Summer 2009 First Impressions: Annoying Lolis and Alchoholic Lolicons

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Now that the summer anime season is well underway, I feel I’ve got a pretty good impression of whether I like each show or not. I’ve stuck to all the shows I mentioned in my preview, since I haven’t heard anything particularly good about any of the other shows this season. But it’s all good since it gives me time to catch up on old stuff.

To start, there’s Umineko no Naku Koro ni, which despite being a huge disappointment for me, I’m sticking with. I see people online praising the visual novels for its great storyline, but all I see is a typical closed circle murder. It doesn’t help that the murders are so predictable and overdone that it makes it hard to take the entire series seriously. Because of its connection to Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, I assume that the twist is supernatural in nature, and almost impossible to predict, so I’m not even bothering to solve the mystery.

The problem with Umineko is that it does a poor job of setting up the necessary atmosphere to make it suspenseful. The first season of Higurashi was awesome because it established an almost surrealistically happy world full of kids being themselves, and completely destroyed it by having these kids brutally murder each other. Even if you knew shit was going to hit the fan, it was still amusing to see how it happened. In Umineko, most of the characters are introduced as greedy assholes, and the few that aren’t are not particularly likable either. Maria is usually just irritating with her constant laughing and ridiculous faces. Battler is a poor man’s Phoenix Wright, and his name is just stupid.

So why am I sticking with this? As much as I criticize the story, I do want to see how it ends, if just to see how absurd the twist is. Because of the way the episodes are numbered, I’m expecting a Higurashi like reset, since I don’t expect the writers to be all that original. Most anime fans are probably already watching this, so a recommendation is meaningless. Hopefully the story improves.

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The next show is Kanamemo, which is a textbook example of typical moe bullshit. However, there are a few amusing points that keep me watching. The main one is that the girl groping the loli in the picture above is played by the same seiyuu as the loli at the very top of this page. That’s right. Yui Horie plays both Maria from Umineko and Haruka from Kanamemo. On that note, Yui Horie is in a lot of shows this season. It was rather jarring whenever I heard her voice pop up in a show. Back to the topic of Kanamemo, it seems that Saki’s blatant yuri undertones are popular enough that other studios are jumping on the yuri bandwagon, which I wholeheartedly support. While they are probably not accurate depictions of lesbians, it’s refreshing to see a different kind of romance in anime. Besides the aforementioned lolicon, there is a lesbian couple. Given that males are entirely absent from this series, I would not be surprised if other pairings formed. Plot wise, it’s your typical 4 koma adaptation, although it feels much less gag based, and each episode seems to have more continuity than most 4 koma shows. The characters are amusing, with a good cast behind them, although only a handful get any screentime. It’s not a very serious show, so it’s the perfect thing to watch while eating lunch or something. I’m not giving it a very strong recommendation, but it’s good for a laugh.

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Switching gears to a much more serious show, there’s Aoi Hana. While the first episode had some pacing issues, the subsequent episodes have all been nice to watch. The show is very obviously about lesbians, but it’s a much more realistic depiction than Kanamemo or Strawberry Panic. While Fumi and Akira seems like to clear pairing based on a number of factors, the way things are meandering around and taking their time getting there is a good change of pace from most romances where the two characters are thrust at each other almost immediately. It also has the best OP of any show this season. The dancing in the flowers and the music work perfectly together. I especially love the moment where they turn back into kids. On a side note, this show also has Yui Horie in it. I recommend this show although I’m sure there are many who are put off by serious yuri.

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Switching gears again, Taishou Yakyu Musume is basically “A League of Their Own” with more moe and less Rosie O’Donnell. I have a soft spot for shows set in unpopular time periods. We have plenty of anime set in ancient Japan, and 80s and beyond, but it’s rare to see one set in the early 20th century. I enjoy this show a lot because it’s basically MariMite with baseball. It even has Noto Mamiko as a refined ojousama. The best part had to be the musical number in the beginning of the first episode. This set my hopes up for a musical moe baseball anime. Unfortunately, this was a one time thing. The production is typical high quality J.C. Staff work. The story has been pretty fast paced, with the characters learning the rules and getting good enough to play with your typical sports training montage. While there are some yuri undertones, they are more along the lines of sisterly affection like in MariMite rather than the blatant ones of Saki. It has a bit more substance than Kanamemo, so it’s a simple fun watch, but not mind numbing.

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Bakemonogatari is SHAFT doing what it does best. It’s very stylish, colorful, and a little bit nuts. I’m not as crazy about it as some people are. It’s a little bit too dialogue heavy for my taste. While the dialogue is supplemented by some awesome visuals, it’s just not my thing. Of all the SHAFT shows, Maria Holic was my personal favorite as it destroyed the purity of yuri in much the same way that Detroit Metal City destroyed the idealism of music shows. The premise is rather conventional, and reminds me of xxxHolic, although the characters and the way they interact is not. Once again recommendations are meaningless here, as SHAFT is one of those studios you either love or hate with no middle ground whatsoever. And in case you didn’t notice, Yui Horie is also in this show as the class president.

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I’ve only watched the first two episodes of Spice and Wolf II, and it’s the same Horo I know and love. Lawrence and Horo maintain their same flirty relationship although there has been a clear shift since the end of the first season. Although I doubt that there will be any major change in their relationship by the end of the season so that they can continue to milk the franchise. The animation quality and writing remain exceptional, so I really have no complaints at all. I really enjoyed the first season, and I expect more of the same from this one.

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Canaan is a show I wish I liked more. It looks great, and the plot seems deep and intriguing. I just haven’t been able to get into it as much as I feel it deserves. Perhaps it’s a little too serious for my taste, and there are too many characters and factions to keep track of. It has a similar feel to a combination of Baccano and Black Lagoon, although the characters in it aren’t nearly as fun as either show. This may be one of those shows that’s better to watch in one sitting to keep things fresher in your mind. I may do that.

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The Ffinal show on my list is Tokyo Magnitude 8.0, which is much better than I expected. While the main character is a total Debbie Downer, the fact that the effects of an earthquake of this magnitude are. Part of me feels the show is a little bit propagandistic in much the way the original Godzilla was as it shows how well prepared Japan would be in case something like this happened. The fact that the death toll was only a couple hundred and the TV service for cell phones is a bit questionable as well. I do enjoy how it focuses exclusively on the human element, although I don’t think Mari, the adult who’s helping the two kids home, will live through the ordeal. Maybe I’m just being a pessimist. But out of all the shows this season, this was probably the most surprising in how good it was.

As for continuing shows, things remain more or less the same. Fullmetal Alchemist has finally gotten to the point where it’s different from the original anime, and I do enjoy all the Xingese characters. Hayate no Gotoku is still incredibly mediocre. I hate how cheap the scene with Hayate and Nishizawa on the bike together looked. Saki has gotten more absurd with Koromo and her moon related powers, which is all good in my book. Cross Game is finally starting to pick up the pace, but I’m still bothered by how the characters still haven’t gotten over the death of Wakaba. That’s it for this week. Enjoy what’s left of your weekend.

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