Strike Back! Echoes' Winter 2011/2012 Impressions
With another season finished, I’ll share my thoughts on the shows that we just sat through (well, the ones I saw), as well as some thoughts on the season in general. Was this season a blessing from above, or a destructive thunderbolt from Zeus himself?
Good ol’ Chroma has already shared his thoughts on the season, so some of this might be a little redundant, but I simply cannot help myself.
The long-awaited sequel to the immensely popular Bakemonogatari finally graced our screens this season. Araragi continues his dialogue-filled adventures with absurdly attractive females and great scenarios. This time around, his two spunky sisters join the fray, and as far as characters go, they certainly do not disappoint. This sequel keeps up the fun and clever dialogue, and more than matches the intriguing visuals that the first season offered. There is always something to feast your eyes on; it may be a beautiful character, or simply some interesting little detail added in to keep our low-attention-span brains occupied.
While Nisemonogatari doesn’t quite reach the level of Bakemonogatari (and on a few occasions indulges a little too much in sex over substance for my taste), it is nevertheless a marvelous show well worthy of your attention. If you’ve yet to check out the -monogatari franchise, there is now even less reason for you to remain in the dark. Gorgeous visuals, enchanting music, clever dialogue and awesome characters. Who could ask for more?
Rinne no Lagrange
The complete title for this series is “Rinne no Lagrange: Flower declaration of your heart.” What imagery does that bring to mind? Maybe a romantic youth drama, with focus on the beauty and symbolic value of one of nature’s little jewels: flowers? Lots of cute girls and hi-larious hijinks?
How about alien invaders and mecha battles? Now now, the series does take place in a high school, and the protagonists are indeed good-good-good-looking girls. So it wasn’t a fully deceptive title. Madoka is an energetic go-getter who runs her school’s Jersey club. Yup, a club devoted to that most humble of God’s creations, the jersey. Her life soon takes a turn to the dramatic, as she learns that she possesses abilities far beyond her wildest expectations; she can pilot a strange robotic aircraft. Together with a strange girl named Lan, she takes on her newfound duty, performing it with the same level of enthusiasm that she applies to the rest of her life.
This show’s strength lies in its characters, their interactions, and to a lesser extent, its plot. Madoka is a fantastic female lead, being both confident, capable, funny and charming. She has a great deal of charisma, and her trademarked expression of “Maru!”, whenever she accomplishes something will surely get stuck in your head. I very much liked that they went with a plain, everyday look for Madoka. She’s certainly attractive, but in the girl-next-door kind of way. She doesn’t have any obvious selling point visually speaking, she lets her personality do the talking, and that is plenty. She is accompanied by Lan, who is her complete opposite in many ways. More serious and enigmatic, Lan is fantastically cute, and very endearing as a character. "Wan!"
This show delivers a compelling story, filled with charm, humor and good character interactions. The visuals are great, and the small amounts of erotic appeal thrown in here and there doesn’t feel forced or detract from the show in any way. A great series, and luckily we will be getting both an OVA and a second season. Hooray!
Ano Natsu de Matteru
This show is simply fantastic. I won’t go into too great detail, both because it would be a shame to spoil anything, and because I might be doing a review on this one later on.
Ano Natsu tells the tale of an alien woman (seems to be a recipe for success this season) who lands on Earth in search of a place whose scenery fills her mind in a mysterious memory. She runs into our protagonist, and together with him and his group of friends, they experience the summer of their lives. This series has charm in spades. It conjures up wonderful imagery, which reminded me of good adolescent memories of my own, as well nostalgic memories of my “anime childhood.” The romance is well handled, and without spoiling anything, is actually an integral part of the show. This is not a romantic comedy in the sense that many anime shows are; this is a genuine romance with comedy as a welcome side dish.
The characters, as well as the character designs, are a pure stroke of genius. You will laugh when Remon, voiced by the ever-talented Tamura Yukari, pulls one over on everyone yet again. That woman commands every scene she is in, and is a delightful treat to watch. Ichika and Kanna are titans of moé and charm themselves, and the supporting male (who often get the shaft in anime), Tetsuro, is a great character who plays an important role in the series. That’s what really makes this show work- everyone has a part to play. None of the main cast are there merely for plot convenience, none of them are there just for a rinse and repeat gag. They all matter, and they’re all lovely.
The warm animation style of J.C. Staff fits this series perfectly, and the opening theme evokes just the right mood. This feels like a summer anime, and it feels like a life-affirming, positive and genuine tale of youthful love and exuberance. What else can I say? Two thumbs up.
Senki Zessho Symphogear
This show was off to a strong start. The very first episode nicely laid out the premise and introduced some pretty good characters. The pacing was a bit quick, sure, but that just made it more exciting. It was all downhill from there, however. The plot got convoluted and silly, certain characters acted inconsistently, and the humor was god awful. They actually repeated the joke “this is just like an anime!” several times in the show, and let me tell you, it did not get any funnier. The show also has what I think I can honestly call the worst “Engrish” I have ever heard- it physically hurt my ears. I take no pleasure in saying any of this however, as I had hoped this would be an exciting ride. The good parts of the show included some nice character designs, especially for Tsubasa and Chris, and a surprisingly entertaining final episode. Too little, too late as far as I was concerned, but hey, if you liked it, more power to you.
