Here I am with the second big compilation post of the season. For the uninitiated, here I'll take a quick look at all the shorts (series with episodes that run fifteen minutes or less), sequels (to series I didn't watch previously) and series aimed at children. Will some of these sequels and continuations prompt me to go back and re-watch the previous seasons? Will a series of shorts prove pleasant rather than irritating? Will shows aimed at children be more than overblown toy commercials? Read on to find out!
Note: This post will be updated to reflect new reviews when they're completed.
Update 9/12/2012 – An impressions of Dog Days’ has been added.
Update 9/19/2012 – Impressions of Hakuouki Reimeiroku, Yuruyuri, and Tanken Driland have been added.
Chitose Get You!
Production Company: Silver Link
Review: Chitose is a precocious eleven-year-old who, after being saved from a vicious dog, falls in love with her savior, who happens to be an adult government worker. She calls him "Onii-chan" and takes every opportunity she can to skip out on class to go see him, to the dismay of her teacher.
Chitose Get You! is this season's callback to Hanamaru Kindergarten, and many of its elements appear to be recycled from that series. The first couple of episodes (and yes, I watched all the episodes that were available at the time of this writing) seem to delve more directly into Chitose's highly awkward and inappropriate attraction to the older male target of her affection, while the later episodes devolve into yet another gag comedy that rehashes observational humor and sight gags from many other places (including just about every mediocre slice-of-life series I can think of). The show also emphasizes the imagined "rivalry" between Chitose and her female teacher by making ham-fisted attempts to contrast Chitose against the teacher's more "developed" upper chest region, which adds an extra creeper element to the show that it really didn't need.
For a series with such short episodes it really is quite a chore to sit through so many back-to-back. I'm convinced that the short episode format can be used successfully (Chi's Sweet Home did it by being profoundly cute), but it takes a surprising amount of finesse to make a successful gag comedy, and this show really doesn't demonstrate anything close to that amount of skill.
One thing that I will say about this show is that, while its subject matter is clearly meant to excite a certain type of audience, its blatant inappropriateness doesn't nearly approach the level of something like Kodomo no Jikan, so at the very least it doesn't make me despair for the direction humanity has taken.
Recommended? This is one of those brainless series that requires little commitment. I can't really recommend it, but it's not exactly a major time sink, either. Take that how you will.
Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere II
Production Company: Sunrise
Review: The summary of this episode can be stated as thus: everyone is fighting one-another, and none of it makes a lick of sense. Also, the main character from the first season is naked for no good reason and gets punched in the junk several times.
I have to admit that I actually started singing along to the show's theme song using my own lyrics. They went something like "this girl looks sad and has no nipples, and this one looks sad and her breasts don't make sense." Anyway.
I realize that this is a split-cour series and this isn't a sequel per se, but it's shows like this that inspired me to start writing about sequels in this manner rather than trying to pull a full review out of nowhere. The second half of this show appears to begin almost exactly as does the first, which is to say that it's completely inscrutable. It's like a grab-bag of anime concepts thrust together and forced to play nicely, but in a way that doesn't make even the tiniest bit of logical sense. The alternate version of history being acted-out by the different factions could be sort of interesting on its own, but piled on top of it are elements like super powers based on the seven deadly sins, giant mecha with huge breasts, gender-swapped figures from history, horrendous anatomical impossibilities, and extremely juvenile sex jokes. And did I forget to mention, the titular female character is an emotionless doll? I honestly have no words in my vocabulary that I can properly use to describe how I feel about this show, other than curse words.
My husband walked into the room while I was watching this episode, and the only thing I had to say to him was "I have no idea what the f*** is going on" as he looked on apologetically. Before this becomes a sad extended narrative of my anime-viewing life, I'll just say that the real icing-on-the-poop-cake was the character that seemed to exist only to make fun of fat people, and the scene during which one girl unbuttoned(?) the shirt of another, to the victim's embarrassment. Yes, clearly this is high-quality entertainment.
