Monday, May 18, 2009

Midseason Update: Best Spring 2009 Anime

lol I love Saki and Akira.

Spring 2009 has been horribly skimpy on the yuri, but there have still been several strong offerings so far. I haven't sampled every new spring show (partly because I pick and choose from Anime News Network's spring preview guide early on, and partly because I have a life), so I may have missed a gem or two. (For example, Cross Game received very good reviews, but I didn't watch it because I'm not very interested in baseball anime.)

All reviews are subjective, and like every other reviewer on Earth, I have biases and preferences. So, that will obviously figure into my reviews.

Eden of the East
Eden of the East is the first completely original production to air on the Noitamina time block on Fuji TV. I admire Noitamina for providing quality programs for a different demographic than the usual otaku and kids, but the sheer excellence of this show still blew me away. The story is about a girl named Saki who goes on a college graduation trip to Washington D.C. and, while being bothered by two police officers for trying to throw a coin into the White House fountain, she sees a naked guy cheerfully waving a gun across the street. After many a mishap (and Saki giving the guy some clothes to wear), the guy, who is an amnesiac who discovers that he had wiped his own memories but decides to adopt the name "Akira Takizawa", returns to Japan with Saki. At the airport, they see on the news that Japan has been attacked by a missile strike, but nobody died as a result. After they return, as Saki aimlessly searches for a job, she and Akira go about trying to figure out what he was involved in before he wiped his memory. Despite the premise, this is a pretty funny, whimsical show, with some interesting, non-didactic commentary on issues that affect Japanese youth today (this is a very good op-ed from the Asashi Shimbun that illustrates some of those issues). Each episode is consistently entertaining and well-written, with charming character designs by Chica Umino and strongly likeable characters. Action, humor, romance, and political intrigue in a show that never takes itself too seriously: there's something for everyone.

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
As both a remake and the highest profile title to premiere this season (after Dragonball Kai, probably), FMA: Brotherhood has some enormous shoes to fill. Thankfully, after the first episode, it's about as faithful an adaptation of the original manga as one could ask for, and people who haven't read the FMA manga should appreciate it also. Most people should be familiar with the story: In a fantasy world where people can transmute objects through alchemy, two brothers try to use alchemy to bring their dead mother to life. They fail, and the older brother, Ed, loses his right arm and left leg and the younger brother, Al, loses his entire body. Ed affixes Al's soul to a soul of armor and become a state alchemist so that he can find a way to restore their bodies. That this title is worth watching shouldn't be a surprise to most people. It didn't quite reach excellence until episode 4, but since then it's been great. Even though I know what's going to happen (since this is staying really faithful to the manga), it's still a lot of fun to see the characters who, imo, made FMA the success that it is, animated again.

Ristorante Paradiso
A wonderfully atmospheric (and more blatantly josei than Eden of the East) title that didn't impress me in its first episode, but hooked me from episode 2 on. ^^ Ristorante Paradiso stars Nicoletta, a twenty one year old woman whose grandmother raised her because her mother left her as a child to remarry a man in Rome who doesn't want to marry a divorcee. Nicoletta goes to the restaurant that the man owns, Casseta dell'orso, to spill the beans about her mother's past, but her mother convinces her not to, and for the time being, Nicoletta stays mum and gets a job as a cook at the restaurant. Oh, and the restaurant's shtick is that all of the servers are distinguished gentlemen who wear glasses, making it *ahem* especially popular with women. ^^;; Despite the, uh, unique reverse harem premise (hence my lukewarm reception of episode 1; I feared that Nicoletta's family drama was going to get marginalized in favor of the glasses-wearing oyaji), the show refreshingly focuses on Nicoletta figuring out her direction in life while trying to decide how to deal with her mother's situation. (I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop, especially since two of the restaurant staff have figured it out by episode 6! > <;;) Pleasantly, Ristorante Paradiso also reminds me of my trip to Italy last summer. Oh, and I realized while watching episode 4 that this show actually features a middle-aged woman who is married and has a successful career as a lawyer at the same time!! Isn't that insane? :) Granted, she is an Italian woman living in Italy, and she left her kid...but it's still a nice change of pace in my book.

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