Sword and twintails


There might be several shows worth watching this fall, after several seasons of slim pickings.

Madan no Ou to Vanadis

The protagonist of Madan no Ou to Vanadis is an archer and honorable noble from a minor province in a corrupt kingdom. He is captured on the battlefield by a “war maiden,” who dislikes boring battles, and who doesn’t wear armor, or much else. It’s too soon to tell where the story is going; my guess is that Tigre will have to choose between his homeland in the decadent kingdom of Brune, and the apparently more healthy kingdom of Zhcted where the bright and comely war maiden lives. The series is written and directed by Tatsuo Sato, the man man responsible for Shingu and Mouretsu Pirates, two of my favorite shows. It looks a bit boobalicious for my taste, but I expect that Sato will tell a good story. There are screencaps below the fold.

Aside: Repeat after me: Critics. Are. Idiots. Exclamation point. For example, here’s what the jackasses at ANN wrote about Vanadis.

Amagi Brilliant Park could very well be the first Kyoto Animation series I watch all the way through since Suzumiya Haruhi I. The protagonist, an abrasive, narcissistic former child actor, is drafted, at gunpoint, to reform a decrepit amusement park lest the fairies who live there lose their homes. Although Seiya is an unpleasant character as the story begins, the writer is careful not to make him repulsive, and the fairies are not the cloyingly sweet sort that bore children and nauseate adults. Two episodes in, it looks like it will be at least good.

In Ore, Twintail ni Narimasu, a high school boy with a fascination for girls with paired ponytails becomes a warrior in a powered suit with twintails himself. It’s as silly as it sounds. It might be fun, as long as it doesn’t turn stupid and the writers quit with all the double-entendres. There are screen caps below the fold.

Gugure! Kokkuri-san

Gugure! Kokkuri-san is the oddest show I’ve seen in quite some time. A little girl who lives alone declares that she is a doll. She summons a fox spirit with a Japanese variant of a ouija board, and Kokkuri, the fox, decides to haunt her, i.e., be her guardian. Sometimes Kohina, the girl/doll, is drawn as a human, sometimes as a doll. I think it’s intended to be a cutesy comedy, but it’s a rather unsettling one. Probably during the course of the series Kohina will gradually become more human while acquiring other supernatural friends, but there’s a danger that the show could lurch into something like the final episode of Bottle Fairy. There are screencaps below the fold.

Update: Gugure! Kokkuri-san is off my watch list and is not recommended.

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Ten types of silliness

The human mind requires regular doses of absurdity to maintain sanity. Not just any nonsense will do, though; otherwise, you could obtain your recommended daily allowance of absurdity by perusing the editorial page of any newspaper. The best nonsense is as rigorously logical as it is absurd, e.g., Lewis Carroll. The anime industry supplies much nonsense every season, and winter 2014 looks to be particularly rich. Here’s a quick look at some first episodes to see which might be properly silly and which are likely just dumb.

A recent genre of anime is travesties involving Oda Nobunaga. There are two this time, Nobunagun and Nobunaga the Fool. One involves a military-otaku girl who wields a gun embodying the spirit of Nobunaga; the other has mecha. Both feature random historical characters, from Joan of Arc to Jack the Ripper, and both feature lots and lots of action. Yawn.
Silly/dumb rating (enjoyably absurd = 10; just plain stupid = 1): 3 (both shows)

Stuffed animal toys are power

An imperious little girl riding a pink bicycle with training wheels intends to conquer the world in World Conquest Zvezda Plot, and she just might do it. There are lots of explosions, and many strange people wearing masks run around, acting threatening and shouting slogans. So far, it makes no sense at all — which is not necessarily a bad sign, but I do expect some exposition in the second episode.
Silly/dumb rating: 7

Death bunnies

I sampled three separate shows about people with magical powers, two of them in high school settings. Magic is more contagious than the flu in Magical Warfare. Norio Wakamoto is a frog familiar in Wizard Barristers. A young man learns that he is a princess in Witch Craft Works. There are also giant armored bunnies.
Silly/dumb ratings: Magical Warfare, 5; Wizard Barristers, 6; Witch Craft Works, 5.

