First Impressions: The Secret of Nogizaka Haruka – Purity

The Secret of Nogizaka Haruka - PurityJosh: There wasn’t very much “pure” about the first episode of this second season, since the first episode attempted to be a fan service fest.  Unfortunately, the main star of the first episode was the steam used to censor all the fan service which was apparently going on behind the, er, steam.  Now, I’m not one for huge fan service shows, but if you’re gonna show fan service, then you just as well show fan service.  What’s the point in having loads of it but not showing any of it.  I can understand if it is an otherwise clean show with a few risque shots that you don’t want going overboard, but the first episode was nearly unwatchable.

Luckily the 2nd episode was mostly steamless and started going back towards what made the first season good in the first place: Haruka being a hot and popular, yet secret, otaku nerd.  However, I do have to laugh somewhat at the lacrosse anime, being an alumnus of Syracuse University.  I didn’t even know that the Japanese knew what lacrosse was, given that it is one of the few sports truly rooted in North America, having originated with Native Americans (though apparently Japan does indeed have it’s own lacrosse association).

Hopefully the rest of the series will go more of the way of the 2nd episode than the 1st…

Polaryzed: I don’t have much more to add that Josh didn’t already say.  I also enjoyed the first season and hope it continues that way.  Steam sucks.  The end.

Advertisements

Fall 2009 Blog and Watch List

Sorry for not putting together a Fall 2009 Preview post this season.  I’d kind of fallen into one of my occasional funks in the past month or so where I think I have to take a short break from anime, but I think I’m about over it and ready to come roaring back again.

This past week I started catching up on over 40 episodes of anime that I was behind on for the summer season, but hopefully by the end of today, I’ll be almost through with those.  I also hope to have the final episode review of Phantom out sometime this week as well.

Having said all that, it’s time to look ahead at the shows that I want to blog and watch in the Fall 2009 season.

Blog List

Kobato

I think since I still haven’t completely gotten on my feet again in regards to blogging, it would probably be unwise to pick up more than one show at the moment, so that’s what I’m going to do.  Those of you who know me know that I’m a CLAMP freak, so the show that I am blogging should have been pretty easy to guess.

Watch List

11eyes
A Certain Scientific Railgun
Asura Cryin 2
Kimi ni Todoke
Letter Bee
Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu: Purezza
Winter Sonata

For my watch list, I have two second seasons in the list.  The first, Asura Cryin 2, I mainly included because the list of new shows this season didn’t look all that spectacular, so it ended up being a logical choice to add since I watched the first season.  The second, Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu: Purezza, is the second season to a show that I liked quite a bit, and I was thinking about blogging it until I decided to take on only one new show.

For new shows I’m watching this season, 11eyes sounds like it could be interesting, and I liked the show art for this series, so that’s why it ended up being picked up. I swore to myself, that after the disaster called A Certain Magical Index, I wouldn’t watch A Certain Scientific Railgun, but here I am.  I think mainly because of the blandness of the season, and it also centers around one of the characters I actually liked.  Kimi ni Todoke was a borderline series when I first saw it, but decided to include it, again, because nothing else much looked interesting this season.  Hopefully it’ll turn out to be a good series.  Letter Bee is the most hopeful of the new series that I’m watching this season, and I definitely would have considered blogging it if I were blogging more series.  Finally, there is Winter Sonata, which also looks like a rather promising series to me, so I decided to pick it up.

There is also the OVA series Shakugan no Shana S which is supposed to release it’s first episode in October, which I’ll be blogging.  But I’m expecting that to be a “one episode every 2 or 3 months” type of deal so I’ll blog it as it comes.

Top 10 Anime of 2008

It’s that time of year again…time to rank the top 10 shows of 2008.  Of course, the usual caveat: this only includes shows which I watched, which this year was only about 20, so it was a kind of slow year for me.  Nevertheless, this list still boasts a pretty impressive list of shows.

