12 Jan 2011

Winter 2011 Anime Impressions

Will be updating this list as I watch more. Hopefully can cover most of the major titles.

Title: Starry Sky
Studio: Studio DEEN
ANN Synopsis: The heroine, Tsukiko, enrolled to a school that was recently changed from all-boys school to co-ed. Since the area where the school is conveniently rural and the rather exclusive curriculums the school has, up until now the heroine is the only one female who enrolled to the school.

Rant: I honestly gave it a try, but I couldn't last for more than a few minutes before skipping forwards. Bishounen anime that is ugly, poorly animated, and incredibly boring.
Potential Rating: 0-1 stars

Title: Rio Rainbow Gate!
Studio: XEBEC
Synopsis: Fan service anime with gambling.

Rant: Umm... After watching the promotional trailers, I didn't bother watching the actual stuff.
Potential Rating: 0 stars

Title: Kimi ni Todoke 2nd season
Studio: Production I.G
Notable Staff: Hirano Aya (Seiyuu, Kuromi)
ANN Synopsis: Kuronuma Sawako is nicknamed Sadako due to her resemblance to the girl from the Japanese horror movies "The Ring". Shunned by her classmates, her life starts to change after she befriends Shōta Kazehaya, a very popular boy in her class.

Rant: It was kind of weird to start the season with a recap, but I supposed we all needed it. Seeing things from Kurumi's perspective was quite interesting too, though her side of the story did not reveal a lot that we didn't already know. Production I.G did a solid job of adapting this popular manga, but I can't help feeling that Kuronuma is just too dense. Kaburaki Hiro is still a novice director (having only directed the first season and this), but I would say he isn't doing too bad. With such a strong production company behind him, he can only get better.
Potential Rating: 2-3 stars

Title: IS Infinite Stratos
Studio: 8-Bit
Notable Staff: Kikuchi Yasuhito (Director, Macross Frontier), Nanase Hikaru (Music), Shimo Fumihiko (Series Composition, Air, Clannad, Kanon)

ANN Synopsis: Infinite Stratos (IS), a weaponized exoskeleton system, has become the dominant tool of warfare and conflict. Unfortunately for the men in society, only women are able to operate Infinite Stratos... with very few exceptions. One of those exceptions is ORIMURA Ichika, an orphan raised by his older sister who is herself a famous IS pilot. When his compatibility with IS is discovered after he accidentally touches an IS at the age of 15, he's given a scholarship and enrolled in a school that specializes in training IS pilots.

Rant: Though this is their first production, 8-Bit has a history of helping out for other big productions. Plus, they have great staff heading this project. What could go wrong? Well, it turned out to be a very cliche harem comedy. There wasn't even a need for any build up and our main lead already has the whole school fawning over him. However, the action sequence at the beginning of the episode shows the influence of Macross Frontier director Kikuchi Yasuhito. I'm still curious about the direction this series could go in, so I guess I'll stick around for at least another episode to find out.

Potential Rating: 2-3 stars

Title: Yumekui Merry
Studio: JC Staff
Notable Staff: Yamauchi Shigeyasu (Director, Casshern Sins, Boys Over Flowers)
ANN Synopsis: Ten years ago Fujiwara noticed he had a power to see multicolored auras surrounding the person's body. Ever since then he's been having a weird dream about a war with cats. Then one day a mysterious girl falls on top of him...

Rant: That was one heck of a first episode. Oku Keiichi is in charge of music for this series and he does his job really well. What's surprising is that he does not have a lot of notable works previously, and most of the are quite old stuff too. Yamauchi Shigeyasu is kind of a weird director. Mostly under the radar, until the recent Casshern Sins which was rather unique. As for the episode itself, well, it did EVERYTHING right. Sure, there are some cliches. The childhood friend stays in the same house and is shy whenever others make fun of them. But other than that, the characters are all pleasant to look at and listen too. Their dialogue is natural, lively, without being over the top. Just a lot of feel-good vibes from all the characters. The action scenes and camera angles are creative, making everything feel so dynamic and constantly moving. An interesting premise has been set, an antagonist has been identified, a mystery has been presented, all pieces are in place. I can't wait to see more!
Potential Rating: 3-5 stars

Title: Wolverine
Studio: Madhouse
Synopsis: Anime about Marvel Comic's Wolverine

Rant: Uhh... There was poor build-up, and the characters have an invisible barrier around them that makes it hard for me to care. Madhouse tries to turn Wolverine into a tragic hero, but forget that the original Wolverine was much more intense and angry.
Potential Rating: 0-1 stars

Studio: Bones
Notable Staff: Okada Mari (Series Composition, Toradora, Black Butler, Vampire Knight)
ANN Synopsis: GOSICK takes place in 1924 in a small, made-up European country of Sauville. The story centers on Kazuya Kujo, the third son of a Japanese Imperial soldier, who is a transfer student to St. Marguerite Academy, where urban legends and horror stories are all the rage. There he meets Victorique, a mysterious yet beautiful and brilliant girl who never comes to class and spends her days reading the entire content of the library or solving mysteries that even detectives can't solve.

Rant: While the setting seems nice, and character designs are decent, the mystery presented for this episode did not intrigue me. The solution to the mystery was also quite expected and they failed to build it up in any way. I understand Victorique is supposed to be some kind of super detective, but they could have shown a better mystery for her to solve for this first episode. If the rest of the plot continues to be this boring, they better spend more time developing the characters and the setting. Staff-wise, they have Okada Mari doing the series composition. Her experience with Toradora might bring some surprises, while her experience with Black Butler and Vampire Knight should serve well to build up a nice Gothic atmosphere. However, we have Nanba Hitoshi directing this series. His previous work was the lacklustre Heroman, so I'm not too excited about this. But still, this is Bones we're talking about. I'm gonna give them a few more episodes to draw me in.
Potential Rating: 2-3 stars

Title: Cardfight!! Vanguard
Studio: TMS Entertainment
Synopsis: It's an anime about kids who fight with... cards.

Rant:Yet another anime to sell more products and toys to kids.
Potential Rating: 0 stars

Title: Freezing
Studio: A.C.G.T.
ANN Synopsis: Set in a slightly futuristic world where Earth has been invaded and is at war with aliens from another dimension called the Nova, the story follows the adventures of a Japanese boy named Kazuya Aoi who enrolls for training at a special school for genetically modified girls called Pandoras who battle the aliens, and their male partners, called Limiters, who use a special power called "freezing" to limit their opponent's mobility.

Rant: This is the second anime adaptation for Korean manhwa author Dall-Young Lim, but I think his first (Kurokami) was much better. Freezing just screams FAN SERVICE and makes it really hard to take it seriously. However, the animation, the fights and the gore were quite impressive. I cringe at all the blatant fan service, but it was bearable as long as it was kept somewhat serious and bloody... until the last few minutes. The ending was straight up fan service and the revelation that the main female protagonist is a weird tsundere. Total turn off. Unlikely to catch the next episode. A pity, since it was quite a few big name seiyuu on board (including Hanazawa Kana and Kitamura Eri).
Potential Rating: 1 star

Title: Oniichan no Koto Nanka Zenzen Suki Janain Dakara ne
Studio: ZEXCS
Synopsis: Our lead character is in love with her brother.

Rant: Fan service incest anime. Yet another one. A new trend? Well, this one does have some kind of plot, AND they actually managed a plot twist within the first episode. Does this bode well for the series? Probably not. It will still focus on being a fan service anime much the same as kiss X sis and various others before it. Good try though.
Potential Rating: 1-2 stars

Title: Mitsudomoe Zouryouchuu!
Studio: Bridge
Synopsis: 2nd season of Mitsudomoe, a comedy about 3 sisters with twisted personalities.

Rant: I wasn't a fan of the first season and this episode didn't do anything to change that. While I understand some people might have liked that kind of over-the-top toilet humour in season 1, I just felt that it was poorly executed. The season, Mitsudomoe starts off with a spoof on the sentai genre, animating a whole episode of a show within a show, so of course it was for the fans. It did nothing for the rest of us, and it certainly wasn't that funny either.
Potential Rating: 0-1 stars

Title: Beelzebub
Studio: Pierrot
Notable Staff: A bunch of seiyuu. Read below. 
ANN Synopsis: The story follows the "strongest juvenile delinquent", Oga Tatsumi, a first year in "Ishiyama High" the school for delinquents. One day while sleeping next to a river he sees a man floating down it, he pulls him to shore and the man splits in half revealing a baby boy. This boy is the son of the demon king and he has been chosen as the one to raise it with the baby's demon maid Hilda.

