Fall 2009: In Review

January 24th, 2010 – Anime Reviews, CJAS, Reviews

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen.  Good to see you all again! Although I can’t really speak much from experience, I must stay that I was thoroughly impressed by the lineup this past semester.  Showing was a real event this time around, and I’d like to take a few moments to take a quick look back on it.

Series Reviews:

Genshiken

Our starter for this semester was one I had not seen since I was in high school.  At the time, I was rather amused with it, but after re-watching the first season, I found that the series hasn’t held up as well as I had thought.  Let me be clear:  It’s not a bad series; I don’t think so, anyway.  But whenever Genshiken’s not poking a good-natured elbow in the ribs of hardcore anime fans, the overall result is disappointing.  The humor tends to be awkwardly spaced; whole episodes can go by with scarcely a slice of wit to hold interest, relying instead on the (mostly bland) antics of local basket-case Madarame to keep the whole thing from grinding to a halt.  Add to that rather generic BGM and character design, and what’s left is a series So Okay, It’s Average.  You could do worse than this dull little piece of work, but you could do much better as well.

Wolf’s Rain

Aint he pretty?

Ain't he pretty?

I must admit, I was pretty skeptical about this series.  Just looking at the character designs made me shudder; I like bishounen as much as the next fan, but I didn’t walk in expecting much in the way of, well, anything else.  Thankfully, Wolf’s Rain does not disappoint.  It has its issues, mind you; the plot moves at the pace of cheap pancake syrup and the dialogue can sometimes suffer as a result.  But thus far, it’s been nothing short of a treat to watch.  The backgrounds and character animation are, as expected, fantastic, with real eye for detail and cohesion.  And the music! Man, Kanno-sensei should really go make an album or something.  If she does stuff like this for a show… Ah, I digress.  Anyway, if this series can overcome its pacing problems and deliver its already unique story already, then it’s well on its way to becoming a favorite of mine.

Outlaw Star

Ah yes, the nostalgia factor for this semester.  I never caught the original run on Toonami, but I regret it now.  Though all too often obscured by what appears to be a rave party’s missing strobe light, what we have here is an excellent example of good, clean fun.  This is what happens when you mix a catchy opening, pretty characters and related art, kick-ass action, the burning of the laws of physics, and a psychic cactus (!) into the same anime.  Though it sounds difficult to believe that such a series could even get off the ground, I believe that Outlaw Star has been nothing but entertaining.  I’m not without some reservations, though; apart from the frequent screen flashes, I can only hope that all this fantastic build-up goes somewhere in next semester’s episodes.  But even if it doesn’t, that’s okay, too.  I’m having too much fun to care, anyway.

Higurashi no Naku Koro ni

(Sonozaki Shion did it with the hatchet in the hospital room!)

To me, the plot reads a tad bit like Lost or some such show, as it raises far more questions than it answers along the way.  Stick with it though, and your patience is well-rewarded.  Higurashi is all about the atmosphere.  From the epic, haunting opening theme to just before the laughable ending theme kicks in, you are yanked by the collar into a fantastic blend of murder, violence, horror, and moe.  No, seriously: Trying to explain the sheer emotional whiplash in the first arc is futile.  For something as unique as this, you must experience its horror in order to truly appreciate the effort that went into its crafting.  Do not be fooled by its appearance: Beyond a few moments of animation-failure and some loli-fanservice, it’s nothing short of horrifyingly excellent.

Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha

Ah, yes.  Nanoha.  Hm.

To be frank, I find that despite all evidence to the contrary, this isn’t a bad show.  It’s not a good show, not by a long shot, but it at least retains enough of a sense of purpose to function, hampered as it is by the occasional loli S&M-scene.  Though it has more than its fair share of shortcomings, Nanoha retains at least enough integrity to seek out and entertain an audience.  In that regard, it’s clear to see where the various efforts from preproduction went:  Every last thread of Nanoha went into increasing its ability to hold the attention of an audience desiring cute little girls who fire giant lasers at each other (and occasionally a bad guy or two).  In that regard, it succeeds.  Season 1 serves nearly every trope in the magical girl textbook on the rocks with a twist of lime.  It takes itself so seriously, in fact, that it’s irresistibly fun to mock when the occasion presents itself!  (Need a quick way to get hammered? Why not watch the last few episodes and play the “Nanoha/Feito-chan” drinking game? XD)

He gets very little screen-time, but still enough to temper the raw loli in this show.

He has very little screen-time, but still enough to temper the raw loli in this show.

