Anime of Summer 2011: First Impressions

For this season, I’m publishing a single post with my impressions of every show for the new season, instead of the usual post per show since I was away last week. In spite of all the usual complaints in the blogosphere that this is the worst season ever (which crop up every season), I actually think things look pretty promising.

We do have a bunch of crappy shows (don’t we always?) but I also feel there are a greater number of shows than usual which have the potential to become truly excellent. And I judge a season by its best offerings, not its worst. For reference, I would label the first nine shows on the list below crap, the last nine shows with the potential to become excellent, and I would consider only the remaining six shows “average”. Of course, some of the excellent shows will likely drop down to the average category as time wears on, but usually I would only put two to three shows per season in the excellent category (last season was also an exception, with four: Steins; Gate, Iroha, Ano Hana, and Hyouge Mono). With eight shows that could become great, and three of the best shows from last season carrying over, I would say that things are really looking up.

I’ve loosely ranked all of this season’s new shows in order from worst to best, and briefly given my impressions below.

24. Manyuu Hikenchou
Pure, unadulterated porn. Half of the episode appears to be censored with bright stripes. Dropped before the OP started.

23. Double-J
Two girls join the traditional arts club, where they carve the back ends of toothpicks. This one is as dumb as the premise sounds. The animation is horrible. The jokes aren’t funny, just pathetic. The only saving grace and reason I was able to finish the first episode is that each episode is three minutes long. But it still isn’t worth spending the time on. Dropped.

22. Morita-san wa Makuchi
This is pretty much the same thing as the OVA, for those who have seen it. Morita doesn’t say anything, people talk to her, and there is a misunderstanding. I didn’t fit it funny in the OVA and I don’t find it funny now. At least here the episodes are only two minutes long. But again, it isn’t worth the time. Dropped.

21. Nyanpire
Yet another short of several minutes. A cat becomes a vampire, and must drink blood. He drinks the ketchup and juice, but is stopped before he can drink tabasco sauce. His owner gives him a fish. What was the point of this? Nothing happened, the cat isn’t that cute, and it wasn’t funny at all. These three minute shows are so terrible I can’t figure out why they even bother making them.

20. Twin Angel –  Twinkle Paradise
Our lead characters transform into magical girls and fight crime. I think this was supposed to be a parody? But it wasn’t funny. At all. Not to mention that the girl in orange hair sounds exactly like Asuha from Astarotte no Omocha (and her voice was annoying enough the first time). Dropped.

19. Nekogami Yaoyorozu
Chibi cat girls in frilly dresses are the goddesses who protect the town. It’s not all that funny, just hyperactive. Dropped.

18. Ro-Kyu-Bu!
This one’s for the lolicons.  A high school boy becomes the coach for an elementary school girl’s basketball team. The characters seem interesting enough, and the execution is surprisingly decent. But that’s assuming you can look past the premise and the gratuitous fanservice with elementary schoolers. I can’t. Dropped.

17. R-15
A budding erotic novelist with vast literary ambitions begins attending the Inspiration Academy for geniuses. On one hand, this show is a thinly veiled excuse for porn. On the other hand, it does have an interesting cast of characters. The main character especially is not your typical harem lead: he actually has ambitions and a personality, even if his ambition is writing erotic novels. But the main focus seems to be on his perversions.

16. Itsuka Tenma no Kuro Usagi
A high schooler remembers that he made a dark magic pact with his childhood friend and lover, dies and comes back to life, meets his lover again and she is killed. I wasn’t  too impressed with this first episode. The male lead’s goal is to be a supporting character. He has a female childhood friend. The villain is a popular pretty boy who the entire school fawns over but who treats everyone like trash. The main female characters are lolis. All the fanservice is completely out of place, tactless and unoriginal. The only thing this show has going for it is that the original light novel is by the same author as Legend of Legendary Heroes, so I’m going to stick with it for a while just to see if it will pick up. But I think a lot of my problems are with the adaptation and not the source material.

15. Mayo Chiki
A high schooler walks into a butler in the toilet, and discovers that he is a girl. She tries to kill him to keep her identity secret. Her master turns out to be a sadist who proceeds to torture the pair of them and force them together. So this is another fanservice show where the main character is a spineless wuss who gets the crap beat out of him by lots of girls. Still, it did have a few funny moments and doesn’t lack for energy. Most of this energy is channeled towards violence and fanservice though.

14. Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu Ni!
This was a beach episode, so a lot of focus on the fanservice and proportionately less on the comedy. The episode had its funny moments, but not as many as I remember the first season having. I’m kind of worried that the humor in this show might be growing stale. All of the jokes have been repeated a million times by now. But the funniest parts have typically been when they were at school, so I’m holding out hope that this episode was simply the obligatory beach trip fanservice episode, and that the rest of BakaTest will be up to the usual standards.

13. Blood-C
The first episode had a truly amazing action sequence with a beautifully choreographed fight. It also had 15 minutes of a boring ditzy girl walking to school, complete with carbon copies of random characters from other CLAMP works. And the long CLAMP legs. The fight scene was great, but I don’t see all that much potential for the school life scenes. Why can’t CLAMP make new characters? I honestly just don’t get the whole CLAMP thing and why they’re so popular.

12. The iDOLM@STER
We follow a group of aspiring idols. So the characters in this show are walking stereotypes: we have the twins, the poor girl, the rich ojou-sama, the shy girl, the tomboy, the animal lover, the onee-san, the mysterious girl, the serious girl, the big breasted girl, and the clumsy girl. But, the production is really quite good. I like the idea of an interviewer following the girls in their day to day lives. The transitions flow smoothly, and everyone on the large cast gets a piece of the spotlight. Unfortunately, I don’t have much interest in the characters or in idols in general.


11. Sacred Seven
Sacred Seven is the corniest show imaginable. A guy has special powers and is feared at school because of them. He hates his powers and is afraid to use them. He meets a girl who he rescues with his powers. She joins his school. We have an army of maids. Still, it’s good dumb fun if you’re in the right mood for it. The fights were entertaining, and the characters are unique even if they’re one-sided.

10. Kamisama no Memochou
A boy transfers to a new school, and meets an underdeveloped girl who is a NEET detective. The characters so far seem a bit stereotypical, but I am optimistic that this show will turn out well. The mystery that they solved this week was interesting and not what I would have predicted. And second, this show has double the usual episode length. I think that this format has a lot of potential: another show that used it was Figure 17, and there they had a lot of time to fully flesh out each substory and all the characters due to the extended length. A single arc per episode can even work with this length. Still, I do hope that this show develops some kind of running storyline rather than an arc format.

9. YuruYuri
Another four girl tea-drinking comedy. But unlike K-On, the focus here is really just on the comedy. And the jokes work. The creators have an excellent sense of humor and comedic timing, and I would say that this looks set to be the best comedy of the new season. Kyouko especially is hilarious to watch.

8. Natsume Yuujinchou San
The third season of Natsume Yuujinchou follows the pattern of the first two: Natsume meets spirits, solves their problems and returns their names. If you liked the first two seasons, you’ll like this one as well. It’s a great character study with some excellent short stories. I haven’t watched the second season though (it’s on my list, just haven’t gotten around to it) so I’m going to pass this one up.

7. Ikoku Meiro no Croisée
Yune, a young sign girl, moves to Paris to work in a sign-making shop without speaking a word of French. This show is absolutely adorable. Yune is just too cute.  The animation is bright and colorful, and I love the historical setting. I’m hoping we get to see more of the cultural differences between France and Japan.

6. Nurarihyon no Mago Sennen Makyou
Man, this episode kicked things off again with a bang. The episode was a flashback to when Rikuou was a child, and how he decided to become the third heir. It served as a summary episode to reintroduce the cast, but also fleshed out Rikuou and his classmates.  It was interesting to see how much they have changed (or not changed, as the case may be). In the first season, Rikuo in his day form seemed to have little desire to be the Third, but now we know that he does have the motivation, and his day and night forms are more tightly connected than I’d thought. We also have a great explanation for why he (and he alone in his household) is so concerned with keeping the yokai a secret from his classmates. And kid Rikuou in his night form is bloody awesome. I would say that this episode was better than anything the first season had to offer. Let’s hope they continue this trend.

