As usual, these aren't reviews of entire series, but just my first impressions of their first episodes. This week: 2014 anime beginning with "D".
- [COULDN'T FIND] Doraemon
- [REVIEWED UNDER "G" ] A Good Librarian Like a Good Shepherd, aka. Daitoshokan no Hitsujikai
- [REVIEWED UNDER "I" ] I Can't Understand What My Husband Is Saying (Danna ga Nani o Itteiru ka Wakaranai Ken)
- [REVIEWED UNDER "L" ] Laughing Under the Clouds (Donten ni Warau, Cloudy Laugh)
- Daimidaler the Sound Robot
- Daimidaler: Prince vs. Penguin Empire
- Kenzen Robo Daimidaler
- Season 1
- Episodes: 12 x 24 minutes
- Keep watching: Yes, because I'm broken
- One-line summary: Giant robot pilot charges up his superpowers by groping women
- I've since finished it and... IT'S MAGNIFICENT.
It's either an offensive glorification of sexual harassment or a self-lampooning comedy. I was convinced it had to be a Go Nagai adaptation. I was wrong, but I'm still going to watch the whole series.
The first thing you'll notice in this episode is a female giant robot with a wasp waist, enormous hair and a female pilot, fighting a male giant robot with a penis cannon. Yeah. What's interesting about this, though, is that the robots have been built out of geometrical shapes. They look like modern art statues come to life. These aren't not the cool-but-realistic-looking giant robot designs one normally sees in anime, but instead something more abstract and surreal. Already I wanted to see more.
The title sequence continues this, with costumes that appear to be evoking a stage show. There are harlequin-like villains who reminded me slightly of kuroko (kabuki stagehands). I loved this look.
Oh, and one of those giant robots is a penguin.
What about the show's hero? He's called Koichi Madanbashi and he's a sex pest. He won't shut up about the size of people's boobs, he flips up girls' skirts and he nearly gets run down crossing the road to see their knickers. He's appalling... and yet he's almost normal compared with the naked evil penguins and their "front tails". Yes, those are indeed front tails. They say so repeatedly. These man-shaped penguins are so camp and theatrical that it's like a perverted giant robot anime version of the 1966 Adam West Batman. The penguins have beautiful manners, old-fashioned speech patterns and the greatest respect for other people's pornography.
Anyway, Koichi must pilot a giant robot, Daimidaler, to defeat the penguin empire. Unfortunately: (a) Koichi couldn't care less about saving mankind, or indeed anything except his libido, and (b) his Hi-ERo energy comes from molesting women. ("Ero" in Japanese is short for "erotic" and means lewd.) In short, Koichi can only pilot this giant robot if his co-pilot lets him grope her.
No, I'm not making this up. This really happens. The turning point for me came at the 19 minute mark, when I realised that Koichi's character design has been taken straight from Go Nagai. It was as if everything fell into place. Go Nagai would have been proud to have written this show. It's being offensive and perverted for laughs... and, astonishingly, it achieves that goal. It's funny. The mid-battle phone conversation with the lazy maintenance crew made me laugh, for instance. Koichi's a disgraceful human being and yet paradoxically cool in his burning passion for his cause, for which the show mocks him. He's a loser who lasts exactly one punch in his first fight, while his selfishness, brazenness and lechery make him an indisputably vibrant character. I was also amused by Kyoko whacking him offscreen with a spanner.
Even the closing credits made me laugh. They start with a bouncing cartoon building.
This show is appalling. However it's also witty, has surreal design work and might make you laugh a lot. It's not a Go Nagai adaptation, but your reaction to Go Nagai is likely to indicate how you'll feel about this. Do you find Kekko Kamen funny? If so, you might enjoy this. No promises, though.
- Dai-Shogun - Great Revolution
- Fuuun Ishin Dai Shogun
- Season 1
- Episodes: 12 x 24 minutes
- Keep watching: You must be joking
- One-line summary: Giant steam-driven robots, samurai, sexism and annoying characters
Stupid, exploitative nonsense, so ridiculous that I think it's dabbling in deliberate self-parody. It's not unlike Daimidaler the Sound Robot
, actually. Both are so sexualised that it's arguably funny. Both have an obnoxious idiot protagonist who's full of over-the-top macho enthusiasm and the only person who can pilot a giant robot.
