Uncurrency Anime – The Idolm@ster

After days of getting my thoughts straight (and raping the replay button of the animated dances), my body is now l@dy to talk about the Idolm@ster.

If you’ve been around the anime community for a while, you would know what Idolm@ster is or rather, what it is infamous for. It spearheaded the whole otaku craze on 2D/CGI idols with the game selling like hotcakes back in 2006/2007. Basically the game has a huge fanbase. It got itself an adaptation in 2007 called XENOGLOSSIA and basically the reaction to it was it’s either bad or it’s bad. It kinda used the characters and turned them into mecha pilots. Casual viewers got bored after a while and Fans of the game were insulted in how the anime changed the characters personalities. It definitely felt like that was probably it for the Idolm@ster franchise in anime form. There was one OVA back in 2008/2009 that tried to do something with it but it pretty much failed too.

Four years later, this got announced. Idolm@ster will be turned into an anime again, this time with more respect to the game itself. They got themselves A-1 Pictures to animate with ex-GAINAX members. Safe to say, this was gonna look real pretty. The big question then was, is sticking to the game itself gonna be a good choice? The characters themselves are walking stereotypes that cater to every single otaku fetish; it felt like a huge gamble. Safe to say, at least for me, this succeeded.

The anime had a pretty slow start. The first episode was fairly unique. It introduced all 12 idols in a documentary format. Back then my impression was that it had a really unique layout but the characters really were walking stereotypes. Slowly though, episode by episode, things get developed. Each Idol has at least an episode centered around them (with the exception of the more popular ones like Miki and Chihaya and our MC Haruka). Most of the idols don’t have much development in them but with the episodes catered solely for them, somehow we do get attached to them. I guess it’s just good characterization overall.

The characters that do have a fair amount of development are Miki, Chihaya and Haruka. These three got it real good. Miki, stole the first half of Idolm@ster, no doubt about that. It’s like watching someone slowly become a star, with the way she was focused on. Haruka got the last few episodes of the series, and A-1 Pictures/ex-Gainax peeps gave her a real got drama which just oozed awesomeness in an aesthetic stanpoint and despair in an emotional standpoint. The highlight for Idolm@ster for me though is Chihaya Kisaragi’s little story. Like most people, I shed a few tears on her song Yakusoku. Somehow, drama is not what you’d expect with a series like this but they pulled it off.

Idolm@ster is a work of love. Our ex-Gainax staffer/our director is a HUGE fan of Idolm@ster and it really shows how much he loves what he’s working on with how this series played out. The animation is nothing short of phenomenal, especially when dances/concerts are concerned. EVERY MOVEMENT IS DRAWN. In case you’ve never noticed, most dances are just CGI (AKB0048/Macross F) or just full of retouches and repeats (EDs with dances on them). I swear, watch the dances. . . it’s crazy how well made all of it are. There’s also singing (hey Chihaya!) and a lot of insert songs which makes watching this a real treat.

In a sense, Idolm@ster let me accept my inner-otaku self, even for just a bit. I started loving all the characters, even though most of them never really stepped out of their stereotypes, and I started getting sucked in into its world. Anime that are works of passion and love (and not a “if we have a chance for budget cutting, DO IT) are rare to come by so I really suggest if you want to watch one that is a work of love, go watch The Idolm@ster.

Execution: 37/40 (Only a work of love can pull something like this off)

Engagement: 26/30 (Started slow, ended amazingly)

Characters: 18/20 (Great characterization, especially considering the fact that this series had 12 characters to work with //excluding the producers which are also well developed)

Production Values: 10/10 (Dances are phenomenal; lots of insert songs)

Overall: 91/100 

Advertisements

Hyouka (END) – 91 points

I’m a KyoAni fag so when I first heard about Hyouka, there was no doubt in mind that I would like. 22 episodes later, that fact still remained . . . and more I guess.

Hyouka is about four guys who pretend to be solving mysteries and such, but most of the time it’s just an excuse to laze around and waste time. Sounds boring? Well thinking about it now, a lot of Hyouka’s episodes are pretty damn boring when you state it. Episode 6: Chitanda gets mad; Houtarou figures out why. Episode 18: Houtarou gets a little curious; Chitanda is fascinated. Episode 19: Houtarou and Chitanda chitchat.

