Sunday, May 30, 2010

Summer 2010 Anime Season: Part 2

More shows!

Ookami-san to Shichinin no Nakamatachi:
"A love comedy parodying fairy tales such as "Little Red Riding Hood," "The Ant and the Grasshopper," etc. Ookami Ryoko (Ookami-san) is a spunky high school girl. She is a member of a "fixer" club so called Otogi High School Bank. She fixes the school's problems with her partner Akai Ringo (Akazukin-chan.)"

The trailer doesn't look very good. The girl with the short red hair (Ringo) seems like she might have a thing for Ryouko (the girl who looks like an older Aisaka Taiga), but the trailer narrator (who sounds an awful lot like Shirai Kuroko) explains it away as her being like a "mother-in-law." But I'm not really interested either way. (The premise isn't inherently bad- I enjoyed the fairytale parody episode of Kaichou wa Maid-sama that aired this past week.)

Itou Kanae, Itou Shizuka, Toyosaki Aki, Kawasumi Ayako, and Horie Yui have roles, and the OP is being sung by May'n (of Macross Frontier fame).

Osaka Hamlet:
An adaptation of Morishita Hiromi's award-winning omnibus manga, which "collects a variety of stories about Osaka dwellers and the problems they face."

I'm lukewarm about this title. I'm afraid that it might be one of those "message" shows that strive to educate people about issues (like divorce, bullying, etc) rather than really entertain. (Like most Lifetime movies.) Maybe I'm being overly cynical.

Tono to Issho:
An adaptation of Ohba-Kai's 4-koma gag manga about "the humorous exploits of generals during Japan's tumultuous sengoku (Era of the Warring States) period."

Not interested. The manga trailer that Media Factory posted following the anime's announcement doesn't look very good.

Seikimatsu Occult Gakuin:
There are a lot of horror titles premiering this summer...

Seikimatsu Occult Gakuin "revolves around mystery and supernatural cases at Occult Academy, a fortress-like academy city." This is the third "Anime no Chikara" show, after So-Ra-No-Wo-To and Senkou no Night Raid. The trailer at the official website looks okay.... (But what's up with the promo art?)

Takagaki Ayahi, Hanazawa Kana, and Koyasu Takehito have roles.

Seitokai Yakuindomo:
"The story centers around Ōsai Academy, a former all-girls private high school which has recently been integrated for both genders. The student body is split between 524 girls and 28 boys. Takatoshi Tsuda is pushed into becoming the vice-president of the student council, where he is the lone male member surrounded by girls."

Didn't we see this last autumn? Pass. PVs are streaming here.

Satou Satomi, Hikasa Youko, Katou Emiri, Arai Satomi, and Kobayashi Yuu have roles.

Sekirei Pure Engagement:
The second season of Sekirei. I never saw the first season, but judging from Pure Engagement's trailer, the character interactions, in a nutshell, seem to be: "Average high school boy!! You are amazing!! Be mine!!" "No, MINE!!!!" "GRAAHHH!!!" *clothes-shredding fight*

I'll pass.

Endou Aya, Nabatame Hitomi, Fukuyama Jun, Hanazawa Kana, Itou Miki, Paku Romi, Ohara Sayaka, and Kaida Yuko have roles.

Sengoku Basara season 2:

Season 2 of SB's signature silly, ambiguously gay, shounen super-powered take on the Sengoku era. I enjoyed it when it premiered in spring 2009. (Couldn't get enough of watching historical figures punching each other out with ki. :D ) But when I re-watched the first episode today, I just thought it was okay. (Maybe I wasn't in the right mood- or my tastes changed. Whatever.) And this doesn't reflect on Sengoku Basara, but when I watched it today, I couldn't help mentally sniping that if someone made virtually the exact same series with the genders switched, it would suddenly be Ikki Tousen have gobs of service.

Paku Romi, Koyasu Takehito, and Kaida Yuko have roles.

This summer's Noitamina anime. (The other show airing on Noitamina this summer will be the live-action Moyashimon.)
"During a fiercely hot summer in Sotoba, a peaceful and quiet village with a population of 1300 people, a series of bizarre deaths begin to occur. At the same time, a strange family moves into a long abandoned mansion in the region. Hospital dean Toshio Ozaki cannot figure out the cause of death in the deceased, initially suspecting an epidemic. As investigations continue between the hospital staff and the residents, it turns out that the village is being attacked by vampires."

I'll try an episode because it's a Noitamina show and Gackt is playing one of the leads and singing the OP. (This looks JUST like the type of show that he would voice a character/sing in.) The only other seiyuu I recognize is Tomatsu Haruka. A trailer can be found here.

Shukufuku no Campanella:
Another ero-game adaptation.
"The game's story is set in Ert'Aria, a city known as the "treasury of the world" for the great riches that pass through its streets. The city is in the middle of preparations for a special harvest festival; every seven years, the harvest of the mysterious energy source known as Ēru is more abundant than usual and attracts merchants, tourists, and adventurers from around the world. During those abundant years, a "Day of Shooting Stars" lights up the night skies.
Leicester Maycraft is a young item technician who lives in the city as part of the Oasis adventurers clan. On the "Day of Shooting Stars," one shooting star lands near a party that Leicester attends. When Leicester searches for where the shooting star landed, a girl appears before Leicester and says, "You are my Papa!""

Wtf? Pass.
 A trailer is streaming here.

Fujiwara Keiji and Goto Yuko have roles. (Fun Fact: Two of the characters are named "Salsa Tortilla" and "Ritos Tortilla.")

Strike Witches season 2:
It was hard to find an image of this show that didn't show off the characters' underwear.

The second season of the skin-crawling war saga of girls known as "Strike Witches", who fight an alien race called the "Neuroi" during WWII using flying equipment and magic, apparently while never wearing any pants or shorts, and sprouting animal ears and tails while using magic.

Ick ick ick. I felt less dirty watching two seasons of Queen's Blade (featuring hyper-sexualized women) than I did watching 10 minutes of Strike Witches (featuring hyper-sexualized kids). Pass for me.

The cast is chock full of popular seiyuu. It almost seems like a warning sign now whenever I see a show featuring a long list of fan favorite voice actors. (It's like, "What's the catch?" lol)

I don't really see myself following any of these shows for a full season. ^^; (Is the upcoming season that bad, or am I just getting jaded?) There isn't anything of yuri interest (aside from Strike Witches, which doesn't count for me) and no shoujo. (I'm surprised. Have shoujo anime DVDs been selling poorly recently, or what?)

For me, this will be a good season to catch up on shows that I want to finish. (Like Nanoha StrikerS.)

And hopefully the fall season will be better. ^^ *fingers crossed*

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Summer 2010 Anime Season: Part 1

Whilst the rather excellent spring anime season windeth down,
 I shall try my utmost to presage which incipient summertime shows might be well-liking,
and which might make Tezuka wailfully spin in his grave.

(Translation: "Yay! The summer anime season's almost here! I'll try to predict what will be good and what won't be."  This is just my random, dingbat attempt at Shakespearean English, for the hell of it.)

But yes!! New shows!! Even though I'm not very optimistic about most of them! But who knows, maybe there will be a pleasant surprise. There are nineteen upcoming summer shows, and I'll write about ten whoops nine of them in this post.

  Amagami SS:
"A second-year high school boy finds himself uneasy during Christmas time due to an experience in the past. However, this year at Christmas, he gets his last chance to ask out a graduating female senior named Haruka Morishima — or one of several other classmates. The story of the anime will be arranged in an omnibus format, with each heroine getting her own version of the story animated. Each heroine will sing her own version of the ending theme song."'s a dating sim. (Specifically, based on a Playstation 2 dating sim by Enterbrain.) Is that it? 13 episodes of some guy taking a gaggle of different girls on Christmas dates?

On the positive side, the character designs look good, especially for a dating sim (no saucer-plate eyes). Plus, nothing like seeing a Christmas-themed show premiering in July. :)

Satou Rina, Shintani Ryouko, and Itou Shizuka have roles.

 Asobi ni Iku yo!:
"The story centers around Kio Kakazu , a high school freshman living in Okinawa. During a memorial service for one of his family ancestors. A mysterious girl with cat ears appears before him indroducing herself as Eris and claiming that she is an alien. However She be more troubling than he first realizes."

Holy crap, this sounds amazing. Really- a busty alien cat girl living with a high school boy? SIGN ME UP.

And more seiyuu nerdery- Tomatsu Haruka, Hanazawa Kana, Itou Kanae, Toyosaki Aki, veteran seiyuu Inoue Kikuko, Kotobuki Minako, and Horie Yui have roles.

Densetsu no Yuusha no Densetsu - Legend of the Legendary Heroes:
That's quite a title. (It made me think of Legend of the Galactic Heroes. ^^)

"Raina Lute is a lazy student of Roland Empire Royal Magician's school. One day, Roland Empire goes to war against a neighboring country Estaboole, and he lost his classmates in the battle. After the war, Lute sets out for a journey to search the relics of a "Legendary Hero" at Emperor Zion Astar's command. And he finds out a deadly curse spreading the continent."
(Apologies for the crappy grammar and spelling in the synopses that I'm quoting. If I weren't so lazy, I would paraphrase them.)

The story doesn't sound especially interesting, and the trailer didn't grab my attention either. But it doesn't seem terrible or offensive- just not my cup of tea.

Takagaki Ayaki, Ono Daisuke, Fukuyama Jun, Taketatsu Ayana, Sawashiro Miyuki, and Sugita Tomokazu have roles.

Digimon Xros Wars:
The sixth season of Digimon- you already know whether you're going to watch it or not.

Shiraishi Ryouko and Takahiro Sakurai have roles. (Although, how many people are going to follow this show for the seiyuu?)

Gakuen Mokushiroku - Highschool of the Dead:
Same premise as every zombie movie ever made: a new disease arises that turns people into bloodthirsty brain-guzzlers, and it can be transmitted through biting. A group of high school students and a school nurse find that their school is overrun by zombies, and they need to find a way to get out alive.

On one hand, once in a while I enjoy watching a campy, bone-crunching zombie flick. And the director, Araki Tatsuro, has done a very good job on other grim titles, like Kurozuka and Death Note. He has also directed episodes of Black Lagoon and Aoi Bungaku (the awesome "Sakura no Mori" arc ^^). But the trailer doesn't look very appealing. I can get better zombie horror by renting a live movie- without the annoying panty shots and boob jiggling. But I'll give it a try.

Taketatsu Ayana, Kitamura Eri, Miyano Mamoru, Sawashiro Miyuki, Hiyama Nobuyuki, and Fukui Yukari have roles. (It will be like listening to K-ON!'s Azusa, Marimite's Kashiwagi, Strawberry Panic!'s Kagome, Canaan, and /insert the Miyano and Kitamura-voiced characters of your choice/ in a zombie flick.)

Iron Man: Madhouse's visually impressive animated adaptation of Iron Man is not premiering in Japan until this October, but it's premiering in the U.S. this July. (I wonder which channel it will be on...Adult Swim? Spike?)

Here is the trailer, again. (Hopefully this show won't be postponed any more.)

Kuroshitsuji II:
Musty Victorian mansion? Check.
Angsty rich kid with a tragic past? Check.
Tall, slightly campy bishounen butler? Check.
Flying cutlery? Check.

I enjoyed the first season because it didn't take itself too seriously, had likeable characters, and was for some light entertainment. (I'm currently following the manga. ^^) This season, focusing on a new, absolutely-not-in-the-original-manga butler and master pair, has many fans grumbling that it's a crass attempt to cash in on a popular franchise when a second season using the original characters isn't viable. (I agree, but it's not like the original was above fan-pandering, either. ^^;; I'll give the new characters a chance.) Here is the PV.

(Although personally, I'd kind of rather see this fully animated. XD)

Takahiro Sakurai (to the delight of many a fujoshi) and Mizuki Nana are playing the leads.

Based on Sakurai Norio's gag manga, "The story centers around the comedic misadventures of the Marui triplets of sisters in sixth grade."

*watches the trailer*

Takagaki Ayahi, Tomatsu Haruka, Toyosaki Aki, Saito Chiwa, and Inoue Kikuko have roles in this. (My sympathies to them.)

