Saturday, October 15, 2011

First Impressions for Fall

Chihayafuru (2 episodes watched):
This show's biggest strength is its protagonist. 

Chihaya is trying to recruit members for a karuta club at her high school. Her school mates are (and always have been) jerks who dislike her for being a non-conformist ("Yeah, she's pretty, but you'll realize that it's wasted as soon as she does something or opens her mouth."), but she doesn't care. 

Seven minutes into the show's first episode, it segues into a flashback about how Chihaya became interested in playing karuta. It seems like the flashback wrapped up in episode 2, and the show will hopefully return to Chihaya's high school years in episode 3. Chihaya and Arata, the class outcast who Chihaya sticks up for and learns to play karuta from, are the only truly likeable characters so far, but what little we see of the teenage version of the third lead, Taichi, doesn't seem bad. Younger Taichi is a raving brat, but he gets enough character development- mostly via his exchange with his mom and his admitting to having stolen the glasses- to elicit sympathy by the end of episode 2. It's hard to tell what the bulk of this show will be like from these first two episodes but it's interesting so far and, again, Chihaya is a delightful lead. 

Chihaya has one glaring moment of stupidity in episode 2, when she says that Taichi wouldn't do anything mean even though he openly bullied Arata and pushed Chihaya when she defended him. Hopefully there won't be any more of that. 

But yes, I'm looking forward to more.

Fate/Zero (3 episodes watched):
Color me surprised. This is my favorite show this season. Fate/Zero is more tightly paced than its predecessor from the outset (no surprise, since it's shorter), more sinister, and devoid of annoying or idiotic characters. Utterly deranged characters? Yes. Machiavellian? Yes. Clueless and overly do-goodery? No. As you can probably tell, I really didn't like Shirou. (Saber's new Master Kiritsugu was taken aback by the fact that Saber is a woman, but she called him out on it.)

For anyone unfamiliar with the premise: Long ago, the three most powerful mage families combined their power to summon the Holy Grail, which can grant any wish. Unfortunately, the Holy Grail can only grant one wish each time it appears. The three families fought over it, beginning the first Holy Grail War. The Grail normally appears every sixty years, sparking another war each time. The war in Fate/Zero takes place only ten years prior to the one in Fate/Stay Night. The Grail chooses seven mages, or Masters, who can compete in the war by summoning a Servant. Servants are the super-powered versions of legendary/historical fighters like Alexander the Great, King Arthur (who, according to the Fate franchise, is really a woman and the strongest Servant), Gilgamesh, Hassan-i Sabbāh, etc. The most chilling Master/Servant combo in Fate/Zero comes about when a serial killer summons Gilles de Rais. (I knew what the outcome of that scene would be, but it was still very...effective. I was like, "No, HE WON'T LET YOU GET AWAY THAT EASILY.") I really like the assortment of Masters, and the motivations, allegiances, and enmities among them. They're all adults, which is refreshing also. I've probably made it sound like the Masters are all unpleasant people. Kiritsugu is a mixed bag- which is what makes him quite interesting- but his wife Irisviel, who serves as Saber's proxy Master, is thoroughly sympathetic; one Master is a university student who intends to disprove the widely accepted idea that one's magical ability is limited by one's pedigree; and the younger son of one of the top three mage families trains to become a Master in the hopes of saving a young girl who his family "adopted" from one of the other top three families to make her represent them in the war.

If you haven't seen Fate/Stay Night, it won't be a negative if you try Fate/Zero. If you have seen F/SN, you'll know who dies, recognize certain F/SN characters as children, and have a stronger "Yay!" or "Oh, shit," reaction when certain Servants are summoned. If you're looking for an atmospheric action/suspense show or a fantasy series that isn't a joke, this is a good bet. Plus, Saber. Shame on me for forgetting how awesome she is. And am I the only person who really enjoyed her interaction with Irisviel in episode 3, as a yuri fan? (I swear to god, this show was my favorite of the season before episode 3, despite what the glut of Saber/Irisviel pics I'm posting indicates.)

Most perspicaciously, I have finally realized what the three hottest Type Moon characters have in common: ponytails.



Bam. I just wanted an excuse for posting these.

Guilty Crown (1 episode):
An average, bored high school boy finds a scantily clad girl who needs his help. Things explode, he saves her, and he learns that he can use a super-powered sword.

Guilty Crown is a very well-produced show. But it's not what I want from Noitamina.

Hunter x Hunter (1 episode):
My sugar-coated memories of Yuu Yuu Hakusho were enough to made me try this, but not enough to keep me watching. 

This is another hyper-energetic-boy-wants-to-be-the-best-something-so-he-enters-a-tournament series, with nothing that stands out. The biggest problem is that Gon is boring. One Piece's Luffy avoids being dull even though he's a plucky shounen hero by being eccentric. (Admittedly, I've only seen a few episodes of One Piece. They were definitely fun, but I cringed at the idea of committing to a 400+ episode series with no end in sight.) Yuu Yuu Hakusho's Yusuke avoided being dull by being a snarky smart ass with a heart of gold. Edward Elric was instantly empathetic because of his motivations. (He's actually my favorite shounen lead.) Returning from my tangent, rote premise + unmemorable characters = definite pass on this series.

Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon (2 episodes):
Dear Horizon

To keep me from hating you, you'll need to give the yuri couple more screentime than the amount spent on the male lead groping another girl's chest before she slams him into a wall.



Mirai Nikki (1 episode):
If you find out that someone plans to kill you soon, shortly after you enter an empty office building, what should you do?

Run away from a busy street that's full of people (and likely to have a police box, which might be handy), into an empty office building in a desolate area?

That's what Yuki, the protagonist of Mirai Nikki, does after reading the details of his impending death from his future-predicting cell phone. (Like clockwork, he also follows the horror movie habit of fleeing his pursuer by moving to a higher floor.)

When Yuki later learns the rules of the battle royale that he and the other people who own future-predicting cell phones have to participate in, he protests that the future outlined on his phone changed even though he didn't do anything to change his future. So killing the person who the phone predicted would kill him doesn't count? Even though Yuki is an idiot, this episode has two interesting points: the other battle royale participants placing Yuki highest on their target list as a result of his being over-credited for 3's killing, and the only real ally Yuki has being his stalker. I predict that she will do some gut-wrenchingly immoral things to protect Yuki, whether they're necessary or not, freaking him out even more. Will he be willing and able to piss her off by completely rejecting her? As idiotic as Yuki is, I'll give this series another shot to see what the real survival game is like.

Tamayura: Hitotose (2 episodes):
My impression of the OVA was lukewarm, but I liked the first episode of the TV series quite a bit. It shows Fuu before she moves back to the charming, old-fashioned small town where her family used to live, when she's still grieving for her dad. She returns to photography, a hobby she hadn't pursued since her father died because he did it also. This was a poignant episode that could have easily stood on its own as a short film.

The second episode, taking place after Fuu moves, is about Fuu and her new group of friends deciding to have a sleep over. It was pleasant enough, but became heart-tugging again at the end, darn it. ^_^;

Admittedly, I still haven't finished Ikoku Meiro. Ikoku Meiro is a heart-warming show with likeable characters, but it hasn't compelled me to finish it. I probably will eventually. I just don't feel like adding another laid-back, feel-good Satou Junichi show to my watch list right now.

Un-Go (1 episode):
Boring, boring, boring, and the protagonist's sidekick Inga is as annoying as I'd feared. I appreciated that the outcome of the mystery presented in this episode wasn't obvious, but this series is still a pass for me.

I finished Blood-C. It became interesting towards the end, but pissed me off again when the entire series turned out to be a 12 episode long advertisement for the Blood-C movie. I would give Blood-C a D and No. 6 a B.

From what premiered this past summer, I'm still keeping up with Morita-san ha Mukuchi and Penguindrum. (I have watched episode 14 of Penguindrum. Holy crap, that ending.)

This will be my only post for this week.

Update on 10/22: Oh. D'oh. Just found out that Fate/Zero is planned for two seasons. The second season will air in the spring. Yay!


Sheldor said...

First up, agree with everything you said on the series I’m following.

Chihayafuru shows a lot of potential in its characters Chihaya and Arata. Arata especially is very likeable and I wish they’d just write Taichi out of the show. I hope at the very least they play down the love triangle angle but that may be naïve of me to ask.

Fate Zero is turning out to be a lot better than I expected as well. It looks and sounds great and has a maturity that its predecessor lacks. Even though set in Japan, the Catholicism gives off that rare quality of not feeling totally Japanese - which I like. If I had any complaint at this stage it would be that Rider’s master seems to be getting more air time than I others and I find his character to be weak if not totally boring.

And more Rin Tousaka please!!

I knew the Yuri wouldn’t pass your notice either!! I was like “Is anyone else seeing this?!?” Which was weird because I was sitting alone in my room at the time.

Lol at your ponytail fetish! Kyon approves. Is that third pic that chick from the Kara no Kyokai movies?

Yeah, still not sure if I’ve forgiven you yet for Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon. I blacked out in that second episode. Just a total information and character dump, at least the first episode didn’t require me to use my brain.

Mirai Nikki has me a little worried. Looks like it’s going to be totally plot based and after the first episode I’m not sold on the concept. I give myself permission to drop this anime.

Tamayura had the most charming first episode, I’m disappointed the second was so generic.

Un-Go was especially disappointing. The pacing was insane and I can tell you right now this is going to fall into the Deathnote vein of investigating - which is less investigating and more the writers bending reality to have their characters constantly correct. I mean, was I meant to be impressed by this guy’s deduction? I think not. I’ll give it one more episode.

Blood C had one awesome moment where they made a connection with Blood: The Last Vampire, which was enjoyable as a fan of the original movie. Besides that, just wow, what a pile of crap. Did you hear about how the movie is getting official funding from the Japanese government? Right…

Dude, Penguindrum… This episode gave me Black Rose saga feelings. I’m not sure how happy I am with the psycho lesbian route being taken but part of me just doesn’t care. I swear my allegiance to The Mad King!

Anonymous said...

Yup, pretty much agreed on all points.

I'll come out and admit that I watched the first ep of Ben-To, mainly because of the utterly ridiculous setting. I was hoping for some surreal humor, but got what was advertised instead: An utterly ridiculous setting and flying skirts. Serves me right for thinking that nobody could come up with a story like that and take it seriously :P

Chihayafuru feels OK, although it doesn't come near Saki in terms of getting the suspense on for the game sequences. It's easy to like Chihaya, as she's written that way- maybe a little too much so, I think I prefer characters with a few rough edges.

The first episode of F/Z throws a lot information your way, which was a bit overwhelming for me (I didn't watch F/SN). However, characters seemed promising so I tried the second ep, and I think I'll keep watching. They take their time setting things up, which is a good thing because it usually means the resolution will be more rewarding.

Hunter x HunterHmm, a lot of (early) Dragon Ball vibes from this one. It's rather generic, but somewhere inside me there are traces left of the little kid who wants to go on adventures, so I'll probably keep watching for a bit longer. ^^;

Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon - Didn't watch. I'm thorough with watching bad shows just for hoping morsels of Yuri will show up that were put there just so the writer could check another box on his list of anime archetypes. I just get annoyed and angry, and I'm too old and tired for that.

Kimi to boku - school slice of life with guys for a change, why not? First two episode I watched were ok-ish, if somewhat slow. I've chuckled at a few of the jokes, and wasn't put off by anything annoying, soooo.. uh.. I guess it's what you'd call average? I guess that'll be the show I watch when there's nothing better to do.

Miari Nikki - same as you, I'm going to hold off a final opinion until a few more episodes. The most interesting thing for me is how Yuki is going to deal with the situation that he's essentially going to be offed by a product of his imagination- I really do hope the show dips into why his psyche created a survival battle royal, and how the f it got from his head on other people's cell phones. I suspect the rather bland resolution that he was just dipping into some cosmic juju by chance, but hope not. We'll see.

I love puzzles, so I gave Phi-Brain a try. My thought process went something like this:
- Hm, animation isn't that good. Ah well, I can live with that as long as..
- err, nope, characters aren't engaging either. The protagonist is a total prick and the girl sidekick obnoxious. Well, at least I can look forward to some good..
- what do you mean you won't even show me the puzzles?? What the hell is the point of that show?!
- O F F

Tamayura ~hitotose~ is nice. Just that. Nothing bad to say, I just hope the characters will develop beyond their initial signature traits a little. If there's one show this season I'd welcome a few sprinkles of Yuri in, it's this one.

I can't say I was bored with Un-Go, but I was definitely annoyed with the ultra-fast pace. I'll watch a few more episodes and see if it can keep me interested.

So what's left? Second season of Working!! picked up where it left off, so I've got something to watch over dinner. I'm glad I stuck with Penguindrum. The show got a lot more appealing to me once things went sideways. Morita-san gets a little too "nothing happens", but it's so short I don't mind.

Re: Ponytails. I usually like women with short hair, but you make a compelling point there ;)

Katherine Hanson said...

@Sheldor- Same here. I'm more interested in watching the characters compete than the love triangle that's being set up. As for Taichi, I'm banking on the high school version of him being a vast improvement over the grade school version. (Like Itta in Girl x Girl x Boy.)

"the Catholicism gives off that rare quality of not feeling totally Japanese" That, and the fact that the Masters are from a wider variety of locations around the world- as opposed to the F/SN war's statistical miracle of having several Masters found at the same high school in Fuyuki City.

I agree that Waver's the least interesting. (This might be horrible of me, but I'm looking forward to seeing how he reacts when he sees that the professor whose summoning relic he stole is still one of the Masters.) But…Saber’s first fight in the next episode! *squee!* ^_^ *throws tomato at Lancer*

Yes, more Rin! It was a hoot to see what a little bad ass she was.

"Kyon approves" <- LOL And yes, the third pic is Touko from KnK.

Oh, Horizon.... I really wish the show with the only canon yuri couple this season didn't suck so badly. I'm finding more to fangirl over in the interaction between Saber and Irisviel than between the canon couple in Horizon, and that's just sad. But I'm still watching.

"the writers bending reality to have their characters constantly correct." YES. The most lol-worthy moment was Inga's method of interrogating the final suspect. If s/he can magically make anyone tell the truth, what's keeping the leads from always being guaranteed the correct answer?

"Did you hear about how the movie is getting official funding from the Japanese government?" Ugh, yes. I can understand why the government would contribute some money to the anime industry...but the Blood-C movie? Really?

"I’m not sure how happy I am with the psycho lesbian route being taken but part of me just doesn’t care." My feelings exactly. Since the management behind Takarazuka is really touchy about lesbianism being associated with it (as described in this article I linked to a while ago, I laughed at seeing that the first real yuri in Penguindrum was two Takarasiennes sleeping together. (Talk about hiding your yuri in plain sight.) A friend who is even more perceptive/obsessive than I also pointed out that the hair color in the photo of Momoka matches that of the girl who appeared during Sanetoshi's soliloquy about his lost love from long ago. I just thought that was interesting.... I'm struck by how much of this series really revolves around Momoka. (Just about EVERYONE who knew her fell in love with her. The closest Utena parallel I can think of is Dios- esp Adolescence Mokushiroku Dios.) I have faith as well that the Mad King will wrap everything up into a satisfying, if incredibly weird package by the end.

Katherine Hanson said...

@µ- I would love to have been present for that show's sales pitch. ("But there are a million service shows this season! HOW CAN WE STAND OUT?" "BY MAKING HOT GIRLS FIGHT FOR GROCERIES, SIR! People like fighting, fan service, and food. Put them in one series, and the combination will be explosive." "BRILLIANT!")

The games in Saki are more exciting, but it's hard to surpass that level of over-the-topness. ;-) It'll be interesting to see how colorful the other competitors in Chihayafuru are, since Saki really took off after the other schools were introduced.

