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Otona Joshi no Anime Time – Kawamo o Suberu Kaze (The Answer Studio)
It’s always neat discovering little pieces of animation floating around seemingly hidden under the radar, overshadowed, apparently, by all the attention showered upon the more standard fare shown on TV. Well, sometimes they’re obscured for a reason, but there are also times where they’re unexpectedly good. Though I don’t really think this particular short film was obscured or hidden in any way, since after all, this one aired on the NHK (midnight, though it was) and was based on a story by a Naoki Prize – winning author, plus, it appeared geared towards the general public, beyond the spectrum of what people normally assume to be the ordinary anime viewer base. It just went about its business without any loud fanfare, did its job and went out. Which is part of the reasons I liked it.
Puella Magi Madoka Magica #11
Imagine Rei in episode 25 of the Evangelion TV series, running to school with toast in her mouth. That’s me trying to catch up with what’s popular these days, and also me trying to blog whatever it is that catches the eye. Slow as an old turtle, this place is. Anyway, it’s been a storied and much-talked-about wait for the final two episodes of Shaft’s Madoka, and last week they finally saw the time of day (or should I say, night). The series is now undoubtedly one of the most popular TV anime in the past few months, and the final two episodes only served to whet the appetites of the fans of the show due to the massively long delay it faced because of the tragedy in Japan a month ago. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, it seemed.
So late to the game again I was watching the second episode of [C] that I had expected to witness something even better than the debut episode, which was eminently watchable, yet visibly lacking. There wasn’t enough of that Kenji Nakamura trademark insane yet structured art sensibility and the very capable directing that worked really well with the almost-random styles that really wouldn’t fit just about anywhere. I didn’t think it was that bad, since there were a few good tidbits here and there; it’s just that there wasn’t enough of those to go around, and I didn’t feel that the stuff in between held up well enough in the end. As much as I’m not sold on Ano Hana, I actually enjoyed the second ep of that series more than the latest iteration of [C]. The former show, as predictably dramatic as it feels, actually had things of interest in its own second episode, which I probably would be hard-pressed to say for [C].
Faithful readers of this blog (if there are even any) wouldn’t be so surprised that I am making my debut blogging a full TV series with Kenji Nakamura’s latest offering [C], which had just aired last week on Fuji TV‘s well-liked anime block noitaminA. I’ve long been a fan of Nakamura’s since 2007’s Mononoke, and as such a new anime project coming from his hand is always welcome news. To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect from this latest effort of his. Striking visual presentation and cool directing are the sort of hallmarks of Nakamura’s, and I wondered where he will go next after 2009’s Trapeze, which was in itself a bit of a departure from the loud artfulness of Mononoke and into newer, more psychedelic territory.
Sunrise’s new original anime Tiger & Bunny sure is impressive so far. I liked the quirky flavor of the premise; it was like an obvious and playful jab at the advertisers who are part of the pieces fueling the production of an anime. As such, the many instances of product placement abound in the show are made to blend seamlessly with the whole anime, not as blatant or even shameless plugs than in other times. It’s certainly a unique series in that it revolves around such an external and unheard-of concept, and I wonder how its production came about. While the way advertising is treated in Tiger & Bunny is quite refreshing, it’s not going to matter much if the actual show itself wasn’t entertaining, which I’m glad to note otherwise. The two episodes of T & B so far were definitely entertaining, posing a good balance between its hook and its cast of characters. They’re all diverse and likable in their own right; their appeal stemming from their individual quirks.
Madhouse’s X-Men also continues to impress. They’ve brought in a surprisingly talented set of staff for episodes 1 and 2, and as a result episode 1 had considerably good production values. Admittedly, the show isn’t as heavy and full in terms of actual content, but I don’t think they were aiming for that anyway. It’s more a cheesy, campy nostalgia trip to the superhero shows way back when. It’s a good time-waster on dry weekends, and it’s not really a bad thing to watch the show just for that. I hear there’s more good people going aboard the show in future episodes, so I’m looking forward to it. I’ve seen Souichiro Matsuda credited on episode 1, but since there were a lot of good cuts there, especially in the beginning, I can’t pin him down. Other people involved in the show are Sushio, Chikashi Kubota (OP), and I think also Keisuke Watabe (OP, ep 1 animation).
It seems Dynamic Pro is busy promoting their properties these days. Just two years ago they secured another Mazinger anime, Shin Mazinger, and fast forward to today there’s a new Mazinkaiser anime, and now this. Another remake of a Go Nagai property, Dororon Enma-kun Meeramera handled by Brains Base proved to be yet another series which started on the right foot. I was pumped for Mazinkaiser when it came out, but I have to admit the OVA series has been wildly uneven. From the wild, hot-blooded energy found in episode 1 to the incredibly flat feeling exposed in episode 2, it’s not as consistent as I imagined. Well, it’s only 3 episodes anyway, so it’s almost a sure thing that the whole anime would end on a massively explosive note.
