Summer 2011 Anime: ¿Unos episodios primeros? (Part 1)

Fear my pitifully horrendous attempt at Spanish. Anyway, it's one of those times of year again - the new anime season has begun! Due to everything that's been going on this year right up to the first weekend of new shows, I've pretty much come into this season blind. Haven't had the chance to look at any synopses, let alone do any research on source materials or staff! Thus I shall try and recreate my experiences with each of the first episodes I've watched as an (almost) impartial observer. I haven't delved into every series, though I believe I've got a pretty good spread. I doubt many of them will last too long though I'm afraid.

And I really wasn't expecting to find such a handy top-banner!

Immediate first impression from the opening scene? I think the characters look like Nintendo Miis. Don't ask me why, but that was the first thing that popped into my head. I'm just a bit weird like that. Moving forwards however, we have an opening song by no other than KOTOKO, which is a big plus in my book. The opening sequence itself was a bit bland, but that becomes a bit of a theme this season alas.

A sports anime with a mainly female cast isn't something that's done very often, so initially I thought that this could work out to be quite interesting, but then it pulled a harem on us. Introduction of a male basketball coach and multiple changing and shower scenes have started this one down the route of doom. In fact there's a really disturbing undercurrent here as, although you expect all this stuff and the crap about "affection level"s from anime females, these guys are in elementary school! Where did they come up with the 'imouto maid' idea?! And stop trying to make them appealing! The show itself even makes a thing about the high school basketball team being disbanded for something akin to paedophilia, yeesh.

There could still be some redeeming features here though. The sister/teacher character was brilliant in this first episode and, although the other characters lack any kind of originality, the main girl seems to have some dark, basketball-related past to delve into. And that's not something I say very often. The ending's also more than a little reminiscent of Lucky Star, so that's always fun (worryingly also a bit of a theme this season). 

Will I keep watching?: I'll give it another couple of episodes, then we'll see

Pretty deep opening themes here. The nature of mankind, Nature vs. Nurture. Perhaps we'll be getting hit by some interesting philosophical questions in this one. Into the opening, and it looks like that's hardly going to be the case. "Suggestive" would be putting it far too lightly, and we're swaying far more to the occult side than anything meaningful.

OH MAN. Would it be possible to permanently remove 'clumsy' from the list of possible character attributes? It has never been funny, nor is it anywhere near realistic in this case. People just don't fall flat on their faces on a perfectly smooth floor for no good reason. So we see this quirky shrine maiden off on her way to school. A worrying amount of time is spent just listening to her singing to herself. Trying to push insert song sales in your first episode are we Blood-C? And are you trying to tell me that this is an ordinary school uniform? Not only is it red and black, but it even has chains. I mean come on. Ah, it must be an ordinary school - enter well-endowed female sensei in lab coat. Never seen that one before.

So our protagonist is playing sports with her classmates who we've already established are pretty good, long-time friends. But apparently anything to do with her family has never come up in conversation before, so cue backstory! Next on my long list of things that annoyed me in this episode is how when she's walking home there is literally no one in town. No signs of activity anywhere. Is there some explanation for this short of forgetting to draw in NPCs?

And all of a sudden we're flung into a random action sequence. All hints of clumsiness have disappeared, despite her being clumsy around her father so we know that it's not an act to deceive her peers. Not to mention what she's actually fighting. I mean, a floating statue? No explanation whatsoever for the entire scene, plus the statue which her sword bounces off for the first half of the fight is then cut and bled later on? The art style seems to be a bit dated as well - matching the music which has been taken straight from the early noughties. Oh, and maybe you'll get back to that stuff you were talking about in your intro at some point?

Will I keep watching?: Pretty much dead-set against it. There are just too many things that annoyed the hell out of me here. You get one more episode Blood-C - you'd better make it a good one.

Having watched and dropped all the previous Marvel anime adaptations, I understandably came into this one skeptical. However, to my surprise, it surprised me. From the opening Blade had me thinking that it would be better suited to anime than its predecessors, and they've definitely done the character well in accordance to the original - showing no mercy to his vampire foes. When they were already recycling shots less than two minutes into the episode my initial thoughts were shaken a little though.

And then of course enters the Marvel anime love interest. We saw this in Iron Man, and I think we saw it in Wolverine too - a Japanese woman becoming involved with the main character. Now although these series are supposed to be completely apart from the canon anyway, these additions annoy me quite a bit. For a start they're just not interesting characters. Also the studios behind the Marvel adaptations seem to have trouble with female faces for some reason, which doesn't help their case for pointless addition.

More little details I picked up on: when Blade cuts down three vampires in midair he actually uses three weapons. The show wins kudos from me for that one, as they could easily have just pulled the cliche shounen "take out multiple people with one sword slash" move, which just doesn't work. Another is that Blade keeps having flashbacks to his mother's encounter with the vampire. How is this possible? He wasn't there! But overall I really enjoyed this episode - had some really good action scenes, and enough of a direction to make me want to continue watching (for now at least).

