Friday, August 1, 2014

Summer 2014: What I'm Watching (Part 2)

Part 2 features even more shows, ranging from some big name titles to a variety of hard-hitting comedies. Let's get started!

Invaders of the Rokujyoma!?
Japanese title: Rokujyouma no Shinryakusha!?

I'm kind of surprised no squid girls are involved.

In looking for a place to live alone, Koutarou Satomi thought he hit the jackpot when he found a rokujyoma (6-tatami-mat, about 9 ft. x 12 ft.) available for just 5000 yen (about $50 USD) per month. For a single high-school boy who doesn't need a lot of space, it is a steal. Literally, as Koutarou finds out that he "stole" the room from a ghost girl, Sanae, who is now determined to chase any new roommates out. As Koutarou learns why the rent is so cheap, his apartment is then invaded by an underground dweller, a space princess, and a magical girl that everyone thinks is just a cosplayer, all of whom are looking to claim the apartment as her own. But Koutarou is not going out without a fight... and neither is the landlady who has to deal with them all.

It's a good thing this show airs on Fridays. This harem comedy is precisely the type of show that one might want to watch after a long workweek: lighthearted, silly, and requiring no brainpower at all. That amidst all of its silliness it can muster some heartwarming moments between characters is a nice bonus. It's not going to win awards but it's a fun show for fans of harem comedy.

Available on: Crunchyroll
Licensed by: Sentai Filmworks

Japanese title: Futsuu no Joshikousei ga [Locodol] Yatte Mita.

These local-m@sters live for the love of the town.

The small town of Nagarekawa is not exactly prospering, but that might change when Nanako Usami gets drafted by her uncle to become the town's local idol, a.k.a. a Locodol. Joining fellow Locodol Yukari and others, they do promotional work and small amateur performances for the town. So maybe they might not shine on the big stage, but maybe they can at least bring a smile to the faces of the locals.

I have said this a lot about this show, but it's important enough to repeat: this is not your normal idol show, where the girls sing and dance their way to personal stardom. These girls are just trying to help out their local town; they only get basic compensation from the people's taxes, their songs are amateur performances of town anthems and mascot themes, and any popularity they have is literally just being the talk of the town. And yet, because of all this, this show has an intimate charm to it that other idol shows don't. There's also plenty of moments of growing bonds between Nanako and Yukari, and plenty of laughs along the way. Check it out if you want to see a different sort of idol show.

Available on: Crunchyroll

Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun
Japanese title: Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun

When truth and fiction stop being strangers.

Chiyo Sakura gathered up her courage to confess to her crush, Umetaro Nozaki... almost. She ended up just saying that she's his fan, leading to some confusion when he responds by giving her an autograph. Then, he invites her over to his house... where she ends up as his assistant. Turns out, Nozaki is a mangaka, and not just any mangaka, but the author of one of Chiyo's favorite shoujo manga, "Let's Fall in Love"! As Chiyo wonders just how a guy as dense as Nozaki can create a manga that "represents the heart of girls", she gets a behind-the-scenes look at the process of creating a shoujo manga when the people involved are just a bit crazy.

Truly good clean comedies are getting rarer and rarer these days. While plenty of shows feature comedy of varying degrees, shows that are dedicated to the comedic art and bringing out the most and biggest laughs are rather infrequent—even more so shows that do so without relying on crude or sexual humor. Which is why when a show like Nozaki-kun comes along, it is appreciated like a rainstorm during a drought. Nozaki-kun is character-based comedy at its finest, providing a cast of characters with fun, quirky personalities, and using those personalities and how they play off each other to make its comedic situations. The show also likes to play off various manga tropes and gender stereotypes to milk comedic dissonance for all it is worth. The end result is absolutely hilarious, and is IMO the best comedy of the season, possibly even best of the year. This is definitely a must-see for fans of comedy, especially if you want something you don't have to feel guilty laughing about.

Available on: Crunchyroll
Licensed by: Sentai Filmworks

Sabagebu! Survival Game Club

Such a cute, girly picture. Surely this will be a cutesy, harmless little show about pellet guns...

Momoka is saved from a pervert on the train by a fellow schoolmate... wielding two Desert Eagles. Turns out, this girl is Miou, the president of the Survival Game Club dedicated to airsoft battles, and after various incidents, she forces Momoka to join the club. But Momoka is not as sweet of a girl as she seems, and behind her unassuming smile lies a ruthless, vengeful girl who is sure to keep things interesting in the club.

Summer seems to be the season for airsoft-based shows, with Stella Women's Academy, High School Division Class C3 airing this time last year and taking a surprisingly serious look at the sport. This time, the show goes for pure comedy... but not the usual silly sort that shows about a bunch of girls normally do. Oh no, this show goes for a much more sadistic type of comedy, one where the lead female is actually quite nasty and not the type of person you would like in real life, surrounded by people that are largely just as unsympathetic as they mistreat each other all for the sake of comedy. Expect the show to push boundaries and be generally irreverent (a recent episode even makes a joke of bulimia). Whether this kind of black comedy is actually funny is up to individual tastes, but if it is, well, this show has you set. Also, expect plenty of fourth-wall-breaking courtesy of one lemony narrator. (The real scary thing is, the original manga was actually serialized in a shoujo magazine; this show is audience-wise technically the same sort as Blue Spring Ride. I still cannot wrap my head around that.)