Nurarihyon no Mago:
"Rikuo Nura, is 3 parts human and a quarter Demon, lives in a house of spirits with his grandfather, The current clan head of the Nura youkai. Rikou is set to be the next clan head, despit the fact he dilikes his demon side. He soon come to terms with his demon blood and decides to take his position as young master of the Nura house. However there are those who will certainly not allow it to be easy."

 As expected, Studio DEEN's art looks very well-rendered, although the story sounds banal. I might try the first episode. (The right execution could breathe new life into a stale plot line.)

Hirano Aya, Fukuyama Jun, Arai Satomi, Takahiro Sakurai, and Horie Yui have roles.

That's it for now. ^^

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Manga Review: Himitsu no Hanazono

My reaction while reading Fujii Mihona's Himitsu no Hanazono ("The Secret Garden"):

"..." o_o

"..." O///O

"...Cuuuuute!!!" XD

This is a seriously cute story- I regret having taken this long to get around to reading it. It was a great surprise.

 Hiyama Misono is the star runner for her school's track and field team, and she's training hard for the upcoming regional meet. She's pushing herself way more than she should because her stepmother insists that Misono "owes" her for raising her and should pay her back by becoming a famous runner. Misono is growing more and more disenchanted with running- something that she has always done more to fulfill other people's expectations than for herself.

While practicing, Misono hears someone singing in a mellifluous voice, and follows it to- wait for it- a secret rose garden.

She takes a nap there, and when she wakes up, she sees a charming "bishounen" named Sakuya. (Oh, you can see where this is going.) Unsurprisingly, Misono finds herself attracted to the mysterious Sakuya.

Some other things happen with Misono helping her school's Drama Club compete in a regional drama contest (where she again meets Sakuya, who gives her a rose before performing with another school's drama club) and competing in the meet, before she and her stepmother attend a formal party celebrating Sakuya's grandfather's birthday. Himeko, another girl who loves Sakuya, notices Sakuya's interest in Misono and tells Misono that she and Sakuya are lovers. A distraught Misono runs outside to the garden, and Sakuya runs after her and assures her that Himeko is lying. They go back to Sakuya's house and talk, learning that they have a lot in common and that they both like each other as more than just friends. They start kissing, but before things can go any farther, Sakuya asks Misono if she wants to know "his" secret. After Himeko realizes that Sakuya and Misono are alone together, she bursts into Sakuya's room and yells at Misono that Sakuya is (dun-dun-dun) a girl. Misono, wrapped in nothing but a sheet, coolly tells Himeko, "Yes...I know." (lol What a great scene.)

Himeko does everything she can to split up Misono and Sakuya, going as far as leaking Sakuya's "secret" to the public (causing Misono and Sakuya's families to be like, "you're a woman! And you're with another woman!") and ruining the costume that Misono was going to wear in the title role of the Drama Club's performance of Cinderella in another drama competition. Sakuya and Himeko are performing The Merchant of Venice in their school's drama club. The ending is lovely- I don't want to spoil it, but it's perfect for the fairytale-ish tone of the story.

Himitsu no Hanazono is a shoujo yuri gem from a time when happy yuri stories were extremely uncommon. (It came out in 1999.) It holds up well against more recent yuri titles. The characters are all likeable (aside from the wicked stepmother and snooty rival, of course), the romance is sweet, and the art is very pretty- even the clothing designs are eye-catching. (Which is something that I probably care about more than most people. ^^;;) The story is fairly predictable and the romance is a little pat (the ending was cute, but I still thought, ", that's moving a little fast there, isn't it?") since it's emulating the classic fairytale formula, but it's pleasant enough that it doesn't really matter.

Story: B
Art: B+
Overall: B+

I wonder what it was like to read this story when it was coming out in 1999.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Manga Review: Mizu-iro Cinema


 My goodness. I loved reading this manga. ^__^ (For my succinct reaction: "Kyaaa!!") Otsu Hiyori is a veteran contributor to Yuri Hime, and Mizu-iro Cinema ("Light Blue Cinema" or "Aqua Blue Cinema") is my favorite story by her yet. If you haven't read it, you really should.

Yui is a famous actress who is shooting a new movie at a seaside town. When she takes a break from filming and wanders to an isolated jetty to take in the view, a girl named Tae mistakenly assumes that she wants to commit suicide. (The jetty is a well-known suicide location.) But in trying to pull Yui away from the edge, Tae accidentally pushes her over. ^^;; The end.

lol But no- it isn't steep, so Yui's fine, just dripping wet. Tae takes Yui to her house, and lets her use the shower and get a change of clothes. Later, Yui realizes that the pendant that she normally wears, which has a lot of sentimental value attached to it, is missing and she and Tae go back to the jetty at night to search for it.

Believing that it's her fault, Tae jumps into the water to look for it. They can't find it, and Yui jokingly tells Tae that she'd "better take responsibility for it." (Code for: "I really like you, but I'm going to fabricate an excuse to spend more time with you by pretending you owe me money for the things I lost, and making you my personal assistant for the summer as compensation.")

Tae indeed becomes Yui's assistant, and as they spend more time together, Tae falls for Yui while Yui falls more in love with Tae- while still being a little hung up over her ex, Mizuki. Things become complicated when Yui and Tae go to Tokyo, where Yui lives, and Mizuki shows up wanting to get back together with Yui- but Yuri Hime followers know that Otsu isn't going to twist a knife into the heart of the story by pairing Yui with Mizuki and leaving Tae heartbroken. :)

The final scene, back at the jetty, is absolutely adorable. (Especially Tae's misinterpretation of Yui's "I finally got a day off. What's wrong with wanting to use it to come see the girl I love?" line. ^^ Cuuute!) My only little qualm is that we don't see a kiss in that scene. (But hey, considering their plans for the future....) Sorry if this review is too spoilery- but it shouldn't, really, surprise anyone that this title has a happy ending. (I mean- the cover! The author!! And the magazine!!)

The story isn't deep or artsy- but damn it, that isn't what I want from my romantic comedies. (Although Mizu-iro Cinema is as much of a drama as a comedy- but Otsu amalgamates enough humor into it for it to qualify. And "romantic drama" might make it sound more heavy-handed than it is.) I want engaging, entertaining, not-too-"perfect"-but-not-unlikeable leads, strong writing, character and relationship development that feels organic and believable (which would be more difficult to pull off in a short story), and enough doki-doki moments to leave me with a smile on my face by the end. To that end, Otsu succeeds.

There were a few other things that I especially liked. Even though Yui and Tae are both third-year high school students, making the story take place during summer vacation and using Yui's job as an actress as the main plot vehicle sets the story apart from the "two schoolgirls fall in love at school, the end" thing that we've seen a million times before. As with Aoi Hana and Sakurazawa Erica's Love Vibes (which I want to review later), I like how the protagonist had a love life before setting her sights on the person who she wound up with by the end of the story, instead of the usual "You are my first and only love!" type of story. It just feels more realistic to me. (And I know that Aoi Hana hasn't ended and Fumi and Ah-chan aren't together...yet. Close enough.) Additionally, I liked how the story clearly addressed that Yui likes women, without making it feel like an after school special, or as if the story is taking a break from its narrative to explain what "women liking women" is to the reader.

But most importantly- Tae and Yui are really cute together. (Ganbatte, Tae! Ace those entrance exams. XD )

Story: B+
Art: B (Understated, but pleasant.)
Overall: A-

Monday, May 17, 2010

Manga Review: Cotton

Kita Konno is probably most well-known among yuri fans as the creator of Himitsu no Kaidan, a slightly yuri-ish all-girls' school series that is, from what I've heard, one of the titles that Strawberry Panic parodied. (I will review Himitsu no Kaidan later on.) But Kita also wrote a charming, slightly yuri-ish one volume title called Cotton. (Props to my classmate Sara for recommending this book. ^^)

Cotton is about an OL named Natsuki, who meets a high school girl on a rainy day and gives her her umbrella. They see each other again at Natsuki's sister's wedding, where the same high school girl turns out to be the groom's little sister, Michiko. Michiko is a loner who doesn't normally open up to people, but she seems very much drawn to Natsuki. The two eventually become close friends. (And in this humble reviewer's opinion, Michiko has it bad for Natsuki- even if she doesn't realize it yet.)

This book is good for an afternoon of pleasant light reading, if you're in the mood for shoujo or josei. I'm not sure which magazine this story ran in- having the story focused on an OL lead feels josei-ish, but the airy, delicate art style feels very shoujo. (Especially the lightly sparkling gusts of wind and floral embellishments.) Cotton's simple, pretty art style combined with its good-natured story-telling makes it feel like the manga equivalent of taking a walk outside on a beautiful spring day.

The two leads are both likeable and balance each other's personalities well. Michiko is the most interesting character- she's smart and mature for her age in some ways, while being  immature in other ways (because of her background, and of course, her age)- like many teens. Natsuki is dealing with her own problems, but without losing control like Michiko- and she's the first person to cut through Michiko's self-imposed isolation. (Michiko's personality actually reminds me of Rio from Pieta, even though they have very different reasons for acting the way that they do.) Natsuki and Michiko eventually have a fight because of a misunderstanding on Michiko's part (of course), but we know that this isn't the type of manga that will let things end badly. (My favorite scene was actually how they "fought" right before reconciling.) By the end, they've grown closer to each other and become more self-aware and mature as individuals.

Cotton is brief, but it's a prime example of a simple, good story told well. If you don't like shoujo and josei-type stories, this probably won't appeal to you. But if you do, this is a solid pick.

Story: B
Art: B
Overall: B

Kita has also done a few yuri stories in Yuri Shimai, and some yaoi.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Manga Review: Zettai Shoujo Seiiki Amnesian volume 1

Kaishaku has two stories running starring Chikane and Himeko, the protagonists of their earlier yuri fan favorite creation, Kannazuki no Miko. One is a web novel called Himegami no Miko. (English-language summaries of Himegami can be found here.) The other is a manga series that's running in Kadokawa Shoten's monthly Young Ace magazine. (Kannazuki no Miko ran in Kadokawa Shoten's monthly Shounen Ace.) Most of Kaishaku's manga titles have gotten anime adaptations- so there's a fair chance that Zettai Shoujo Seiiki Amnesian will receive one also. The Kannazuki no Miko anime was significantly better than its manga incarnation, which will hopefully be the case for ZSSA if it is animated.

So far, Zettai Shoujo Seiiki Amnesian is...well...what one would expect from Kaishaku.

Kurusu Himeko is a cheerful, orphaned high school student who works as a nun, along with "Oogami-sempai", the priest in charge of the parish she works for. One day she sees a woman (Chikane) impaled by a sword hanging above the cathedral altar. Because this is a Kaishaku story, Chikane is wearing a shredded school uniform. I chuck any expectations of political correctness out the window, and continue reading. Somehow, Himeko gets Chikane down from way up there and gets a doctor to pay a house call. (Instead of, say, calling 119.) There are three unusual things about Chikane (aside from how she was found): she looks exactly like Himeko's dead "older sister" Chika (I REALLY, REALLY hope that Himeko means "older sister" figuratively rather than literally; that's what I'm assuming for now), she's amnesiac, and the one thing she can remember is that Himeko is her most important person. She almost immediately starts putting the moves on Himeko, but is rebuffed by Himeko after (ahem) a few minutes.

When a flustered Himeko leaves Chikane so she can talk to Oogami, she gets attacked by a psychotic woman who claims to be from the eeeeevil Nine Days organization and wants the "Dragon's Cry" that is inside of Himeko's "sanctuary." (If that sounds like a double entendre, it's intentional- remember, Kaishaku.) Chikane ruthlessly (and kind of awesome-ly ^^ yes, I know that isn't a word) dispatches the woman with a sword- even though she used to belong to Nine Days herself-, and she and Himeko use a charred note the woman left behind as a lead for investigating the Nine Days in Ikebukuro. When they split up, Himeko is bound and nearly raped by a cross-dressing boy from Nine Days who hates women. (I look out of the proverbial window, and see that my expectations have been run over repeatedly by the Kaishaku truck.) Chikane shows up in the nick of time and pulls her sword on him- although he causes an explosion, making Ikebukuro go up in flames.

On another, more peaceful day, a burly man named Date who works for the government shows up and holds Himeko hostage so he can can grope Chikane- but whoops! His mistake- they're technically on the same side, although Chikane won't forgive him.

Himeko returns to her "normal" life at school, until Chikane shows up with a bentou for her in the middle of class, while wearing another student's gym uniform. Chikane wants to be all lovey-dovey, but Himeko tells her to leave. By lunch time, she feels bad, and looks for Chikane so they can share lunch. Chikane is on the rooftop defending herself from another woman from Nine Days (Shizuku), who claims that she's Chikane's ex. o_o (Although that may be a lie.) More fighting, clothes-shredding, and non-con groping ensue. (Most yuri fans who read this chapter were, shockingly, not as upset about Chikane being harassed by a woman as they were about her being harassed by a man.) After being snuggled held by Himeko, Chikane gets her fighting spirit back and defeats Shizuku, who escapes. Chikane falls down in exhaustion and swears to protect Himeko without fail.

If you are a fan of Chikane and Himeko's previous incarnations in Kannazuki no Miko, you will probably be grudgingly hooked on this crappy series. If you are not, you will probably see no value at all in it. That's it.

I actually really enjoyed the first chapter. It was stupid and servicey, but I really liked seeing Chikane and Himeko back in action. My enthrallment wore off in chapter 2, what with that nasty little near-rape scene- but I reasoned that, perhaps, Kaishaku had gotten it out of their system after that. (Never apply "reason" to a Kaishaku manga.) Nearly every subsequent chapter featured some form of sexual assault, followed by Chikane beating up the perpetrator. Even though the perpetrators were always punished, the fact that it happened in every single arc and felt like it was being presented as "service" when it was happening gave this series an icky edge. But then, now and again, through the muck of Kaishaku's pile o' fetishes, there would be a gleaming, worthwhile "moment" between Chikane and Himeko again. (Although at this point, Chikane thinks that Himeko is the greatest thing since sliced bread while Himeko doesn't quite know what to make of Chikane.)

Zettai Shoujo Seiiki Amnesian has a plot that could be stronger if it weren't preoccupied with bloomers, bunny girl costumes, and making sophomoric double entendres. ("Little bear"?) At the very least, Chikane and Himeko are cute as a pair (although Chikane's amnesia and subsequent lack of worldliness has put a dent into her "cool" factor), there is no full-blown rape (although Kaishaku seems to be itching to draw one), and the art is easier to follow than it was in KnM. Maybe it is the lack of mecha this time around (the mecha scenes in the KnM manga were a mess), but I never had trouble following what was going on and who was saying what in this volume. The action scenes are slick and energetic and the character designs are appealing- particularly when their clothes aren't being shredded.

Story: D
Art: B
Overall: C <--- Retrospective edit: Wtf was I thinking? F

It isn't good, but it isn't pretending to be. But...that doesn't really help.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Anime Review: Oniisama E

Oniisama E is a bit of a difficult title for me to review. As manga legend Ikeda Riyoko's most famous work after Rose of Versailles, it's well-done, but very much a product of its time (or times- it's a 1991 adaptation of a manga from 1975)- especially towards the end. If it required less of a time commitment (like the 3 volume manga, which Tezuka Productions adapted into a 39 episode series- surprisingly, without making it feel like it's based on only 3 volumes), I would have been more forgiving, even though I kept the historical context in mind while watching it.

Oniisama E is the first anime series ever about a starry-eyed everygirl freshman entering a rarefied all-girls' academy and getting caught up in capital D Drama with the Special People at her school. (Admittedly, the drama in Oniisama E is more...intense than the drama found in later girls' school shows.) Like Lillian, Miator, Spica, Lulim, and Fujigaya, Seiran is a Catholic school, and like Lillian and the Ichigo-sha schools, the student body of Seiran virtually worships a small handful of "elite" students, known as the "Magnificent Three": Ichinomiya Fukiko (a.k.a. "Miya-sama"), an ojou-sama who acts as Student Body President and head of the Sorority, a group of esteemed (but not on the same cream-of-the-crop level as the "Magnificent Three"), highly-priviledged students that selects a small number of first-years to join them each year; the über-cool, athletic Orihara Kaoru ("Kaoru-no-Kimi"), who opposes the very existence of the Sorority and hates Fukiko; and Asaka Rei ("Hana no Saint-Juste"), a similarly cool, reclusive, pill-popping Oscar de Jarjeyes look-alike who has a lot of baggage from her past involving Fukiko. Poor Nanako doesn't know what she's getting into. ^^;;;

The Sorority invites Nanako to join them, even though she doesn't fit the "typical" Sorority member profile (rich, blue-blooded)- for reasons that only Fukiko knows. After Nanako joins the Sorority, she faces the scorn of students both within and outside of the Sorority who wonder why she got in. Nanako has a few allies from the outset: her friend and schoolmate Arikura Tomoko, who she knew before entering Seiran; Shinobu Mariko, another girl who was chosen for the Sorority, but still faces bullying from some students because of her father's profession; Kaoru, who, along with Tomoko, is probably the sanest person throughout most of the show; and Rei, who comes to care for Nanako (much, much XD ) more than she ever expected to.

Oniisama E is a soapy shoujo melodrama if there ever was one. The character designs are updated from their original manga incarnations, but they still retain their 70's sensibility. The entire show is permeated with Ikeda's well-known fetish for old European (particularly French) culture- like Fukiko's hairstyle, the random French references ("ma chèrie la poupée"; I laughed hard when Nanako told the Sorority that de Sade was her favorite author, without knowing what he actually wrote about), and the general tone of the story. It felt very much like the anime equivalent of reading a Gothic novel (or watching a Gothic-influenced Takarazuka show like Elisabeth). Since I like Gothic novels and shamelessly over-the-top shoujo melodrama, this worked for me. (An example: *Nanako tells Fukiko that she wants to leave the Sorority* *dramatic music plays as a dove crashes through a stained glass window and the pieces fall down in slow motion* *a flower petal-laden gust of wind blows through the room* *the camera slowly pans over Nanako and Fukiko as Nanako looks up while walking away from Fukiko as the wind continues to blow*)

 Even though most of the show is entertainingly soapy "zOMG-angst!!!", being an early 90's anime with yuri (several of the girls get crushes on one another; Nanako and Rei even almost go on a date), you have the inevitable non-yuri friendly ending. (Teenage same sex crushes are just a passing phase that girls go through during that special, delicate adolescent phase of their lives. Unless they fall off a bridge....) I kept that in mind from the beginning (unless I'm mistaken- I'm pretty sure that Sailor Moon was the earliest anime and manga to portray a happy, functional yuri relationship with a happy ending), but it still wasn't a pleasant element to deal with. Add that to how much the "Nanako's stepbrother reconciles with his father as if he'd never done anything wrong"-arc stunk (if I were in Takehiko's shoes, I would have been like, "You bastard. You can rot in hell. I'm going to spread the word about how you treated me for 13 years and f-ck over your reputation." Guess I'm not as nice as Takehiko. :-) ), and the ending left a bitter aftertaste. At around the series' mid-point, I also stopped watching for a while because I was flabbergasted by the revelation that all of Fukiko's issues came from the STUPIDEST incident. (Even by this show's standards- really??)

My favorite arc was definitely the Sorority-abolishing arc- it was hugely satisfying and the high point of each character's development- even Fukiko became more sympathetic. If the story had ended there, I would have been a happy camper. :-) Despite the "meh" ending and a few of the earlier "relics" from this series, it was still, mostly, a pretty entertaining, soapy (and consequently, unintentionally funny) ride.

Story: Very mixed bag- but as good as it gets for yuri pre-Sailor Moon.
Art: B+
Overall: For most of it...B to B+. For the last few episodes...aughh. My low yuri expectations didn't bulletproof me enough. And why, Takehiko, why?? > <

I know someone (female, gay and out) for whom Oniisama E is one of her favorite series- so obviously, perspectives on this series can vary immensely. It's at least worth checking out an episode for the historic value. (Ikeda Riyoko had a huge early influence on shoujo and yuri manga.)