Objectively, Hyouka should be fairly boring. Well, in fairness, most premises of KyoAni shows are fairly damn standard too. The thing that Hyouka excedes on though, is its execution and the addictiveness. You CANNOT watch an episode of Hyouka without watching the one before. If you did, the episode will be fairly boring. The thing with Hyouka is, is that it slowly builds upon itself. Layer by layer, characterization by characterization, Hyouka grows on you like a mold in a bread. Houtarou slowly becomes more involved, Chitanda slowly becomes more open and involved, Satoshi slowly becomes a guy we can all probably relate it, Mayaka slowly becomes more compassionate. Character dvelopment isn’t forced; it happens naturally. Houtarou didn’t suddenly become someone who would care about whatever Chitanda did; He slowly went to that point (he hasn’t even reached it yet after 22 episodes) and it just makes it oh so real.

The thing that helped Hyouka pulled off what it did is its narrativistic/novel-like tackling of the dialogue, narration and monologues. everything is laid out, explained andthen laid out some more. At first I thought this was pretty annoying and boring (I mean did they really hae to spend a minute explaining why Houtarou conserves energy) with the way it tell more than it shows, and most shows that do this end up failing miserably since it doesn’t take into account that it has animation that can explain it (Hi Index, Accel World), but the thing with Hyouka is that it also shows. I guess it helps that a fucking awesome Animation studio is behind this (otherwise Hyouka wouldn’t work at all). Anyway kudos to Mr. FMP man for writing such a detailed script.

Another thing that Hyouka managed to do is to create the best Cultural Festival anime has ever witnessed. Better than School Rumble. Better than Haruhi. I guess it helps that they gave 6-7 episodes for it. Actually at the point of the cultural festival, I was pretty much ready to say that Hyouka is a masterpiece (just to justify how great that Cultural Festival was).

Animation = Self Explanatory. KyoAni in movie-levels except its a TV series. Overall, Hyouka ended up being one of the best series that aired in Spring and it was my favorite series throughout Summer.

Execution: 36/40 (Risky but worth it)

Engagement: 25/30 (Uses a lot of buildup and it pays off quite well)

Characters: 20/20 (KyoAni breathe life into them that no other studio, or series for that matter, can.)

Production Values: 10/10 (Almost Movie-like)

Overall: 91/100 (A-)

Uncurrency Anime – Bakuman. S2

With the manga ending a few months a go and the 3rd season starting soon, it was about time for me to get watching the second season of Bakuman. Surprisingly, I liked it much much much more than I thought I would.

Bakuman, the manga, holds a special place in my heart. Not only is it far and away my favorite manga of all time, it also gave me a lot of motivation in times that I needed it. Bakuman’s a very inspirational manga, no doubt about it, but the anime, especially the first season, never managed to carry over its charms. It over emphasizes the parts that aren’t Bakuman’s biggest assets and completely forgets the reason why the manga is amazing as it’s supposed to be. I think a big part of me not liking the anime is basically the presentation. The manga emphasizes its “shounen essence” by giving it speed lines, exaggerated poses, different angles. . . basically “The Rush” sort of feeling (kinda like what Death Note did). The anime presents it more subtly (most definitely because of budget constraints) and the manga-anime translation doesn’t go that smoothly.

Nonetheless the second season definitely improved from the first season. The anime is still basically the same besides having the execution slightly sharper so it must be the content itself. It introduces characters that I love like Hiramaru, characters that I felt strong pity for like Miura, characters that just made things more fun like Iwase and characters that get more screen time like Aoki Kou. Everything felt livelier because of this and they finally got to the point where Bakuman just rolls. Competition on rankings, what it means to be serialized, what editors feel. . . all those inside the industry sort of stuff that we never see, the second season tackles with great confidence.

I don’t want to be overtly negative since I really enjoyed what I watched so I’ll stop it here with a positive note (especially since all I wrote about season 1 is bitchiness) kinda like how season 2 ends with Ashirogi Muto finally reaching one of their dreams. I honestly can’t wait for season 3 since this is when Bakuman finally completes the message it wants to give not only to Shonen Jump (or Jack lol) but to every manga reader and editor out there.

Execution: 33/40 (Slightly sharper than the first season)

Engagement: 24/30 (Exciting content made up for a rather lacking presentation)

Characters: 18/20 (They got this one on the dot.)

Production Values: 6/10 (Terrible)

Overall: 81/100 (B-)

Uncurrency Anime – Lovely Complex

Before when someone mentions popular shoujo anime, Bokura Ga Ita, Fruits Basket and this come into mind. Since I finally finished Bokura Ga Ita, I thought this would be the perfect combination.