Space Boobies Dandy is nothing like Cowboy Bebop. The first episode was pure farce. This could be fun if the writers are deft, but Dandy is a flake who could easily become tedious. I suspect the dub is unwatchable.
Silly/dumb rating: 6

Robot Girls Z

Robot Girls Z is an improved Love Pheremone (not recommended), in which the not-quite-competent heroines present a greater threat to their city than do the villains they fight. It could be fun, but the third short episode was too off-color for my taste.
Silly/dumb rating: 5

In Tonari no Seki, a student maintains his sanity at school by undertaking various complicated projects at his desk in the back of the classroom, such as building a Pythagoras-Switch arrangement using erasers as dominoes. This annoys the girl at the next desk over, and she annoys me. The best part was the music, which reminded me of Masaki Kurihara.
Silly/dumb rating: 4

So cheerful

Hell is a complicated place in Hozuki no Reitetsu. Hozuki is the demon king’s right-hand oni, handling crises, solving problems and raising goldfish flowers (which are nothing like Nematanthus). I usually find “slice of life” series tedious, but this slice of afterlife has promise.
Silly/dumb rating: 8

I’ll probably watch more of Hozuki no Reitetsu and World Conquest Zvezda Plot, and maybe Space Dandy and Wizard Barristers. The rest — meh. At least there’s more Kill la Kill.

Submarine with duckie

Submarine with duck

Episode seven of Arpeggio of Blue Steel was mostly just plain silly, with the “mental models” of the warships behaving like infatuated adolescents. The show is partly about about artificial (or alien) intelligence, as embodied by the models, acquiring human-like emotions and behavior, but this was ridiculous. Oh, yeah, it was a beach episode, too. It was set on Iwoto/Iwo Jima, and, as I anticipated, there was no indication that the writers had any awareness of the geological nature of the island.

Episode seven of Kill la Kill was also subpar. All the absurd invention and energy couldn’t redeem the trite moral: wealth isn’t necessarily a blessing. (I would like to verify that for myself, though. Would anyone care to subsidize a few months of luxury for me?) It’s still worth watching, but I expected something better.

Incidentally, I recently discovered that Kazuki Nakashima, the “series composition” guy for Kill la Kill, also wrote the play that Oh! Edo Rocket was based on.

Love, Labrador

The Kousanji family

Five episodes in, the story in Kyousougiga is taking shape, and it looks like that underneath the Carrollian whimsey and name games, it is exactly what it purports to be, a fairy tale of love and rebirth in the Kousanji family. It’s difficult to encapsulate the show beyond that. ((Crunchyroll’s description of the show is “Enter a description.”)) Instead, here are a bunch of screen caps from the second episode, “Episode 1,” to give you an idea of the flavor of this willfully eccentric series.

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Through another looking glass

Quick notes on what I’m currently watching:

Jonathan said the magic words “Alice in Wonderland” in his notes about Kyousougiga, so of course I had to take a look. A few minutes into episode zero, I wondered if I was back in Kenji Nakamura Land. Not exactly, it turns out, but some of the designers had indeed earlier worked on Mononoke and other Nakamura projects. If you liked the art in Gatchaman Crowds, check Kyousougiga out.

About Kyousougiga itself: after watching episodes zero (surrealistic verging on psychotic; prestissimo) and one (in which the story actually begins; allegro ma non troppo), I can say that it sure is lively, inventive and fantastical, and very, very busy — you can’t let your attention wander for an instant lest you miss a vital clue. Whether all the bright colors and incessant activity ultimately add up to a story that makes sense remains to be seen.

Kill la Kill rockets along like a psychobilly song, proudly lowbrow and defiantly tasteless. There might be a political message and sociological commentary lurking beneath the outrages and the breakneck pace, but through the fifth episode it hardly matters. Kyousougiga and Coppelion show how artsy anime can be; Kill la Kill reminds you that you’re watching cartoons. Before there was Miyazaki, there was Tex Avery.