I preferred Daimidaler, though. Dai-Shogun has even more annoying male characters, while it's objectifying its female characters more. At least Daimidaler's mocking its protagonist's perversion.
Dai-Shogun is set in an alternate Japan where giant robots prevented the 19th century Meiji Restoration. There are two kinds: ancient supernatural robots called Onigami and man-made ones called Steam Puppets. Samurai and steam-driven robots. I can respect that. That's surreal. More importantly, though, our hero Keiichiro is a cock-waving cretin who spends all day fighting and gets irritated when people surrender before he can fight them. He also has a comedy sidekick with an amazing quiff.
The only upside is that he's not lascivious. Everyone else can be leering at enormous boobs being shoved at the camera and he'll just be annoyed at not being able to punch anyone in the face. Keiichiro is the show's non-pervert. He's also a virgin, which will eventually mean that his implausible qualification for being a giant robot pilot is the exact opposite of Daimidaler's.
Good things about this show: Granny. She's funny. She beats up the boys and even gets a revealing fanservice costume, which is a laugh and proves that the show is willing to mock itself.
However that stupid cop is tiresome. He decides that Keiichiro's a gay pervert and sticks to this conviction in the teeth of all evidence. Uh-huh. Meanwhile the women all have huge breasts and are likely to be bathing naked and/or being offered to men sexually. If they have names, they'll dress like strippers. If they're evil, they'll talk non-stop filth. In the show's (marginal) defence, though, its female characters can be extremely powerful (e.g. the female ninja, or the penis-severing villainess), while the opening credits suggest that we'll be meeting more of them.
I couldn't recommend this show. It's knowingly ridiculous and even sometimes funny, but that's not enough to overcome a testosterone-poisoned protagonist and his clownish sidekick, dressed like a boy band despite the samurai setting. Meanwhile the women are sex objects, dressed in outfits that would embarrass superheroines in an American comic book. With giant robots.
Next week's episode: "The Alluring Red-Light District and the Foxy Chiharu!" I think not.
- Date A Live II
- Date A Live II
- Season 2
- Episodes: 10 x 24 minutes
- Keep watching: No no no
- One-line summary: Magical harem drivel
Look, here's the premise. Shido Itsuka is a boy surrounded by superpowered girls who could destroy the planet. They're also emotionally unstable idiots with the maturity and common sense of a four-year-old. In this episode, one of them nearly causes a "spatial quake" because she had a series of silly misunderstandings inspired by a TV programme. Fortunately, though, Shido can save the world by kissing these girls, taking them on dates and making them fall in love with him!
It's as bad as it sounds. The villains are quite interesting, apart from the moment where one's about to take off her knickers for Shido for no convincing reason. I was disturbed by the one with two bodies (?) who keeps shooting herself in the head. That was good. I also quite liked Shido's conversation with a girl who recently tried to kill him and his sister. However the harem's silly and its members too stupid to live.
This show has moments of interest. Thirty years ago, a spatial quake killed 150,000,000 people. I liked the talking glove puppet. However all goodwill is drowned out by the otaku-pandering premise and the harem of needy, clinging halfwits.
I hope I'm being unfair. I hope this episode is unrepresentative of the show. I still hated it, though.
- Denkigai no Honya-san
- The Electric Town's Bookstore
- Season 1
- Episodes: 12 x 24 minutes
- Keep watching: It looks okay
- One-line summary: Manga bookstore + staff
It looks okay. Nothing special, but harmless and inoffensive if you don't mind the gags about dirty books. It's about the daily life of manga bookstore employees.
