Saturday, May 9, 2015

Spring 2015: What I'm Watching (Part 2)

And here are the rest of the shows I’m following this season:

Show by Rock!
Sound! Euphonium
The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan
Wish Upon the Pleiades
Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches

Go past the jump for more details on each of these shows.

Japanese title: Kyoukai no Rinne

Sometimes, the worst enemies in your life are those in the next life.

Ever since an incident when she was young, Sakura Mamiya could see the spirits of the deceased who have not passed on to the next world. While life has passed relatively normally for her for the most part, things change when she meets a mysterious boy, Rinne Rokudou, and starts helping him with his job of guiding these spirits to the “Rinne no Wa”, where they can move into the next life.

Yes, this is another show about a girl who can see spirits. But while Re-Kan! is more of a slice-of-life series, this series leans more toward shounen action, with more battles and some romance. It’s adapted from a manga penned by the famous Rumiko Takahashi, known for all sorts of classics like Ranma 1/2 and Inuyasha, so fans of her work will definitely be interested in this show. While I’m not as familiar with her works, this show works on its own as a more light-hearted show with some fun characters and a storyline that isn’t too deep but does have some nice developments to it.

RIN-NE is streaming on Crunchyroll.

Show by Rock!

What happens when Hello Kitty goes musical.

Cyan is a shy high school girl who wants to join the school band and play guitar with them. Instead, she gets sucked into an alternate world where everything is decided by music battles and dark monsters occasionally terrorize the place. As she joins the band Plasmagica and befriends her new bandmates, she must both bring her band to the top and defeat the monsters with the power of music.

This is quite the show, to say the least. Based on a rhythm game created in part by Sanrio (of Hello Kitty fame), this is a show with quite some insanity to it, with the bands assuming chibi CGI forms for music battles and plenty of both cute girls and handsome guys that are all quite fun and even have their own storylines that get some exploration. There’s a lot going on to it and it might be a show where you have to just try it out and see what it’s like; I’m certainly enjoying everything this show throws at me.

Show by Rock! is streaming on Funimation.

Sound! Euphonium
Japanese title: Hibike! Euphonium

Note: A euphonium is a smaller tuba, and the instrument you're probably playing if you wanted tuba but couldn't get it.

In middle school, Kumiko played euphonium in a school band that scored gold in the regionals but did not make nationals, and afterwards said something to her distraught bandmate Reina that might have been a bit insensitive. Now in high school, as she considers joining the band again with her friends Hazuki and Sapphire, she meets up with Reina again, and has to try to work out the awkwardness between them. Meanwhile, the band gets a new advisor who has to take a disjointed band full of unmotivated members and somehow bring them to Nationals level.

I’m definitely a band geek. I played alto saxophone from middle school all the way through college, and I definitely have memories, both good and… not so good, from those days. This show is absolutely nailing the high school band experience. It’s a massive nostalgia trip, made possible in part by Kyoto Animation’s high attention to detail, not only in the music artistry, but also in the representations of the band and its players. But even if you’ve never touched a wind instrument in your life, this is definitely another show for KyoAni fans, and even non-fans can enjoy the show’s strong characterizations and restrained drama.

Sound! Euphonium is streaming on Crunchyroll.

The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan
Japanese title: Nagato Yuki-chan no Shoushitsu

What might have happened if Kyon didn't change the world back.

Sequel Alert: This is a spin-off of the Haruhi Suzumiya series, which has previously been animated as two seasons of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, plus a movie in The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya. This spin-off, in fact, is based very much on Disappearance, specifically that movie’s premise of taking the world of Haruhi Suzumiya, in which aliens, espers, and time-travelers gather around a girl with the ability to bend reality to her will, and removing all of those supernatural elements from the story. As such, while one can definitely watch the show without seeing any of the Haruhi Suzumiya series beforehand, I would recommend first watching the first TV season, at least some of the second TV season (you don’t have to sit through all of Endless Eight, just iterations 1, 2, and 8), and the movie; you’ll get a better appreciation of just how this universe fits into the greater Haruhi-verse, as well as a greater appreciation for the various characters within.

In this spin-off series, Yuki Nagato is a normal, shy high school girl with a crush on her fellow literature club member, Kyon. Ryoko is her trusted—and somewhat less crazy—best friend, and Haruhi goes to a different high school but is otherwise still looking for aliens, espers, and time-travelers. Things play out more or less like a standard slice-of-life with light drama, plus plenty of references to the original Haruhi series. Probably what I love most about this spin-off is how it uses this alternate universe to further develop the Haruhi characters by putting them in a different setting and revealing more about them through how they operate in that setting. It’s a great example of what a good spin-off can do for both itself and the series it spun off from, and it is very worthwhile viewing for Haruhi Suzumiya fans.

The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan is streaming on Funimation.

Wish Upon the Pleiades
Japanese title: Houkago no Pleiades

If this show ends up with a personal score of at least 8.5/10.0, my next car will be a Subaru.

Sequel Alert?: There was a short ONA series some time ago also called Houkago no Pleiades, which this show is an expansion of. I haven't seen it myself, but from what I gather, the show's first episodes just expand on the ONA's storyline, so it's not necessary to see that beforehand.

Subaru is a girl who loves astronomy and is trying to start up an astronomy club. Instead, she ends up finding her best friend, Aoi, among a group of magical girls trying to gather fragments of an engine for a stranded Pleiadian alien. Before she knows it, she ends up joining their group and helping them gather fragments.

This show has an interesting background, with the original ONA being a collaboration between Gainax and the car manufacturer Subaru, which is the Japanese word for the Pleiades constellation... it all makes sense now, right? Aside from names, the only real presence of the car company is that the "brooms" these magical girls ride are actually Subaru vehicle drive shafts, with appropriate car-revving sounds (and even the occasional holographic dashboard). Anyway, the show itself harkens back to classic, more lighthearted magical girl shows, before the darker, grittier stuff started getting more popular. It's a solid show overall, so if you're in the mood for some magical girl goodness without anything like soul-stealing contracts, this show fits the bill quite nicely.

Wish Upon the Pleiades is streaming on Crunchyroll.

Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches
Japanese title: Yamada-kun to 7-nin no Majo

Kiss! Kiss! Kiss! Muchuu wa... oh wait, wrong show.

Ryuu Yamada is a guy who comes off as a scary delinquent but is really just bored of school. One day, he ends up falling down the stairs along with ace student Urara Shiraishi, and unexpectedly switches bodies with her. Things turn even weirder when he realizes he can switch bodies with anyone by kissing them, something he, Urara, and some others, keep to themselves through their own club. But just what will they learn about each other through body swaps, and could there be other strange kiss-induced powers awaiting them?

Ah, the old body-swap plot. After Kokoro Connect showed that such a plot can be used for more than just cheap laughs, I was up for another such show, and Yamada-kun works just fine, having both fun comedy and more serious moments which utilize the body-swapping well. There also seem to be some other kiss effects involved, which I'm looking forward to seeing how they work. There's not too much else to say here, except... well, if you couldn't tell from the premise, there is a lot of kissing. This is definitely not a show that shies away from lip-locking, with all the gender combinations possible covered, too. So if you're frustrated with most shows holding back on the smooches, this show might be worth watching just for that, and with some romance to boot.

Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches is streaming on Crunchyroll.

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