Spring Season Anime Round-Up

We’re a couple of weeks into Spring season, so it’s time for some impressions again. Aki and I are still shedding tears into our Pepsi about there not being more Tiger & Bunny, but this season is actually turning out to be better than expected. Since we talked about ZETMAN before so I guess that’s a good one to start with…

We Are Disappoint

The worst fears I had about ZETMAN are turning out to be true. 13 episodes is too little, the pace is far too fast, and they’re changing things too much. I fully expected them to change something – that’s always the case with adaptations – but they’re making the story less dark. I won’t say more about the changes since Aki’s avoiding being spoiled about the manga story. There’s no time to build any characterization at the pace they’re going, and Aki is just confused and doesn’t really give a damn about any of the characters. Or the plot. If they’re even managing to build any plot, so far they’re going for the cool factor and nothing really clicks together. I’m mostly just feeling sad about what they’re doing to ZETMAN. The more I watch it the more I feel like I can’t really recommend it to anyone, and it’s a shame because it does look good and the action sequences are well composed. The opening song is very catchy too. I might end up watching this alone if Aki decides to drop it and read the manga instead.

And The Rest

The previous season, most of the stuff we dropped was because it just turned out boring or plain bad. This season seemed like the season of the ragequit because we actually started with a few of those! After the ill first impressions we found a title that is really worth checking for Taibani fans.

Space Brothers (Uchuu Kyoudai) – Hirata Hiroaki plays the main character: a thirty-something guy who gets fired in the first episode from his job designing (red) sports cars, wears too short pants that show his ankles, squashes his burgers and fails a lot. Sound familiar? Well, it’s not Kotetsu but the parallels are really amusing. We got no idea if Hirata got a bit of typecast here after his success with Kotetsu because he’s using a very Kotetsu-like voice for the role. The series is entertaining with a good pacing, even though the setting itself feels quite generic – the main character has to overcome a lot of obstacles to reach his dreams. I feel like I’ve seen a story like this many, many times before but it doesn’t really bother me. The other things outweigh it. Oh, and Crunchyroll is streaming it so you can watch it there.

We’re also happy that Noitamina is good again after a few seasons of stumbling. We were a bit iffy about Sakamichi no Apollon at first because the series compositor Kakihara Yuuko did an epic failure with Persona 4 the Animation, but so far it’s been really pleasant to watch. Tsuritama was automatically on our watch list because we’ve both got the hots for Nakamura Kenji‘s series – Mononoke is one of our all-time favourites.

The rest of our watch list for this season looks like this: Arashi no yoru ni, Folktales from Japan, Hyouka (this just started so we’re still undecided if we’ll stick with it), Jormungand, Lupin III: Mine Fujiko to iu onna, Eureka Seven AO, and Shirokuma Cafe.

It’s Not Anime But I Like It

Actually, there’s something we want to recommend this season: Unofficial Sentai Akibaranger – a parody on super sentai shows. Now, what makes this interesting for us is that Satou Keiichi did the character design for the show. Maybe we’ll get to see some dangerous underpants (with a surprise bulge) in it. Plus it’s really really funny, even for people who don’t normally watch tokusatsu shows. Give it a try!

By The Way, Our Previous Opinion Still Stands

Winter anime season started a couple of weeks ago, and I could just as well copy what we posted when Autumn season began. Although this isn’t directly about Tiger & Bunny, it can’t be helped that we still compare everything we watch to reactions Tiger & Bunny got –  and still gets – from us. (Aki thinks this will go on forever, and I gotta agree. It’s not easy to beat the experience Tiger & Bunny gave us.)

For example, one thing we really got pampered with in Tiger & Bunny is the fact that Nishida held the reins on scripting the whole time. Of course he wasn’t the only writer but he was involved in every episode even when other writers worked on them. The importance of the writer didn’t really register with us before, we rarely paid attention to who’s writing the episodes until we started watching Persona 4 the Animation after Tiger & Bunny had already ended. The episodes were so uneven that it didn’t take many weeks for us to figure out that out of the three writers working on the scripts, only one actually seemed to have played the game and cared about characterization. This sucks because many of the parts that we loved about the game have been given a really poor treatment in the anime so far – the camping trip episode is a very good example, with bad pacing. Most of the things that made the camping trip so funny in the game were lost somewhere.

