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2011 – Spring

Probably a bit late but oh well.

I didn’t see much anime TV from the spring season and didn’t watch anything that started in the summer so my options are a bit limited. Based on clips and some write-ups about the show I think I would have liked Usagi Drop, but I decided to read some of the manga it’s based on first. And, I didn’t enjoy the first episode at all so I dropped it straight away, but Tiger & Bunny went on to get such a warm response from a lot of fans and critics that I’m sure I’ll revisit it at some point.

My favourite anime TV show from last year was a drama called Wandering Son. The series is based on a manga of the same name and tells the story of a group of classmates at a Japanese middle school, a couple of which are struggling with confusion over their own gender identities. The show had a distinctive visual style that was quite simple and quite beautiful. The plot was obviously melodramatic but still maintained a firm grasp on reality and the story was interesting. The characters seemed improbably mature for their young age but were pleasant enough. The ending of the series wrapped the plot up in a disappointingly derivative and neat way, seeming a bit out of context, but not ruining it entirely. In general I liked the fact that the show was mature and calm, yet sensitive and warm.

A close runner-up was Puella Magi Madoka Magica, which presented a deliciously dark and slightly bizarre take on the classic magical girl genre. Like Wandering Son it felt fresh and I was more than satisfied with all the elements of its production. Unfortunately, also like wandering Son, the series had a disappointing ending. Both shows ended just before the spring and sadly I think the Earthquake/Tsunami in Japan and the immediate aftermath had dramatic effects on the shows productions.

Film wise, as ever not a lot was released in the UK last year, and the assumed 2011 date of release is arguable. I thought that Arrietty, the story of miniature people living in secret in an old house in rural Japan, was in some way a welcome return to form for Studio Ghibli, delivering a simple but excellently realised family adventure. My favourite anime film last year though was the much hyped Redline. The film portrays the events of an illegal futuristic alien automobile race between the fastest drivers in the galaxy as well as the relationships between a couple of the top competitors. The edgy story and extreme characters are straight forward and obvious, but they’re not standard cut outs and there’s no pretentions of depth, so there’s not a problem. The story, characters and fictional world are never boring and along with the fast pace there’s more than enough to hold viewers interest. The reason this film will be remembered, and I assume the main reason it’s got such a strong positive reception in the west, are the visuals. While it’s not quite unheard of (unseen in this case) the explosive, lurid, madcap scrawling style of this artwork has rarely been done like this, and perhaps never to this extent. The detail and almost organic dynamism squeezed into every frame is brilliant. My only real criticism though is that with so much bizarre opulence onscreen it’s sometimes hard to tell exactly what’s going on. Indeed probably because of this, I found it hard to fully engage with this work, and so, was not as blown away by it as some fans seem to be.

I’m not entirely sure what anime TV shows are coming later this year, but I’m hopeful I’ll get to see the new Hosada film and the third Evangelion title.

Wandering Son is still available on CrunchyRoll, while I downloaded Puella Magi Madoka Magica fansubs from [gg] I think. Arrietty and Redline are available to buy on DVD and Blu-ray and I believe you can rent or buy Redline in SD and HD on PSN.

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, for that I apologize but to get going again, I bring you a spoiler-free Review Quickie for one of the first to finish this season – Moshidora.

Also known by “What If the Manageress of a High School Baseball Team read Drucker’s Management?”, this short, 10 episode Anime has an interesting premise – could reading a primer on business management help a high school baseball team get to the nationals?

As it unfolds it gives you bits and pieces of the book that she is inspired by, and she goes on to use these inspirations to do certain things to improve the team she decides to manage in place for the original manager, her best friend who’s stuck in hospital due to illness.

The bits of the book she uses are well written (though I do wonder how much it changed through the translations) and the ways she, or others of the management staff interpret it are clever.. though it does make you wonder if the whole idea of it being based around this book is simply a gimmick to draw more interest to it.

Regardless, this baseball anime is very accessible and you don’t really need to know much about baseball to watch it, as you’ll probably get a hang of how it’s played simply by watching it anyway. It’s definitely short – I consider 13 episodes to be the bare minimum required to get a viewer absorbed..  broadcast series usually need some time to get some kind of plot/character development going. Moshidora does this within the first few episodes and pulls you in just enough when things start to get going around half way. I wouldn’t be surprised if a good portion of people who started watching it would have dropped it by this point though, as it gets quite dull in parts and hard to stay interested in. If you persevere however, you’re in luck, as the other half of the anime gets not only interesting, but genuinely entertaining and it’s hard to not get emotionally involved in the games that follow.

Not to give too much away, things do climax – and they do at the final episode. A make-or-break risk as far as reception is concerned – but to me – it’s a winner. The emotionally-charged finale ticks all the boxes and concludes the series nicely and left me with a sense of euphoria for long after it concluded – something I’ve not experienced in a while – an actually well done ending – and it’s become personal favourite just for that.

This proves that an anime doesn’t have to be complex to be effective – even if it’s simple, if the story is written well enough and it pulls in the person watching then it has the potential to be great. In the case of Moshidora – while it’s quite weak in some places, I’m sure it’s been a pleasure to watch for many this season.

7/10

- Senseito

It’s a bit late, but over the next few days I’ll preview some of the anime shows new for this season.  Like I’ve said before, I want to do something a bit different, so the previews will be short and sharp, just giving quick thoughts.  I’m planning to write mini reviews for the shows I stick with throughout the season.  There are a large amount of new shows for the spring (around 30 I reckon), so I’ve restricted the number I want to checkout to about 17 first episodes and once again I’m aiming to follow 5-ish series for the rest of the season.  Also, I’m pushing to be fully legal/legit with my anime viewing, so, apart from a couple of shows that aren’t available to me in the UK and I refuse to miss, I’ve gone for series that are unlicensed in English or that are legally streamed.

I meant to start this sooner and write faster, but Portal 2 was out earlier than I expected.