Is it me, or is it the ‘first wave’ of most anticipated series that you plan to watch in any given season usually the ones that disappoint most, whilst the overlooked ones that hardly anyone blogs about end up being the hidden gems? In general, anyway, everyone knows these rules are made up to have exceptions.
Oh, and for anyone who’s ever wanted to press the big red button, here it is.
Reviewed this week: Cazador 8, Claymore 9, Darker than Black 7, Dennou Coil 1-2, Koutetsu 7, Nodame 18, SaiMono II 7-8, Seirei 7-8, Polyphonica 1, Emma II 5, Wellber 2-3
…and in manga: SaiMono vol 2 omake, Tsubasa 153-4, Yotsuba& 46
El Cazador de la Bruja 8: El Cazador sinks further into the realms of the dull and unremarkable in this episode, in which LA is captured for some naked ‘re-education’, whilst Nadie and Ellis get embroiled in the issues of mafia member Sanchez in an unfriendly town. Does this involve tense shootouts and other excitement? If you’re even prepared to entertain that possibility, have you actually watched the series at all? If this was Noir, people might have actually died (albeit bloodlessly), but in El-Cazador world, the only deaths are so dull and inconsequential that they are less memorable than a villain getting covered in tomato juice.
Claymore 9: I’ve tried my best to give Claymore a chance, but the odd appeal that lured me in at the beginning has all but evaporated now, and returning to the present party of Clare and Raki does little to help the situation. Despite being the weakest of all the Claymores (all heroes have to work their way up), Clare manages to get promoted to a four woman team sent to deal with Awakened Beings (or as they publicly known, Voracious Eaters). Naturally her team mates are annoyed that such a low ranking Claymore is the main character, and that they will be forced to share the leftover screen time between them. I can’t help feeling that I’m chasing a point on the distant horizon when the series supposedly get better, only to find that like the end of a rainbow, I will never actually reach it.
“…a Zhuge Liang!”
Darker than Black 7: Although I was slightly worried about the prospect of a lighter-hearted arc, I should have known that Darker than Black would never steer me wrong. Although it switches focus to follow a middle-aged detective as he searches for a widow’s lost cat, not only is the series as absorbingly well presented as ever, but it keeps darker threads running in the background as Li/Hei and Mao pursue a Contractor with the ability to possess the bodies of others.
*NEW* Dennou Coil 1-2: When I hear that a series is like .hack, I have to be cautious- do they mean the intriguing mysteries of the original World, or the crushing boredom of r2? Even so, Dennou Coil seemed worth trying, and indeed it proved to be set in an intriguing city that blends the real and virtual worlds to such an extent that it is hard to see where one ends and the other begins. With the aid of special glasses, our leads can see into the virtual world, but when a cyberpet wanders into ‘obsolete space’ and becomes infected with a mysterious virus, it becomes clear that virtual reality isn’t all fun and games. With this fascinating start, this sadly overlooked series has immediately drawn me in- look past the bland character designs and something potentially excellent is bubbling just under the surface. I need more as soon as can be managed.
Koutetsu Sangokushi 7: There’s a slight feeling of just wishing the series would get on with it in this episode of Koutetsu, in which Gan Ning wanders around, Zhou Yu fails to think of any good strategies and Lu Xun is reunited with his beloved master, Zhuge Liang. The parody potential is still high, but after building momentum in the last few episodes the series has lost steam somewhat, although a potentially interesting Wei arc seems just around the corner (could it even be based on the battle of Chi Bi?).
Nodame Cantabile 18: Having been named the Rising Star Orchestra by Mine and his father, The Strongest Orchestra prepares to give its first public performance- with some rather high profile musicians in the audience. Unfortunately, this is a rather dull episode that doesn’t really bring much to the series- it may not offend, but it doesn’t entice either.
