Fall 2007 season – the fall of Otaku

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[Editor’s note: this is a part of the Anime Blogger Collective effort. I’m Ray and after Mike asked me, I decided to contribute! For other excellent articles, see these –Roxas, Karura, CCYoshi, Martin, Hige, J. Valdez, Xerox and Owen.]

Yeah, I’ve tried to cover a lot of shows in Fall 2007, and since then I’ve concentrated my efforts on 4 of them while keeping an eye on others that I were blogging before. For me, so far none of the shows impressed me or elicited in me strong reactions as I have for some shows in Summer 2007.

Shows that I’ve been reviewing for the fall: Gundam 00, Genshiken s2, Blue Drop, Bamboo Blade, and Sketch Book – Full Color’s.

Shows that I’ve reviewed or talked about in the summer: Claymore, El Cazador, and Zetsubo Sensei.

Please note that I’m well aware that the shows that I’ve been writing about varies in genre and making strict and direct comparison is obviously unfair. However, compare with the quality and the variety of shows I’ve experienced for summer, I find shows in the fall somewhat lacking. Of course, also note that this is only the mid-season review and many shows have yet to be fully developed and still have vast potential.

Next is my view on the shows I’ve been writing reviews about and some of my observation for fall 2007 in general.

1. Gundam 00.

I wasn’t hotly anticipating this show from the very beginning upon seeing the character designs and the background story. I’ve been sensing that in recent years people’s imaginative powers have been waning and a lot of stories are becoming closer and closer to reality. Perhaps it’s not that their imaginations are waning as much as because ultra-fantastical stories are no longer welcomed by many. In any case, what irritates me for this show isn’t just the character design and the personalities portrayed, particularly the of the 4 main characters, but also the discontinuity of character interactions and the fact that the highlight seems to fall on many characters at once.

The concept of this show is really simple. To stop a war over something (anything), just start another one. What struck me is how similar the concept of this show is similar to GW’s – in both terrorist actions are taken to prevent military build up in different nations and organizations. However, in GW, there are never any pretentiousness about what the GW corp does, or rather, that isn’t discussed at all until the later OAV. While simplistic and at times soap opera-like in nature, GW successfully grabbed the attention of its viewers using strong excitement factors such as pulse pounding music and urgent battle sequences without too convoluted plots and too many characters introduced at once, which often generates confusion. Yes, there are many characters in GW, but non-essential characters do their duty, and they fade away.

Unfortunately, so far in Gundam 00, the battle sequences have not been pulse pounding. The characters and their relationships have been hard for me to decipher, and the characters are rather stereotypical and/or flat at times, and side characters – if I could tell they were side characters – have been taking up enough screen time to be distracting.

To its credit, Gundam 00 is self-aware and examines its concepts through the characters’ doubts and fears. But so far, these haven’t been examined and portrayed in detail. Rather, a lot of times these self-doubts and examinations seem to be devices that try to make this show look smart. But so far, I haven’t seen anything that says this show is smart.

Overall, the characters are highly unlikable or mild or cliched, the battle sequences are dull and too one-sided, and the character relationships are not well developed with their screen time poorly distributed. I give it a B- for a Gundam effort out of my generosity.

2. Genshiken s2. Note that I will be biased for this show because it’s Otaku home turf.

This show has been up and down but for me, the creators have been trying extremely hard to keep giving us the ups while making the downs more interesting. A lot of things have been developed where in the manga they are not. The episode with Ogiue’s over imaginative mind is funny and purposely kept cheesy to please its intended audience – the yaoi fangirls. As a straight Otaku man, I can say that I find the voice acting and the scenarios exaggerated and over the top. However, I believe that’s the point of the episode – to demonstrate the power of Ogiue’s mind and flesh out her character more – at least about her mind and her real personality underneath her poker face. The intro is a brilliant parody of Gundam Seed and Destiny, which were popular shows, and it ties into the Otaku parody and self-awareness exhibited in recent days by many other Otaku-oriented shows. In my book and in today’s trend, that spells smarts.

However, for non-Otaku and short time anime fans, this show may appear to be meaningless or at least not funny because it does contain hardcore Otaku references. However, episodes with Ogiue imagining unreasonable gay relationships and the male members imagining Ogiue in ultra-fantastical scenarios helps to bring the normal audience closer to these members of Genshiken. To me, these episodes were successful and they bring up the grades for this show, which at its core, is a slice of life of a small group of semi-social outcasts in college setting, and their lives are not all that interesting to begin with.

I give it a A- out of my bias.