Anyways, back to the current Winter season. We ambitiously checked out quite a few of new series, but most of them have already been dropped due to being a) boring b) stupid c) bad d) all of the above. Some of the new stuff we’ve decided to keep watching falls into both b) and c) but because they’re so bad they end up being unintentionally funny. (That means you, Brave 10 and Aquarion EVOL.) Go figure, Aquarion EVOL gives even better laughs than the actual comedies – Daily Lives of High School Boys and Thermae Romae – that we are watching. Another is the most interesting one so far. We both love horror, and good horror anime is pretty rare. The sound design and scene planning in Another gives us chills, we just hope it’ll carry all the way through.

It was watching the latest episode of Another last night that made me realize what really is the difference between watching Tiger & Bunny and watching any other series. Allow me to demonstrate:

And we played a game until it was bedtime. Feels a bit sadman if I compare it to Superhero Saturdays and talking about Tiger & Bunny until we had to go to bed.

Aki would like to add the following:

[Aki_the_geek] one more comment
[Aki_the_geek] this is one of your shortest posts despite the fact you are talking about several anime in it
[Aki_the_geek] THAT SAYS SOMETHING.

Yyyyyyyep.

Opinion: Movie Musings

So, two movies. There’s no news yet on what they’ll be about, nor have I seen who’s in the staff (but I hope Satou will be directing again, and Nishida writing). I have a bit mixed feelings about that it’s going to be movies instead of S2 or OVAs, because I haven’t seen that many good movies based on TV anime.

My biggest worry is that the movies will be a recap – or even worse, recap that retcons the story. Recap movies tend to be boring since I’ve already seen the anime and I know what’ll happen, better graphics doesn’t really make it that much more interesting for me. The retcon movies on the other hand make me rage. Let’s take the Macross Frontier movies as an example; I saw the anime and I enjoyed it even though it had flaws and my favourite character got killed. The movies retconned so much of the story and characterization that I wasn’t even sure what I was watching – and I just couldn’t like them even though my favourite character survived in them. I really, really do not want to see retcon happen to Tiger & Bunny and its characters.

(To clarify: I don’t believe they’d take the recap/retcon route, especially if S2 is in the works behind the scenes; it makes more sense to do a proper lead up to it with the movies. It’s just something I wanted to note because many anime movies pick the easy way and recap the story.)

The new footage that was shown at the Hero Awards 2011 event may indicate that we’ll get a new story. The staff have stated on more than one occasion that they have a lot of material they couldn’t fit into the anime, so the possibility of all that being used for the movies is pretty high. They could do a lot of stuff with just the 10 month timeskip, but if I’d have to make bets I’d say at least one of the movies will be set after the anime ending because of what Ozaki mentioned in a recent interview. It’s also more than likely that the movies will get new sponsors since the sample pictures had the hero suits blank of advertisements. New project, new sponsors.

The other major gripe I have with anime movies is that I’m not in Japan and have no chance to go there just to see a movie. They can take up to a year to be released on BD/DVD, and the wait is going to be agonizing. The likelihood of getting spoiled for plot is pretty high, too, since I know many Japanese fans and I doubt I can avoid all the spoilers… I don’t know if I even want to avoid them because I’m dying for more Tiger & Bunny. I’ve seen some speculations about the movies making it to the USA pretty fast because the streams were so popular, which is great for the American fans. I’m European so I’ll probably get the Japanese version faster, though.

I’m pretty hopeful we’ll eventually get S2, and the movies’ job is to tide us over until then. Ozaki wanted to do a continuation fast, and a S2 wouldn’t have been ready until 2013. It’s understandable they want to make more when Tiger & Bunny is so popular. Too long wait would be bad in business sense, and Sunrise (and Bandai) are doing this for business after all. The movies are only step 2 in NEXT Project (Hero Awards was step 1) so who knows what we’ll get… I’ve heard there should be four steps in it.

