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As the End Nears, the Fall 2010 Roundup Edition! (Star Driver, Bakuman, Squid Girl)

Howdy, folks. It’s been a while since I’ve written anything, and since this here site has reviewed, well, anime…so let me go ahead and get the ball rolling with my thoughts on the near-ends of Star Driver, Bakuman and Squid Girl! More to come later, too.

Ladies, start your fanfics *pant pant*

Star Driver

Perhaps the season’s most original-traditional show (the most out there title, of course, is Panty and Stocking, but it bears almost no resemblance to traditional anime) shows no sign of loosening up on the mysteries that surround the island. There have been the requisite moments of character development of course, as well as the introduction of new cast members: but Yoji Enokido has seen fit not to reveal much about the grander scheme of things about the island, Glittering Crux, the Maidens, or anything else. It’s as if the show is stuck in permanent in media res mode…

…and maybe that’s fine. See, the attention to relatively small character moments, occasionally blown up into the Zero Time battles, actually works: just as in FLCL, Star Driver manages to both feel like a small-scale slice-of-life as well as a flamboyant mecha show. The Sugata character arc, besides offering moments of obvious BL fangirl bait, offered real drama for once and an opportunity for the Cybody fights to mean more than simply exercises in dueling for Glittering Crux’s leadership position. The emerging Mizuno storyline is not quite as interesting, since Mizuno is the proverbial anime magical moe pixie girl in many ways, though I confess the slow love triangle building between her, her sister Marino, and Takuto might prove engaging given their respective roles/positions.

One wonders whether, like in past Enokido works, all of this can be interpreted psycho-sexually. The sealing/unsealing of the Maidens: certainly. Maybe the kids are apprivoising (taming) not just their mechas but other urges, as well? Takuto might need it: as the Galactic Pretty Boy, he is also a harem lead by this time and he even has the requisite harem lead blank personality, except when he’s in his fabulous Tauburn!

The only real conversation in this scene


Watching Bakuman makes one wonder just how much Ohba and Obata know about actual romantic relationships or women: which would be ironic if Ohba actually is one.

Only once is it pointed out, by the closest thing to a normal girl in the story (Kaya) that the arrangement Miho and Moritaka have is bizarre and unnatural. Especially since they sit next to one another in class. I was a shy, lovelorn geek in high school, and even I was able to talk to the girl I had a mild crush on in class next to me. It was doubly compounded by the situation in Akito’s apartment, when Aiko and Kaya both show up and fight over him, with Aiko claiming that a mere handshake sealed their dating relationship. Help me out here: is even a handshake so incredibly meaningful that this is actually possible? Or is it comic exaggeration that simply doesn’t translate well to American culture? The degree of shyness shown by the characters in Bakuman seems unreal and contrived otherwise.

The “romance” sticks out like a sore thumb compared to the overall realism of the editorial process—though it must be pointed out that HARD WORK AND GUTS only account for a part of Takagi and Moritaka’s success thus far. They are the recipients of several incredibly lucky breaks, starting from inheriting the uncle’s studio, to having a remarkably persistent and kind editor who actually tries to nurture them, and to having parents who don’t get in their way of their dreams for more than a single episode. But the discussions and feedback the pair receive about their work, along with the various contests and opportunities given, seem much more believable. Ohba and Obata are clearly drawing from prior knowledge and experience for that aspect of the show. Perhaps this is to show the impressionable young NHK viewers that getting into the manga biz is actually possible, even for young’uns (is it?), and if our only competition is this borderline psychotic who seems more like a wild beast than a boy, you will definitely have a chance.

I’m watching this almost purely for the artistic process/growth parts now. I wonder if it’s a preview of any future attempts to publish my novels.

Squid Girl (Shinrakyu! Ika Musume)

An emblematic “easy to watch” show, Squid Girl manages to maintain a genuinely quirky sense of humor and fresh gags that surprise in either its sweetness (the mini Ika Musume segment), its near-gross out aspects (squid ink spaghetti’s true source), and even sublimated pervyness (any scene with Sanae and her freaky, obsessive “love,” especially in the most recent episode). They are, of course, sneaking in a lot of moe tropes along the way, but for those who are not particularly great fans of that aspect of anime, this goes down easy. It’s cute without being too cloying, mostly because Ika Musume herself is so ridiculous in both maturity level and perception and its sense of humor tends to deflate any pretensions to emotional height, a la Key productions. There isn’t much to say about this gag series, except that the humor level is fairly reliable (unlike Panty and Stocking, which is sometimes hit or miss) and being a three part gag episode, it doesn’t require much attention span to appreciate. A good digestif after a heavy meal, perhaps.

Next: The World God Only Knows, OreImo, Panty and Stocking.

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