Summer Heats Up: Summer 2008 Anime Guide

It seems like an interesting summer season. I am looking forward to a few familiar faces and I am intrigued by some of the shows coming out. I am curious to see what little gems are coming out what no one has been taking about. There are a ton of new shows coming out so we only have so much time to watch what we can so we have to be selective. We are not reviewing sequels, ongoing shows, or any show we are 99% sure we will not like. And be aware we are reviewing these shows after watching just one or two episodes, so it is just first impressions.

Birdy the Mighty Decode
birdy, mighty, decode, patlabor, aliens, Tsutomu

I have to say I was shocked to see Birdy the Mighty getting any sort of continuation. I remember the original OVA fondly though I would like to watch it again since that was ages ago. However, you don’t need to see that since this show starts at the beginning. Birdy is a butt-kicking agent for the Space Federation but when she comes to Earth she accidentally kills a human, Tsutomu. The only way to keep him alive is by combining their bodies. Tsutomu is calm and quite and Birdy is loud and out of control. The show is light space action, hinting at an overall plot, and comedy. It doesn’t seem overly perverted (which is very easily where a show like this could go) so I hope it stays that way. It is a fun show and entertaining but not by any stretch of the imagination an amazing new show.

The original Birdy the Mighty is a curiosity to me. I never saw it but it seemed like one of those shows that was always for rent at any video store with an anime section in it. So I have always been aware of the series but I have oddly enough never seen it. If nothing else this show is very 90s in it’s style. The animation is clearly modern but I feel the direction and the story is more a throw back to the 90s. I think this show is best for fans of the original or anyone who likes that time periods style of action anime. It’s definitely a fun show and I will continue to watch it is as a fun and light 90s action show with a slight nod to modern style aesthetics.

Yakushiji Ryoko no Kaiki Jikenbo
Ryoko, mystery, detective, sexy, supernatural

I did not realize that this was a supernatural detective series until I looked up the translation of the title shortly before I watched the anime. It seems like a police drama where the two detectives solve cases with a supernatural twist. Apparently Ryoko is the person to go to in the police department when you want a case solved that deals with the unexplainable. Ryoko and her partner Izumi seem to have master servant relationship with Ryoko clearly being in charge but I am glad to see that they both seem equally competent in detective work and being able to protect themselves. She also seems to have a rival on the force with a similar relationship to her partner. I think this is the show this season for people who want a more adult mystery anime.

This show melds detective with a mature, sexy woman. While I thought it had some pacing issues, it overall kept a quick transition. I liked how we are dropped into the story knowing that our duo have been working supernatural cases for a while. It does seem that the unknown is combined with hard evidence. Ryouko’s eccentricities are cause for humor and awe as she drags her faithful assistant around the city in search of clues and shopping!

Here is Greenwood (Live Action)
greenwood, ikemen, high school, crossdressing, dorm

If you don’t love Here is Greenwood, then you haven’t haven’t read the manga or watched the OVA! And here it is in a new form, live action. I think this is a show that you will love if you already know the show, but I would recommend jumping in with the earlier renditions if you’ve never experienced it before. It has the antics and comedy prevalent in Greenwood. The show establishes the personalities of our four main guys quickly and efficiently. It also has a dorm full of cute guys! And this particular time slot in Japan touts half hour episodes.

I remember Here is Greenwood fondly for several reasons. Most important being it’s the first shojo anime I ever saw. This seems a particularly accurate and faithful live action adaptation of the manga. They have a good deal of the scenes that stand out in my mind including the first time with meet the motorcycle otaku carrying around his bike, or when we first meet Kazuya’s sister-in-law, or when we discover Shun’s secret. Speaking of Shun’s secret I know that it is hard to find a guy who can act and still pass for a woman when cross dressing and I think they do a satisfactory but flawed job in their casting. The actor they got was decent but it some scenes and looks like a girl but in other scenes he is quite obviously a man in drag. I am curious to see which storylines from the manga they adapt, to see how funny “Here is Devilwood” is, and to see the last story line’s adaptation.