Arpeggio of Blue Steel has been a pleasant surprise. Given the elements — kids in the navy, sentient ships and submarines with “mental model” avatars that look like pretty girls, a powerful but vaguely-defined enemy, glowing hexagonal grids — I expected a Strike Witches ripoff. However, the focus has been on battle tactics, politics, and the puzzles human behavior presents to non-human minds. Fanservice has been minimal thus far.

For a while it seemed that I couldn’t be bothered to come up with a real title was going to be the comic counterpart of Divergence Eve: a very good show nearly spoiled by a surfeit of jiggle. Possibly the makers realized that; I didn’t notice any buy-the-BD moments in the fifth episode. However, while it was mildly amusing, it was never more than that, and Raul’s outbursts are increasingly grating. Unless the next few episodes are markedly better, I’ll probably drop it.

I likely will also drop Outbreak Company. Our hero crossed the line from raving otaku to blithering idiot in the fourth episode, and much as I would like to see what elves and dwarves make of human culture as presented in manga and anime, I’m losing patience. Update: Ken the Brickmuppet reports that the fifth episode is a disaster. The show is now off my watch list.

The year of sewing dangerously

Useful adjectives for discussing Kill la Kill:


The ideal audience for Kill la Kill is a bunch of drunken male college sophomores. The show really is too tasteless to recommend, but if you can stomach the inexcusable extremes, you might find it compulsively watchable. I can hardly call it good, but if the creators can maintain the berserk energy of the first three episodes without veering into stupidity or pornography, Kill la Kill could very well be great.

Other shows I’m currently following include Yuusha ni Narenakatta Ore wa Shibushibu Shuushoku o Ketsui Shimashita, Outbreak Company and Arpeggio of Blue Steel. I’m feeling lazy, so I’ll just refer you to Steven and Avatar for commentary on the first two. About Coppelion, I don’t know. There might be a good story there, or it might descend into Angst and Message. I also sampled Tokyo Ravens, which I barely remember though it’s only been a few days since I watched it, and Galilei Donna, which is ridiculous but does feature a wrench wench. I might watch more of the latter, but I don’t have great hopes for it.

Update: As of the third episode, I’m Not Typing This Silly Long Title Out Again is on probation. Fino may be a delightful character, but tentacles cross the line.

Update II: Another word for Kill la Kill: shameless.

Nobody’s favorite guitarist

Umizatou as Norio Wakamoto

While I wait to see how well Kenji Nakamura pulls everything together in the concluding episodes of Gatchaman Crowds, I’ve been again re-watching Mononoke, his first full series and still his best. Above is a screen capture from the fourth episode, in which an ayakashi with the unmistakable voice of Norio Wakamoto visits the passengers of a ship sailing seas stranger than any in Yellow Submarine.

Mononoke Crowds

Crowds: Mononoke, above; Gatchaman, below.

Gatchaman Crowds

Briefly noted

Stella 9

Stella Women’s Academy, High School Division Class C3, is Gainax’s shameless attempt to capture the Girls und Panzer audience. It’s slightly more realistic: set in a high school that’s larger than some colleges, the girls fight with airguns rather than tanks. The first episode wasn’t bad, and the animators pointedly did not show any pantsu. I’ll probably continue watching. Update: In the second episode, one of the characters steps out of the shower wearing just a towel, and later bounces a bit; this is a Gainax show, after all. Still, it’s mild as fanservice goes. Stella etc. promises to be a pleasant entertainment featuring a bunch of (mostly) non-neurotic eccentrics, but it’s not another GuP.

By the way, if after watching Girls und Panzer you’ve got the yen to drive a tank, you can, if you’re in Georgia. (Via Borepatch.)

The Brickmuppet endured the entire first episode of Watamote and wondered where the punch line was. I only made it half-way through; this just isn’t my kind of humor.

Thomas McDonald has begun a series of posts on Tarot cards from a Catholic perspective. When I learned that il sole penetra le illusioni was a mahou shoujo series based on Tarot decks, I was curious to see how much the writers got right (very little). The show looks like it’s intended to be a dark fantasy in the vein of Madoka Magica, but between the bad botany and the middle-aged transvestite, the staff didn’t quite nail it. Still, parts of the first episode were odd enough to be intriguing, and I might watch the second episode. Or I might not.