And the perfect combo it is.

LC and BgI might look the same in terms of artwork but they’re in complete opposites in terms of mood. In a sense, these two series complement each other. BgI provides the heavy drama while LC provides the light-hearted fluff. Anyway, enough BgI comparisons and let’s concentrate on LC.

Lovely Complex is a very cute series that’s always full of energy. Risa, the main character, is a tad too tall for a girl and Otani, her comedic partner, is a tad too small for a boy. The entire series revolves around their nonstop bickering relationship which almost never fails to make you smile. One unique trait of Lovely Complex is that ALL the characters speak in Kansai-ben. It’s crazy how the hell that was pulled off (apparently they hired local actors) but it really made Lovely Complex unique. Somehow, the jokes felt 10 times more fun because their accents manage to have better timing with their jokes (or maybe the fact that it’s funny and amusing at the same time) which really benefits Lovely Complex.

Of course, LC isn’t without faults. Risa eventually fell in love with Otani but her whole pursuing Otani shtick went for a tad bit too long (in the timeline of the anime, it took her more than a year before Otani said yes) and dragging. The middle parts of the series was still definitely funny but it felt slightly dragging at the same time.

The sweetest part of LC is definitely the confession. It’s like “Hey, Anime does it again!” and wins my heart after BgI managed to cut and destroy it into pieces. Of course for me, the best confession scene will always be Kimi ni Todoke’s but LC is still really sweet in its own little way.

The last few episodes were just Risa and Otani finally getting together and doing couple stuff while at the same time preparing to close off the series. It ended smoothly, making me feel like this is definitely a shoujo classic.

Overall, Lovely Complex is definitely a great anime but it does have faults here and there. I still think Bokura Ga Ita is the better anime but there’s definitely something LC had that BgI didn’t in the long run: Making me enjoy watching it.

Execution: 36/40 (Crazy how the entire cast speaks in Kansai-ben)

Engagement: 26/30 (A bit dragging at parts but it  consistently managed to make me smile)

Characters: 17/20 (A really REALLY cute couple)

Production Values: 8/10 (Really nice facial expressions by the characters)

Overall: 87/100

Uncurrency Anime – Bokura Ga Ita

Never have I watched an anime that had me as conflicted as Bokura Ga Ita. Do not be fooled by it’s rather cute, airy, fluffy shoujo feel because this series is very dramatic, frustrating, conflicting, and head wrenching especially in its second half. Relationships is never a straight path especially for High School students and Bokura Ga Ita emphasiez on those crooked parts.

The main couple, Takahashi and Yano, will almost do nothing but frustrate you in the entire run of the series. WHY CAN’T YOU JUST GET ALONG?!!?!? The series spends so much time on these two dumbnuts, making them so annoyingly realistic and flawed. Yano is an asshole and Nana has no guts. They  are not likable at all but somehow that’s what makes this series shine.

It’s crazy that I’m praising this series now, especially after getting way too frustrated at it and dropping it a few years back. If Mysterious Girlfriend X was the perfect example of an anime with a couple that does things right, Bokura Ga Ita is the perfect example of an anime with a couple that does things wrong. Takahashi and Yano lie to each other, don’t talk about their feeling to each other most of the time, and Takahashi takes it to the next level and becomes completely wishy washy. She’s spineless and weak (oh god I’m ranting) and the frustration I have with this series elevates when her internal monologues get too AAARGH WHY CAN’T YOU JUST GET ALONG?!?!?!?

I contemplated with this series for a long time because I honestly thought it was doing all the wrong things thus making it a terrible series but the more I think about Bokura Ga Ita, the more I realize just how amazing it is. Humans always do the wrong things, choose the worst decisions, don’t take opportunities when it’s there and Bokura Ga Ita capitalizes on this. It’s crazy that I grew to love this series even though it got increasingly frustrating as the episodes go by.

One thing to note though, the animation of Bokura Ga Ita is terrible. Oh wait terrible’s not the right word. . . maybe non existent. Most of the time, nothing is animated at all, and this series cheats us with pan shots and one eyed cyclops. The animation is VERY lazy (they probably don’t have a lot of budget for this) to the point that the characters bangs go beneath their eyes. It’s like they just pasted the eyes! Still credit is where credit is due since there’s some strange consistency in Bokura Ga Ita’s static feel. There were never any episodes that had more animation than other episodes and in a sense, you could say it’s consistently cheap. What gives the animation life though is the OST. Damn that OST, making me feel uneasy. Bokura Ga Ita has a fuckton of EDs, insert music seguing to EDs, insert music, and heartfelt background music that can really make you cry at times. The OST is used perfectly and it sort of compensates for the animation.

If you asked me over a year ago on how I felt about Bokura Ga Ita, I’d say that I hated it. Looking back, I realized how big of a fool I was. It’s the exact fact that I hated it that made it amazing. This isn’t going into my all time favorites because I hate it and it made me even more frustrated than Kimi ni Todoke’s frustrating parts but I wholeheartedly recommend it. Just be warned: You will get frustrated.

Execution: 39/40 (Flawless in a sense)

Engagement: 24/30 (Frustration can go overboard at times; I ended up dropping it for more than a year)

Characters: 19/20 (I hated them; Flawed and frustrating but it’s the exact same reason why they’re amazing)

Production Values: 8/10 (Almost non existent animation; Amazing Soundtrack)

Overall: 90/100

Aquarion EVOL, Sankarea, Jormungand, Mouretsu Pirates, Tsuritama (END)

I’m feeling a bit lazy about this so I’m combining everything else in the past season that I haven’t reviewed yet.

Aquarion EVOL

Besides Fate/Zero, EVOL probably had the best ending out of everything that ended last season. IT also had the best last few episodes. Everything was so overblown, dramatic, yet weirdly fun at the same time. The series does not know the  word “subtlety” and each interaction from the characters are always full of emotion. This series was both sexually charged and heartfelt at the same time and I have no idea how that even worked. The middle episodes of EVOL may have been a bit dragging but I’m gonna be a bit kind since the ending was really awesome.

Execution: 33/40 (Middle episodes were kinda. . .)

Engagement: 26/30 (Ending was really fun)

Characters: 16.5/20 (Ugh @ Zessikage)

Production Values: 9.5/10 (Amazing Soundtack)

Overall: 85/100 ( B- )

Sankarea

I honestly expected this show to be terrible. It was a recipe for disaster: an short unfisnished manga, a terrible studio, a terrible premise that screamed OTAKU BAIT. Astonishingly, the first few episodes were pretty damn fine. There was actually a STORY and the characters were actually pretty engaging and leaving their supposed stereotypes. Rea in particular really had a solid character development, IMHO. Apparently, Studio DEEN decided to hire a bunch of geniuses (SHAFT worker, script writer for Baccano/Durarara, Toradora/Penguindrum Composer) for this which explains why every aspect of the series exceeded my expectations.

It’s too bad though that this series didn’t get a proper conclusion. In addition to that, the stink of the manga which was heavily covered up in the first episodes, started showing. It’s also when I realized that there’s only a few characters that I actually give a damn about. Still I was pleasantly surprised with what went on in this series so I’m gonna be positive in grading this.

Execution: 36/40 (DEEN hired geniuses for this)

Engagement: 24/30 (I didn’t like it as much when the original material started stinking)

Characters: 14.5/20 (I like the main couple but I really don’t like WANKO)

Production Values: 9.5/10 (DEEN finally decided to look nice)

Overall: 84/100 (B-)

Jormungand

In preparation fro Jormungand, I watched Black Laggon and that show was just pure badassery. In the end Jormungand ended up the same albeit with a bit of nuances.

Jormungand is about KOKOLOCO and her arms dealer group doing some KOKOLOCO stuff. Each episode is exciting since all the characters keep on being badass. The story is sometimes hard to follow but the energy of the series really makes up for it. If there’s anything else to say though, I definitely prefer Black Lagoon over this a bit since Rock and Levy are just a tad bit more developed as characters than Koko an co. But still Koko is awesome so it’s not really a complaint.

I can’t seem to formulate anything to say for Jormungand. It’s definitely a series that’s so much more fun watching than writing about.

Execution: 32/40 (A bit hard to follow sometimes)

Engagement: 28/30 (Full of energy)

Characters: 16/20 (KOKOLOCO)

Production Values: 8/10 (Good enough for awesome action)

Overall: 84/100 (B-)

Mouretsu Pirates

It’s Pirates! In space! You’d expect Mouretsu Pirates to be exciting, overblown and full of blasting explosions but this series ended up being very grounded. There’s a number of people that gave up on this series because it was too slow but once it got going, it really got going.

This series doesn’t look down on your intelligence and in a way it expects you to follow the story without baby feeding you with all the information needed. I kinda like that aspect of the series. It’s not bad storytelling at all because it’s easy to follow the series if you pay attention.

