Anime from the Fall 2013 season that were… alright.

Nagi no Asukara – Premise is that all people lived in the sea, but some went onto land and lost the seas-god’s blessing that lets them breathe water. The world building seems off, since sea life is exactly the same as land life and that seems wrong (down to electricity use), and the characters are archetypal and unoriginal, though well played out. The whole first 13 episodes move way too slow and were barely interesting to me, though plot kicks in mid-season and it gets way more interesting character and plot wise. Hasn’t’ ended yet, but so far it’s a B show, with a warning of the slow, boring school parts of the first half.

Gingitsune: Messenger Fox of the Gods – I wanted to like this show, it was cute and happy, and fluffy, but it was just too boring. It’s the kind of slice of life that just reminds you how very boring watching security cameras actually is. The Kitsune were cute and fun, the humans were well intentioned and living their lives, but I just felt disappointed by the storylines emotional payoff (nothing like Natsume Yuujincho, which this show wishes it could be), and relatively little character growth. A solid C show.

Magi: the Kingdom of Magic – 2nd season. Still enjoying this, though it’s problematic regularly. I still think the setting is unique enough, and the world and magic and characters are interesting. A solid C+ of a show, it’s a nice entertainment but nothing spectacular. Good for passing time.

Beyond the Boundary (Kyoukai no Kanata) – This show is about how if a boy fetishizes and is interested in a girl, that is a great and interesting thing and romantic and awesome. SERIOUSLY, that is the primary take-away message from episode one till the very last moments. Ignoring that disgusting and affronting and plain stupid aspect, it’s an interesting and well animated show about demons living among us, and those who fight them off. The plot has a nice pacing and development, and ends decently. The characters, for the most part, fulfill roles (such as mastermind, maid, info lady, fetish-object, fetish-haver), and don’t really have much characterization beyond that other than their tragic backstories. Overall it makes for an entertaining watch, with interesting settings and plot and magic and fighting, but with squick out moments of CREEPY EW EW EW NO OFFENSIVE ASS BULLSHIT that you have to gloss over. A decent time waster.

Kyousougiga – It’s got an interesting premise, of a man with supernatural powers making a happy and perfect world for himself and his family, but the disjointed presentation of the story and the mind-bending antics just didn’t interest me. None of the characters were particularly compelling, though they seemed at least modestly original. There were also definitely some interesting world building things going on, and I think this show might actually be kinda good, but it really just wasn’t my thing and I didn’t like it, it couldn’t hold my attention. I’d give it another shot if I heard it built better tension later or ended spectacular or something, but not my cup of tea as it stands.

Meganebu – This is very colorful and stylized anime about a bunch of boys who wear and LOVE glasses. They have silly antics, and that’s what this show is all about – over-the-top foolishness and fanservice. Not that bad, but wasn’t enough to keep my interested, and a little to cracked-out for my tastes. Not for everyone, not my tastes but it’s not bad per se, so I’d give it a B to C range.

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Review: Blood-C

The Blood franchise started off with a terrible movie, which spawned a very enjoyable, long anime series (Blood+), which has spawned a second series, this time in collaboration with CLAMP and so was named Blood-C.  Since I really enjoyed Blood+ and have a long-standing love of CLAMP, I had really high expectations from this show.  I will say right up front that overall, I was disappointed, but not so terribly that I hated it.  I still enjoyed watching the show, though I found it problematic and had a lot of bleh moments.

First, the premise is similar to all the other Blood titles.  The main character, always named Saya, is a dark-haired school girl whose eyes turn red when she goes all vampire-esque powerful, who spends the show violently and often grotesquely killing with a sword the monsters who attack her and other humans. In this particular version, she is a cute and Pollyanna shrine maiden (CLAMP sure does like them) who spends most of her time enjoying the company of friends at her school, the two love interests vying for her affections, breakfast at a cafe across the street from the shrine, and after school violently hunting and killing “the old ones” who eat people.

The animation was interesting and well done, backgrounds and movement clearly have good production values, with typical contemporary CLAMP character designs (so the proportions are a little odd and lanky, and the coloring dark and flat, similar to xxxHolic), and the sheer number of bleep-bars over grotesque visuals were noteworthy in this show.  Nothing as awesome as Gantz, mind you, but gory nonetheless. I adore the opening song and visuals, though they’re a bit sexier and more powerful than the main character’s personality and actions can really account for in the show itself.  The episode ending is dull, but the song alright.

