Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Fourteen shows

Revolutionary Girl Utena

This anime season might be the death of me. I don't think I've ever tried to keep up with this many new series' at once; even back when I was reviewing new releases, they'd come in four- or five-episode chunks on a DVD every couple of months, which doesn't require anything like the same kind of brain real estate to keep track of.

But I have, at the moment, fourteen shows in my Currently Watching section on MyAnimeList. Disclosure: only twelve are currently airing, and I've not actually started three of them yet. The rest are between two and four episodes into their run, which is usually the point where I start culling shows - but so far they all seem like keepers, to some degree.

And someone's asked me about Akame ga Kill - which I didn't bother with last season, but now I'm wondering if it's worth a try...

Currently airing

Amagi Brilliant Park (3/13) is from Kyoto Animation, famous for moeblob trash like K-On!, and author Shoji Gatoh of Full Metal Panic! fame. It follows a cast named mostly after American rappers (the male and female protagonists are Kanye West and 50 Cent, respectively) trying to save a theme park that's actually a mechanism to harvest positive energies for powering a magical kingdom in an alternate reality. It's not as funny as it seems to think it is, with a lot of its humour falling a bit flat for me, but it looks great - expect nothing less from KyoAni - and the characters manage to carry off the surreal story remarkably well.

Danna ga Nani wo Itteiru ka Wakaranai Ken (3/13), or I Don't Understand What My Husband Is Saying, is based on a 4-koma manga about a normal office worker and her shut-in otaku husband, who makes a living as a blogger. It makes fun of the stuff that geeks accept about our hobbies, but never feels mean-spirited. Also, if this doesn't convince you to give DannaKen a look then nothing else I say will ever convince you.

Denki-gai no Honya-san (3/12) is a slice-of-life show revolving around the employees of an Akihabara doujinshi store. It has a similar attitude to nerd culture as DannaKen, but coming from the retail perspective it peeks behind the curtain a little into how these kinds of stores operate. The cast is universally likable and quite varied in personality, history and appearance, and it's got just enough shipping fodder to satisfy, even if it's unclear at this point where any of it's going.

Gundam: G no Reconguista (4/?) hooked me in seconds, with its gorgeious retro designs and animation. I'd initially thought there was no CGI in the show at all, but rewatches of the first episode dashed that misconception pretty effectively. Still, the 3D is kept to a minimum, and so far none of the actual mecha action has been anything but hand-drawn 2D. The story is a bit more sloppy and convenient at this stage than I'd like - I'm already predicting the shifting alliances, not that either side seems particularly bothered about keeping enemy combatants away from their tech. I'm hoping it tightens up a bit soon, but hinestly it's such a joy to watch that I'll stick with it to the end anyway.

Log Horizon 2nd Season (2/25) is a disappointing continuation of the excellent first season. With animation duties transferred from Satelight to Studio DEEN, existing character designs have changed subtly but entirely for the worse, and a couple of the new female characters are much more predictably "anime" than really suits the established aesthetic. The pacing has seemed off for the first episodes as well, with less emphasis on Shiroe's genius-level manipulation of various parties, but the plot has been more combat-oriented so far so hopefully it'll get back on track. I'd like to see more of the old cast as well - Akatsuki has been almost entirely sidelined, especially disappointing as she was woefully underserved by the first season.

Ore, Twintail ni Narimasu. (2/12) is this season's strongest contender for "Dumbest Plot That Might Just Work". Officially translated as Gonna Be The Twin-Tails!!, the show is about a high-school student with an obsession with/fetish for twin ponytails who is given a bracelet that will let him battle alien invaders determined to steal all the twin ponytails from Earth. The bracelet also turns him into a girl (with twin ponytails, natch), though it's disappointingly lacking an elaborate magical girl-style transformation sequence. The most important thing I can say about this show is that it doesn't give a fuck what you think. It's here to have fun, and nothing is going to stop it. It helps its case by being genuinely hilarious in places, and while its innuendo occasionally oversteps the mark it's usually moved onto something else by the time you'll notice anyway.

Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso (2/22) is almost certainly going to destroy me. School romance shows about musicians rarely end well, and while I don't expect this to go full White Album 2 on us, Your Lie in April is shaping up to be a total heartbreaker. Aided by gorgeous animation, great music and an unexpectedly thrilling first-episode reference to Laputa, I'm hooked.

Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis (2/?) is a weird one. With a visual style somewhere between Attack on Titan and Space Dandy, a main character who acts like a cross between the latter's eponymous hero and Cowboy Bebop's Spike Spiegel, and a tone that just barely holds together between the action, drama and comedy, it's going to take a lot more episodes before I can decide how I feel about it.

Shirobako (2/?) is about five women who met in their high school's animation club and now work in the anime industry. A number of characters are inspired by real anime directors, composers and producers, and repeated in-universe conversations about one near-disaster seem to be references to actual production problems on Girls und Panzer. It's hard to see what the long-term plot goal is for the show; I'm watching it almost like a documentary about anime production, and the names and job titles that pop up on-screen when a character first appears seems to suggest that's the intention.


Nisemonogatari (1/11), the second part of the lengthy *monogatari franchise, is proving difficult. I persevered with the (deliberately?) obtuse Bakemonogatari mostly for its cinematic flair, but starting Nise, I'm not sure how much longer I can put up with the unnecessarily-wordy plot digressions, creepy fanservice and frankly unappealing main characters. If it had a better long-term story I might be convinced to stick around, but honestly it might have to go. It's been weeks since I last watched an episode.

Shoujo Kakumei Utena (14/39) has been on my "to watch" list for literally years at this point; seemingly almost as influential on the industry as Evangelion, if nowhere near as successful commercially, I've got something different than I was expecting so far. I mostly wasn't prepared for the humour (or the rodent sidekick), and I think I expected more to be made of Utena's princely aspirations. There's been more filler than I anticipated too, although with a 39-episode runtime I guess they can afford momentary diversions. Still, I watched eight episodes in a row last night, so it must be doing something right.

Not started

I'm going to try Girlfriend (Kari) despite its dumb name and dating-game origins because I saw it described on Reddit as a harem show without the male character at the centre, which has intrigued me. I don't know what's going to set it apart from slice-of-life shows in that case, but I guess I'm going to find out.

Inou-Battle wa Nichijou-kei no Naka de, or When Supernatural Battles Became Commonplace is about a highschool literature club who are given supernatural powers, but nothing else about their lives has changed - there's no world-ending threat to defeat. That sounds like an interesting enough setup to give it a couple of episodes.

Based on a long-finished manga and with a plot synopsis that sounded like shonen tedium, I was pretty certain I'd just give Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakuritsu (Parasyte -the maxim-) a miss, but I've seen enough buzz about the series - and the seventeen-year-old beatboxer who provides foley sfx - I've been intrigued.

Friday, October 03, 2014



"If it sees you," our instructor states bluntly, "you're already dead".

We file into the next room. I pick up the flamethrower as instructed - it only has two shots, but while it won't kill her it will scare her off temporarily. I scour the cluttered crates for anything else that might be useful, finding nothing, and open the door.

Steam and flame pour from exposed pipes; the station is full of noise and movement that distracts and startles. My first instinct is to hide, and I obey it.

I pull up the motion tracker: no contacts. This doesn't really reassure me.

The objective marker pulls me to the left, but as I round the corner the lights cut out and I stop dead. The motion tracker shows a single blinking dot moving towards me. I panic and start making my way down a nearby corridor - a dead end.

I stuff myself into a small locker, my heart beating so strong and so fast that I can feel it in my hands. The motion tracker still shows movement to the left, but from my cramped perspective at the end of a corridor I can't see—

She's there.

I hold my breath. She snarls. She starts to move away. When I think I have space, I move out of the cupboard, inching my way closer to the most dangerous thing I have ever laid eyes on as every fibre of my being screams to get back in the cupboard.

She moves behind a stack of pipes but I can still see the spikes on her back, silhouetted against the warning lights. I check the tracker again to make sure she's not moving.

When I focus back on the room, I realise I've lost sight of her.

Cowering behind cover, I keep staring at the tracker for signs of movement. A ping, much too close. I start to move backwards, trying to get a fix without giving my own position away.

She has her back to me.

I glance behind, and see a door. I can make it if I run, I think.

I stand up and sprint. I don't know how close she is, but the thump thump thump of her feet on the steel floors terrifies me. I smack the door release and run through in a blind panic. I turn around just in time to see her secondary jaw shoot out, into my face, and everything goes dark.

I was so scared I'd forgotten about the flamethrower.