The series consists of 4-5 arcs with different focuses. The arc that really made me fall in love with the series is the Gruier Serenity arc with the theme of “A princess finding her origins” kinda thing. I also loved it when Marika’s schoolmates ended up become her crew for like 1/4 of the series. It’s like We’re GAR pirates but we eat cake and shit inside. The last arc was the best though and it showed us what an action packed Mouretsu Pirates can be like.

I definitely enjoyed this series. It’s much better to watch this marathon-style because of the pacing.

Execution: 36/40 (Does not baby feed you)

Engagement: 26/30 (Really fun once you get used to the atmosphere)

Characters: 17/20 (Lots of time for development due to the slow pacing)

Production Values: 8/10 (Good enough to tell a solid story)

Overall: 87/100 (B)

Tsuritama

The other noitaminA series this year, I just have to say. . . I did not like this show. I’ve heard praises on how whimsical and relaxing Tsuritama is but I couldn’t see it. All I saw was baww forced dorama with really angsty male teenagers.

Now don’t get me wrong I don’t hate angst (I don’t hate Shinji) but with Tsuritama, I don’t even like the characters for me to sympathize with their boohoohoo problems. I honestly liked this show for the first few episodes until it started tackling its lol plot. Haru was my least favorite character of the four mains but he especially got annoying towards the end.

And oh my god that ending. It felt like the Brady Bunch with oohh the whole cast comes together and helps save Enoshima from aliens. BUT WAIT- one of them dies with some random explosion somewhere but that’s just a cliffhanger. He ends up safe anyway but whatever. Then woopdeedoo they save the world through fishing!

There’s obviously some good parts but this another Nakamura Kenji failure for me. If [C] had characters with non-existent personalities, Tsuritama had a terrible plot and overly emotional characters. I mean Tsuritama was supposed to correct [C]’s mistakes but it ends up overdoing the correcting.

Well there’s always Tapioca.

Execution: 32/30 (Nothing horribly bad except for the ending)

Engagement: 22/30 (Dwindled towards the end)

Characters: 14/20 (Angsty in a bad way)

Production Values: 9/10 (Admittedly creative)

Overall: 77/100 (C)

Saki-Achiga hen (TV END) – 82 points

Saki, instead of pushing through for the second season, decided on making some sort of spinoff side story about Nodoka’s pals in elementary, breaking their way through nationals. Let me go straight to the point: this spinoff is just nowhere near as fun as Saki was. The series isn’t done yet (3 more episodes to go) but so far all I can say is that while it’s been a really fun watch, I’d rather watch the Kiyosumi girls fight it out in the nationals. The first 6-8 episodes were all useless build-ups that go nowhere which really got frustrating.

The Achiga girls are as interesting as a plastic bag and Akado is a fucking terrible coach. Still they pulled it off really well towards the end as we finally witnessed the terror that is Miyanaga Teru. I swear, everything interesting about this series is the references to the original and the best characters are the ones not in Achiga. I was nowhere even rooting for Kuro in the Teru onslaught, nor was the creators since all the spotlight went to our brave hero, Toki from Senriyama. This series would be 10 times more interesting if it was Saki-Senriyama hen with Toki as our main lead. I swear, the way she fought towards the end, even to the point where she sacrificed herself so that other players will win, is amazing. Another notable character is “Subara”, who was a sacrificial pawn to the team, who really won my heart despite losing so badly in the Teru onslaught match. Maybe because she wasn’t all whiny-whiny like Kuro was.

Achiga-hen got the wrong main characters and wrong pacing, but they did get the focus correct. Maybe Studio Gokumi knew that the Achiga girls were boring as fuck and decided to rush everything so that we’d have 5 episodes of the ”good” bits. That’s some terrible storytelling but hey at least I didn’t get a bad aftertaste towards the end. Now air those 3 episodes already and announce season fucking 2!

Execution: 29/40 (Got everything wrong when it comes to storytelling but at least we got 5 really awesome episodes towards the end because of this.)

Engagement: 29/30 (Sports anime always gets me excited and Achiga is no exception despite all its faults. The last 5 episodes were full of adrenalin rush. )

Characters: 15.5/20 (Achiga girls are boring as fuck, Akado is a terrible coach but they do have amazing side characters which were pretty much the focus towards the end.)

Production: 8.5/10 (An upgrade from the original. Studio Gokumi got a lot of experience from A-Channel I guess.)

Overall: 82/100