First review of the year! Akiyuki Shinbo strikes again–or does he?
This new season show comes out earlier than most, courtesy of a free streaming broadcast. The aggregators tell me I’m rather late to the party, but since I’m beginning a brand new year full of resolution I’m going to do my best to preview the shows I mentioned in my preview post.
I was attracted to the show by both its director/staff and its wacky premise. ef-a tale of memories made me a fan of SHAFT and its artsy style, and I enjoyed enough of Pani Poni Dash and Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei to appreciate that studio’s main big boy, Akiyuki Shinbo. He’s like Hideaki Anno if he had a funny bone–and crack cocaine. His fractured, silhouette-filled style made SZS a visual treat, even if the plotting eventually went off the deep end of insanity, something I see not actually happening in this show yet. If anything, the show’s direction was surprisingly…conventional and ordinary by Shinbo standards. I mean, it was linear and not at all confusing in the least.
Sure, the hints are there for everyone who’s in the know. Kanako’s chibi freakouts are very reminiscent of Himeko the ahoge’s in Pani Poni Dash. We get the flat silhouettes and abstract backdrops from Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei, though in this very girly environment it’s also similar to scenes from Revolutionary Girl Utena–another show which featured lesbians and big roses. (They better not start pulling out swords out of bodies soon.) I don’t foresee this show ever becoming all that serious, though, unless it wants to make fun of the overdramatic yuri relationships that we saw in, I dunno, the first episode of Mouryou no Hako. Because this is definitely a mocking show, especially when the trap is the one calling Kanako “yuri girl” and even a pervert. (For a homophobe, he’s one to talk.) Maybe this will do for yuri shows what Ouran did for shoujo stereotypes?
Of course, with SHAFT and Shinbo, we really never quite know what will happen next, and sometimes–as in Zetsubou Sensei–the source material is already fractured and strange to begin with, and all Shinbo needed to do was adapt it. Manga readers: is this the case with this show?
As for the story and characters: it’s too early to tell whether I’ll like any of them or not. Mariya certainly seems kind of mean, though this is par for the course for shoujo type love stories (yes, I know, the manga was seinen, but the way it’s been presented so far is very shoujo-y, albeit with tongue firmly in cheek). The lead girl Kanako is bubbly and kind of airheaded, as per convention too. I wonder if this will end up being a sneaky way to introduce a fairly ordinary girl-boy romance, since the two leads fulfill the usual shoujo romance archetypes already. Or, even, the way the episode introduced all the other female leads was strikingly reminiscent of the way seinen harem shows introduce the haremettes who all want the lead male. “A harem show, but with lesbians!” I said to myself. They could have a lot of fun with these premises.
At least with Shinbo/SHAFT, you’re going to be getting something relatively unique. I’ll keep watching and see what happens.