Silver Fox (Gingitsune)

(12 episodes)

What’s it about ?

Slice-of-life story about a young shrine-maiden-to-be, and the fox spirit living in the shrine.

Characters

Makoto, our high-school heroine. She’s been the heir to the shrine since she was 4, when her mother met an untimely death. She’s nice, but a bit awkward ; her willingness to help anyone she’s just met also means she has a hard time not being always late.

Gintarou, the fox spirit, has lived in the shrine for generations ; but while the 14 previous shrine maidens worshipped and feared him, Makoto has grown up to view him as a friend. There are often tensions, especially when she abuses his divination powers for the littlest cause, but they always make up in the end.
For the record, he’s not the shrine’s god ; he works as an intermediary with them. Also, this is a role that’s usually performed by pairs of spirits ; his partner left a while ago, which is bound to be a plot point later on.

Makoto’s father married into the family, so while he’s the current priest, he can’t see Gintarou. But he loves and trusts his daughter, even if he’s often powerless to help her handle her gift and responsibilities.

Ikegami is a classmate of Makoto’s who latches on her divination “powers” to fix her relationship with her boyfriend. While she’s not quite happy with the initial results, in the end it all works out.

Production Values

Quite nice ; Gintarou’s body language is animated with lots of care. It’s a very pleasant-looking show.

Overall Impression

A nice, relaxed fantasy slice-of-life show that’s very pleasant to watch. It’s not doing much of interest yet (the core plot for this episode involves finding a lost cat), but we’re obviously still in the setup stage, and there are many threads introduced here that sound intriguing.

This one definitely deserves some more attention.

via [In Which I Review] New anime, Fall 2013 – Page 10.

The Eccentric Family (Uchouten Kazoku)

(13 episodes)

What’s it about ?

Did you know that in modern-day Kyoto, there’s a three-way deadlock in power under the surface between the humans, the tanuki & the tengu ? Nope, me neither.

(Adapted from a novel.)

Characters

Yasaburo, our protagonist, is a tanuki. As a trickster and talented shapeshifter, he laughs at your narrow conception of gender and spends the whole episode looking like a high school girl. I like him : he’s fun and has a nice, snarky sense of humour. And he’s a protagonist that actually does stuff ! How novel !

Pr Akadama is an old tengu and used to be Yasaburo’s mentor ; he’s but a shadow of his older self ever since he broke his back in an ill-fated prank. Nowadays, Yasaburo still looks after him because he feels guilty about said prank, but he’s just about the only one who still cares about the old geezer. Except maybe for…

“Benten”, aka Satomi Suzuki, was Pr Akadama’s other pupil. She’s a normal human, but that hasn’t stopped her from learning how to walk on air from the old master. It’s more than heavily hinted that there was something romantic between the two of them, but he clearly hasn’t worked out. The crowd she freys with right now sound like bad news, but she’s still the scariest person in the room at any time. She’s entirely unapologetic about having suggested the prank to Yasaburo at the time, but it’s clear she regrets it. Not that she’ll ever admit it.

It looks like further episodes in the series may explore a bit more Yasaburo’s siblings and family, but so far they’ve just been cameos. (Younger brother is cute ; older brother doesn’t approve of Yasaburo’s antics.)

Production Values

Very nice : this Kyoto is bursting with life. There’s a lot of care to adjust the body language of each character to their true nature, and that without taking into account Benten, who owns every shot she’s in. I also love the initial camera trick of zooming in and out on the city to comically make a point about what’s happening in it.

Overall Impression

I expected this to be semi-inpenetrable to someone who doesn’t know much about Japanese folklore (wait, tengu are crow spirits ? Why didn’t I notice that before ?), but this turns out to be perfectly accessible to the uninitiated. It’s basically a love triangle that ended very poorly for everyone involved, but the episode succeeds in making clear that there’s a lot left unsaid and to be explored. Kyoto feels like City of Adventure where anything can happen and factions secretly and discreetly feud against each other. (Surely there’s an interesting reason why Akadama was having both a tanuki and a human as students, given how the three groups don’t usually mingle ? What the heck was he up to ?)

This is reminding me of Durarara!!, minus any apparently boring character around. This can’t be a bad thing, right ? Definitely following this one.

via [In which I review] New anime, Summer 2013 – Page 5.

RDG: Red Data Girl

(12 episodes)

What’s it about ?

Supernatural romance ? Even with three episodes released, it’s a bit hard to tell where this is going.

Characters

Izumiko, our female lead in her last year of middle school. She’s a shy introvert who can barely do anything without relying on others. She’s also terrible with electronics, somehow always breaking them. She lives in a remote shrine deep in the forest. The twist is that she’s the host of the local goddess, and thus all kind of nasties are out to get her. Fortunately she’s got many bodyguard “monks” looking out for her.

Miyuki, our male lead, really doesn’t want to be there, but Daddy has forced him to take up the family business and become her new bodyguard. It’s disgust at first sight, and we all know where this is leading.

Izumiko’s parents are conspicuously away. (She’s hosted by her relatives.) Dad is on another continent, and Mom’s yet to be seen.

The OP sequence lists tons of other male characters in a manner suspiciously reminiscent of dating sim adaptations. Hmm…

Production Values

Quite good. It’s a notable improvement over studio PA Works’s last supernatural project, Another ; here the creepy atmosphere actually works.

Overall Impression

I’m not quite sure about this one. There’s nothing particularly wrong about it, and there’s several little sequences that are well done (Izumiko’s drowning in anxiety in front of a computer, or Miyuki “changing his mind” about staying at the shrine). But I can’t quite shake the impression that Izumiko is a very annoying protagonist ; I’m not fond of those wet blankets that have to be saved by awesome but antagonistic dudes.

I’m still watching it, but I don’t expect wonders out of it.

via [In which I review] New anime, Spring 2013.

Sasami-san@Ganbaranai

(12 episodes)

What’s it about ?

What is this I don’t even…

Characters

The titular Sasami, a recluse who never leaves home. She’s extensively cared for by her elder brother. When he’s off to work, she uses her computer network to spy on him possessively.

Said brother remains unnamed throughout the episode, and indeed goes to impressively bizarre lengths not to show his face to the camera at any point. Anyway, he’s a high school teacher, and probably well into his thirties.

Then there are the three sisters pursuing him to various degrees. Tsurugi is one of his colleagues, who does stuff like watching porn in the teachers’ office. The other two are students in the same high school : Kagami is the deadpan sarcastic one, Tama the loony one.

And then the plot goes completely insane : chocolate starts overtaking the world until the three sisters put a stop to it and save the world. (Oh, and and Kagami is apparently a cyborg.) It’s implied that this kind of stuff happens regularly.

It’s a SHAFT show, so there are absolutely no other characters around, with a cityscape entirely devoid of even a single extra.

Production Values

Typical Shinbo direction : artfully composed wide shots, random weird body language bits (such as the brother’s insistant avoidance of the camera), non-naturalistic backgrounds and colours. The animation for the action sequence is very impressive, which makes me wonder about the budget of this series.

What did I think of it ?

Hum. I had no worry that if anyone could make a brocon series watchable, it’d be SHAFT. Especially as the source material is said to be quirkily bizarre on its own right. And this is certainly an enthralling watch, even as alarms bell ring to warn that all of those characters are very creepy indeed.

But the big question is : where do you go from there ? A “bizarre menace of the week” structure could quickly become tediously repetitive, but I doubt this is really what the series is going for. On the other hand, there’s not that much room for character growth either : the characters’ quirks are overpowering and allow for little depth.

There’s definitely a lot of potential here, and on a technical level it’s definitely on SHAFT’s upper range, but I’m not convinced yet this is a show with legs beyond the shock-value fa├žade.

via [In which I review] New anime, Winter 2013 – Page 6.

Hakkenden: Eight Dogs of the East (Hakkenden: Touhou Hakken Ibun)

(13 episodes)

What’s it about ?

Yet another adaptation of the classic 19th-century Japanese epic novel. Supposedly about 8 half-brother werewolves, although only one shows up yet and there’s plenty of other fantasy lifeforms around.

Characters

Shino, one of three siblings who survived a dire accident years ago by contracting with supernatural beings. The younger boy, his body has absorbed a mythical sword that transforms into a talking bird… er, yeah. Anyway, he’s the impulsive brat of the lot.

Sousuke is the elder brother, and contracted with a wolf he can transform into. He’s the reasonable one, consulting with elders about the plot.

Hamaji, the girl, has two roles in this episode : she’s a terrible cook, and she gets captured by the evil Church.

Production Values

Perfectly okay, with some decent designs for the creatures, but very boring human character designs.

What did I think of it ?

As I said before, I fell asleep while watching this the first time around. After a rewatch, I can’t say there’s anything wrong with it per se, aside from very pedestrian execution (and old-fashioned gender politics). It’s just utterly unexciting.

I’ll pass.

via [In which I review] New anime, Winter 2013 – Page 5.

Kamisama Kiss (Kamisama Hajimemashita)

(13 episodes)

What’s it about ?

Shoujo male harem with god bishies.

Characters

Nanami, our female protagonist. She’s got a bit more spunk and personality than the usual, what with now being on the streets due to her dad running away and the debtors taking the house over. She then meets…

Mikage, the local god, who ran away a long time ago and doesn’t really want to come back. So he kisses her on her forehead, which somehow transfers the local godhood to her. The scamp then disappears after giving her directions to the temple. Well, at least it’s a roof over her head…

Tomoe, a more minor local god, who’s been waiting for Mikage for ages. He’s really not fond of this normal human taking over the business, and was about to storm off when she kissed him, which somehow forces him to assist her. (Don’t ask me how it works, I was barely able to pay attention by then.)

There’s also a couple of mini-dudes in masks hanging around and being obnoxiously helpful.

Production Values

Very average.

What did I think of it ?

Snore. It may be because I have no interest in the genre, but I found this very boring. The two leads have no chemistry, and the jokes stop working halfway through. The OP/ED (and the next episode preview) promise more god bishies in further episodes, which I don’t find enticing at all.

I’ll pass.

via [In which I review] New anime, Fall 2012 – Page 2.

Binbougami ga!

(13 episodes)

What’s it about ?

Comedy about a Misfortune God harassing a high school girl. Or is it the other way around ?

Characters

Momiji, the Poverty God. Well, presumably one of many, as we open with her boss giving her a new assignment. She does not seem to enjoy her job too much, although her new “victim” did strike a nerve. (I say “victim” in the loosest of senses, given how Momiji kinda reminds me of Wile E. Coyote.)

Ichiko, an ultra-rich, ultra-popular, F-chested high-school girl. She knows it, and enjoys it tremendously, thank you. Calling her an entitled jerk would be an understatement. (I have to say I’ve been enjoying Kana Hanazawa’s career twice as much since she started getting those bitchy roles ; her venom tongue is a pleasure to listen to.) The plot here is that she’s actually leeching off the good fortune from everyone around her, hence why she’s got so much. Momiji’s job is to resolve the situation.

Suwano, her butler. He’s mostly there to provide Ichiko with an emotional bond… although even that isn’t taken too seriously by the show.

Some of Ichiko’s classmates are given enough prominence in the OP that they’ll probably be important later on, but not yet.

Production Values

Not very good, but the direction is solid enough to sell the jokes.

Overall Impression

Look, a comedy that’s actually funny ! Okay, it’s not without problems (the random popculture jokes, such as Momiji randomly starting to talk like Lupin III for a couple of sentences, sometimes fall flat), but it’s got enough energy and good comedic timing to work. It helps that the two main voice-actresses have amazing chemistry together and can pull off the rapid-fire jokes and multiple tone changes.

“From the makers of Gintama and Daily Lives of High School Boys” had my hopes up, and I’m glad not to be disappointed.

via [In which I review] New anime, Summer 2012 – Page 10.

Poems of Love (Chouyaku Hyakuninisshu: Uta Koi)

What’s it about ?

Remember Chihayafuru last year, about that card game based on 100 classic Japanese poems ? This is a (very liberal) adaptation of those poems. At least, the ones about love stories. Which is about half of them, so that’s plenty enough material.

(Adapted from a very popular josei manga.)

Characters & Plot

Fujiwara no Teika, the dude who’s supposed to have compiled the 100 poems, serves as our host for what is basically an anthology series. I like his sense of humour, for what little we see of it. (And it’s nice to have Yuki Kaji in snarky mode for a change.)

There are two tales here. The first one involves the lower-class Ariwara no Narihira seducing Fujiwara no Takaiko, who’s set to marry to Emperor soon, and thus doesn’t have time for such dalliance. You’ve seen this story thousands of times before, but this one works thanks to Narihira’s incredible charm and impeccably smooth technique, and Takaiko’s very genuine reactions.

The second tale is about his brother Ariwara no Yukihira’s happy marriage, and it doesn’t really go anywhere. It seems to be mostly an excuse to flesh Narihira’s backstory out a bit.

I have no clue whether we’re going to see any of those characters (besides our host) again later. I kinda doubt it, as I seem to recall the 100 poems having been written over a span of several centuries.

Production Values

This is a very good-looking series, with thick outlines and several other design choices contributing to make it look a bit like ancient Japanese paintings.

The ED features rapping. Of course it does.

Overall Impression

There is a lot to like here : it’s gorgeous, the dialogue is very well-written indeed, and the characters have a lot of life in them.

But… It’s an anthology of archetypal love stories. There’s a big risk of them quickly starting to repeat themselves. One of them this episode is already lackluster, and I really doubt this is going to keep my interest for long.

Still, I’ll at least try to stick with it for one more episode. Maybe they’ll find a way for it sustain itself for the long run ?

via [In which I review] New anime, Summer 2012 – Page 10.

Folktales from Japan (Furusato Saisei Nippon no Mukashi Banashi)

(?? episodes)

What’s it about ?

Exactly what it says on the tin. Each episode is comprised of three different (and unrelated) folktales.

Production Values

Very low ; the artsyle is deliberately naive, and the animation takes every possible shortcut.

Overall Impression

Well, this is definitely a collection of Japanese folktales. Perfectly alright for what it is, but I’m clearly 20 years to old to have any interest in this beyond the novelty of the first episode. I’ll pass.

via [In which I review] New anime, Spring 2012 – Page 2.

The Scarlet Fragment (Hiiro no Kakera)

(26 episodes)

What’s it about ?

It’s an adaptation of an otome game. You see those romance-simulators where the player can chose between a harem of characters ? This is the female-oriented version, where the player-stand-in is surrounded by a bunch of pretty boys.

Characters

Tamaki, our generic female protagonist. With her parents off doing cooperation work over in Africa or something, she’s moving back to the countryside to her grandmother’s estate. Which is very convenient, because she’s the next in line to be the Local Princess Protector Of Stuff, and Granny’s about to retire. She has no clue what this is all about, although she does seem to have the innate skill required to cast spells against the random creepy things crawling around the place.

Takuma, the mandatory gruff bishie who begrudgingly escorts her the whole episode (voiced by Tomokazu Sugita, impeccable as always). There seems to be no depth whatsoever to him besides that. He just grumbles and reluctantly gives some exposition from time to time.

Tamaki enrolls at the local high school, and there are a bunch of of female classmates that might have gotten a chance at becoming supporting characters if Takuma hadn’t dragged Tamaki out of the classroom within 30 seconds so that she could meet more bodyguard bishies. There’s the short one with a size complex, the quiet deadpan one, and the handsomer-than-the-others glasses dude.

Just in case you’re wondering whether there’s actually a plot here, the last minute shows us Tamaki’s Evil Blonde Counterpart and her squad of underlings. Not that they do anything yet, mind you.

Production Values

Slightly better than you’d expect. The random monsters do look suitably creepy and menacing, at the very least.

Overall Impression

This could have been worse. Sugita pulls off his character without being too annoying. Some of the jokes work. (I like that Tamaki’s bodyguards are called “The Five” despite there only being four of them.) The monsters look good.

But the key issue here is that it’s dreadfully unoriginal. There’s nothing to set it apart from any other series in the same genre. None of the characters display any dimensions beyond their respective archetypes. To put it bluntly, I just don’t care, and I can’t see myself bothering with another episode ; nearly everything else this season looks more interesting than “Generic Otome Game Adaptation #1642”.

via [In which I review] New anime, Spring 2012.