Antique Bakery
yaoi, BL, antique, bakery, cake, pastry

Antique Bakery is a slice of life show about four men running a bakery. This show is a healing anime with a gay character in it but many people feel that this is very light BL show. I don’t think that just because a BL author writes something with a gay character in it’s not automatically BL. Gay characters are valid characters in shows outside of BL. Antique Bakery reminds me of The Bartender with a pastry shop instead of a bar. The basic formula seems to be that a customer comes into the shop and through interacting with the employees comes to solve some problem in their life. These types of shows are made for people who want to come home after a hard day of work and see an uplifting, calm tale with some pastry porn on the side. There seems to be an overarching plot about the owner’s kidnapping as a child but it is mainly meant to be an episodic show.

I really loved the way the opening was done, just something fun and different. It has an easy pace, could be very sitcom like. But overall it just didn’t grab me in any way. There is nothing innately wrong with it but it certainly doesn’t have a hook like normal shows. Everything seems to move in a subdued manner, but that seems to be the idea.

Chocolate Underground
chocolate, underground, bootleg, Alex Shearer

Wow, so these episodes are short but not definite lengths, some were around 3 minutes while another was almost 5. But they have been able to make me curious is that short span. These two kids live in a crazy place where chocolate had been outlawed (along with anything else that is bad for you). But rumor has it there are chocolate bootleggers with secret stores of chocolate. That certainly peaked their interests and they set off to find it. I love the sense of adventure and mystery found in young adult literature! This series felt serious and fun at the same time. And look at those two boys. Aren’t they adorable? And their shared crush on the girl at the bakery is very cute, too. I will be watching.

Chocolate Underground is based on the British novel Bootleg by Alex Shearer. Chocolate Underground is an ONA that means it is an anime primarily released on the Internet. It’s not the first ONA but it is the first I have watched. Overall it’s rather cute. The episodes are rather well paced fro being so short. Each one feels like a chapter from a book. Which might actually be the case. I feel opening scene with the special forces team with the armored mech to bust a couple eating chocolate in their home is rather extreme. The whole chocolate ban is a deft social commentary in a rather sweet coating.

Slayers Revolution
slayers, lina, gourry, zelgadis, amelia, revolution

This had to be the biggest surprise of the year! New Slayers? Don’t lie to me.I couldn’t believe it. Though I think there is a whole generation of fans that have not watched Slayers, so I wonder what their reaction to the series will be. The relationships between characters is already established so it could throw off first timers. However, I was delighted, everything was harkening back to the original. Even the way the title of the episode was introduced.

Look. It’s very simple. Give me more Zelgadis and Amelia in generous amounts and I am generally sold on your show. I’m sure that otaku are happy for the return of Megumi Hayashibara as Lina if nothing else. And I think that old school Slayers fans will be happy. This was not made for new viewers. There is little to no effort made to get people up to speed. You are assumed to know and love these characters and are just waiting to see what trouble they are going to find themselves in next. Overall it’s an excellent return to the Slayers formula. There is the trademark humor in full force and a decent amount of action as well. Everyone is in perfect form. As long as they don’t mess up like they did with the end of Slayers Try this should be fun.

Natsume Yuujinchou
natsume, yuujinchou, ayakashi, lucky cat

The one line pitch for Natsume Yuujinchou would be XXXholic meets Mushishi. We have a young man who can see spirits but does not want to who is takes up the mantle of dealing with the wide variety of local spirits. Natsume’s relationship with his spirit cat friend seems slightly odd but interesting enough that I want to see how it develops. So far the spirits presented have not been too dangerous but there have been hints that this will not always be the case. The cat spirit has a powerful form reminiscent of Amaterasu from Oakmi so I assume he will be the muscle. I am curious if Natsume will ever get any combat power or will he continue to use his wits to solve his problems. Natsume’s grandmother reminds me of Tohru Honda’s mom which means she is the selling point for this series. ;-)

It seems like every season there is one show that emotionally hooks me in the first episode. This time around it was Natsume Yuujinchou. Sometimes I can’t quite put my finger on how they did it. All I know is that I was really sad to hear the story of that Ayakashi. I am curious to see how all the names made it into the book. And I also laughed a whole lot, the cat is too funny! And I love his voice. Enjoyable first episode and I will be getting the next as soon as possible.

Blade of the Immortal
blade, manji, ren, anotsu, immortal, samurai

It is dangerous to have high hopes sometimes. I have been a BotI fan since it first started coming out in English, I never thought it would ever become an anime. Hiroki Samura’s art style is very complex and sketchy so I wasn’t sure how it was going to translate on screen. But lo and behold everyone looks like themselves just super smooth. The first episode is basically faithful to the first chapter with the addition of showing a little of Ren and oddly adding in Hyakurin who doesn’t show up till much later. But I can appreciate them trying to get all the major players established considering the time restraints. The fight at the end was not anything special unfortunately, though I think it still serves the purpose of showing Maji is a crazy bad-ass. But I thought this could be a moment to shine and really show this series is full of messed up stuff and people getting chopped in two. They did have, what becomes sort of iconic in the manga, Manji carrying around his lost limbs though. The opening was also really adult and intense, very nice. That what the show needs to be. I think I’ll have to watch a few more to really decide if it is going in a good direction.

The manga of Blade of the Immortal has a very distinct art style. So much in fact that the rumor was that the author never let the series be animated before this because he never felt anyone could capture the unique artistry of his manga. The character designs are simplified from the manga but I don’t think that you could ever get the budget to animate Blade of the Immortal’s original character designs on a TV budget. They even go out of their way to reproduce the elaborate death portraits important characters get when they die from the original manga. It looks like they are going out of their way to capture the mature feeling of the manga which will definitely help sell this in the American market. Kagimura Habaki and Kagehisa Anotsu also appear earlier than they appear in the manga as well. It is an odd choice to have certain characters show up so early but I can’t really I really fault them for it. The choice that perplexed me the most was the random modern city imagery in the opening, closing, and eyes catches quite bizarre since the story takes place around 1782. I know people are going to take this show to town because it’s animated by Bee Train but other than the Bee Train signature of having an extremely in your face back background music score everything seems fine. I will reserve my final judgment for a few more episodes but so far it gets my thumbs up.

Shibatora (Live Action)
shibatora, koike, teppei, police, shinigami, detective

I was originally looking into this show because Koike Teppei is the star! If you have seen the Lovely Complex movie, you might recognize him. Anyway, I think he is a very cute and playful actor. This show is based on a manga by the same name, it combines comedy with drama and a bit of a sentimental element. Shibatora is working to be a detective but he has a naive and innocent face and sports some mad Kendo skills. It has a long list of wacky characters that add to Shibatora’s mostly serious personality. The show overall was fun and pulled me into the characters. Though there are moments that seemed off pace. Like during the dramatic climax there is a comedic moment but it was not seemlessly done, in fact I was laughing from it’s odd placement. And also Shibatora’s ability to sense when death is near seems frivolous and pointless, luckily this doesn’t come up too often. Lastly, the theme is done by Every Little Thing which is totally awesome!

Shibatora seems like a fun show in which the editor made the author throw in the supernatural part for no particular reason. It seems to be there to get him involved with the characters but he already has a reason to be trying to help people. He is a cop. It might be a good hook if Shibatora was not a detective but it just seems tacked on. I might also call it lazy story telling but Shibatora always has to do detective work after he gets a psychic insight. It’s never simply a case of deus ex machina. Other than that it is a fun Japanese cop drama. Shibatora and his friends at the clothing shop have a fun dynamic and Shibatora is a cute likeable character. I also really loved that his boss has a office in the middle of the basement. I want a secret base in the police department, too. They seem to really like to beat up poor Shibatora because he gets quite a bit of damage done to him during this episode.

World Destruction
world, destruction, RPG, furries, video, game

This is an anime based on a video game (or rather they are both coming out at once) and therefore it stinks and therefore I am going to be snarky for the rest of this preview. Sufficed to say it’s not worth your time unless you are a furry. A furry with no taste. In a world where adorable looking beastmen rule over humans one boy heroically dons cheap cosplay cat ears to find work. In a world where one crazy psycho girl wants to destroy everyone and seems to have an all too easy time convincing other people to commit mass suicide with her and take along everyone else while they are at it. In a world where they attempt to make the love child of Snake Pliskin and Teddy Ruxpin a bad ass and noble hero. This is the world of World Destruction. I say they can’t destroy this world quick enough.

This show tried to cram every type of character we have seen in a RPG into one show and it was a big mess. It was obviously supposed to combine humor and drama but it seemed to not hit either. The funniest thing about the show was everything that was wrong with it, from the poor animation (this is the first episode people! We shouldn’t see the C team come in yet) to the badly thoughtout story. The dramatic scene that was supposed to bring us on board, to have the two characters start to understand each other, to get us intrigued…fell flat. In my opinion, nothing went right in this show. Oh, wait, I did like the closing song but maybe that was because I was so glad it was over.

Telepathy Shoujo Ran
shoujo, telepathy, ran, psychic, girls, magical

Why are these people using their psychic powers will-nilly in school? This series was not very stimulating. I am having a hard time putting words to it. It was just there, it wasn’t bad, it wasn’t anything. I feel as though I will forget I have even watched it just as I kept forgetting the name of it the other day.

While it was certainly not my favorite show of the season, I think I certainly liked this one more than Narutaki. It sort of a standard magical girl show. Ran does not transform but she has broad array of psychic powers including telepathy. There is a transfer student who has the same powers she does and keeps trying to get her to use her power and convince her that they are monsters who no one else will accept. Midori, the transfer student seems like she will go from be an antagonist to an ally in the great shonen tradition despite the fact that this is a shoujo show. There also seems to be a greater band of evil people with psychic powers to be the big bad guys.

Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu
nogizaka, haruka, otaku, moe, secret

Sometimes it takes a hero to jump on a live grenade to save the rest of the platoon. Other times it just takes a fool. Well, I jumped only to find out it was a dud. Narutaki and I were assuming this show was going to be deathly bad and I secretly hoped that it might be good. It turns out it’s really just plain. Yuto, an average guy finds out that Haruka, the most popular girl in school, is secretly an otaku. This leads to them becoming friends. If Yuto or Haruka were really interesting it might have sold me on this show but they are both very average. Yuto seems to have some fight in him to complain out loud but not enough to stop anyone from tormenting him. Haruka is just a princess girl that happens to like anime. She is hardly moe enough to dislike but not cool enough to love. I guess I was secretly hoping for a Nagi-like character. The only thing that stuck out that would be really bad is that he lives with his sister and one of his teachers from school. When Yuto is at home they bully him into serving them snacks and booze. They are clearly there for A. fan-service shots; B. “jokes”; and C. to make problems and misunderstandings between Yuto and Haruka later on.

Yasuko to Kenji (Live Action)
yasuko, kenji, manga-ka, gangs, shojo

This show is a well done combo of comedy mixed with a sentimental first romance and family issues. Kenji is a ex-gang leader trying to raise his little sister, Yasuko, who is now in high school. The best way he found to do this was his talent for writing shojo manga! Kenji is now a well established manga-ka. His actual identity is a secret. If this isn’t a perfect combination for comedy gold, well then nothing is. This show is over the top funny as Yasuko butts heads with Kenji, who is super overprotective, and also starts to live out a bit of shojo manga herself with the new guy at school. Of course the show wouldn’t be complete with out some sort of gang fight!

This is the one live action show I truly regret not being able to watch subtitled. I’m sure this already hysterical show would be even better with me being able to fully understand the dialog. Kenji’s bad ass demeanor mixed with the scenes of him writing his ultra flowery shojo comics is just priceless. I also like Kenji and Yasuko’s back and forth battles for who is in charge of her life. I know that his two assistants were former members of his gang but I’m curious how they wound up working for him. I liked Yasuko’s love interest, Tsubaki, but his family is even better. Also the fight scenes were so manga styled. It was a nice adaptation. For some reason they really like to have poor Yasuko fall on her face. I’m not saying it’s not funny but you have to feel bad for the poor girl. I think I’m going to try to tract down the original manga because this looks like a winner but no one seems to be scanlating it. Hopefully a American manga company will pick this one up.

I would like to make two observations about Japanese live actions shows before we go. The first is cake is everywhere. In all the live action shows we watched someone always got cake whenever they went over to someone’s house. No wonder Tachibana went into the pastry business. According to Japanese drama people in Japan eat cake like three times a day. That and it seems to me that the background music is very noticeable in Japanese dramas. Is it just me or do any other our readers notice the same thing?

The cake industry in Japan must be booming! Any how, this is a rare season where I actually knew things about the upcoming shows (weather I’ve read the manga, know the actors, or know the previous series) and I had different expectations. This season is also full of surprises with series I never thought I would see made. It is quite exciting! And of course minus all the stuff I knew about, there are some great gems that I had no inkling what they were. Such is the great thing about plopping down and watching a whole ton of shows.



What are you thinking?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.