Why Claymore is starting to disappoint / why was I stupid enough to compare it with Berserk!

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Ah, Claymore. Women with huge swords cutting demons in half. Medevil (yep, I know I spelled it wrong) times, Kuwashima Houko using the harsh version of her voice. Madhouse animation. Great action, great seiyuus, great animation. So, what could go wrong?

Having a Japanese little boy’s wet dream come come true. That’s what could go wrong.

boy hugs supermodel girl

Wait a minute, you say. I thought you loved this show!

Yeah, well, I’m not a little Japanese boy who wishes for a lean and model-figured girl with huge ass sword to take me with her.

Ok, yeah, actually, for the boy in me, I would. And for the Otaku man in me, I would…

Let’s not go there.

Why is it nothing compared with Berserk? Well, Berserk took a classic anti-hero, gave him a deep and solid background, alone side other solid casts, and told an well plotted back story/history on the characters, with the focus on Gutsu. Sure, with a lot of blood and gore, and violence. But it told of a great tale of how the world Gutsu lives in goes wrong, and how did he and everyone else get there, oh and how Griffin (who steals the show every time he shows up) crumbles into evil and gets swallowed by his ambition, sadly, I never got to see the end.

I know I’ve only seen 4 eps of Claymore, but as soon as Crea (the main blond woman) took that kid with her, I went: “Uh, oh.”

That boy praises how kind and soft hearted and pretty she is every time someone says something nasty about her. How he loved his big sister!

Japanese boys, and after growing up, Japanese men, love to have a mother-like women around. Since their dads are workaholics by the nature of their society.

But actually, you know, now I looked it over again, even though this “superhero and sidekick” thing is an old idea, it doesn’t look so bad. The story here is kinda like how a young man and a young adult woman get over their awkwardness (not toward each other in that way), and how people are different often gets treated like freaks – believe or not, the second concept isn’t examined that often in Japanese society, because a lot of them believe that they’re homogeneous. When I talked with my Japanese students most of them thought they were no different from any other Japanese, and I mean, they thought they were no different at all.

They were even thinking about the facts that you have Kansai-ban (accent) and Kanto-ban, Ainus, normal salarymen and strange people that comes out at night – makes me think about the demons in Claymore (There are strange people that eat livers and they come out at night! So don’t go out at night, OK Ken-kun?)

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But you know, perhaps this tale is purposely simple, and it really tells something that’s been told often – loneliness and difficulty with today’s society. But with great animation and wonderful seiyuu for the main character to spice it up. Put it in a middle age time (the housing and customs aren’t as well researched as Berserk, but nice enough), and add a boy who was kicked out of his town because he’s now different (the manga was published on manga magazines that mostly kids read – I wonder if that have something to do with it?) , and we have a simple but powerful story. Oh, and it helps that all the ladies in the show look like supermodels with swords. Oh and just like supermodels, they don’t eat.

I often say, “Women, take thy food!” stickily-thin supermodels just aren’t my taste. In the case of Claymore, however, Crea is rather cute, and Kuwasima Houko is really cute. Both helps.

The cheesy-looking mummy demon which I couldn’t see clearly doesn’t help, however.

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Music-wise, great action music, though nothing memorable.

On a separate note, Cazador is starting to look much better, but still not enough long action scenes, except in the opening theme – I wonder if Beetrain’s trying to trick people into staying with it by showing all the action in the opening theme. Because the plot is nothing fresh, after all.

Lovely Complex 1

Lovely Complex 1-1

Ray likes to tease me about it sometimes, but despite my adoration of shows like Kare Kano and Honey and Clover, and the fact that one of the very first anime I ever watched was Marmalade Boy (which I have seen in its entirety!)…I don’t really consider myself a huge fan of shoujo type anime, per se. I found Fushigi Yugi, for instance, annoyingly melodramatic even as it had an unerring knack for cliffhangers. Fruits Basket was enjoyable for the slapstick comedy but cloying and ultimately inconsequential, and for me Ouran worked mainly because it skewered all these tropes so brilliantly and mercilessly. What I appreciate mainly is emotional realism and believable characters, which are certainly not shoujo/josei-only territories (see Monster and even parts of Asatte no Houkou), but they are easier to depict in the context of ordinary relationships than when you’re piloting a giant robot, which is an experience far fewer people have had in general. (For now.)

