Kotoura-san: Some Thoughts on Episodes 1-7

Kotoura-san has become somewhat famous for its first episode;

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Title Card  

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 First Episode

For a show based on a 4-koma and from Masahiko Oota, director of Yuruyuri and Minami-ke, nobody expected a dark and depressing story about an ostracized girl who is, within the first ten minutes, abandoned by her family and tormented at every turn. The show does have comedy in it, but, well….

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Because of the way it mixes drama and comedy, Kotoura is a strange beast. It will make jokes about all men being perverts, only to have a character bullied mercilessly within the next five minutes. Despite that, though, the series really works. The drama actually makes the comedy better; by showing how tough Kotoura had it as a child, watching her have fun becomes a joy to watch because you are happy that she is enjoying her new conditions.

The thing that really makes this show great, however, is Manabe. He’s just great, constantly taking chances, helping people, and being proactive. When Kotoura is being bullied, he immediately tries to find out who is doing this. When she tries to deflect this by saying that it is not a problem, he yells that it is a problem and figures out who is doing it. He then rushes over to the person and confronts them about it, letting them have it. When the bully asks why he’s doing this, he says “Because I like her! You got a problem with that!?” This scene is exactly why I love him; it’s like he has a direct line to the viewer and does what the viewer knows would solve the situation.

The past few episodes have been kind of fillery, but it looks like the drama is starting to reappear. This is definitely a show that I will watch till the end.

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Problem Children: Some Thoughts on Episodes 1-7

Problem Children Are Coming From Another World, Aren’t They? (Hereafter referred to as Problem Children) kind of flew under my radar at the beginning of the season; it looked generic, the plot seemed kind of clichéd, and it seemed like it would be boring. So imagine my surprise when it turned out to be one of the most fun shows of the season! Problem Children centers around (guess who) three kids with special “gifts” who receive letters inviting them to Little Garden, a magical place where all sorts of different races compete in gift battles, where they play games in order to win prizes. These games can range picking the right card out of a deck to killing a demon lion with a certain sword. The kids are met by a bunny girl after they enter Little Garden, and soon become the saviors of a community that had been completely wiped out and is trying to regain its status.

The three kids are the main reason that this show is so fun. The three kids are Kudou Asuka, a rich girl with the power to command people to do her bidding, Kasukabe You, a quiet girl who has a talisman that allows her to use the abilities of animals, and Izayoi Sakamaki, whose gift is unknown but includes super strength, agility, perception, and even the power to destroy other gifts. So we’ve got three kids with special powers that have to help the underdogs, what else is new? This is anime, those are a dime a dozen. The kids in Problem Children, however, have one big difference: they are complete badasses. They kick ass, take names, are proactive, and regularly take on people bigger than they are. The second episode cemented my opinion of them; in it, the leader of a community sits down and tries to convince them to join his side. Within five minutes, they’ve already figured out he’s evil, learned his plan, thought up a way to defeat him, and, when he attacks, them, piledrives him into the ground. Of all the kids though, Izayoi is the most fun to watch. It’s rather cliché to say this, but he does not give a F**K. He stops swords with his feet, insults living gods, and never breaks a sweat.

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This is to the main villain of the arc

The rest of the characters are a little bland, but they work well. The bunny that brought them there, known as Black Rabbit, is a little annoying, as she is constantly fretting, but she can be cool when she wants to. The villains in this series are just complete slimeballs with no depth whatsoever, but that makes it so much more enjoyable when they get beaten up by the heroes.

The rest of the show is OK. The world is kind of cool, if kind of boring and not well-explained. The animation is great, used well when needed. The comedy is kind of bad, with most of it using super deformed characters and consisting of Black Rabbit yelling “What!?” to everything that seems weird. The thing is, though, that the kids make all of those things irrelevant. Who cares about improper character depth when Izayoi is kicking a laser beam in half?

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I wasn’t kidding

Space Bros: Some Thoughts on Episodes 1-46

Before Space Brothers aired, I was kind of ambivalent on it. The director, Ayumu Watanabe, was new in the sense that his only other experience was a ton of Doraemon, and he was helming two shows that season (Mysterious Girlfriend X being the second one). Also, I knew from my research into what would later become my Manga Japanese Critics Love panel that the manga (winner of Kodansha and Shogakukan manga awards in 2011 and 2010, respectively) was over 18 volumes long, so it would be very difficult to cover that in what seemed destined for a one-season timeslot. So it was with more caution than optimism that I got on Crunchyroll in the aftermath of Ohio State’s 62-64 NCAA Tournament loss to Kansas to check out the first episode.

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Cuticle Detective Inaba: Some Thoughts on Episodes 1-8

For reasons I will never fully understand (at least, I haven’t yet understood them), this show seems to be the biggest source of love/hate controversy this Winter 2013 Season. Personally, I could never hate a comedy about a bunch of quirky individuals driving each other nuts, especially when one of them is a cute goat+mafia don and another is a psycho constantly trying to murder characters from the background. That’s really all this show was before it showed it could do pseudo-serious in episode 7 and heavy serious in episode 8.

