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Hey Spitz, What’ve You Been Watching? May 2013

May 25, 2013

(This article will be spoiler free.)

皆、こんにちは! If April flew by seemingly without a trace, May has trudged by like a pair of grade-schoolers trying to push an Abrams tank uphill in the middle of a sunny summer day. Hardly a complaint of course. I’d prefer time to make itself at home rather than dart out of the door without saying “Thanks for the breakfast”, but it’s always startling to look at the calendar and be shocked at how slowly the days seem to be passing.
Anyway. I’ve had a metric ton of free time this month, so a great deal of it was spent lazily studying 日本語 (a better textbook is on the way. [I hope.]), playing League, and of course viewing anime. There was a new console announcement this month, and while I may or may not get around to a ramble article talking about how I feel about PS4 versus XB1 (XBO?), my immediate feelings regarding what they talked about with the Xbox One are thus: None of those new features seem aimed at me.
But I digress. I’m not here to talk about video games, I’m here to talk about anime and this month’s recap is a monster so let’s get on with it already:

 

haiyore-nyaruko-san-wHaiyore! Nyaruko-san:
One night, high-school student Yasaka Mahiro finds himself in a mysterious plane, and moments away from death at the hands of a terrible beast. But upon crying out for help, he is aided by the spunky, silver-haired Nyarlathotep (Or Nyaruko-san for short). What follows is a light-hearted comedy (very, very) loosely based on the works of H.P. Lovecraft.

What I thought: Good
While this anime may in the end be little more than fan service appended by a few laughs, Haiyore! works where other fan service heavy series fail because it never takes itself too seriously. It appears to be completely aware of how ridiculous it is, and the characters have fun personalities, which makes their interactions with one another entertaining to watch.
I’m a big, big fan of the character designs, and the idea of a shape-shifting deity choosing to take the form of a young woman to chase romance and consume our entertainment on Earth is pretty hilarious to me.
It doesn’t have the most substance, but Haiyore! Nyaruko-san makes up for it with a bright tone, likable characters, and a good helping of humor.

 

madokamagica11Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica:
Taking place in a world where humanity is preyed upon by dark beings hiding in the shadows who are known only as “Witches”, Madoka Magica tells the story of the young Kaname Madoka, who comes to discover the existence of these witches, as well as the Magical Girls who combat them.
It isn’t long before Madoka herself is offered the chance at becoming one of these magical beings to combat the darkness, but even those with the purest of intentions cannot receive such power without a price.

What I thought: Must see!
From the opening moments of Madoka Magica, I was entranced. They took an outdated idea – that of the “magical girl” brand of superhero – and adapted it not only in a modern way, but a thought provoking and mature manner as well. The characterization and overall tone, as well as the writing and excellently paced plot all provide you with a small, but all-the-same vivid sense of the world in which this story takes place, and once I made it to around the midway mark, I couldn’t bring myself to stop watching until the end.
Not since Chu-2 has an anime done that for me, and much like Chu-2, Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica masterfully encapsulates everything there is to like about modern anime, and it does so with so much pizzazz and creativity that it would be a tremendous tragedy if you’re at all a fan of anime to pass it up.
An anime that manages to hold your attention from its opening moments until the very last, and sporting some of the best art and one of the most memorable endings I’ve ever seen, I can’t recommend Madoka Magica highly enough.

 

AnoHana_DVD_vol_1Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai:
 When they were young, the six members of the club known as the “Super Peace Busters” would spend their time enjoying their carefree youth at their secret base.
 One day however, tragedy strikes the Super Peace Busters, and sends its members drifting in opposing directions from one another in the years following.
Ten years later, the group is drawn together once again to fulfill a wish made all those years ago.

What I thought: Must see!
Anohana is something special. Beautiful in tone and in execution, it’s an anime that not only tells a fulfilling and outright heart-wrenching story, but does so in a manner which in the end makes you feel happy to be alive.
This isn’t a long anime, running an episode shy of the 12 episode format, but the story is paced perfectly. There’s a good helping of substance found in the narrative, and the characters who tell it are relatable individuals backed by some of the most top notch voice performances I’ve seen (or I guess I should say “heard”).
It frustrates me that I don’t have more to say about it without spoiling bits of the plot, but I give this one my utmost recommendation.
If your heart-strings are capable of being plucked, by the time the final credits have rolled, Anohana will have played a wondrous symphony with them.

 

Black_Rock_Shooter_coverBlack Rock Shooter:
As Kuroi Mato enters middle school and starts encountering social hardships, she begins having dreams of a slender, blue-eyed young woman in a flowing coat and toting an enormous weapon who endlessly participates in fierce battles against the other denizens of her world.
What is this place, who is this woman, and what connection do they have with Kuroi?

What I thought: Ehhhhhhh So-so
Part of me really wants to like Black Rock Shooter, as I really enjoyed the ultimate goal of the story, and it has an incredibly stylish look to it that I dig a whole lot (some of which is CG, so you may disagree); but the story has a few problems that hold it back in unfortunate ways.
The biggest one is the pace. It’s a little too quick. Characters overcome challenges that have little to no build-up, and the character focus seems to shift around wildly, especially later on. I’m sure the blame for this can be pinned partially on the very short 8 episode duration. If there were more time to spend with the protagonists and their individual subplots, BRS probably could have been fantastic, but it seemed to be trying to tell too much too quickly.
With that being said though, you don’t have to push aside a whole lot of time to watch through 8 episodes, and as I said before, the ideas expressed within the story are admirable, so I’d probably still say give it a try. Maybe you’ll like it more than I did. Also: Hatsune Miku intro song.
Black Rock Shooter has enough heart and style to make it worth the run-time, but its erratic pacing holds it back from being as impactful as it probably should have been.