The plot reminds me A LOT of M. Night Shyamalan movies, where the writer clearly has a twist in mind that they’re trying to build up to, trying to create a foil between what things seem and what things are,  but exactly like Shyamalan sometimes it’s great (like in The Sixth Sense) but sometimes, it’s really bad, and gets old and bad fast (like The Happening and the Village). Blood-C isn’t quite as bad as The Happening, but it’s pretty down there. The directing is terrible.  Not in a shot-for-shot way (which is rather well done, actually). Someone needed to look at the storyboards for the big picture and say “hey, this is not a good progression. The tension is weak and predictable– the characterization is lacking and the episodes need more originality.”  So blame rests with the writers as well, sadly. They also use a cryptic voice-over and cuts to a dark room filled with Galileo thermometers to try and establish the intrigue and to foil Saya’s seemingly bright shiny everyday life, and to try and foreshadow the dramatic end, but they waaaaaay overused it and relied too heavily on it.  Also, cryptic, vague, musing voice-overs are not good storytelling, and get old fast.  They happen all the time, give us absolutely no information, are extremely repetitive, and frankly, I thought they made the show drag and felt heavy-handed.  Personally, I feel like it would have build up much more suspense if the viewer was in on the twist far sooner than the protagonist, because it seemed confusing and unbelievable the way it was all jam crammed in the end. There were vague hints that something was up, and that was interesting, but I think they could have done a much better job with a lot of things, overall.

Nifty thermometers + abstract voice overs /= good anime

Speaking of the end, it doesn’t.  The show leaves off on right after a CLAMP-tastic moment (it’s all fun and games until CLAMP…) that seemed like a bad knock-off of the tokyo arc of Tsubasa to me, and then the end is suppose to come in a movie to be released later.  Overall, the show seems like CLAMP recycled a lot of characters and plot points from their previous work and barfed them out, then some foolish executives/editors okayed them (though I will say I clapped and squeed when I realized the crossover, I was SO VERY excited).  I smelled Kobato remix straight off and did not like that. Alternately, CLAMP was  creatively stifled by the constraints of working within an existing genre, and it didn’t make for the lovely synthesis that I hoped for.

Anyway, speaking of Kobato, it’s similar in quality and plot progression were Kobato more gory than X. If you like CLAMP, you’ll enjoy Blood-C.  If you don’t have very strict plot demands, you’ll be able to enjoy blood-C.  If you’re interested in blood and gore and fighting chicks with swords, you’ll enjoy Blood-C.  If you just really like the Blood franchise, watch this.  If these things don’t apply to you, as I think will be the case with the majority of people, it probably isn’t worth your time to watch Blood-C. It’s one big lost opportunity, though I am looking forward to seeing the movie and the ending, though this time I have no hopes and so can’t be disappointed.

Review: Gakuen Heaven

Clearly, I am still going through what I call “wall of guys” kinda of anime.  You know, when a show literally has a shot of bishi lined up for the camera like in “The Last Supper.”  Well, Gakuen Heaven certainly falls into that category, with 14 main characters, all bishi and all male. And this isn’t the cute and fluffy BL.  It’s the tall, dark, and handsome sweep you off your adorable feet BL.

The premise of the show is that the main character, Keita, is suddenly accepted into the insanely famous and elite Bell Liberty harem School (otherwise known as BL gakuen, *cough cough, hint hint*).  The school sends out acceptance letters only to famous and elite people who are very good at whatever it is they are good at, so middle-of-the-road, not-so-special-but-adorable-and-lucky Mr. Protagonist is rather confused as to why he gets accepted, and even though he questions his qualifications, transfers in.  In actuality, he got in because the chairman has the hots for himis his childhood boyfriend … gave him a special recommendation and overrode the board of directors. Whether or not he is qualified to attend becomes the driving plot point, eventually culminating between and out-and-out, no holds barred challenge between the corrupt Vice Chairman and the Chairman (he does actually have some amazering lucky luck, and this is sorta given as his special skill that got him in and keeps him in. And I suppose it does count as great luck to have run into the chairman as a young boy and won his heart…).

The cast consists entirely of males, and they’re pretty much all bishi, all slashable with one of the other supporting cast, and all slashable with the main character. At one point the main character even comments on the all-male cast, to which the bishi he’s talking to is like “Oh no, females totally exist! I can introduce some to you” and the protagonist is like, “Oh, there’s no need, k thx.”  To which I snorted loudy in amusement.

There are some of the typical BL tropes in the cast but they actual stood apart for me as moderately unique, especially due to the size of the cast and their unique talents.  It’s no Angelique, but the selection of pairables is pretty extensive.  And the show makes a great many overtures to turn your mind down a dirty dirty BL path.  The first few episodes (before some angsty plot kicks in) start of with salacious sounding dialogue between two mostly off-screen supporting characters, only to pan out and show them doing mundane activities (such as paperwork and patching a leak). Which, honestly, I adored!  It was exactly the note I wanted to start a fluffy show like this on, though I am glad it phased out when the tone of the show changed.  Most of the eye-catches were also meant to titillate.