While not always not a ponderous case of mediocre art and music acting as a backdrop for hyper-sexualized grade-school girls who talk like teenagers (have no fear, though; plenty of that to be had), Nanoha does do a few things differently.  Fate’s very presence, for example, adds a much needed dose of originality to a series largely entrenched in cramming as much mundane moe per episode as possible.  Plus, perhaps in an effort to dilute the loli somewhat, the artists were kind enough to throw in Yuuno and Chrono to break up the monotony.  (Props, guys!) Still, Nanoha (and its superior sequels) has more than found its niche, and that’s well and good if you ask me.  If lolis and lasers are your thing, look no further.  If you’re looking for the next Card Captor Sakura, though, please seek such admirable quality elsewhere.

ClaΨmore

Just when you think that the shounen-action genre has done it all, ClaΨmore tosses out some of the most time-honored traditions of an action series in favor of atmosphere, style, and an undeniable penchant for some remarkably human drama.  Although it does occasionally suffer from some of the usual pitfalls (so-so pacing, fight scenes that waver between wickedly celeritous and horribly drawn-out), the over effort is quite solid.  The art is crisp and well polished, and the characters make for quite an entertaining cast to watch.  Though the theme songs stick to the ears quite nicely, I wish the same could be said for the actual soundtrack.  It’s good, just not something I’ll be humming anytime soon.  So far, so good; let’s hope it stays that way.

Baccano!

Oh.  Oh my.  Without a doubt, this became the showstopper for this semester.  Man, I could gush for a page or so about just how damn good this series is, but I’ll keep this simple in the interest of keeping things moving:  Baccano! is one of the best examples I’ve seen in the last decade of how to weave art and entertainment into a seamless, unified whole.  The atmosphere is superior; creative character design, fantastic backgrounds, and a perfectly crafted soundtrack all help to shape the stylish, classy, and refined demeanor of this series.  Acting in tandem is the equally well-penned story, filled with excellent humor, drama, romance, action, and insanity, and always in the best of taste.  And if that weren’t enough, the whole thing’s topped off with an opening theme that rivals “Tank!” Yeah, I said it.  The only bad part? The long wait to see if Aniplex adapts more of the series.

The masters at work.

The masters at work.

And last but not least:

Ouran High School Host Club

Why is this picture here?  No reason, really.  Just cause.

Why is this picture here? No reason, really. Just 'cause.

It’s been a quite while since I’ve seen Ouran, so the initial excitement I had during its original run has long since died down.  Upon watching the series again, I find that (to my relief) it has aged quite well indeed.  While not the best anime I’ve ever seen, Ouran remains an impressive effort in every aspect.  The animation is fluid and well-directed, aided by polished backgrounds, and a real knack for chiaroscuro and cute character design.  Though the writing quality can waver from time to time, the humor is witty and the drama is genuine.  An episode’s laughs are usually a careful mix of good-natured pokes at otakudom, ridiculous visual gags, a few puns, and, of course, a clever insult or two.  While it may appear forced at first, Ouran’s solid script manages to keep the drama out of the sickeningly-sweet and win a genuine emotional response each time thanks to an all-star cast and their delivery of the good dialogue they were written.  The music, a series of orchestral pieces, only serves to enhance the nature of the scenes, be it a case of shoujo-melodrama, a bit of curious backstory, or just Tamaki being silly again.  And throughout it all, Ouran keeps things tasteful, delighting with a rare brand of charm and class usually absent from modern shoujo.  It’s more than willing to treat its audience with intelligence and respect, and it shows, even halfway through the series.  Even if you aren’t part of the targeted psychographic, be sure to give Ouran a chance.  In all likelihood, you will not be disappointed.

Movie:

Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro

I’ve never actually seen the Lupin series, but I found that that didn’t seem to prevent me from enjoying this film.  I had only passing knowledge of who the main characters were, yet I couldn’t help but be entertained by the just how well such a simple piece works.  The concept itself is elementary: Take an international caper, throw in some classy thieves, some fantastic Ghibli art, a harrowing car chase, and more than a few jokes to make for nothing less than a first-rate, good-old-fashioned Cops and Robbers film.  Complex?  Nah.  Fun?  Every minute.  Just watching the titular thief himself outsmart the best Interpol and the bad guys have to offer alone is worth it.

OVA:

Shinesman

Ladies and gentlemen, I have but one line for you:  “Sheena, get in the glowing, green square.”

Oh, sure:  I could on for a paragraph or two about the Super Sentai history and this and that, but that’s futile.  No, all that must (or can) be said about this OVA is summed up in that one, hilarious quote.  This is how you write parody, simple as that.  It’s fun to laugh at, it’s fun to laugh with, and if you ever saw Power Rangers or Super Sentai, the jokes are just that much better.  Ignore the subbed verision; only the gag-dub is worth it, lest you watch in horror as the best jokes fall flat.

Well, there you have it, ladies and gentlemen.  I hope the past semester was as good for you as it was for me.  Thoughts?

Share:
  • email
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • StumbleUpon

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply