Looking at the twit- and blogosphere these days, it looks like I’m late to this new season party. But let’s get started with a few things, shall we? Today, I’ll be profiling the second season of Hayate no Gotoku, the new SHAFT/Shinbo Natsu no Arashi, and the talk of the town K-ON.
Hayate no Gotoku!!
Like many of us bloggers who have been around the block a little, I’ve had a long relationship with Hayate no Gotoku. I was trumpeting the first season in its early days, before endless filler ground down my interest. As an act of nostalgia–and to test this simulcast thing on Crunchyroll–I decided to begin this new season with something relatively familiar. And like a pair of broken-in shoes it wore itself just fine.
The plot, the characters, and the snarky self-awareness: there’s nothing new. The overt “reintroduction” elements of the show, where every major character apparently requires an entire bevy of stats visual-novel style, is commented upon near the end. One gets the feeling they knew they had to contort the plot in this direction in order to get people like me, who haven’t seen the show in months, to remember who everyone is. Considering I never finished the first season, the fact that it doesn’t appear I missed much is probably a sign that, well, I didn’t miss much and I can feel comfortable picking the show back up again from here. Whether I’ll do so consistently is another question altogether; I’ll probably just finish the next episode to at least take care of the cliffhanger this one ends on.
After her star turn as Taiga in Toradora!, I suppose there’s something oddly reassuring about Rie Kugimiya returning to another signature role–when she’s not squirting the BREASTMILK OF DOOM in certain other shows this season…
Natsu no Arashi!
I had been really looking forward to this one, so much that I read a small part of the manga’s beginning before embarking on the show. The right people were in place: except for its last bits, I really liked School Rumble, and this is that manga-ka’s attempt to write a somewhat more serious story; also, this is a SHAFT and Akiyuki Shinbo project, which ought to mean artistic uniqueness and visual playfulness galore. The premise of the story, in which a young boy meets a time traveling older girl one memorable summer day, could be a perfect setup for one of those nostalgia-tinged, dramedy properties like The Girl Who Leapt Through Time or The Summer of the UFO. When those are done right I’m a total sucker for them: a mix of coming-of-age, romance, wistful reflection, and all that other wonderful crap.
This does not appear to be the case so far, unfortunately.
Yes, the character designs are rather ugly. It’s the eyebrows, I think, and the really sharp pointy chins. For a show that features an awful lot of midriff fanservice–I haven’t seen this many belly buttons in anime for a while–I’m not sure fans will put up with that for very long. They could have prettied it up a bit, or at least stuck closer to the better-looking manga designs. (This wouldn’t be the first time I felt the manga character designs were superior to the anime’s; one good example is Rosario + Vampire .)
Storywise, Shinbo has elected to begin the story in the middle, where the time travel powers of Arashi and Kaya are taken for granted and the main character relationships established as a foregone conclusion. This is quite different from the manga, which explains things a bit more clearly in the beginning. This first story is rather slapstick, and with the massive levels of time travel paradox more reminiscent of a School Rumble situation all sci-fi’d up. That it all centers on an inedible strawberry is not, well, what my preconceptions were looking for. I was looking for more mystery, I guess. Such are the dangers of depending only on plot summaries to gauge interest in the show.
Naturally, it’s too early to tell whether all the show will be like this, but they’ve only got this season to wrap it up, so I hope it changes direction soon.
All right, all right. It seems that every blogger and his dog has been moe-ing over this show. I have been tolerant at best of this sort of thing and have tended only to like it when I can look past the manufactured clumsiness, cryingness, airheadeness, and squeakiness that is modern day fan-pandering and see virtues that stand by themselves. Clannad had some degree of emotional honesty, for instance. Higurashi was an inventive and insightful piece of horror. Even Toradora!, if one wants to classify it as a moe show, was simply downright well-written. What is K-ON going to be?
Given that this is Kyoto Animation, the Lucky Star comparisons immediately started flying. I don’t think this is an accurate comparison. Lucky Star is “slice of life,” yes, but what makes it what it is is meta-humor. In K-ON we get a few hints of it, to be sure: references to NEETs and, in the episode’s best moment by far, Krauser III, but otherwise it appears to be a straightahead tale of a bunch of cute girls starting a “light music” band. (Does this mean they will be playing smooth music, like covers of Steely Dan and Kenny Loggins songs?) Considering that the main star of the show, the calculatingly dojikko Yui, can’t play guitar, my masochistic side wondered whether this might also have worked as the story of a punk band where barely anyone can play but still make a lot of noise.
Then I remembered what the results of that might truly have been, shuddered, and put that idea away.
In all honesty, K-ON is watchable. It’s not especially funny, and travels in now well-worn territory in the way the girls are portrayed (we have a clumsy one, a genki one, a more serious one, etc). The musician side of me, which has recently started playing keyboards again, hopes that a few of the songs might actually be worth listening to and that some of the super-accurate depiction of playing musicians that KyoAni scored in Haruhi Suzumiya might make a return. That was great. But it’s probably too optimistic to expect that, I suspect…
It’s certainly no Nodame, that’s for sure. And I’ve got much bigger fish to catch this season.
Soon: Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Eden of the East.