This show, Lovely Complex, seems unlikely to rank with the masterpieces I noted at the beginning. But it’s amusing enough.

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Lovely Complex‘s premise is amusing, if not particularly original or surprising; the final outcome of the story is clear from the start, so where the show will have to shine is in the comedy and ultimately in our affection for the characters. I have to admit that I have a soft spot for the physical foibles of the protagonists–besides the fact that I myself am rather, well, short by Western standards, I think abnormal height’s a great physical analogue to the awkward, out-of-place feeling many of us nerds (face it: if you are reading this blog, you are probably a nerd :)) and geeks felt as adolescents. I love the fact that Risa’s an RPG gamer, and I found the metaphor of the characters’ ships being torpedoed by rejection both hilarious and painful.

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Of course, you know, the story is still wish-fulfillment on one level–that of course the two protagonists are destined to be soul mates and of course they fit each other like hand in glove, with only their obliviousness getting in the way. This is of course the formula of just about every romantic comedy film, but still, I would have felt unbelievably blessed to have even a friend like Risa in high school…maybe it’s because I was an only child? Risa and Otani behave very much like siblings at this stage, and if there’s anything about siblings they tend to fight and often wish that they were only children!

It might be interesting if they start following the couple that Risa and Otani inadvertently “set up” in this first episode. One thing I really liked about Kare Kano is how they DIDN’T drag out the inevitable confession scene till the end, and instead tried to focus on what an actual working relationship looks like. Unfortunately I can easily see Lovely Complex going the usual route, but, you know, I think I’ll give it a few more episodes and see if the characters grow on me. Y’all have been calling me out lately on my recent bout of uncharitableness with recent comedy shows and I think I ought to be a little more patient for a change!

Hayate No Gotoku 4 – Is the Steam Starting to Run Out?

Hmm. I think the humor train is starting to finally sputter at last, as this episode wasn’t as riproaringly funny as the last ones–considerably less so. And it seems to be mostly because of something that I feared might happen (see my first review)–the self-aware jokes are starting to grate and feel tacked on.Hayate no Gotoku 4-1

First up is the talking white tiger. I have to confess I thought his introduction in the previous episode was jarring and, for some reason, felt extraneous. This is even though the show had been busy breaking all kinds of rules already, and to be honest I can’t quite explain why. The opening joke of this episode does partially redeem him because the Pokemon jokes were, in fact, awfully funny. (It was perhaps the funniest moment in the entire episode! Plus I’m still not tired of the bleeping out of brand names.) Though if what the tiger says is right and they really do intend to make him a mascot character…he had better be as funny as that teddy bear in Bleach or he’s going to turn old hat faster than even the narrator…who was, interestingly enough, much less present in this episode than in previous ones. To my relief.

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I think the one joke that sums up why I felt this episode didn’t work that well is the introduction of the trio of high school girls. At first, given the large number of adolescent girls who show up at the school in this episode, I was expecting a harem comedy parody (which seem to be in the cards for the next episode, actually). And indeed, the three girls seem to fit the harem archetypes. What went wrong was when they literally introduced themselves to the audience, breaking the fourth wall by facing the camera and the characters commenting on “talking to the CRT” (which gets snickers for the outdated technology). Asides of course are nothing new in stagecraft, but this one really felt like it was just put in for its own sake, and barely even got a chuckle out of me.

Another example of a failed “postmodern” joke is Nagi knowing the exact sequence of the previous events despite not being a witness. There is no explanation of how or why she would know such events–a funny explanation, no matter how implausible, would have worked a lot better. She just does. It’s quickly set aside, as if to mainly just break the rules of standard continuity.

Perhaps it because I’ve learned the “rules” of this show and such tactics are no longer surprising. Perhaps it’s because the technique would be more effective if they weren’t so insistent on directly commenting on it in the show itself. (This is what annoyed me about the narrator, too.) I’m beginning to get the hint that subtlety is not one of this show’s virtues–an impression that one of the characters echoes directly in a line of dialogue, as if to hammer it in: “You’ve got to keep things simple in an anime!”