Recommended? Considering that just about every element present in this episode managed to push my buttons, I'm going to say no.
Rinne no Lagrange Season 2
Production Company: Xebec
Review: Things have become quiet once again in Kamogawa. Madoka, along with her peers, are trying to decide what their paths will be when they graduate from high school. Lan returns unexpectedly, and asks Madoka to pilot the grounded Vox Aura once again. Madoka is forced to make a decision when Muginami unexpectedly returns to Earth in Vox Ignis, seemingly looking for a fight.
I wasn't interested in the first season of this series when it was being broadcast, but after it was finished a lot of writers I follow seemed to have pretty positive reactions to it. I'm not going to lie; early in the Winter season, I decided that I only had room for one Tatsuo Sato girl-focused series in my life, and I ended up choosing Bodacious Space Pirates (a choice I don't regret in the least since I ended up loving the show) because it seemed less fanservice-y. That said, while nudity (and especially underage nudity) is usually enough to keep me from recommending a series, it's not always enough to keep me from actually watching it in spite of my misgivings. Judging by this episode, I get the feeling that the experience wouldn't be a complete waste.
If I recall, my original complaints were mostly generalized, though focused somewhat on the fact that Madoka was something of a "perfect" character. Her claim-to-fame was belonging to several different clubs while at the same time not really belonging to any of them. I was torn, at least in my mind, between wanting to admire her and not wanting to indulge someone else's unrealistic expectations of what female characters should do and be. It's a complicated reaction that's difficult to explain in a way that makes any sense, but to try and put it simply, I would love to just see stories about real girls, rather than the "perfect" archetypes or flatly-characterized moe types that make up the majority of anime characters.
To put it succinctly, I can tell that this show has aspects that I wouldn't like, even though there isn't very much of that present in this episode. I am, in spite of that, sort of intrigued by the little hints of story that peek through the cracks in this relatively quiet episode. I'd like to know exactly what's going on between the three main characters, and why there are aliens on Earth. Perhaps sometime I'll make the time to find out.
Recommended? I'm still a bit wary of making a recommendation, but my feelings on this series now are more positive than they were originally, which probably says something.
Production Company: Seven Arcs
Review: After Cinque’s fantastic adventure in the magical world of Floynard, where humans have animal traits and battles are fought in a non-fatal manner, he returns home to Earth promising to return one day. Soon enough, he’s summoned again to this alternate world, but he’s not alone. Cinque takes his place once again as the hero of Biscotti, but his friend Nanami is recruited by an opposing force, and there are others who have their sights set on his childhood friend Rebecca.
Disregarding other content, this episode does just about everything that I think a second season opener ought to. The opening scenes provide a good refresher and help inform new viewers about the premise of the series, and the important players (and a selection of secondary characters) are re-introduced. The second half of the episode jumps right into the thick of things, and we’re provided a good idea of what the action component of the show is like. As a jumping-off point, this episode is successful and I think a new viewer who’s interested in the premise will get a good idea whether or not they’re going to enjoy the rest of the series.
That said, it should come as a surprise to no one that I’m not entirely enthused by some aspects of this episode (and, by extension, the show in its entirety). For all its bright colors and cute elements (and don’t get me wrong, I find the little animal blobs the characters become when they’re injured to be very cute), it’s also got some prominent (though not grotesque) ecchi elements and the male-female character ratio is skewed in a predictable way. The title card during the commercial is mildly fanservicey, and an incident in which three women experience the ill-effects of their clothing being hacked to pieces is obvious and trite.
This may seem like a petty complaint, but it’s something that bothered me throughout the entire episode. A couple of the larger-breasted characters are wearing clothing that doesn’t make much sense, in that it’s drawn as being completely form-fitting and breast-hugging, when that’s not how fabric actually works. I’m not going to criticize the voluptuousness of those characters, but I am very hung up on the way their clothing is drawn as if it were just painted on their skin rather than made of substantive material. As a (very) amateur artist, it’s one of my big pet peeves.
I will say that this show seems to be relatively cheery and non-cynical compared to many others that share some of its other traits, and that in itself may certainly appeal to some fans. Unfortunately, I’m having a lot of trouble looking past its frankly snore-worthy fanservice elements, because they put a black mark on something which could probably be quite enjoyable without them.
Recommended? If someone held a gun to my head and asked whether or not there was a recently-released fanservice series I would feel okay recommending, I would probably not pain me too much to recommend this one. In general, though, I’m too disappointed by its more problematic elements to do so.
Production Company: Studio DEEN
This anime is licensed for DVD by Sentai Filmworks
Review: In this prequel to the main Hakuouki series, wanderer Ryunosuke Ibuki is left broken and bruised on the road by some thugs, and gets picked up by a member of the Roshigumi (the precursor to the Shinsengumi), Kamo Serizawa. Once he recovers, Ibuki makes plans to leave, but the others insist that he show his respects to his savior and thank him before setting off. Serizawa demands much more than a “thank you,” and makes Ibuki his personal servant to bay back the debt he owes.
Call me a bad person, but every time there’s been a new incarnation of this series, I cringe inside. I’m not really someone who enjoys harem or reverse-harem series in the first place, but this show has always had the added distinction of being particularly boring and having pretty shoddy production values. This season seems to be a little different, however. The first major difference is that the primary female character is nowhere to be found (obviously, since this is a prequel). While the main focus of the series is obvious due to the large group of attractive men hanging around, there’s not the added irritation of a female character whose main purpose is to constantly be rescued by the aforementioned hotties.
The other difference manifests in the tone of the piece, which seems a little bit more down-to-earth than what I remember of the previous incarnations. While I can’t speak to subsequent episodes, this intro episode seems more focused on the drama between the individuals involved rather than the supernatural elements that distinguished prior seasons. I wouldn’t want anyone to take this as a proclamation of some prejudice against supernatural reimaginings of historical people or groups (what a mouthful), it’s just that so often such elements are used as band-aids to hide otherwise unremarkable ideas or plot holes the sizes of hallways. In any case, there’s little subtlety to the relationships that are introduced, but there’s also very little that I would classify as ham-fisted or glaringly-amateurish either.
Considering that this is a prequel rather than a further continuation of the primary Hakuouki storyline, it does provide an opportunity for newcomers to dip their toes into the franchise without too much trouble. Several of the characters are people who will be familiar to anyone who knows anything about the Shinsengumi, but even those who don’t shouldn’t have a problem understanding what’s going on.
Do I think that this is a great series? I can’t really make that claim, because I find it highly uninteresting. This version does seem to have fewer problems that previous ones, at least judging from the first episode.
Recommended? It’s not for me, but I do have a more positive impression of this incarnation than some of the previous ones, so those who may have been more on the fence about it might want to check it out.
Production Company: Dogakobo
Review: While on the train to a hot springs resort, Akari has an extended fantasy in which every single girl from her middle school confesses their undying love for her. When she and the other club members arrive at the ryokan, they play ping-pong, drink juice from the vending machine, and enjoy a soak in the hot spring before closing off the night with some anime.
Apparently this series is pretty popular, but I can’t for the life of me figure out what distinguishes in any way, shape or form from most other series about school girls doing nothing. Its title, which means “easygoing yuri,” essentially marks it as a “fun-sized” version of lesbianism marketed at fans who are interested in the “idea” but perhaps not the reality of female-female homosexuality, but that’s not much different from a lot of series that call themselves yuri. It’s cutesy and deals in the currency of schoolgirl crushes and middle-school antics, but that doesn’t really go much further towards explaining its appeal or how it seems to have become such an extensive meme.
This is, of course, coming from someone who didn’t watch much of season one, so maybe there’s some explanation buried within those depths that I’m just not bound to get.
The primary source of humor seems to be drawn from the slapstick elements in this episode, which generally left me feeling cold. The plus here is that the animation is particularly good for this sort of series, so even if the comic timing is hit-or-miss, the actions of the characters are really fun to watch. The downside is that the animators seem so proud of their work that many of the gags are repeated with the exact same animation. This isn’t unique to this anime series in the least, but a gag that’s only mildly humorous the first time around needs a little extra “oomph” to be funny in subsequent incarnations, and that’s really missing.
The show does have a creative way of re-introducing its characters and setting, in that Akari’s overly-lengthy dream sequence features just about every character I recall seeing in the few episodes of season one that I watched. Everyone gets a very quick introduction, but that’s honestly all that’s really needed considering that most of the characters are extremely one-note, and many of their associated gags are recycled wholesale from other series. At the very least, I don’t feel as if I was going in without a little bit of background.
I would love it if this felt more like a genuine show about a group of female friends and less like a vehicle for very specific pandering, especially considering how nice the animation is. Alas, Azumanga or Nichijou this is not. It may have its fans, but all I can really see is a property that’s fearful of committing too greatly to any one of its many bits and pieces.
Recommended? This type of series is perfect for a sequel because it’s plotless and simplistic. It doesn’t have to go out of its way to bring new viewers up to speed. That said, it’s also not very meaty and its “yuri” aspect is purely window-dressing.
Tanken Driland (Explore Driland)
Production Company: Toei Animation
Review: Princess Mikoto of Elua is being raised to rule her country, but she’d rather become a hunter who fights monsters and goes searching for treasure in the lands far past the mountains that surround her home. She’s influenced in this goal by Bonny, an older adventurer who trains her in sword play when she’s in the area. One day Bonny leaves, and Mikoto decides it’s time to go adventuring on her own. Underprepared, she soon finds herself up against a monster she can’t defeat, but her uptight assistant Wallins has a secret – he too is an adventurer. The two team up to defeat the monster, and Bonny discovers that a greater evil is beginning to awaken.
I generally don’t pay much attention to shows for children, especially ones like this which are based on video games. I tend to feel like the goals of most video games clash with the goals of decent serialized storytelling, and the best game-based-anime tend to take very large liberties with their source material. So imagine my surprise when I watched the trailer for this series and discovered that, in spite of its young age-rating and simplistic, cutesy character designs, the show has some unusually good things going for it.
The show is different (I almost dare say it’s unique, though I imagine that’s technically not true) in that it appears to be a straight-up fantasy adventure series in the shounen vein that stars a young girl protagonist. The role of the spunky kid who gets to go off and have adventures is filled by a spunky princess who (eventually, I assume) gets to go off and have adventures. While there are character who protest Mikoto’s tendency to run off and practice swordplay rather than remain in the castle and tend to her responsibilities as heir to the realm, none of them seem to be doing so as a response to her gender, which is refreshing. Likewise, the mistakes she makes in battle seem more due to inexperience rather than a “girls can’t do this sort of thing” mentality, which is also very welcome.
What I enjoyed most about the episode, though, was the relationship between Bonny and Mikoto. It’s rare for most series of this nature to feature mentorship relationships between older and younger women (even Moribito can’t claim to have one, unless you count Torogai who is more a teacher to Tanda than Balsa), yet this one features one that features a transfer of wisdom both physical (through swordplay) and philosophical. I really appreciate that Mikoto isn’t shown as being some exception to the “rule” of her gender, but rather an inexperienced youngster with an older example to look up to.
The simplistic story is probably what would get to me if I were to watch this series for any length of time, but there are a lot of good things going for it otherwise and I think younger children would definitely enjoy it.
Recommended? The series isn’t streaming anywhere so I feel like I technically can’t recommend it, but for those rule-breaking souls who are prepared to go out of their way to find it and who are able to get into a child-like state of mind, I think this might end up being a fun diversion.