Will I keep watching?: Most likely  

Kamisama no Memochou 
As I said at the top, as I'm coming into the season blind I had no idea what to expect from this one. From the intro I gleaned that it was J.C.Staff, which led me to treat it with trepidation as they haven't been on top form lately. The opening monologue was a bit cryptic as well. To paraphrase 'Hard Boiled', "What's all this crap about [pixels]?" It's your classic "unfortunate guy wanders into a strange set of circumstances and then gets pushed about because he has nothing better to do" show.

The show is centered around a group of NEETs, who are very proud of their status, led by a NEET detective called Alice; your classic teddy bear-loving shut-in. The first episode was in actual fact 48 minutes long - a double, as it were - and to its credit actually managed to keep me hooked all the way through. There's definitely some originality shining through here which, pardon the expression, is new for the J.C.Staff. Also it has Ono Daisuke. Check it out.

Will I keep watching?: For sure, looks to be a good-un. 

Nurarihyon no Mago: Sennen Makyō   
Despite Nurarihyon getting a lot of stick, I actually like it quite a lot. Was a fan of the first series, and even more so of the manga. Although if you just look at the fight sequences it seems to be a bit of a sub-par battle shounen, and if you just look at the rest of it it seems to be a bit of a sub-par slice-of-life comedy, it comes together to form a quite nice whole. Granted the whole "hair gives me super-strength" thing is a bit cliche and ridiculous, but I really like the supporting characters here. Yuki-onna and Kurotabo in particular are brilliant.

On to the episode though, and it tackles the night when Nura first transformed into his yokai self and his initial refusal of the heir's position. As ever, scenes of small school children are gratingly irritating, but it's a backstory that needs some telling. The transformation itself was a bit weird though in my book. I can't remember how they did it in the manga, but the mini-Nurarihyon was just bizarre. Present-time Nurarihyon isn't the same size as daytime Nura, so why is he back then?

My biggest concern for the series from this episode, though, is of course the lack of MONKEY MAJIK. I can only hope this is remedied in the second episode, as their openings were my favourite part of the first anime.

Will I keep watching?: Fan of the manga, so probably will. 

Mawaru Penguindrum 
Now, where to start with this one? Perhaps that despite the title I wasn't expecting anything to do with actual penguins, especially following the very depressing introduction with the sister dying of an incurable illness. But that misconception was soon stamped out. Incredibly funky opening sequence here, and really love how colourful the settings are here. Even the scene-transitions are entertaining to watch. I could go on and on about the little touches that really added to my enjoyment of this episode - like how the background characters (or NPCs) are just blank white stick men, or the noises the penguins make.

Aside from just how plainly enjoyable this episode was, when you actually take stock of the events that occurred it's all a bit crazy. Especially the "wtf" ending scenes. But I guess establishing mystique (and also lunacy) is a good way of getting people to tune-in again. This was a near-perfect first episode for me, and I'll definitely be watching the rest of this one.

Will I keep watching?: Without a shadow of doubt. 

Ikoku Meiro no Croisee 
I don't think you can get a more adorable little girl. "A Japanese in Paris", to run parallel to Gershwin's famous piece. They really do emphasize how Japanese she is though. I know it's all about the cultural contrast and such, but no one's THAT Japanese, even at that time. So for some undisclosed reason, this French metalshop now has a young Japanese maid in its employ. When you ignore the utter lack of an explanation, it could definitely work as a premise.

The thing that kept hitting me whilst watching this one, as it often does when anime are set in countries other than Japan, is the language situation. When they're all together it would appear that the Japanese they're speaking is actually French, but what about when it's just the girl and the old man? And why at the end of the episode is she learning actual French? It's all very confusing, but the line "Long sleeves serve no purpose in France!" makes up for it all really.

Not quite sure how they're going to stretch a series out of this one, but I'll stick around a while longer to find out. I don't like where the bond between her and the guy is going though.

Will I keep watching?: For now 

Kamisama Dolls 
As with most good things, the episode kicks off with a good devouring of memories and the like. In fact the intro is pretty intense, but the episode seems to forget about it for quite a while afterwards. Whilst the bit in the eatery with the groovy BGM and the "MASSIVE FAILURE" was entertaining, it did sort of leave questions about what the intro had to do with anything. Eventually these questions are answered, but there should probably be a time limit on these things if you're going to use something so dramatic as your opening scene.

These 'kakashi' things look pretty badass, it's just a shame that they seem to sing whenever they move - ruins the image a bit. I hope there is some kind of explanation as to how and why they exist at a later date, otherwise it's just a gimmick. Though they've really tried to big-up the mysteriousness of this village that they hail from, so maybe they'll just blame it all on the "bad vibes". All in all the episode left me wondering what was going to happen next, so it's done its job in that sense. The real question is, what on earth was with that next episode preview?!

Will I keep watching?: Probably. We'll see where it goes from here.

Hopefully I'll have Part 2 up tomorrow; featuring YuruYuri, iDOLM@STER, No.6, Usagi Drop, Tsuka Tenma no Kuro Usagi and R-15. Look forward to it!


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