Spring Roll: Spring 2010 Anime Guide

And so the clouds parted and the moe besieged anime fans wept when the darkness cleared and they saw written on the sky: Not that much moe anime this season. The spring season as always has a whole slew of new shows but this year also has a wide variety. Moe is still around but it is equal partners with other types of shows. We easily picked out 13 shows to give a chance this season and did not break a sweat in choosing what we did. We only reviewed 11 shows in time for the preview but we will look at the remaining 2 shows in the Ongoing Investigations. I am not sure how many of the shows will live up to their first episodes but I was impressed how many started off very strong. Maybe just maybe anime will not die or stagnate into nothing but K-ON season 24: The Reunion Tour and The Retirement Plans of Haruhi Suzumiya.

To me each season means a new chance for anime to surprise me, though it does that all the time anyway, and a chance to grab things while they are hot. It also means that a few of the shows I had been watching wrapped up making some perfectly timed space for new goodies. It can’t be denied that it’s just plain fun to check out all the new stuff and in a way have to pare down what I’ll have time to watch on a weekly basis. I am happy to say that anime is back ladies and gentleman, and the spring is looking impressive indeed. As a reminder, we don’t review ongoing series or anything that we are more than likely not going to like.

(Award for Best Mecha Tribute to Back to the Future)

Just to use a soundbite description no one else has used: Heroman is FLCL meets an 80’s movie. Heroman is a simple but fun story if you can accept that fact. Joey a hardworking nerd fixes a toy robot who com to life after being hit by mysterious lightning. Together they must defeat evil aliens that wish to ravage the Earth like space locusts. The show fuses the strengths of Stan Lee and Studio Bones into a show that has an international appeal for kids. It also brings along some of the flaws from both styles but overall it blends wells. The look and feel of California is well done and will make a U.S. adaptation very simple. The characters are simple but enjoyable with no one really breaking the mold but not horribly unlikable either. I am curious how much Psy and Lina are going to be useful and how much they are just going to be people to put in danger. I would like to see them slowly add some gravitas to the story but I won’t be disappointed if that never happens. I will definitely continue to watch.

Upon completion of the first episode I immediately wondered why this wasn’t being broadcast on American television at the same time. It would fit in perfectly next to Ben 10. Heroman doesn’t come off as original or new, but it weaves its story well. Something about it really screamed 80’s movie to me, or rather I thought of Back to the Future a lot while watching this show even though there is no flying Delorean. It may have been the aesthetic that at once felt old and new, kind of like how people imagine the future is but in this case it’s the imagining of what the present day is. And I like the stylization presented as well as the animation. I enjoyed the familiarity of the story, the characters, and found it totally enjoyable. Besides, after reading Ultimo, Heroman looks like an the greatest story ever told!

Award for Best 5-Star ZAGAT-rated Comedy)

I was a little worried about this show, slice-of-life comedies can be very painful but Working!! shows it can do genuine comedy decently and therefore looks like it might be worth watching. It revolves around the family restaurant Wagnaria and the strange people who work there. I think the key factor in any of these shows is a male presence. When there are guys around it dopes not fall into the trap of just relying on girls being cute to sell a show and warm your heart. They have actual jokes that I enjoy especially anything involving Kyouko Shirafuji and Yachiyo Todoroki. I really want to learn more about the too male chefs and hope they do not let them fade into the background. The only thing that may kill this show is the introduction of the androphobic Mahiru Inami who looks like she could be highly annoying if they focus too much on her or don’t tone down her irrational fear of men. I am curious if they can keep up the strong energy they establish in the first episode of the show.

Sometimes I’m feeling lucky when I pick what I want to watch of the new season, Working!! could have easily fallen into the big-mishaps-that-occur-when-I-pick-shows-at-random pile but instead I found myself laughing happily at the antics. Souta becomes the newest part-timer at the Wagnaria restaurant after Poplar is assigned a recruiting mission because they are short-staffed. Souta pretty much acts somewhat as the foil to some of the crazy business that goes on, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t without quirks like having very little tact when it comes to making comments. But he also represents the viewer as he learns about each of the other employees. I thought Poplar was upbeat and fun, the two chefs guys are cute and seem somewhat normal, and the manager is certainly strong-willed! Working!! has a good cast and made me laugh so I’d like to see if it can continue, though I really didn’t like the few minutes of Inami there was I atleast want to see where it will go.

(Award for Humanitarian of the Year to the Staff of Shio Prison)

Rainbow is one of those shows that once again reminds you that anime is not all the misadventures of boys being surrounded by hot girls, school romance for girls, and action shows made to sell toys. There is the distinct ability to tell mature stories and at least one show a year attempts to do that. Rainbow is the story of 6 men in prison for a variety of mostly violent crimes. They must deal with the harsh and brutal treatment of their jailers while learning to survive from an older inmate. Everything is setting this up to be a harsh series to watch. The representation of incarceration is grim and realistic especially considering it takes place in 1950s Japan. If you want a dark tale of human survival then this is going to be the anime of the year for you. But the realistic violence and a brutal tone of the series is going to make a good deal of people not be able to watch something like this and I can’t blame them one bit.

Using the word rainbow in the title of this show is misleading, but then again any description or picture of the show would fix that. The story is pretty much brutal from the second the opening finishes (random note that I really liked the opening), though the opening isn’t happy kittens and rainbows either afterall it is about these guys in prison. The  beginning on the bus is probably a little overdramatic, but things start to even out into just plain disturbing after that. Each guy seems to have an equally difficult past to deal with. I can’t really say I know what the themes will be in this story, not sure redemption will be a part or not, survival is certainly imminent, it’s all speculation after only one episode. But my point is that it seems serious in it leading to some really harsh realizations. With that said, I can’t continue to watch, the violence (among other things) is landing too much in the realistic realm, but I think it’s got a lot to offer.

Kaicho wa Maid-sama
(Award for Best Shojo Show in Moe Show Costume)

Kaicho wa Maid-sama seems like a generic shojo comedy with solid shojo romance but it is also very bland. Misaki Ayuzawa is a hardworking girl who has become Student Council President at a formerly only boys school. She is a holy terror to all the male rule breakers but she has a secret. Since her family is poor she is forced to work at a maid cafe. When the devious Usui finds out her secret he seems devoted to torturing her with his new found knowledge. The story plays out like you expect. Misaki is a good woman who just can’t stand the slightly devious Usui. Usui has a bit of a bad boy edge to him but seems like a nice guy overall. With shojo anime being overall so few and far between I see why many people would watch this show but I have a feeling most people would just want to stick to the manga. 

Maid-sama was a show I was very much looking forward to being a big fan of the manga. But the only feelings I can muster up about the anime adaption is disappointment. There is a level of ridiculous over-the-top crazyness that the manga has, not to mention that both Ayuzawa and Usui are way meaner in the manga and believe it or not that is what makes the series so hilarious. I never for one moment took the story seriously, it just keeps getting more and more unbelievable including just how Mary Sue Usui is. All of this seems to be softened in the anime, including the character designs, and there isn’t that biting spirit making it a bit standard. Usui actually seems like a nice guy, so much so that you wonder why Ayuzawa is being such a jerk to him. It is standard now and that makes me sad.

(Award for Making Anime about Working at a Toy Company Boring)

This is what people complain about when they complain about moe comedy. Yutori-chan is learning the ropes at the Popuu toy company from her patience-tested sempai. The thing is that Yutori-chan is a space cadet moron who is supposed to be cute because she is so dumb. She is less cute and more aggravating than anything else. Tsumekomi’s trials as a working woman at a toy company might have been amusing but Yutori-chan sabotages any attempts of that occurring. I must mention that Narutaki and I were thrown off by how huge the bosses’ bottom lip was. All I can say is at least it was short.

I tossed a coin with this show and I lost. The main girl is dumb and annoying, if you don’t like that then I guess you shouldn’t watch this show. If you find that oh-so hilarious then dive right in. Thank goodness this was under 5-minutes long.

SD Gundam Sangokuden
(Award for Least Accurate Representation of the Gryps Conflict)

A retelling of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms only using Super Deformed Gundams. We have seen them tell the story of the Three Kingdoms a million times. Heck, I knew the second I sat down they were going to start with the Yellow Turban Rebellion as a person who played Dynasty Warriors. It all comes down how much you are amused by the concept of seeing chibi Gundams fighting in feudal times. If you are tickled pink by the idea of Zakus as Yellow Turban bandits then you are already watching this. If not then your mileage may vary. But with the first episode clocking in at under 10 minuets it’s worth a look if you are unsure.

Oh SD Gundam, you amuse me so. The series is just about as silly as you think it would be, and only becomes sillier if you really start to pay attention and really think about the details in the series. I enjoyed it, but I won’t be waiting for it each week. In fact, since they are so short I will probably marathon then when it is over.

Hime Chen!
(Award for Best Portrayal of. . . Whatever the 3rd Mascot Was)

This is a magical girl show for little girls. This is not Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, Cardcaptor Sakura, or even Fairy Musketeers. Adults may enjoy it but there are no hooks that I can see for them. The land of fairy tales is dying so the Queen of Fairyland sends servants to grant 3 girls the ability to turn into “princesses” in hopes that they can help revive the kingdom. The three chosen girls discover that forming a idol singer group is an effective way to generate the happiness needed to save Fairyland. Hime Chen! is a little girl wish fulfillment series like Marvelous Melmo or Fancy Lala where the girls can become older to accomplish their dreams. The three girls seem a bit bland so far but none of them are annoying and the mascot characters are not insufferable which is always a plus.  The series looks fine but I can’t see an adult really getting much enjoyment out of the series.

I have a special place in my heart for magical girl shows so whenever a new one appears I go out of my way to see what it’s all about. What is nice but could turn out to be bland is that none of the girls seems to exhibit crazy over-the-top personalities. Even the main girl who is clearly lively and a bit silly is so in a rather calm way. Equally wonderful, and has no draw backs, is that the mascot characters don’t make you want to strangle them.  The story is pretty basic and doesn’t seem like it will be jumping out as especially memorable. It’s for little girls, it succeeds in being cute, has fashion sense, and is fun in that respect. I have to agree that there isn’t much to draw a larger audience than the little girls who this is for. The only thing that would make me interested was if the songs and dancing were particularly good, but they are just average.

(Award for Sexiest portrayal of Saitou Hajime in 2010)

When I saw this was an anime set around the Shinsengumi I was intrigued. When I found out that it was based on a visual novel for girls by Idea Factory I went in with more measured expectations. While I am reserving judgment, the first episode started off well. Chizuru Yukimura travels to Kyoto dressed as a boy in order to find her missing father. After witnessing strange samurai being cut down she is taken into the custody by the warriors of the Shinsengumi. After some tension Chizuru and the Shinsengumi decide to work together in finding her father. My enjoyment of this series mainly comes down to how well the overall conspiracy plot is structured. We know that the members of the Shinsengumi clearly know more than they let on but how sinister their dealings are is left to be seen. I would love to see this series balance action, conspiracy, and romance in equal measure but I  am worried it will end up not excelling in any. Only time will tell how it turns out.

Hot Shinsengumi. Oh wait that is not a review. It’s hard to really tell if this story could go in a good direction or not, there are signs pointing both ways in this first episode. Chizuru could be totally useless for the duration of the story or she could actually learn some skills from hiding out in the Shinsengumi barracks. I like the insertion of weird supernatural/experimental things hinted at, kind of reminds me of Le Chevalier d’Eon in that way, and the setting is certainly one I enjoy. There was a decent fight at the beginning but then the episode becomes fairly exposition heavy and just needless talking. With the absences of blondes my favorite character was the genki-boy! I’m kind of interested and kind of not.

Senkou no Night Raid
(Award for Using the Power of Telekinesis Awesomely)

Senkou no Night Raid gives me the same vibe that Hakuouki did in how much potential it has and how easy it could be wasted. Set in 1930s Shanghai it revolves around four secret agents with superpowers. They seem to be working for a not entirely trusted secret section of the military. In the first episode they are tasked with saving a kidnapping involving a rebel army. I am curious about the mysteries brought up as it gives us many questions but I don’t see a clear and obvious path the plot is taking. I want to know how much of this show will be episodic with occasional glimpses at a overall plot or will there be one main plot that everything feeds into. Either could lead to great anime series but it also has the potential to fall flat on its face since I have no definitive clue what they are building up to. The characters are interesting but still enigmas that I hope we can explore further along with the plot.

