As usual, these aren't reviews of entire series, but just my first impressions of first episodes. Lots and lots of them. "M" was a motherlode.
- Couldn't find: Meitantei Rascal
- Couldn't find: Meshimase Lodoss-to Senki: Sorette Oishii no?
- Couldn't find: Monster Retsuden Oreca Battle
- Listed under "C": The Comic Artist and Assistants (Mangaka-san to Ashisutanto-san to)
- Listed under "E": Engaged to the Unidentified (Mikakunin de Shinkoukei)
- Listed under "I": The Irregular at Magic High School (Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei)
- Listed under "K": Kamigami no Asobi (Mischief of the Gods)
- Listed under "L": Lord Marksman and Vanadis (Madan no Ou to Vanadis)
- Listed under "O": Oneechan ga Kita (literally "My big sister arrived")
- Listed under "S": Super Radical Gag Family (Maido! Urayasu Tekkin Kazoku)
- M3 the dark metal
- M3: Sono Kuroki Hagane
- Season 1
- Episodes: 24 x 24 minutes
- Keep watching: yes
- One-line summary: Dark world of crumbling reality and the undead. With mecha.
- I've since finished it and... it's interesting, but it loses some momentum in the second half.
The pre-credits are intriguing and incomprehensible, but then a mecha popped up in the credits sequence. Oh. However the show's world is dark and messed-up enough to make me want to continue anyway.
It's past 7pm. It's dangerous to be outside. Please return home. Our hero, Akashi Saginuma, hears those words as he walks outside after dark. Almost immediately he meets a moaning Chaos mecha from Hell that's being hunted by another (non-Chaos) mecha. The latter's pilot thinks the former's a red poo. No, really. That's what she says, when the police stop her for opening fire in front of a civilian.
Oh, and that Chaos mecha might really be from Hell. There's something called the Lightless Realm that's expanding and one day, it seems, will swallow everything. As for the Chaos mecha, they're called imashime ("admonitions"), they contain human flesh and they might be, in some sense, the undead. More precisely, they might have been born from the corpses of our heroes' loved ones, who'd been killed after being sent to fight other admonitions. There are also strong suggestions that they might still retain memories from when they were alive, e.g. a mother that's lost her child, although disturbingly that's not going to stop our heroes from killing them.
There was another kind of undead as well. I think it was a ghost? It sang.
The story looks freaky. I think we can expect depression and despair, although hopefully it won't be a total downer. The mecha aren't the predominant element, but they do serve the purpose of lightening the tone a little. Even if its pilot is an emotional wreck, a giant robot is still a giant robot. I have another show to watch!
- Magic Kaito 1412
- Majikku Kaito
- Series 1
- Episodes: 24 x 24 minutes
- Keep watching: yuck
- One-line summary: Detective Conan spin-off with a famous thief as the hero
I didn't like it. I'm probably judging unfairly on the first episode, since I know someone who enjoyed this series (although not Mysterious Joker
). I can see that the emotional content with Kaito and his father has potential, but at the end of the day I have no interest in a show about a lead character who:
(a) humiliates his friend Nakamori every day by peeking at her knickers and telling the class what colour they are,
(b) is a show-off thief.
I could have lived with those had the anime shown more self-awareness regarding them. Characters often do bad things in fiction. That's fine and to be encouraged. If they didn't, we'd have precious little fiction at all. However I'm less keen on heroic characters doing bad things in a show that's uninterested in suggesting that these things might be anything other than morally neutral, or even exciting or cool. Here, Nakamori is Kaito's love interest. The sexual harassment is presumably a lovable prank. You can tell they're friends because they fight all the time and Nakamori keeps comparing Kaito unfavourably to his thieving alter ego, whom Nakamori seems to admire. (Wikipedia thinks she despises the Kaito Kid, but her dialogue certainly seemed to be flattering him here.)
Kaito has a policeman nemesis, who's an unstable boor who's clearly never going to catch him. He's the equivalent of Lupin III's Zenigata, who incidentally must exist in this universe because it's a Detective Conan spin-off series and there's been a Conan-Lupin crossover.
Oh, and the character designs are ugly. Noses look like fish hooks.
No. Just no. Kaito Kid's modus operandi is to announce his crimes to the police before he commits them, then to rely on his magical skills (and the police's stupidity) to avoid being caught. I rolled my eyes. Catch him! Alternatively, shoot him while trying to escape! (Feel free to let this this "escape attempt" involve his hands and feet tied together and a bag over his head.) I suspect I'd like the character better as an antagonist in Detective Conan, just as I'd love to see a Lupin story that portrays the character as a villain and shows his thefts destroying lives. I'm actually repelled by this one.
- Magica Wars
- Mahou Shoujo Taisen
- Season 1
- Episodes: 26 x 4 minutes
- Keep watching: Don't see any reason to
- One-line summary: Magical girls
There's nothing there, really. Magical girl runs around with a talking bird and chases bouncing green-haired heads down the street. It lasts four minutes. It ends.
Wikipedia informs me that this is a multi-media franchise created by an internet TV variety show, also including an iOS game, a free smartphone browser game and a Playstation Vita game. It has 47 magical girls, each representing one of Japan's prefectures. Their character designs come from an internet art contest.
None of this sounds encouraging either.
Admittedly it's by Gainax, which might have perked my interest if it hadn't been for everything else. It also claims to be a gag anime, although I didn't notice any gags. The only real plus point is the artwork, which has a childish cartoon quality that's almost as stylised as Dr Seuss. That I liked. It's certainly not special enough to lure me into watching another episode, though.
- Magical Warfare
- Mahou Sensou
- Season 1
- Episodes: 12 x 24 minutes
- Keep watching: um... okay, yes.
- One-line summary: magical battles at school
- I've since finished it and... I liked it more than I'd expected.
It looks interesting and quite fun, but its rules for how magic works make my head explode.
Takeshi is a schoolboy with a troubled home life and a sort-of girlfriend, Kurumi. (They hang out together, but they've never even kissed.) Then, one day, a girl called Mui falls through a doorway, unconscious. He carries her to the school infirmary and before he knows it, she's pointing a gun at him.
It's a magical gun and she has enemies who aren't afraid to go through Takeshi to get to her. Fortunately his hobbies include swordsmanship, but that's with a bamboo sword and these guys have real ones.
And there's magic. It gets complicated.
The head-exploding goes as follows. Let's say you're a magic-user. If you use your powers on someone without magical ability, you'll infect them with it and they'll become a magic-user too. However if you use the same powers on a fellow magic-user, this will trigger a curse (?) and make you permanently powerless. How does this work? How are you supposed to know the difference between legitimate and prohibited targets? Is magic intelligent and just doing all this for laughs to mess with our heads? If you had a group of people continually creating and destroying their magical powers by fighting each other, would this set up some kind of chain reaction that destroyed the universe in a magical critical mass?
The story seems quite good. There's a moment of anime silliness when gaining magical powers makes Kurumi's boobs get bigger, but the episode also seems to be addressing emotional issues. Brothers are a problem. Meanwhile the bad magicians are capable of brain-wiping and murder attempts, but their goals make them sound like the good guys. I approve of what they want. Oh, and the good magicians live in a World of Decay.
The art's a bit simple and stylised, but not in a bad way. The closing title music is horrendous, but I don't have to sit through that. Kurumi getting annoyed as Takeshi's sort-of girlfriend is funny, the bad magicians are interesting and the worldbuilding is completely barmy.
Hmmm. I think I've just talked myself into watching the rest of this.
- Mysterious Joker
- Kaitou Joker
- Season 1
- Episodes: 24 minutes
- Keep watching: I'd like to burn it
- One-line summary: cool heroic thief steals things
I preferred it to Magic Kaito 1412
(although my anime-watching friend at work has the opposite opinion). However it's still a celebration of a cool, heroic thief and his crimes, made more obnoxious by being aimed at younger children. The two shows aren't connected, by the way. "Kaito" isn't a name, but a Japanese word that means "mysterious/phantom thief". This isn't a Conan spin-off or anything.
