You waited and hoped and dreamed about it, now here it is - the Season1Episode1 "The Dregs" post for Summer 2012! This post is reserved for all the butt-awful toilet trophies of the season, so mockery is accepted and encouraged. Remember, though, we're here to trash-talk the shows, not their viewers! My Sensitive Female Constitution™ cannot handle an influx of angry trolls right now (translation: I find them boring and a hassle).
Update 9/04/2012 – Impressions of The Ambition of Oda Nobuna added. I suddenly realized I had overlooked this “gem.”
Number of Episodes: 12
Production Company: AIC Build
Review: Yuuki is a member of the Food Research Club at his large private school. What this means is that he spends his time after class in a room full of girls (and a token male friend of ambiguous sexuality) sampling treats provided by the members of the club, as well as enduring the presence of the club's advisor, who often drinks beer during the school day. One day they learn that their club may be disbanded due to a new initiative meant to cut down on clubs which don't provide useful services to the school. With class elections coming up, the Food Research Club decides to put their own dog in the game so that their club might be saved. Of course, that "dog" is none other than Yuuki himself.
This episode begins with a very unsettling segment involving a young would-be journalist witnessing some sort of seedy exchange who then gets hit by a car, then completely switches gears to become a very lackluster school harem comedy focused on the consumption of weird food. There are several points during which the episode seems to take itself almost too seriously to the extent that it became funny to me as a viewer, and I'm almost positive that it wasn't the intention of the show to present itself in exactly this manner. The entire super serious drama involving corruption within the student council and the bad-assery of the female members who uncover the financial corruption(!) going on is pretty ridiculous.
The character development is, as expected, laughable. The female cast is made up of a real rag-tag group of moeblob nobodies with personality quirks that are both incredibly cliché and mind-bendingly weird. The teacher is like most female adults as they're portrayed in anime - often drunk and always either uncaring or irresponsible. There's another girl whose shtick gives off the impression that she used The Professor from Nichijou as her personal inspiration. One girl is obsessed with breast size, while another is a childhood friend. And there's a deadpan, emotionless girl whose hair looks like cat ears. As if to add insult to injury, most of these girls have stupid bishoujo hair.
Still, with all the intentionally and unintentionally humorous parts during the episode, I've still left my viewing feeling strangely, inexplicably unsettled. I think it might have something to do with the fact that the main character manages to have what seems to be visual hallucinations throughout the episode. He sees several characters as having odd facial features, bodily-accoutrements or masks which no one else is able to see, and this, coupled with the strange opening and the weird, dark final moments of the episode (during which we find out that the girl hit by the car in the opening is in a vegetative state in the hospital, watched-over by a creepy dude), really lends a sense of discord to the episode.
But you know, that doesn't exactly explain why, since finishing this episode, I've gotten the strange impression that someone has been watching me, as if staring with their piercing-yet-lifeless eyes from outside my office window. I mean, that's just silly, right?
This is one of the few series this season that isn't being simulcast anywhere, and my first (and most likely last) impressions are that no one stands to miss very much because of it. Its silly bits aren't prominent enough that they come across as a conscious parody, and its serious moments are unintentionally laughable. Though I will say that I've developed a taste for some chocolate, thanks to having seen piles and piles of it being consumed by the characters, so be wary if you're on a diet.
Better or Worse? Though I had low expectations to begin with, I ultimately had fun with the write-up for the show, so I'll just call it a wash this time.
Number of Episodes: 12
Production Company: ARMS
Review: Akatsuki is known as the "Rogue Hero" in the land of Alezard, but having defeated the Demon King, he departs for his homeland of Japan. However, he's not alone; tucked-away in his bag is a beautiful, busty nude girl named Miu. Miu joins Akatsuki at Babel, an institute for individuals who have been summoned to other worlds and managed to find their way back home, and who now have special abilities because of it. At Babel, Akatsuki's and Miu's abilities are tested. Akatsuki ends up in a face-off with the Student Council President and earns his place in Babel. It turns out that Miu has a few family secrets that may bring destruction to those she knows.
Within the first five minutes of this series, the main character steals the bras and panties of several battle-maids who have been sent to capture him. This really sets the tone for the remainder of the episode.
