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Archive for the ‘Winter 2013’ Category

Kotoura-san

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First impressions mean everything. They can make or break a series: crap first episode, no-one will want to keep watching it; great first episode, and it can generate a ton of early positive buzz, even drawing watchers in who would have otherwise passed by it. Beyond this, that first impression will set the tone for at least the immediate future for the series and the discussion surrounding it. And to say that Kotoura-san left one hell of a first impression would be putting it all too mildly.

From the previews and synopses and stuff it looked like your standard after-school club s’life, but with a twist! The twist is psychic powers. Or to be more precise, the eponymous Kotoura’s ability to read minds. Nothing particularly remarkable, but no reason to be suspicious or anything.

And then the first episode was one long chain of tragedy and misery and depression and despair and oh god oh god oh god ;_;

Yeah, it got people talking. Hard.

Unfortunately, a first impression is just that: the first of many impressions, one that won’t necessarily last and is frankly unimportant compared to the final impression.

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Off to an upbeat start then

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Spice and Wolf’s lack of a third season has been hurting many anime fans for some time. Everyone wants it to happen, but with every passing day it gets less and less likely. So it was only a matter of time before someone else stepped in to try and fill that gap, or at least as best they could. Maoyuu Maou Yuusha is the product of that, a story written by an impatient 2ch user and Spice and Wolf fan, designed to satiate the cravings of others like him as much as possible. In it we have a fairly reserved male with his enigmatic supernatural female companion (who’s body is a point of note in some regard), as they go around doing economics and stuff in a medieval European-esque fantasy setting. This adaptation even sees the two franchises sharing their two leading voice talents! It is influenced by Spice and Wolf to say the least.

It says something that even something as obviously derivative as this is still very much a breath of fresh air in the current anime landscape, but that’s a discussion for another time. Maoyuu Maou Yuusha is about economics and politics and magic and demons and shit. It’s pretty alright.

I know we shouldn't be demonizing economists, buuut...

I know we shouldn’t be demonizing economists, buuut…

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Ai Mai Mi

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Nonsensical and non-sequitur based humour is incredibly difficult to pull off. Even Monty Python, the gold standard for this kind of comedy, could be incredibly hit-and-miss. But when something succeeds at it, the results can be hilarious in a surreal, subversive way; when they fail, it can end up resembling the worst kind of lolrandumb output of an internet-addled teenager.

Ai Mai Mi is, by and large, the latter.

Ostensibly, Ai Mai Mi is a series of 3 minute shorts about four girls in an after-school manga club – Ai, Mai, Mi and Ponoka – as they deal with all manner of weirdness in their day-to-day life. What we actually get is a string of incoherent and entirely disconnected skits that rely on their absurdity to get laughs instead of any actual, y’know, jokes. There’s no build up, no payoff, no characterization, no intelligence, nothing that could really be construed as comedy.

Not to say it’s entirely without merit or unwatchable – there’s a certain amount of amusement to be gleamed from its inherent strangeness, and there’s definitely a couple of genuinely hilarious moments – it’s just that Ai Mai Mi is more mildly confusing than actually funny.

Nice ED though.

5/10

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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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Yama no Susume

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The ‘cute girls doing cute things’ formula is a well-trodden one, even when given something of an iyashikei bent. There’s not exactly a lot of ground left to cover, so expectations for Yama no Susume weren’t exactly high when it was announced. Schoolgirls being insufferably nice to each other! But on mountains! Fortunately it proved to a rather pleasant surprise.

What worked in its favour more than anything is that it was simply a series of shorts – each episode was less than 5 minutes long. As a result a lot of the padding and guff that typically accompany a series such as this are non-existent, and what we’re left with instead is a very focused, almost distilled take on the genre. Each episode explores one or two things; it cuts to the point very quickly; but it nonetheless doesn’t let up its very relaxed and cheery atmosphere.

The characters are admittedly quite archetypical and don’t leave much of an impression, but that’s to be expected considering the length.  What’s very impressive though is how quickly and effectively they get the characterization of them across – they only do a handful of things across a few episodes, but each one speaks volumes about their personality. Aoi is the only one who gets any real development, and fortunately her little arc is quite satisfying and pleasant.

Those are some rugged, burly mountaineers

Those are some rugged, burly mountaineers

Visually, Yama no Susume also impresses. The animation is remarkably good for a series of this size and scope (usually, it would be considerably cheaper), and the soft, light, pastel artistic style does wonders for the atmosphere and tone. It’s still obviously not particularly high-budget, but it is rather pretty.

There may not be much to Yama no Susume, but what there is is really quite lovely. They didn’t have a lot of material to work with, but chose to embrace this and let it influence the output instead of fighting it. “Short but sweet” is the perfect way to describe this series.

7/10

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Inferno Cop

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The world is a dark and evil place. Gangs of thugs stalk the city streets, the police are corrupt and will ignore anything at the right price, and honest citizens are forced to live in constant fear. But there’s a bright, shining light of hope for the future and justice for the sinful. From the depths of Hell comes our protector of peace… Inferno Cop!

The first ‘full’ ‘series’ from Trigger, the guys who were previously the good part of Gainax, Inferno Cop is a lot more ridiculous than the synopsis lets on. Our eponymous hero starts out fighting (read – blowing up) various thugs out at night, before fighting a supervillain, being sent to the future, being sent to the past, being sent down to hell, becoming a car, becoming a pharaoh, and saving the world from a vast and ancient conspiracy. And a helluva lot in between.

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