Preview: The Winter Anime Season

Success! This would be really really really funny if you've seen Lagrange, I'm sure. If you haven't, then it just looks stupid. It's Madoka's signature... gesture, I guess.

The fall season’s shows (the 13 episode ones at least) are over, and the 2012 winter season is upon us. So I’d like to take this opportunity to run through my first impressions of the shows I’ve seen so far. Now, I haven’t (nor will I) watch every show this season. That’s a bit beyond me. That being said, I have watched a fair bit (11 shows as of this post) and I think I can offer my opinion on their first episodes at the very least. Honestly, at the outset of this season, I wasn’t planning on watching even the eleven shows I have watched, but I came into a little bit more free time than expected, so I picked them up. Anyway, let’s begin.

Can you tell the difference? No, you can't. That's because they're the same. Left is Remon from Ano Natsu de Matteru, and right is Ichigo from Onegai Teacher. They even share the same voice actor!

Starting from the top (I’m just looking at my anime folder as I do this), it’s Ano Natsu de Matteru. The story’s done by Kuroda Yosuke, and the character design is done by Uon Taraku. Those will probably be unfamiliar names (they were to me, at least) but they’ve worked together before; most notably on Onegai Teacher and Onegai Twins. And if you’ve seen either of those before, you should recognize this show. Not for anything specific, but Uon Taraku’s designs for both shows are pretty similar (in fact, Morino Ichigo is pretty much lifted from Onegai Teacher/Twins, character design and voice actor and all, in the form of Yamano Remon). So that’s fine, I didn’t have a problem with the character designs. They looked pretty nice in the promotional art for the show (though I think the backgrounds for this show look much more impressive), but then you get into the story. Well, if you’re not familiar with Onegai Teacher’s basic plot, a guy falls into a lake and is saved by some hot alien chick. She then lives near/with him, interacting with him in his school life. Presumably they get together. Unfortunately, I have just described the beginnings of both Ano Natsu de Matteru and Onegai Teacher.

That being said, I don’t think it’s a bad show. Sure, the beginning plot device is a little contrived (moreso since the guy who used it first is using it again) but it is just the first episode, after all. There’s a lot of room for divergence. Moreover, there are several things the show does well. Like I mentioned before, the art is nice, particularly in the backgrounds. The colors are bright and vibrant and I like that. The background music hasn’t really struck me yet, but the opening and ending themes are solid. The ending theme in particular is sung by Yanagi Nagi, who’s totally excellent. She used to do lead vocals for supercell (Bakemonogatari’s Kimi no Shiranai Monogatari, Naruto’s Utakata Hanabi) and has since struck out on her own, I suppose. I have to admit her work with supercell was better than what she’s released since (one album, to my knowledge), but the ending theme sounds pretty nice and I’m looking forward to the single’s release. Overall I think Ano Natsu de Matteru is something to watch out for, but hopefully it doesn’t become another Onegai Teacher. That being said, if you haven’t seen Onegai Teacher, this show becomes much fresher and pretty interesting.

Pirate! Unfortunately she doesn't wear this outfit in the first episode, so I guess I have to keep watching until she does.

Next in my folder is Mouretsu Pirates. While it may have seemed alphabetical with my start, it’s really organized by who subbed it (commie for both) because I was too lazy to rename the files. Anyway, moving on, Mouretsu Pirates was recommended to me. Unlike Ano Natsu de Matteru, I hadn’t planned on watching it earlier on. Because of that, I didn’t particularly enjoy it. Not to say it’s bad or anything and I think I’ll continue watching it, but it didn’t really wow me. The show takes place in the future, where everyone space travels and stuff. Honestly, I couldn’t tell if the first episode takes place on the earth or not, but that doesn’t really matter. It’s pretty clear that the majority of the show will take place in space. Anyway, it’s the future, and our main character, Kato Marika, is just a normal high school girl doing normal high school girl things. She works part time in a maid café and goes to school, like all high school girls. She lives with her seemingly single mother and enjoys a happy life. Of course, there’s a twist (isn’t there always?). One day a mysterious man and woman approach her in the café, calling themselves acquaintances of her mother. Later, they show up at her house and it turns out that her mother was a space pirate, and her father, who was also a space pirate or something, died. And so these two mysterious strangers (the woman’s a doctor, the man’s a helmsman) ask Marika if she wants to become a pirate captain. There’s your twist; she’s a pirate captain. Of course, more stuff happens (mysterious transfer students, strange men are after Marika), and there’s some cute humor thrown in, but that’s about the gist of it.

The art is kind of off-putting to me. There’s something inexplicable about the character designs that just feel really weird to me. Besides that, it looks just fine though. I mean, the basic premise seems alright to me. Some girl being a pirate in a miniskirt, why would I say no? The execution was painfully average though, there were a few funny bits in there but a lot of it was just me sitting there (well, I was playing SRW @2 on my other monitor while watching, but…). The music as well didn’t really grab me. The tracks weren’t bad but again kind of average. I guess it’s of note that an ex-Megadeth guitarist did some work with the opening, but that doesn’t mean much to me. As such, I wouldn’t really recommend this show. It’s not terrible, but it doesn’t have anything spectacular going for it (yet).

Tsukihi. She and Karen, Koyomi's sisters, are the new important characters of Nisemonogatari.

One file down the list is Nisemonogatari. A sequel to Bakemonogatari (which I also covered) it was my most anticipated sequel of the season. And as the first episode showed, I wasn’t disappointed. Fans of Bakemonogatari will be pleased to see more of the same with Nisemonogatari. The first episode is pretty much 100% humor, though, which contrasted a little bit with the first episode of Bakemonogatari. They have that leeway I suppose, since all of the characters are established already. Anyway, Nisemonogatari is a sequel, of course, so I can’t really recommend it unless you’ve seen (and liked) Bakemonogatari, but it’s definitely great stuff. It’s done by SHAFT, so it’s pretty evident that the quick SHAFT cuts and animation style is present here as well. While it seemed unique for Bakemonogatari, it gets to be normal for Nisemonogatari. The jokes are back in full-force; the first episode was hilarious. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much of a plot so far, not that I don’t think there will be one soon of course. Apparently Nisemonogatari is supposed to deal more with Koyomi’s sisters (Araragi Karen and Araragi Tsukihi) so Tsukihi got a little screen time in the first episode (though Hitagi and Mayoi definitely stole the show here).

The art and animation style here are essentially the same as they were for Bakemonogatari years earlier. I’m sure there were some minor technical advancements since, but I’d never notice them. There was no ending theme (hopefully that’s just a this time thing), and the ending was done by Chiwa Saitou, AKA Hitagi’s voice. And I’ll be quite honest, it sounds just like staple stable. Not that that’s a bad thing, but it’s kind of uncanny how similar it sounds. Overall, this is definitely a show I’ll be looking forward to every week.

... This is pretty much what you think it is. It happens a few times in the first episode. A few times too many, if you ask me. It's just weird. I can't even tell if the show takes itself seriously on this front or not.

The next show on my list, unfortunately, is Aquarion EVOL. I have no idea why I picked this up. It’s a sequel to another series, Sousei no Aquarion. Sousei no Aquarion has really awesome music, and it had a nice showing in SRW Z1 (which, for various reasons, is my only real source of knowledge on the show), but every time I ask about it, people tell me to stay away, as it’s pretty terrible. It’s unfortunate, but I heeded those warnings. Notsomuch here with Aquarion EVOL. No warnings heeded. And, predictably, it was pretty bad. I remember getting to about the 23 minute mark and thinking “Isn’t this thing over yet?” and it wasn’t. To my horror, it was a 42 minute episode. So I sat there like a trooper, and watched all the way through. Let’s begin to dissect this one, then. This show takes place in the far future of Sousei no Aquarion, I guess, and apparently the events of that show are some sort of movie in this world. The main character is some pathetic loser whose name I can’t quite remember (but have looked up for the sake of acting slightly professional: it’s Amato Sora). The very first scene in which he interacts with a member of the opposite sex was absolutely cringe-worthy to me; I can’t imagine writing the dialogue for this scene and thinking “Yeah, this is how people interact!” Basically, the main character loves this old Aquarion movie and some girl came to watch it so now he decides he loves her or something. Anyway, a lot of events happen and they get stuck into a robot together. Oh yeah, this show has this weird obsession with orgasms for… Little to no reason, from what I can piece together. Sora experiences one I believe when he touches Mikono Suzushiro. Anyway, aliens attack and the defense force sends out two robots, a male Aquarion (Aquarions are generally 3 pilot machines) and a female Aquarion. For whatever reason, it’s particularly dangerous for the male and female machines to interact. Anyway, one male from the male machine, and one female from the female machine join with Mikono and Sora to make a brand new Aquarion (called Aquarion EVOL, of course) and shows that alien what for. And that’s pretty much the end. Oh, of course there were several orgasms littered throughout.