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I dunno. Hayate attracted me precisely because its layers of humor worked so beautifully well in the first few episodes. (The Eva references in the previous episode, for instance, were handled without drawing unnecessary attention to themselves. And am I thinking too parodically or did they miss the chance for both Ouran and Utena references in this episode?) Plus with the dramatically widened cast that this episode introduces–with the Student Council President and her sister taking the lead–I fear that the show will begin to sink into the rut that both Ouran and School Rumble did later in their runs: treading water because there’s too many characters and too few fresh comedic ideas, running on the fumes of an initially great premise.

Well, it’s still early in the run and it may just be a hiccup before even greater things come. The next episode could be, I hope, a delightful skewering of the whole harem comedy genre. I can’t wait if it’s so!

Why Azumanga Daioh is Funnier than Lucky Star

Azumanga Daioh

After watching a whole batch of Azumanga episodes this weekend–and finding myself unable to stop–I think I finally figured out why, despite their structural similarities, it’s a whole lot funnier (to me) than Lucky Star. All the caveats that apply when analyzing humor of course are in full effect.

  • Slapstick antics. I noted on Hung’s blog (which is itself an Azumanga reference!) that it really seemed to me that the verbal humor of Lucky Star is tough to translate, and that there’s a reason action movies and lowbrow American comedies tend to succeed overseas. Azumanga Daioh of course is filled to the brim with culture-specific, puntastic humor, especially any time Osaka opens her mouth. And, like Lucky Star, there are plenty of food jokes.

    But Azumanga Daioh also has Chiyo-chan falling over in a penguin costume. And getting hit by a volleyball. And Tomo getting slapped around by Yukari-sensei. And Sakaki getting assaulted by cats. I double over and curl up in laughter every time I see any of that. I guess I’m a man of simple pleasures after all!

  • Surprises. The sense of comic timing, overall, seems so much better in Azumanga. It may be because the five minute episodes are much closer to their original 4-koma roots, and so preserve their setup-punchline structure better than the more diffuse stories in Lucky Star. But I’m surprised how surprised I still often was at the conclusion of a sketch, even though I’ve seen the whole series before.
  • Visual Inventiveness. I think it’s a shame that the vaunted Kyoto Animation, who brought such lifelike and fluid work to Haruhi Suzumiya and Kanon, is animating a show that so far has little visual panache apart from the opening dance. Azumanga wasn’t particularly high budget or impressive on a technical level. But it had not only genuine cuteness but a sense of surrealism that lent the show even more unpredictability. And those facial expressions! Of course, most of this can be chalked up to the manga artist rather than the anime studio.

To be fair: I do think I like the second episode of Lucky Star a little bit better than the first one. I still find Kona amusing, as well as the cynical idol in the closing sections–though I hope the writers can find a way to make the characters more memorable. Azumanga Daioh did not immediately grab me on first viewing either, though I definitely found it instantly funny on a deeper level; however, it took the time to make the characters not only distinct, but lovable, to the point where I was shedding bittersweet tears at the series’ conclusion.

A comedy that is able to do that without angst or drama is quite briliant indeed, and if Lucky Star intends to follow in that tradition (as it seems to be), it’s got some ways to go.

Anime Diet Radio Episode 2 – More Spring 2007!

Well, here we are, with the second podcast of Anime Diet Radio (or Scattered Cels Podcast #12)! This time, Jeremy’s back, and he talks a lot about his favorite shows this new season, and Ray and I follow up with some shows we talked about last week. Prominent sections include Hayate no Gotoku, Romeo X Juliet, Gigantic Formula, El Cazador de la Bruja, Sola, and Lucky Star. There are a lot of subsections in this podcast, so use iTunes and use those chapters if you get lost. :)

Once again, there were a lot of amusing outtakes that are worth preserving. I’ve assembled them all into one outtakes file above, and broken them up into chapters as well. The outtakes talk about FLCL, fansub memories from the pre-BitTorrent age, Excel Saga, the definition of shoujo, and Japanese broadcast standards. (Download the file from http://animediet.net/archives/98 if you are receiving this podcast only through iTunes.)

