Anime Fall Season 2012! The Tiny Psychic Robo Horse Hides a Terrible Secret
Fall season is decidedly underway. I don’t usually keep up with anime shows as they’re being released so I can watch the shows I want at my own pace. Sometimes, though, a show will come along and I just have to watch it regardless. Back in spring, DG and I had two of those shows, Aquarion EVOL and Sakamichi no Apollon which I learned about because we decided to watch EVOL. Like that, watching JoJo’s made me decide to keep up with a few of the other shows that are around because if I’m watching one, might as well see what else is on the internet.
Most of these shows wouldn’t end up in the podcast since we just prefer talking about shows that go, “This is fucking stupid and I LOVE IT.” The non-JoJo’s shows aren’t really like that so far, but they’re worth talking about all the same. I would have done this more immediately, but I wanted to give each show the full three episode test before espousing on it. So here’s a quick run down of what I’ve been watching this season.
Shinsekai Yori (From the New World)
Shinsekai Yori was one of those shows that I knew would be engaging if written well when I read the description of it. It’s based on a speculative fiction novel that managed to win the Nihon SF Taisho award, a Japanese cross media award. That means that book managed to win over not only other books, but television shows and movies. It’s a pretty high award, and the premise gives a good window into it. Humanity has entered another age after a catastrophe unknown today. Towns are now small and secluded with people relying on their simple psychic powers instead of technological advancement to survive. A group of children discover an archive robot that tells them all about the war that brought humanity to where it is now shaking the foundation and their perception of the world they live in. Done well, this could be a very interesting story. Done poorly, it’d probably end up as your standard shonen show. We seem to be dealing with the former.
What the show has done very well with so far is world building. I’m a complete sucker for shows built around the idea of , “Come explore our world of mystery.” It’s one of the reasons I liked Mushishi so much. The set dressing of the show is very attractive and goes a long way in establishing an interesting world for the characters to live in. There’s a folktale read during the first two episodes that exist pretty much only for this reason and those were some of my favorite parts of the show both in the stories themselves and the visual way they’re told. The first one goes outside the show’s normal art style which creates this almost otherworldly feeling even from the show itself, but it is a core aspect of that world. It’s very well done. The entire show could be about stories like that with a somewhat involved main character who goes around experiencing those stories and the parts that aren’t just stories. You know, like Mushishi.
One thing this show maybe does have over Mushishi is an underlying plot and unsettledness with people in the world and the pocket societies themselves. A second, more deeply tied folklore in the first episode is about a monster that will kill children who are unable to make it to the psychic school after a certain age. It’s presented as just a legend, something kids make fun of each other with to scare others. The weird thing is that the main girl’s parents act extremely relieved when their daughter finally does make it to the school. They play it off as just being happy she made it since she was the last of her age group to get in, but their suspicious behavior coupled with her insistence that she’s seen the demon makes it seem like they’re definitely hiding something. It’s very gripping, and that’s only one of the events like that in the show.
If the show has any weakness so far, it’s that it wakes up late. The show is very gripping and will get your attention, but episodes end before it’s done anything with your attention. The episode that follows doesn’t seem to acknowledge it too much either. This seems to only be a problem with the initial three episodes because the third ends with a jump start to the plot. It’s just that if you’re not comfortable with that slow progression, I could see why the show might not hold you for those episodes. I’m not like that. Like I said, I could watch a show that was just world building for a sufficiently interesting world, which this one is in spades. This show is one I’m holding onto for the season and in a serious way, not the, “I love this show because it’s so fun stupid,” way.
How many times did I say “world” in those four paragraphs?
Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! (Regardless of My Adolescent Delusions of Grandeur, I Want a Date!)
I’m just going to throw all my cards onto the table now for this show: I don’t particularly care for KyoAni shows, I started watching this show partially out of spite, and I came in expecting to dislike it. From that, you might expect that I don’t like this show, and you’d be correct but not in the way that sentence implies, so let me back up.
KyoAni and I have a bad rap. Of the six shows of theirs I’ve watched, Kanon, AIR, Haruhi 1, Haruhi 2, Full Metal Panic: Fumofuu, and Full Metal Panic: The Second Raid, I’ve only liked two, Haruhi 1 and Fumofuu. The other four were either just kinda lame, Haruhi 2 and FMP:TSR, or complete garbage, Kanon and AIR. So when a show by the same studio following the same patterns as those two crap ones, a middle/high school boy who wants to lead a normal life exasperatingly deals with his weird, possibly magical female “friend” who is overly attached to him because of some reason while surrounded by a cast who fulfill stereotypical roles, immediate family who is far more understanding about this than he is, single other named male classmate who only talks about dating and gateways to dating, you can kind of see why I might be a little put off going in. I only watched it at all because I saw a lot of praise singing and figured that if people are getting this into this show, it can’t be all bad or at least I can add it to the list of reasons I never listen to certain sections of the internet.
