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First Impressions

So I’ve been gone for about three weeks, and now I find myself catching up with the latest anime season (fall), which has finally gotten itself underway this past week, providing yet again a considerable smattering of new TV anime and such to pass the time and entertain me. But anyway, since I’ve been getting absent for more often now, I think I won’t be able to keep blogging cartoons with the same frequency as before. Still, if there’s something interesting that catches my eye, I’ll try my best to write my thoughts about it here–mental exercise, and all that. As such, this blog is still very much alive, though not kicking as hard.

 

One significant development that’s arisen these past days is the emergence of Hiroyuki Imaishi’s new studio, called Studio Trigger, thereby laying to rest the rumors detailing his supposed transfer to Anno’s Studio Khara, but unfortunately, this also confirms the much-discussed information about his departure from Gainax a few months ago. Barring some kind of internal dispute, I myself wouldn’t have imagined the guy leaving his mother studio after the truckload of good work he’s contributed there over the years, but I guess these kinds of things eventually happen. This wouldn’t be the first time–many studios have been formed by creators leaving their mother companies, the most famous example of the past decade being Bones (formed by members of Sunrise’s studio 2, led by company head/producer Masahiko Minami). If I recall correctly, Production IG was also formed in a similar way (splitting off from Tatsunoko, led by animator Takayuki Goto and producer Mitsuhisa Ishikawa), not counting those old studios started by expats from other studios, the Toeis and the Mushi Pros. Joining Imaishi in his new company is Masahiko Ohtsuka, one of the pillars of his old Gainax TV series (TTGL, PSG). With this news, it probably won’t be too long now before Imaishi can get his old buddies back to work with him again, like You Yoshinari, et al. Personally, I think it’s a good move for the director creatively, as he can now exercise greater freedom and control than he’s had at Gainax (if such a thing is even possible). I look forward, with bated breath, to their future productions.

I’ve also checked out first episodes of the new fall shows, and I have to say I’ve been somewhat underwhelmed. Admittedly, I’d already found the season a bit flat when I first saw the charts, and I’m only itching for three shows at most, so maybe this is only par of the course, as personal expectations go. Which is not to say that they’re downright terrible, or anything. I just wasn’t as hooked as I’d hoped basing from the leader episodes, which normally are the best ones in a series. Hopefully they pick up in the next few weeks.

One of Sunrise’s three TV anime this season, and also one of Junichi Sato’s two TV anime in the same season, Phi Brain, aired its first episode this week, which I’ve found to be solidly composed and well-produced enough, but is hampered by the content and the trademark conventions of anime in terms of the characters and execution of scenes. The show is a typical Sunrise anime in that it has comparably higher production values and good workmanship, so it’s actually respectable. It merely was flat and plain otherwise. It could be a decent enough puzzle anime, sort of like a hiked-up YuGiOh, since they went to the trouble of hiring some puzzle consultant or other, which could be nice, but I don’t think it’s going to be anything other than that. Especially since Sato’s also busy with another project at another studio. He only did storyboard for Phi Brain #1 too, which could be a result of that. As an aside, I did enjoy the character designs of the series, if only for the way the eyes were drawn. I dunno, but it kind of reminds me of a cross between the drawings in Noein and Zatch Bell.

Speaking of which, I did like the first ep of Sato’s other fall show, Tamayura TV, if only for the languid pace and naturally playful tone and rhythm he’d established throughout its duration, an approach he’d honed during his stint as director of Aria. Also produced at HAL Film Maker, it  retained the approach of the prior OVAs, which I guess isn’t so hard to do. Contrary to Phi Brain, he wrote the script, composed the storyboard, and processed it as episode director, accounting for the slick and tight and smooth flow of the ep. The main thing that irked me was the extreme fluffiness and overly cutesy look and feel of the characters and their acting. I guess when you say ‘healing anime’ you mean ‘exaggerated cuteness and overbearing quirkiness’. Well, anyway, I’ll keep watching it. There’s a weird cat in the show, too.

I also recently watched another of Sunrise’s newest fall anime, Horizon, and thought it nigh unwatchable. Typical Sunrise was the show as well, in terms of the technical side of things, seen in the elaborately detailed character designs, the music, the animation. Except the first ep didn’t accomplish much of anything, only to turn me off by suddenly dropping me into it and expecting me to care about the complicated setting and the story that screamed how convoluted and stupid it was going to be. There wasn’t a good, strong flow to the episode, only buzzing past one end to another, without taking the time out to allow the viewer to absorb the particulars of the plot and characters. It felt as if it was too ambitious for its own good. Now, I enjoyed Sacred Seven, but it was simply because the show had a firm grasp on its identity and never tried to go beyond that using its limited capacity–also because it had some nice shots of animation. Horizon #1 had nice and short bits of animation as well, but that’s just not enough. It looks to be a show that relies on its cute characters as a selling point, but I’m afraid it’s not sold to me. Oh well, that’s what I get for expecting anything from an LN-derived anime.