The first episode of the current iteration of Genshiken was largely about a girl who was actually a boy. Never mind.

More screencaps from the first episode of Stella with the very long title below the fold.

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A glance back at an ordinary year


I’m not going to make a “ten best anime” list for 2012 because I haven’t watched ten shows all the way through. Two of the year’s best best are incomplete, and there are a couple of well-regarded series that I have yet to look at (Sakamichi no Apollon and Space Brothers). Instead, this is just a casual survey of this year’s offerings that I watched.

Series I didn’t make it all the way through the first episode of: Chihayafuru, Hayate No Gotoku: Can’t Take My Eyes Off You, Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse and Magi. The last I might give another try sometime, since the writers evidentally understand more about economics than do our betters in Washington.

Series I watched only the first episode of: Accel World, Binbougami ga, Campione, K, Nyarko-san: Another Crawling Chaos, Sword Art Online and Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai. Jonathan thinks highly of the last, and I would watch more, but what I saw wasn’t sufficiently brilliant to warrant subscribing to Anime Network. (Update: Also Ozma, Koi to Senkyo to Chocolate and Shining Hearts: Shiawase no Pan. See how memorable they were?)

Series I watched more than one episode of before losing interest: Kamisama Hajimemashita, Polar Bear Café and Sengoku Collection.

Unfinished series I might yet watch the rest of: Inu X Boku SS.

The year’s major disappointment: Moyashimon Returns. Too much soap opera, not enough craziness.

This year’s minor disappointment: Dog Days II. Entertaining, and the characters are mostly likable, even admirable; but the fanservice-to-story ratio is too high. It’s a kid’s show that I can’t recommend for kids. (And surely Leonmitchelli can find something more appropriate to her station to wear than daisy dukes.)

These are the shows that I can recommend:

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You don’t have to worry about a thing

A thousand years from now, technology has advanced little, if at all, if what we see in the first episode of Shin Sekai Yori is representative. Not all technology, though — genetic manipulation has produced some remarkable results in farming and perhaps elsewhere. Many people, maybe everyone in the rural community where protagonist Saki lives, are capable of some degree of telekinesis. The appearance of this power in a youngster is heralded by the appearance of a “blessing spirit” and is the occasion for a quasi-Buddhist ceremony, but it is strongly hinted that there have been generations of selection and breeding involved. And culling.

There’s also Dvorak every evening at twilight.

The first episode suggests that Shin Sekai Yori could be a complex, uncanny story like Serial Experiments Lain was and Ghost Hound tried to be. However, the summary at ANN indicates that it will go in a different direction:

In the future Japan has become a fractured country, and small towns now exist. The rulers of this world have the cursed power of Telekinesis. When an incident occurs, 5 children come to realize the world is not as it seems, and learn the bloody history behind this world. These 5 children unite and help the world as it falls into a downward spiral of chaos.

More spectacular and less interesting that I would have hoped. I’ll continue watching it, anyway. It may still be the best show of the fall season.

Screen captures are below the fold.

The first episode of K is worth watching for sheer gorgeous spectacle. One episode will probably be sufficient. The characters are largely violent bishies (there’s also a creepy little EGL), and I have no interest in any of them. But the animation sure is pretty.

I also watched the brand new Hayate no Gotoku for a while, but bailed out half-way through. It was just dumb.

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Let’s sing

Old Jehovah had a farm,
And on this farm there was a snake,
With a hiss hiss here and a hiss hiss there,
Here a hiss, there a hiss, everywhere a hiss hiss,
Old Jehovah had a farm,

(Via Jane.)


Here’s what was wrong with Moyashimon Returns: it didn’t stink. There was no kiviak, no hongeohoe, no surströmming, nothing pungent at all, not even cheese, just bland grape juice.


I’m off to Winfield. See you all next week.

Back to school Hell

Excel began her saga by getting hit by a truck. If the Great Will of the Macrocosm had not intervened, her story might have been something like Hells. Here are some screen captures from the first third of the movie. (It will probably be a week or two before I watch the rest of it. Right now, I’m getting ready for Winfield.)

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