The Royal Catchup Roundup for This Week

I had not one, but two papers due this week, so anime has generally not been on my mind as much as usual (my last post about Anno aside). So I spent yesterday afternoon and tonight catching up on a whole bunch of shows, including a number that I criticized–perhaps unfairly–a little while ago. Have my opinions changed? Read on to find out! I’m covering

  • Bokurano
  • Darker than Black (stub)
  • El Cazador de la Bruja
  • Hayate no Gotoku
  • Lovely Complex
  • Nagasarete Airantou

Bokurano 2-3

Bokurano 3-1

The character-based approach of this show is starting to pay off: I’m starting to get a good sense of who the characters are, and the emotionally restrained mood of the show (combined with some fascinating and dark imagery) really appeals to me. It’s taking some of the ideas that first showed up in Evangelion a few steps further: what if everyone saw the robot, and if we know that actual thousands of people died as a result of the battle? And it all gets reported in the evening news? The beginning of episode 3 is strikingly similar tonally to the start of an Eva episode, with the still shots of the aftermath, the non-linear and talky interludes, the quieter moments emphasized over the more action-packed ones. While we saw hints of this here and there in at this stage in Eva, the makers of Bokurano have chosen to start right in it.

This is, for my money, the sleeper hit of the season, and lots of reviewers say it’s gonna get real dark real fast. C’mon English fansubbers–get past episode 3 already!

Darker than Black

Darker 3-1

I am going to write a full first impressions review article this weekend about this–a show I can’t believe I also neglected, even though Ray mentioned it early on in the season. This is probably the most ambitious show of the season in terms of plot and concept, overflowing with great ideas, perhaps too many for its own good, with great drama and double-crossing characters left and right. Kind of a weird cross between Death Note and Witch Hunter Robin, speaking of which…

El Cazador de la Bruja 3-4

El Cazador 4-1

My co-pilot on this site has complained a lot about this show so far, though, as he also indicated, it does finally seem to be picking up something of the pace. I’m beginning to suspect, though, that the director is laughing at us the whole time: there almost seems to be a deliberate subversion of various action anime conventions. We’ve both noted the way, for instance, the Yuki Kajiura action music will start around the climax of the episode–with nary a shot fired or even a real chase. Every time guns are supposed to start blazing, somebody gets disarmed, with one shot at most. By the time we do get a gun battle, it’s at the start of the episode–we’re dumped in the middle of it with no warning or buildup! The first real car chase happens, at least. Now I may not be as big on action as Ray is, but as Anton Chekhov once wrote, when you leave a loaded gun on a table in a story you expect it to be fired sometime later. This is a show whose opening and closing sequences, climactic music, and concept promise many, many fired guns. Are the animators just snickering at us or what?

On the other hand, I think we finally get some real character building here, as opposed to just interaction–which is why I even found the first two episodes boring. Though it’s interspersed with some silly moments that, tonally, somehow feel off for a show like this. I dunno. At least Nadie and Ellis are easy on the eyes…

Hayate no Gotoku 5

Hayate 5-1

Well, I do sense that the show is shifting into a more character-driven mode now, though the specter of harem comedy tropes is beginning to lurk in the background. The cashmere jokes were really funny, and so was the Evangelion parody. I think I had something of a cultural disconnect with the comedy duo gag stuff at the start, though, though it’s really interesting to see a similar kind of comedy duo dynamic going on in…

Lovely Complex 2-3

Lovely3-1

So far, it’s not really rising out of standard shoujo territory. It follows the usual formula of “main couple try to be with other people but end up sharing a sweet moment by the end, only to have a new obstacle arise…” Of course, the show still could turn out to be like Kare Kano where the main couple are together by episode 4. Plus, I’m beginning to actually sort of tell the aural difference between the way most anime characters speak and the Osaka-ben that everyone speaks in this show…kinda funny, seeing that the two protagonists do kinda fit the standard Osakan stereotypes (loud, blunt, etc).

Lucky Star 3-4

Lucky 4-1

Boy, y’all hammered me for what I said comparing it to Azumanga, and I do have to say that after watching a couple of more episodes, I concede the point: it’s not entirely fair to compare the two shows. I now think they are very different. For one, Lucky Star is definitely much, much, much more centered around exclusively otaku concerns. Kona is the definite center of the humor, the punchline to sketches typically center around her, and it’s no accident that the closing sequence is always another anime song. That alone makes it a different beast from Azumanga Daioh and I’ve come to terms that this is not a character-driven but verbal, pop-culture driven kind of humor. They really seem to have realized this by giving Kona increasing importance. She is something of a sounding board and desire of wish fulfillment for all the otaku watching. The depiction of Kona’s procrastination-by-otaku-hobby was not only accurate but, even for this skeptical viewer, deeply funny.

The “Lucky Channel” sections are starting to get old, though. It was a one-schtick joke and doesn’t seem fresh anymore.

Nagasarete Airantou 3-4

Naga3-1

This is quickly adding up to be this season’s “guilty pleasure”anime, the show I ought to know better than liking but still do. It’s not the plot, it’s not the characters: both are hopelessly generic. Quite frankly, the most distinctive thing about this show are the huge number of animals, and I have to admit I find almost all the animals funny. We have giant chickens, giant worms, Mario-like pirana plants, vicious pandas…plus giant sweet potatoes, and a ghost. And man-eating Matsutake mushrooms that, according to Hinano, look like a part of the male anatomy…almost all the imagination in the show seems to have gone into the setting. But, for some reason, I find it helps keep the show fresh and an easy-to-swallow watch while I eat lunch or dinner.

That’s it for now. As you can see, I’m going through my backlog in alphabetical order. Next up: Sisters of Wellber, Romeo x Juliet, Toward the Terra.

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