In this big roundup article, I’ll talk about Ga-Rei Zero, Hyakko, Kannagi, Shikabane Hime Aka, Tales of the Abyss, To Aru Majutsu no Index, Toradora, Tytania, and Yozakura Quartet. Do they make good first impressions?
(Note: these are all based on episode 1. I have episode 2 for some of these shows, but have not seen most of them up to that point.)
Well, give them credit for coming up with quite a…twist at the end of episode 1. (Ray talks about it more in his full article about the show.) The action is well-animated and intense, though the concept is not terribly original, at least not yet; are we to take the girl at the end as the new Lelouch, based on what she was doing?
This really does seem to be the season for supernatural hunter shows; we’ve got this one, Yozakura Quartet, Shikabane Hime Aka. Out of the three, I like this one the best, by far. There was a real Darker than Black vibe to the show so far, at least until we get to The Twist, and while shock is cheap these days, it at least invites us to see what’s next.
This is supposed to be a Hirano Aya fest, though I guess I’m seiyuu ignorant enough to not figure out that the protagonist was her until I looked it up on ANN. She definitely talks in a different voice than in her previous, well-known roles as Haruhi Suzumiya and Konata. It’s much more like her squeaky public voice.
The show itself, and its humor, doesn’t really quite appeal to me yet. I find the humor oddly disjointed and as I mentioned on the twitter some time ago, I had a hard time buying into the premise of the first episode where a whole group of students gets hopelessly lost on campus. It’s not that I demand absolute realism all the time, and I know it’s supposed to be comedy, but…I don’t know. I think it’s trying to go for the everyday absurdity approach of Minami-ke, which I grew to like a lot over time. (It’s not really comparable to Azumanga Daioh or Lucky Star yet; this one definitely feels quite different from those two.) I haven’t warmed to any of the characters yet, and maybe that’s what it will take.
Now here’s a fresh take on a fairly hackneyed genre, the goddess girlfriend who suddenly appears in a boy’s life. Ray’s already compared it to Ah My Goddess!, and yes, while it certainly has a long way to go before attaining the classic status that one has, I think it’s trying to do something a bit different. Nagi, the (apparently minor and not very powerful) goddess, is far more capricious and harder to get along with than Belldandy, or even Belldandy’s sisters. She is definitely more the main character than the main guy, Jin, and I suspect the fact that the opening sequence only features her–as a pop star, no less–is a telling sign. We see some fairly typical trouble ahead with the childhood friend calling on the phone and, I’m guessing, eventually Nagi and Jin will have to go to school. I still think the best parts, though, are Nagi using a magical girl wand to do her exorcisms, and her calling Jin an “unbeliever.” I suppose a goddess has a special right to use that insult!
I must mention once more that I really dig the OP song. Plus, I see that the dance moves in the OP are done by the same person who directed them in Haruhi and Lucky Star, and the fluidity shows that pretty well. (Actually the show has some ridiculously fluid and detailed animation for certain kinds of movements, to the point where they call attention to themselves.)
I think this will be my comedy of the season alongside Clannad.
Shikabane Hime Aka
Disappointing–that’s how it honestly felt in a nutshell. I certainly wouldn’t have guessed this was a Gainax production had I not been told otherwise, though in retrospect, some of the spastic action sequences bear the faint whiff of Gurren Lagann. But neither the concept or execution seem terribly outstanding or original, and as of episode 1, not even the title character particularly stands out as an interesting person just yet. Can manga readers tell me whether this gets more exciting later on? Or is this a slide back to mediocrity for Gainax?
Tales of the Abyss
You’d think with a title like that you’d get something much more horror or suspense oriented, but it’s not to be. Instead, it’s a fairly ho-hum RPG adaptation featuring a rather whiny main character Luke (no wonder; he’s been cooped up in a palace since his memory-loss inducing accident), and battle scenes that really do look like they came out of a game. I kept expecting hit points to show up over the monsters when they get attacked and victory music and experience point counters after the battle is over. I am also not a fan of Luke’s character design. When I first saw a banner for the show, I thought Luke was a girl!
Come to think of it, has there really ever been a successful RPG adaptation into anime? World Destruction was a valiant effort, but I lost interest in it fairly early on. The Final Fantasy Ultimate one isn’t even worth talking about…did Druaga get any better after episode 4?
To Aru Majutsu no Index
Points for originality, but shaky execution. I was definitely intrigued at the beginning, where two psychics battle each other on a bridge, and when it took a seemingly completely unrelated turn to magic and to a girl who claims to be an “Index,” I thought–OK, how are they going to connect the two? I found it interesting that psychic power is considered scientific in this futuristic world, and magic is not–even though Index herself points out this seeming inconsistency. It’s like the endless debate over whether science fiction and fantasy are the same genre or two different ones. Index of course ends up doing many of the usual things that happen when a girl lands in a boy’s house–she gets naked. Should have seen that coming.
The scene where Index first appears was dragged out too much, though, and so the end of the episode felt to me to be more of a cutoff than a natural segue into whatever the next episode will be about. The setting is intriguing, though, and I’m somewhat curious as to how they will handle the competing psychic and magical powers over time.
Ray always loves to tease me about my guilty pleasure over Rie Kugimiya works. This time, though, Toradora actually seems to have some quality in it, as opposed to something like Zero no Tsukaima‘s recent seasons. It’s more thoughtful and slower paced; both the male main character and Taiga, Kugimiya’s character, display a lot more emotional range early on. I have seen episode 2 of this, and it’s refreshing to see that this is going to be not just about slapstick hijinks but an actual relationship. It’s not particularly unique or surprising yet, but it does seem to be handled a little better than usual. Will definitely keep my eyes peeled for it. (See Ray and I discuss it in our first Face Off joint article/chat.)
Legend of Galactic Heroes for the current generation. Big battleships, classical-sounding music, 18th-19th century uniforms, the war as the Great Game and intrigue in politics–in space! It’s got everything LOGH got. Does that mean this is also going to go on for hundreds of episodes? It even features commanders on a rather fanciful, 19th-century style room as the starship bridge, literally sipping tea. Those Japanese sure like to romanticize that period of European history, the late 19th century…I suppose it makes sense that during the same time, they were also a rising power in the world too.
One of these days I will get around to LOGH and see what all the fuss is about. Since that’s an acknowledged classic, I think I’d rather check out that before committing to this one.
To think I found this intriguing because the character designs looked vaguely like Kurenai’s! That is actually not the case; it’s closer to Darker than Black, and unfortunately not nearly as interesting as that show from the start. Yet another organization fights to destroy bad demons in a town where the demons and humans are trying to get along. I think I literally yawned as the story went on in episode 1. I probably won’t continue with it for long.