So taken out of the BL context and appeal,  the show isn’t really anything impressive.  The huge cast of characters doesn’t really allow much characterization and relies heavily on tropes, though some of the individual character’s personalities do manage to shine through rather well.  The plot is mainly exploring the fit of Keita to the school, in order to inevitably hook him up with his main love interest, but never really explains to my satisfaction why he belongs there, whether or not he is actually qualified to be there.  It just sorta was like, well you’re a lucky dude, and look at how happy you make all of these extraordinarily talented bishis! Of course you belong here! The Chairman wants to bang you so bad! The directing wasn’t bad, and did what it could on a the typically low BL budget, but I never really saw anything noteworthy to it either.  The art and animation was similarly restrained by lack of money, so talking stills abound and most of the backgrounds are fairly blase at best. The movement was occasionally awkward and bad, and there are a few shots that are bad enough to deserve a facepalm scattered throughout the show.

It confines all of it’s SD silliness to a very, very poorly animated segment at the end of each episode called Hamu Hamu Heaven (which clearly is because it features chibi hamster versions of the main characters).  I enjoyed them, but I wish they had added a little more to the show, instead of being a silly aside that gave a smidgen of characterization.

Overall, the characters are underdeveloped and the cast massive, the plot totally falls flat when you stop and think about it and the tension of the show is mostly sexual and slashy. however, for the most part the show is interesting to watch and feels unique and distinct from other, similar titles.  I especially love the treasury vs student council dynamic (plus I heart the treasury pairing, so…).  I enjoyed this show, though I didn’t love love it, but I like BL.  If you are into BL, enjoy a moderately silly premise, don’t really want to think to much but aren’t in the mood for one of the fluffy, foolish titles (like Princess Princess), this is a great show to just sit back and enjoy the titillating yet serious BL bishi fun. If not, run, don’t walk, away from this show. It will hurt your thinking parts, and if you have them, your homophobic ones, and it won’t even be cracked out or insane enough for it to be so bad it’s good.

Review: Suki na Mono wa Suki Dakara Shouganai!! (aka, Sukisho)

So, this is a very, very BL 12 episode anime plus a one episode OVA.  They even let you know right off the bat by making the very first scene one where a main male character feels up the other in his sleep. It’s got everything a good daytime drama has: amnesia, split personalities, brainwashing, salacious implications, suspicious suicide attempts, manipulative villainous smexies, mad scientists, ghosts, mini-me, kaitou, costumes… All sorts of fun! A silly, fun show in it’s genre, but it’s REALLY in that genre, so not likely to be enjoyed by anyone who doesn’t like the genre itself.

The main character is Sora, and aside from his amnesia and split personality, he’s just trying to live a normal life.  The main love interest is Nao, who is in a similar boat, but unlike in All My Circuits, he doesn’t have amnesia.  The show then divides it’s time between ridiculous everyday antics, mostly instigated by their mutual friend Matsuri, and following the more serious plot exploring the main duo’s other personalities.

As is typical of BL titles, the production values are clearly not very high, though they are manageable, and not too glaringly awful.  The directing, art and animation are standard, if a bit pastel. The premise is also silly, but takes itself seriously towards the end. The plot is nearly nonexistent, and practically written by monkeys on crack, but it’s fun if you don’t think about it. The main characters hooked up immediately, and then they spend the rest of the show coming together emotionally and mentally, and physically off-camera.  It also has a fair amount of SD comedy silliness, physical comedy,  fanservice, and other Shounen Ai typical tropes.  It even features several BL common and beloved seiyuu! The main character switches between Midorikawa Hikaru and Koyasu Tahehito! Though that joke/pairing is esoteric, so only the genre-savvy are going to get that. As a matter of fact, it is so heavily invested in the tropes and themes of the Shounen Ai/BL genre, that for people who are familiar with the genre it will seems like everyday fare but for people new to the genre, it would probably be pretty overwhelming and nonsensical. Even for the genre-savvy, this show barely makes sense, especially once the angst-plot kicks in.

As is common to the genre, there is slash fodder EVERYWHERE, and the all-male cast gradually pairs off into gay-teams.  You can probably find some canon basis for almost any pairing you might fancy, though this show does have main canon pairings. I ADORE the secret passageway in ep 2! The handcuffs! Shinichirou and Nanami are adorable together, and I enjoy pairing them, though I usually like the adult couples more than the angsty teen ones.  I accept that they don’t make as entertaining TV most times though. Clearly, Yoru is my favorite character, because Yoru has heterochromatic eyes. ^_~  Though in all seriousness, how can you not squeal over a hot math teacher.  Clearly, Math = lounging in a leather jacket! And the next episode dance is adorable!

