Saturday, February 27, 2010

Spring 2010 Anime Season: Part 2

Part 2 of zee list.

Major season 6- The sixth season (wow) of the anime adaptation of Mitsuya Takuda's popular shounen manga about a boy named Honda Goro, who wants to become a professional baseball player like his father Shigeharu. Major follows Goro from his early childhood through adulthood as he strives to make his dream come true, especially after a horrible tragedy happens to his family. (Augh- what a way to die...don't want to spoil it for other people, even though I already spoiled it for myself via Wikipedia.) I haven't seen any episodes of Major, although now that it's on my radar, I would like to try it eventually. It's also being directed by Kasai Kenichi, and some famous seiyuu names are sprinkled among the (really, really) enormous side cast- Noto Mamiko, Paku Romi, Ohara Sayaka, Ueda Kana, Kugimiya Rie, and Satou Rina.

Mayoi Neko Overrun!- "The story revolves around Takumi Tsuzuki, a boy who lives with his older "sister" Otome, although the two have no blood ties between them. [Uh oh, I see where this is going... And who names their daughter "Otome"?] Otome manages a run-down confectionary store called Stray Cats. One day, Otome picks up a mysterious beautiful girl off the streets."

I'm sure I won't be following this one, even though it has the most...memorable trailer this season. ^^; Horie Yui, Tamura Yukari, Itou Kanae, Taketatsu Ayana, and Satou Satomi have roles.

Ookiku Furikabutte ~Natsu no Taikai-hen~- The second season of "Oofuri" (released on R1 DVD as Big Windup!), based on Higuchi Asa's prize-winning manga series being serialized in Afternoon (the same seinen magazine that runs Octave and Aa! Megami-sama!). I really expected it to be running in a shounen magazine. It's about Mihashi Ren, a high school freshman who loves baseball but doesn't think that he can play well. (He was the ace pitcher at his middle school, but only, seemingly, because his grandfather owned the school.) After transferring to Nishiura High School, he joins the baseball team there and makes friends with his new teammates as they compete together in baseball. Since the subtitle for the new season is "~Summer Tournament Chapter~", I guess season 2 will cover some...summer tournaments. I haven't seen any episodes of the first season, even though I've heard really good things about it. I do want to see it, though. ^^ Fukuyama Jun has a role.

Rainbow: Nisha Rokubou no Shichinin- This series is going to be really depressing... It's based on Abe George and Kakizaki Masasumi's long-running shounen manga set in 1955 about a group of six boys who get sent to a reformatory school, where they endure a lot of crappy treatment and meet an older student who teaches them about friendship. I'll pass.

Ring ni Kakero 1: Shadow- The third season of a show based on Kurumada Masami's classic manga (it ran from 1977 to 1981, which explains the art style) about a boy named Ryuji who competes in boxing tournaments to fulfill his dead father's wish, with his sister Kiku as his coach. It sounds like it's filled with special boxing techniques and crazy shounen-tournament antagonists with names like "The Dark Emperor of the South" and "The Shadow Clan" (just so you know that they're the antagonists). I haven't seen the first two seasons (don't really want to), so this is a pass. Tanaka Rie plays Kiku. (Darn it, why isn't she in a show that I want to watch?)

Sarai-ya Goyou- I'm really looking forward to this one. ^^ It's based on a manga by Ono Natsume, who is most well known as the creator of Ristorante Paradiso. (Which, yes, I liked quite a bit.) Sarai-ya Goyou is about Masanosuke Akitsu, a ronin who encounters Yaichi, the charismatic leader of a group of bandits known as the "Five Leaves", while traveling to Edo. Yaichi asks Masanosuke to be his bodyguard, hoping that he'll permanently join the group. Masanosuke "is reluctant to help them, but as grows closer to his eccentric new companions, he learns to relate to them and grow as a person in the process." A PV can be seen here. This show will air in Fuji TV's noitaminA programming block.

Bonus Trivia: Sarai-ya Goyou is currently running in Ikki magazine, the alternative seinen magazine that's also running Nakamura Ching's Gunjo.

Volume 1 of the Sarai-ya Goyou manga is also being released in English this May. (Titled House of Five Leaves in English.)

Senkou no Night Raid- The second series airing in TV Tokyo and Aniplex's Anime no Chikara programming block, after So-Ra-No-Wo-To ends. "The story is set in Shanghai in 1931, when the Imperial Japanese Army has been dispatched to mainland China due to the relatively recent First Sino-Japanese War, Russo-Japanese War, and World War I. In this cosmopolitan city of intrigue, there is a special military spy organization called "Sakurai Kikan" that has since been buried in history." What a coincidence- I recently read a few literary works related to Japan's early 20th century imperialism in China for my Japanese lit class ("Writing, Japan, and Otherness"). The synopsis already sounds kind of problematic (I know that it's an animated television series, but still), but I'll see how it is. PVs are available here.

Shin Koihime Musou: Otome Tairan- A third season of Romance of the Three Kingdoms-ish moe-service-yuri hijinks. A PV (that doesn't really show anything new) can be seen here.

 Uragiri wa Boku no Namae o Shitteiru-When I read the title ("Betrayal Knows My Name") and saw the promo artwork, I instantly thought of Odagiri Hotaru's Only The Ring Finger Knows- and what do you know, UwBnNoS is based on another BL manga by the same author. It's about Sakurai Yuki, a first-year high school student whose mother left him in an orphanage after he was born. Because of that, Yuki is afraid of getting close to anyone. He has the power to read people's feelings while touching them, and a mysterious young man named Zess saves his life. (From what, I don't know.) He feels like they've met before, even though he isn't sure where. I'm not too interested in watching this- the plot sounds like an amalgamation of at least several other shoujo titles that I've read (and Only The Ring Finger Knows bored me), but I might give it a try. Ono Daisuke, Fukuyama Jun, Koyasu Takehito, Sakurai Takahiro, and Miyano Mamoru have roles.

Working!!- I've already written here a few times about this slice-of-life romantic comedy taking place in a family restaurant. I'm definitely checking it out. Several PVs are currently available. Shiraishi Ryouko, Itou Shizuka, Fukuyama Jun, Hikasa Youko, Ono Daisuke, and Kitamura Eri have roles.

Yojou-Han Shinwa Taitei- The other new series airing in noitaminA. It's an adaptation of Morimi Tomihiko's novels about "a nameless protagonist who is a third-year college student. The protagnoist looks back at the earlier years of his college life and his adventures with a particular circle (club)." It looks like the protagonist simply refers to himself as "Watashi", a la Kokoro. At Japanese universities, circles are kind of like clubs, only they're more casual/tend to require less formal commitment, if that isn't too vague.

Oh! And Sakamoto Maaya is playing one of the circle members! ^___^ Kaida Yuko also has a role. I'll definitely give this series a try. A PV is available here.

It looks like we have a good spring season coming up. ^^ I'm looking forward to it!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Spring 2010 Anime Season: Part 1

The spring anime season's almost here! ^^ There are several upcoming shows that I'm interested in.

As with the past few seasons, I'll make my best guess estimate about what will be good or not-so-good this upcoming season. There are 27 shows listed in total. I'm only writing about the first 16 (in alphabetical order) in this post.

Angel Beats!- The plot superficially sounds like your typical Key school show (not an issue for me; I've enjoyed the Key game-based anime titles that I've seen so far) meets Kaori Yuki (bleh), with some gun action. Judging from the newest PV, if Angel Beats doesn't take itself too seriously, it could be a decent light action series. Plus, it'll be the first Visual Arts/Key story animated by a studio that isn't Kyoto Animation. (Unless you count One.) Edit: Whoops- my bad. I forgot about Toei's 2002 Kanon adaptation, and the Air and Clannad movies. -_-; (I saw the Air movie a few years ago, but I haven't seen the Clannad movie yet. I tried the first episode of Toei's Kanon a few years ago as well, but didn't finish it because it seemed like it was just going to play out the same story as KyoAni's version, only more condensed and with worse-looking art.)

 Arakawa under the bridge- I'm really interested in this one. It's a "denpa-kei gag comedy manga", in which "An upper-class young man named Kō "Riku" Ichinomiya meets a beautiful homeless girl named Nino from the banks of Arakawa River, where many of Tokyo's most unusual residents live," (as described in this ANN article). The denpa-kei sub-genre "revolves around quirky people's lives [wait, isn't that what pretty much every manga is trying to be? What makes this a unique sub-genre?]; the sub-genre is named after the premise that bizarre behaviors are caused by electromagnetic waves (denpa)." The story isn't really the draw for me. My three big draws are that: A) it's based on a manga by Nakamura Hikaru, the creator of Saint Oniisan (or Saint Young Men); B) it's going to be animated by SHAFT and directed by (surprise) Shinbo Akiyuki; and C) Sakamoto Maaya is playing Nino, the female lead. XD Kō will be played by Kamiya Hiroshi, and several of the other characters will be played by Saito Chiwa, long-time fan-favorite Koyasu Takehito, Fujiwara Keiji, and Sugita Tomokazu.

B Gata H Kei- "In the anime, Yukari Tamura will play the heroine Yamada, a virgin high school student who dreams of having 100 casual sex partners. However, she ends up targeting and pursuing only one boy," says ANN. Doesn't sound like my cup of tea, even though Noto Mamiko, Horie Yui, and Kobayashi Yuu will have roles in it.

Bakugan: New Vestroia- The second season of a kid's show that I haven't seen. Something about kids fighting with cards that summon monsters.

Giant Killing- A series based on a shounen manga about a ragtag soccer team that's struggling to stay in Japan's top soccer league and the coach who tries to inspire them to make a comeback. It could be a good series, but it'll be hard- this type of story has already been done to death.

 Hakuouki Shinsengumi Kitan- An adaptation of a romance adventure game, about "a female protagonist and the historical Shinsengumi samurai group [who all happen to be bishounen, wouldn't you know] in Kyoto during the 19th century." I'm not very interested in this one. It could be good, boring, or hilariously crappy bishounen-camp, like Miracle Train that I can poke fun at with my best friend for an episode or so before getting bored. (Maybe a combination of the three?)

Heroman- Sorry about the crappy pic. ^^; There isn't even a website up for this series yet... It's a collaboration between massively famous American comic creator Stan Lee and studio BONES. I'm not interested in the story (a boy named Joey finds a robot named "Heroman" who he can pilot "against evil threats") nearly as much as what the reception for this series will be like.

Hetalia Axis Powers season 3- Like the first two seasons, the third season of Hetalia will focus on different countries of the world (from what I saw of season 1, that pretty much means Japan, Europe, the U.S., and a strangely non-verbal China) anthromorphized as bishounen. While it was kind of funny to see France lusting after Britain, this series never appealed to me. As with previous seasons, it will only be available online. (It won't air on TV- so it probably doesn't belong on this list... but I decided to mention it because of its popularity.)

Hime Chen! Otogi Chikku Idol Lilpri- Another series created to market a card game based on a card game for kids, Lilpri is about "three elementary school girls who can change into idol princesses." Pass.

 Ichiban Ushiro no Daimaou- Based on a light novel series about a boy who goes to a high school for magic users, learns that he will be the "Devil King" someday, and gets "resented by his studious female class head, desired by a girl with mysterious powers, and guarded by a beautiful female android." This looks like a winner. Here's the PV.

Ikki Tousen: Xtreme Xecutor- The fourth season of the massively trashy, but surprisingly entertaining Ikki Tousen franchise. A nsfw trailer can be seen here. Here's to Nabatame Hitomi returning as the yuri-riffic Kan'nu. (I still need to see season 3, though.)

Iron Man- The first of four series being produced by Madhouse based on Marvel superheroes. Even though it was initially reported that all four series would premiere this spring, Marvel later gave a press release stating that only the first of the four 12 episode series will premiere this spring, and it will (supposedly) include both Iron Man and Wolverine. (o_o ???) Marvel has a trailer here, in which only Iron Man appears. I'll check it out.

K-ON! season 2- More slice-of-life fun with the Light Music Club. ^^

Kaichou wa Maid-sama!- An adaptation of Fujiwara Hiro's popular shoujo manga, about "the student council head named Misaki Ayuzawa who despises the mostly male, slovenly population at her school, which was once an all-boys school. However, Misaki's most handsome schoolmate just discovered her secret — that she works afterschool at a maid café." I haven't read the manga, but I'll give this series a try. (And I'll try not to compare it to Kimi ni Todoke. -__-) Ueda Kana has a role as one of the side characters. The PV can be seen here.

Kiss x Sis- Pass.

That's it for now. ^^

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Yuri Manga: Shitsurakuen vol 1-2

 Shitsurakuen is a manga that I started off liking, despite (or because of?) its wholesale imitation of Utena. (My reaction was pretty much, "Whoo-hoo, it has action and yuri!") Over half a year since I first tried it (and 2 volumes through the series), my opinion of it isn't nearly as sunny as it once was. Shitsurakuen is undoubtedly spawned from the Utena family tree, but it seems to have fallen from the gnarly, parasite-infested branch.

Shitsurakuen is about a girl named Himoto Sora who is transferring to the prestigious Utopia Academy, which her best friend Tsuki has been attending for years. (Why didn't Tsuki warn her about the school- or ask anybody else for help- when she was still outside of it?) Upon arriving, Sora learns that the school is headed by a corporate bigshot who hates women and makes Utopia's students participate in Exaclan- a game in which male students duel each other by drawing weapons out of the female students. The "winner" of each duel gets the loser's girl/weapon. Sora accidentally participates in a duel and wins, saving her first new friend at Utopia from an abusive "master." She decides to keep participating in the duels to free more girls. Meanwhile, the evil student council is plotting against her. (It really shouldn't be as hard as it seems to be for them, considering Sora's aptitude.)