CDI-1Poetry in motion, this scene

I would have called the direction for this series a bit plain prior to episode 7. I felt like I could re-piece the manga this was adapted from with little to no effort just from the anime storyboards. That said, it does the job for comedy, and the characters carry the rest. The dramatic portions were legitimately just well-done bits of heavier atmosphere; the first being intentionally exaggerated, the second being a serious story.

My current read on this show is “enjoyable quirky character comedy with some dramatic pull”. I don’t have much else to say about it because its formula really is as simple as a cast that works well together. We’ll see how the dramatic portion of the show plays out, but I’d say it’s earned its comedy chops.

Blast of Tempest: Some Thoughts on Episodes 1-19

Blast of Tempest: Some Thoughts on Episodes 1-19

Blast of Tempest started out as a very serious action/drama about saving the world from an evil clan of mages while trying to avoid letting your friend know you were dating the sister whose death he’s on a quest to avenge. It only got more deliciously complicated from there.

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Psycho-Pass: Some Thoughts on Episodes 1-18

Psycho-Pass is straight-up science fiction. It takes an idea (computers can tell which people are mentally unstable enough to commit a crime, thereby allowing quick and easy enforcement of the law) and expounds upon it, looking at a variety of both forseeable and unexpected consequences of this technology. It’s also (separately) the story of the hardening of a rookie cop, who has her own ideals confronted with harrowing experiences that show her it’s not possible to maintain order and enforce justice perfectly at the same time. Both of these are fairly standard devices, sufficient fuel for a good story which, after a non-negligible waiting period, pulled me in very nicely.

Oh, and having amazing fight scenes like this didn’t hurt either.

Beyond the choices it’s made as a science fiction and character story, Psycho-Pass as an anime breaks down fairly simply. The first 9 episodes, with their episodic presentation of different murder cases (albeit ones with a common underlying connection), were distinctly aimed at world-building and creating a sense of familiarity with the noticeably unfamiliar society. Everything since has been a combination of dynamic thriller/action, with many of the thriller elements derived from the world the beginning of the show built up. I don’t disagree with that choice of presentation. Rather, my issue comes from the fact that buildup itself was less interesting than it could have been. I feel, at least on some level, like Urobuchi Gen was more focused on the climax which needed the buildup than on the buildup itself, which resulted in a less interesting beginning than, say, Fate/zero. In the modern anime industry, where a show competes with 30 others in any given season for attention, that’s an uncommon mistake.

[HorribleSubs] PSYCHO-PASS - 11 [480p].mkv_snapshot_19.54_[2013.02.25_22.21.23]Even with the wait, this scene was still totally worth it

I’ll definitely be finishing Psycho-Pass, and it’s definitely one of the shows I enjoy more right now, but I don’t think I’ll be able to give it full marks largely because of that less captivating beginning third. Still, I’d be perfectly happy to be eating these words come April.

The Unlimited – Hyoubu Kyousuke: Brief Thoughts on Episodes 1-8

Let me start with full disclosure; I’m an unabashed fan of Zettai Karen Children, the manga. I have been since 3 years ago, when I got through the whole of it that existed (some 200 chapters at the time) in just under 2 days. I love the way it portrays slow growth of characters and a gradual shift in both the softness of Minamoto’s personality and a growing sense of responsibility of the kids. I love how it can do drama well and can return to good comedic storylines after said powerful dramatic moments.

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This immediately followed the series’ most dramatic arc

Let me also say that I abhorr the 2008 ZKC anime, because it’s a cheap imitation of Hayate the Combat Butler with little of the dramatic poise and persistent direction that makes the ZKC manga such a dynamic read.

So it should come as no surprise that I called shotgun on The Unlimited’s bandwagon as soon as I saw the promo art, premise, and the name of the director (in it was not the same one from 2008). It felt like the more dramatic side of the story would get a chance to see the light of day. I was worried about the fact that the director Shishiou Igarashi, had never helmed an anime before, but one could’ve done worse than Episode Direction of Deadman Wonderland as far as resume went.

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From this…

ZKC-2…to this.

And this show immediately answered my expectations. In the first 2 minutes, we saw villain Hyoubu tearing through a military pursuit squad with nonchalance, taking down a helicopter with a popsicle stick after upending a tank squad. If nothing else, this show was going to establish itself with action. I really can’t emphasize how good the chase scene is for any sort of opening episode (more on that in a later article), and the fact that this director understood this flat out was a very good sign. As later episodes would show, this was not a misleading sign. Since that impressive first episode, we’ve gotten plenty of good action, some decent character development for anime original characters Andy and Yuugiri, and a retelling of one of the slower and less necessary manga arcs made more interesting than I expected.

The writer for the original 2008 season of the anime, Shinichi Inotsume, is still working on this season, and while his presence isn’t totally gone, it’s been reduced enough to be tolerable. The worst of the havoc he wrought was a not-very-funny Spelunker reference in episode 3. I appreciate that the director is handling body language and action scenes for the cast well enough to make the mediocre writing quality thankfully irrelevant.

I still enjoy the ZKC manga in its raw form, mixing comedic and dramatic arcs with a gradually advancing plot, the best. Still, if the 2008 anime was the forgets-what-made-the-original-good-comedy Fumoffu of the franchise, then the 2013 spinoff is proving to be a reasonable facsimile of TSR. More than anything, I look forward to seeing Igarashi’s name on more shows to come.