Thursday, October 20, 2005

Calm morning in an otherwise busy week here at work.

We've been watching the new shows for the fall anime season. They're actually pretty good for a change - for the most part, 2005 had been a pretty lame year for new anime. Admittedly, fall is when the studios and networks roll out their decent shows. Winter is an afterthought, and summer is for galfeltch and harems. It's usually spring and fall, and this year's spring was utterly forgettable for the most part.

New fall shows...

I didn't really like the Blood movie when it came out way back when. It wasn't really much more than a proof-of-concept for computer-assisted animation composition & editing, and the actual story and such just didn't do anything for me. They finally got around to doing a TV version called Blood +, which skips quickly from the Vietnam War-era setting of the movie into the usual contemporary timeframe which most TV anime are set in. But hey! at least the show is set in Okinawa instead of the usual indeterminate-Kanto blandness. Our protagonist is a relatively well-adjusted amnesiac version of the movie's flattened-affect schoolgirl killing-machine, which is an improvement right there. The idea of a flattened-affect female protagonist works a lot better in theory than it did in the movie. The new, TV version of Saya gives us some emotional material to work with, when she starts regressing into said killing-machine mode. The TV premiere also has a lot more style and flair going for it than did the movie, which was a pretty straightforward bit of realism, if your version of realism features seven-foot-tall maneating bat-creatures and katana-swinging, emotionless schoolgirls. I'm definitely looking forward to more episodes of this. Not without some trepidation, though - last year Tsukuyomi MOON PHASE started out as a bold, stylish and sharp vampire show, and look where *that* mess ended up.

Shakugan no Shana, on the other hand, looks to be this season's Melody of Oblivion. On first glance it appeared to be a fighting-psychic-teenagers kind of kludge like the execrable Tokyo Underground, but then our bland good-natured protagonist got his torso split down the middle at the shoulder by what I expected would be his love-interest, and she told him the reason that he wasn't dead was that his soul had been eaten, and that he was a walking puppet of the gods, or some such thing. Very freaksome, and off-putting. It's a little like the third season of Sailor Moon if all the people whose hearts were taken by the monsters-of-the-week lost them permanently, and went stumbling off through their lives Stepford-Wife-style with the soul equivalent of clockwork substituting for what they really used to be. Our narrator and protagonist isn't really a person, he's a self-aware thing, by the logic of the show. The actual aware actors - monsters and anti-heroine alike - treat him with the dismissive and annoyed contempt one might give a parrot in a cage at a business meeting. It'll probably sucking pretty soon - lord knows, Melody of Oblivion did - but it might be worth paying some attention until then.

Paradise Kiss was a hell of a manga, sharp and pretty and funny as all heck on the march. I didn't really see how they were going to make an anime out of it, and now that I've seen the result, I'm not sure why they bothered. Apparently somebody wanted to do something avant-garde hip and goofy-cool, and since the manga was all of those things... If you haven't read the manga - do it now! it's short at five volumes, and Tokyo Pop is re-printing it! - the protagonist starts out as a joyless grind of a high school senior who gets scouted by a bunch of art-school weirdos looking for a model for their fashion-studio output. Somebody pulled a major boner by getting Madhouse to run the production, though. Madhouse is one of these studios which produce highly polished, well-animated material with all the grit, soul, and poetry drained out of them. If you're lucky, they'll remove the trepaine and patch up the skull, leaving said production to shuffle, zombie-like, off into the usual obscurity of Madhouse releases. I seem to remember that Gantz was a mostly-Madhouse affair - so was the bland and charmless TV version of X. Madhouse's director's idea of "hip and quirky" apparently features the heavy usage of garish and intrusive photo-montage scene-wipes and a peculiar form of comic superdeformity which bears no resemblance to either Ai Yawaza's distinctive oddness, or the usual cliche run of off-the-shelf smallbodied wackiness. There's no here, here.

Aria is bland and forgettable. It's one of these cute-girls-doing-cute-harmless-things-in-a-pretty-setting shows. It's gotten a lot of good buzz, because a certain class of fanboy are collective suckers for this sort of nonevent bullshit. Bah, I say.

Mai Otome is not really a sequel of Mai Hime, which was a good show about one-half of the time. Rather, it's more of an old-fashioned re-use of character designs in a new story, in the way that old manga and anime creators like Tezuka, Leiji Matsumoto, and Go Nagai would recycle their characters and character-designs as if they were actors, dropping them into whatever story they wanted to tell. The new show is another powerful-schoolgirls story, except it's set in some sort of retro-futuristic Ruritania where the school is an elite training academy for "Otome" ["maidens"], who are basically massively powerful human weapons trained and socialized like samurai-slash-maidservants. It's very well animated, the characters and situations are lively, and it's quite yurirific. Much better start than Mai Hime which started slow and sloppy and only occasionally rose to the occasion afterwards.

Jigoku Shoujo, or Hell Girl, is this season's Hundred Ghost Stories, or what did they call that when it got imported? Oh, yeah, Requiem from the Darkness. Er, anyways - Jigoku Shoujo is a supernatural-people-giving-normal-people-what-they-deserve horror-type show. There were exactly zero sympathetic characters in the first episode, which really put me off. Looks like the world of this show is populated by victims and assholes. It's also got this nasty thing where when the victim-of-the-week gets what she wants, her soul gets claimed, and said victim goes humming happily into the sunset. The moral of the story being, apparently, that the happy are soulless. Er, no thank you. Next!

Ginban Kaleidoscope is some kind of shoujo sports anime in which the protagonist is an arrogant, nasty little piece of work, an ice-skater who habitually refers to herself as "the billion-dollar-girl". She gets her comeuppance when she flames out in some sort of competition in Montreal and knocks herself out on the ice. This somehow results in her being haunted by a Canadian boy-ghost, and she spends the rest of the episode carrying on like a crazy person. This doesn't get her committed to an insane asylum like it ought to, apparently because ice-skating prima donnas are functionally indistinguishable from your average proto-schizophrenic teenager undergoing her first psychotic break. Art isn't quite as bad as I heard, but it wasn't particularly good, and for a show about an ice-skater, there's precious little material on the ice, which you'd think would be the selling-point you'd want to push in a first episode.

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