10. Birdy the Mighty: Decode

Birdy the Mighty Decode LogoIsn’t it every boy’s dream to have easy access to a female body?  Well, Tsutomu in theory is living that dream, except the girl is in control of the body because she accidentally destroyed his.  Oops!  What results is a mix of action and comedy which is pretty well executed all told, with Tsutomu frequently getting freaked out by Birdy’s alien ways.

Two things held this series back: animation, which wasn’t exactly top-notch, and the fact that, after Tsutomu gets his body back, they find away in the end to make him and Birdy share bodies again.  I guess Tsutomu just thinks that he can be immortal as long as Birdy is there to absorb him whenever he takes a notion to destroy his body.  The one minus that this sets up is that it implies that the gimmick of them changing bodies is the only real draw of the show, and the writer’s belief that they can’t have a successful show without that gimmick.  I’m not sure that bodes well for the second season, but that doesn’t necessarily impact this season all that much.

9. Kurenai

KurenaiKurenai ekes into the top 10 list by doing a reasonably good job at two things: writing and animation.  Perhaps the best part of this series is watching the struggle and growth of the characters as they have to adapt to new environments, particularly Shinkuro, who is trying to find his true strength, and Murasaki, who has to adapt to living out in the “real world” now, all while having a powerful family chasing after them.

However, this show has a few weaknesses as well.  First, the show’s conclusion in a sense made a compromise with the devil – accommodating an evil family which probably shouldn’t be accommodated in the least, taking the air out of a lot of what everyone was fighting for and protecting throughout the show.  Second, I think overall this series, despite it’s overall good writing, missed some chances to turn Kurenai from simply a good series into a great series.  The theme music, particularly the opening theme, also didn’t seem to match the show at all and just seemed kind of weird.  However, overall it was still a pretty good show.

8. The Secret of Haruka Nogizaka

The Secret of Haruka Nogizaka logoThe mantle of “Otaku Show of the Year” probably goes out to The Secret of Haruka Nogizaka this year as there are anime references galore, as well as every otaku’s dream:  A girl otaku. A hot girl otaku.  A hot, popular girl otaku.  A hot, popular girl otaku who likes you because you don’t shun her once you discover her secret of being an otaku.  A hot, popular girl otaku who likes you because you don’t shun her once you discover her secret of being an otaku and who likes to cosplay as Shana.  I mean, can it get any better than that?

I guess one of the nice things about this show, as opposed to something like, say, Lucky Star, is “normal people can be otaku too.”  However outwardly odd Konota is in Lucky Star is how outwardly normal Haruka is in Secret.  Yes, she illicitly sneaks off to Akihabara every now and then, but overall she’s your normal high schooler.  Of course, the series is also hilarious on top of all of this too.  The main problem is that it’s a little thin in the plot department, but given that the purpose of this series is to have fun, and I had fun watching it, it goes into the top 10 list.

7. Shion no Ou (2nd half)

Shion no OuThe conclusion of Shion no Ou dealt with the big shogi tournament being sponsored by Satoru, Hani-meijin’s brother, from the start of the final state of the tournament where the 9 bracket winners plus 3 of the bracket runner-ups face off in a 12-person bracket to determine the winner of the tournament.  As a result, a few of the games played last through multiple episodes, but the writers are able to keep the show interesting nevertheless.  Increasing the attention on solving the mystery of who solved Shion’s parents just adds more intrigue into the show as well.

The main weakness of this show is that, if watching people play shogi bores you to death, then this show may not be for you, as a lot of time is spent with the characters playing.  I thought that the show did a pretty good job keeping the episodes interesting despite this, but I can easily see if people disagree with that.  However, overall I thought the conclusion to Shion was pretty well executed.

6. Nijuu Mensou no Musume

Nijuu Mensou no MusumeI should note before starting: fansubs have only come out for 20 of 22 episodes.  However, I felt that it was complete enough that I could put it in the rankings.