We welcome your comments and questions–leave them in the comment section of this post, and we’ll answer your questions as best we can on the air! Thanks.

Show Notes
–OP: “Uninstall,” from Bokurano
–ED: Death Note ED
–Fans confront the Bandai Visual USA CEO at SakuraCon, news link here. (http://tinyurl.com/2k4v5m)
–References to “the club” and “grab bag” are referring to the anime club that I belong to (and Jeremy runs) called Anime Souffle! We are based in Los Angeles, and if you’re in the area you are more than welcome to join us. See our Meetup.com page here! (http://anime.meetup.com/447/)

8 Bit Games as Art

Seamus Venus
Botticelli probably didn’t have Seamus in mind when he was thinking of Venus. “Seamus Venus,” by Misha; $400.

This isn’t exactly anime related, but it does have something to do–a lot to do–with another part of Japanese pop culture, a culture that most of you reading this have probably experienced if you’re my age or older. What am I talking about? 8-bit console games, of course! Well, the curators at Gallery Nineteen Eighty Eight, which specializes in cultural artifacts and art from that year, have an annual exhibit called I Am 8-Bit. Artists submit paintings, sculptures, and other artworks inspired by your favorite Nintendo and arcade games from the 1980s. Not all of them are quite as colorful and friendly as we might remember, though. :) Still they are selling in the hundreds of dollars!

No, it’s probably not high art. But it sure does bring back memories…albeit filtered through a twisted lens.

See the LA Times review of the show here. The gallery is in downtown Los Angeles.

Final Battle
“Final Battle,” by Blinky. $400. Shigeru Miyamoto probably wouldn’t approve.

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Now here’s an interesting show–a mix of Ender’s Game, shades of Infinite Ryvius, and character-driven drama, with Evangelion-like robots and fight scenes. (The first fight’s conclusion is remarkably similar to Shinji’s first battle in Eva unit 01.) This show almost slipped under my radar for the new season but I read a few positive reviews on other blogs, and it intrigued me enough to check it out. So far it seems promising, even though it’s silly to have a OP song called “Uninstall”… :)

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The most distinctive thing about this show so far are the characters–namely the large number of them (I think there are about 10 kids?), and the character designs themselves. They are not typical anime designs for the most part, though they do remind me some of early 80s mecha shows like the original Gundam. The faces, hair, and even body shapes are much more varied than is usual in anime–in fact it’s almost jarring. (They are not ugly, mind you. Just different and distinctive, kind of like the designs in Satoshi Kon’s works or anything put out by Studio Ghibli.) Some of this I suppose is necessary for the viewer to tell apart the different characters, given there are a lot of them. The guy who operates the computers seems much more archetypal on the other hand, and the black robot we see is not all that original in design and behavior.

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Storywise, the premise of the show–kids who think they’re playing a game when they’re really not–immediately reminded me of Orson Scott Card’s classic SF novel Ender’s Game. Of course, Evangelion itself reminded me of Ender’s Game to begin with too, but the similarities are stronger in this show,though there doesn’t appear to be a central character per se. One of the strongest aspects of Card’s novel was his ability to depict team-building, about how Ender was able to assemble a very competent battle team and interact successfully with his subordinates and his friends. When you have a large cast, of course, not everyone is going to get equal time and treatment and so I hope–depending on what direction the story goes–the writers will be able to make everyone distinct and work well together, or show how their inevitable differences will result in conflict and even enmity. After only one episode I still have a hard time remembering almost any of the characters very well, other than the fourth grade girl and her crab-torturing brother (shades of Peter, Ender’s older brother?). I hope that will change over time.

Anyways, this has suddenly vaulted to being another good ambitious show to keep my eye on. I’ll probably be writing more reports on it in the days to come.

Hayate no Gotoku 2-3

To my relief, the postmodernity continues with no loss in teh funny. I think the narrator needs to stop soon, though, and eventually I think the censorship jokes (didn’t they promise to fight the network?!) will start getting repetitive.