What’s nice about this updating of the original 1973 TV anime is that, like Shin Mazinger, they didn’t appear to merely improve things on the audiovisual front by way of new animation and music, but they also added new ideas and embellishments to add to the new HD Dororon experience. It’s only the first episode, sure, but that’s the feeling the anime gave me. There really is quite a lot of interesting stuff going on moment after moment, but just enough to carry the episode through to its end. I also liked how these ideas aren’t saturated on a single scene, instead they’re divided quite evenly, making the episode consistently funny throughout. I especially liked how they used their gags, Harumi’s self-gags a prime example. Episode 1 was very precise and streamlined in its presentation, adeptly mixing together the irreverent humor that’s a Nagai signature with the equally wacky storyline.
Go Nagai isn’t appreciated by everybody because of the content of his properties, but there really is something very entertaining about his lowbrow and insane stories. They’re not simply there to offend, but in a sense there’s even something deeper hidden beneath his madness. It’s not all toilet humor and sex jokes, which I think is proven by the way his works have remained relevant and iconic even today. The man is hailed as one of the most influential figures in manga for a reason. Anyway, I like the way the director, Yoshitomo Yonetani (GaoGaiGar), still added his own touches to the ep, thereby giving it his own individual personality, all the while continuing to preserve the retro allure of the original product. I think that’s why they got a director who was involved in something as high-powered as a Braves series, much like how the hotblood master Yasuhiro Imagawa got tapped to direct Shin Mazinger.
I don’t know if I’m really going to actively blog a new spring series, even with all the impressive first few episodes that have aired. Maybe I’m going to have to wait until spring noitaminA finally airs until I make a choice, if I do decide to pick one at all. Kenji Nakamura’s [C] still looks very promising to me even with its lackluster second PV because I’m a Nakamura fan and that he has basically the same set of people from his Toei shows working with him here, so all that remains now is to actually get a taste of episode 1 before I can lay my doubts to rest.
One thing that impresses me about Jiro Matsumoto (Freesia, Tropical Citron, Keep on Vibrating) is mainly his art. He’s one of the artists I know who can draw tantalizingly sexy women using lots of rough and sketchy lines with very defined features. The faces of the women he draws are luscious and positively alluring. Probably, I can compare him to Samura when it comes to drawing humans (Samura is just more technically adept, IMO). It also helps that he isn’t averse to drawing a few sex scenes here and there. Still, I have to say the only manga of his that I can say I really enjoyed would be Tropical Citron, as the whole thing is condensed “sex, drugs, and rock and roll” set in trippy psychedelic constructs. And perhaps that manga is the most well-suited for translation to animation too. It just needs a capable set of people to take charge.
Moving on, it’s kinda rewarding to finally finish episodically blogging a series, now that I think about it…
Young Animator Training Project #4 – Bannou Yasai Ninninman (Masayuki Yoshihara, PA Works)
Here we are at last to the last installment of the YATP animation initiative. The whole thing so far has had its fair share of slow patches, but all the parts have been consistently watchable. It shames me to say that it was only while watching Ninninman that I noticed how there was a pattern to the entire project. One one side you have the vibrant and energetic kind of animation in both Kizuna Ichigeki and Ninninman, and on the other you have the slower and more character-oriented kind in both Ojisan no Lamp and Tansu Warashi–each with varied results. I’m just really really slow, I guess.
So it turns out that PA Works’ new spring anime Hanasaku Iroha has been generating a lot of buzz in the anime fan sphere lately (at least in those places I visit regularly). I wasn’t too hyped about it when I first heard about it, since I wasn’t really sure which direction it was going to take, but after sitting down to watch the first episode, I was pleased with what I saw. Episode 1, at least, had tight presentation, brisk pacing, plus smooth and steady character introductions and interactions. It was a nice start. Though, I’m going to have to wait until the series is at least three episodes in for me to really sink my teeth into it. What the first episode did tell me, however, was that it was wrong for me to think of Masahiro Andou as purely an action guy. His work here was impressive.
All right, moving on…
Young Animator Training Project #3 – Tansu Warashi (Kazuchika Kise, Production I.G)
As opposed to the other two preceding episodes of the YATP, this one doesn’t have a lot of things going for it. I expected good things from this alongside Kizuna because of the name value of the staff, but I found myself a bit deflated after watching it. Not that the episode itself was bad; it’s just that it just I came away with the feeling that it was just too slimmed down to be a part of the YATP. Ojisan ran in a similar vein as Tansu, but the former just had a lot more things, well, going on. You saw deliberate and controlled character acting in Ojisan, whereas in Tansu there just wasn’t enough of a sense of vitality to carry it through to the end. I just wanted a bit more life in this ep, considering that it is a part of an animation initiative.