Rant: I have been following the manga for quite a while now, and I have to say Studio Pierrot did NOT follow the manga. Certain scenes that weren't supposed to happen, happened. And certain explanations were changed. All these things could lead to a lot of plot holes in the future. However, to Pierrot's credit, this is a very well done comedy, similar to stuff like Gintama. Also help that they have some of my favourite seiyuu. Konishi Katsuyuki (Kamina from Gurren Lagann) plays Oga, which is gonna be epic. Ono Daisuke (Koizumi from Haruhi) and Itou Shizuka (Hinagiku from Hayate the Combat Butler) are also in. One weird casting would be Toyosaki Aki (Yui from K-ON!) as Kunieda Aoi who is supposed to be a tough girl (and a little bit of a tsundere too), which seems to be the opposite of Toyosaki-san usual cutesy genki character. Oh well, we have to see how this plays out. So far, all indications seem to point towards a heavy comedy with some simple-animation action.
Potential Rating: 2-3 stars

Title: Dragon Crisis!
Studio: Studio DEEN
Notable Staff: Tachibana Hideki (Director, H2O), Kugimiya Rie!
ANN Synopsis: A normal high school boy Kisaragi Ryuji's peaceful life is turned into an adventure by the return of his second cousin Eriko. Ryuji and Eriko seize a relic box from a black broker. In the box, they find a red dragon girl Rose. In order to protect Rose from the black organization, Ryuji decides to fight using his power as a relic handler.

Rant: This is actually closer to what I expected J.C. Staff would produce. Instead, we have studio DEEN producing this mediocre series. At first, things look normal. Everything looks, sounds, and feels like a realistic slice-of-life kind of anime. But then they start doing weird stuff, referencing "The Organisation", shootings, stealing stuff, and saving a dragon who looks like a loli. I got a good laugh out of hearing Rose (played by Kugimiya Rie, who previously voiced Taiga in Toradora) calling out to Ryuji (who was Taiga's *spoiler* love interest *end spoiler* in Toradora). Sadly, that's all she ever says. Kugimiya-san is the tsundere princess, so I hope to hear more of Rose's tsun tsun side instead of dere all the time. If she doesn't go tsun at all, it will be a failing on the people who cast her. So far, things don't look too good. A few interesting things have been mentioned, but very little explanation has been given, so I don't know how deep this goes. I hope they will be able to flesh out the setting properly in the next few episodes...
Potential Rating: 1-3 stars

Title: Kore wa Zombie desu ka?
Studio: Studio DEEN
ANN Synopsis: Aikawa Ayumu is a normal high school boy. One day he is killed by a serial killer and revived as a zombie by a necromancer named Eucliwood Hellscythe. He starts to serve Eu as her guard but he happens to deprive the mahou shoujo Haruna of her magic power. Haruna orders Ayumu to fight against the anti-mahou shoujo system "Megalo" in her place.

Rant: This is comedy GOLD. Without spoiling too much, lets just say this show knows how to build up a great punch line. It is crazy and over-the-top, with a little fan service here and there (quite pointless really). Along with Beelzebub, this season seems to be brimming with rather good action comedy series. Animation-wise, it looks decent, but nothing spectacular. I don't expect much out of studio DEEN anyway.
Potential Rating: 3-4 stars

Title: Level E
Studio: Pierrot x david production
Synopsis: Tsutsui Yukitaka comes home from school one day to see an alien sitting at his dining table.