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I said in my first post about Hayate that I was hoping this show would be the shounen version of Ouran High School Host Club. After seeing these episodes, I think I misspoke; I think it’s really a lot more like School Rumble. Like School Rumble, and unlike pure parody shows like Excel Saga, there is meaningful continuing plot and character. There is a genuine emotional core to the show, which you can see in the relationship between Hayate and Nagi, even if at this moment it’s a fairly typical tsundere-type relationship. But like School Rumble the show seems determined to make fun of a whole wide range of anime. The Gundam jokes were out in full force in the second episode, and the Roujin-Z an even Evangelion references out in the third. And so far, I think it’s working. I laughed heartily at the bleeping out of various franchise names, whether it be Gundam or Sony.

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Another really fascinating aspect of the show, a totally unexpected one, is Hayate’s conversations with God Santa Claus. They are meaningful without being pretentious and serve as a sounding board for Hayate’s conscience as well as some of the deeper issues that this show touches on (the meaning and value of work, one’s attitude toward life, etc). In fact this Santa Claus seems a lot more like the Biblical God than what most people think about Santa Claus–at least he does in episode 2. I want to see more of him and the angel and devil figures we saw in episode 1…

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Finally, there’s Nagi herself and her otaku tastes. What is it with this season and girls who are into anime? First the Aya character in Lucky Star and now this…is it just otaku fantasy that there would be a girl who is just as ardent a fan? (AFAIK female fandom in Japan is significantly smaller than it is here in America.) But it’s turned into a great base of jokes, like with the funny Sailor Moon parody at the start of the third episode. I suppose Nagi’s parallel in this case is Harima in School Rumble–they are both aspiring manga artists–though Nagi is far closer to a standard otaku, in that she loves fighting games (I found it hilarious that she has separate rooms just for a Dreamcast, a Playstation, and a N64–dated consoles though!) and she seems to be getting her cues from the cheesier kind of anime. Especially with her “secret identity,” which is an absolute hoot.

Anyways, I have discovered that this is the one show so far that I must watch the moment I download it. That’s surely a good sign. Which is why I put it as my nomination for next month’s showing at my local anime club…

El Cazador Eps3: The music had more action than The episodic Thelma and Louise.

Oh MY GOD!

This is a plateful of disappointment, this is a crappy imitation of Cowboy Bebop, this is probably what an episodic Thelma and Louise would look like – and I didn’t have to have seen that movie (I’m a guy, dammit!) to know that both suck. Well, other than the fact it’s two girls driving…SOUTH, right?

Why am I not posting pictures? Why bother? It was boring, boring, boring, bang (the music went bang, that is), and super bland and pointless. No plot development anywhere to be found – even if you were trying to find it using a binocular, not much of character development – wait, there were some? Where? AND NO ACTION! One! ONE! ONE DEAD BODY! And Nadi didn’t fire one shot before she was put out by that kid – with (gasp! SPOILERrRRRR!) pass out mace spray! And neither Nadi nor Elise killed the dead guy – he just got shot by somebody! Count it, ONE body! AHHHHH!!! And not a shot was fired the whole episode, except before and after commercial break, when they show these still pics that tells you they’re going into commercial and coming back from it!

More great music which tries to make the whole thing move and be active, but watch without the music and you’ll fall asleep within seconds – I know music helps a lot, but come on! Action music goes with ACTION! Or real conflict! What conflict?????

Woe is me, for El Cazador truly does suck big, smelly sombreros and Tequilla bottles.

Oh, and the Western Style music in the beginning actually has nothing to do with Mexico.

My score for this show so far up to eps 3: Absolute Zero save for the music.

Nutrition Facts:

Serving Size 1 Episode (30 minutes)

Servings per PC Screen 1

Amount per serving

Calories (nothing like beer’s goodness either) (empty)

Calories from boredom 2000

% Daily Value

Total goodness 0 g 0%

Saturated goodness 0 g 0%

Awful 2000 g 2000000000%

Sodium 1000mg (good music adds the flavor) 1000%

Total fillings 100 g 100%

Dietary Plot fiber 1 g 0.1 %

sweetness/service 0 g 0 %

Solid action 0 0 %
Completely not recommended.

My thought: HAVEN’T THE CLAYMORE FAN SUB COME OUT YET???

Warning: This is a rant. Instead of graphics graphic language will be used.

