Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Summer 2013: What I'm Watching (Part 1)


The Summer 2013 season of anime is underway, and what a season it is! I have locked on to no fewer thaneighteen shows that I plan to follow this season—definitely the most I have ever tried to follow at once. (It helps that, because it is summer, certain non-anime shows are taking the summer off to air reruns, giving me more time for anime.) So what are the shows I am following this season? Take a look after the jump for my thoughts on these shows.


Brothers Conflict
This is the story... of a girl named Ema...
…Hoo boy. I’m going to have to explain this one.
First of all, I do not recommend this show to anyone. It’s about a high school girl, Ema, whose father remarries and thus she moves into a large house with her 13 new stepbrothers. Ema is by and large a bland doormat protagonist and the guys aren’t particularly interesting, either, with some of them being downright creepy or annoying as they purposely flirt with their stepsister. There’s also a really, really annoying talking squirrel.
And yet, I find that if I can turn off my brain, I can enjoy this show for all the ridiculousness that it is. I attribute this mainly to a certain show that is a major part of my anime history, involving a similar premise, but with the genders (and ages) reversed…
I will grant this, though: there is one potentially interesting storyline, where one of the stepbrothers is a classmate of Ema’s that has had a crush on her before learning she would become his sister. However you might feel about stepsibling incest, you cannot deny that this is a complex situation that could happen in real life, and if this show explores that storyline seriously, I may end up liking it more for that alone.
But from what I’ve seen, I’m keeping my expectations low.
If you really want to watch it… well, it’s on Hulu and on Funimation’s site.
Chronicles of the Going Home Club
Their club is not having a club.
Cute Girls Doing Cute Things Show #1, and as I mentioned earlier, I’m a fan of these shows. And yet, this is one I’m not really looking forward to as much.
This show is about a school with a literal “going-home club”. In Japanese high schools, students are encouraged to join a club, and those who do not joke that they’ve joined the “going home club”. This particular show has an official club of this sort, where a group of girls just do whatever they want.
The girls are all of classic archetypes: Sakura is the energetic president, Botan has crazy samurai skills and is into video games, Claire is the rich girl, Karin is the demure, moe girl whose womanly charm level is over 9000, and Natsuki is the straight (wo)man who retorts to every stupid thing the other four do—and they do a lot. I’m not really bothered by the fact that the girls are all classical archetypes; I’ve seen too many of these shows to care about that anymore.
There are some nice comedic moments in this series, including some amusing fourth-wall-breaking jokes. This show is clearly going more for comedy than being cute or developing relationships or providing an atmosphere of enjoying life. That said, there is one major problem with this show: the voice acting.
Three of the girls are played by new seiyuu for whom this is their first significant role, while the other two are pretty new, too. And while this isn’t too bad for Natsuki (Ibuki Kido, who has had the most experience), for the others, it means weak delivery of lines is a recurring problem, and one that takes a lot of punch out of the comedy. One thing’s for sure; if I have ever taken for granted how important voice acting is for these shows, I sure don’t anymore.
Still, it’s at least good enough that I don’t mind keeping up with it for the rest of the season.
The Eccentric Family
Tanuki and tengu and humans, oh my!
…I have no idea how to describe this one. Basically, it’s a story about tanuki living in a human society, with some tengu involved as well. I’ve heard comparisons to Pom Poko, though I’d say this story skews more towards adults. It’s written by the author of The Tatami Galaxy, if that is of any help.
Basically, there’s a tanuki family. The story is very slice-of-life, with it looking at the lives of these tanuki. The main character, Yasaburo, likes to transform into a female form, despite being (and sounding) male. He has a brother that lives as a frog at the bottom of a well. He also has a maybe-antagonist-maybe-love-interest human who learned tengu powers. And there’s a storyline about learning about their father who got turned into stew, I think.
If nothing else, it is extremely intriguing. There’s enough of a sense of fantasy and curiosity to make me very interested in what will happen next. One way or another, this is one of my most anticipated shows of the season, even if I cannot really say why.
Fantasista Doll
You've activated her trap card!