I love the visual direction in this show, there is a part at the beginning where a character comes in and out of shadow that particularly stood out to me. The action scenes are executed nicely as well and I was pulled in immediately by them along with the dark intrigue that is apparent almost immediately. I was slightly surprised that superpowers were a major part of this story that really centers around espionage, but it added a nice flavor that may make missions a bit too easy. But I don’t really think that will be case as they are already hinting that these abilities have limitations and possible side effects. They do a nice job creating the period and setting of the 1930s with one very big exception, the main character. Aoi’s hair cut, sense of style, and manner of talking seems very modern but perhaps this is hinting a some greater secret with him, too. The story has plenty of potential and plenty of secrets that I would like to learn about.

Arakawa Under the Bridge
(Award for the Best Emotional Depiction of the Homeless Kappa)

All the cool kids know that Saint Young Men is a hysterical comedy manga so when I heard that Arakawa Under the Bridge was an anime based on the work of the same manga-ka I was very interested. Arakawa proves that Hikaru Nakamura is more than a one trick pony. Scrooge McDuck in training Ichinomiya Kou is saved from drowning by the very odd, possibly alien, homeless girl Nino. Since Ichinomiya has been raised to never allow himself to be in debt to anyone he soon finds himself dating his savior and meeting the strange people she interacts with. Shinbo adapts the manga’s delightful mixture of dry character based humor with its delightfully zany premise very well. I am really curious to see what other characters they will introduce and how they play off of Ichinomiya and Nino. Might there be more than one Studio Shaft anime that Narutaki enjoys?

I am cautious when it comes to Shinbo, but this time I was pleasantly surprised. However, I do think he works better on quirky comedies than anything else so with manga-ka Hikaru Nakamura’s story to work with, also the creator of Saint Young Men, things are bright indeed. It is a frantic show that switches from one weird moment to the next using all sorts of visual ques, moments of silence, and a whole lot of insanity. The contrast between Nino’s more than a little offbeat path in life with Ichinomiya’s straight but obsessive-nature makes it a site to behold. Arakawa Under the Bridge may be the most eccentric, nonsensical, gag comedy yet and it was all wonderful.

Giant Killing
(Award from the Green Street Football Hooligans)

My first though after watching this was I should find out if there is more seinen sport manga and anime because if it is as good as this then we should all be checking it out. Takeshi Tatsumi is convinced to come back to Japan to coach his old team the ETU. The team is at the bottom of the league in every way possible and there is a good deal of resentment towards him mixed with some awe due to him leaving the team when he did. Can Takeshi turn straw into gold for his old team and will the fans, the management, and most importantly his own team give him a chance? I am really impressed to see an anime about a professional sports team. All too often we see school teams which are often excellent as Cross Game and Taisho Baseball Girls have recently proved but I welcome the chance to explore a sport with adult players and all that it entails. So far the story has really grabbed a hold of me and I am already invested in the characters. If this show can keep up this strong start it could easily be a contender for best show of the year.

I had heard of Giant Killing before watching the show, but the only thing I really knew was that it involved soccer. Being that I enjoy sports anime and had heard good things from others about the manga, I was looking forward to this series quite a bit. What was most pleasantly surprising for me was that it wasn’t a shonen sports series but more of seinen story about 35-year-old coach Takeshi who is not exactly welcomed with open arms. The building of Takeshi and everyone else’s characters is done with finesse woven between flashbacks and present actions. Takeshi is brash and confident, but he has a lot of past baggage and plenty of strong personalities to deal with on and off the field. There are a great variety to the cast, plenty of quirk in them, who really make the series come alive in only 30-minutes. It clearly establishes itself as a miracle coach story, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be surprises along the way. If there is only one show I am following this season I’m making it Giant Killing.

3 thoughts on “Spring Roll: Spring 2010 Anime Guide

  1. Aaeru says:

    Was very surprised when I listened to the podcast and heard that you guys weren’t giving Angel Beats a chance. Forget all the images and gossip surrounding that show, that its moe-fest, that its clannad-clone, girls in a band, girls with guns, whatever. That show has nothing to do with ANY of the above.

    Angel Beats is Comedy. The writing quality really shows – if you are able to smirk at the likes of Working!! or Kaichou wa maid-sama (which imo are very cliche comedic writing) then I believe you will laugh for Angel Beats.

    I’ve been working very very hard to watch every single show fansubbed this season (trying to keep an open mind), and I have been rewarded well. I hit up Angel Beats midway through my ep01 marathon this week and dam I was surprised. This is good comedy.

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