I meant to watch the Keroro Gunso movie in time for this round-up, I really did, but unfortunately I have this mental block about watching anything longer than about 35 minutes. Yes, I could easily watch several 25 minute episodes back-to-back, and yes, I could tackle a longer feature in several sittings, but such logic cannot overcome my natural aversion to concentrating on one thing for that long.
Anyway, with that aside, a number of notable titles remain absent from the round up yet again, but the week manages to feel busy nonetheless. It is surely only a matter of time until the full deluge arrives.
Reviewed this week: Black Blood Brothers, Higurashi, H&C II, Keroro, Otogi-jushi Akazukin, Ouran, ROTK, School Rumble, Utawarerumono, NHK
…and in manga: Erementar Gerad, Furuba, Mushishi, Tactics, Tsubasa, xxxHOLiC
*NEW* Black Blood Brothers 1: The advance guard for the autumn season is here in the form of yet another vampire series, this one following the adventures of moody brother-abuser Alucard Jirou and his production-line blonde shota sibling Kotarou. The first episode contains the comforting familiarity of things you’ve seen many times before- ditzy policewoman, mysterious blonde, treacherous vampires- but at least the production values are good (CG bullets aside).
OP impressions: Something of a throwback to the eighties, but could become catchy over time.
ED impressions: An uninspiring and standard slow piece, seemingly written by someone who appreciates good themes but is unable to reproduce them.
Higurashi no Naku Koro ni 23: It’s slice-and-dice week on Higurashi as Rena whips the machete out and has a go at Rina and “uncle fugly” Teppei. As always, the blood flies thick and fast, and emotions run high- yes, it’s Higurashi just the way I like it. I’ve said it before, but there’s just something oddly absorbing and cathartic about watching people solve their problems in such an extreme fashion. Next time around, it looks like Oishi is on the trail again- what personality will he have this arc?
Keiichi is disappointed to have missed out on the killing.
Honey & Clover II 10-11: I can remember a time when Honey and Clover was good, in fact, a time when “best thing ever!” was not too far off the mark. This week, however, I realised that that time was over, and that instead of watching H&C, I was now watching H&C: the parody. Gone was any attempt at seriousness; instead, the whole thing seemed to have generated into poor jokes and a Hachimitsu to Battle-esque ‘rumble’ between Shuu, Morita and Takemoto in an attempt to take home their prized loli Hagu. In previous weeks, I have generally given H&C positive reviews, but now I must take all that back in favour of intense disappointment.
Unfortunately, having used my feelings about episode ten to fuel a Tuesday Rumble piece about a “Loli and Clover” battle game, episode eleven chooses to base itself around just such a game. Despite their efforts, both Morita and Takemoto lose out whilst Shuu gets the good ending- now all that remains is for him to enjoy his ending cut scene. Expect a more detailed rant soon.
A patient man, Shuu began working on Hagu from an early age.
Keroro Gunso 56: Although by no means bad when compared to some of this week’s offerings, this episode of Keroro can hardly be said to stand out. The first half is an average tale of a tennis match between Koyuki and Natsumi, which loses points for the return of the dreaded Dansu Masu and his afro beam, whilst part two is a bizarre yet oddly amusing tale in which swallows’ nests start appearing on everyone’s heads.
Otogi-jushi Akazukin 8-10: As fun as Akazukin can prove to be, I have to admit that the prospect of facing a triple bill was a little daunting. Naturally, as soon as the retro RPG-esque OP began to play, I felt more inclined to sit through all three episodes, featuring our heroes’ journey to Fandavale, complete with singing animals, an angry young man with a grudge against magic, a God Mode knight bound by honour and friendship, a young girl with faith in a monstrous flower, and all the usual cliché trappings. Nonetheless, I can’t help but enjoy myself when I watch this series- it does a better job of being an “RPG-based”-style anime than most series that are actually based on RPGs.
Ouran High School Host Club 22-3: Ouran pulls off a two-part story in this pair of episodes, centring on Kasunoda, a yakuza heir who longs to become more approachable. 22 covers the Host Club’s attempts to fulfil his request, and manages to be hilarious due to their infectious enthusiasm as much as any real humour. Whilst still enjoyable, however, 23 is the weaker of the pair, featuring Kasunoda’s return to the Host Club after accidentally discovering Haruhi’s true gender and realising that he has feelings for her.
Romance of the Three Kingdoms 21: Another week, another episode of ROTK, another excuse for me to put together screencaps of the hilarious subtitles and call it a blog post. This time around, the episode moves from hilarious, through tedious, and finally back to hilarious again, as Lu Bu, Liu Bei and Cao Cao pit their generics against each other, and a young boy makes far too many appearances.
School Rumble 2nd Term 23-4: The last few weeks have brought us both extremes for School Rumble- there was the hideous mess of episode 21, and the solid enjoyment of 22. 23 lies somewhere in between, combining an amusing tale about Tenma and her friends going on a skiing trip, with a less engaging story about Lala suddenly getting overcome with the desire to go ice skating (for some reason, this first involves her smashing her washing machine).
Whatever good was done in 22-3 is soon erased by 24, however, an episode on the level of 21 (if not below it). This pointless and painful filler-fest sees our cast stranded after a midwinter cruise, whilst Hanai ends up with a tribe of main character look-alikes. I cannot express how poor this episode was (although that won’t stop me from trying) – I think I would have preferred watching 25 minutes of black screen.
Utawarerumono 24: This was the part of the game that seemed to require the most explanation, and unfortunately, if not surprisingly, the anime has gone through it too quickly for it to seem anything other than laughably ridiculous. Kuuya is defeated easily (where is her Avu Kamuu gauntlet of evil?), Dii appears, Hakuoro turns into his monstrous form, and everyone else gets to stand around offscreen. The animation also seems to have taken a turn for the worse, although hopefully the finale will make up for any budget saving seen now.
Welcome to the NHK 9: The red has been absent from my round-ups for a few weeks, but now NHK teeters on the brink once again, with this dull episode about Satou’s growing feelings towards Misaki, and Yamazaki’s problems with women. Aside from the usual painfully slow pacing, the main problem here is that the changes to Yamazaki’s characters between manga and anime make his woman-hating streak that much less credible.
Unfortunately the way to SaiMono chapter 4 is closed to me unless I become a regular member of a particular forum (or wait until it appears ‘elsewhere’), so that will have to go on hold for now.
Erementar Gerad (Elemental Gelade) 22: After Cisqua’s ill-advised attempts to defeat Greyarts by firing missiles everywhere, Rowen steps up to continue the battle, albeit in a way which involves both sides standing around chanting spells at each other. This is standard shounen action in every sense- attempted humour, giant explosions and flashbacks to important lessons learned in previous years.
Fruits Basket 122: I’m happy to announce that Fruits Basket 122 plugs one of two gaps in my reading of the series, as well as tying up the events of Tohru’s accident. Akito seems oddly out of character here, suddenly becoming concerned and afraid instead of angsty and evil.
Mushishi 11, 34: Fortunately, Mushishi is the home of standalone stories, so reading chapters out of sequence isn’t as ill-advised as my usual ventures. Chapter 11 is the “Sound of Rust” story seen in anime episode 23, and is as highly enjoyable but not quite top tier as that episode. 34 is actually the first of a multi-part story featuring a rival mushishi with a troubled backstory- I can’t say I knew exactly what was going on, but an interesting chapter nonetheless.
Tactics 8a: I’ve yet to read the end of chapter 7, but trifles like that have never stopped me before, (see above). This chapter introduces Kantarou’s rival Hasumi, a scientific scholar with no time for tales of demons and goblins as the two compete to be first to find a “Kappa’s ladle”. As always, the artwork is superior, the story is entertaining (despite the excessive swearing), and Kantarou is a cruel and selfish master.
Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle 128: Did I say I thought X-world was finishing soon? Like Kuuya, I must change my mind, because this chapter seems to indicate that it could drag on for many months to come. This time around, we are treated to another revelation about the “X characters who aren’t the original X characters”, before Sakura heads out into the desert alone to complete some unspecified task. Unless it’s an incredibly easy mission, Syaoran etc will be along to rescue her within a few pages.
xxxHOLiC vol 9, chapter 4: Another short chapter this week, but one that seems to herald the start of a new story thread with the introduction of a youthful spirit medium and her overprotective mother. Little actually happens in this chapter, but as always I’m eager to see what happens next (although it does occur to me that xxxHOLiC could stand to develop some of the other storylines it has briefly toyed with).