We’re approaching the end of the Winter slate, and we’ve finally hit on the biggest economic-side enigma of the season. Wake Up, Girls had an unusual setup that, nominally, required viewers to watch the movie before the first episode. It’s an interesting setup from a commercial perspective, to say the least. I talked in my post about the upcoming Tamako Love Story movie about how movie sales could be an effective way to tap a larger, less enthusiastic fanbase. Based on the fact that the show is targeting fans from a similar demographic to Love Live’s upcoming season 2, the argument is that it’d be better to get something than nothing. But to make that movie ticket and 50 minutes of time a required entry fee to the franchise seems less advisable. You might simply end up with a really small fanbase if you don’t let them test the waters for free; even if otaku audiences are more willing to burn money on things they might like, this is a season with two sequels to 10k+ shows in the mix for their attention. I didn’t watch the movie and skipped straight to episode 1, because I’m not spending 70 total minutes on an unknown quantity from a director I dislike, general principles or not, until and unless it becomes a known plus.
I put myself on the record this August saying that Arpeggio might be the Those Who Hunt Elves of the modern era, with the potential to sell well enough to launch an industry trend. Only this time with all-CG animation instead of late-night TV timeslots. The CG is still a tad weak when used for big movements, or presentation that would be more exaggerated in a hand-drawn series, and it took me about halfway through the episode to get accustomed to. But once I did, there was very little not to love. Kishi Seiji is doing a good job of keeping most of the body language to more small, natural-looking motions and making every frame of that count. The big flourishes were, as expected, saved for the naval battle sequences, which looked mighty fine. The story, a large-scale ambitious beast and looking to create a sci-fi world without putting everything in space, also appears highly intriguing. I’m looking forward to seeing how the crew, presumably a Nadesico-style quirky bunch of doers, gels together as a group as the series goes on. I’ve got at least 3 weeks worth of interest in this one.
Especially since these sub battles are going to be regular things
Oonuma Shin is sitting this season out, but one of the prospects at studio Silver Link got his crack at being in charge today. And the result was just as backgroundy as I could have hoped for. The intro was spiffy thanks to the scenery, and the rest of the episode carried on with a fun, slow pace with echoes of Hidamari Sketch and Yuyushiki. It’s getting 2 more episodes from me to see if it stays fun and consistent.
Speaking of typically one-director studios branching out, Unbreakable Machine Doll would be the only the second Studio Lerche project not helmed by Kishi Seiji. But it didn’t show much of a dropoff, and packed a mean punch with an early, fresh-feeling train action sequence. The steampunk setting seemed to offer some depth, but it turned out to be ostensibly just a battle academy series in the vein of Yugioh GX or Phi Brain, albiet with pretty action. I might have kept up with it in a less busy season, but right now I don’t see a strong appeal. Dropped.
After 2 phoned-in performances in 3 weeks I’m a lot less high on the show than I was at the end of episode 5. Were 6 and 8 ultimately hiccups in the larger scheme of production, or do the writer/source material have some skill flaws that weren’t as evident early on? If they do, will Oonuma Shin be able to keep covering for them? The next couple of weeks should be telling.
To its credit, this episode opened strong, with Tomoko showing a fairly innocent combination of looking forward to her plans with Yuu and doing prep on the sly to make sure things went well, all before Yuu’s call took her expectations out like a sniper. You could see that twist coming, but it was enjoyable in the way the first half of the show was; more of a rodeo clown tumbling than a puppy taking a horrific 10-story fall.
This week’s installment of WataMote was probably the most painful watch yet, but offered proof-positive that Oonuma Shin is enjoying the hell out of himself. From the start, where he scattered the character design roughs over Tomoko talking about creating a character, to the ED, where he just straight-up made a viral video for the fun of it, this episode consistently spoke to how much fun the people at Silver Link making this are having.* It’s more fun than Tomoko, that’s for sure.
WataMote doesn’t really have a consistent sense of episode structure in a way that some comedies do. Contrary to last week’s, where the rain and the cold bits split the episode, this week’s show ran through a series of 3 skits. The underwear one invoked some legitimate pity, and had a fairly touching conclusion.* However, the others (the nightmare and the molestation one) were based around karmic payback for Tomoko’s stupidity. All of which was accompanied by the series’ typical visual panache and some nigh-flawless transitions.
Kuroki is such a fun comedy character. I often struggle with anime comedies where the protagonist is a nice-guy loser because I want to root for them so much and they keep getting unlucky in ways that totally aren’t their fault. Kuroki’s a much-improved version of the loveable-but-luckless archetype; she’s got the courtesy to dig her own grave much of the time, turning situations that would be just kind of sad into some righteously hilarious karmic payback.
The biggest potential pitfall for WataMote as a show is that it is essentially one joke retold countless numbers of times. However, the series’ greatest strength is that it’s made by people who understand exactly what that means for a comedy.
Today’s Monday, and it’s been about a week since the first summer anime have aired. A few are on second episodes now, but I’m not going to end up covering them because WataMote clinched a lock on my open Monday slot.
Saturday saw the rollout of 4 more anime, and a depressing lack of Space Brothers. I’m opening up with the magical girls before getting to the certain sequel I’m really excited for.
Smarter people than myself have pointed out that anime marketing usually gives a fairly accurate picture of that core product. That goes double when the salesman is an actual episode of the show. Fantasista Doll and Sunday Without God made the bold first steps into July with a pair of early-air episodes, and I’m definitely excited to meet them at the doorstep.