Saturday, 12 January 2013

Winter 2012-13 anime

Time for another anime season. This being a much welcome one after the mediocre preceding one, with thankfully a variety of strong first episodes from numerous shows.

The show doesn't take itself too seriously
Maoyuu Mao Yuusha has so far been a great fantasy show about economics - which naturally brings comparisons to Spice & Wolf, though this has a good deal of overt romance from the get go. The heroine of the series is a demon queen who for reasons unknown, has been awaiting a human hero to arrive and ravage her castle (no pun intended, this is how it goes). She quickly presents herself as a romantic interest, which I'm hoping will mean the series can focus on an actual relationship in progress rather than the usual starting a relationship most series never go beyond.

Money is good.
But back to economics. It's interesting how the show draws inspiration from medieval agricultural economics and the political structures which existed (at least in Europe) at the time, and how war is a good way drawing out a population that cannot sustain itself.

The animation for the show is pretty nice, though the backgrounds and occasional use of CG do occasionally jar a little - if that's something that may bother you, then maybe waiting for the BDs would be a good idea. Whatever you decide to do, be sure to watch it at some point!

The first show of the season was Nekomonogatari. It was a pretty short miniseries (4 episodes, and already over) which served as a prequel to Bakemonogatari. As someone who felt indifferent to Bakemonogatari (though I always liked the Neko arc) I found this to be pretty enjoyable, focusing on the better characters of the series to give some amusingly scripted puns; there were also some pretty decent battle scenes.

The only downside - as with many other SHAFT series - is that the animation is very sparse and unexpressive with most of the keyframes being spent on fanservice. Apparently SHAFT usually improve the visuals a lot for their BDs, I just can't help but still feel this series would benefit much more from actual motion and fluid character movement. Regardless, the series will be continuing this summer for a 24/26 episode series - hopefully it'll be similarly enjoyable to Neko.

The heroine of the series
Ore no Kanojo to Osananajimi ga Shuraba Sugiru (or OreShura for short) utilizes a similar sort of humour to that of Bakemonogatari, though the premise of this is radically different: the protagonist is a guy whose parents have divorced, and as result of which he has decided to forgo any interest in romance whatsoever. This draws the attention of a girl who is fed up with the unwanted advances from other guys, and so seeks to have a sham relationship with the protagonist to keep the hounds at bay (so to speak).

It's pretty plain to see where the series will go, but all the same I'll stick with it since it seems to be pretty amusing so far - how enjoyable it will be depends upon how much drama they throw at the viewer (which I'm hoping will be none).

My poor heart
Speaking of drama, Kotoura-san began with an unexpectedly depressing first episode. The first 10 minutes were quite possibly the saddest and most heart wrenching thing I've seen on film - which for something billed as a comedy was not what I expected; you wouldn't think seeing a character get broken down in such a short time frame could be so affecting, but in this case it really was.

Thankfully the comedy does kick in mid way when the main character (Kotoura) is introduced to the carefree Manabe who quickly becomes something of a rock for her. The key plot device of the show is that Kotoura is able to read peoples minds (the root of much of her depression, since she is able to read the dark and unspoken thoughts of people), yet in Manabe she finds someone whose thoughts seldom get any worse than lewd imagery and likes her for who she is.

I do strongly recommend this, but do be prepared for manly tears if you watch it!

Kuro Usagi, the magical bunny girl
A nice pick-me-up after Kotoura was Mondaiji-tachi ga Isekai kara Kuru Sou Desu yo? which I'm not quite sure was about, but seemed to be about battling low tier gods / monsters for gambling or something. I'm not sure exactly, but it was great.

Thus far a group of characters with superpowers have been transported from Earth to a supernatural realm where they can battle gods / monsters in return for rewards given by a bunny girl. It's every bit as fantastic as it sounds, and since the bunny girl is a great character I'll be sticking around to see what shenanigans the cast get up to.

Another amusing show to watch is GJ-bu (Good Job) which does the usual club-room type thing, though it doesn't take itself at all seriously (perhaps making it somewhat similar to Seitokai no Ichizon). The result of this is that the characters begin mundane tasks that somehow get twisted into hilarious antics - there isn't any plot to speak of (yet), but for now a group of girls and one guy (see where this will go?) is pretty hilarious to watch.

Senran Kagura is a show that by rights shouldn't be as entertaining as it is: on the surface it appears to be a generic fanservice adaptation of a fighting game - but when you begin watching this you quickly find that it isn't just that. I'm not saying that this is a deep or meaningful show in any way, rather that it's an amusing parody of what you expect it to be.

In spite of it being a parody it also has some pretty nicely animated fight scenes: characters move fluidly whilst also delivering visual humour, backgrounds (dodgy CG boat aside) are mostly nicely detailed. And whilst it does parody fanservice, it does also deliver some in the form of yuri pairings. No complaints here - for now - it's a fun show to watch. /Edit/ I got bored with Senran Kagura, so disregard everything I said a while back.

I've run out of time here, but I also recommend that people check out Tamako Market, KyoAni's latest production. If you like surreal, slapstick and boke/tsukommi humour (see also: Gintama et al) then you should like this; it's quite unlike any of the other productions KyoAni have produced to date (though perhaps similar to Fumoffu) and makes a nice change from the usual moeblob.

Lastly, I'll just say that people should avoid Sasami-san. It's bad. Really bad. Sadly SHAFT really half-assed the adaptation leaving a hollow shell of creepy fanservice and unfunny lolrandom "jokes". I'm sad to say this should be avoided like the plague, which is a shame since I feel any other studio could have done a much better job of it.

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