I consider a series to have failed if either the extent of its humor relies on the sexual humiliation of its female characters (or, I suppose, any of its characters - it just happens that it's often the women who get a raw deal), or its protagonist is entirely unlikeable, and within moments, this episode hits both targets. Akatsuki is not only a "Rogue Hero," he's also first in line to be crowned "King of the Douchebags" after treating just about everyone he meets with complete disrespect. His M.O. seems to be the stealth-fondling and panty-thievery against women who oppose him, and unwelcome kissing to those who are (inexplicably) attracted to him. And let's not forget that he's one-half of a trade that involves an actual living, breathing sentient individual. Miu's father, the late Demon Lord, gives Miu to Akatsuki like she's some sort of burdening object, to which Akatsuki responds by stuffing her nude, unconscious body into a sack and taking her home to his room.
Let's just reiterate that point. He stuffs an unconscious nude girl into a bag like so many toiletries and changes of clothing, and takes her, without her knowledge or permission, home to his world. And then debates whether to grab her breasts while she's incapacitated. Because sexual assault is funny. Except that it's not. Of course, Miu's amnesia means that Akatsuki can feed her just about any line he wants to and he proceeds to mold her into the person that he wants her to be. But it's okay, because she's actually evil and he's protecting humanity by brainwashing her, right? Oh, nope, actually it's still vulgar.
I am willing to say, almost without reservation, that any series in which a girl is brainwashed, fondled against her will, or made to be a slave in some demeaning, atrocious way and which tries to justify these things by making those actions into "part of the plot" is actually completely puke-worthy and should be flushed down the toilet. If I don't see the characters who are committing these acts severely punished for their actions in some measurable, substantial way (as in, more than just a "kyaa!" and a smack), all that's really being said is that it might be worth momentary pain to get one's jollies in this way, or that it's cute and funny to peep on girls and it's even cuter when they put up a fight.
Looks like Funimation has another winner on its hands!
Better or Worse? I actually debated putting this series here after only reading the description, since it sounded more silly than terrible, but oh boy is it worse than I could have imagined. It's extra frustrating to me that there are big-name English language outlets who are willing to syphon in this stuff and perpetuate its badness so willingly and without question.
Number of Episodes: 12
Production Company: J.C. Staff
This anime is licensed for DVD by Sentai Filmworks.
Review: The Arcana Famiglia is a "rogue organization" (read: mafia) that protects the island of Regalo. Felicita, the Famiglia's "Princess," and the other agents, have bonded with certain cards of the Tarot and gained their associated powers. When the Famiglia's leader, Papa, announces a contest for those with the power of the Arcana, it's met with mixed emotions. The prize on the line is Felicita's hand in marriage, and she would rather retain her personal freedom.
I have many of the same problems with reverse-harem series as I do with harem series, the primary one of note being that the setup is always so obvious due to the inherent gender imbalance and one-note characterization. This episode avoids the characterization issue to a small extent; while all the dudes are still pretty one-note, we aren't entirely beaten over the head with their introductions - it's primarily contextual.
No, the problem here really isn't so much the characters, nor is it the perverseness of the show; most reverse-harem series are relatively chaste compared to their opposite-gender counterparts, after all, and this is no exception. The biggest problem I have is that the main character, Felicita, gives off the illusion of being powerful and yet it's obvious by the slant of the plot that the point is not that she find freedom by using her own power, but by somehow sharing it with or relinquishing it to one of the many male companions fighting with or for her. This may come as a surprise, but I see no shame in needing to be rescued; if I were caught in a burning building, I'd certainly be happy if a fire-fighter came to rescue me. It's a situation where I'd understandably be helpless if I tried to rely on my own power. What's irritating in this case is that the scenes which introduce Felicita give the illusion that she's a girl of her own means and power, when in reality her father can (and does) swoop in at any moment and put the smack down.
And here's my other complaint: the way that Papa claims ownership over his daughter's future is really abhorrent to me. I'm not in denial about history and I realize that women were, at certain points and in some cultures, considered the property of their fathers until they were married. Considering, though, that this is a fantasy series which doesn't seem to contain any substantial examination of gender roles other than as plot devices, I find that pulling that garbage out of a hat doesn't serve much of a point beyond easy plotting.
The latter third of the episode seems primarily concerned with the various men and their feelings on the matter of Papa's contest, and that too is telling; when the bulk of discussion is between the men, deciding whether they'll willingly participate in the contest or not, or whether they want to actually get married or not should they win, it just goes to show that the series really is just about the boys. Even when a couple of them offer to wish for Felicita's freedom if they win, her freedom is still in their hands. It's just problematic all over the place.
Better or Worse? Probably worse in that its problematic elements are many and varied. I do like that it's a battle-focused series, but I think that it otherwise has a lot of mixed messages that drag it straight down into the crapper.
