Winter 2011 Anime Guide Pt. 2: You want Paradise

I always feel that the winter season is the time of surprises. It’s a small season but delivers a memorable bunch. This is true again but the caliber and variety of good shows this time around is quite high.

hisuiconThe season preview was originally in broadcast order but since that made the first part depressing and the second part happy we decided to mix it up a bit so it did not seem as bipolar. That said I will reiterate out standard season preview rules. First and foremost we do not watch every show that comes out. We here at Reverse Thieves maintain our sanity and prevent burn out by skipping any show that seems absolutely retched although we on occasion take a risk and sample something that is probably dire but might have a faint hope of being entertaining. The second is that we don’t review sequels and continuations as you usually know exactly what you were going to get from the earlier iteration.

Wandering Son

Holly came from Miami, F.L.A.
Hitch-hiked her way across the USA
Plucked her eyebrows on the way
Shaved her legs and then he was a she
She says, Hey babe
Take a walk on the wild side

– Walk on the Wild Side by Lou Reed

Being a big fan of this manga, I was curious how it would translate into an anime. Wandering Son is usually talked about with words like quiet, sensitive, and subdued; but, this first episode was able to use all those things to its advantage to produce a dramatic and beautiful adaption into animated form. This is a coming of age tale where things are made that much more complicated by issues of gender. While it follows a group of friends, the most prominent characters are boy Shuichi who feels more comfortable in girl’s clothes and girl Yoshino who would much rather spend time in a boy’s uniform. Their struggle is tender and their bond joyous. The story starts in a place that allows for some mysteries; all the character have established relationships that we get to slowly find out about while the story moves forward. I was disappointed in the opening, I was hoping for something a little more active but the ending is nice. No surprise, but this is my most anticipated show for the season, I have high hopes that it can live up to this lovely first piece of the story.

hisuiconWhile Fractale was my favorite first episode I think that Wandering Son was undoubtedly the best. It is just so well executed. It perfectly sets a mood of melancholy and isolation mixed with hope and friendship. It is a slow show that lets you into the lives of characters who are coming into who they are and how they deal with transgender issues. It is about creating an atmosphere that gives you an insight into the triumphs and sorrows of a characters with an alternative lifestyle. I think the subject matter might turn some people off as well as the slow pace that only picks up when it needs to.  But for anyone looking for an anime that delicately looks at an overlooked social topic in a sensitive but not preachy manner than I think you are required to watch Wandering Son.

Wolverine

I’m Wolverine, I’m Logan
But you can call me Hugh Jackman
I have my claws, I have no scars,
And I’ve hosted the Oscars

– Wolverine – The Musical

hisuiconWho knew they got Sherrilyn Kenyon to write the new Wolverine anime? Actually this is based on a Marvel story but it feels like Wolverine: The Romance Novel. Much like Iron Man before it is seems to miss the vital elements that make Marvel comics fun while not adding enough that is different to make its own beast. I will say that Logan has the appropriate body count for his character in the episode including killing some invisible shock troopers by smell alone. It is not a bad series. It is just disappointing when you think how awesome it could have been. That seems the theme with the Marvel co-productions.

In the opening scene when there is about to be a fight, there is a cut away to the opening credits, that is just a bad sign. We are following the story of Logan and a lost love as he seeks to get her back from her father. The setting is pretty much all Japanese, which is nice and actually makes sense with Logan’s history. But everything swirling around is not so good. The dialogue is terrible, the voices not making it sound any better, the fights aren’t cool, and why does Wolvie have a crazy mullet? While better than Iron Man’s first episode, the beginning of Wolverine is still not very gripping. And just as with Iron Man, I wanted to like this show but some things are just not in the cards.

Beelzebub

Just as every cop is a criminal
And all the sinners saints
As heads is tails
Just call me Lucifer
‘Cause I’m in need of some restraint

– Sympathy For The Devil by The Rolling Stones

This has to be my surprise anime of the season. It was one of those series that you wonder how you hadn’t heard of it before. It follows the ridiculous story of Tatsumi, the strongest guy in his delinquent high school, who finds a baby by the side of a river who turns out to be Satan. At least we’re pretty sure he is Satan. Just hearing Tatsumi relay this story to his friend is one of the highlights of the show. I, personally, was sold at “delinquent high school.” Beelzebub doesn’t talk and uses electric shocks if he gets upset (I can this becoming annoying if overused), which happens a lot at this school as people are always shouting, arguing, and of course getting in fights. Very funny, very entertaining.

hisuiconI hope you like naked babies because you will be seeing a lot of baby penis and baby bottom. In fact I think Ink from Ani-Gamers put it best by nicknaming the series Beelzebum. That aside this is a fairly funny Shonen Jump comedy along the lines of Gintama or Pyu to Fuku! Jaguar. Oga Tatsumi goes to a school that might as well be Cromartie High School since it is filled with nothing but delinquent. His simple life of beating thugs to prove who is the toughest is interrupted when the infant son of the demon king decides that he is going to be raised by Oga. Now Oga has Ten-chan the 2nd giving him electroshock as he deals with madness from the underworld. This is a loud silly comedy but it is fun which is the element that shows like this live or die by. It is a known fact that all comedies are better with delinquents so that is a major plus in the shows favor. If they can keep the fights lively and the comedy fresh this will be a good deal of fun. 

Dragon Crisis!

Mine’s a tale that can’t be told, my freedom I hold dear.
How years ago in days of old, when magic filled the air.
T’was in the darkest depths of Mordor, I met a girl so fair.
But Gollum, and the evil one crept up and slipped away with her, her, her. . . . yeah.

– Ramble On by Led Zeppelin

Dragon Crisis is so middle of the road that is barely registers in my mind. Seemingly normal guy gets whisked off by his overly enthusiastic cousin to steal a treasure which turns out to be a little Dragon, that looks like a girl. I will say I was surprised about the magic being bandied about and the fact that these two cousins seem to have been part of some organization, it’s still a bit unclear. The dragon doesn’t do anything except say the main guy’s name and cling to him; the busty cousin, who gets most of the fan-service, inserts herself into his life; and to round things out we have ignored childhood friend girl. Also they kept using the word “precious” and since they were referring to rare artifacts all I could picture was Gollum. Not terrible but also not particularly charming.

hisuiconIn Narutaki’s defense she mainly picked this show so we would have an equal number of shows in Part 1 and 2. That said as long as Rio is part of this preview that can’t be the worst thing we have seen. This is just very middle of the road. It is your standard show about a milquetoast protagonist gets a magical girlfriend while surrounded but other babes that want him. In this one the little blond dragon magical girlfriend is voiced by Rie Kugimiya. I did find the fact that magic was in a weird place between urban legend and open secret in the world but that fact alone was not enough to pique my interest. It seemed like a fun show but for some reason I never caught my interest.  I did find it unusual that while the little dragon girl is the heroine they lovingly kept the camera on the protagonist’s cousin as if her “assets” were the star of the show.  That did not help the show in the least.

Level E

There’s a starman waiting in the sky
He’d like to come and meet us
But he thinks he’d blow our minds
There’s a starman waiting in the sky
He told us not to blow it
‘Cause he knows it’s all worthwhile

– Starman by David Bowie

More sci-fi anime is a welcome sight, especially this oddball one about an alien who amuses himself by causing mischief. The first episodes feels sitcom-like as Yukitaka arrives at his new apartment to find a nonchalant blond guy who informs him that he is an alien that has just landed. After some hilarious  moments of him proving this, Yukitaka is convinced. In other news, he meets his cute neighbor that will be attending the same school as him. But people are indeed searching for this alien so things look like they will be complicated. Level E has a funny quality to it while also having some heart and romance, it is from the 90’s and feels like that, too. A first episode that has a lot of potential.

hisuiconThis show just comes out of left field on a variety of levels. The biggest surprise is that this a Shonen Jump manga from Yoshihiro Togashi. With a bit of reflection you can remember humor and drama in something like Yu Yu Hakusho and then it makes more sense. The odd couple relationship between a baseball star and a squatter alien is a solid setup for some good comedic interplay but most of the humor has a decidedly macabre tone which is unexpected but gives it a unique feel. The end of the episode adds a bit of drama and tension as well. I am not sure from the first episode how much they are going to focus of the serious stuff as opposed to the comedy but I am very curious to see how well they balance them. I think it is an unpredictable enough show that it is worth sampling to see how you enjoy what it brings to the table.

Starry Sky

Now I understand what you tried to say to me,
How you suffered for your sanity,
How you tried to set them free.
They would not listen, they did not know how.
Perhaps they’ll listen now.

Vincent by Don McLean

hisuiconUtterly vapid eye candy harem shows are not just for guys anymore may not be a new statement but that hardly diminishes how true that statement is. Now it seems like alongside the 2 or 3 male fan-service shows they will have one female fan service show.While I applaud this equal opportunity scheduling it does not make most of the woman’s shows any more watchable. This story seems to revolve around an almost exclusively male school that has an overwhelmingly celestial based curriculum to the point to being ludicrous. The first episode seems based around a redheaded boy’s crush on his childhood friend who seems to be the only girl at the school. The first episode makes it seem like this guy is the protagonist when you think the girl would be the focus of the show. I wonder if each episode will in fact just be showcase for one of the love interests from the original game and the girl will merely remain a mostly unseen character for better self insertion purposes.

This series, probably based on a dating game for girls, centers around a bunch of guys (and one girl) who go to the weirdest high school where everything is about constellations and space; and this doesn’t appear to be THE FUTURE nor does it seem like they are training for any space exploration. We meet Yoh, who I’m surprised to see as the main character rather than the girl, who wants to enroll in this school to meet his childhood friend again before he must move to America with his parents. Pretty standard from what I saw, a guy for every type of fan was glimpsed. The animation is minimal, again a net animation, and is only about 12 minutes long. Though the look of characters eyes in this show feels creepy.

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