Having said that, Nijuu Mensou is a show with a very good premise and animation.  It’s set in the mid-20th century – an era which you don’t see a lot of anime shows set in, so it is unusual in that aspect.  And Twenty Faces himself makes this series pretty compelling, to say nothing about Chiko, his all-but-adoptive daughter and title character.

Two things keep Nijuu Mensou from being a truly great show however: reuse of the “OMG Twenty Faces died! Oh, nevermind!” gimmick probably one too many times, and the fact that the series goes into stranger territory than I was expecting for the show.  Nevertheless, Nijuu Mensou still puts together a very solid performance.

5. Soul Eater (first 3/4)

Soul EaterSoul Eater is a very fascinating show.  It’s quite different from just about anything else, yet Bones is able to pull it off pretty well.  However, the thing that really drives Soul Eater is the wealth of unique characters.  While some of the character development is a little odd (Maka and Soul don’t seem to be very powerful for a pair to have almost created a Death Scythe – especially with only six Death Scythes existing the world, suggesting that it’s a very hard thing to accomplish), it is generally pretty good.  All three pairs are compelling in their own unique ways.

If I have one beef with this series (actually two), it’s that it veered off it’s original premise – gathering 99 kishin eggs and one witch’s soul – pretty quickly, and it has a bad habit of drawing things out to death (how many episodes did it take to get through the battle at Shibusen, anyway?)  However, all told, Soul Eater still puts in a very solid performance.

4. CLANNAD (2nd half) / CLANNAD: After Story (1st half)

CLANNADFor the second straight year, CLANNAD comes in at #4 in the list.  Since the first series of CLANNAD exited it’s “four-episodes-an-arc” mode and got more into mixing arcs or telling an overarching story, and since we got into CLANNAD: After Story which, until the lastest episodes, centered around more minor characters, this series has fallen in favor a little bit (though obviously not very much).

CLANNAD is still very much the class of both 2007 and 2008, and presumably will contend for a top spot on this list in 2009 as well.  We might not be in arcs for the main girls, but the storytelling is still pretty good, if not a little slow going at this point, which is why it only comes in 4th on the list.

3. Toradora! (1st half)

Toradora!The choice between 2nd and 3rd was very close, and I think the fact that Toradora was in it’s first half while the 2nd placing show was in it’s concluding half was the main reason why Toradora came in at #3.

Toradora is a very, very good show – one which I think may challenge for the #1 spot in 2009 if they keep up what they’re doing in the first half into the 2nd half of the show.  While Toradora has a somewhat familiar flavor – it is, afterall, essentially a slice-of-life harem show – there is still something about it and (especially) it’s characters which makes it different, and a lot better than shows that it might be compared to.  It pulls off good drama and comedy almost simultaneously and still gets in some good character exploration and storytelling to boot.

2. Shakugan no Shana II (2nd half)

Shakugan no ShanaThe first half of this show didn’t even grace the top 10 list in 2007, just to show how far it came in the second half of the series.  We started with Pheles, then moved to Sabrac, then on to the Bal Masqué’s ultimate plan at the end.  There was hardly time to breathe and Shana and friends moved from one major confrontation to the next, making the second half of Shakugan no Shana II one of the best action shows in quite a while, not just 2008.

1. ef – a tale of melodies

ef - a tale of melodiesImproving on it’s sibling’s 3rd place finish last year, ef – a tale of melodies was nothing short of epic.  And to think that 40% of this show (the Kuze/Mizuki arc) was pretty dull, that just shows how good the other 60% of the show (the Yuu/Yuuko) arc was.  If the entire show was just that arc, ef – a tale of melodies would not only contend for best show of 2008, but also perhaps for best show, period.

This show had (almost) everything – romance, drama, shocking plot twists, and more.  You almost couldn’t help but me drawn into the show.  And the fact that the show isn’t afraid to put your heart at ease, only to tear it out in the next episode just makes this show all that much better.