In volume 2...stuff happens. We see a flashback to how one of the characters received a letter of acceptance from Utopia, much to her and her parents' joy. In the present, the school forces her to give her parents phone calls telling them that she's "happy" and "fine" at school. This still doesn't explain why they never visit Utopia- it isn't plausible at all that two parents who seem to love their kid would never visit the school that she's attending and living at. And what about vacation time? The school can't keep the students there indefinitely, and once they do leave for vacation (or the third-year high school class graduates), you would think that someone would tell a parent/guardian/authority figure what's really going on at Utopia.

Even setting aside the objectionable elements- the incessantly negative portrayal of men, save for one character; the stereotypical "evil gay" male characters; the voyeuristic perspective found in a number of scenes (the lowest point was in chapter 7, where one of the male characters spends twenty-some pages beating and flaying the clothes off of a middle school girl- the same one who faced the threat of rape in chapter 5- with a whip, before Sora belatedly "saves" her); etc- Shitsurakuen's plot has holes big enough to drive a fleet of trucks through. The blind, unwavering trust that the other girls (aside from Tsuki) place in Sora saving them is irritating also. She's a blessed idiot- and even if she were a genius, it would still be stupid to completely rely on her. Shitsurakuen's yuri comes in the form of the two girls who seem to have a crush on Sora, and smatterings of subtext elsewhere.

Story: F
Art: B-
Overall: F

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Yuri Manga: To Aru Kagaku no Railgun vol 2-3

Volumes 2 and 3 of To Aru Kagaku no Railgun were a joy to read- both when I first read them and when I re-read them. (And hopefully when I re-re-read them. ^^) For a suspense-driven action storyline, that's no small feat.

These two tankoubon cover the meat of the Level Upper story arc. From Kuroko and Mikoto's consultation with Kiyama-sensei (Best. Neuroscientist. Ever.) at the hospital through Kuroko's showdown in an abandoned building with a thug whose abilities have been wildly enhanced via the Level Upper, and the final confrontation with the real "villain" behind the Level Upper scheme, these two volumes aren't lacking at all in the story department. Even after you-know-who gets arrested by Academy City's Anti-Skill police force, there's still Uiharu and Saten's reunion at the hospital (which is every bit as great in the manga as it was in the anime), a brief but very satisfactory follow-up on a few of the other characters who used the Level Upper. (Not including the girl with the crazy eyebrows who has a crush on Saten appears in the anime.) Volume 3 wraps up with a brief chapter showing a normal day after the Level Upper storyline and a two-part flashback to how Uiharu and Kuroko met.

There aren't many deviations between the material covered in the manga up to this point and the anime. The last three chapters of volume 3 take place at an earlier point in the anime's storyline than they do in the manga's, and the manga has one brief scene unique to it that makes Mikoto's "don't give your life away so easily" line to the villain carry more weight. But it's pretty much the same. The characters are all likeable (except for the ones who we're meant to dislike), and they all get their shining moments, ranging from Mikoto, Kuroko, and (yes) Uiharu's bad-assery under pressure (Uiharu is, arguably, the biggest hero of the Level Upper arc) to Saten grappling with what to do after obtaining the Level Upper, to Kiyama just being...Kiyama. (Really specific, I know. lol)

I recently tried another action title containing yuri that I really wanted to like. It had several "hooks" for a series that I should like, but it contained one fatal flaw- sketchy, confusing artwork that made the action scenes look like a blurry mess. Not so in Railgun. The artwork looks nice throughout, but it shines during the action scenes, with Fuyukawa Motoi's clean, dynamic linework and layouts that flow together as smoothly as cream. I also like how the resolutions to the conflicts in Railgun generally rely as much on the characters' reasoning skills as their brawn. (Or powers.) It adds an extra level of appeal that even the most brilliantly executed artwork wouldn't be able to manage on its own.

I would recommend Railgun for anybody who likes action, sci-fi, and/or yuri, but it's also especially recommended for anyone who wants to read a shounen action-style title without some of the draw-backs that the genre is known for, like overly drawn-out storylines. (Yes, I know that Railgun runs in a seinen magazine.) It's (mostly) light fun, without being lightweight.

Story: B+
Art: B+
Overall: A-

It would be great to see this series licensed, in both anime and manga format.

Happy Valentine's Day and Happy Lunar New Year! ^^ (My college is holding its annual Lunar New Year celebration next weekend. Definitely looking forward to it.) Here are a couple of Railgun pics in the spirit of Valentine's Day (from these two Pixiv artists):

Friday, February 5, 2010

Yuri Manga: Transistor ni Venus vol 1

Takemoto Izumi's Transistor ni Venus is as light as a soufflé, and every bit as devoid of substance. But for a gently humorous, retro-futuristic sci-fi espionage story (with yuri!), it's a pleasant read.

April Enus is a 20 year-old spy living in the year 2269, when humans are living in space and the "major powers" (the Federation, the Empire, the Saurians, the Alliance, the Holy Land, and the Traditional Earth Administration) are competing for influence. April resides on the planet Lisbon, which has adopted a neutral stance, making it a popular hotspot for tourists and intelligence-gathering spies alike. April is renowned for never having any fatalities happen in any of the cases that she has been involved in- which causes her clients to behave recklessly and rack up an exceptionally high number of casualties. (As April points out, that's a key distinction.)

April handles several assignments in volume 1, from stealing back the purloined "back-up" personality of a famous scientist to acting as a VIP's bodyguard, to delivering classified documents and pretending to be a maid for some reason that nobody really cares about since she's busy seducing the other maids to obtain information on her employer. Bow-chicka-wow-wow. (Haha, just kidding. ^^; It's mostly just a lot of kissing, with one bath scene and one full-blown, mostly "off-screen" seduction.)

The chapters are mostly stand-alone, each focusing on a different assignment, aside from the two-chapter "Kissing Maids" arc. (Yup, it's really called that.) Considering its genre (sci-fi espionage), Transistor ni Venus is surprisingly mellow and low-key, which works both for and against it. The laid-back tone of April's missions (no fatalities, remember; even the casualties never amount to anything really serious) does have its charm, but it's hard to care about what's going to happen to the characters when it's clear that they'll be A-ok. (Even the characters themselves aren't that worried.) On the one hand, the lack of tension differentiates Transistor ni Venus from most of its genre-brethren and makes for a relaxing reading experience- but on the other hand, you wish that something would happen to really shake things up and not make the outcome of each mission so certain.

The characters are likeable (even though there isn't really any character development, at this point), and the slapstick humor generally works. (Including the instances when the characters don't take themselves as seriously as they would be expected to.) There is some cheesecake, but while Izumi clearly enjoys drawing April in sexy outfits (or in the shower/bath), it doesn't feel nearly as sleazy as it might be. The art is simple, but it's easy to follow and has kind of a charming retro vibe, and it suits the story well.

Story: C+
Art: C+
Overall: C+

Not a masterpiece, but enjoyable. Hopefully the story will find a little more direction- and drum up a little more suspense- in future chapters.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

More Good News For Fans of K-ON!

Yay, Yen Press licensed the manga in English!! XD They haven't mentioned when the first volume will be released, but I'm definitely looking forward to it. (Hopefully they'll serialize it in Yen Plus, also.) Edit: According to the updated link, the K-ON! manga will "launch" this November.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Odds and Ends for Spring 2009

Some surprising (and not so surprising) news has been popping up recently-

The new collaboration between Ikki Tousen Xtreme Xecutor and Shin Koihime Musou: Otome Tairan looks pretty interesting- and it really makes all the sense in the world. So far, it only seems to mean that the two series are sharing the same website (PVs for both series are up), but it'll be interesting to see if anything else comes out of it. (What if more titles tried cross promotions with other, similar titles? Aoi Hana season 2/Marimite? Octave/White Album- or any other music-related romance title about disaffected young adults? Kuroshitsuji/Hayate the Combat Butler?)

Plus, a new character trailer for Working!! is up, focusing on Kyouko the manager. (Which means a blink-and-you'll-miss-it flash of crushiness from Yachiyo.)

And thanks for voting in last week's polls, if you voted. ^^ Just to preserve the results after I remove the polls from the sidebar, I'm putting the results below.

Question 1: Which yuri anime are we most likely to see green-lit next?
Total number of votes: 66
The answer that I would choose: Girl Friends

Question 2: Which yuri anime would you most like to see green-lit next?
Total number of votes: 48
The answer that I would choose: Ugh, it's hard to pick... (Probably the reason why less people voted on this one.) I would choose Octave, though, because it's the choice least likely to be green-lit. (And it would probably have a really good soundtrack. An OP by Shes'n and an ED by *squee* Setsuko Fennel, anyone? :-) )

The total list (so far) for spring 2009 series of yuri interest is:
Ikki Tousen XX
K-ON! season 2
Shin Koihime Musou: Otome Tairan

Out of those four, the one that I'm looking forward to the most is K-ON! (Even though, yes, it has virtually no the least amount of yuri.)

BGM- "Soshite mou ichido" by Ueda Kana