Pleasantly, this show is not entirely like that. More so, it seems to be that setting done with some of Haruhi’s self aware attitude. The main character’s exasperation at the main girl’s antics are presented in a sympathetic way. He acted like an ass during eight grade by pretending he was the dark, cool not-main-character guy shonen stereotype and wants to let all that go and is now being drawn back into that world and constantly reminded of how much of a tool he used to be because of this girl acting just like he used to. That’s what the “chuunibyou” in the title comes from. She is presented to be annoying and him sympathetic. A lot of the positive response I’ve seen has been from people who did act like that when they were younger and have that, “Oh, God what did I used to be,” reaction. If this had been like those horrible Key adaptations, those wouldn’t be intentionally annoying and actually would supposed to be cute and qualities that would make you want to do that character. After all, Kanon and AIR were adapted from pornographic dating sims. It also helps that while there are other girls that would exist in a dating sim as other love interests, the main character’s interactions with them don’t seem like they’re cut and paste from one.
No, the reason I don’t like this is much, much simpler. This is a comedy anime and it isn’t funny. My reaction to this show is very similar to my reaction to Hetalia, though these are two very, very different shows. I imagine watching this show with someone who really liked it and having to constantly ask them to explain the humor to me. I keep reading these comments about the show being a laugh riot and wondering if I’m watching some other show with a similar name. Even the things I can clearly identify as attempts at comedy, like this .gif, have me looking at the screen and going, “I think that was supposed to be funny.” So a show I came in expecting to be like another groan inducing dating sim adaptation just ends up being a show that I’m outside the demographics that would enjoy it. Maybe this show makes you laugh, and good for you if so. It’s just not doing it for me.
This is another show I was interested in despite expecting to dislike it. After watching even a clip of it, you’ll start getting an immediate Highschool of the Dead feeling from the visual presentation. Big anime titties, slickly animated motion in some places, crappy ass CG objects in others, and the way things are colored just make HotD jump to mind. I resolved to watch the show after learning that Yousuke Kuroda, the series composer and screenwriter for HotD, was also writing this. I wanted to know if my distaste for the presentation and writing of HotD was his doing or it was the result of using bad source material. After all, all the KyoAni examples from above were adaptation including the ones I like, and I’ve read the originals of the first Haruhi series and thought it was fine, so maybe this guy just needs a break like a good source.
The fanservice was not as ridiculously present as I expected it to be. HotD was the kind of show you’d watch while constantly checking the door to make sure no one was coming in. BTOOOM! is more restrained in that aspect with a few female characters managing to appear without getting sexually exploited for the sake of titillating the audience. The main girl that you’ll see lots of fanservice pictures of if you look the show up on Google Images manages to display some competence and bravery in some places. Of course, that girl’s competence and self defense skills all evaporate when some fat guy tries to sexually assault her and only come back when he stops doing that. And of those other girls, one exists only to explode and dies within twenty seconds, and the other girls get either violently date raped or violently regular raped to give the main girl back story. So… Yeah, the point I was trying to make kind of got away from me. I’ve never read the manga BTOOOM! is based on, but I’m starting to feel that these poor writing choices are Kuroda’s doing because I know it was written by a different person than the guy who wrote HotD manga.
So the writing is pretty bad. The story is about this guy who’s really great at the online game BTOOOM!, but then he ends up on an island where he has to play it BUT FOR REAL! It’s not the most original plot, somewhere between Battle Royale and a darker The Last Starfighter, but it could be used to make a good show. People are chucking bombs around with huge explosions, and proper planning can mean the difference between life and death. It could be good, but it isn’t. This show was apparently expecting its audience to be really stupid. The main character not only goes through the standard, “OH MAH GAWD WHAT AM I DOING,” to, “This is real, I have to be serious time,” but it’s not enough for him to just be standard. He also has to narrate everything around him as it’s happening. His character growth, the actions of others, the growth and characteristics of others, something that just happened, all things he’ll explain right after you’ve seen them. That woman who exists only to explode explodes due to a trap laid for people searching for food. When the main character, also searching for food, sees this and has an inner monologue about that someone’s using the food to lay traps for reckless gatherers. That could be two sentences, but it goes on for a few minutes with visual aid made up of the stock footage from the scenes you just watched happen. So BTOOOM! is pretty stupid. I would watch it only for spectacle sake.
Girls und Panzer
HAHAHAHAHAHAHA. No. It says something about a show when the only thing engaging about it is the troll subs that nobody liked. This is one of the most flat, uninteresting, lifeless shows I’ve seen in a long time. Strike Witches was at least annoying. This is the equivalent of watching static for twenty minutes.
So that’s been my season so far. I’ve heard rumbling about other shows, but I haven’t taken the time to watch them. I’m somewhat interested in ROBOTICS;NOTES, Psycho-Pass, and the upcoming Cyborg 009 movie. I’ve heard off and on things about those first two, Psycho-Pass specifically I’ve heard is a less effective, more violent Ghost in the Shell:SAC, and I wasn’t into the CG that the 009 movie is using, but I’m still interested in them enough to try them out.
Regardless of what you watch, try to have a good fall season 2012.