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Archive for April, 2012

A lot of good episodes this week – many series that were disappointing last week had much better ones this week. Alas, with everything being 2-3 episodes in, the animation quality is starting to take a hit. Although that may just be Hyouka making everything else look like trash.

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Mirai Nikki

When Mirai Nikki was announced it came with a flurry of hype. An adaption of a very popular shounen psychological thriller manga series which gave us the yanderest yandere who ever yandered, there was a lot of excitement and anticipation surrounding it. I didn’t know anything about the series, but was still quite excited; the premise sounded incredibly intriguing: 12 individuals are given ‘diaries’ which tell them the future, albeit with restrictions depending on the person, and are told by the god Deus (see what they did there?) that the last one alive out of the 12 of them will become his successor – will become God.  Not a bad setup by any measure.

There were however a few rumblings of discontent after the initial announcement and in the early episodes. A fair number of people who had read the manga warned that the story gets worse and kinda ridiculous. But given the strength of the first few episodes, how true could this be? Nothing more than a minority opinion from those who didn’t enjoy it? Or perhaps they knew what was up, and simply giving the rest of us advance notice?

Even the characters were spoiling the plot for themselves!

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More OP ONIONS about crappy weekly Japanese cartoons. Should be doing coursework instead of writing this. Now with pretty pictures for twice the effort!

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The second week of spring proper, and already middle-school boys are whining, hearts are hnnnging, bread is baking, noitaminA is rising, and saliva is being consumed. It could only be anime, folks!

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Now that the majority of the winter season has finished, and spring has just begun in earnest, I figure I could start this thing proper. Basically just quick thoughts and opinions on the airing episodes I saw this week, and any changes to what I am watching. There will probably be spoilers for that week’s episode, so be careful about which you read.

Anyway, let’s begin.

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Phi Brain

You know what’s awesome? Kaiji is awesome. The tense gambling, the mind games and the sheer level of both moe and GAR in the eponymous protagonist, it’s all fantastic. Which meant that when Kaiji S2 finished airing with the summer 2011 season, I was saddened. I needed my Kaiji fix. Something, anything like it! And that’s where Phi Brain came in.

Puzzles of life and death? Having to try and constantly outthink the opponent? A kickass main character? Phi Brain has it all. It’s basically exactly the same as Kaiji and that’s why you should watch it.

Ok, no, I lied. While it is similar to Kaiji in quite a few ways (especially later on) it’s also quite different in many others. But is it still worth watching? Well, yes, but you should read the review anyway.

It's review time!

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I did not enjoy Macross Frontier. I fucking loathed it. The characters were bland and generic, the plot was insipid and contrived, and it was all just an otaku pandering piece of shit. One major aspect of that was the fact it basically functioned as an extended advert for a bunch of crappy idol J-Pop singles, all of which were sung over dramatic moments or combat or anywhere else where they did not fit in at all and one particularly terrible pretentious ballad was also a magical alien love song or something that was sung at least once every episode and was fucking awful. So when Symphogear entered the preview charts, promising a show about a load of teenage girls singing magical songs and fighting things to save the world, I can’t say I was particularly thrilled. I skipped right over it because I hadn’t actually finished Macross Frontier all that long ago and the mere memories of it made me feel bad.

Of course this didn’t last if I’m actually writing about it now. What happened was that when the fansubbers started releasing it they were all saying just how good it was. A similar reaction occurred in various anime communities, and so curiosity got the better of me and so I picked it. And you know what? The first episode was actually pretty good!

I’d like to point out now that that last sentence is more accurate than you might initially imagine.

She's shocked because of all the spoilers

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“An adolescent romantic comedy” the winter 2012 preview charts proclaimed. The picture prominently featured a large breasted red-headed school girl with glasses. Animation studio: J.C. Staff. If you can’t tell already, I wasn’t exactly majorly hyped for this. Everything so far sounded bland, generic and uninteresting. I actually passed over this initially, just because nothing made it sound good.

But then the staff listing came in: the writer was Kuroda Yousuke, known for writing Onegai Teacher (this will be an important point later); the character artist was Uon Taraku, who had done the character art on the Onegai franchise as well as Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae wo Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai (aka Ano Hana); and best of all, Tatsuyuki Nagai as director, who also directed Ano Hana. So the staff lineup was frankly excellent. Ano Hana was easily one of my absolute favourites of 2011 – it got 10/10 from me. So I was now excited to say the least. But cautious, nonetheless – just because the staffing is good doesn’t mean the result won’t be awful (see: Guilty Crown). So how does Ano Natsu de Matteru measure up?

A dazzling review!

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A series of 3 minute comedic shorts (40 seconds of which are the opening and ending) about an 11-year-old boy who is built like an adult and his 17-year-old sister who is built like a child. About half the jokes are unsurprisingly about him being mistaken for a sex offender because his best friend is a girl the same age as him who doesn’t look like an adult. And… uh… that’s about it. There’s not really all that much to say here about Recorder to Randoseru. The art and animation are fine. The music is fine (the ED is quite nice though). In total it barely clocks in at 40 minutes and that includes the opening and endings. And as mentioned a lot of the jokes are fairly predictable and it gets repetitive quite quickly.

It managed to elicit a few chuckles from me, so it’s not all bad, but there’s just not much substance here. If you want something quick and amusing to watch, you could do worse than this, and if the subgroups I’m following do the second season of this I’ll probably carry on watching, but on the whole it’s entirely unremarkable.

5/10

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The Shin Megami Tensei series always struggled to really catch on in the west. In Japan, it’s huge – not Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest huge, but it’s up there. Why couldn’t it succeed over here? The developers not really trying to get it over here naturally plays a fairly large part, but there are other things too – the incredibly deep gameplay, often brutal difficulty and just the inherent Japaneseyness makes it a tough sell, with the few localizations that existed being… poor, to say the least. Well, this all changed with Persona 3, which was a massive success – well, not a massive mainstream success but it was critically lauded and still did great commercially – and was many people’s first introduction with Shin Megami Tensei. The follow up, Persona 4, possibly did even better, streamlining certain aspects of the series, expanding others, and generally making it a bit easier to get into but in a way that didn’t make it feel like a cheap grab for a larger audience. At any rate, it was a great success and an absolutely wonderful game.

Localization isn’t the only problem the franchise has faced. In a way that’s not too different, the various attempts at adapting the various stories into animated form has generally always ended up with something that can be best described as ‘atrocious’. So while I was excited to see that such a fantastic game like Persona 4 would become an anime series, I still had to approach it with trepidation given the poor jobs done of the series in the past. Is it a good adaption? Does it work as a standalone series? Or did it crash-and-burn into awfulness like all the other attempts before it?

No spoilers for the anime or game here

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