This spring season is the most exciting and promising season of anime in a long, long, time. FIVE anime that I’m actually interested in watching! Usually it’s at most 1-3, and I will end up being bored and dropping them halfway through. Let’s see how long I can maintain these series!
Out of curiosity, I looked over past seasons for a year to see what I picked up and dropped:
Bodacious Space Pirates (watched 2 episodes, and got bored. However, feedback says this series gets really good, so I will try again once it is completely out and then marathon it)
Daily Lives of High School Boys (started watching it, but then NISA licensed it, so I stopped at ep. 1. I’ll buy it, instead)
Area no Kishi (watched the 1st ep., was ok, I guess. Then found out where it was going, and immediately got bored and dropped it)
Instead, I just stuck with Chihayafuru, from Fall 2011.
Natsume’s Book of Friends 4, I’m just waiting for a release.
Ben-to (I think I made it to episode 7 or so? Maybe 9. Anyway, I actually did like this anime quite a bit, until it started veering away from the whole martial arts bento battle silliness and started going some weird sister bizarreness? I still have it on fansubs, so I’ll probably finish it eventually. Kinda surprised nobody’s picked this up yet.)
Chihayafuru (the winner of the season. Finished this whole series in Winter 2012)
Usagi Drop (excellent father/daughter show, watched the entire thing)
One show I might’ve watched had someone been streaming it was Mawaru Penguin Drum, by the same director as Utena (Kunihiko Ikuhara). Again the Natsume’s Book of Friends 3 series, I’m waiting to get released.
Tiger & Bunny (watched it to the halfway point and then got distracted by other things. Would like to finish it eventually. Viz has the license, but is sitting on it for unknown reasons)
So yeah. Very underwhelming watching patterns. But this season, man! What a bunch of strong contenders!
Lupin III: A Woman Called Fujiko Mine
No, seriously. Boobs. This is the most boobified anime I’ve seen. Of course, I haven’t seen any hentai and avoid the normal ecchi anime boob fests, which usually features triple-J boobs on a stick thin body, but these are ARTISTIC boobs. Really.
Lupin III is a classic anime franchise from the 60s, and this is the latest incarnation. Lupin is a master thief, has a band of merrymakers, and a sometimes girlfriend, sometimes rival, Fujiko. This series is about how the whole gang started.
The whole opening sequence is Fujiko posed all over the place, stark naked and apparently, uh, very cold. The two eps I’ve seen so far, she just wanders around naked for large chunks of time. It’s very weird, but due to the art style and the context, it doesn’t bother me other than mild amusement.
The art is very stylized, and gorgeous, which I was expecting, since it’s by the same guy who did the eye-gasmic Redline (which also had boobs). The shading is a little weird and dark, but not a huge deal.
So far there’s been lots of action scenes, which is great. The series also seems to be more about Fujiko, since the second ep didn’t even have Lupin in it, but did have one of his future partners, Jigen, facing off against Fujiko. Then the third ep. paired Fujiko with another future partner, Ishikawa, (and again, no Lupin).
I did like the first ep with Lupin and Fujiko bantering and trying to outwit each other while trying not to get killed by a crazy cult leader. I’m curious when they will meet up again.
Many years ago, Mutta and Hibito, brothers separated by three years, saw a UFO and both were inspired to become astronauts and travel to space. However, Mutta got sidetracked, and through bad luck and a short temper got fired and is now living back at home with his parents. Hibito, the younger brother, did fulfill his dreams and is the first Japanese astronaut traveling to the moon. Hibito reminds Mutta of his forgotten dreams, and with some conniving from their mother, Mutta is finally taking his first steps towards realizing his dreams as well.
This seems to be a dramedy anime as we follow Mutta and see if he can actually get his life together and become an astronaut.
I really like Mutta. He seems to be a very realistic type character, with self-doubts, getting excited over silly things, having funny petty reactions with his brother, etc. These characters are also older (Mutta’s 31), which also makes it easier (for me) to relate to than your typical high school anime.
I also like the testing board that’s interviewing Mutta for the astronaut positions. They are smart and have these little covert tests besides the regular overt interview.
This anime reminds me a bit of a manga I really enjoyed, Twin Spica, which is about a little girl who’s only dream is to become an astronaut.
I wasn’t planning on watching this as most sports anime follow the same pattern, but after it got a 4.5/5 from one of the reviewers I like on Anime News Network, I decided to add it to my rotation, last minute. And I love it.
This one is a little bit different in that the gifted player isn’t one of the showier players, like an outstanding pitcher (Big Windup, Cross Game), or a powerful offensive player (Slam Dunk). Kuroko’s power is that he is so bland and unassuming, he makes an great passer, ball stealer, and assist. He also sucks at everything else, having no stamina, no shooting skills, and is too short to be a good defensive player. However, he knows his strengths, and promises the star first year offensive player that with Kuroko’s help, Kagami could become the best player in Japan.
Also, the rest of the basketball team is almost as strong, especially the captain, Hyuga (woo, glasses guy!), and an excellent female coach, Riko (a refreshing change–usually any cute females in sports anime are relegated to team managers).
I really like the humor so far. Kuroko’s “invisibility” causes for awkward situations, and Hyuga’s competitive spirit and desire to be respected by his underlings has him mumbling silly things under his breath all the time.
