Kimi ni Todoke reminds me that although I may associate Production I.G with smart action shows like Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex and Le Chevalier D’Eon they can do all type of shows really well. The series just gives you a warm feeling throughout. It is a fabulous series to pick you up and reassure you of the good things in life. We learn more about everyone as they learn more about each other as well. And we want to learn these things because these are delightfully positive characters. Everything we said about the first episode remains true throughout. If you liked the first episode you will be just as happy with the last episode. I never felt any of the story dipped in quality which is great. If you need an utterly conclusive ending that says, “This is where we stop” you have to hope the manga gives you that. The anime picks a good place to end where you can imagine where everything is going and be happy but if you got a second season you would not feel it was tacked on. The best series of the fall season and a wonder anime to hook a certain type of new anime fan as well as satisfy an old hand as well.
Kimi ni Todoke was always an especially bright spot in my weekly anime watching, it really has an uplifting feeling that is followed by a satisfied sigh. As the story takes a close look at friendships and love it creates an incomplete, but no less fulfilling, picture about growth. Few people could hope to be as endearing as Sawako, however, no one would ever know that had she not decided to come out of her shell. This is one of the many reasons I listed her as anime woman of the year for 2009, she is afraid but she moves forward and succeeds. I love Kimi’s ability to make you believe (or in my case remind me of what I have always known) that people change everyday, for many different reasons. I found the development of Chizu a surprising extra to the series, as well as how much I enjoyed Kurumi, Yano’s reveal of being somewhat of a mastermind, and how deeply I felt Ryu’s love. Each character added something to the mix never coming off as extraneous side characters in a love story about Sawako and Kazehaya. But that love story is wonderful, subtle, and fits in along side all of the other slow and sweet relationships that develop in Kimi ni Todoke. The shy quality that comes over the otherwise outgoing Kazehaya and the utter freaking out of Sawako are touching and hilarious as is the knowledge that they will end up in the right place someday, one small step at a time. Kimi ni Todoke deserves a spot as of one of the best of 2009/2010.
The next stop on the trip through the iterations of Cutey Honey was Re: Cutey Honey or as I like to call it Re: Super-Obvious-Lesbian-Sub-Text Honey. Re: Cutey Honey was made by Gainax as a companion to the Hideaki Anno movie. Once again Honey Kisaragi must battle Panther Claw after they killed her father. The biggest difference is now instead of Seiji Hayami being her love interest with a good deal of lesbian subtext to her adventures they outright have Natsuko Aki as her love interest. Also Honey is now an office lady instead of a student. Overall the formula is still the same one I mentioned on The Speakeasy and it does it well. The fan service is sort of off the hook in these OAVs. There are naked breasts all over the place and the racy material you expect from a Go Nagai work with a modern Gurren Lagann feel. The action is also rather well done and the fights are exciting and amusing. I’m actually quite surprised this has not been picked up. It’s only three episodes, the animation is quite good, and it delivers on all fronts that U.S. fans usually like.
I went to see the play Enjoy by Toshiki Okada translated from Japanese over the weekend but it struck me as almost more of a conversation rather than a production. The narrative revolves around a bunch of part-time workers at a manga cafe in Shinjuku. There is virtually no set or props to speak of so the crux of everything hinges on the stories they are telling to each other and the audience, often speaking directly to you the viewer. The speech used is worth noting because it really is street level, repeating yourself, stopping and starting, skipping things, filler words, very “real.” There is a bit of a divide in the cast, some are 30 (or just turned so) and the others are between the ages of 22-27, everyone makes frequent mentions of this. Much of the conversations revolve around societal pressures about jobs and relationships, but more to the point is this close look at a phenomenon of college grads who only work part-time and still live at home without being able to move on to the next stage. I found this concept an easy one to see in American culture as well. There is a presence of humor certainly in the quirkiness of many of the characters in the first half, but also a melancholy that gets more pronounced in the second part. In fact, while even some characters recognize their flaws throughout the play, it never really feels like they will move forward because of it. But in this way and others the characters are very tangible, you know these people or are/have been these people, you want to hear their story, sympathize, listen, encourage, advise, and talk to them. Enjoy doesn’t really come off as positive or negative, and is certainly never preachy, it is a play about what goes on, what is, and it succeeds in making you mull over all that you saw.
I made it to the next leg of Victory Gundam with episodes 15-30. These episodes all take place in space giving us a good deal more insight in the Zanscare Empire, their queen, the the rest of the players behind this war. We discover some shocking secrets about Shakti but they do seem to ever reveal her true birth name, Princess Peach. I say that because boy does this girl get kidnapped. The cast passes around Shakti like a hot potato. At the end of these 15 episodes Uso finally meets up with his mother and we get from her the requisite mid season upgrade to the Victory 2. In between we get a betrayal from a certain character that is not entirely unexpected but is sort of jarring. We gets a bunch more dead characters because if Victory Gundam is not murdering the cast at an incredible rate it does not know what to do with itself. I’m still having a good time but Tomino’s depression is quite apparent in the grim and brutal nature of the series.
After watching each episode of Durarara!! I have a habit of saying “I don’t know about this show.” And I have maintained that attitude for 12 episodes. It has an intriguing pace, characters that are interesting to say that least, and an attitude about it that feels very hip. The twist came when it needed to, I was getting a bit bored by the character it pertains to so it was a perfect transition. However, I don’t like the relationships portrayed but thank goodness they are not the entire focus of the show. And even more importantly, they peeked my curiosity in the last minutes of episode 12, important because without that moment I would have more than likely dropped the show. This is a hard show to talk about without giving things away, and I’ve done a poor job of it, but Durarara!! is still worth seeing where it all will lead.
It took me a bit of hunting to find a picture that really captured what makes Kimi so good. There was lots of well done pictures but this one is prefect: