Saturday, January 25, 2014

Winter 2014: What I'm Watching (Part 1)

The new season of anime is underway, and despite thinking that I’d try to limit the number of shows I’d watch this season, once again, I have ended up with a full slate of shows to follow. Go figure. I will be following 15 new full-length series, which is already a lot, and that’s not including the four shows that are continuing from last season—that’s a total of 19 shows this season that I’m following! It’s like Summer 2013 all over again.

Anyway, like I have done for the last two seasons, I will introduce the new shows I am following this season in two separate parts.

As a side note, there will be a number of shows from Funimation this time around, and as usual, they put their videos on both their (new) website and on Hulu. However, as of this season, they have adopted the Crunchyroll model of delaying new episodes by one week for those not subscribed to their Elite Video Subscription service. This delay also applies to the episodes they put up on Hulu.

Time to introduce the first of the new shows!

There are a lot of great comedies this season.

Edit Note (1/27/13): I have changed some of the "objectionable content" sections.


D-Frag!

He doesn't have the HP to deal with these girls.

(Also known as: D-Fragments)

Kenji Kazama is totally a delinquent. At least, that's what he believes himself to be, and what everyone else believes him to be. However, his delinquent cred takes a critical hit when he encounters Roka Shibasaki, the president of the Game Creation Club. As it turns out, said club is on the brink of closure due to lack of members, and if Kenji were to join, they would just barely have enough members to remain a club. So how do the girls of this club try to get him to join? By knocking out his compatriots with electric-type (taser) and water-type (force-feeding w/water bottle) attacks, and then sending Roka in with her fire-type (pure moe) attack. Yeah, that'll work.

This show, based on a manga, is a very solid comedy so far. The comedy largely lies in the girls (including members of another Game Creation Club) or even some guys doing something crazy and Kenji reacts to it with a comeback--the classic boke-and-tsukkomi routine. Aside from the comedy, though, like any truly promising comedy, there are some good, heartful character moments to help me care about the characters. There are plenty of good comedies this season, and this is certainly one of them.

There isn't much in the way of potentially offensive stuff here (the worst probably being some bouncy chests and boob jokes); it's all pretty much PG stuff. Just never put a taser to anyone or force-feed a water bottle to anyone in real life.

D-Fragments is available for streaming on Funimation and Hulu.

Engaged to the Unidentified

Not pictured: a fiancé with only slightly more presence than that older brother from Non Non Biyori.

(Also known as: Mikakunin de Shinkoukei)

Konbeni, like many teenagers, is looking forward to her 16th birthday, though in Japan, it’s less because she can get her driver’s license (the age is 18 there) and more that she can get married—it’s like she’s taking her first steps into adulthood, even if no one really gets married that young... or so she thought. As it turns out, her late grandfather had picked out a fiancé for her, Hakuya, and he will now be living with her family. As if that wasn’t enough, his little sister Mashiro also joins the family, intent on making sure Konbeni is a suitable wife for her brother… if she can first deal with the attention she gets from Konbeni’s own older sister, the somewhat perverted siscon Benio. At least it seems that Konbeni has met Hakuya as a child… if only she could remember how, exactly.

As far as adaptations of 4-koma manga about cute girls (always a favorite of mine) go, Engaged to the Unidentified mixes things up slightly by throwing in a guy and adding some romance to the whole thing. Not that that distracts from the adorableness of the girls (well, mainly Mashiro), mind you. Still, the extra romance elements are done quite well and add that little extra something to this show that helps make it a promising comedy. That said, this show is definitely more slice-of-life than romance, so don't expect any of the usual rom-com hijinks; the show is more based on the interactions between sisters and future sister-in-laws (as one can tell from how the guy is absent from the promo image above). All in all, this show just feels right to me, and has become one of the shows I look forward to most every week.

Only objectionable content are some slightly risqué stills (that flash by quickly) and some bouncy chests in the opening, as well as some jokes on Konbeni's endowment in the show itself; overall, nothing worse than a PG.

Engaged to the Unidentified is streaming on Crunchyroll. It has been licensed by Sentai Filmworks.

Hozuki no Reitetsu

Get ready for a barrage of hell puns.

Japanese Hell is understaffed. It's filled to the brim(stone) with the souls of bad people, and there just aren't enough devils around to manage all the infernal affairs. Hozuki, the aide to the Great King Enma, is plenty capable of dealing with the situation, though, and he'll be damned if he lets the denizens of the underworld get under his skin. Whether it's sticking his nose in on the river Styx or cleaning up after all the handbaskets that new arrivals are arriving in, he's hell-bent on making sure that all visitors will have a hell of a time. It's like a workplace comedy, except it's the customers that get fired!