Saiunkoku Monogatari II 7-8: With the raws having dried up, I’ve turned to the Chinese subs in order to watch SaiMono, although when it comes to dialogue heavy (even by SaiMono standards) episodes like these, it’s the summaries and scripts from usagijen and the LJ community that give me any clue whatsoever as to what is going on. Anyway, these two episodes see Shuurei manipulate the merchants and the government officials (albeit with Ryuuki’s help for the latter) into providing the necessary assistance for curing the illness that has struck Sa Province- which is now treatable thanks to Ka Shin’s book. Although the long exchanges can be a bit tiring when you can’t follow them, there are also some nice character moments, from Reishin visiting a sleeping Shuurei only to jump out of the window when she wakes up, to the revelation that Yougetsu gave half of the life he granted Eigetsu to save Doushu.
Seirei no Moribito 7-8: With everyone now believing Balsa and Chagum to be dead, the pair are able to relax and take stock before moving into an old water mill which is set to serve as their new home. Despite the lack of action, seven still a worthy episode in which Chagum is exposed to the importance of money in the everyday life of the commoner, a familiar storyline which is made that much better by Chagum being a likeable character instead of a spoilt prince. Unfortunately, it is followed up by eight, a lengthy ‘sitting and talking’ episode in which the men of evil talk to a blacksmith whilst Balsa hides in the next room. Seirei has undoubtedly drawn me in so far, but the increasing realisation that the plot is incredibly thin (to the extent that I wouldn’t give much thought as to what was meant to happen next if it was cancelled tomorrow) and that a lot of the series is sitting and talking makes me wonder if it wouldn’t have been better as a shorter series or even a two hour movie.
Balsa is no stranger to watching BI.
*NEW* Shinkyoku Soukai Polyphonica 1: I hadn’t initially meant to pick this up, but after seeing some cat-filled and generally appealing screencaps, as well as learning that it was only twelve episodes long, it started to look more attractive. Set in a world where Dantists (players of ‘divine songs’ on such devices as a motorcycle that turns into a keyboard and drum kit) make contracts with magical spirits and direct them through music, Polyphonica has the quality character designs and harem overtones that speak of an eroge adaptation (if it is indeed such), but despite a lack of anything remarkable, it seems good for light entertainment. Of course, I’ve said that many times before prior to dropping a series on its fifth episode, but I have a good feeling about this one.
I like Corti’s character design so much that I’ve named my archer in Phantom Brave after her.
Victorian Romance Emma Second Act 5: Emma maintains its ‘can do no wrong’ status in this episode, which sees our eponymous heroine chosen to dress as a lady and accompany William’s mother to a party- which naturally happens to be a celebration of William’s engagement to Eleanor. This is a beautifully crafted section of the story which will surely tug at the heartstrings of any viewer, evoking sentiment without ever seeming overblown or cheesy.
Hans is mesmerised by a Zhuge Liang.
Wellber no Monogatari ~Sisters of Wellber~ 2-3: Like Polyphonica, Wellber is turning out to be one of those series which doesn’t offer anything terribly ground-breaking or original, but which still manages to prove entertaining. Unlike the sheer boredom of El-Cazador’s endless journey through the desert, Wellber is much more enjoyable, despite the echoes of Pumpkin Scissors in the setting and talking tank.
Saiunkoku Monogatari vol 2 sidestory: SaiMono takes an unexpected turn in this side story, which sees some of the male characters entering a cross dressing contest in order to win Shuurei the prize of 100 sacks of rice- it may sound insipid, but in SaiMono’s hands, it becomes entirely worthy and entertaining.
Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle 153-4: After everyone makes the payment for the journey to Celes (said payment conveniently being the prize money from the chess tournament), Syaoran-real and his party are sent to the castle where Fye once lived- only to find Ashura and the tortured child/alterna!Fye/whatever it is waiting for them. The fact that we’re finally having a Celes arc seems to indicate that the series may be striving towards some sort of conclusion (however distant), but the current pace, story convolutions (since when could Syaoran-real use magic?) and confusing dialogue stretches all serve to make it less enjoyable.
Yotsuba& 46: It’s been a long two months without fresh Yotsuba, but a new chapter has finally reached us, and it’s plain that the series is far from running out of steam. In this episode, Yotsuba volunteers to go down to the convenience store by herself for the first time, resulting in the usual brand of hilarious results. With an upcoming trip to the farm and the possibility of Yotsuba attending school next academic year, there is so much more to be mined from the world of Yotsuba, and hopefully all of it will be pure gold.