Much like my penchant for dramas, I like me some anime, too. I’ve decided to write up a collective for some of the new anime this season as well. Here’s my Anime Anthology (awwyeah alliteration) for the spring season of 2012.
Kids on the Slope
If you were (are) a fan of the seminal classic Cowboy Bebpop, then look no further. Shinichiro Watanabe returns to the anime world with this charming coming of age show set in 1960’s Kyushu. Watanabe also teams with Bebop collaborator Kanno Yoko for this endeavor, so you know the music is on point. Speaking of which, that’s what this whole show is about: music. More specifically, jazz music, which has always played a big part in Watanabe’s productions.
Main character Nishimi Kaoru moves to Kyushu to live with family thanks to his father’s job situation. Feeling alone and depressed, Nishimi makes fast yet reluctant friends with jazz enthusiast and drummer Kawabuchi Sentaro. Though classically trained in piano, Nishimi soon takes up jazz and begins to jam with Kawabuchi in the basement of mutual friend (and Nishimi’s love interest) Mukae Ritsuko’s family music store. Improv jazz riffs fly, as do the hormones.
Bottom line, the show is good. The original manga, penned by Kodama Yuki, won the 57th Shogakukan Manga Award, so you have nothing to worry about story wise. It’s about youth and music, and the underlying parallel of the two. It’s a simple plot with realistic characters that will easily, yet gently, pull you in. Technically, the animation and art design on this series are superb—I’d expect nothing less from Watanabe, and with Kanno taking over music what more could you ask?
If you’re interested in AKB48, you’re already watching this series. If you’re not interesting in AKB48, you could still be watching this series. AKBOO48 is a show for the wota, no doubt, but it’s actually a well produced anime that has the potential to appeal to a variety of anime fans. The creative staff is pretty top notch, with Hiraike Yoshimasa directing (Amagami SS wasn’t too bad), character designs by Ebata Risa of Macross fame, and scripts from Okada Mari, whose composition is behind a number of great anime (one of my favs, Toradora! being one of them).
In the semi-distant future, things that are known to ‘anger the heart’ have been banned; meaning music and entertainment are downright illegal. Enter AKBOO48, a legendary Idol group who traverses the universe, performing for their fans as entertainment terrorists. The main plot follows a group of girls trying out for the 77th generation of AKB0048 kenkyuusei and the hardships they face as the new batch of trainees for the fabled Idols.
While the synopsis sounds a little hokey, it’s actually a pretty cleverly written show. The plot is rather original and a great way to tie into the AKB-verse. There are references scattered throughout each episode that only AKB48 fans will get, but they’re not so many and so blatant that a casual watcher would be put off by them. The show itself is funny and earnest, with a load of action to fill out the episodes. The art and animation are pretty nice with bright colors and interesting small touches to character designs. It’s a weird show concept, but that’s part of its charm. It’s a musical, it’s action, it’s shoujo, it’s sci-fi, it’s mech…it’s AKB48.
I’m not sure why I picked this show up other than I’ve never heard of a whole anime about fishing. It’s not that I particularly like fishing, it’s just the gall of basing a whole anime around it that I find intriguing. Tsuritama is odd and colorful, but really it’s not enough to carry a whole show.
Sanada Yuki has never been very outgoing. He gets stressed easily and is terribly shy. So when he moves to a small fishing town in Enoshima with his French grandmother, he doesn’t really plan on making much of a splash. Unfortunately for him, self-proclaimed alien Haru has other ideas. Haru sees something within Yuki and enlists his help to save his alien homeland—through fishing. The two hook up with local prince of fishing Usami Natsuki, who shows them the ropes and soon joins their team of quirky kids.
There’re a lot of weird things going on on the surface of this series. There’s Haru himself, who controls others by shooting them water. There’s an Indian kid who walks around with a duck and is seemingly part of some interstellar police organization (based in India?). Supposedly there’s an underlying epic to the whole thing, and while the creators have hinted at something under the surface, it’s taking a while to get there and I don’t know if the payoff will be worth it. Overall the show is one of those quirky originals whose strength lies in being slightly left of center. I just don’t see it having that spark that other similar shows have.