"They take their time setting things up, which is a good thing because it usually means the resolution will be more rewarding." Definitely agree there. I'm glad you didn't have too much of a problem getting into it, having not seen F/SN. ^_^

So far, that is a fitting description for Horizon. It's my "when there's nothing better to do" show this season.

Re: Mirai Nikki That would be a bland explanation, but, "It's all in his/her head!" has been done too many times to really be effective also. Hopefully the story has a decent alternative up its sleeve.

That does suck. A puzzle show that doesn't let its viewers see the puzzles?

Good luck with Un-Go. Right now, I'm a little disappointed that it's the best Noitamina has this season.

I loved Penguindrum from the outset (the ending of episode 1 notwithstanding), but I can definitely see where one would need more time to get into it. When I showed a friend the first episode, she was like, "Wtf was that?" I made her watch more, and after the end of episode 2 her opinion changed to a combination of, "Wtf was that?" and "What's happening next?" *victorious* I'm enjoying Morita-san, but still appreciate the episode length.

Thank you. ;) lol

A Day Without Me said...

Saber! Oh, goodness, I am absolutely madly, madly, madly in love with her. Haven't watched episode three yet, but that it sounds like it is apparently much Saber and Iris, I'm happy.

Katherine Hanson said...

@A Day Without Me- As am I. XD (My favorite character this season, hands down.) I'm certain that you will HNNNNNNGH over episode 3 also.

Sheldor said...

@Katherine "Talk about hiding your yuri in plain sight" - That's an interesting observation. I totally agree as my initial thoughts when I saw the Takarazuka elements in Penguindrum were that it would be way too obvious for any Yuri development to be introduced from that angle and therefore dismissed the idea completely. Admittedly I had no idea the full scope of how right I was to dismiss any Yuri connection. That was a fascinating article, thank you for linking it for me.

I did pick up on the Momoka x Sanetoshi connection myself - but I totally forgot I had, thanks for reminding me haha! Yeah, I'm very surprised by how deep Momoka's connection with now all the main characters runs. I don't know if it's just to place more emphasis on the recurring fate theme or if The Mad King intends something even more epic but either way I'm loving the ride!

I am shipping Ringo and Shouma so hard, those two are killing me!! I'm so torn by this episode and then I feel really guilty because there's nothing positive about Ringo getting raped but... canon lesbians in Ikuhara Kunihiko animes gives me feelings. It's official, I'm a horrible person.

P.S said...

Though I never got around to finishing Fate/Stay Night(blame Moribito for being too good) Fate/Zero look's like, from your description, a decent show.

The animation certainly is better than the sequel. It looks near identical to Kara No Kyoukai,a movie series that I hear good things about.

BTW have you heard/seen Tsukihime? For some strange logic Irisviel reminds me Arcueid, what with her red eyes and gown.

Katherine Hanson said...

@Sheldor- Glad you found the article interesting! ^^

I felt awful for them when Shouma left Ringo. Not sure who I felt worse for. First time any of the siblings really let on how much what their parents did affected how other people treated them. At the same time, I was like, "You idiot, she DOESN'T HATE YOU. And she's...she's CRYING!!!!" (Ringo's seiyuu was heart-breakingly convincing.) But I can understand how, even though he probably knows on some level that she genuinely likes him, his guilt complex and years of rejection by other people make it hard for him to really trust and open up. (Gahh, that was sappy.)

But you're excited about a show having lesbians, not the fact that one of them is trying to commit rape. That doesn't make you horrible, imho. :P But I get what you mean about feeling guilty about being like, "Yes, lesbians!" when an attempted rape by one of said characters is thrown into the story also. (I hope that no one thinks Ringo "deserves" it, even though someone somewhere probably does.) I think that Yuri is going to be interrupted, anyway, going by how much this series loves tripping up its characters' expectations. Good thing we're so close to the next episode.

@P.S.- It is, it is! Even for people who aren't drooling over Saber, there's plenty to like.

KnK and Fate/Zero are by the same studio, ufotable. The KnK movies are great if you want something grim and action-packed.

I haven't seen it, but I know about Arcueid. I can see what you mean.