Spring 2011 Anime Guide Part 1: Melpomene and Thalia

 It is time for Hisui and Narutaki to tackle another season of anime and hopefully help separate the gold from the dross with the new shows coming out. This season we decided to focus on the positive so we go into depth about the shows you should watch and just give you a quick heads up on everything else. We will be doing the season preview in 2 parts like we did at the beginning of the year mostly because Narutaki and I enjoyed doing it that way. With the season release dates being all over the place due to all the tragedy in Japan that might be for the best. As always let me lay down a few rules for our season preview guide. First off the bat we don’t review sequels. Most of the time if your opinion of the new season will be pretty close to you opinion of the second. If anything is shocking in its increase or decrease in quality we usually mention it in the ongoing investigations. Second we don’t review anything we are sure is going to be dreadful. While this means we occasionally sell a good show short I think it really prevents burn out. Plus Loli Sister Harem Panic!! Flash is probably not going to be our cup of tea. Then again I really liked Toaru Majutsu no Index II so maybe you should take my opinions with a grain of salt (although I just think some people are just tsundere for that show.)

Another reminder that these impressions are based on first episodes only, will we live to eat our words? There is always that risk. Since we’ve divided everything up into Watch, Hold, and Drop navigation is easy. But I want to say that just because we say a show is watch worthy, doesn’t mean we are watching it, or that a show is hold worthy doesn’t mean we aren’t continuing on. We’ll let you know in part two what we are personally keeping up with this season.

Watch:

Hanasaku Iroha

When mixed together drama and comedy can complement each other quite well. They will balance each other in a way that makes both halves combine for a greater whole. So far Hanasaku Iroha has been mixing these two elements well. Ohana’s situation could easily be horribly depressing journey but her upbeat if somewhat naive attitude lend an air of whimsy that is needed to balance the books on this show. The cast is intriguing and has story has potential to create a rich show with some solid emotional pay off. The animation is simply beautiful and has a high quality feel with breathtakingly beautiful backgrounds and fluid and detailed character animation. Being set at an inn with a hot spring the first episode is surprisingly fan-service free which is a nice change of pace. It is nice to see some assessable and charming drama outside of the Noitamina block.

Iroha’s first 10 minutes reminded me of a Makoto Shinkai work with the love, the impending distance, and the lighting; I was immediately drawn in. The lead, Ohana, is spirited but somewhat unlucky as she begins a new life. Her situation feels rather heavy but the way she presents it makes it much more a journey you want to see. Since the setting is a work environment and an inn with travelers it allows for a varied cast and constantly changing situations. It has that coming-of-age feel that I really enjoy.

[C]: Control: The Money and Soul of Possibility

This is a hard show to pin down in just an episode, it presents an engaging concept and world plus throws in tons of mysteries and questions. The visuals are great combining CG in this hi-tech ATM playland. Kimimaro seems like a decent guy, hard-working, who is desperate for more money. There may be some social commentary to hold in this show as well but again it remains to be seen. It does it all with enough style to make you want to find out the answers though.

Gamble, you gotta dive into a scramble! I know anime fans can sometimes be gun-shy about jumping into shows with strange premises after being burned by wasted potential in the past. I think that C is intriguing enough that it is worth the risk. C has a somewhat ludicrous premise of people fighting magical battles with familiars in the shadow realm of financial district for money and possibly their very souls but I think there is more substance to the story. There has been deeper examination of economic issues in Japan and just the overall effect of the need for money on our lives. This might all be window-dressing but for now I think it has the potential to mix action with deeper social commentary. Plus as someone who lives paycheck to paycheck Kimimaro Yoga’s situation was something I could easily empathize with. This could all fall apart but the potential is great enough and the hook strong enough that it is worth taking that risk.

Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae wo Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai

I think that when this show started everyone was a little worried that this show was going to wander into one of two shonen genres that infamous for being dreadful, harem or magical girlfriend. But by the end of the episode you realize that there is more to this show than that first scene would lead you to believe especially if you are paying attention. We are thrown into a situation where we know the broad strokes of what has happened in the past but the details are a complete mystery. Jintan is trying to mend things in the present as we learn what happened to lead up to the way things are now. I saw someone complaining on twitter that the only reason people who hate moe like this show is because this is on the Noitamina block. The reason that moderate moe haters tend to hate moe shows is most of the time their plots are insubstantial and are only about providing this sense of warm calm with nothing beyond that. While this show might have many moe elements there is a compelling story that shows that casual fans will enjoy moe if you give them something to care about. This show gives you something to care about.

 This show has a funny quality, the first couple of minutes really turned me off until I realized what was actually going on; and then its last few minutes when Jinta throws open that door and the music starts, I fell completely in love. Ano Hana is a thoughtful character driven story in which we know who the characters are now, and we see who they were as children, but we don’t know fully what happened in-between to bring them here. And why has Menma shown up now, I want to know all about it!

World’s Greatest First Love (Sekai Ichi Hatsukoi)

This was actually a last-minute add, but ended up being a nice surprise. It’s a familiar romantic setup but it does it with confidence. I also enjoy Ritsu’s internal thoughts and his jaded attitude, especially when he recounts the story of leaving his last job. It is of course a lot of fun that the setting is a publisher and these guys who in the shojo manga department of it; but beyond that they don’t just pay lip-service to these guys being working professionals, we aspects of publishing and their jobs in the show, it isn’t just there as window-dressing. I was also glad to see a liberal sprinkling of women, none of them sinister. A cute, predictable romance with flair and there was a lot to laugh about.

My sister joking calls the magazine Betsucomi by the name Hump Comic because there are quite often manga whose story is only existent to have a steamy sex scenes for girls every chapter. Too often the stereotype about BL manga is that is nothing more than the man on man version of Hump Comic stories. But Sekai Ichi Hatsukoi nicely proves to anime fans outside of the fujoshi circles that BL can be fun but still have some meat to their stories. While the story might borrow from using some shojo and josei romance tropes and setups it borrows only from the best and executes them in triumphant manner. Having the characters working at a shojo magazine makes it stand out for two reasons. Firstly it means that the characters are older working professionals which is nice chance of pace over school drama especially for us older fans. It also means that they exists in a world were women exists and are people therefore the characters don’t just live in a boys only blue ghetto. This looks to be a fun little working romance story for anyone who does not object to homoerotic tones in their entertainment.

Hold:

Electromagnetic Wave Woman and Adolescent Man

This show really feels like it was based on a Nisio Isin light novel even though it is actually based on a light novel by Hitoma Iruma instead. The first episode is mostly setup up where Makoto Niwa comes to live with his aunt and meets her mysterious daughter that might be an alien. There are parts of the series that pique your curiosity or make you laugh but other parts that fall flat. I think your best bet is to give the series a few episodes and then see where this series is going. It could very easily turn into a must watch series as it could devolve into utter crud especially depending on what you hope to get out of the series. Let some other people watch and then see their reactions to how the story develops.

Sket Dance

This show was a lot of fun. The club atmosphere and the different personalities are enjoyable. However, being an episodic Weekly Shonen Jump property makes me a little wary, worth seeing what the episode count ends up being. May be worth just reading it instead. And as Hisui mentioned, some people may get turned off by the American kids cartoon feel as opposed to something like Bleach or Naruto (despite actually having the same exact target demographic in Japan).

Drop:

Tea for Universe, Tea for Life (Hyouge Mono)

If you saying anything about Hyouge Mono you can say that it is not like anything else out there today. But being unique does not guarantee that you are good. I already know this show is going to get its vocal minority of crusaders who insist that its historical setting, older characters, and bizarre humor make it wonderful but the ignorant masses as just not hip enough to grok the genius that this show exudes. But most people will be like us scratching their head at the cognitive dissidence of the tense scenes and the bone dry humor. It is a perplexing combination that never gelled into a working concept.

My Ordinary Life

 The first episode has a few funny moments, mostly surrounding the guy who rides a goat to school, but generally falls flat. And while the humor is more absurd, My Ordinary Life suffers from (what seems to have become common in KyoAni works) trying way too hard to make me think these girls are cute.

You’re Being Summoned, Azazel-san

Normally we here at the Reverse Thieves try our very best to find you the best detective anime we can find. But adding a detective does not give you a free pass in our books and You’re Being Summoned, Azazel-san. This sort of feels like one of those crude Adult Swim cartoons that relies on gross out and shock humor. Some parts of the show were funny and made Nartaki and I laugh but most of it was just crude or just not funny. The episodes are only 15 minuets long but we still felt that was too long.

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