Number of Episodes: 12
Production Company: Studio Gokumi
This anime is licensed for DVD by Sentai Filmworks. *sigh*
Review: Shougo's wealthy father passes away, leaving him as heir to the family business and fortune. He can inherit the company on one condition; he must find a woman to spend the rest of his life with by the time he graduates from high school. The problem is that a phone call he received at his father's funeral leads him to believe that he may have a younger sister that a childhood accident has left him unable to remember. Even worse, she goes to his high school, so he may inadvertently end up marrying her. Could she be the cool class representative? Or maybe the snarky girl he sits next to in class? How about the mysterious girl who prefers to cosplay as a witch? Shougo must discover his sister's identity before he finds himself in a very incestuous pickle.
This season's little sister incest tease anime (the fact that this is even a sub-genre is kind of frightening to me), while not quite as outwardly perverted as some have been in the past, continues in the grand tradition of pushing the envelope ever-so-slightly towards total depravity. While many series play at "just the tip" by setting some sort of condition for the relationship, like having the siblings be step-siblings and therefore not actually related by blood (which I guess in some universes means that the relationship is "okay on a technicality"), this series takes a different approach by suggesting that there perhaps are blood-related siblings involved, but not letting us know the identity of half the relationship. You clever writers, what will you think of next? Wait, please don't tell me, I'd rather cross that bridge when I come to it (and there's no other choice).
The girls who are introduced throughout the first episode are your typical moé templates, all of whom seem to have a strong vested interest in coming on to (and potentially bumping uglies with) the bland personality void that is Shougo. What doesn't make sense to me is why the supposed imouto-chan is hiding herself, unless she truly wants to trick Shougo into marrying her, which is gross on an entirely different level. Well, the rest of it doesn't make much sense except as a vehicle for titillation, so I guess that's just the extent of the logic here.
There's an especially ridiculous ecchi scene at the end of the episode that I think it worth mentioning. It features one of the female characters in the shower, who refers to her own breasts as cream puffs before getting angry at Shougo for making her say such filthy things... and he isn't even actually there at the time. This show is so desperate to show one of the characters being ashamed of her own nudity and sexuality that even the protagonist's non-presence is enough to set her off.
There's something unsettling about the fact that even the suggestion of a brother-sister incest plotline has become underwhelming to me. I'm not even all that shocked anymore, especially since there seems to be almost one per season nowadays. Even so, I've yet to watch one that's actually worth anyone's time or money. This one is really just a vehicle for one profoundly simplistic, stupid question: WHO IS IMOUTO?
Better or Worse? I would actually have to say marginally better in that, for the most part, the episode is just stupid rather than perverse. There are some obvious logical fallacies also, but the episode failed to make me rage like I expected.
Number of Episodes: 12
Production Company: feel.
This anime is licensed for DVD by Sentai Filmworks. They really ought to stop this.
Review: Ryousuke's father passed away when he was young and his mother lives in Germany doing research, so he lives on his own. He has a habit of saying his thoughts out loud, most of which are running commentaries on the the breast sizes and states of undress of the girls around him. One day he meets a woman who's stuck out in the rain and he invites her to his home to dry off. There she reveals her true identity, that of a shinigami, and uses Ryousuke as a source of energy. What she soon discovers is that his life force is a product of his sexual excitement, a fundamental truth which goes contrary to her sense of propriety.
I'm going to avoid discussing at length the basic stupidity of this premise, because it should be quite obvious to any fan of this website that it's not just low-brow, but pandering. Instead, let's take a closer look at the more subtle ways this episode and the protagonist are problematic.
Unlike, say, the protagonist of Aesthetica of a Rogue Hero, there aren't as many dead-obvious signs that Ryousuke is operating on a fundamentally sexist mindset. He proclaims at one point to love women, and rattles off several reasons why (many of which involve aspects of their bodies, but I'll let that slide momentarily). The problem really is that he, as my husband often says, "puts the pussy on a pedestal." I'm not using the phrase exactly in the 40-year-old Virgin sense of the term (by which I mean the film's explanation that the vagina is not some mythical orifice for worship, but rather just a meat cavern in which to thrust penises for male pleasure), but in the sense that Ryousuke holds women and their body parts to some unattainable ideal of his own making. Rather than respecting his female classmates and friends as equals, he others them by stressing that their physical attributes somehow turn them into magical wonderful creatures worthy of his constant leering "worship." In his own words, "[women] are treasure boxes filled with guys' dreams."