Now, my opinion is kind of ludicrous since I don’t know too much about the series. I haven’t seen Aquarion, and my understanding of its plot and circumstances are rudimentary at best. I’m sure there’s a perfectly good and legitimate reason for the abundance of orgasms, I just don’t know it (yet, I guess?). That being said, Aquarion EVOL was not very good. The music again looks to be pretty good (AKINO is doing the opening and ending themes again, which is great, along with Yoko Kanno composing), but that’s pretty much all the series has going for it. I might watch the next episode, but in all likelihood I will not. I wouldn’t really recommend this show to anyone (if you must, just listen to the music and walk away with those fond memories, at least).

... Yeah, this looks kind of stupid I guess. But it's really funny! The ages are all backwards, that's grade A comedy right there!

Another show I was actually quite looking forward to; Recorder to Randoseru. From what I understand it’s supposed to be something like Recorder to Randsell, which is German or something for satchel? I’m not entirely sure, that’s just what I heard. Anyway, I was really looking forward to this show. Then I looked at the file size and saw it was like 40 MB, and got really confused. I thought the quality was terrible and took a look… Apparently the episodes are only about five minutes long. It was pretty disappointing to me, but I didn’t let that stop me, and thoroughly enjoyed the five minutes. The basic premise of this one is that there’s a girl and boy, brother and sister pair. The weird part is the girl is short and the boy is super tall. I mean the girl looks like she’s in elementary school and the boy looks like he’s an adult. However, reality is backwards and the girl’s in high school (the nice dependable older sister) and the boy’s in elementary school (he’s a dumb boy). And so they get into antics together and it’s great fun. The first episode was pretty funny, and I’m looking forward to the rest.

Probably half the reason I'm watching this. She's cute as a button, though it must be embarrassing as hell to do Hina's voice. She speaks like a kid, of course.

Next on the list, Papa no Iukoto wo Kikinasai!, or Listen to what your father says!, I think. This one I’ve already read the manga for prior to watching, so I know a little of what to expect. As such, it kind of affects my impression of the first episode. The premise here is that there’s this college kid, who has wild and crazy college antics. And the college kid has an older sister with three kids; he’s their uncle. At the risk of spoiling some interesting stuff, I’ll leave it at that for now. The main focus of this show is the relationship between the uncle and the kids. The kids, from oldest to youngest, are Takanashi Sora, Miu, and Hina. Sora’s fourteen, Miu’s ten, and Hina is three. They’re all cute kids, though it’s pretty obvious Sora has a crush on her uncle Yuta. Of course, they make the important distinction that Miu and Sora are not related to Yuta, they’re kids from Yuta’s sister’s husband’s first marriage. Not that that generally stops anime or manga from incest, but this series at least doesn’t have any (as for pedophilia, though, I can’t say much). Anyway, it’s your generic harem-y manga, except the protagonist is kind of related to 3 of the members and they’re children… So not really like a harem manga. Still, there’s fanservice abound and if you’re into that kind of stuff you’ll enjoy this.

I’m kind of fond of the character designs for this show. Hina’s hair is nearly impossibly long for being 3, but that aside I like Raika, Miu, and Sora’s character designs quite a bit. Besides that everything about it is pretty generic. The music I honestly can’t remember, and I watched it maybe two hours ago, so it can’t have been that great. There’s nothing spectacular about the art or animation. However, if you do want to watch it, I would recommend watching it at least to episode 2 (when some plot happens) before considering dropping it.

