Autumn Season Pick and Mix

It won’t take a genius to realise that this autumn has seen my enthusiasm for anime and thus the blogging of it fall to dangerous new lows. Were the combined forces of illness, dancing, family commitments and the need to get off my backside and apply for graduate courses all going to inspire to ensure the death of the one once (and in fact still) known as Karura? Of course not, for with the suggestion that the Dark Assembly collectively tackle the autumn season so that joint blogging once more became more than a mere theory, inspiration returned at long last. And so it is that this post came to exist, a perhaps pointless stroll through the unique achievements of the Autumn 2007 anime season.

Kaiji’s take on Rock-Paper-Scissors

Rock-Paper-Scissors is a staple of anime, but even the tournaments of Hunter X Hunter couldn’t elevate it much beyond a simple game of luck. With that in mind, could any series possibly make something more of rock-paper-scissors, and if they did would anyone actually be interested enough to watch it?

Enter Kaiji, a series that promised to once again unite the abilities of Studio Madhouse and mangaka Nobuyuki Fukumoto as the successor to last year’s Akagi. Dripping with manliness and yet oddly compulsive nonetheless, Kaiji offered a whole new angle on what was once a straightforward game- “Restricted Rock-Paper-Scissors”- ensuring that instead of switching off in boredom, the game had enough twists and turns to keep you watching for episode upon episode.

How to play Restricted Rock-Paper-Scissors

  1. