Today marks the start of a new blog section that I intend to make into a weekly feature for as long I can keep it up. Contained within are short reviews of the ongoing anime and manga series that I’ve watched and read over the course of the week (by ongoing I mean recently subbed/translated even if in some cases they aired some time ago).
Reviewed this week: Higurashi, H&C II, Ouran, Keroro, NHK, xxxHOLiC, Kamisama Kazoku, Utawarerumono, Good Witch, Chocotto Sister, Bokura ga Ita, ROTK, School Rumble, REC
…and in manga: Tsubasa, Furuba, SaiMono, .hack//GU+, Otome, Higurashi, Kamisama Kazoku
Higurashi no Naku Koro ni 16: A new arc begins, and still no Keiichi; instead we’re exploring Shion, Mion and Satoshi. I know I’ve missed a lot of little details when watching this; once it’s all aired it would be optimal to rewatch the whole thing in one long marathon (except I know I’ll never get around to that).
Honey and Clover II 4: It’s taken me a little while to get back into the ‘feel’ of Honey and Clover (season one was airing just as I finished university, so it held the appeal of familiarity and nostalgia) but with this episode it’s finally hitting the right note for me again. Content-wise, the focus is on Mayama and Rika as they travel to Rika’s old home; Mayama has been taking possessiveness lessons, whilst Rika’s need to join Harada in the beyond remains unabated.
Ouran High School Host Club 16: Not quite as refreshingly hilarious as the last episode, but Ouran is rarely unworthy. This time around, Kaoru tries to get Hikaru to become more sensitive to others by manipulating events so that he ends up going on a date with Haruhi. The result had an air of Furuba about it, with Hikaru as Kyo and Haruhi as Tohru.
Keroro Gunso 44-46: A welcome antidote to the withdrawal after the Keroro-a-day phase ended; 44 is an amusing episode combining the Keroro vs Fuyuki Winter Olympics (I’m a sucker for winter sports) and a rare chance for Aki to shine as she test drives Kururu’s latest mecha. 45 jumps ahead to Valentine’s Day and Keroro’s plans to take over the world via sweet potato dango; as we know from a previous episode, such dango are just a code word for Sunrise’s ‘special substances’. Finally, 46 focuses on the little-used character of the Hinata’s resident ghost, who is understandably upset at having been largely forgotten about; the weakest of the three episodes, but not without its amusing moments.
NHK 2-3: After catching up on the manga in preparation for this, the anime can only seem weak in comparison. The pacing is slower than I’d like, and Yamazaki is disappointingly different from his manga form- a slightly whiny little boy with too high-pitched a voice instead of “pervert megane friend”. Episode 3 sees Satou transformed into a pervert during his attempt to undertake research for the eroge he and Yamazaki plan to create; in the manga, this segment was darkly amusing but here it tends more towards dull and disturbing.
xxxHolic 15-16: I really hope that the xxxHolic animators show up for work one day, because the series is looking worse than ever- when even Yuuko looks awful, you know something’s going wrong. The story isn’t up to much either; the twins’ chapter was a solid but not outstanding portion of the manga, but certainly far too thin to be stretched over two episodes. The new ED is also an unwelcome reminder of the eighties.
Episode 16 is a slightly better effort animation-wise (i.e. below average but not outright ugly) but again the story failed to grab my attention- Watanuki journeys to a land of talking flowers to turn the pipe fox spirit back to normal, meets the Zashiki Warashi, the end. Despite my enjoyment of the manga, this series is dropping in my estimation with each episode.
Kamisama Kazoku 8: Fortunately no one was naked in an apron this time, but the episode puts KK perilously close to the drop zone. The first half was dull, the second laughably ridiculous, but at least the Ai storyline is over with now.
Utawarerumono 17: We’re between arcs now so it’s time for a castle section, which in the game meant lots of selecting rooms and fast forwarding through dialogue. Haku doesn’t sleep with anyone in this version, but there are lots of suggestive moments, and Oboro gets some hard gay with the twins (until proven otherwise, the anime versions are male in my eyes). It looks like we’ll finally be getting to the Na-tunk arc next episode, but after playing the game and mini-game, the Uta anime will always be second fiddle.
Good Witch of the West 11: With each passing episode, Good Witch introduces more plot threads, but like a book of carpet samples, only a handful will actually be used. This time around, Firiel wanders around an RPG-like desert location with ‘Bard’ (clearly a character straight out of Final Fantasy). Meanwhile, Gulair is clearly in trouble- not so much because of the impending attack or treacherous evil dukes, but more because its prospective queens don’t seem able to take much in the way of constructive action, whilst Roux takes attitude lessons from Haruka 8’s Tenma.
Chocotto Sister 2: It may be average, but that still puts Chocotto above most of this season’s offerings; unfortunately the best part of the show is about to leave as the landlady prepares to depart in favour of her meganekko granddaughter. I had hopes for Makoto as the spiritual successor to Midori (OtoHiME) and Akiko (HanTsuki), but her disaffection for clothes puts her more in KK territory.
Romance of the Three Kingdoms 16: The only real question with ROTK is whether any given episode is going to be hilariously cheesy or just plain dull. Fortunately, this episode inclines towards the former, as Cao Cao is cast as a chaotic anti-hero of borderline evil, and Liu Bei is lauded as the Defender of Justice. Amusing line of the week- “let’s rob him and go away”.
School Rumble 2nd Term 16: Poor Harima- not only is he behind on his script, thanks to Tenma’s misunderstandings, he gets thrown out of her house, and ends up wandering the streets. Fortunately, Mikoto offers to let him stay at her place, provided he disguises himself as a worker; unfortunately, Eri is also staying there- cue some hilarious misunderstandings. This episode was a bit of a slow burner overall, but I have to admit I was laughing out loud by the time it got to the bathroom scene.
REC 7.5: REC’s TV run ended a while ago, but this DVD-only episode slots in between the TV episodes seven and eight. Poor Matsumaru finds himself looking after a drunken Tanaka following a break-up with her boyfriend, leaving a jealous Aka to threaten Divine Punishment. It’s more of the same, but a worthy enough addition to the series. I’m still in two minds about whether I’d like to see a second season; presumably it would be based on manga volume two, and so far I haven’t enjoyed that as much as the first volume and season.
Bokura Ga Ita: A poor man’s soba noodles version of Kare Kano; typical slightly ditzy but good natured girl meets inscrutable guy who is bound to call her an idiot no matter what she does, but will admit his feelings for her later on. The character designs are simplistic whilst lacking in the clean deftness of the studio’s other work, and whilst the story advanced reasonably far in this one episode, none of it managed to enthral. Sitting through this instalment was a chore, so I won’t be subjecting myself to more.
Tsuyokiss: What little enthusiasm I had for this series has cooled in the wait for a subbed version of episode two, hence it is quietly dropped from the viewing schedule.
Ah! My Goddess Sorezore no Tsubasa: The jury was out on this for a while but has finally decided that no one should subject themselves to more, and more, and more of the same. How many more times do I need to see goddesses make trouble for Keiichi, whilst Belldandy plays doormat in the corner?
Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle 102,122: 102 continues the Rekord story at frustratingly slow pace as Syaoran and co. explore the central library. Jumping forward, 122 commences a battle between real Syaoran and his evil, eye-stealing clone; Fei Wong continues to watch.
Fruits Basket 118, 123-4,129: I really shouldn’t read chapters out of sequence, but what the hell. This time last year, Furuba was my favourite manga, but by now it really has gone on too long; everyone and their vaguest acquaintance has drowned in angst and by now it’s just time to put a stop to it all. Expect a Furuba rant soon.
Saiunkoku Monogatari extra: A brief side story; interesting, but not enough for the good SaiMono manga fix I’ve been waiting for.
.hack//GU+ 3: I kept my expectations low for this, and whilst the story was fairly standard, I was pleasantly surprised by the character designs. This is the one place where Haseo and co. don’t look too bad.
Mai-Otome 20: There’s more F-cup fun as Ers realises her feelings for Manshiro (harem +1), cat Mikoto turns into catgirl Mikoto and Arika meets her mother. There’s one interesting titbit here- Meister Otome can use mechanical worms as signalling devices. It’s a small detail, to be sure, but one that adds a touch of complexity that the anime lacked (even if we have to have the worm crawling around inside Arika’s cloak).
Higurashi no Naku Koro ni: Watanagashi 4: I’m glad that the manga is going into more detail than the anime (I have no knowledge of what was and wasn’t in the original game), and this chapter was a case in point as we see Keiichi et al protect Shion from harassment at work, along with Keiichi’s realisation that Shion and Mion are indeed two different people. There’s a disturbing omake section at the end in which Keiichi licks some cream off the crotch of a customer’s jeans.
Kamisama Kazoku: I’m not sure why I chose to download the first chapter of the manga when I don’t even enjoy the anime that much, but I have to follow up my random whims. This chapter covers up the bloomers section of the first episode (Papa in bloomers is a sight no one should see once, let alone twice), and whilst story-wise it is 0.1% better than the anime, it lacks the OP, the one thing that makes the series worthwhile.