5. Usagi Drop
A 30 year old man returns home for his grandfather’s funeral, only to discover that his grandfather has a five year old illegitimate daughter, Rin. When his relatives decide to send his aunt to an orphanage, he decides to take her into his home instead. Usagi Drop looks like it has the potential to be very touching. It’s quite rare in anime that we get to see either middle aged men or young children, and the intergenerational gap should make this especially interesting. This show handles emotions right: many things are communicated without words, instead of the more typical (for anime) people yelling out their feelings. I really love the art style as well: it’s a bit reminiscent of Hourou Musuko. I think that Usagi Drop should be an excellent addition to the noitaminA timeslot.

4. Kamisama Dolls
A college student, while attending a party with his crush and neighbor from back home, finds a corpse in the elevator. He goes home to find his sister with a god, the village heirloom. They fight an escaped criminal, but their house is destroyed and they move in with the crush. I thought that this first episode seemed really promising. The show feels like the bastard child of Bounen no Xamdou and the Tsukihime dark side arcs. We have some promising characterizations (I’m loving the little sister already, so cute!), beautiful artwork, excellent music (one of the best OPs and EDs this season),  unique character designs, and a compelling,  mysterious and original plot. My only complaint is that the lead female’s chest is disturbingly large. Otherwise, I’m really looking forward to seeing where this goes.

3. Dantalian no Shoka
A young man’s grandfather dies and leaves the mystical Dantalian library as his inheritance. The library turns out to take the form of a young girl, and they work together to seal a phantom book which is running amok. This is yet another show this season with great animation (there sure seem to be a lot of these). The soundtrack is top-notch, and so are the action sequences. As for the plot, it’s hard to tell so far since it looks like it’ll be episodic, but the first episode was good at least. The characters seem promising, particularly the male lead. It reminds me of the characters in Gosick, except the male lead isn’t a moron. But the thing that really stood out the most for me in this episode was the scene where the male lead read the grimoire (his voice actor was superb here). If we can have that level of language, imagery and intonation every episode, I’m already sold.

2. No. 6
In a dystopian society, a teenage boy meets a wounded boy who is on the run from the Ministry of Peace. This seems to be quite promising, both for the setting and the relationships between the characters. Unlike Fractale, it appears that the creators know what they intend to do with the setting. The relationships between the main character, his friend and the runaway have already been fleshed out, and the plot is already thickening. A tantalizing preview of the setting has been given which gives us a peak at what’s really happening behind the scenes, but there is still much that remains a mystery. The main way I can see this going wrong is if it turns into yaoi (although I would still probably like it).

1. Mawaru Penguin Drum
Two brothers live with their sister, who will die soon due to an incurable disease. She passes away at the aquarium after they buy her an emperor penguin hat as a gift. While she is sitting in the morgue, the penguin hat possesses her and she returns to life fully healed. But her life comes at a cost, and three penguins move in with the family. This episode was seriously trippin’. It had some of the best animation I’ve seen in a TV series, with a staggering amount of detail. The plot is zany and the pace is fast. That scene where the sister was possessed for the second time was crazy. My main fears are that with that kiss at the end, this might turn into some siscon love triangle.

 

What do you think of this season’s crop of shows? Feel free to share your impressions in the comments below.

5 thoughts on “Anime of Summer 2011: First Impressions

  1. Hi! Looks like a nice blog. I’ll throw in my impressions:

    13. No. 6 – Well, just not that interesting for me. (Dropped)
    12. Kamisama no Memochou – I didn’t like Gosick either (Dropped)
    11. Nekogami Yaoyorozu – Agreed on this one. Not too funny (Dropped)
    10. Ikoku Meiro no Croisee – Great visuals/sound, but what else? (Dropped)
    9. Itsuka Tenma no Kuro Usagi – Looks interesting enough. Could be good or bad.
    8. Yuru Yuri – Generic slice of life. Way better than A-Channel though.
    7. The iDOLM@STER – Looks pretty fun to me, and I like the documentary style
    6. R-15 – Good for some laughs
    5. Hanasaku Iroha – almost dropped at 3/4 eps, but its definitely improved
    4. Mawaru Penguindrum – love the pacing, love the humor, great eye candy, sexual tension a number of ways. This could be great.
    3. Ro-kyu-bu! – Plot/presentation much better than expected.
    ***
    2. Kaiji Season 2 – These last two will be all-time favorites. Really suspenseful, perfect characters, satisfying. Fantastic follow-up to season 1.
    1. Nichijou – I love what they did here. Obviously the comedy is a strong point.

    I might try Kamisama Dolls and Dantalian no Shoka based on your impressions.

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