…okay, enough of that. Simply put, Hozuki no Reitetsu, based on a manga, is a comedy about Hell. Japanese Hell, to be specific, so don't expect anything like the Christian idea of Hell (though Satan and "European Hell" do exist as well, and they even make a visit). If you want to see how the Japanese, particularly Shintoism, see the afterlife, this could definitely be a worthwhile show to watch for that alone. Of course, there's plenty of great comedy to be pulled from the concept: for example, animal torturers get "punished" by having animals torture them in their own little piece of the underworld. And aside from that, there's other, more off-beat comedy to go around. A lot of it is very much like a workplace comedy, though, so if that's something you want, give it a shot. It's also worth checking out if you want a more creative comedy series.

Obviously, you have to be able to accept that this is not a portrayal of Christian Hell in any way, and that at the same time, it is a portrayal of Hell, with plenty of scenes of humans being tortured for their sins, although not too gruesomely. All things considered, I'd say this is no worse than a PG.

Hozuki no Reitetsu is streaming on Crunchyroll. It has been licensed by Sentai Filmworks.

Inari, Konkon, Koi Iroha.

It's not quite another middle-schooler goddess… but she comes close.
(Also known as: Inari Kon Kon)

Inari Fushimi is your average middle school girl with a crush on a guy, Kouji Tanbabashi. And with pretty girls like Akemi Sumizome around him, Inari definitely sometimes wishes that she can be someone else. As it turns out, though, the Inari (fox spirit) shrine that Inari loves visiting has heard her wish, and with the help of the goddess Uka-no-Mitama-no-kami, through a series of events, Inari gains the ability to change herself into any person she wants. Of course, whether that ability is actually helpful in helping her win the heart of her crush is another question entirely, and to make things more complicated, the other folks of the spiritual world aren't exactly tickled that a random middle school girl has been given godly powers. Thankfully, Inari is not alone in this ordeal, as Uka-sama also serves as a nice, motherly figure to help her through life.

Despite being technically from a seinen manga, Inari Kon Kon has a bit of a shoujo feel to it, with a female lead in a romantic plot, with vibes similar to Kamisama Kiss (which might explain why Funimation picked this up, as that show did very well for them streaming). That said, the fact that Inari is developing a close relationship with the goddess Uka-sama means that, if anything, this show has Gingitsune vibes… and if you've seen what I've said about that show, you can see why this show has quickly become one of my favorites of the season. There's already plenty of blog-worthy material on how the relationship between Inari and Uka-sama relates to a Christian's relationship with God (if I ever find the time to actually write it…) and that's not accounting for the fact that the whole thing is just plain adorable.

One thing to watch out here is that this is, like Gingitsune, a show based around Shintoism, so Christians should be aware of the aspects in which the two shows are different. As for other things, there's also apparently Uka-sama's older brother who has a bit of a thing for his sister (which actually makes some sense within the Shintoism context), but it doesn't look like that'll become anything serious.  Inari's transformations come with "transformation sequences" that have "Barbie-doll nudity", and some adult magazines come up here and there. Beyond that, this show is relatively clean and probably a light PG, and may even be worth something in the "family-friendly" department, with some messages about being yourself within.

Inari, Konkon, Koi Iroha is streaming on Funimation and Hulu.

Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions - Heart-Throb -

The subs have been wrong the whole time; it's apparently "Vanishment, This World!" (not Banishment).

(Also known as: Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! Ren)

Sequel Alert: This is a direct sequel to the first season of Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions!, so watch that first.

Spoilers ahead! Read only if you've seen the first season. [Yuuta and Rikka have been going out for a bit, and due to various circumstances, they are now living together. Entering into their second year of school, Rikka still indulges in her various delusions, and Shinka, Kumin, and Sanae Dekomori are all still around as well. As Yuuta and Rikka try to grow closer, a girl from Yuuta's past, Satone, appears, and yep, she's as delusional as the rest of 'em.]

[Chuunibyou is back! And with Yuuta's and Rikka's romantic contract already formed in the first season, this season is settling in with developing their relationship further. So far, Satone's role in all of this isn't quite clear, but as much as she might come off as a romantic rival for Rikka, she does seem to be more of a supporter of her old friend's new romance than anything else.] The show remains hilarious, incredibly well-animated (as expected from KyoAni), and also quite well-written in its more serious moments, meaning it looks to be every bit as strong as the first season was. And if you haven't seen the first season, I definitely recommend checking it out, as it really is one of the most well-done romantic comedies to come out as of late.

Objectionable material across the two seasons are limited to the various depictions of pentagrams and other "witchcraft" stuff, which in context is pretty innocent and shouldn't be a problem unless you have tendencies to try to summon things with pentagrams or something. Though the second season does have a bit more in the way of looking into a teenager's interest in sex, though even then it's kept pretty tame (at least so far). Consider it a light PG-13.

Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions - Heart-Throb - is available for streaming on Crunchyroll. The first season is available for streaming on Hulu. The first season has been licensed by Sentai Filmworks; the second season probably has been too, but no official news has come yet.