It's better than Magic Kaito 1412
because: (a) its hero isn't a cock who's into sexual harassment, (b) his arrogance is justified because he is actually cool, with superpowers, gadgets and clever triumphs over enemies. He has magic bubblegum. No, really. His Image Gum lets him transform to look like anything at all, but only for five minutes. His Balloon Gum lets him fly. His Sleeping Cookies are less remarkable, but still useful. This dude has better gadgets than Batman.
The tone and art are more childish. That's fine. I had no intention of taking this show seriously anyway. He has a comedy ninja sidekick, or rather he acquires one in this episode. The cops are silly, while Joker's main target is an arrogant rich idiot who rejects police help and relies on his expensive personal guards.
The mind games between Joker and his targets are quite clever. (There are limits to Joker's powers and it's possible to exploit them.) The episode owes a debt to Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. It's a fun episode... up to the point where you realise you're watching the glorification of theft in a children's cartoon. There's no nuance to it. Joker steals things and he's cool! Yay! Piss off.
If one puts aside moral objections, it's a pretty good kiddie knockabout. It's got lots of energy. The bad guys are silly, but that's what you'd expect as soon as you saw the artwork. Joker's sidekick Hachi is likeable, despite being another thief. Personally, though, I'd sooner let a small child watch James Cameron's Aliens.
"Real treasure is what you take with your own hands."
- Maken-ki! Two
- Maken-Ki! Battling Venus 2
- Season 2
- Episodes: 10 x 24 minutes
- Keep watching: absolutely not
- One-line summary: boobs boobs boobs
Easily the most blatantly boob-fixated fanservice trash I've seen so far in my alphabetical journey through 2014's anime shows. Even the logo has enormous breasts. The opening title sequence would probably stop any normal person from watching anything in Japanese ever again, while the closing titles strip all the female characters to their underwear and order them by cup size.
It's only worth watching to laugh at it. You wouldn't recommend it to anyone non-ironically, unless they were desperately sad. The problem isn't the actual flesh-flashing. It's the way that the plot, characters and setting are all boob-obsessed.
The first scene, for instance, has a male protagonist getting beaten up by the girls he lives with for the crime of walking into a room. One has huge boobs and is only wearing a towel, another has large boobs and pushes his face into them and a third is flat-chested (!) so with her it's a panty flash. You now know everything of importance about this show.
There are also some minor details, of course. This is a school series where the students partake in magical combat. I'm only telling you this because I read it on wikipedia, mind you. I had no idea that the format included combat and indeed I'd even managed to forget about the magic. It's there, but it's... um, getting overshadowed. The most prominent thing about Tenbi Academy is of course the fact that the teachers are even more buxom than their students, to the point of deformity. Imagine a gross, pendulous porn star who's probably in physical pain. That's the teaching staff. The headmistress combines this with cleavage-displaying tops that are open down to her belly button.
There's a plot! This involves an underwear thief who pins his trophies to the school notice board. Catching him involves: (a) our hero's breast size analysis superpowers, (b) the information that two schoolgirls are H-cups, the headmistress is an I-cup and the nurse is a K-cup, (c) the two H-cup schoolgirls getting hypnotised into slowly stripping each other in a scene that's basically girl-on-girl porn.
Is there anything here that isn't generic? I suppose the hero openly being a pervert might count. He's annoyed with the underwear thief for being the wrong kind of lecher, while his friend spends the last third of the episode masturbating. However I think it says everything you need to know that I'm citing that as the nearest I can get to a redeeming feature for this show.
Even fans of this show's first season seem to hate Maken-ki! Two
, as far as I can tell.
- Marvel Disk Wars: The Avengers
- Disk Wars: Avengers
- Season 1
- Episodes: 51 x 24 minutes
- Keep watching: no, but there's nothing wrong with it
- One-line summary: Marvel heroes
Yes, it is anime. It's full of Marvel superheroes, but it's in Japanese, it's drawn in anime style and the main characters are Japanese schoolchildren. (Well, sort of.) Wikipedia even claims that there are no plans for an international release, which seems weird to me, but hey. (I've since read that this is because Marvel is a very carefully monitored franchise and anime adaptations like this are regarded as okay for Japan, but almost never allowed into the wider world to threaten the image of the brand.)