So I’ve been looking at the polls…hmm. I see that there are more people not listening to the podcast. Not to not shamelessly plugging the cast, but we did pack more fun into the thing. But anyway,

Looking at the new season, I’m most impressed with Claymore, mostly “moe” ed by Lucky Star’s opening, and kind of disappointed with El Cazador.

After a certain thing had happened to me, I’m now into the “less plot, more graphics and carnage/moe/fan service thing.” This coming from a 30 year old is pathetic, I know, but when I’m on an anime diet, I want more filling, less substance – all I want is a decent story that I don’t have to feel being too involved, but give me what once made anime anime – impossible situations not seen in real life, girls, guns, explosions, fan service, giant mechas duking it out, stepping on missiles like they’re stairsteps in air, dropping 30 guys in a row without running out of bullets. I mean, come on! Does every show have to try to have a great PLOT? Look, what I’m looking in an action show is thrill. Claymore delivers that, and a bag of plot chips – what I meant by that is there doesn’t have to be a lot of talking and showing background story and all that, just montage, juxtaposed images would do. Remember Run, Lola, Run (Lola Rennt)? I don’t have to go into so much of what happens to each person, or before, just show me the images.

Yeah, the whole post now doesn’t make sense, but life doesn’t make sense either (I warned you that this is a rant). Back to anime.

Anime is entertainment. Some people find a thicket of plot unfolding entertaining. I can, too. It’s just that if the studio does action best, then stick to that. If a studio does super-powerful-incredible-planet-throwing and-Jupitor-using and psudo religious images better, than do that! Not every studio should try to be Kyoto Animation or Ghibli, but stick to what a studio does best and it will sell. Just don’t exploit it like Gainax with Eva.

I was trying to pick on Beetrain. Please, .hack sign was great for MMORPG Otaku but for me it was full of seams and holes and endless talking. Madlax was full of so-called “psychological exploration”. Give me slaughtage! Give me carnage! Give me explosions! Give me the ideal world created by human greed and hatefulness! HEEEEHAAAAAAA (I just got a strange half mask on face and I’ve turned into Friday Monday! Or was it Tuesday Thursday? Oh, whatever)!

Oops, I used a Madlax character impersonation. Eh, this is a rant. It doesn’t have to make sense. Oh, and the villains in El Cazador so far looked like some greasy fat guys in South American country side with a trunk full of tequilas and a few sombreros they forgot to put on (yes of course I’m being offensive on purpose for a portrayal of a stereo type. Sheesh chill out). At least the research institute people are OK.

Disagree? Mike does. But let’s see him go up against Lina Inverse in a one on one duel.

Yeah, you’re right. I’m just bored. Will try to put a post with substance when I have time.

END RANT

Anime Diet Radio Episode 1 – Spring 2007 Extravaganza!

And here it is…the podcast once known as Scattered Cels Anime Podcast, resurrected as Anime Diet Radio! In this episode, Ray and I go through a whole bunch of shows that are new this season–some we’ve seen, some we haven’t. We talk about El Cazador de la Bruja, Gurrren-Lagann, Claymore, Romeo x Juliet, Darker than Black, Seirei no Moribito, Kotetsu Sangokushi, Gigantic Formula, Nagasarete Airantou, and finally Hayate no Gotoku!

In our wide ranging conversation, too, there were some lengthy digressions which weren’t, strictly speaking, about stuff coming out this season. But they were so funny and informative, I thought they were worth preserving anyway! So two extra files along with the main podcast are being released: Extra 1 is a 10 minute discussion of Madlax combined with some comparisons and thoughts on the new Tarantino/Rodriguez movies, Grindhouse. Extra 2 is mostly Ray riffing on The Big O in the context of our discussion of Darker than Black. They’re both tons of fun and we hope you enjoy them as well! (For those who are getting this through iTunes: the two extra files are available on the main website, at http://animediet.net/archives/84. You can listen/download from there.)

Anyways, the Anime Diet Radio ship has sailed. Enjoy!