Nisekoi

Nao Touyama, once again playing an Anglo-Japanese blonde girl.
Raku Ichijou belongs to a yakuza family. Chitoge Kirisaki belongs to a family of gangsters. Their two group are about to break into war, so in a ploy to stop that, their fathers decide that they should pretend to be boyfriend and girlfriend, so that the other yakuza and gang members don't dare interfere in their romance. Of course, this would be easier if the two of them didn't absolutely hate each other's guts, if said yakuza and gang members would stop spying on them to see if they really are lovey-dovey, and if Raku didn't already have a girl he was crushing on. Oh, and there's also a promise that he made to a girl in the past, and a locket with a missing key that he carries around to remind him of that promise. That'll probably also mean something, too.

Nisekoi is based off a manga, one that I had actually known of beforehand as a simple one-shot, before it got serialized and the plot got changed around a bit. Now, it's a pretty standard romantic comedy… except it's being animated by Studio SHAFT, and that means lots of weird visual effects all over the place to make the experience more enjoyable. Other than that, the story itself, while nothing new or standout, is being executed well enough that this show should be an enjoyable one for fans of romcoms.

The yakuza and mobsters get a bit violent at times but otherwise Nisekoi is rather innocent and lacking in objectionable content. I'm not sure it's quite a G-rated show, but it's no worse than a light PG at the moment.

Nisekoi is streaming on Crunchyroll, Hulu, and Daisuki.

The Pilot’s Love Song

First Exile.
(Also known as: Toaru Hikuushi e no Koiuta)

“Prequel Alert”?: This show takes place in the same world as the movie The Princess and the Pilot, licensed by NIS America, chronologically taking place before the movie. However, the TV series covers a completely different cast of characters, so you don’t need to watch the movie. (I highly recommend watching it, though, as it’s a good movie.)

Kal-el is a young future pilot seeking revenge for various things. For now, though, he takes part in a mission along with the rest of the floating planet of Isla to seek out what lies at the end of the world, and in the process, he will meet people that will allow him to look past revenge and bitterness and look instead toward love and forgiveness. That is, if the cruelty of the world doesn't break his soul first…

Want a high-flying adventure series in a fantasy world? This show can provide that. Want a story of class struggle and overcoming painful experiences? This show looks like it'll do that, too. Want a romance on top of all of that? This show has you covered there, too. Whether it can all execute all of this well remains to be seen, but for now, this is a show worth keeping your eye on; its potential is as high as the skies its planes fly in.

Be warned that there are some scenes that can be disturbing, particularly relating to some of the more cruel things that Kal-el has experienced; the dogfights also give this show some violent aspects. It's a solid PG-13, I'd say.

The Pilot's Love Song is available for streaming on Crunchyroll.

Pokémon XY

Yo. It's been 10 years.

Sequel Alert: This is, of course, a sequel to all the other Pokémon seasons, though like every other time the show starts off with a new region, there is no need to have seen any of the previous anime.

Continuing on his quest to be the very best, like no one ever was, Ash Ketchum heads to the Kalos region, where new Pokémon await. While there, he and his eternal companion Pikachu will encounter all new mysteries of the Pokémon world, particularly that of Mega Evolution. Of course, a journey in a new region is never complete without some new human companions, and this time around, Ash will be joined by the electrifying inventor Clemont, his younger sister Bonnie, and the game-PC-standin Serena… who might have met Ash when they were younger. And, of course, Team Rocket has also followed him to Kalos, so as always, Ash will have to prepare for trouble and make it double.

It's definitely been a while since I've followed the Pokémon anime. It was in many ways the first anime I ever followed, back when I never really could tell the difference between Japanese anime and the rest of the stuff shown on Cartoon Network. Now, over 10 years after I stopped following the anime (sometime around the Johto League), I find myself daring to try out the Pokémon anime once more. From playing the games themselves, I feel that there is some untapped potential in the Kalos story, which the anime might flesh out. Not only that, but I have a feeling that I'll be shipping Ash and Serena harder than I've ever shipped him with any of his previous female companions…

One thing to note here is that the Japanese-language run of the show is already well underway, but what I will be following is the English dub broadcast on Cartoon Network, which is several episodes behind, as it only just started last week. Watching it dubbed is helpful on my end in a way, as I don't have to pay as close attention to the subtitles and can do some other things while watching it at the same time, making this show less of a time-consumer--one of the reasons why I'm bothering to try this out.

It's a Saturday-morning Cartoon Network show, so the amount of objectionable content is pretty much zilch. Obviously, there'll be concerns over the cartoonish violence and the whole idea of raising monsters to battle each other, but it's still a kids show, so… eh.

The dub of Pokémon XY airs on Cartoon Network every Saturday morning. Please check your local listings for times.

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