However, I really don’t like the way the adult characters break down melodramatically towards the end.  It feels OOC and just like a cheap plot ploy.  Though the whole stabbing thing really shows that the show is about the older couple, and their awesomeness, and the younger pair are just the fluffy co-stars.  I’m okay, but not really happy, with the explanation behind the split personalities. In general, the plot kicked in and kinda ruined the fun of this show, and it didn’t have much going for it before that.

So if you like BL, silly fluffy fun, a crazy premise, the occasional sexy action and an end-of-the-show-attack-of-the-angsty-backstory, then this show was fucking made for you. That’s why I liked it.  But if those things aren’t appealing at all to you, this show is not going to be your cup of tea. Best not to even bother with it. It’s mediocre on all fronts, and lacking in originality and coherent, believable plot.

Dog Days: aka an AU anime about an AU Levi Meeuwenberg from Ninja Warrior

There's something... reminiscent of each other... about you two.

Dog days is all about a regular Joe.  Except that the main character is a foreigner (I think?)  living and going to school in japan.  Named Shinku Izumi (thus why I’m not sure he’s actually a foreigner.  Wikipedia tells me he’s half, but the odd mother/father japanese way of parsing which half and whether or not that makes you actually japanese and his resulting citizen status makes me unsure as to how japanese he’s supposed to be).  But he’s also living his normal live and getting ready for school – sans the fact that he has a great love for and impressive parkour skills and leaps off his second floor balcony, and does backwards flips while using the street railings as a balance beam.    He loves it so much that he dreams to his osananajimi girl of winning Ninja Warrior/Sasuke.

So the first thing that struck me in this show was a curiosity about copyright issues when they show the final tower of Ninja Warrior/Sasuke.  But before I could ponder that too thoroughly, what looked like a little bear started stalking the main character with a bejeweled dagger in it’s mouth.  Then I realized it was a dog when it opened up a hole into another dimension…

…and swooshes the protagonist a la Magic Knights Rayearth style to a magical land of enchantment.  Yes. Exactly like Magic Knights Raearth. Not like Kyou Kara Maou as my roommate and the internets have suggested (though Yuri’s voice actor does appear in Dog Days).  He’s not there to rule or have slashy adventures.  Like Fuu, Hikaru and Umi were supposed battle to save the magical kingdom country and restore the balance of the forces in the world, so is our protagonist. But not with mechas.  By winning a silly version of  Ninja Warrior/Sasuke.

Don’t know why the voice of the narrator from Hayate no Gotoku and Cell is a puppy general muscle man.  But he is (Norio Wakamoto as puppy man General Godwin). It is odd. and throws me.  Also, the adorable main character’s seiyuu also was Yagami Light in Death note.  Yes, that too throws me off and throws me hard.  (I’ll take this obstacle course…*pant pant*…. and beat it!)

Don’t know why Koyasu Takehito is on some random panel of apparent nobles or generals discussing war.  But I love Koyasu Takehito and he can do whatever he wants anytime! XD

I’m thrown by the fact that in Dog Days, his Cephiro (the country he was summoned to save) is named  Biscotti. I can accept the Ginyu Force, but at least their names are scramble up food names!  There’s something disarming when they talk of saving Biscotti.

I don’t know why they turn into cat-balls and dog-balls when you hit them, but it does take the potential violence to a silly place and I think I appreciate it.  I’m not sure.  They also draw all the mooks like clones of one male mook, which is both funny and off-putting.

I don’t know why they fly around of fluffy Chocobos. But they do. There are a lot of inexplicable things in this show that makes me wonder about copyright infringement.

Overall, not much in it that seemed wholly original.  The main character’s battle outfit seems standard fantasy game fare.  In fact, I probably couldn’t tell the other characters from those in Utawarerumono, or Tears to Tiara (if there were more anthropomorphic characters), if they were in the background somewhere.  Though the coloring and styling is admittedly more that a little cutesy-er.  It doesn’t deviate much from established tropes and the other shows it seems to be drawing heavily from.

Really, it seems like the staff had watched Levi Meeuwenberg on Ninja Warrior/Sasuke and was so impressed, that they felt the need to make him the star of his own anime. Granted, I too was terribly impressed by Levi Meeuwenberg, and I loved hearing them say his name, so I am going with this premise.  I’m kinda hoping the crazy amalgamation of genres going on is going to be entertaining, but I don’t really have very high hopes. I do think it’s worth watching  and following, though.  There is something I’m enjoying abut the inexplicable cast of voices, the inexplicable combination of ideas and the inexplicable methods of fighting.   Here’s to hoping it’s inexplicably entertaining!