The plot involves Stark Enterprises discs that can trap supervillains. Naturally something goes wrong. There are also some schoolchildren who've won a trip to meet the heroes, two of whom are also visiting their scientist genius father who works for Tony Stark.
One of those children is a girl who looks like Washu from Tenchi Muyo. I wanted so hard for her to be Washu. I would pay large amounts of money to see the Marvel superhero line-up getting tortured by Washu.
The show's title suggests an Avengers show, but in fact we also have crossover cameos from other superheroes who couldn't crossover in the current movies. That's cool, although I've no idea whether or not they'll be ongoing regulars. We have Iron Man (looking younger than I'd been expecting and kind of wrong), Thor, Wasp, Captain America, the Incredible Hulk (to my distress capable of smiling and even giving a happy thumbs-up in green hulk form), Thor, a couple of X-Men and more.
I quite enjoyed it, although I won't be watching any more. I discovered that an action hero saying "it's party time" is as annoying as "it's show time", i.e. a cause for justifiable homicide. Their Pepper Potts looks ugly, while the kiddie characters are a bit disorientating and might as well have "Toei Animation's Target Audience" tattooed on their foreheads, but otherwise it's standard Marvel superhero fare that also happens to be anime. It's fine. It just needs a grouchier Hulk, that's all.
- Majin Bone
- Majin Bone
- Season 1
- Episodes: 52 x 22 minutes
- Keep watching: tempted
- One-line summary: ordinary people + sentai superheroes
There should be no way in hell I'd be watching this. Majin Bone
is a digital card game by Bandai, with this being an anime based on that game. It's basically a big advert aimed at small boys. A Google image search will bring up garish images of superheroes in powered armour and a show that looks like messy, kiddified action nonsense.
I liked it. It's good, or at least its first episode is.
We begin with what looks like a sentai superhero fight. Fortunately that has nothing to do with anything and soon we're looking at actual characters. The protagonist is a boy called Shougo, who has a cool big sister (who beats him up) and a best friend, Saho, who loves the paranormal. When they were children, they saw a UFO. I don't know if this is true, but that's what Saho says and she allows no argument from Shougo on the subject.
Anyway, Shougo is a normal, likeable boy, bad at studying for exams and fond of magazines about girls in swimsuits. (In an older-skewed show, this would have been porn. This story point more or less manages not to be annoying.) Shougo does stuff like walking to school with Saho, helping to get her frightened dog out from under the house and discussing some recent meteorite strikes.
All this is enjoyable. The cast work well together. I enjoyed spending time with them. The introduction of the weirder elements is quite subtle, with Shougo and the dog being the only ones who can hear a high-pitched noise. It's all good up to the point of the powered armour, which fortunately is where the episode ends.
So far, it feels like neither a toy commercial nor superhero nonsense. It feels like an intriguing story of likeable people, although I don't know how well that's going to survive the heroes, posing and fight scenes that will undoubtedly loom large in the coming episodes. If it weren't 52 episodes long, though, I'd genuinely be tempted to continue.
- Magimoji Rurumo
- Majimoji Rurumo
- Season 1
- Episodes: 12 x 23 minutes
- Keep watching: yes
- One-line summary: light-hearted comedy about a witch/pervert death pact
- I've since finished it and... it's fun.
How messed up is that? I disliked the protagonist quite intensely, but then the show's premise smacked me like a runaway rhino and I decided I might keep watching this series after all.
Kouta Shibaki is a pervert. "How big a pervert?" I hear you ask. Well, among the girls at his school, he's infamous for his skirt-flipping, record-breaking porn collection and the shouting of the word "boobs". He spends much of his screen time fixated on lewdness and his greatest ambition is to "go to a higher stage". This generally involves girls' underwear. If you knew someone like this in real life, you'd want to punch them in the face. In short, Kouta's a massive twat and I wanted him dead.
KOUTA: "I don't have a girlfriend and girls treat me like a pervert."
FINN: "Rightly so. Sod off and die."
Kouta's also a member of the Mysterious Discovery Club, who one day find a magical grimoire. He makes a wish. His first instinct is to ask for a girlfriend, but for some reason he gets obscurely embarrassed by this and so he changes his wish to getting his hands on a pair of girl's knickers.
This grimoire is real and his wish is granted by a witch, Rurumo. (They're hers.) However magic in this universe is powered by a person's life force, so Kouta is going to have to die. Yes, for those knickers. He has two days. We then learn that the rules are almost as harsh on witches, so she can't relent and save his life unless she wants to be demoted and incarcerated for 130 years.
Unbelievable. What's even more extraordinary is how Kouta takes this. This ends up in a scene where Kouta's attitude made me forgive him for his perversion.
It boggles the mind. It's a cute show with slightly quirky art and a light-hearted tone, but it's tossing around human sacrifice, death vows, decades of imprisonment, etc. Kouta is by turns loathsome and cool. Rurumo is cute in a deadpan way, but shy and emotionally withdrawn. I have a fair amount of dislike for this show, but I'm also fascinated. Must watch. I think. Probably.
- Mushi-Shi: The Next Chapter
- Mushishi: Zoku-Shou
- Season 2
- Episodes: 20 x 24 minutes (with season one being 26 episodes)
- Keep watching: not feeling encouraged to do so
- One-line summary: historical anthology show about mystical life-forms in Japan
It's supposedly outstanding. It's had two seasons so far, plus a live-action film and TV specials. I was bored.
It's an anachronistical historial about supernatural beings called mushi. (It's set in a non-existent Japanese era between the Edo and Meiji, which means it has the latter's technology but the former's cultural isolation.) Mushi are basically magical somethings. They're rarely sentient. They might be bacteria, or insects, or even something less like a life-form such as a swamp.
In this episode, the mushi aren't even particularly important. There's a sake-brewer who's trying to brew some legendary shining sake. It's golden and tastes like heaven. What ensues is a story of someone making sake, carrying around sake, meeting people who want his sake and (at one point) becoming aware of ghostly tentacles that drift out from a shrine and also seem to have a mild and inoffensive taste for sake. Not a lot really happens. We meet some magical people whose business is mushi, but they're not particularly interesting. There's some nice business with the main character and his father, but it wasn't enough to carry the episode for me.
Apparently this is an anthology series with almost no recurring characters beyond a mushi-focused mystic (i.e. mushishi) called Ginko. If I weren't teetotal, would I have been more entertained by this episode? Maybe. Alcohol discussions go over my head. To be honest, though, I don't really care. I can see that the show's tone is understated and gentle. I approve of the basic idea and I can see that this format could give rise to lots of intelligent, thoughtful stories. I just didn't connect with this particular example.
- Mekakucity Actors
- Mekaku City Actors
- Season 1
- Episodes: 12 x 24 minutes
- Keep watching: yes
- One-line summary: shut-in dude and his chatty computer program go outside
- I've since finished it and... it's an interesting mess.
Story quite good; animation design eye-popping. I'm not normally that bothered about visuals, but wow. This blew me away. Had it looked normal, I'd have still thought this was a reasonably good show and might well have kept watching. As it is, though...
What impressed me isn't the quality of the drawing, by the way. It's the design. It's what it's doing with colour, shape and silhouette. It's the kind of thing you'd expect to see only from a first-time director, because you wouldn't expect a veteran to burn through so many different visual ideas at such a promiscuous rate.
Anyway, this show is part of the Kagerou Project, which is a Vocaloid song series (what?) that's also spawned light novels and manga. The story is spread across different media in different incarnations, but I hope I don't need to know about any of that to enjoy this anime. I don't think I do. What I saw in this episode is a blue-haired computer girl (Ene) who can't stop talking and a dude (Shintaro) whose ambition might be to be surgically attached to his keyboard. Ene lives in the PC. She's probably a computer program. That's what Shintaro thinks, anyway, although she's way more chatty and funny than anything you'll see bundled with Windows.