3. Blue Drop.

I just can’t get into it no matter how nice and excellent the animation is. The emotion portrayed here is rather subdued even when Mari reacts strong to something. Women’s world and their circles have alway been surrounded by Lilith-Strength AT fields and I have never been able to penetrate (understand) much of them. I suspect the emotions from the characters portrayed here are genuine and realistic, but perhaps because I’m older and much set in my ways, anything that falls out of my echelon of tastes bores me. Even with the great performance of Sawashiro Miyuki as Senkoji, and a small amount of ship to ship battle strategy this show fails to keep me interested and don’t even talk about being excited. Also, for a supposedly 12 episode series it has some filler moments, perhaps necessary for showing character conflicts and relationship binds? In any case,

I give it a B for my personal preference and my lack of great interest.

4. Bamboo blade.

A highly amusing take on classic kendo (shonen) battle genre featuring the power of cuteness from characters and seiyuu, but not much more. The 4 main female seiyuu have doing good to great jobs playing their characters. Miyako is the only character with the most interesting and conflicted personality, the rest are rather standard and nothing too special stands out. The kendo prodigy Tamaki exhibits interesting sides of herself when being alone or having monologues and internal dialogs, but other times she’s a service character with her cutesy, childish looks and small voice, perhaps moe in the eyes of many. She does impress me on her skills and her determination but without much talking, her seiyuu probably has a tough time showing all that, and I have a tough time really feeling anything for her.

The rest of the cast is also amusing to varying degrees but none impressive so far. My favorite character dynamic is when Miyako engages another with her “dark side” or trying too hard to be a good girl in from of Dan-kun but almost desperately wanting to let her normal girl side out. In reality she’s really not all that particular or special from a lot of regular Japanese girls these days. I do want to see her character grow and maybe snap, but other that, I’m not big on the characters. As for Kendo knowledge, I have none, and I can’t really get excited most of the time.

As a comedy, it’s certainly adequate for the job and expect some decent laughs from it. I give it C+.

5. Sketchbook – Full Color’s.

It has a plain yet great tasting and almost familiar taste and the characters are odd, interesting, and fun to watch sometimes. Nothing too extraordinary but that’s the charm of the show. It’s a great show for relaxation and small chuckles. However, I have a tough time reviewing it because nothing significant ever truly happens and there’s no drama and no conflict. Recommended for a mood change and when you need some times to turn off everything else going on in your life and just relax and enjoy the sereneness. The show is far from boring with its eccentric cast and beautiful animation.

I give it a B.

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In comparison with the summer season with its either innovative shows or pulse pounding shows, Fall 2007 seems to be a little bit flat so far. Claymore from summer excited me and the amount of pathos often elicited emotional responses from me. The character struggles and the metaphors these associated with are superb and genuine. Even with some characters not up to par with some other people’s standards, I still found all of them satisfying to watch. Their growth are real; their reactions are sincere; their struggles allows a certain degree of empathy. The show is highly heroic and inspiring.

Zetsubo sensei is sarcastic, ironic, cynical but not quite; it’s looking, wanting and struggling to find faith in something and yet dares not to take the leap. It’s style is unique though after seeing 3 (including ef of this season) works with the same style it’s starting to get old. However, Zetsubo Sensei is also illogical, satirical with high doses of exaggeration, and sometimes the show makes no sense to me.

El Cazador was a letdown equivalent to the magnitude of a letdown that Gundam 00 is for me. It’s experimental take similar to themes like Thelma and Louise and its focus on stylistic story telling without enough planning and figuring things out ultimately made it failure in my eyes.

I wrote about summer shows for your comparison. Before I drift off too far of topic, I feel in recent seasons, good shows have been under exposed and sometime neglected in favor of shows with gigantic sponsorships and massive advertisement appealing to the Otaku sensuality over shows with true substance, intelligence, and genuine emotions. As for entertainment value, some of latter shows don’t even offer solid entertainment value. Instead, I’m often filled with stuffings that makes me feel rather empty after every watch.

6 thoughts on “Fall 2007 season – the fall of Otaku”

  1. “Women’s world and their circles have alway been surrounded by Lilith-Strength AT fields and I have never been able to penetrate (understand) much of them.” LOL, before I say anything else.

    You know, I use to think that Fall paled in comparison to Summer and was rather disappointed with what they had to offer. I mean, the summer gave me Baccano! (which I’m currently crazy about), SZS (what the hell happened to the subs?) and the spring had TTGL, DtB and Claymore, and what does the fall season have? Gundam 00? Clannad? ef?

    I understand exactly how you feel, but at the same time, not every show needs to be most brilliant thing, ever, to entertain. At the halfway mark, I’m finding myself growing quite attached to, at least, two shows. I’m learning to love mediocrity, the empty, shallow stuff, without the ever so elusive “substance, intelligence, and genuine emotions” that are supposedly necessary.

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