The show also tries to normalize sexual harassment by painting it as misunderstood flattery. Ryousuke has a female friend with a large chest, and in the opening scene he has an extended monologue about her breasts and how they've grown over the years. She, having been friends with him for several years, takes his inappropriate language in a stride, but some underclassmen are less willing to tolerate it when he points out the fact that their bras are visible beneath their rain-soaked shirts. Within the context of the series, there's this idea that what he says is okay because "at least he's being truthful and open about it." Ryousuke scolds some other boys for attempting to hide their perverse intentions rather than coming clean from the outset. Here's the thing, I'm going to generalize and say that most of us experience physical attraction to others from time-to-time. It's natural to see someone on the street and think "oh, they're really pretty/hot/handsome." The truth is, though, that there are many people who aren't cool with coworkers, classmates or random people on the street providing a running commentary about the ways in which their bodies are sexually-exciting to them. Many people, including myself, do not find it flattering to be objectified or become the target of someone's leering. This show, on the other hand, suggests that this kind of stuff is totally cool as long as you're forthright about it. Er, no. Having a character there who's only meant to justify the assumption that what he does is okay only adds fuel to the argument that everyone should be okay with that type of treatment.
Lastly, while the show's premise and the actions of its protagonist are trying really hard to profess a fundamental love of women, I'd actually argue that its building blocks reveal a strong distrust and fear of women and their sexuality. I find it very telling that the protagonist, a poor, innocent sap who Just Wants to Show Women that He Loves Them™, is essentially castrated by a woman who could, literally, be described as demonic. She's a real ball-buster who doesn't appreciate her slave's "complimentary" sexual attraction to her. The interplay between the idea that his sexual urges actually provide her with the power to fight and the fact that she wants nothing to do with it (and demonstrates as much by kicking him right in the balls several times) is just a reiteration of the old turd nugget of a concept that women just don't understand that it's to their benefit to endure these failures of flattery, and that perverse reactions to their bodies are actually some sort of deep, misunderstood compliment.
I'm having a difficult time deciding whether or not I think that this is the worst show of the season or not, but its somewhat more subtle and complicated sexism definitely puts it in the running.
Better or Worse? I think it's about on par with what I expected, though the exact details of how the show fails on multiple levels is somewhat more complicated and messy than I would have originally suspected.
Number of Episodes: 12
Production Company: Studio Gokumi, Madhouse Studios
Review: Sagara Yoshiharu finds himself trapped inside one of his favorite video games, or so he thinks. He’s caught in the middle of a battle, and assumes he’s in a dream, especially when he meets a female version of the famous General Oda Nobunaga, who calls herself “Nobuna.” Sagara, now nicknamed “Saru,” manages to weasel his way into Nobuna’s court and gets a front row seat to all different kinds of strategy. His knowledge of the future and how events unfold gives him the advantage he needs to aid Nobuna in her quest to conquer the whole of Japan.
I realized a few days ago that I’d forgotten to include this series here, and tried to remedy that as soon as possible. It should say something that it then took another several days for me to actually complete the episode. The problem isn’t so much that the show is fundamentally terrible on many levels, it’s more that the entire episode is extremely dull and doesn’t appear to be aiming itself wholeheartedly at any specific audience.
So how many gender-swapped series about the Sengoku period does this series make? Five? Six? I’ve lost count, but there’s at least one every couple of seasons lately, and premise is completely and utterly run dry at this point. There is literally nothing that can be done to make this premise interesting to me. Someone could even, I don’t know, double-gender-swap the characters back to men, and I would still be done with these kinds of shows.
Really, though, the gender-swapping doesn’t bother me as much here as it has elsewhere. There’s a decent explanation as to why all of these historical figures are women rather than the men they were in reality, they aren’t sexualized quite as much as I would have expected (though one character has breasts that seem to bounce even while situated behind a metal breastplate – please explain to me how that works), and there’s still a small part of me that’s happy to see women in positions of power, even when those positions exist as the result of profoundly stupid situations. The real problem is the protagonist, who is, simply put, an annoying fanboy who won’t stop talking. I’m mildly irritated that the general slant of this series seems to be that Sagara, with his knowledge of the time period (which he’s gathered primarily through his favorite video game), swoops in and uses that knowledge to accomplish things on behalf of the woman to whom he supposedly has loyalty. Because even though the men upon whom these characters are based managed to get done what needed to get done, the women are apparently not capable of fulfilling the demands of history. *sigh*
In terms of perversity, this show is very tame. In terms of excitement and tension, it’s dead-last. I don’t think that I could watch another episode of this series even if I really tried. Some series aren’t so much bad as they are uninspired and boring; this appears to be one of those.
Better or Worse? It’s a bit better in that there’s not a constant onslaught of breasts and panties, but worse in that it’s almost criminally boring.