The new season is almost upon us, and yet here I am, having failed to put together any kind of autumn (or, if you prefer, fall) preview whatsoever- and nor am I intending to. Aside from the fact that many people have already done a better job of it than myself, and that I’m simply too lazy to be bothered, past experience has shown that the series I look forward to the most often turn out to be utterly disappointing. After all, in previous seasons, I was foolish enough to expect something of worth from Black Cat, Jigoku Shoujo, Mai-Otome, Fate, xxxHOLiC, Tsubasa, .hack//Roots, Kamisama Kazoku, Binbou…well, the list goes on. Clearly the only way forward is to ignore the most anticipated shows, and only watch the more obscure or unappealing sounding series (does this mean that Bartender will end up being a good choice?).
Reviewed this week: Black Blood Brothers, Chevalier, Higurashi, Keroro, Ouran, ROTK, School Rumble, Tenchi Special, Utawarerumono, NHK, xxxHOLiC
…and in manga: Furuba, Mai-Otome, Melty Blood, Mushishi, Natsu no Arashi, Tsubasa, Uta, xxxHOLiC, Yotsuba, Zero no Tsukaima novel
*DROPPED* Black Blood Brothers 3: One of the lines in the BBB ED is “So tell me, tell me the reason why”, to which the follow up should surely be “why am I watching this?”. I’m not even going to pretend that I particularly knew or cared what was going on in this episode- characters talk, evil arrives, blonde shota gets kidnapped, various other things that might have happened when I wasn’t concentrating. There isn’t even enough parody potential to keep watching on that score alone; this is pure Innocent Venus “why bother” class.
Le Chevalier d’Eon 3: It may only on its third episode, but I’m already completely in love with Chevalier. Treacherously, I can see a clear way to parody it, but at the same time that doesn’t detract from the quality; somehow, the way that the series is presented makes even the most straightforward of scenes transform into something absorbing. This time around, Callon “John Smith” opposes the hero party, whilst Durand decides to take some independent action. I’m entirely impressed at how well the action scenes are handled in this series- it’s a refreshing change from the usual run of stills and half-hearted slashes.
Higurashi no Naku Koro ni 25: Poor Rena- not only does she seem to believe Takano’s ‘aliens did it’ notebook, but her skin is so paper thin that a few scratches can easily make it bleed. Whilst the police continue to search for her, Keiichi admits that he used to take pot shots at little girls, and Akane Sonozaki makes her first appearance. I may seem to just be picking out random facts, but that’s just how the episode seemed- various bits and pieces here and there, but no real feeling of plot progression. I’m already lamenting the lack of the seventh and eighth arcs in anime form, and will be resorting to game spoilers once the series concludes.
Keroro Gunso 57-8: Unfortunately, the second season of Keroro still isn’t living up to the first, and episode 57 does little to change that trend. The first half sees the older brother of Viper (the first alien faced by the reunited Keroro Platoon) return for revenge against the Kerons, but even having Dororo save the day cannot elevate this beyond mediocre. Part Two follows the adventures of the now giant-sized Keroro, but whilst it begins entertainingly enough, the joke quickly becomes overused when everyone else takes on gigantic proportions.
If anything, however, episode 58 is a level below even the season 2 standard. The first half, following a plan to take over the world via vending machine sales, is reasonably entertaining, but what little promise that segment shows is quickly blown by a dull second part in which Keroro trains Tamama in preparation for a match against Paul. This episode seems to epitomise the nature of season 2- that of seeing slightly inferior copies of your favourite characters trying to recreate the hilarity of season one, but failing to grasp the essence of what made it funny.
Ouran High School Host Club 25: The Ouran Festival is here, and with it, we finally get a glimpse into Tamaki’s past when his father and ‘wicked grandmother’ make an appearance, together with a girl clearly designed to drive a wedge between Tamaki and his beloved Host Club. It’s a refreshing change to have Tamaki cast as more than a blundering buffoon (not to mention seeing Renge in a calm mood), but whilst this episode is solid enough, it doesn’t reach the level of 24.
Romance of the Three Kingdoms 23: A new arc begins in the ROTK universe, this time pitting the grasping and ambitious Cao Cao against the pure and righteous Liu Bei (when Cao Cao kills someone, it is murder, but when Liu Bei does it, it is an act of justice). Following a sedate first half in which I began to wonder whether the hilarious subtitles were gone for good, the second half proves highly amusing- not just for the translation, but for the exaggerated reactions of the cast. Unfortunately, however, poor Sun Ce and the Kingdom of Wu have been relegated to the lands of off-screen.
*COMPLETE* School Rumble 2nd Term 26: School Rumble’s downward spiral comes to a halt in its final episode, which is not so much an ending as a non-ending and almost-reset. The episode basically consists of a particularly uninspiring round of misunderstandings and running around, whilst a flashback to Yakumo’s youth proves that she really should have murdered Tenma long ago. An uninspiring ending to a series that never lived up to its first season, and according to the final screen, School Rumble will go on. If it must continue in animated form, then hopefully it will be a brief OVA at most- I doubt the franchise has enough life left in it to create a worthwhile third season.