12 Moments of Anime Day 6 – Shana Cosplay is Instant Win

The otaku show of 2008 may very well have been The Secret of Haruka Nogizaka, with otaku and show references thrown in nearly all over the place.  However, one of my favorite parts of this series were the character’s tendency to show up cosplaying as characters which I both know and actually like:

Shana cosplay is always hot
Watch out for Excalibolg
Hecate! *drools*

Ah…anime referencing anime.  Half the time I don’t even know what show is being referenced, but when I do, I get a real kick out of it.  And doing Shana (and Dokuro-chan) just makes it that much more fun.  That leads to Shana cosplay being added to the 12 Moments of Anime.

(OK, I know that was a pretty pathetic example, but I was running out of moments to post XD)

The 12 Moments of Anime project is the brainchild of CCY.

Blogging and Watching slate

I didn’t get around to doing a Fall preview post like usual just because I didn’t have the time, but I did want to go through the series I was going to blog and watching.

Blogging

  • CLANNAD: After Story
  • ef – a tale of melodies

I had forgotten about ef when I said I was only blog one series due to time.  Unfortunately, the one season when I wanted to only pick up 1 series is the season which has two must-blog series in the second seasons of CLANNAD and ef.  Damn them!

I don’t really think these series need much explanation.  If you need it, go look at the episode reviews for the first seasons.

Watching

  • Yozakura Shijuusou ~Yozakura Quartet~
  • To Aru Majutsu no Index
  • Toradora

So we have

To say that the top series I’m merely watching is the top series in that group because it looked “somewhat interesting” doesn’t say much about the series airing in this season.  Unfortunately, while there weren’t a lot of series I was drooling to watch, there were probably a half dozen series in the “somewhat interesting” category, so I still had to decide which ones to put on the list.

First, ones I didn’t put on it:  First up was Hyakko.  I almost put this on the list, really.  But it looks too much like Lucky Star/Azumanga Daioh/Hidimari Sketch and I’m both kind of worn out on random comedies with no plot, and I think my expectations for such series is so high that, if I had the choice, I’d rather pass on a series which has a good chance of disappointing me.

The next one I almost added but left off was Kannagi.  It looks interesting enough: tree girl turns into spirit.  But then again, the set up for this eries suggets a type of series which I’m also somewhat burned out on.  If this was the Spring 2009 season, maybe.  But I don’t feel like this one now.

Finally, it’s Akane Iro ni Somaru Saka.  Anime based on eroge is hit or miss.  I usually find that they’re either a) dramatic and good or b) lame.  Unforunately, after looking at the art and OP and ED, it appears like this one chose door #2.  Whenever people try to do a comedic eroge or a half-heartedly serious one, it doesn’t seem to work out all that well.

Next, the series I am watching, but not blogging.  The first is Yozakura Shijuusou ~Yozakura Quartet~.  I’m a little iffy about this series, but the supernatural/comedy premise plus the character art sold me on this one.

The second series I’m watching is To Aru Majutsu no Index, just because it reminds me of Shana.  That probably means I’ll go into the series with a set of expectations which totally aren’t met, but whatever.

Next: Toradora.  Yes, I know, everyone else is watching it too, but it does look interesting.

To be fair, most of the big hyped-up series are sequels, including the two I’m blogging, and most of which I haven’t even seen the first season.  It’s the original series which give me the yawns.

All of this is on top of the fact that I still has Two episodes of Maid Guy still not subbed, 2 episodes of Someday’s Dreamers, and 3 episodes of Nijuu Mensou left to go, not to mention Candy Boy and KimiNozo: Next Season which seem to get released whenever they’re ready.

I’m also catching up on some series I was only watching from past seasons, though at least those are easier to do (I can just sit down for a couple of nights and blow through those).

Update

I’m now just catching up on The Secret of Haruka Nogizaka.  Any series which pimps Shana so much is an instant win.

First Impression: The Secret of Haruka Nogizaka

The third non-blogged series I’m watching in the summer is Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu a.k.a. The Secret of Haruka Nogizaka.