Recorder to Randoseru Do♪
This short goofball comedy failed to deliver any laughs at all. It’s sort of charming, I suppose, but the writing is incredibly trite. How can you be repetitive when all you have are 13 three-minute segments? How many times did the main character get arrested or hassled by the police because they thought he was a pedophile? At least five. There’s really nothing here worth getting my knickers in a twist over; it’s just an inoffensive, short comedy that’s incredibly repetitive. It’s just sort of pointless. At least you’ll get to hear Kugimiya Rie in a non-tsundere role!
Amagami SS+ Plus
Amagami returns, and it is as enjoyable as it ever was. The shorter format is a welcome change, now that we already know the characters. Each segment is enjoyable in its own right- my favorites easily being Haruka’s and Kaoru’s. The character designs are pleasant to the eye, the more realistic color palette is a nice change of pace from other anime, and the characters themselves are chock-full of fun and charm. A fine addition to the romantic comedy genre, and proof that the harem genre can be pulled off convincingly.
Black Rock Shooter (TV)
Black Rock Shooter was a very interesting watch. Expanding on the OVA, the series explores the rocky relationship between a group of troubled girls. Mato is our kind and likeable protagonist, while everyone is pretty much a walking landmine. What I particularly appreciate in this show is how the solutions aren’t overly simplistic. Someone might get better, but then all of a sudden take a turn for the worse again. That’s real, that’s the human psychology. We react to things emotionally in ways that aren’t always logical, and sometimes, not all of the king’s men can put a broken mind together again. But of course, we cannot leave out the most distinct part of BRS, its visuals. The gorgeous otherworld is rendered in black, with smatterings of other colors littering the landscape. All of the “warriors” look splendid, and the battle sequences are great fun to watch. Lastly, there is some fantastic voice acting at work in this series, with Hanazawa Kana, Sawashiro Miyuki and Mamiko Noto all delivering fantastic performances. Though short in length, this is a story well worth watching.
Natsume Yujincho Shi
Although it is in its fourth season, Natsume is not going stale. Not even close. In fact, this season had some of the strongest, most emotional episodes the series had to offer. Natsume grows, and we learn more about his troubled past. The yokais are interesting as always, and Nyanko-sensei is growing more and more fond of Natsume. Though he’d never admit that. The series ended on a very nice note; the final arc was a pure joy to watch. Bittersweet adventures at their best, Natsume delivers per usual. Although it’s pretty much the king of consistency at this point (and when the quality is this high, that is admirable indeed), this is the season that finally got me inspired to go out and start buying the manga. Four volumes down so far!
Papa no Iukoto wo Kikinasai!
Though easily the weakest of the shows in this segment, Papa-kiki has enough good things going for it to make it an enjoyable, fairly charming family drama. The girls are very cute, and fun to watch. The difference in age makes for some interesting character interaction, and though the premise might sound like underage ecchi bait, there is actually very little objectionable content in the series itself. (A few scenes here and there genuinely do detract from the enjoyment for me, though; For instance, a three year old grabbing someone’s breasts? Very unnecessary.)
Seeing Yuta work hard to put food on the table, getting help from his good and reliable friends can be very heartwarming. The show does a good job in general of conveying the experience of a struggling, unconventional family making the best of their situation. It is not great, and there are stronger shows out there with the theme of family, but this is enjoyable enough to stand on its own as a cute little ride. Miu’s a darling too, and voiced by the wonderful Kitamura Eri.
Zero no Tsukaima F
The conclusion that fans, like myself, have been eagerly anticipating for quite some time now. With the disappointing third season, expectations might have been low, but this series delivered where it mattered. The unnecessary fanserivce was cut down, the plot took a turn for the epic, and a variety of settings were explored. In general, this series was a worthy ending to the series, and a huge step up from the last season. A nice surprise for the few ZnT fans still out there. Sometimes patience is rewarded!
Everything else I watched fell into the “decent” category. For the most part, these were enjoyable, but unremarkable, shows. (I’m happy I watched them all.) I’ll try to summarize each in 10 words or less!
Brave 10: Marry me, Isanami. Pedestrian, but a very fun show.
Inu x Boku SS: Kya, Ririchiyo! Dull Miketsukami! Good humor, slow middle, great ending.
Kill Me Baby!: Inconsistent humor, but very funny when it hits. Cute designs.
Highschool DxD: Lots of boobs. Worst of the bunch, but guilty fun.
That’s it for this season. I’m very happy with the results. Three marvelous shows, a handful of very good ones, and another handful of decent ones. A lot of memorable characters, beautiful art and animation and fine storytelling at work. Anime is alive and strong. This will be a hard act to follow. The ball’s in your court, Spring!