Let’s get right to it.
I have no business liking this first episode as much as I actually did. But I laughed out loud enough times to realize: I enjoyed this fan-servicey, genderbending, just-slightly-meta show. The show is all about reversals–reversals of genders, of personality types, and of surface expectations. Sure, they’re not new reversals, considering that the gender switching goes back at least to Ranma 1/2, and they’re often used as an excuse for yuri-tinged encounters among other things. (They seem to be consciously avoiding the panty shots, though, as is Scientific Railgun, and last season’s Princess Lover. Is this the new “wait till DVD releases come out” ploy?) The little elements are fun, too, like the harakiri dolls with their protruding entrails, the blatant seiyuu put-downs, the way Akane’s “shy” personality is also quite dirty, and the fact that they are aware they are using German for so many of the names in the show. Put together it’s actually a pretty decent use of otaku metahumor. Unlike another show this season…
This is still a hard show to write about so it’s highly unlikely I’ll be blogging it. It does look like this season’s “guilty pleasure,” though.
A Certain Scientific Railgun
One of the more anticipated titles this season, for sure, and having not watched anything but the first episode of A Certain Magical Index, I was afraid that I would need to know the first season to get this show. That turned out to be not the case, fortunately, as this appears to start in the same setting but a different set of characters. I had no trouble following the basic premises.
The title refers to the most powerful esper in the city, a girl named Misaka who holds the power of the railgun. She looks, to my eyes, strikingly like Mai from Mai Hime but without the ample bosom (as her junior so graphically points out in this episode), and with the standard aloof “onee-sama” personality. Speaking of which, I did find Shirai’s antics to be rather annoying, though I see that the creators are poking fun at the kind of sort of relationship that was valorized in Gunbuster and Diebuster. And, of course, giving plenty of excuses for implied fan service, though the show is self-aware enough to point out the deliberate avoidance of such in the case of Misaka.
I found the character introductions a bit slow until the pacing took off in the final, action-packed third. The action is well-animated, and seems to highlight what is most likely the show’s central appeal: schoolgirls with powers kicking butt. How different this is from Index, I’m not sure–though I don’t remember that show being as devoid of male characters as this one is so far. But it was definitely fun and overall likable, the sort of action/comedy that is representative of contemporary anime. I’ll continue giving it a shot.
Seitokai no Ichizon
This show marks, I think, the point where otaku metahumor in anime has officially jumped the shark.
The first few minutes, in which the cast ponders the ups and downs of being in an anime adaptation, are startlingly enough. The requisite references to recent popular otaku shows like Haruhi Suzumiya, Lucky Star, and Studio Deen’s last works Higurashi and Umineko (that was fast!) are all there. But by the end of it I was hoping that was it for the self-indulgence, that it was a hook to get to the real meat of the show like Episode 0 of Haruhi. It turned out to be indicative of what the entire episode was like.
The first episode was, somewhat like the much more charming and likable Lucky Star, lacking in plot and driven by skits and dialogue. In this case, nearly all of them take place in the single room of the Student Council. At least half of the jokes revolve around the sole male protagonist thinking of his classmates as his “harem” and his tendency to view the world through the lens of a dating sim. The girls themselves pretty much hew to the standard harem archetypes without really doing much more than commenting on them. None of them are interesting or appealing as characters, something that must happen in lieu of a strong plotline (see: Kannagi, Haruhi Suzumiya, Lucky Star; Chaos Head had an interesting plot to make up for weak characterization). Some of the comic timing worked, but the episode seems to be an attempt to stuff as much current-day cliche into 22 minutes and see how much the audience “gets” it.
The truth is that this kind of humor is fundamentally self-indulgent. It exists solely to affirm to knowledge of a small segment of fandom, and in the case of this show at the expense of things like character and plot. This sort of joke/sketch driven format in my opinion would work better, say, as one of those five minute anime shorts that are becoming more common these days. It’s a bit much to take 22 minutes at a time. The one hope is that they probably can’t get much more meta than this and that perhaps the trend will begin to reverse itself. I think I’m beginning to like my stories straight as time goes on.