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Just use "that".
Trying to blog about anime again after a couple of months of not actually watching anything (aside from the occasional rewatch or two) is hard work. It’s tough to get the old gears running in proper working order again, trying to get myself back in the groove, something to that effect–it makes for a difficult time when you think you’ve kind of forgotten how you used to blog about anime to begin with. But anyway, enough about that, I’m back and ready to restart. And what a better time to restart, too. Spring 2012 has been a season I’ve been looking forward to since I first glimpsed the lineup a few months back. So much so, in fact, that I’ve dropped everything I’ve been watching then and hunkered down in preparation for this season, which has been pretty damn promising.
There were a lot of new entries to be sampled, but no time to actually talk about them all, so let me just pick out a couple of ’em. First up, that new Lupin III TV anime (TMS Entertainment) produced in celebration of the franchise’s 40th anniversary. A cursory glance at the trailers seemed to imply that this latest incarnation of the series was a departure from the past series, something people haven’t seen from the anime, perhaps ever, it could have even triggered some flak for the new direction it’s taken. The series has even brought aboard some new blood into the franchise: most notably Sayo Yamamoto (Michiko e Hatchin) as director and Takeshi Koike (Redline) as character designer. And, well, judging from the first episode, I’d say it’s all that and then some. Episode 1’s got to be the most brash, most garish, most over-the-top episode of anything I’ve seen this year. Here, style is the name of the game, even more so than past outings (which have been admittedly more sterile). The art is finely textured, the mood is gritty, the rhythm is brisk and no-nonsense. Perhaps the episode functioned more as a canvas for the director to manipulate things at will, impart her unmistakable mark, and basically run wild with the thing, which on further inspection, could have almost gone overboard.
This series is different from most, if not all of the previous Lupin outings ever released. Here the tone is less comedic, less wacky, and it’s not as easygoing as the rest, instead it’s a lot more gritty, a bit darker, and a lot more sexual. Granted the main character this time is Fujiko, but the sheer sexuality in episode 1 alone is a lot more potent and intense than all of the ecchi anime produced this year combined. Unmistakably, they were going for a more adult and a far more raunchier, more risque approach to the series this time around. I would think that this issue was going to be a major point of contention that influences fans whether to embrace this new series or slam it outright. No mistake, I liked the episode, flesh and nudity every other frame aside, but I imagine it’s not going to be easy for people to get into it, especially when they’ve gotten used to the lighter antics from the past products. Still, I think the unabashed sense of style and highly expressive sensibility infused with a ton of pure artistic personality would be enough to glaze over the fact that it’s almost a shameless display of excess, kind of like a test of how far they could possibly go within the context of a modern TV anime. (I don’t think I’ve ever seen a pair of nipples in a TV anime in recent times.) As for me, I liked it, and will watch more of it. A bit of a shame that it’s only 13 episodes long.
After a few weeks of steadily increasing build-up and excitement, every development in the show finally came to a head in last week’s finale. And boy, what a finale that was. The sheer impact of the episode alone was enough to wipe out all the doubts I’ve had about the show since the first few weeks it aired. Sure the first few episodes were a bit spotty, but little by little it caught its stride at the right time and sustained that drive until the end. Not only did the series slowly begin to deliver on the action front, it also managed to build and heighten the interest brought by the particulars of the story–namely, the stuff about the Financial District and such. Most of the economic mumbo-jumbo got over my head, but the presentation and the flow were dramatic enough that I didn’t care anymore. If anything, I shouldn’t have doubted Kenji Nakamura. He did bring the goods here, and then some. It just took getting past the halfway mark of the series to happen.
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.
It appears I was right. The third episodes of the respective winter noitaminA anime have been strong, with one of the said shows kicking into high gear. I’m sure you already know which show I am talking about, so let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. All I’m going to say at this point is that it surely made the biggest splash this week, in terms of content and graphical presentation. Now, enough about that. Recently, I just caught a trailer of the newest noitaminA show set for spring, and I thought I would talk about it a little first.
[C] Control: The Money of Soul and Possibility Control (Tatsunoko Pro, Kenji Nakamura)
After two years, Kenji Nakamura is back with a new original anime project since Trapeze. Big news for Nakamura fans, the fans of his Toei shows (Mononoke, Trapeze), and just noitaminA fans in general. His shows have always been a pleasure to watch; his off-the-wall directing combined with well-placed CGI backgrounds provided a real spectacle, almost approaching the psychedelic. 2007’s Mononoke showed his technique at its best, expertly dividing limited quality of animation with occasional bursts of pure energy in animated form. On the other hand, 2009’s Trapeze was more experimental, fusing together live-action frames and actors with textured colorful backgrounds. Frankly Nakamura’s effort on that show was hit-or-miss, but I respect what he tried to accomplish stylistically. If anything, that show was a needed and highly refreshing change of pace. The show itself showed flashes of brilliance when it did hit the right notes.
Anyway, judging from the trailer for his new anime C (I still don’t know why they chose that terrible title), it looks like a departure from his past efforts. There doesn’t seem to be the layered backdrops with the trademark artsy texture common to his past shows, but it appears to have a more fluid and grounded look, with just enough Nakamura inflection. It looks to be more streamlined than his past shows. The show itself was said to have a lot of focus on action, which is itself another difference. I’m looking forward to how Kenji Nakamura juggles this seemingly new smooth approach, with his trademark loud and flashy presentation. His effective and informed approach to storytelling and directing plus this show’s socially sensitive topic should be a very interesting combination. Early on, I am hopeful for this show–it probably won’t be able to stop noitaminA’s recent ratings slump that’s been going on for some years now–but as a Nakamura fan, I’m happy (curiously enough, Mononoke was one of the highest-rated and best-selling noitaminA anime in the slot’s run).
Director: Kenji Nakamura (Ayakashi: Bakeneko arc, Mononoke, Trapeze)
Series Composition: Noboru Takagi (Baccano!, DRRR!!)
Original Character Design: mebae (Tailenders)
Animation Character Design: Takashi Hashimoto (Mononoke, Trapeze)
Chief Animation Director/s: Takashi Hashimoto, Akira Takada (Haibane Renmei, DRRR!!)
The show drops on Fuji TV’s noitaminA slot this April.