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The IdolM@ster #18
I was wondering whether or not Makoto Kobayashi was involved in the newest Last Exile anime out of Gonzo, because I didn’t catch his name in the credits for episode 1, so I looked more closely as I watched the next episodes, and sure enough, there he was: credited under “production design” (or at least, I think that was him). And then, after I’d given the matter some more thought, I realized that I shouldn’t have been wondering about the matter in the first place, and I was made aware once more of my stupidity. The general aesthetic and design sensibilities of the new Last Exile anime is pretty much a straight extension of the style seen in the first series, back in 2003. Imaginative and creative world design is a big part of the mixture that makes for an effective fantasy story, and this is the highlight of both Last Exile series. I imagine the role of a production designer was to provide the basic framework and imagery of the world and the elements inhabiting that world–from clothes to buildings to environments to ships–and once more, Kobayashi exhibits his skill at crafting a beautiful landscape in which the characters move about. It’s just too bad for me that the overall quality of the work (as far as LE: Fam is concerned) doesn’t quite match up to its design brilliance. Without an equally imaginative and talented director holding things together at the top, the resulting anime remains rather insubstantial and lacking.
I’ve been in a sort of funk in the past week, so I’d been more than a little out of it in terms of the goings-on around the world of anime, and it’s also why I hadn’t been paying all that much attention to blogging anything. It happens every once in a while. I don’t go after anime news on my own anyway.
Well, I’ve just readjusted the wiring and returned to the swing of things recently, and I’ve almost caught up to the anime I was keeping up with for the past months (I almost wish I didn’t pick up all the anime that I did; catching up is so troublesome). Notably, I finally had the chance to sample the first episode of Bones‘ film series Towa no Quon, the posthumous work dedicated to director Umanosuke Iida (Tide-Line Blue) who passed away a year ago. It was supposed to be his latest original work, and it was continued by the studio after his unfortunate death. After watching the first film (out of 6), I’m sorry to say that I was markedly underwhelmed. The 47-minute film felt more like your ordinary 24-minute episode of an ordinary TV anime stretched to twice its length instead of a strong and effective, stand-alone film. Rather tedious fare, the film was. I’d expected something even a tad bit more engaging, not just a bland film acted out by flat characters amidst a typical sci-fi story. Granted it was the first movie out of 6, it’s not that bad of a job, but when asked to stand on its own as a singular film, it doesn’t really hold up well.
What did save the film for me, though, were the exciting action sequences, as expected of Bones (and the film staff). Since I didn’t know any better, I had expected the battle in the first few minutes of the film to establish the tone and direction of the rest of the anime, but unfortunately, whatever flashes of greatness those few minutes had gradually dissipated in the course of the piece. There were some nice action bits at the tail-end of the film, for sure, but they just weren’t able to measure up to the excellence of the opening battle. For that we have to thank, first of all, the master action animator Yutaka Nakamura, and the guys who’d helped him out in between, Masahiro Sato and Hironori Tanaka. Nakamura’s patented style of organically furious action animation was in full-force in his section, which is easily identifiable (he was the very first animator I became aware of when I began getting further into anime), and it was satisfying, as expected, as it was filled with wonderful choreography, kinetic speed, and beautiful drawings. In between his work came, supposedly, Masahiro Sato, who I guess animated the parts with the long-haired woman zipping across the background toward the boy, with all the zooming lines and fast action. Tanaka did the initial scene where the mutant boy was running away from the guys chasing him. The flattened backgrounds and brisk, exciting movement give him away. The three of them combined to create very thrilling action in the span of a few minutes.
It’s quite surprising for me not to have heard of Tanaka appearing in a lot of TV anime lately. He did some work on the second OP of Sacred Seven and the fourth Bleach film, but other than that I’ve seen nothing else. It could be that I’m just not watching enough anime, but it still seems weird to me, especially since just some months ago the guy had appeared in upwards of four TV anime in the same season…I wonder what’s going on.
After watching the hilarity that was AnoHana episode 4, I feel that I can now finally focus my attention on its partner show for the season (which wouldn’t be that obvious based on this poor blog). Surely they were trying to be as serious as they could possibly be or that last sequence when they revealed what they did, but it just came off to me as seriously hilarious. It must have been the way they showed all that with a straight face. Such an absurd scenario all told with a visible effort to be serious and dramatic, to me, backfired and almost ruined whatever impact they were going for with the character and with the show in general. Sometimes it’s just those things which don’t even try to be funny that are the most comical.
Complain loud enough, and sooner or later your wishes might be granted. Well, I wasn’t exactly complaining loudly, but it seems there’s someone out there in the anime world who heard my, and I’m sure a lot of people’s, gripes about [C], that they put out a better product for last week. I’m also getting used to the conventional stylistic approach they chose for the show, and am also slowly swallowing the idea that they did shift their focus in terms of presentation for this TV series. It’s still only 3 episodes in, but I sense that it’s safe to say that episode 3 has the combination that they’re aiming for all the while, save for the increase in action. That would have to wait until the next episode, at the very least.
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.