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Archive for the ‘2012’ Category

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I was going to start this review by saying “I’m a big fan of hard sci-fi anime” but then I realised that the only thing I’ve seen that fits that description is Planetes, so I’m going to have to go with something different.

I’m a big fan of Planetes, mostly because of how accurately it depicted space flight while maintaining a cast of interesting, memorable and well-developed characters. I’ve been wanting more in that vein for a while, but there just hasn’t been anything quite like it before or since. At least not until about 2 years ago, when Space Brothers (or Uchuu Kyoudai if you’d prefer) started airing. It promised something quite different from Planetes, but by all accounts the premise indicated that it would have that same grounded, character-focused narrative with a lot of accurate and detailed depictions of spaceflight thrown into the mix, which was more than enough to catch my attention.

This premise is that Mutta, a professional automobile engineer, has been fired and basically hit rock bottom, while his younger brother Hibito has been training to become an astronaut with NASA – a shared dream that only one of them had been able to realise. Mutta had all but given up on ever accomplishing this, but through sheer chance JAXA started accepting applications for prospective astronauts – giving Mutta another shot at his dream. Space Brothers follows both his and Hibito’s journey at accomplishing the longstanding goal of theirs to stand on the moon together.

Being fired does not feel so moon

Being fired does not feel so moon

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Ah, Key. Purveyor of visual novels created with the singular goal of making you cry like a little child, their works – both the visual novels and anime adaptations of them – are generally highly received amongst anime fans (except in anime blogging circles, where they’re far more divisive). Well, at least the adaptations by KyoAni. Those are quite highly regarded, capturing the atmosphere and magic in the stories quite effectively (Air was a bit iffy, but that was very early in the studio’s lifetime), but the adaptations by other studios? Far more mixed.

Prior to 2012, the only Key works to be animated were Air, Kanon and Clannad, all handled by KyoAni (and some other studios doing separate adaptations). Missing was Little Busters!, one of the most highly regarded from their repertoire, and one fans had been wanting to see tackled for years. So naturally, when Key announced that it was being animated, there was much rejoicing. This immediately turned to speculation, and to concern. Everyone wanted KyoAni to adapt it. They had spent so much time establishing themselves as the de facto Key adaptation studio! But KyoAni already had a series ready for the season Little Busters! had been announced for, so it quickly became apparent that their treatment was unlikely. So who was going to be working on it? Most every studio was considered and evaluated, but the actual studio who were handling it… nobody was expecting it. Nobody wanted it. Very few studios could have elicited more groans of despair.

JC Staff were adapting Little Busters!.

OH. And Yamakawa, the director chosen? He previously directed Kill Me Baby.

Well, fuck.

 Jun Maeda feeds off the tears of his fans – although they’re crying about something quite different this time

Jun Maeda feeds off the tears of his fans – although they’re crying about something quite different this time

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One of my favourite parts about watching airing anime is picking up a series that has a goofy, kinda dumb premise on the basis that it might be a laugh for a couple of episode, only to find out that it’s actually a genuinely great show. Girls und Panzer is very much an example of this.

Ah, but how does it accomplish such a rare and wonderful feat? You see, it all starts with the premise. Now, the whole ‘cute girls doing cute things’ thing is getting a little played out. It was never a genre that leant itself to radical ideas, usually opting instead to take the route of ‘cute girls doing cute things with X’ – music, art, school council, anything really – and there’s only so much you can accomplish with such a formula. So you have to start thinking outside the box, truly pushing the limits of ‘X’.

And thus we end up with ‘cute girls doing cute things – with tanks!

Panzer vor!

Panzer vor!

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While I’ve never been much of a fan of the horror genre in general, I’ve always found myself appreciating such works in anime. It’s probably due to my aversion towards guts n’ gore and jump scares, which seem to be common in most western horror films. By contrast, most horror anime is more concerned with building an atmosphere of tension and psychological dread, focusing less on the ‘monster’ itself and instead developing sympathetic feelings towards the characters involved; instead of being scared by what’s happening, your feelings reflect those of the characters.

This is all just my personal experience however, and I would hardly call myself an expert of the genre. I could be completely off-base. But when you consider, say, Shiki, Mononoke and even Another to an extent, there seems to be some validity to it.

In this regard, one could easily call Shinsekai yori (or From the New World) the latest horror anime, but doing so would be something of a disservice. ‘Horror’ doesn’t quite encapsulate its complete nature – it’s a psychological post-apocalyptic dystopian supernatural drama, and while its tone and delivery lend themselves to the horror genre, its narrative scope is too wide to fit simply into that genre.

But this is all just a load of pretentious meandering. To put it simply, Shinsekai yori is a tense, claustrophobic, dark, thoughtful and intelligent series, and is one of the best anime I’ve ever seen.

And so it all began

And so it all began…

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Robotics;Notes was never going to have an easy time. Not when it was following Steins;Gate, one of the most critically lauded series in recent memory. I’d say there were high expectations, but most discussion before its airing was rather muted. Nobody believed it could have ever been as good as Steins;Gate. Fortunately, by being part of Nitroplus’ and 5pb.’s Science;Noun (or Semicolon or whatever you want to call it) metaseries, it was also preceded by ChäoS;HEAd. Which was absolutely shite. Nobody believed it could be worse than that (spoiler: it isn’t). Expectations were surprisingly balanced and realistic.

This time around, instead of dealing with conspiracies involving time-travel and murder à la Steins;Gate or conspiracies involving dimensions… and swords and… whatever the fuck Chaos;Head was actually about, we get conspiracies involving robots, augmented reality and the motherfucking sun.

Let's build some fucking robots!

Let’s build some fucking robots!

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Psycho-Pass

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Cyberpunk and anime have a long history together. Many, many cyberpunk anime series and films came out in the 80’s and 90’s, some of them hugely influential – Akira, Ghost in the Shell and Serial Experiments Lain are rightly regarded as classics. So it seems strange that there haven’t been many – if any – to come out in the past few years. Beyond Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, there weren’t really any notable cyberpunk series in the 00’s. It seems the genre became untrendy, or unfavourable. Which is a shame, really, if you consider just how integral technology has become in that short amount of time.

Enter Gen Urobuchi and Psycho-Pass.

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Gotta love that in media res

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So what happens when you take a cute and cuddly mascot character, and give him a corrupt, selfish and lecherous heart? And also have him voiced by Light from Death Note? Hilarity happens.

Also, Wooser.

But yeah, Wooser no Sono Higurashi is a pretty funny series of 3 minute long CG animated shorts. Most of the humour is either parodic (and therefore hit-and-miss if you aren’t familiar with the original franchise) or focused on how unpleasant a being the eponymous Wooser is. But it’s also a vehicle for Mamoru Miyano to really ham it up with his voice acting, and a fair bit of the entertainment comes out of this.

This series is also one of the best examples of wholly CG animation out there – given the styles of the character designs and everything, having everything in CG really does work out for it.

Given the fact that combined running time of the entire show is less than an hour, and how there are definitely a fair few good, solid laughs to be had out of this, it’s pretty easy to recommend Wooser no Sono Higurashi if you have nothing better to watch.

7/10

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