Mahou shoujo meets Yu-Gi-Oh! in this simple show about a girl who gains access to cards that summon dolls that can battle each other. With a variety of costumes available for each doll and trap cards to add to the chaos, it’s overall a very lighthearted show that’s not designed to be the next big thing in the genre, but to simply provide some entertainment. Visually, it’s full of sparkles and pink smoke effects adding to all the silliness; it’s also the only show I’ve ever seen which has sparkling headbutts this side of Pokemon.
Making this show somewhat more interesting on the characterization side is how the main (female) lead, Uzume, is not a paragon of virtue, but a character flawed enough to come in direct conflict with her dolls, who are completely sentient and, despite their natural inclinations towards their “Master”, have enough agency to not go along with everything she asks. Add in a variety of personalities for the dolls and mysterious tuxedo-wearing guy with a monocle, and you have everything you need for a lighthearted magical-girl romp.
Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya
If those wands could talk... oh wait, they can.
Everyone’s favorite young Master of the Grail Wars is back in this alternate universe rendition of Type Moon’s Fate/ series (from which Fate/stay night and Fate/zero come from). This time, Illya von Einzbern is a normal elementary school girl who one day gets forced into a contract with a talking magic wand to become a magical girl and the wand’s new master. Rin Tohsaka, the wand’s old master, is not pleased about this development, but decides to watch over Illya as she is tasked with collecting the Class Cards lying around her city.
This show is half-spinoff of the Fate/ franchise, and half magical girl parody. Illya is a fan of mahou shoujo on television, but when she’s actually offered the chance to be one, her first reaction is suspicion; after all, these sorts of things just don’t belong in reality. (Not to mention magical girl contracts tend to lead to things like getting your head bit off.) And once she’s forced into the contract, she continues to be embarrassed and perplexed and scared of everything that’s going on. It’s all fun stuff, and makes for a good mahou shoujoparody that still works as a magical girl show in and of itself.
Sequel Alert: Since this is a spinoff of the Fate/ franchise, there’s no need to watch any of the other Fate/ series beforehand to understand what’s going on here. Those who have, though, particularly those who have seenFate/stay night, will probably enjoy seeing familiar characters in this alternate universe.
Free!


Their sheer bishounen radiance allows them to stand on water!
…Hoo boy. This one.
Four guys used to swim together as kids. One left, but as the guys enter high school, they hear he’s come back. The main guy, Haruka, just wants to swim. They establish a swim club. And, probably more importantly for the audience this show is directed to, they spend more time with their shirts off than on.
Yeah, this is definitely a fanservice show, just with the target gender being female instead of male. That said, I’m still enjoying it a lot. Of course, the show looks fantastic—it is a Kyoto Animation show, after all—but there’s also that well-executed comedy that KyoAni excels at, which I think will allow even male watchers to be entertained.
KyoAni is definitely aware of their audience, though, and gives a nod to them through one of the show’s few female characters, who frequently squees over the guys’ various muscles. Despite this, though, she’s actually very respectable and reasonable and able to talk to a guy who says she’s cute without getting flustered. This makes her my favorite character of the show. Go figure, in a show with a bunch of guys, my favorite character is still a girl.
This show is available for streaming on Crunchyroll.

Genshiken Nidaime
Somehow, the gender ratio of this club got reversed since season 1.
Also known as Genshiken Second Season, despite the fact that it’s actually the third TV iteration of theGenshiken series. Most of the cast of the former Genshiken has graduated, leaving Chika Ogiue, Kanako Ohno, and that Kuchiki guy as the main remaining members, though Madarame can be seen around, too. This series focuses on some new people that join the club. Suzanna “Sue” Hopkins is an American anime fan who appeared previously and has now transferred to Japan, Rika Yoshitake and Mirei Yajima join after being impressed by Ogiue’s drawing skills, and Hato Kenjirou… is a guy who dresses and speaks like a girl. The common thread connecting these girls (and guy-as-a-girl)? They’re all fujoshi: hardcore fans of steamy love between guys.
Despite the gender shift, Genshiken Nidaime still provides a nice, realistic look into college otaku life. A lot of the focus does seem to be on Hato, whose gender identity and love of yaoi is rather complex, and provides for some surprisingly deep introspection on how he sees himself (or herself), as well as how the others view him/her. It may be a different group of people, but the new Genshiken still retains the greatest strength of the old series: strong, realistic characterization.
Sequel Alert: This one’s tricky, as this show technically follows the events of the manga, for which the last anime series only covered 7/9ths of. The shift towards new characters helps make this season accessible for everyone, whether you’re new to the world of Genshiken, had only followed the anime, or have followed the manga. If you’re in the second group, though, be prepared for some things that reference events occurring after the end of the last anime.
Kin-iro Mosaic


My sincere apologies if any of my readers contract diabetes just because I posted this promo picture.
Also known as KINMOZA!, this adaptation of a 4-panel manga focuses around Shinobu, a high school girl who did a homestay in England when she was in middle school, and Alice, the daughter of the family she stayed with, who had transferred to Japan to go to school with Shinobu. Joining them are Aya and Youko, two of Shinobu’s friends, and Karen, a half-British, half-Japanese friend of Alice’s who also transfers to Japan.
Yes, it’s another cute-girls-doing-cute-things show. And it’s my favorite show of the season so far.
Aside from the girls’ being all-out adorable, there’s a certain charm to the show itself that makes me love it so much. Part of it is definitely that I just on principle love stories about people from different cultures becoming friends, and while the culture barrier is a good source of humor, it’s also a great source of heartwarming moments for just how good friendship is at breaking through that barrier. The first episode in particular does a great job of this as it primarily depicts Shinobu’s homestay, showing how she and Alice first got to know each other despite not knowing each other’s language. Their “farewell” is actually one of the more poignant moments to come out of this type of anime, thanks to how it plays out.
Aya and Youko are not just background characters, either, and while they’re both Japanese, there are some interesting parallels between their friendship and that of Alice and Shinobu. Karen is a great addition to the cast as well, providing an extra foreign presence to this show of mixed cultures. Beyond that, the atmosphere of the show is nice and relaxing, and the music is particularly nice as it really brings out the mood of the show. It’s also very funny, being a comedy and all.
But that’s enough gushing about this show from me. In the end, it’s not a show for everyone. The show cranks the cuteness levels to maximum, and those who are not good with sheer, unadulterated adorableness will find this show so sickeningly sweet that it’ll rot out all their teeth. And, of course, it’s at heart a cute-girls-doing-cute-things show, which means to not expect anything in the way of significant plot or excitement. (Though the first episode’s homestay story could very well be worth watching anyways, as a standalone story of sorts.)
But, well, those are just the general complaints people who are not fans of this type of show have been making about them for several years now. For those like me who have really grown to love this type of show and know what to find in them, Kin-iro Mosaic is nothing short of perfection.
Love Lab


Research in the name of love!
Rico Kurahashi is known as a “wild girl”, while Natsuo Maki is the very ladylike student council president. When Rico catches Natsuo with a hugging pillow with a very crudely-drawn boy drawn on it and practicing kissing with it, she gets roped into helping her learn about love so she can attract the attention of guys outside their all-girls school. Problem is, it’s not like Rico has any experience with guys, either…

This is cute-girls-doing-cute-things show #3 of this season, and it's pretty straightforward. It can be quite funny at times, especially with how Natsuo really has no idea how to do the whole love thing. That said, there are also some surprising moments of character interaction beyond just the comedy, especially once a couple of former student council members get involved.

All this equals a show about girls with plenty of laughs as well as a bit of heart to it, too. Pretty standard for a cute-girls-doing-cute-things show, but it works well for fans of such shows.

Edit 8/30/13: Love Lab is finally available for streaming on Crunchyroll! Well, at least the first two episodes are, as well as episode 9 if you've already been following the show through other methods. Episodes 3-8 will be added over time, probably at a rate of two episodes per week.

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Next time, I will cover the other nine shows I am following this season.

2 comments:

  1. I'm glad you posted this. I've decided to follow a few more anime this season, and I like to get other people's thoughts as I choose what to watch. :)
    I'd been considering watching Genshiken, but wasn't sure if I should. I dropped the first season of it after a couple episodes, but if this season is watchable without seeing the first, as you seem to be saying, maybe I'll pick it up. I like anime about otaku.
    I didn't even get through the first episode of Free. I tried it because of all the fuss about it, but when no sign of adventure, action, or romance became immediately apparent, I saw no reason to stick around. Still, if I hear anything really, really good about the anime besides the characters' muscles, I'll give it another try. I just don't want to watch something that's mainly about ogling shirtless guys. :P Is there something great that I'm missing out on by not watching?

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  2. Regarding Free!: Eh, you're not really missing anything, certainly not if you're looking for adventure, action, or romance. The plot's honestly pretty thin at this point, though there is some signs of a deeper story as we see how a rift has formed between Haruka, the main lead, and Rin, his former swimming buddy. Whether that part's good enough to be worth watching, though... I think it'll need more episodes.

    I'll also admit that part of the reason I'm enjoying this show is because it's really not that different from a cute-girls-doing-cute-things show. The gender in question is different, sure, but everything else is still very familiar in that regard.

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