So I’ve come down with full-fledged ANIME MADNESS, this is what happens when you deny yourself something you truly enjoy for too long. Start to get back into it and wham, insanity.
WITH THAT SAID
It took me a while to try this one, despite being pointed towards it from numerous angles. “It’s an anime about competitive karuta of all things,” I (foolishly, short-sightedly, bone-headedly) thought to myself, “how good could it be?”
But of course it isn’t about karuta* at all. It’s about friendship and loneliness and loss and dreams and unexpected connections and, really, all the sorts of things good stories are built around. The characters are engaging and likeable (especially Chihaya), the voice acting is decent, the art style is … okay, the humour is gentle but effective (when something can make me laugh with a soft line like, “He spoke!”, I’m generally going to like it), and basically it’s pretty great. Characters, you see? Give me good characters and I’m yours.
(Also Arata’s dialect is adorable.)
* Karuta is a kind of poem card game thing. It’s not boring, actually, just not the sort of thing you would (perhaps) expect an entire series to be built around.
I haven’t watched Fate/stay night, but I’ve heard a lot about it (enough to recognise the significance of the final line of F/z’s first episode). It’s one of those series that I would’ve watched given the opportunity, but said opportunity never came up. Anyway. In some ways this was the opposite of Chihayafuru; a concept that seemed to be exactly the sort of thing I love, but in execution it turned out to be somewhat unengaging. Nothing terrible, competent enough and with high production values, but it just didn’t grab me. Not sure if I’ll continue on with it—with the feast of excellent anime I have before me, ‘pretty okay’ just doesn’t cut it.
Tiger & Bunny
Superheroes, anime style! I like the concept of this one, superheroes being awarded points for their actions on a kind of reality TV show (First To Arrive! +25 Points!) but the CG is a big turn-off. The hero sponsorship is fun (with actual CMs!), but the actual superpowers are fairly vanilla and dull—nothing surprising, nothing creative. With that said I always like the ‘heartless corporate sponsors calling the shots for the people who do the ACTUAL work’ angle, and it seems as if that could have some nice payoffs later—to be honest I’m in two minds about the whole thing, in general I liked it … it’s probably too early to judge in any case, I should give it a fair shot before leaping to any conclusions. Focusing on the positive, it has an enormously likeable lead in Wild Tiger. He’s a veteran super hovering around the middle for ‘power’ and near the bottom for popularity, large on enthusiasm and heart but a little short on actual, y’know, competence. Not the brightest bulb in the box either. It’s not just his underdog qualities that make him engaging, as he’s also struggling to do right in the face of cynicism. Also, he’s not ACTUALLY a loser (he’s a super, after all, and even being the least popular still means he’s out there) but just a little past his prime and without much to fall back on. Having the latest young hotshot superhero come in with the exact same power as him doesn’t help matters.
So. Good concept, so-so creativity, distracting CG, but an engaging lead, some nice moments, and the potential for a good story. I’ll be giving this at least a couple more episodes, with the hope that it goes in the right direction.
Last Exile ~ Ginyoku no Fam
Last Exile ~ Fam, The Silver Wing
I watched the original Last Exile pretty much as it aired, although thinking back now I can’t really recall much about it aside from the steampunkish aesthetic (skypunk?). Still very much present here, although I couldn’t tell you if any of the characters are the same—a few looked familiar but it might just be the art style.
But anyway. Decent enough, but again with the distracting CG—I guess it can’t be helped but still, the clash between CG and animation is far too harsh, it totally drags me out of the magic. It’s a shame, too, because other than that the show is pretty darn gorgeous—just check out this scenery:
The music is excellent also, just straddling that line between ‘noticeably excellent’ and ‘fittingly subtle’. Story and characters are decent enough, at least they seem to be getting into the main story quickly but it’s clearly not an anime that revels in clever plans or interesting ways out of tight situations; pretty standard fare in the action scenes. In fact, my favourite part of the episode was just seeing the characters eating together and chatting, there was exposition and foreshadowing involved but that sort of thing is nice as an introduction—one of my pet peeves in fiction is when a story starts off in the middle of an action scene before showing me who the characters are, why should I care about them? I have no context.
Anyway, I’ll probably give it another episode or two, if only to find out who this is:
Stylish, atmospheric, superbly directed. From the first minute my attention was caught—you know how I said up there, how I don’t like it when stories start in the middle of the action with no introduction? Add “…unless it’s done well” to that. Guilty Crown’s opening is excellent, and quality is sustained throughout the episode. That everything looks gorgeous doesn’t hurt, even the CG isn’t particularly distracting—properly lit and rendered in a style that’s not too incongruent with everything else. I also like the reversal of the common “In the future Japan becomes the dominant superpower in the world” trope; due to a plague-like virus, Japan now relies on the rest of the world for its continued existence. The climax was pretty fabulous too—you know what? I can’t think of anything bad to say about this one, I really enjoyed it and I’m looking forward to more.
House Of Five Leaves
Mmm. Morally ambiguous Edo-period samurai series with a distinctly beautiful art style. The odds were in favour of me liking this from the start.
Deceptively well-paced; it doesn’t feel rushed in the least but before I knew it the episode was over. It’d take a lot to stop me from watching this one through to the end.
SO THERE YOU HAVE IT
Anime, anime, anime. I’ve got it bad, bruvva. I’ve got it bad.