume that this would be little more than a curiosity at best.
Things are happening as they usually do in the forest, until the sun is hidden during an eclipse. Something comes falling from the sky, but it’s not a meteorite – it’s a tiny dinosaur named Gon. Rather than eating meat as all the small mammals seem to fear, Gon develops a taste for fruits and mushrooms. He’s soon at odds with Ussu, a bear who doesn’t take kindly to Gon’s hard-headed nature and willingness to fight. In the end, Gon makes peace with the other predators by catching some fish and sharing the meal.
There isn’t a lot of dialog in this series. Like a Pokémon character, the extent of Gon’s vocabulary is his name, repeated over and over again, as a stand-in for every statement or reply. This often serves as a source of humor, since the other animals tend to assume what they want about what Gon is actually saying in whatever way suits their needs the most. There’s also a lot of physical humor, owing to the fact that Gon is amazingly tough-skinned and hard-to-damage. It’s amusing that such a squat little dinosaur spends so much time getting launched through the air or running at full-tilt on his stubby little legs.
I find that the animation is a real sticking-point for me, though. I’m not a huge fan of 3D animation in the first place, and while I wouldn’t expect a television series to feature the same quality and realism as a Pixar movie, I have to criticize the clunkiness of the character movement because it’s very distracting in many scenes. It often looks like the characters’ limbs are made of rubber or that the joints don’t connect properly. I imagine that this wouldn’t be a major critique for the series’ target audience, though, and the show is plenty charming and amusing in spite of its visual flaws.