JC Staff’s Kimi to Boku actually surprised me with how entertaining it was. Superficially, it looks to be of the same mold as Tamayura, except replace the high school girls with high school boys and take away the weird cat, but what felt different to me was that Kimi to Boku was somewhat more grounded and effective. The fact that there were no girls acting all giddy and cute in the standard, exaggerated anime way probably helped. Characters were introduced reasonably well, using an episode’s worth to flesh them out. I also found the interweaving of flashbacks and the arrangement of scenes to be nicely handled, cutting and switching up at the right times, keeping interest intact and not becoming too boring with its slowness. Chief director Mamoru Kanbe (Denpateki na Kanojo, Sora no Woto) did the storyboard and directed his own ep, which most likely accounts for it. If it weren’t for another show, I’d have marked this one (first ep, at least) as the most enjoyable of the shows I’ve sampled.

That other show would be Madhouse’s Chihayafuru, one of the three shows I was relatively excited about before the start of the fall season. The first episode was simply efficient, fun and quirky, despite the story revolving around a concept that’s distinctly Japanese, an old word game called karuta. I liked how I got to understand the basic workings of the game while having fun with the character antics on screen, as instead of explaining it to me outright, the ep gave enough focus on the characters acting out the scene on the tube. The episode was tightly composed, with the flashback taking up much of the screen time, and the flow was solid, the pace quick, but quick in the sense that it only showed scenes that mattered. It did so much with so little, although I guess the original material comes into that quite a bit. Anyway, the characters were fun to watch, the story quite enjoyable, and I also liked the shoujo aesthetic of the whole thing. The chief director of the anime, Morio Asaka (NANA) handled both the storyboard and direction, which again accounts for the episode turning out the way it had. It’s mainly for this reason that first episodes (and final ones) of a TV anime are always the most important ones in any given series: you get to see the style and approach of the main team behind the series in their fullest density, and it’s all the better if they’re the talented, competent ones.

As for the rest, I was pleasantly entertained by the new anime of Diomedea’s Ika Musume, despite the absence of s1’s director Tsutomu Mizushima (he’s still credited in the OP of s2, though). The new show hasn’t missed a beat, even if the trademark comedic absurdity of a Tsutomu Mizushima wasn’t around anymore, maintaining its delightfully lighthearted sense of humor that’s not in any way obnoxious or tired. I’m also probably the only one in the anime fanbase who has not yet seen, nor read any product of Type – Moon (CANAAN doesn’t count), so I’m not that excited about ufotable’s new TV series Fate/Zero, but since I also am curious to see why exactly people are fawning over ufotable in recent years, I think I’m going to give it a try one of these days (even if I’m already finding it hard to watch an hour-long anime). Maybe I could finally ride the ufotable bandwagon or something. There’s also that new P4 anime coming out, which was also considerably hyped practically days after it was first announced, and I’m trying the first ep out to see if all the hype really was worth it–I’m not really a fan of the director and studio (though I thought Sunred was totally great).

Now the only thing left for me to try are the new noitaminA shows: Bones’ UN-GO and Production IG’s Guilty Crown. I’ve already outlined why I’m looking forward to Guilty Crown in an earlier post, and UN-GO seems weird and screwy enough for me to enjoy. I think Seiji Mizushima and his crew are competent enough to bring the story to life reasonably well, even if the director received a lot of flak for his recent work on the Gundam 00 series. Also, it’s noitaminA, man. It hasn’t failed me horribly yet.

2 responses to “First Impressions

  1. Scamp October 8, 2011 at 9:04 am

    I think it’s a good move for the director creatively, as he can now exercise greater freedom and control than he’s had at Gainax (if such a thing is even possible)

    I hadn’t thought of it like this, but if Gainax allowed the man to produce Panty and Stocking, I don’t think there’s anything they won’t let him make

    • ananimas October 8, 2011 at 2:56 pm

      Well, that’s why I added “if such a thing is even possible.” Who knows, with Imaishi in full control of everything in his new company, maybe he’s only going to go crazier and crazier now.

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