However when cola gets spilled on the keyboard, they have to go out to buy another one. (Ene hitch-hikes in Shintaro's iPod and pesters him to buy things, e.g. a grenade.) At first the whole idea is a source of trauma and horror for Shintaro, but he soon calms down. Besides, after this he doesn't plan to go outside ever again.
Stuff happens. There's a cheerful boy, a terrorist group, red eyes and the unexpected discovery that Shintaro's quite useful when trouble starts.
The story's fine. I'm interested. Ene's amusing and there's an encouraging level of mystery. On top of that, though, its visual compositions have more creativity than any other anime I've seen. (I then almost immediately found another SHAFT show that's doing the same thing; see below.)
- Minarai Diva
- Minarai Diva
- Season 1
- Episodes: 49 minutes
- Keep watching: no
- One-line summary: random TV filler with chatty presenters, except animated
It's live anime. Two TV presenters wired up to motion-capture technology are playing CGI anime characters. There's no plot. It's not even fictional. They're just celebrities presenting a TV show, but in animated form. I made it through nearly fifteen of the show's fifty minutes before giving up and flicking forward to see if there was anything important later that I should watch before turning it off.
There wasn't. I can't recommend this, since there's nothing there to recommend, but it's certainly different. Its unscripted nature is refreshing, I think. The girls speak as themselves and not always that coherently, talking over each other and rattling off any old nonsense at a speed you'd never get in scripted drama. That's cool. They sing and dance. They react to live emails and tweets.
It's made by Japanese smartphone video streaming service NOTTV and it's supposedly similar to radio. Hmmm. The point of radio is that you can listen while you're doing something else, while animated characters on a screen are meant to be watched. However it's entertaining enough, the presenters are vivacious and I have no objection to the show. I'd have happily left it running, as likeable wallpaper. It's just that I had other stuff I wanted to watch instead.
- Momo Kyun Sword
- Momo Kyun Sword
- Season 1
- Episodes: 12 x 24 minutes
- Keep watching: good grief, no
- One-line summary: boob-fixated mediocrity, based on folklore
I have a higher tolerance than I should for silly fanservice anime, but this broke me. Run away, fast. It's functional, but mediocre and deeply unappealing.
The ostensible premise: the famous Japanese folklore character of Momotaro was actually a girl, called Momoko. She's got super-strength and three talking animal friends. It's a (vaguely defined) historical era. Meanwhile there's also the Celestial Maiden Squad, a group of four colour-coded magical girls named after fruit. ("Momo" means peach, by the way, so our heroine fits in too.)
The actual premise: mammaries and clothing damage.
Momoko has huge boobs that wobble like water balloons and a top that's hiding very little of them. In one scene, she falls in the river and her outfit becomes see-through. Whoops, clumsy! When this happens, an embarrassed Momoko then orders her friends not to look at her, even though they're a monkey, a dog and a pheasant. They're animals! Are we meant to believe she's shy and modest, perhaps? In that outfit? (She's also a bit stupid, by the way. That's not me being snide, but an official character point.) Finally, she gets a nude transformation sequence that ends up going wrong and shredding her outfit.
The Celestial Maiden Squad appear to have one simple, well-worn character trait each. There's a bitch, a pathetic one and an emotionless one. This might (no promises) improve in later episodes.
The character designs aren't great. Momoko's super-low-cut top is merely a bit silly, but the oni look so shoddy that they're annoying. They look as if someone dashed off a rough sketch in ten seconds while thinking of something else and then accidentally sent it to the animators.
Nothing about this show is good, except at a pinch that paradoxically feminist position you often get in anime, by which wanting to appeal to a male audience leads them to create a world full of powerful, dominant female characters. (Unfortunately here this would be a stronger argument if the girls weren't also stupid, bitches, pathetic, etc.) The show's plot is going to be a search for magical peach shards. No aspect of this show doesn't feel lazy and half-arsed, as if the producers' sole concern was to show animated girls. It's not even good exploitation, being tame and timid compared with all the sleazier anime out there.
It's not actually horrible. The plot is unremarkable, but doesn't have any obvious holes. The characters are forgettable, but fulfil their story roles efficiently enough. The show's still no bloody good, though.