I think I’m not alone here when I say that there won’t be another TV mecha anime to be released any time soon with as high a quality of sheer workmanship as the finale of Bones’ Star Driver. That episode felt like a movie trapped inside a TV episode, with the staff list filled with its own fair share of feature-level animators. It was a purely exhilarating affair from start to finish, totally bombarding the viewers with its sheer power and energy for 24 full minutes. The whole series was a mixed bag for me, but overall it was a very fun watch much in the same way as most Enokido anime are.
But, since this isn’t a Star Driver post, let’s end it there.
Young Animator Training Project – Kizuna Ichigeki (Mitsuru Hongo, Ascension)
If Ojisan no Lamp was a more delicate and balanced episode, this one is the direct opposite. This, I guess, is where the young animators involved in this initiative really strutted their stuff under the supervision of a fun director, a respected art director, and a very loose and flexible character designer. It’s a very enjoyable show that I feel really reflects the background of the supervisory staff, and shows how well the old and the new collaborated to form a good product. Not coincidentally, this was one of the parts of the series that I’ve looked forward to the most, and I’ve got to say I wasn’t disappointed at all.
Time flies. It feels like it was only yesterday that I salivated over the announcement of new anime series for Kaiji and Gintama, and now one of them has aired while the other is waiting in the wings. The much-awaited spring anime season is now upon us, and as such, fans have gobbled up the first episodes of those that aired first. But for me, I haven’t even touched the final episodes of my winter shows yet, not to mention the only hold-over from fall 2010, Star Driver. Then we have the winter noitaminA offerings, which I just finished a few days ago, and only now have I decided to do a little something to commemorate the event. That’s how slow everything in this place is. There are practically a thousand more blogs to visit, anyway, so I’m going to leave the episodic blogging to them (aside from those series that catch my eye).
If you want your latest unnecessary anime commentary/reviews handed to you yesterday, then don’t come here.
Fractale (A1 Pictures/Ordet, Yutaka Yamamoto)
To begin, let me just say that Hourou Musuko was, in my mind, the best show that aired in the winter season. It did well for itself considering its length, aptly cutting out and dividing the source material to fit the staff’s purposes. The series as a whole was well-paced. Each episode ended right where it should, and there’s hardly any superfluous episodes; all of them flowed quite smoothly from one week to the next. The drama was short and sweet, neither too understated nor too overplayed. Many people thought the omission of about five volumes’ worth of content at the beginning of the series hurt it, but I didn’t feel it did. It evoked the necessary sense of curiosity for the anime, and more importantly for the source material itself. It was a good business decision for them. So, to the point…
If you’ve been following a specific manga series for quite some time, you’d have noticed little bits and pieces of changes in it as you went along–most glaring of which is in the art department. Be it as simple as drawing slightly more rounded eyes and much wider faces or as advanced as using sketchier, rougher lines to draw characters, that element of change always creeps up along the way when an artist slowly and surely develops his own fuller approach to his art. A few popular examples would be Takehiko Inoue from Slam Dunk to Vagabond, Makoto Yukimura from Planetes to present-day Vinland Saga, and Kentaro Miura from his early Berserk days in 1989 to his current Berserk. Hiroaki Samura gradually switched up his art style from a lighter, more pencil-focused line art to use of more inks and bold lines in Blade of the Immortal, but still he retained his initial rough flavor. Even Tite Kubo got in on the act. His early Zombie Powder/Bleach days saw him at his most wild and energetic, then as the years went by, he had settled into the much more simplified design work we see today.
Sometimes, there are also artists who change things up in such a bold and striking way that you almost could not relate their present style to their other works. Save for a few signature quirks, like the way a face or a body is drawn, there’s almost no other direct link from the past to the present. In some ways, I think it’s an artist exploring the ways and means of his craft, and for others, there’s also the sense that it’s just another logical step in his career as an artist.
Takemitsu Zamurai (Story: Eifuku Issei, Art: Taiyou Matsumoto)
Such an example would be Taiyou Matsumoto. I’ve covered one of his earlier works (Zero) before in this upstart blog, and one of the things I noted was the stark contrast between that and Takemitsu. There’s now less focus on boldly drawn lines and forms, but here comes a lighter, more sensitive drawing style that feels almost otherworldly. I don’t know many artists who have changed approaches the way Matsumoto has. One thing I also remember noting in the past Matsumoto-centric post I made was the versatility of Matsumoto as an artist. Here is where that comes into play in a fuller, more mature, and more effective manner.