#39 : GEAR Fighter Dendoh

(38 episodes)

What’s it about ?

More mecha from Sunrise ! Here it’s the more oldschool kind (that looks a bit like sentai without the costumes), clearly targeted for children. You can tell by the obvious product placement.

Characters

Hokuto, our generic kid protagonist, whose family has just moved into the city. Decent book-smarts.

Ginga, another kid he meets later on, does lots of martial arts training. It’s mild irritation at first sight, so of course when the nasty giant robot aliens attack, they have to pair up to pilot the Earth Defense Force’s own new mecha. In a synchronised fashion, of course.

Susumu, the official pilot for said mecha, is very confused : who are those kids and how could they even enter the cockpit ? And why is the mecha now denying him entry, despite him having trained for this for years ?

The mysterious masked woman who seems to be the field commander has no such qualms : she artfully manoeuvres the kids into defeating the Alien Mecha of the Week. (Too bad the aliens aren’t moron and immediately send tons of footsoldiers at once.) … And come on, even without recognizing Kotono Mitsuishi’s voice, she’s obviously Hokuto’s mom with a blonde wig and a fancy visor.

Production Values

Nice enough for this kind of thing ; although there’s a clear emphasis of how cool those programmable remotes for mecha are (despite the kids using them, you know, INSIDE the mecha…).

Overall Impression

Well, that was quite fun. I don’t really care enough for the characters and the toyetic aspects enough to really watch the show, but Sunrise know their stuff and how to spin a decently entertaining series out of a generic premise through sheer enthusiasm alone.

Source: [In Which I Review] Anime series from 2000 – Page 12

#38 : Gravitation

(13 episodes)

What’s it about ?

Adaptation of a yaoi manga series.

Characters

Shuichi, our protagonist, is the “leader” of struggling rock group “Bad Luck”. Like, it’d be a good thing if he could finally write a damn song that’s not crap so that they can finally debut. He’s your archetypal “uke” : short, a bit effeminate, whiny… the one who takes the “female” role in how yaoi writers imagine gay relationships are.

Eiri, a guy he randomly meets in the street, and who takes a few seconds to give some feedback on the song he’s trying to write (“yup, it’s crap, you should just quit”). As it turns out, he’s a semi-famous novelist. And of course an archetypal “seme” : tall, controlling, and a bit of an asshole.

The plot kicks off when Eiri uses Shuichi to break off with his former girlfriend. So it’s off to a great start, and I’m sure it’s going to be a wonderful love story…

Production Values

For some reason, many early shots (as Shuichi arrives late to a meeting with his bandmates and their producer) are made with heavily filtered live-action footage. I’m not really sure why, especially as it gradually fades away without much rhyme or reason… It certainly contributes to the cheap-lookingness of the show, though.

Overall Impression

Ah, yaoi. A genre I have very little interest in, and it takes a lot of skill to make me watch it. Downplaying the abusiveness of its relationship would help, but this clearly isn’t the plan here. So I’m left with characters I care little for, engaged in a plotline I’m more dreading than anything else. That’s not really what I call a good time.

I’m not part of the audience here. And I get the impression this series is more known for popularizing its genre’s clich├ęs than for actually doing anything noteworthy with them.

Source: [In Which I Review] Anime series from 2000 – Page 11

#37 : Fighting Spirit (Hajime no Ippo)

(76 episodes, + 50ish episodes’ worth of sequels and specials)

What’s it about ?

Adaptation of a sports manga that started publishing in 1989 and is still running.

Characters

Ippo, our protagonist. This shy and downright wimpy high school student always gets bullied, and it’s getting worse. The paradox is that he’s actually quite strong, due to helping out all the time at his mother’s fishing shop (and doing the heavy lifting of shipping equipment).

His (single) mother would rather he spend more time socializing and having some actual teenage hobbies, but it’s hard to tell him no when he’s so earnest in helping running the struggling shop.

Takamura is some dude who rescues him after yet another attack by bullies, and gives him some first aid. As it turns out, he’s debuting as a pro boxer, and impresses Ippo enough for him to take Takamura as a role model. Now, the guy is a bit wary about this kid aiming for a career in a brutal sport he has the wrong personality for, and makes sure to give him all the proper warnings. Ippo is undeterred.

Production Values

Good enough for this kind of thing. The source material shows its age a bit, as half the cast (including Takamura) rock “bad boy” pompadours.

Also, this isn’t a show that papers over the violence inherent to boxing ; blood will be drawn several times an episode.

Overall Impression

Well, it’s a sports show that doesn’t really deviate from the usual formula. You know the drill. What it does have going for it is strong characters (I was especially impressed by how well-rounded Takamura was), and the acute sense that Ippo comes from a working-class background.

… On the other hand, I don’t really care for boxing (especially as this looks like a mostly realistic take on the sport), and long-running sports series aren’t something I’m looking forward to marathoning. This is a show that does everything right, but I don’t find it compelling enough to keep watching it.

Source: [In Which I Review] Anime series from 2000 – Page 11

#36 : Vandread

(13 episodes, + 13 for the second half a year later)

What’s it about ?

Space opera. With a literal war of the sexes ! For a few generations there’s been a complete separation between the Male Empire and its female counterpart, with enough hysterical propaganda to keep the war going for a while.

Characters

Hibiki, our protagonist. A third-class citizen in the Male Empire, his job involves building parts for mecha. He made the foolhardy bet with his co-workers/bullies that he could steal a completed and brand new mecha from the cargo hold of the warship about to join the front ; and he might have gotten away with it if the jingoistic commander-in-chief hadn’t ordered a launch two hours ahead of schedule. On the other hand, he’s resourceful enough for an attack of the female forces on the ship to be enough to spring himself out of the brig. (Into a warship full of female shock troops easily overpowering the taken-by-surprise male crew, but them’s the breaks.)

Other noteworthy members of the crew include the cowardly heir of the Food Company (more interested in shilling his crap than acting like a real soldier), and a tall loner who makes a point of peacefully engaging their captors (“I’m a doctor”) and looks like he’s got an agenda.

Dita is a pilot amongst the female forces who crashes her fighter halfway into the starship (oops). She then runs into Hibiki, whom she seems to be trying to catch as a pet. (The language barrier seems a bit inconsistent ; those two clearly don’t understand each other, and only a few elite female soldiers can decypher male script ; on the other hand, the female troops don’t seem to have too much trouble handling their prisoners…)

And then the male commander-in-chief triggers the warship’s self-destruction (from the half of it that safely detached itself) ; most of the female forces manage to evacuate in time, but Hibiki, Dita and a couple of her teammates get sucked into a space wedgie…

Production Values

Fairly impressive. The CG integration looks a bit clunky nowadays, but it isn’t too distracting, and the traditional animation shows off some good cartooning skills, with tons of little gags always happening in the background.

It’s thus a bit disappointing that, under their entirely sensible and suitably alien-looking spacesuits, the female soldiers wear weirdly fan-servicey clothes.

Overall Impression

Wow. This is a dense first episode, introducing its premise and a good number of characters while still moving the plot along at a brisk pace ; it’s also packed to the gills with world-building. (For example, there’s a throwaway line between male extras that suggests they can somehow have children together ; this is a stark contrast with the female “let’s capture some dudes” tactics, which itself is clearly at odds with the Male Empire’s propaganda that demonizes females so much I can’t see it having the same needs. There’s just so much implied about this universe’s bizarre politics in all this, I’m really curious.)

As a result, the episode sometimes devolves into montage, such as this curious scene where the screens behind Hibiki broadcast a flashback of his as he’s busy infiltrating the warship. It feels like something from a Shinbo anime, symbolic and weirdly surreal… and hey, if it helps making the exposition more fun and visually interesting, I’m all for this kind of thing. You just go along with it ; it’s not as though the show is particularly realistic anyway. I get the impression it’s something of an indictment of modern Japanese jingoistic politics… because like all good S-F, it’s more interested in commenting on the present than predicting the future.

As you can probably guess, I found this lovely. It’s not flawless, but there’s enough going on here to keep me enthalled. And, you know, it’s very funny indeed.

Source: [In Which I Review] Anime series from 2000 – Page 10

ISUCA

(10 episodes)

What’s it about ?

Adaptation of a supernatural action manga series.

Characters

Shinichiro, our generic male lead. A completely unremarkable high school student. He’s even got the mandatory perverted best friend to make him look better.

Sakuya, a classmate of his that goes around shooting shape-shifting nasties with a bow and arrows. Apparently her family has been doing this for many generations. She gets progressively more annoyed as Shinichiro keeps getting in her way. Especially regarding…

Tamako, a catgirl (with a maid outfit in the credits) who is NOT the gigantic feline going around killing students. That’s a completely distinct monster, and Sakuya would have executed Tamako by mistake if Shinichiro hadn’t jumped to her defense.

The cast list includes an actual character named Isuca, but she’s yet to show up (or her significance to be explained).

Production Values

This is from studio Arms, and as usual for them this is borderline softcore porn. The pervert camera is on full force here. Mind you, I’m pretty sure Sakuya getting heavy clothing damage and magically raped during the climactic fight scene were in the source material too.

And of course there’s some clumsy censorship for the TV broadcast.

Overall Impression

Remember how I was saying that this season was pretty good, with at worst a few very boring and generic light novel adaptations ? As it turns out, the token creepy fanservice-fest just decided to premiere late. (Not that it really impacts on the season’s overall quality.)

Even disregarding the problematic content, this show has very little going for it : the characters are one-dimensional, the basic plot is nothing special and has been done better elsewhere, and the tone is all over the place (going from “comedy” hijinks to gruesome horror and back). Aside from having some relatively decent animation, it’s terrible on just about every level.

Really don’t bother with this one.

via [In Which I Review] New anime, Winter 2015 – Page 2.

#34 : Descendants of Darkness (Yami no Matsuei)

(13 episodes)

What’s it about ?

Adaptation of an urban fantasy shojo manga series. With vampires !

Characters

The heroes are part of an agency that regulates the undead living hidden in our world. They’re undead themselves, of course. (And nearly all handsome dudes, because shojo.) Most of the time this is just boring paperwork, but sometimes field agents are required to intervene.

Tsuzuki is one such field agent. Apparently so annoying and obnoxious that he just can’t keep partners. Not that he looks so awful in this episode to me, but maybe he coworkers know something I don’t.

Hisoka is a newbie who’s been assigned as his new partner ; it’s mutual irritation at first sight. The fact that he looks 16 (having died at that age) and Tsuzuki often treats him as such doesn’t help.

Our first case of the season involves a vampire serial killer in the area they’re assigned to ; cue their squabbling while investigating it.

Production Values

Decent enough, but those are very “modern shojo” character designs indeed, all angles.

Overall Impression

Hmmm. There’s some entertaining stuff here, especially the quirky premise… but the execution feels slightly lacking ; I can’t quite pinpoint it (the leads not being that charismatic ? the lack of suspense ? the case of the week not being very interesting ?), but it just doesn’t grab me.

Maybe it’s the all-male cast (aside from the baddie) rubbing me the wrong way. I don’t think I’m the target audience.

Source: [In Which I Review] Anime series from 2000 – Page 9

#33 : Hand Maid May

(10 episodes + 1 special)

What’s it about ?

Wait, we didn’t get a “Magical Girlfriend” series yet ? Only “Magical Baby” & “Magical Roommate” ? This is an oversight that MUST be fixed post-haste, whatever the cost.

Characters

Kazuya, our nerdy protagonist, is a college student with a heavy interest in electronics. To the point of spending most of his nights tinkering (and sleeping during classes).

Kasumi, his childhood friend and the assistant landlady of his apartment complex. She keeps checking on him way more than strictly necessary, often entering through the window. I doubt the way she’s completely immodest in his presence is entirely innocent.

Nambara, his “rival” (Kazuya couldn’t care less), who keeps trying to upstage him and/or cause him harm. He’s a moron, but with enough money to be a nuisance ; and apparently in 2000 the old “virus on a disc” trick still worked.

Bizarrely Nambara’s virus might have actually connected to a “real” website, as Kazuya nearly immediately receives a package. (And if you believe that was a real delivery woman, I have a bridge to sell you.) Inside : the titular May, a small android maid. Somehow Kazuya isn’t bothered by not having passed any order, and just takes her in stride.

Production Values

Hello, fanservice ! Kasumi all but throws herself at Kazuya, and the camera loves to perv on her. As well as on May, of course.

… Although, really, it’s a bit more tasteful and restrained than I expected at first. They didn’t even clarify whether Kazuya jury-rigged the recharging USB cable into the front or the back slot.

Overall Impression

Sigh. There are a few decent jokes in here, but most of it felt stale or downright nonsensical. (Nambara’s antics were especially painful.) And despite it being the whole premise, relatively little is made out of May yet. The show just doesn’t manage to sell her as the catalyst for any semi-interesting stories, and that’s a problem. It’s almost like the show is too shy or embarrassed by its premise, and that just won’t fly for an ecchi series. Especially when the main cast is so forgettable.

I have no interest in watching any more of this.

Source: [In Which I Review] Anime series from 2000 – Page 9

#32 : Brigadoon : Marin & Melan

(26 episodes)

What’s it about ?

Hey, it’s Sunrise making another flavour of mecha anime ! How surprising ! (Here’s, it’s a crossover with the mons genre.)

Characters

Marin, our protagonist, is a very energetic and cheerful middle-schooler. Also, an orphan, living with her grandma and helping out the finances by working part-time jobs such as delivering newspapers. With a bit of collateral damage, or course.

I could do without so much screentime being spent on the “joke” of bullies lifting up her skirt and embarrassing her. (It’s as unsexy as possible, but still.) But apparently it’s plot relevant, as a giant spaceship then starts blocking the skies, and a killer robot makes a beeline for her. Cue long chase scene.

Melan is another robot she activates accidentally (its small “at rest” form was hidden in a shrine she crashed into) ; it’s very polite and effortlessly destroyed the attacker. And he’ll be sticking around, as the next-episode preview promises more evil robots showing up in a quick succession.

Production Values

Quite good, and very colourful. Some unusual shading work, too, as we get spots of white to show off light instead of darker shades. It’s a bright series. And of course you can always rely on Sunrise to make mecha look good.

Overall Impression

Hum. On the one hand, there are many lovely bits of cartooning here. It showcases two different bike chase-scenes, and yet they never get repetitive nor boring.

The problem is that Marin leaves me entirely cold. I find her perpetual cheerfulness more annoying than endearing. So a whole series of her and her pet mecha fighting drones with little personality isn’t a prospect I find particularly attractive.

I’m probably just a bit too old for this.

Source: [In Which I Review] Anime series from 2000 – Page 9

#31 : Strange Dawn

(13 episodes)

What’s it about ?

The old “teenagers transported to a parallel world” classic.

Characters

Our two protagonists, Yuko and Eri, are ordinary highschoolers who have no clue how or why they’re now suddenly in these semi-desertic lands. Eri is the quiet one, and a bit of a wet blanket ; Yuko is the archetypal “bad girl”, superficial and rude. I get the impression they weren’t particularly close before this.

The world is inhabited by a number of “little people”, divided into clans waging guerilla warfare against each other. One clan we see is outright aggressive, while the other welcomes Yuko & Eri as the Big Saviours that will surely help tip the war into their favour.

At least, that’s what Shall, their MVP, strongly believes ; a good chunk of the tribe are more skeptical, especially as the girls are bemused and not very cooperative.

And let’s be honest : aside from being several sizes taller than the locals, it’s not like our girls hold any particular advantage, do they ? Sure, they can frighten an unaware enemy commando team by just screaming and waving their arms around, but I doubt those smoke and mirrors going to be effective for long. What is it the little people see in the Big Saviours, really ? Where do their legends even come from, anyway ?

Production Values

Lovely. There’s some quite good animation for the action sequences, and I like the rather distinctive designs for the little people, with proportions quite unlike real human beings.

Overall Impression

This was quite a lot more enjoyable than I expected it to be. A lot of it owes to Yuko & Eri feeling so real ; they’re not even particularly likeable (Yuko is a brat and Eri would apologize to her own shadow for bumping into it), but they behave like actual teenagers and have some good chemistry together. I’m also intrigued by the choice to start off with them already there, with no flashback yet as to how they got transported or what their life was like before. (And their personalities are strong enough for some guesses to be made by the audience.)

The little society is also interesting to watch, and I’m always up for fantasy politics. So I’m definitely coming back to this show later on. It’s a nice surprise.

Source: [In Which I Review] Anime series from 2000 – Page 8

#30 : Hamtaro

(296 episodes)

What’s it about ?

The adventures of a pet hamster and his furry friends, adapted from a children’s manga series that’s still running.

Characters

Hamtaro, our protagonist. Tends to escape a lot from his cage, as he likes to explore his surroundings. Easily makes friends.

His owner is a nice little girl who just moved into a new neighbourhood and doesn’t get much screentime yet. I’m sure she and her family will have room for more characterization later on.

Oxnard, a goofy other hamster who lives in the neighbourhood and apologizes a lot.

“Boss”, a “field hamster” who built his own little underground nest nearby. He’s a bit gruff, but seems nice enough once you get to know him. He’s in love with…

Ribbon, a cute hamster who lives in a house nearby. She doesn’t get any lines as Boss tries romancing her through the window… but it looks like it’s Hamtaro who caught her eye. (Also, her owner makes friends with Hamtaro’s in a subplot.)

Production Values

Perfectly alright. On the other hand, this is another show where I could only get the English localization… which clocks at 17 minutes instead of the usual 22. Even accounting for the absence of OP & ED sequences, it still makes me suspect some cuts were made… Although nothing immediately noticeable.

Overall Impression

That was quite cute. I can see how it got successful enough to run for six years : it’s well made, the characters are fun to follow, and it has none of the lowbrow humour you often get from kids’ shows. Even this setup episode was entertaining enough.

But not enough for me to commit to watching nearly 300 episodes. It’s good at what it does, but I’m not really the audience for it.

Source: [In Which I Review] Anime series from 2000 – Page 7