 

the_melancholy_of_haruhi_suzumiyaSuzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu (09′ version):
Highschool student Suzumiya Haruhi has no interest in her mundane, every-day school life; and is instead ready at the drop of a hat to pursue any potential paranormal individuals, be they aliens, time-travelers or espers.
Upon meeting her disinterested classmate Kyon, Haruhi decides to rope him into creating a new school club from which they can recruit like-minded classmates, and root out those who are not of this world.
The members of this new club, dubbed the “SOS Brigade”, soon come to discover that strange occurrences, and the abnormal entities who produce them, may be closer than even they had anticipated.

What I thought: Great
I had pretty clear expectations going into Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu, given the premise and setting, but it managed to flip those expectations on its side, and it did so while delivering a good deal of laughs.
Haruhi makes for a good “I’d-hate-you-if-I-didn’t-love-ya” protagonist, dragging Kyon and the rest of the SOS Brigade into her antics with no regard for their own interests or opinions; and from Nagato’s flat-faced apparent disinterest to Mikuru-chan’s frail, child-like helplessness, the rest of the members are all likable in their own ways.
The overall story may accomplish little by the end depending on how you look at it, and the pace stops in its tracks and doesn’t move an inch for eight full episodes about midway through (though I have to admit, I did appreciate where they were coming from), but all in all Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu is well worth the time. It does enough to keep the situations relatable, but also offers enough off-the-wall sci-fi jargon to keep you hooked in.
Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu does enough with its premise to stay fresh given the setting, and offers a healthy dose of humor and an equal amount of charm for good effect.

 

27906Gosick:
 The year is 1924. Kujou Kazuya is a Japanese boy who has just arrived in the (fictional) European country of Sauville, and has been enrolled in St. Marguerite Academy as a transfer student.
His horror story obsessed cohorts do not greet him with open arms however, calling him the “Black Reaper that comes in Spring”.
Finding no friendship in his classmates, Kujou happens across the doll-like Victorique; a mysterious girl who spends her days alone within the academy’s towering library.
Together, the two encounter and attempt to overcome a wide range of mysteries, often to aid an eccentric detective.

What I thought: Great
I friggin’ loved this anime. The early goings give off a good Clue-esque “who-dunnit” vibe, which eventually gives way to a more grand overarching narrative.
It also has a great look to it, managing to pull off a good amount of style without being too overbearing given the era and location in which the story takes place, and the animation is perfectly fine as well. It “feels” old fashioned, and for the benefit of story immersion, that goes a long way.
If you’ve played Blazblue, you could argue that Victorique’s socially cold personality (and gothic lolita appearance) is somewhat identical to Rachel Alucard, but as the former was placed into a more palpable setting, this was never a distraction, and only entered my mind at the very beginning. The rest of the cast are likable as well (save for one or two, who thankfully didn’t get much screen time), and the story they tell, while not the most impactful, is enough to keep you invested and has a admirable payoff.
If you’re a fan of old-timey European style or a sucker for detective thrillers, Gosick is a good anime out for both.

 

Kotoura-sanKotoura-san:
Kotoura Haruka is a cute, orange-haired girl who was born with a tremendous gift; that of the ability to read people’s thoughts.
People tend to enjoy keeping their inner thoughts as just that however, so when Kotoura, as a child, would blurt out what those around her were thinking, this would cause unfortunate issues.
These issues progressively ruined her life, leaving her in a poor state of mind, and unable to make any friends.
But as she transfers out of her old school and into a new one, she meets one of her new class-mates, Manabe Yoshihisa; the first person she has met who has vowed to stick by her side.

What I thought: Great
If you were to tell me “Hey, here’s this anime about a psychic high-school girl, her school club and her dirty-minded friend”, I would have envisioned an anime of a much brighter tone than the manner in which Kotoura-san opens. In one of the most heart-wrenching character introductions I’ve seen in an anime, it nudges aside what you’d typically expect from something with such a premise, and immediately draws you into Kotoura as a character, and makes you empathize with her when you might have otherwise envied her.
Kotoura-san achieves the roller-coaster, and while at times the comedy may be just a little too over-the-top, it was never overbearing or monotonous.
The characters are (mostly) colorful and enjoyable to watch (Kotoura herself is friggin’ adorable), the art is both pleasing to look at and nicely animated, and the story told here, while predictable in several cases, is absolutely worth seeing.
An anime that is bright and dark in just the right places, Kotoura-san is a heartfelt story wrapped around a pleasing aesthetic.

 

As maybe you’ve noticed, this month was a plentiful bounty of great anime for this guy right here. So many memorable characters. So much great story-telling. May 2013 will be one to beat, that’s for sure.
I’ve also been watching Flowers of Evil as it’s being simulcasted on Crunchyroll, and I’ve been enjoying it quite a lot. As it’s only about half-way through airing I’ll save my overall opinion of it for a later Anime monthly, but for now I’ll say it feels pretty unique, and not only because of its rotoscoped art, but because of the sense of almost surreal realism which that art affords. I understand why people may be flaming it because of how it looks, but if it had the more standard anime look to it, I’m not sure it would be as effective.
I had planned to watch through Durarara!! and Toradora this month, but I ran into a few.. Distractions… They’re still in my immediate queue though. After those two, the list of contenders are Hyouka (coming from the studio that brought us Chu-2, I’m looking forward to this one quite a bit), Steins;Gate, and who knows… maybe if there’s room I’ll fit some K-On!! in there. This month brought a great number of things, but one thing it was lacking was a little 萌え. Eh who am I kidding.
That’s all though! またね!
Keep those stories unspoiled.

From → Anime

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  1. Spitz’s Year-end Wrap Up 2013 | Spitz's Soapbox

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