The cast includes four girls (a clumsy one, a sleepy one, etc.), three boys and lots of books. One of the boys is called "director", but I think that's a nickname rather than the show breaking the fourth wall. This episode is really two half-episodes, with the first segment being about people's passion for dirty books. You may or may not find this off-putting. A boy and a girl confess to each other about it. An officious-looking lady comes to the store and goes through its Adults-Only section in detail, taking notes. There's also a master of porn who can match up anyone with the perfect book for their sexual fantasies, which is funny when it involves books that clearly aren't pornographic (old age pensioners, animals, etc.)
This ends in an awakening of near-religious intensity, like a meeting of suicide cultists. That was weird. After that, the episode's second segment involves a manga-writing employee being helped out by two of her co-workers. She's always sleepy because of her all-nighters to get the pages drawn. (She's good, too.)
Does the show look good? Mmmm, well. So far I'm guessing "upper end of mediocre". The characters are still coming across as types to me at the moment. I can't pretend I cared about those employees admitting to their love of dirty books, for instance. If I watched it, I imagine I'd have no difficulty in doing so and end up thinking the show was likeable in an unremarkable sort of way.
- Detective Conan
- Meitantei Conan
- Case Closed
- Episodes 722-723 "The Cold and Sweet Delivery" (Parts 1+2)
- 24 minutes each
- Keep watching: It's very good, actually
- One-line summary: Boy detective solves murders
I'm cheating here, because the point of this exercise was to write about shows that started in 2014. Season 23 started in November 2013, but I've included it anyway because I haven't watched enough Conan and it's one of the big long-running anime shows like One Piece, Doraemon
, etc. Besides, Conan's seasons are mostly back-to-back anyway, so I don't know to what extent these season divisions are meaningful.
I then got it doubly wrong by watching a two-parter from December 2013. (Detective Conan
stories are almost all two-parters.) I should have watched episodes 724-725. Ah well. Anyway, Detective Conan
(aka. "Case Closed" in America) is a boy detective who's really an adult in a child's body. He solves murders. Wherever he goes, people die. You'd think that someone would have killed him by now as a shinigami, but seemingly not. Anyway, there's a standard format to detective stories and I thought I knew what was coming... but this two-parter impressed me.
Conan and his friends follow a cat into a refrigerated truck and get locked inside. How can they get out? The obvious answer is "a mobile phone", so the script has to put a fair bit of effort into showing why this won't work. (In fairness, this is done with enough enthusiasm that it feels like a useful part of the story rather than just plugging a potential plot hole.) The stakes then get raised considerably when Conan finds a body.
There are two main things I liked here. The first is the plot, which is stepping beyond the expected bounds of a detective series. Our heroes don't need to spend any time on finding out who the killers are, or what they're planning to do next. That's not their problem. No, much more urgent is the question of escaping from the truck before they all die of hypothermia, or else get caught and killed by the truck's drivers. One of the girls loses her jumper, which means they don't have enough clothes for everyone. They try phoning out. They try writing messages and slipping them to the outside world.
This is more dramatic than I'd expected. Our heroes are in real danger and it's not something they can fix with "in one bound they were free!" This is a two-parter, remember? They're going to be stuck in that truck until someone thinks up something special.
The other thing I liked here is the intelligence. The story's finding some interesting angles on sub-zero temperatures. The killers' plan for getting away with their crime is clever, for instance, although I have my doubts about whether it would withstand the best modern forensic techniques. We learn about the effect of cold on mobile phone batteries, ammonia and taxi receipts. Conan's ideas for contacting the outside world are genuinely clever, to the point of impressing the audience as well as his friends.
He also has some clever friends on the outside, capable of serious deduction. That was cool too.
My expectations hadn't been that high, to be honest, but I ended up impressed. I'd been expecting something solid, but formulaic. Detective Conan
's a hugely successful show, but these are episodes 722-723, after all, and this is a detective franchise. I was surprised. Way more cleverness and ideas went into these episodes than was required. It's not a whodunnit, but instead something a good deal more dangerous. Our heroes are facing a struggle just to stay alive. Really rather good.
Watch out also for the end theme, sung in a seductive, sultry voice... by a man. It's like Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.