Rant: It's weird to see this many comedy series in one season, without any childish/toilet humour. From some of the promo art, I was initially led to believe that this would be a weird but serious sci-fi series. Turns out I was right, except for the serious part. Level E is a comedy sci-fi series that forces Yukitaka into various unbelievable situations to hilarious results. Granted, this doesn't go to the same LOL level as Kore wa Zombie, but it does have a few serious moments to flesh out the characters. Those moments would be key in keeping this series fresh for the entire season, whether or not the director manages to balance the serious and comedy moments would be critical to its success. Adapted from a 1997 manga by the author of Hunter X Hunter, and jointly produced by Pierrot and david production, it would seem rather weird for them to be doing this. For one, Pierrot probably has enough work with Beelzebub, and secondly, this manga is old and, while popular, wasn't a classic. I'm glad that 2 studios are working on it though. David production is rather decent, and most likely doing all the intensive work like key and in-between animation, while Pierrot lends some management talents. I can see this series keeping up a certain standard in animation, comedy and overall story, more so than most stuff this season.
Potential Rating: 3 stars

Title: Fractale
Studio: A-1 Pictures x Ordet
Notable Staff: Yamamoto Yutaka (Director, Haruhi, Lucky Star, Kannagi), Okada Mari (Series Composition, Toradora, GOSICK), Kobayashi Yu (Seiyuu), Hanazawa Kana (Seiyuu, Bakemonogatari, Black Rock Shooter), Tashiro Masako (Animation Director)
ANN Synopsis: The story takes place in an island, where a "Fractale System" is beginning to collapse. One day, Crane finds an injured girl called Phryne under a cliff. She disappears leaving a pendant. Crane sets out for a journey with the girl-shaped avatar Nessa to look for Phryne and discovers the secret of the Fractale System.

Rant: Honestly, I did not like Ordet's animation in Black Rock Shooter. It was filled with too many ambitious shots that could not be animated adequately because of low budget. Fractale, however, solves this problem with a little more budget and better key animation. It's ALMOST like watching a Iso Mitsuo animation in the sense that they use roughly the same techniques, but the key animation cells are not as... expressive as what Iso-san is capable of. The animation is still amazing though! The best this season in fact. Lots of long shots sweeping through the beautiful CG grass fields, amazing background art, and great character animation. The setting is very Ghibli-esque and rather deep, setting up for a really good plot. AS LONG AS they do not just brush over it like what Sora no Woto did. With a bunch of great seiyuu, a rather famous director, a very experienced script writer, and a promising young animation director, Ordet is going all or nothing for this series.
Potential Rating: 3-5 stars

Title: Hourou Musuko (Wandering Son)
Studio: AIC Classic
Notable Staff: Okada Mari (Series Composition, a lot of series), Kousaki Satoru (Music, Bakemonogatari, Kannagi, Haruhi (both series and movie), Star Driver)
ANN Synopsis: Shuicihi Nitori appears to be a shy and quiet preteen boy, when he transfers to a new school he quickly makes friends with the tomboyish Yoshino Takatsuki who sits next to him. It soon becomes apparent that both Shucihi and Yoshino are more than simply a sensitive boy and masculine girl, they both are transgendered. Together they decide to take the first steps toward becoming the people they want to be.

Rant: This was just amazing! I've always been rather choosy and critical about slice of life series and dramas, but the first episode is quite possibly the best drama anime introduction since Nana. Right from the start, we are thrown into the middle of the story, where Nitori and Takatsuki have known each other for quite a while. It does an amazing job of getting the viewers to sympathize with the main leads in such a short time, without making their situations seem ridiculous. A boy who wants to dress up like a girl, and a girl who wants to dress up like a guy. If not handled with care, the characters could have been too shallow or the premise too dumb, but they managed to tread lightly. Also, the art is fantastic. Okada-san, doing the series composition, seems to be working on a lot of series this season, with more focus on Fractale perhaps? Kousaki-san on the other hand immediately showed his worth in the first episode with a great soundtrack. I think everything is set to make this one of my all time favourites. We just need to see if Okada-san can conclude this nicely within the 11 alloted episodes.
Potential Rating: 4-5 stars

Noitamina continues to reign supreme this season. Having 2 excellent first episodes makes this probably the best season yet for that timeslot. We also have a bunch of comedy series that have some substance at least. The long-awaited return of Kugimiya Rie in a major tsundere/cutesy role is kinda disappointing so far. Still a very interesting start to the season. Gonna have lots to watch every week ^.^

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