Tenchi Muyo Ryo Ohki OVA3 “Plus One” Special: Okay, so this has been out for more than a year, but this is the first time I’ve seen a subbed version available. The special is as underwhelming as the majority of OVA3, consisting of extensive exposition that clears up all the mysteries behind Tenchi’s mother, Noike, and anything else that needed addressing.
*COMPLETE* Utawarerumono 26: The end has come, and whilst it wasn’t great, at least it wasn’t as bad as feared. Dii and Haku battle, flashback mode establishes more of the events of Iceman’s time, Hakuoro says goodbye- the end. It’s a shame Utawarerumono never really lived up to its potential, but from this one anime, my entire addiction to the franchise was born.
*DROPPED* Welcome to the NHK 11: There comes a time when even the most masochistic of viewers must admit that watching anime is not about subjecting oneself to endless and tortuous pain- or, to put it more succinctly, I’ve finally had enough of NHK. Where the manga was fast-paced and bleakly hilarious, the anime has continually replaced dark humour with dull, endless monotony.
xxxHOLiC 23: Having thought that xxxHOLiC was going to be 26 episodes, finding out that it is only 24 brings with it an accompanying feeling of relief, although I am now worried that all the unused manga material is being saved for a second season. Anyway, this episode brings with it a new dose of tedium as Doumeki saves Watanuki from the life draining clutches of the mysterious woman, thus concluding the storyline from episode 22, and opening up all sorts of HARD GAY parody possibilities.
Fruits Basket 132: Furuba continues to crawl towards its ending in this chapter, which sees Akito reveal her true gender to all of the jyuunishi, followed by an angsty monologue before she seemingly commits to a relationship with Shigure.
Mai-Otome 28-9: Queen Mashiro’s (or rather Manshiro’s) coronation is finally here, which means it’s time for a gathering of assorted leaders and some tense exchanges between them. Where 28 acts as more of a setup chapter, 29 sees the beginning of a payoff, with the various antagonists making their move and a cliff-hanger ending. Since this is Otome we’re talking about, none of it can be said to be particularly good, but it seems to be leading up to a storyline that will be interesting by virtue of novelty alone.
*CATCH UP* Melty Blood 1-6: In manga form, Type-Moon’s fighting game becomes a sequel of sorts to Tsukihime, taking place one year later and seeing Shiki team up with Sion Eltnam, an alchemist and would-be vampire hunter. So far, little has happened outside of Shiki and Sion wandering around at night, and there’s a critical lack of substance to the story that makes it none too inspiring. Artwork is on the same level as the Fate/Stay Night manga, consisting of solid character designs, but simplistic shading and backgrounds.
Mushishi 9: Since the first 26 chapters are the same as what we’ve seen in the anime, this is yet another familiar segment, this time about a man chasing after a rainbow-like mushi. Since Mushishi can do little to no wrong, this is an enjoyable chapter, and as always I’m eagerly looking forward to more.
*NEW* Natsu no Arashi 1: Usually when I add a new series to this line-up, I try to give some idea of the plot, but to be honest I’m not entirely sure what was going on in the first chapter of Natsu no Arashi. To strip it down to the bare essentials, our 13 year old hero (presumably) comes to a café, meets up with a beautiful high school girl with strange powers, and for some reason gets invited to come and live with her- on top of that, however, there are various other elements, and it isn’t entirely clear what is and isn’t going to be important in the long run. Nonetheless, it’s from the creator of School Rumble, so for that reason alone it gets a fair chance.
Tsubasa Chronicle 129-30: Sakura equips her Gunner Dressphere and heads out to face the trials of the desert alone (can she possibly manage by herself), Kamui and Fuma discuss their plans in the hopes that their arc and existence actually have some meaning, and Fye finally wakes up. It’s all building up to something, but at the current pace, that something may not actually occur for a while.
Utawarerumono 4: Every chapter of the Utawarerumono manga is fairly pointless, and this one, in which Hakuoro visits the New Year festival and literally unmasks an impostor, is equally so. In particular, the artwork seems to have taken a turn for the worse; the mangaka can just about manage Haku and the harem, but s/he really flounders when it comes to portraying the other males- Benawi and Kurou are near unrecognisable.
xxxHOLiC vol 9, chapter 5: Picking up where the last chapter left off, this instalment sees Watanuki meet up with the youthful spirit medium once again, and begin to strike up a bond with her. An interesting enough read, but I remain cautiously hopeful that this storyline will actually lead somewhere.
Yotsuba&! 40: Having decided that Fuuka must get her fair share of the delicious milk, Yotsuba boldly follows her to school in an attempt to deliver it- cue much hilarity as our pint-sized heroine not only ventures out on her own, but ends up wandering the confines of Fuuka’s school.
*New* Zero no Tsukaima vol 1, chapter 1: Having heard that the novel is not as critically flawed as the anime, it didn’t seem too much effort to give the first translated chapter a try. A mercifully brief instalment, the chapter covers Saito’s summoning and the beginning of his life as a familiar- it’s too early to judge overall quality, but so far I’m not experiencing the complete and utter turn-off that the anime induced.