Available on: Crunchyroll, The Anime Network
Licensed by: Sentai Filmworks

Sailor Moon Crystal
Japanese title: Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon: Crystal

In the name of the moon, she will punish the people who made the original anime deviate so far from the manga.

Sequel Alert?: This is a full reboot of Sailor Moon that follows the manga. No prior experience with the franchise is necessary.

Usagi is an ordinary, crybaby 14-year-old girl who one day meets a mysterious talking cat, Luna. Luna then gives Usagi the power to transform into a magical girl, which is immediately put to the test as evil forces attack the town. Usagi must find the other Sailor Guardians and get to the bottom of the situation, while trying to figure out the identity of the handsome, mysterious Tuxedo Mask.

Ah, Sailor Moon. There is no denying the importance of this franchise on the history of anime, and with this reboot focusing on the very first work of the franchise--the original manga--this show is, if nothing else, an interesting history lesson on the origin of many anime tropes. There's probably a major nostalgia factor involved, too, though I personally don't have many memories of Sailor Moon growing up, so any nostalgia is more in how this show affected other shows of its time. But all of that is secondary to the most important question about this show: is the story itself enjoyable to watch? Personally, I would say so; there might not be anything particularly amazing yet but the show overall is plenty of fun and seems to be assembling a good cast of Sailor Guardians together (not to mention Tuxedo Mask). How well the show has aged may vary in the minds of others, but with no major missteps of execution yet (barring the use of CG for transformation scenes), it should hold up well enough even in the modern age of anime. The only real problem with this show? It airs every other week, making the wait between episodes painfully long...

Available on: Crunchyroll
Licensed by: Viz Media

Space Dandy (Season 2)

Don't worry; they have not found any new aliens while they were gone.

Sequel Alert: This is a sequel to the first season of Space Dandy, which started at the beginning of the year. The episodes are fairly standalone, though you might want to at least watch a couple episodes of the first season first.

Alien hunter Dandy, his robot companion QT, and the Beetlejucian Meow continue to try to find undiscovered alien species, getting themselves in all sorts of crazy situations in the meantime.

The first season of Space Dandy didn't impress me at first, but it grew on me as it went along, and now I am looking forward to new episodes every week. There's a very weird sense of humor that this show uses, on the one hand being fairly crude and sexual (Dandy spends a lot of time hanging out at a restaurant called "Boobies"), which I'm not a fan of. On the other hand, there's also a very creative sense of humor that can get almost absurdist at times, and that is pretty fun. That Dandy and co. started becoming likable characters helped, too. This show is helmed by the legendary director of Cowboy Bebop, Shinichiro Watanabe, though this show is pretty different from his other works; not only that, but Space Dandy brings on board a different scriptwriter for each episode, including some well-known writers like Masaaki Yuasa of The Tatami Galaxy fame. This means that different episodes can be pretty uneven in both tone and quality. In the end, though, this show is basically a playground for Watanabe and his crew, and the end result is pretty darn fun.

Available on: Funimation, Cartoon Network's Toonami block (dubbed; check local listings)
Licensed by: Funimation

Terror in Resonance
Japanese title: Zankyou no Terror

9/12, once again the harbinger of an attack of terror.

Tokyo is struck by a terrorist attack from two mysterious teen boys known only as Nine and Twelve. As the people are sent into a panic, the police force scramble to try to solve clues posted by the boys as "Sphinx" to try to prevent further damage and figure out the who and why of this new threat. Meanwhile, Lisa Mashima, a girl bullied at school and pestered by a nagging mom, finds herself involved in Sphinx's schemes.

Space Dandy isn't Shinichiro Watanabe's only work this season, as he partners up with his musical partner-in-crime Yoko Kanno once again, this time to bring us this psychological thriller on the noitaminA block. Terror in Resonance can be a very unnerving series; the opening attack is definitely meant to be reminiscent of 9/11 (which occurred on 9/12 in Japan... see what they did there?), there's nuclear weapons material involved, and if that all is not enough, there's also all the bullying done to Lisa, whereupon one wonders if her involvement with Sphinx will lead to her breakdown. Nine and Twelve, by the way, are not bland antagonist-protagonists; they have a history and a background behind their actions, even if much of it is still hidden. There's also that good ol' element of watching the two sides try to outwit each other, as a detective named Shibasaki leads the charge against Sphinx. Add in a very effective soundtrack by Yoko Kanno, and you have a show that is a very compelling watch.

Available on/Licensed by: Funimation


Feel free to post in the comments about what you are watching!

1 comment:

  1. I've really been loving Invaders of the Rokujyoma!?. It's the type of light comedy that anime does so well.