Manly men doing manly things. Really, how could you go wrong with something like this?

Okay, another show I was looking forward to, Daily Lives of High School Boys. If Kimi to Boku last season was Lucky Star with dudes, this is Nichijou with dudes (or more accurately, have the gender ratios flipped). Of course, the humor is more focused towards guys. I just watched it a few hours ago, though, and it was pretty hilarious. Definitely something I’ll look forward to every week. The basic premise is… well, there are 3 guys. They do stuff. That’s pretty much it. I mean, how would you describe Lucky Star? Cute girls doing cute things? That’s pretty much this, except it’s just guys doing guy things. Like wearing skirts. So it’s totally manly. Anyway, I have to say I was looking forward to Kill Me Baby more than this, but upon watching both shows this one definitely takes the cake. It was consistently funny and the characters were much more fun to watch.

The art and animation… Aren’t really important. Not yet anyway, I guess. The character designs are pretty standard, though I swear the blonde guy looks like Guile sometimes. He also has this really funny face where his eyes are sunk in and pretty much become black pits; it’s great. These three guys are the main characters though, so besides a few ancillary ones that appear for certain skits, this is gonna be it. I’m not quite certain if this is based off a 4koma or just a regular manga, though my first impression is that it’s based on a 4koma, or a 4 panel comic strip. As such, there are several skits in each episode (kind of like Nichijou or Kill me Baby). They keep things fresh (so one setting isn’t exhausted), and the humor is pretty stellar so far. Definitely something I’d recommend. Oh, I guess there was music somewhere in the show, though I can’t say it was my priority watching it. The ending theme for this episode is pretty funny though, considering the preceding skit.

Their facial expressions did not change the entire episode. It was creepy, but in the wrong way.

The next show I’m watching was another unplanned one. However, it seemed like it was kind of popular, and while I wasn’t intrigued by the story at first, I’m willing to give most things a try. So I started watching Another. In fact, I watched it just prior to starting writing this article (so about an hour and a half ago?). And it was… Pretty much what I expected, I suppose. It’s a mystery/horror story, kind of like… Higurashi no Naku Koro ni was, a little bit? Though this one seems to have more focus on the horror and less on the mystery, at least so far. Anyway, I can’t even give too much of a basic plot without making it sound really boring, since not much has happened yet, but basically this guy movies to a rural Japanese town to study there since his mother is dead and his father is working in India. As such, he’s living with his aunt and grandparents. Of course, the town has some sort of strange legend or rumor going around, involving mysterious deaths or something of that nature. And I’m sure our young hero gets pretty deeply involved in that. The main girl seems to be his classmate, who wears an eyepatch for whatever reason. It doesn’t seem like a pirate eyepatch, more of a surgical one I’d say. I guess it adds to a gruesome theme the show will more than likely have. Anyway, no one seems to acknowledge her existence, so things get a little weird. I can’t say too much more than that, since I don’t know too much more than that.

Starting with the music, the opening is done by ALI Project. If you like ALI project you’ll love this song since all their music sounds the damn same, but I don’t. And so this one, like the rest, grated on my ears. Fortunately, the ending theme was more slow-paced and the light nature of it was kind of a refreshing change of pace, so I’m liking that. The art seems a little weird at times, like when it’s pretty clear things are being hidden but the main character is an idiot and can’t see it, but otherwise it’s alright. I honestly am still not all that excited by this show (the genre isn’t really my cup of tea) but I’ll keep up with it, I suppose. If horror mystery is your thing, though, I think you’d enjoy it.

Madoka with her serious face on. Obviously the injury shouldn't be there, but she ties her bangs up (you can see the green tie there) when she's ready to kick some ass and take some names... In this case, it's kick ass.

Next is yet another show I didn’t plan to watch, though unlike the rest I’m pretty glad I did. I found it surprisingly entertaining. This one’s called Rinne no Lagrange. I’m honestly not entirely certain what it’s about yet (aliens attacking the earth or something I dunno) but it’s essentially cute girls doing cute things: robots edition. Usually that’s not really all that interesting, but something about this show stuck to me. So there’s the main character, Kyouno Madoka. She’s a pretty capable person, and likes helping people in need. And as the first several minutes of the show tells you, she dabbles (and does extraordinarily well) in pretty much everything she tries. Usually those characters are stupid and annoying, but I find myself really enjoying Madoka. She’s acts cute, looks cute, and is kind of a go-getter. So here she is, leading her rather normal life, being the only member of her “Jersey Club”, which is pretty much a club dedicated to helping people (an effective Sket-Dan?). A weird girl tells her she wants to be part of the club, then asks for Madoka’s help with something. Long story short, Madoka pilots a giant fighting robot and defends some base against an alien or something. As generic as generic gets, and I usually don’t like this kinda stuff, but it really stuck to me for some reason. So I’m looking forward to what comes outta this next.

The art and animation struck me as really familiar for some reason, though I don’t recognize the studio that did it (Xebec). Looking at their production history, I’m surprised I don’t, though none of the shows on their list that I’ve seen (like Softenni, Rio: Rainbow Gate, Break Blade, or MM) really gave me the impression that Lagrange did. Honestly, it reminds me more art and animation-wise of Idolm@ster, except with what I’m sure is a smaller budget. And that’s a good thing, Idolm@ster had some exceptional animation. The opening and ending themes are both done by Nakajima Megumi, of Macross Frontier fame (she’s Ranka). I didn’t think they were spectacular (I really like some of her work) but they’re certainly not bad. Surprisingly, I’m really looking forward to this show.

Pretty much the only ninja ability Agiri displayed. It's keeping her skirt and hair in the same position, no matter what position she's in. Pretty nifty, I guess.

And the last show I’m watching this season, Kill me Baby. Well, besides the leftovers from last season, like Persona and Gundam AGE. Anyway, besides Nisemonogatari, this was definitely the show I was looking forward to the most. And boy, was it a disappointment. The basic premise here is there’s a dumb brunette girl called Oribe Yasuna. Her class has an assassin in it called Sonya, and they get into wild and crazy antics together. It’s based on a 4koma, so there are a lot of small skits. Oh, and there’s a ninja in it called Goshiki Agiri. It wasn’t terrible or anything, and I’ll definitely keep watching it. But it wasn’t uproariously funny, which is what I was somehow expecting it to be. It’s animated by JC Staff, who generally does some pretty good work. And I don’t think the problem here is with JC Staff, really, but the source material. I guess it just wasn’t really really funny to me. I think for a comedy show this season, you’d be much better off with Daily Lives of High School Boys. This one just came across as a little more generic. It’s not bad, but it’s just not great. Of course, this is all off my impressions of the first episode. It could (and hopefully will) get better, so I’ll continue watching it at the very least.

The art and animation… Well, the art is going for that cutesy moe style pretty obviously. I don’t have a problem with it, of course, and it works for the series, but some people don’t like it. The character designs are accordingly rather simple, and honestly the biggest way I can tell these characters apart is via their hairstyles/hair colors. Sonya’s your generic blond twintail, and Agiri has long black hair. Not the most inspired character design, though I wasn’t really expecting that. The music is… Kind of annoying, to be honest. Not even in the catchy way, the opening and ending themes just annoy the hell out of me. Fortunately, I generally skip those past the first episode anyway, so it won’t be as much of a problem, and the content is what’s most important anyway. The show was a little funny, but hopefully there’s a lot of room for improvement as it goes on. Here’s to hopin’.

The one show I'll try to watch at some point. How can you not love this kid and his cat, though? Also, it won't animate, so please click it to get the full effect.

Well, that’s all I’m watching. One other series I’d like to mention is the fourth season of Natsume Yuujinchou. It’s a slice of life show that I’m kind of watching occasionally, though I’m still on the first season. I have no doubts to its quality; I’m just not up to the point of watching the first season yet. Anyway, this turned out much longer than I expected, but I’m glad I’m not watching everything this season. It’d be hell to write about everything, I think.

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Kaushik

I write about anime and stuff. Giant robots are pretty cool, too.

Kaushik

I write about anime and stuff. Giant robots are pretty cool, too.

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