- Minna Atsumare! Falcom Gakuen
- Everyone Assemble! Falcom Academy
- Season 1 x 3 minutes
- Episodes: 13 x 3 minutes
- Keep watching: no
- One-line summary: computer fantasy RPG parody
I didn't like episode one, so I watched episode two and didn't like that either. I'm not planning to try ep.3. It's already had a second season, mind you.
It's a parody of fantasy RPG computer games, I think. However it was done for Japanese video game company Nihon Falcom, celebrating their 30th anniversary, and it stars lots of their game characters. If you've played Ys or The Legend of Heroes, apparently you'll know these people.
To me, though, it looked cheap and lazy. The art isn't bad, as such, but it's simple and lacking in detail. It looks like a low-budget internet show, except that I don't think it is. As for the jokes, those mostly revolve around a boy in a maid costume. Being generous, it's conceivable that I might have found these funnier had I been familiar with the original games. Most of the show's gags seems to revolve around the phrases "pretty girl" or "pretty boy". I found it tiresome. I was a little bit amused by the ep.2 fanservice (very naked blokes), but basically this anime can sod off.
- Monogatari (franchise)
- Tsukimonogatari (episode 1 of 4)
- Hanamonogatari (episode 1 of 5)
- Series 5 + 6
- Keep watching: no
- One-line summary: philosophical discussions from horror fantasy characters
Not at all what I'd expected. This franchise sounded right up my alley and I'd been expecting to be impelled to charge back to 2009 and watch everything since then in order. However these two episodes have made me think again.
The main character of Monogatari is a high school student who used to be a vampire. He's since got better, but his life now involves helping girls in trouble with apparitions, gods, ghosts, mythological beasts and spirits. Sounds like a laugh, right? Well, maybe it's not.
is the more disconcerting of these two. Its main character is Suruga, a girl with a demon werewolf arm that she normally keeps wrapped in bandages. We begin with lots of shots of the sea and a long voice-over in which Suruga explores how she feels about her late mother. This inner narrative gets quite intense.
Suruga then goes to school, where she meets a boy who denies ever having been a girl (?) and is told about an alleged Demon Lord who grants people's wishes. Again, this conversation is being played straight, with no comedy or even light-heartedness. It feels like a deadpan study of two faintly disturbed people. Much later in the episode, there's a boob grab... but even that isn't being played for laughs or titillation, but instead is being taken seriously as a moment that's revealing of the psychology of the two people involved.
Suruga goes looking for this person, partly because she thinks she might find that this Demon Lord is her. Anyway, what happens in this episode is basically philosophical dialogue. It's also raising genuine social issues in the person of SPOILER seeing herself as unable to work and hence condemned to a second-class existence of part-time work and too much free time. Theoretically this is interesting stuff, but it's disconcerting because the episode's making only a token attempt at putting it in any kind of dramatic framework.
is superficially more conventional, but still likely to wrong-foot you. The tone doesn't match any expectations you might have for the content.
The first eight minutes are given over to discussing someone who's a doll made from a corpse. The meaning and purpose of this person's existence are chewed over by a vampire who's talking to the narrator.
After that, we get some character interaction! Araragi has trouble getting out of bed, so his sisters come and wake him. Yellow Tracksuit Girl has superhuman energy and jumping ability, while the other sister ends up agreeing to share a bath with her big brother. Well, approximately. In the end we don't see them getting in together, but their naked conversation beforehand still lasts for a good ten minutes of screen time. That's nearly half the episode. Are there sexual overtones? Well, d'uh. They like to think that there isn't, but they're eyeing each other up, washing each other, etc.
That sounds reassuringly familiar, right? Near-incest and rampant nudity is why we all love the anime industry. The episode also has a comedy ending. Once again, though, it's yet more philosophical dialogue. All talk, no action. Araragi discovers something worrying about himself (no, something else) and what characterisation we're getting from the dialogue suggests two emotionally detached intellectuals who like the sound of their own voices.