Show Notes

  • OP: Lucky Star OP
  • ED: El Cazador de la Bruja ED
  • The article that we relied upon for our information about the new season is at AnimeOnline, over here. (http://animeonline.com/index.php?page=news_featured&ent_id=100943)

Quick Spring 2007 First Impression Roundup

Here’s some thoughts about new shows that I couldn’t think of an entire post to write about. :) What do you all think and what else looks promising to you this season? (Some of these are shows Ray and I talk about in the upcoming podcast, which will be released tomorrow.)

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Lucky Star

Given the ads and the OP that have been plastered everywhere on the anime blogosphere (this site included!), this show was not quite what I was expecting. I’m not sure it works so well on me, either, though a rewatch with a different fansubber helped some. The show really demonstrates its 4-koma roots in that the humor is almost entirely verbal rather than visual–consisting of long discourses on the proper way to eat different kinds of food, for instance. I wonder if something is lost in translation somehow, like puns and wordplay. It certainly validates some of the comparisons I’ve seen of this show to Seinfeld. Seinfeld‘s humor was of a very culturally specific kind (New York, upper middle class, Jewish) that doesn’t really carry over very well overseas. The same is largely true of The Simpsons, with its loads of American pop culture references. The truth is that I just didn’t find the first episode all that amusing or engaging.

I have to say that the blue haired girl played by Hirano Aya, Tsukasa–with her otaku knowledge of anime, games, and karaoke–is consistently funny in ways the other characters are not. The “fan mail” section near the end was also amusing.

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El Cazador de la Bruja

The latest actioner from Bee Train starts slower than both Noir and Madlax, with an emphasis more on character relationships–which is just fine by me, so long as the characters become interesting (as they did in Noir). The vibe is eerily similar in many respects to the beginning of Cowboy Bebop–the Mexican setting, the visit to the Indian fortune teller, the sudden violence near the end (though not nearly as bloody or spectacular). The main gunslinger girl (heh) in this show, Nadi, is also remarkably restrained in the way she uses her weapons–mainly to disarm rather than to kill. How different from the trigger happy anti-heroine of last year’s action masterpiece, Black Lagoon!

The music by Yuki Kajiura, as expected, is excellent–from the theme song onwards. I’m going to keep an eye on this one.

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Sola

This looks like another one of those “ambitious dating sim” shows–ie, shows that are based on dating sim computer games that try hard to transcend the inherent limitations and cliches of their genre. (Think Air or Kimi Ga Nozumo Eien.) To tell the truth given the peaceful, evocative theme song and pretty music, I was expecting a totally different sort of show, but with the introduction of numerous girls with various hair colors I knew I was going to be in harem/eroge land. You’ve got the stock characters–the best friend, the sister, the mysterious girl who shows up out of nowhere…who may have a secret. (A common feature of these ambitious dating sim shows.)

At least the protagonist has some confidence, though his hobby is, in my opinion, rather contrived–taking pictures of the sky. I might watch a few more episodes to see if it gets more interesting.

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Nagasarete Airantou

This is a more traditional kind of harem comedy, about a boy named Ikuto who gets stranded on an island full of nubile time-warped girls who all want to date and/or marry him. It’s fairly clear who the main relationship will be with, though (Suzu, played by Horie Yui) and the predictability of it all means that there will probably be few surprises. Still, it was competently animated and gave a few reliable laughs. Especially with the nosebleeds.

lagann 01

Tengen Toppa Gurren-Lagann

Finally, Gainax’s new production is one of those intentional throwbacks (like the new Rodriguez/Tarantino feature, Grindhouse) that combines the wacky, spastic animation of FLCL and the cheeky spirit of spoof mecha shows like Gekiganger-3. The plot isn’t particularly original so far, though the mecha and monster design is straight out of the FLCL playbook and is fun to watch. (The way the main mecha first appears is delightful.) The rumbling I heard from the producers that this will be a “coming of age” story leads me to believe that the writers are going to attempt something more serious and epic in the future. I don’t know whether that will work, to be honest, though Gainax has done it before and done it well. We’ll see.

Anyways, that’s it for this week’s summary roundup. I’ll be writing full articles on the next episode of Hayate no Gotoku, Romeo X Juliet, and Darker Than Black. Stay tuned for the podcast–which is all about the new season, plus a few amusing extras–tomorrow!