Hyouka is a rarity, as far as I can tell. I see a lot of mystery dramas, but not a lot of mystery anime…I’m not sure why that is. Hyouka has some creative power behind it with character designs by Nishiya Futoshi who drew up the plans for Suzumiya Haruhi and her friends, composition from Gatou Shuji the original mangaka of Full Metal Panic!, and direction from Takemoto Yasuhiro whose credits include many high profile series (including Lucky Star and the second season of Full Metal Panic!).
Hyouka follows Oreki Houtarou, a lethargic high schooler who despises expending more energy than absolutely necessary. Oreki is pressed by his older sister to join his high school’s classics club less it be shut down for lack of members. There he meets Chitanda Eru, a rich girl who seems to be both smart at ditzy at the same time. Chitanda has joined the classics club for her own personal reasons, though like Oreki has no real interest in classics. Rounding out the club are Oreki’s best friend Fukube Satoshi, who joined because it seemed like fun to be around them, and the boys’ middle school classmate Ibara Mayaka, who only joined to be closer to Fukube.
Though there does seem to be an overarching plot to the series, the meat of the show has to do with the small mysteries that Oreki solves in each episode. Oreki has really strong intuition and reasoning, and probably an abnormal IQ, which allow him to solve little mysteries around the school. The ‘cases’ the club gets involved in aren’t serious, but are somehow still interesting for the audience and are treated with a dutiful kind of sincerity. It reminds me of the atmosphere of the manga within a manga, Perfect Crime Party from the excellent series Bakuman. For the uninitiated, I’m not sure I can describe it, but it has to do with petty, inconsequential things being taken seriously. These mysteries don’t seem very important, but they are to the characters. And that’s what makes the show work. On the artistic side, the show is pretty. It’s not overly bright or colorful like Tsuritama, but it’s just nice to look at. The light and shadows, how things are set up, not to mention sequences of very detailed animation—it’s all just pleasing to the eye.
Riding the wave of zombie related material over the past few years comes Sankarea. But this isn’t your typical zombie show. Excluding Takagi Noboru who’s in charge of composition and has worked on shows like Baccano! and Durarara!!, the show’s staff isn’t too impressive, by my counts. The concept itself is rather fun and interesting though, and not something normally explored in the genre.
Furuya Chihiro is a 15 year old high school student obsessed with zombies, possibly to an excessive degree (he dreams about falling In love with a zombified girl and starting a family). When his cat is run over by a car and killed, Furuya decides to use an old manual found amongst family trash to bring his pet back to life. During his secret reanimation ceremony he accidentally stumbles upon local celebrity Sanka Rea hating life. The two become awkward friends and Rea vows to help Furuya revive his dead cat. Thanks to Rea, the weird potion actually works, but not before she decides to drink some of the stuff in hopes of killing herself with its poisonous components. She doesn’t succeed in her suicide, but when her overbearing father accidentally causes her to fall off a cliff, Rea stands right back up.
It’s in this way that Sankarea is different. She’s a zombie, but she’s not shuffling and growling for brains. She seems to be rather normal, save for the lack of pulse. Besides the obvious gimmick, the series doesn’t boast many draws. The characters aren’t anything special, the animation is average, the character designs are just okay. It’s really only Rea’s plea for Furuya to help her live a normal life…as a zombie…that kind of keeps you watching. It’s enough for a few episodes, but unless the show can really take off from there, it’ll just end up on that list of good ideas not fully realized.
Every season there are tons of new anime, so this is just a small sample I picked up based on previews and my own personal interests. I’m pretty happy with my crop this season, especially Kids and Hyouka. Both are pretty fresh and leave me wanting to see the next episode when the credits roll. If you’re rather fond of any others I didn’t check out this season, let me know.
Reviews based on first 3 episodes.