- Season 1
- Episodes: 12 x 24 minutes
- Keep watching: It's by Brain's Base
- One-line summary: School club that's eccentric even for anime
- I've since finished it and... it's odd and slightly disconcerting, but I quite like it.
It's a Brain's Base anime, so of course I'll be watching the full series. I knew that before I started watching. As for the show itself, it's nuts. It left me a bit cold for the first ten minutes or so, but then I saw how deranged its characters were and started boggling.
The central character is a delinquent called Kenji Kazama. He's the leader of a small gang in high school. However he's a babe in arms compared with the Game Creation Club, which arguably exists to quarantine four total fruitcakes from the rest of humanity. These girls' current goal is to avoid being closed down for: (a) never creating any games, and (b) having too few members. Their solution to the latter will involve forcible recruitment. (The former... ah, who cares?)
These four are our heroines and they're weird. I don't just mean "A Bit Eccentric", but potentially flat-out insane. They seem to think they're elementals with magical powers, for instance, and I couldn't decide whether or not this was just a private running joke. Perhaps the claim was true and I was watching a supernatural show? They're also happy to tie up Kenji, put a bag on his head and interrogate/torture him. One of them has an electric stun gun. Another will pull a stunt with a filing cabinet and a window that could have caused fatalities.
On the other hand, though, the club president, Roka, regards her most powerful weapon as the fact that she's cute and adorable. (When this doesn't work on Kenji, you'll see her dark side.) It would be entirely wrong to dismiss them as thugs. They're more complicated than that. It's that they exist outside the normal bounds of behaviour.
Those four are the heart of this show, although there are other eccentrics too. The school's Vice-President is an uptight masochist and an old friend of Kenji's gang. This show is certainly original, although I have no idea how it's going to pan out, or even whether or not I'm going to like it. This introductory episode is a bit spiky and not always easy to process, but it'll be interesting to see where it goes. It'll make me laugh, at least.
- Dragon Collection
- Dragon Collection
- Season 1
- Episodes: 12 minutes
- Keep watching: Only if you're a small boy
- One-line summary: Fantasy world and fantasy fights
If you're over ten, there's no point in watching this.
Our hero is a young boy. He loves soccer and is proud of his guts, but then misses the goal by a mile and laments his lack of guts! (As opposed to skill, or perhaps brains.) He then gets sucked into an arcade video game and transported to a fantasy world, where three bullies are being mean to a baby dragon. Our hero fights the bullies! Eventually there's a vaguely Pokemon-like fight between a dragon and a basilisk.
The good news is that it's only a twelve-minute episode. However, for me, it just wasn't that interesting. The art has the streamlined look of a Saturday morning cartoon. The plot's for the kiddies and has no additional layers. It's based on an online game. At once efficient and worthless.
- Double Circle
- Double Circle
- Season 1
- Episodes: 6 x 7 minutes, or 6 if you don't count the end credits
- Keep watching: Looks pretty good
- One-line summary: Superheroes supporting green energy
It's an ONA (Original Net Animation), produced as a partnership between the Toshiba corporation and the city of Kawasaki in Kanagawa. No, really. The point of it is to promote "energy, environment, and activation of the regional economy using ICT" (information and communication technology) "in the smart community project". It stars four superheroes, representing wind power, water power, green power and solar power.
In practice, you're more likely to remember the first episode for the fight scene with a blobby morphing female grey decay monster. It's still quite good, though.
It feels as if it fits a good amount into its six minutes, for a start. We meet a bunch of reasonably entertaining characters. There's a computer geek girl whose idea of taking photos at a surprise birthday party is to hack into a spy satellite. There's also a purple-haired girl who doesn't understand the idea of a surprise party and claims to be an alien, which seems plausible given the decay monster and the fact that everyone can transform into Mighty Morphing Power Rangers armour to do battle.
I quite enjoyed this. The decay monster turning everything monochrome is a nice touch, while the character interaction is entertaining. Nothing wrong with this one.