Yuki never fits in anywhere he moves. And he moves frequently, due to some reason concerning his grandmother (I’m not sure if it’s her job, or her illness). Perhaps because of these frequent upheavals, he suffers from panic attacks where his face contorts hideously, and he feels like he’s drowning, causing him to flee the scene. This does not endear him to his classmates, and he’s always alone.
And then he moves to Enoshima, where he encounters Haru, the self-proclaimed alien, who proceeds to change his life.
So far, this is a very… weird anime. The director is the same director of my #1 most wanted license, Mononoke (Kenji Nakamura). The color is GORGEOUS. It explodes off the screen. The very opening scene is extremely Mononoke-ish in its art, all papery.
Four episodes in, and it’s still very mysterious where it’s going. There some sort of alien-watching group, one of whom seems to be Indian and has a duck. Haru has a sister, who may be a fish. They may both be fishes, in fact. Maybe fish aliens. Except they want Yuki to be able to catch fish for some reason, and therefore recruit the very reluctant classmate Natsuki, the “fishing prince.” Haru decides he wants to live with Yuki, and the grandmother just lets him, this complete stranger. See? All very weird! But the weirdness just makes me want to find out what the heck is going on.
Kids on the Slope
And then there’s my favorite one so far.
1) It’s directed by the same director of Cowboy Bebop, which brought in thousands of new anime fans. (Shinichiro Watanabe)
2) The music is done by the same person who did Cowboy Bebop‘s score and soundtrack, which was AMAZING. (Yoko Kanno)
Those two names made this the most anticipated anime of the spring season, just to see what they would do, and if they could recreate the same magic as before. The answer is… no. Not really. But while this anime is almost the polar opposite of Bebop, I still love it.
Kaoru (like Yuki, in Tsuritama, above) is a perennial transfer student. His father gets transferred around for his job, and Kaoru follows him. He is now staying with an aunt who finds him a burden, and feeling extremely unwelcome. He, like Yuki, is also prone to panic attacks, and must run off to the roof to get some air to recover. During one of these episodes, he runs into Sentaro, the delinquent, and there’s an extremely bizarre moment with hints of strong BL (boys’ love). I’m not sure what they were going for here–some fanservice for the fujoshi (fangirl) crowd? Maybe to show they were kindred spirits? Anyway, it’s peculiar, but the anime then shakes that off and flows into a beautifully animated fight sequence between Sentaro and some bullying seniors.
Kaoru later discovers that Sentaro is an accomplished jazz drummer. Kaoru himself is a talented classical pianist, which Sentaro scoffs at, and says only jazz matters. With the help of Ritsuko, another classmate, the two begin to bond via music as Kaoru starts to explore jazz and fall in love with Ritsuko… who only has eyes for Sentaro.
There isn’t really new territory explored here story-wise with a high school love triangle. But, the animation is lovely. The coloring is all very muted in browns and blacks and there’s a very old-timey feel to it with the way the lighting was done. It’s set in the 60s and looks like it. Also, when the characters are shown playing instruments, the animation jumps to stupendous. Usually, hands are hidden when this kind of scene is done. Or they’re shown as a still frame with a pan, as music flows around them. Here, when a note is played on the piano, the right key is struck. When there’s a glissando, you can see Kaoru’s hand sliding down the keyboard. When there’s a cymbal noise, Sentaro is striking the cymbal, even during the super fast sessions. A drummer on the ANN forums was in awe at how good the animation was done and he said it was spot on perfect.
I think some people were hoping this was a jazz anime, but it looks to be more like a coming-of-age/romance anime instead, with jazz as the vehicle (sort of like Cross Game is a romance anime, with baseball as the vehicle, as opposed to being a true sports anime). A jazz anime would’ve been more unique, but I really am enjoying this romance as it unfolds.
Folktales of Japan: Tells classic folktales from Japan that I grew up with. I like the stories, but it’s a bit too kiddy for me. I wish there was a dub so that I could give this to my nephews though to watch. They might like it.
Accel World: I started watching this as it deals with a sort of Second Life computer simulation, but the main character immediately put me off. He’s drawn super simply, and fat, and is portrayed as meek and cowardly. His avatar in the computer world is a pig, while other people go all out with their avatars. And then I made the mistake of saying this anime didn’t grab me right away (after I watched 5-10 min) and I was putting it off til later and got attacked in the forums (by a moderator and reviewer of all people, who said I was close minded and hypercritical), so now I have no desire to watch this at all. Reading other people’s posts, it still does not sound interesting, and I don’t feel like I’m missing anything.
Polar Bear Cafe: A LOT of people love this anime. A ton. It is kind of cute, especially with all the vacuuming scenes with the loser panda kid. But the panda’s lazy attitude bothers me, and it just feels too out there for a 25 min. anime. Maybe as a 5 or 10 minute anime, I could’ve enjoyed it more.
Jormungand: I have not completely dropped this yet, but it really is at the bottom of my attention span list. I want to like it. People have compared it to Black Lagoon, which I love. The first 2 eps were ok, but the third ep, I got bored in the first segment. I’m going to try it again, as someone said it picks up once the action starts, so we’ll see.