All that said, both Hanamonogatari
are fabulous to look at. Bold, imaginative designs, spectacular visuals pulled from nowhere even when what we're looking at is completely mundane, quite often outright surrealism... yup, it's SHAFT. It's my Mekakucity Actors
experience again. Even the nudity is so artistic and elegant that it seems absurd to call it fanservice.
To my astonishment, I don't think I'll be watching any more of this franchise. Vampires, ghoulies, ghosts and girls? I like those things. Non-narratives about people having in-depth (but beautifully animated) conversations on topics that appear to have bypassed their emotions? Well, I got through two such episodes, but I can't pretend I'm in a hurry to check out 12 + 3 + 11 + 4 + 26 + 5 + 4 + a feature film. And that's just so far.
- My Neighbor Seki
- Tonari no Seki-kun: The Master of Killing Time
- Season 1
- Episodes: 21 x 7 minutes
- Keep watching: tempted, but no
- One-line summary: boy goofs in class, girl can't stop watching him
Many people think it's fantastic. I was tempted to continue, but I eventually decided that the format's probably a bit too simple and repetitive for me.
The protagonist is a schoolgirl called Yokoi, who sits next to a schoolboy called Seki. Yokoi is a nice, dutiful girl. Seki is a goof-off. During class, he builds a one-man domino championship (but with erasers instead of dominoes) that distracts Yokoi so badly that in the end it's her, not Seki, who gets told off by the teacher for not paying attention.
That's it. The episode is just Seki's "dominoes" and Yokoi's increasingly aghast reactions. These are fun, but I found myself getting slightly itchy, rather than just relaxing into the situation. How dense is that teacher? Couldn't Yokoi perhaps ignore her neighbour and listen to the lesson? Seki's assumption that he'll get away with his antics is also ludicrous, except that the show's format is dictating that he does. Yes, of course I'm taking the situation too seriously... but I'm afraid I can't help that. That was how I reacted. It looks as if every episode will involve Seki doing something outrageous in class with no attempt at concealment, but without being noticed by anyone but Yokoi. For me, personally, I suspect this will probably get old and/or repetitive quite fast.
At least the episodes are short, mind you. You might as well try one. You might love it and at that length, you're losing nothing if you find you don't. This show's fans adore it and what I've read of the rest of the series does admittedly sound as if they're playing the show's one joke very well indeed. Even though I personally won't be continuing, I'd recommend trying out an episode.
- Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun
- Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun
- Season 1
- Episodes: 12 x 24 minutes
- Keep watching: yes
- One-line summary: comedy about a schoolboy who's also a professional manga writer/artist
- I've since finished it and... it's one of the best shows of the year.
I'd heard enough praise for this one that I was expecting to do the whole series even before I'd started watching this episode. As it happens, its reputation was deserved. It's likeable, self-aware and funny.
Chiyo Sakura fancies her classmate Nozaki. (He's huge, by the way. Their heights are 145cm for Sakura and 190cm for Nozaki. That's a foot and a half difference.) Anyway, Sakura manages to screw up her courage and confess her admiration to Nozaki... and he misunderstands and gives her his signature.
Nozaki's a professional manga artist. He draws twinkly-eyed shoujo romance for girls' magazines, even though he himself is a great big lump.
Anyway, Sakura fairly soon finds herself being Nozaki's art assistant. Is she happy about this? Well, it means she gets to hang out with him and talk about stuff. (At one point she thought she'd been invited back to his house for, um, more indelicate purposes... and that didn't scare her off, although she did quail a bit.) Most of the time, they discuss Nozaki's manga. They brainstorm story ideas. They try to ride romantic bicycles. Sakura advises Nozaki on stuff that looks dorky. The story makes gentle fun of what you're allowed to do in shoujo manga, which is "not a lot".
The show's more specific than I'd expected, or at least this episode is. It's basically a witty, well-informed gag anime based around discussions of shoujo manga, but with the character angle that Sakura fancies Nozaki but is incapable of saying so in terms clear enough for Nozaki to understand. (She'll try again and this time the failure is 100% hers.)
I imagine it unfolds. The cast will expand and the comedy will broaden in scope. (I was right, by the way. Having watched further, the show becomes very, very funny as additional characters are introduced.) Oh, and I love the opening theme music.