- Dragon Ball Z Kai
- Dragon Ball Kai
- 23 minutes
- Episode 99 (season 5, first episode)
- Episode 133 (season 5, last episode)
- Episode 134 (season 6, first episode)
- Keep watching: If it weren't a million episodes long, I would
- One-line summary: Come on, you don't need me to explain Dragon Ball
I'd never watched any Dragon Ball. I'd heard of it and I knew it was a world-famous mega-franchise, obviously, but I'd never taken any interest on the assumption that it was just another fighting anime.
Dragon Ball was about the adventures of a super-strong boy called Goku, after which Dragon Ball Z leapt forward to Goku's adulthood and introduced a new generation, i.e. our earlier heroes' children. Goku's son is called Gohan. Dragon Ball Z Kai
(with "kai" meaning "updated", "modified", etc.) is a remastering of the latter, with a different aspect ratio, re-recorded audio tracks and some filler episodes cut out.
What surprised me about Dragon Ball is the show's sense of humour. It's anti-macho. Ep.99 begins discouragingly with Goku as an ugly super-distorted fighting muscle monster, but soon we're following Gohan's first day at school in Satan City. (No, really. The hero who saved the world is Mr Satan, a hairy goofball with a 1970s porn star moustache.)
Anyway, I liked Gohan immediately, because he's earnest, modest and slightly silly, with a comedy voice. The voice in particular is a big deal for me. The standard Japanese voice for a manly character is super-deep and frankly rather tedious. (It's the counterpart of ridiculously affected high-pitched female voices that sound like Daffy Duck being molested.) You can usually expect any testosterone overload show to have voice acting that sounds like railway cars going over gravel... but this show's ignoring all that macho bullshit. I love that these supermen sound silly. I'm amused by their goofy, slightly earnest voices.
They really are supermen, by the way. These people can destroy buildings just by standing there, or fly several times around the earth in a few seconds.
Anyway, ep.99 is about teenagers at school. It's just that these are teenagers who can catch machine-gun bullets and flip cars with a hand gesture. Gohan is very funny when trying to be inconspicuous while playing baseball (uh, no), or when being delighted with his dorky new superhero outfit. I'm fond of the "next generation" angle. I'm amused by the world's saviour being Mr Satan. I laughed at Gohan landing in front of two crooks in a runaway car to tell them to drive safely.
Ep.133-134 then have Mr Satan himself playing housewife for an adorable pink blobby mass-murderer called Majin Buu. Again, I love the self-deprecation. Gohan's martial arts trainer is ridiculous, while I howled at how Mr Satan "defeats" Majin Buu. The only surprise for me is that this witty, light-hearted show cheerfully includes offscreen mass murder and even a villain gunning down a puppy. We even see blood. (Looking at plot summaries of other episodes, it looks as if Dragon Ball villains will sometimes kill most or all of the people on Earth, but that the show's also fond of magical resurrections.) Anyway, you might have expected this apparent tonal mismatch to wreck the show, but in fact it's no problem at all, partly thanks to the cartoonish and odd-looking art style.
It's really good. I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised at that, though, given its massive worldwide success. Judging by these three episodes, Dragon Ball Z Kai
is witty, charming and impressive.
- Dragonar Academy
- Seikoku no Dragonar
- Season 1
- Episodes: 12 x 24 minutes
- Keep watching: Hmmm... I might.
- One-line summary: boy goes to girls' dragon school
- I've since finished it and... that was a mistake. Do not watch this show.
Every review I've seen calls this ecchi fanservice fluff. The story's bad, but there are boobs galore. I liked it.
It begins with a young naked girl (Eco) shouting at a teenage boy (Ash). Sounds ominous, right? Yes, but what made me laugh was Eco's reason for punching him, which has nothing to do with her nudity. She doesn't even seem to notice clothes. "How dare you stare at the face of a sleeping lady!"
It then transpires that Eco is Ash's dragon, on which she again has opinions. "You're not my master. I'm the master of you!"