Opinion: “But why is it not TaiBani?”

So… Summer season ended, and Tiger & Bunny with it. Fall season started, without new Tiger & Bunny episodes. This presents a “tiny” problem.

None of the new anime feel that exciting. Aki and I actually had that problem the previous season with the new series that started then but it wasn’t such a big deal because hey, we had Tiger & Bunny! We still ended up watching some series against our better judgement and for shits and giggles. Now there’s nothing to distract us from the fact that the new stuff is pretty damn stale. All the series we had decided to check out for this season have started and we’ve seen at least one episode of each.

So what’s wrong, really?

It’s hard not to compare the Fall anime to Tiger & Bunny when we’ve practically lived and breathed it for six months, and still are. Both of us have become a lot more critical of the anime we watch after – and during – Tiger & Bunny. I was actually thinking of blogging a series this season, but nothing really gets me interested enough to put the same kinda passion into talking about it as we feel with T&B. In fact, the usual proceeding after watching something that is not T&B is that we go back to talking about T&B within minutes.

The biggest problem this season has is that everything even remotely interesting has defaulted back to the angsty-teenager-high-school-student-protagonist with a backing cast of teenage classmates regardless of genre. Anime is just a medium as any other, but most of the anime produced today hasn’t grown up with the audience and it gives this feeling of “haven’t I seen this before?” Take Guilty Crown for example. It is a pretty obvious mix of Macross (songbird chick), Persona (social linking gone bad) and it tilts heavily into Code Geass. Did I mention it has an angsty teenage protagonist? This is just the impression from the first episode, so it’s a bit too early to judge the entire series based on it. First impression still isn’t outstanding.

Of course, clichés and stereotypes are easy to handle and safe bets. Although I’ve been watching the generic stuff for years, it only took a few months with Tiger & Bunny to kill my interest for it. The older protagonists and a diverse cast where everyone is a personality and not just a stereotype makes T&B much more interesting to watch. In fact, we can talk for hours about how complex characters Kotetsu and Barnaby are. For example, it’s easy to miss many finer points of Kotetsu’s character development if you aren’t putting a little thought into it.

Note that I’m not saying that Tiger & Bunny is how anime should be, because I can acknowledge the fact that it wasn’t flawless and there were a lot of things that could have been done better – and not just QUALITY gym time. What the creators of T&B did was that they dared to take the risk, and dared to do things differently and that is what made it stand out. Both of us want to see more of this kind of risk taking – not just anime that tries to imitate Tiger & Bunny but that takes its own risks and turns them into success.

Didn’t I just say that we end up talking about Tiger & Bunny all the time? I was supposed to be blogging about the anime this season…

What does Sunrise do?

Since Tiger & Bunny is a Sunrise product, it’s only fair to check out what they’re doing this season, right? I watched Sacred Seven in its entirety on the previous season, just to see what they expected would be the better seller. When it started I said I’d watch it until the first BD sales were out, and it was only later when I realized I’d actually have to complete the series before that. I was pig-headed enough to hold out. Needless to say I wasn’t impressed, though S7 had its moments… most of them provided not by the series itself.

We’ve checked the new series from Sunrise this season and it’s kinda like S7 all over. Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere is so bad it’s not even funny, and although Phi Brain sounded good on paper it sunk into mediocrity and couldn’t even hold interest for more than one episode. Gundam AGE is just a glorified gunpla ad, clearly aimed to capture a new generation to buy the plastic. I doubt we can sit through it for many more episodes.

What are we watching?

As much as this post may sound like whining, we do enjoy watching anime. (The lack of good anime this season has just made us watch more live action stuff for a change.) We’re both big fans of Persona games and especially Persona 4, so we’re watching Persona 4 the Animation. It’s not super awesome, but it’s still fun. Mirai Nikki (don’t spoil, we haven’t read the manga!) and Ben-To are the surprises of the season, maybe because we had no expectations for them. We’re also watching Mawaru Penguin Drum from the previous season.

Bottom line: There’s no point to this other than none of this anime is Tiger & Bunny, and it can’t be helped. At least there are penguins.