This one is about, shockingly, Haruka Nogizaka, the quintessential perfect girl in the school – rich, good grades, great looking, good at sports, etc., etc., etc. Meanwhile, there is Yuuto Ayase who is kind of your average nerdy boy, but more in the mold of Ike from Shakugan no Shana in the sense that, yes he’s a nerd, but he isn’t really a loser. Yuuto also has just about 0 interest in girls, largely thanks to two girls who I’m not totally sure what their relation to Yuuto is who live at his house and basically do nothing but drink.

One day Yuuto finds out Haruka’s secret hobby – that she’s an otaku. She’s afraid that he’ll tell everyone but, of course, he’s too nice of a guy to do that (unfortunately she runs away from him for a while, making everyone else think he’s done something horrible to the queen of the school). She is largely afraid of being picked on “again,” which makes me think that she’s become this super-girl person in response to bad teasing, which I’m sure we’ll get into later if that’s the case.

I think this series definitely has potential, since the “queen of the school” type girl is a huge otaku, and I can see a lot of laughs from that, though Haruka seems to be a little too ditzy to be one supposedly so good at everything, but maybe we’ll be shown otherwise later.

I also get strong vibes that this is going to be in part a parody otaku series. First off, the ending theme and the name give out vibes of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. I’m sure the OP made fun of several shows, many of which I’m not catching, and I’m sure the same is true of the Clumsy Aki-chan cartoon from the beginning.

And especially since this doesn’t seem like a series which is going to rely on fan service for most of it’s laughs (at least based on the first episode), this series definitely looks like it has some potential.

Summer 2008: Blogging and Watching Series

So, in a shock to no one who read my Summer Review, I’m going to blog the series Someday’s Dreamers: Summer Skies. I liked the first Someday’s Dreamers, and it was really the only series which really caught my attention this season. And since I was only planning on picking up one new series to blog in the summer, it made the decision easy.

Someday's Dreamers: Summer Skies

Now, as to the series I’ll be watching, but not blogging, all of these series have the possibility to be good, but also have signs that they might be iffy, so hopefully they’ll be the former rather than the latter.

The first series I’ll watch is Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu which appears to be a harem comedy, though with a little twist: the main loser boy finds out that the hot super-popular girl in the school is actully an uber-Otaku in secret.  This just begs hilarity to me, and I hope I’m right.

Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu

The second series series I’ll watch is Natsume Yuujinchou, which is about a boy who discovers a book which has a binding contract with some spirits, and his quest to release those spirits from the contract.  Now, I assume the story will be deeper than that, but I sounds interesting.  Part of the reason why I’m picking this up is that the director has worked on some series I’ve liked before too.

Natsume Yuujinchou

As for whether I’ll pick up a third series to watch, I’m not sure.  The first season of Hidamari Sketch was kind of borderline, and if the second season is going to be the same, I don’t know about watching a series which I know will be borderline.

As for Strike Witches, this probably would be on my list, if it wasn’t for having to pay to download copies to my computer from Crunchyroll.  BOST TV has promised some “new things” for this series, and if one of those is being able to download an actual high quality version (i.e., like what one could download from Crunchyroll) for the $1 it costs to watch the episode, then I might watch that one as well.

Other than that, the landscape is pretty barren after taking out sequels to series I haven’t seen.

Summer 2008 Anime Preview

It’s that time again: It’s time to look at what anime is airing in the Summer 2008 season. Shows are listed in alphabetical order.

There are 7 possible levels of ratings that I’ll give a show:

  • Will definitely blog it
  • May blog it
  • Will definitely watch it
  • May watch it
  • May watch it if I hear good things about it
  • Probably Won’t Watch it
  • Won’t watch it

As usual, I’m leaving out anything that seems to obviously be a children’s show. Like always, thanks to the Fansub Wiki for keeping a great list of upcoming shows.

Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way…here we go!

Continue reading