Eco is the reason why I enjoyed this episode. She makes me laugh. She's an abrasive girl heaping abuse on a long-suffering boy, but this is funny because she's much smaller than him. It's like being bullied by your little sister. Imagine a kitten trying to grind a bulldog underfoot. That's how it looks, but with the twist that she's really a shapeshifting dragon. "Did I ask for your opinion?" "Not bad... for something designed by thick-as-a-brick humans."
The fanservice is blatant. Eating ansil makes Eco intoxicated and turns her into a porn character. There's a loooong panty shot and a huge-boobed scientist showing so much cleavage that I can only think her nipples have crawled around the back. Otherwise they'd be feeling the breeze... although that said, it's possible that she is actually showing her nipples and we just can't see them because it's the censored TV version. Eco doesn't have any even when stark naked, although of course she's really a dragon.
I could have lived without Ash being called a pervert due to a misunderstanding. It happens three times here and it was tiresome the first time. However I like the idea of a dragon-riding school and I kept being amused by the Ash-Eco double act. He saves her and gets hit for it. Hey, I laughed. This show isn't aiming high, but I found it far more entertaining than, say, Bladedance of Elementalers. What can I say? I like Eco. I'm tempted to watch the rest.
(I think I might have accidentally watched episode two, by the way, not episode one. Not that it matters, though.)
- Dramatical Murder
- DRAMAtical Murder
- Season 1
- Episodes: 12 x 24 minutes + one OVA
- Keep watching: Looks fine, but not tempted enough
- One-line summary: Near future with a killer VR game and wild fashion
It's the future, in a Japanese metropolis where our heroes are pretty boys with fashion to die for. It's amazing. They're like catwalk models. Aoba is wearing a simply divine blue and white ensemble with pink headphones and a colour-coordinated Pomeranian puppy as his personal computer. (In the future, PCs will look like pets.) When he was a child, he was mistaken for a girl. Meanwhile his friend Koujaku is a samurai hairdresser in red with blue hair and a sparrow on his shoulder. This is manservice, obviously, and based on a boys' love computer game for fangirls, but it's also the coolest part of the anime. It's an eyeball kick, like Jean Paul Gaultier's designs for The Fifth Element.
As for the plot, there's a cyber game called Rhyme. We also have gang turf wars and rumours of disappearances. All that's fine and there are interesting hints of worldbuilding. All this is on an island, for instance, which you can't leave without police permission.
Is it good? Probably. Nothing wrong with the story so far, but it's the visuals that are spectacular.
- Duel Masters Versus
- Duel Masters Vs
- Season 10
- 10 minutes
- Keep watching: I wouldn't object
- One-line summary: tenth season of kids saving the world with card games
It's another trading card game franchise, but despite that, this episode's entertaining.
Is this the biggest show you've never heard of? Almost certainly not, but its TV series so far include Duel Masters, Duel Masters Charge, Shinseiki Duel Masters Flash, Zero Duel Masters, Duel Masters Zero, Duel Masters Cross, Duel Masters Cross Shock, Duel Masters Victory, Duel Masters Victory V, Duel Masters Victory V3, Duel Masters VS and Duel Masters VS R. That's not counting three movies, manga, etc.
The main character of Duel Masters Versus
is Katta Kirifuda, which translates as "Trump Card Won!" I boggled. Apparently he's the brother of the franchise's original protagonist, Shobu Kirifuda ("Trump Card Battle!") This should give you an idea of how serious the whole enterprise is, i.e. it's not. This is a good thing. Intense, passionate characters burning with desire for their trading cards makes for a silly anime (in a bad way) and I can prove this with examples. Duel Masters, on the other hand, has a sense of humour. Katta Kirifuda... bloody hell, that name. Katta.
Anyway, Katta keeps calling himself a genius, but every time, the show immediately hits him with a pratfall. He also lives to eat curry bread.
The rest of the cast have a bit of life to them and the show's happy to take the mickey out of itself. I found myself enjoying it. What's more, that's just the Japanese version. The American dub is apparently a flat-out parody of the genre that's full of gags and fourth wall breaking.
It's surprisingly good, although it helped immeasurably that the characters haven't got out their trading cards yet. The show will probably fall apart when they do, but so far I'm cheering for it.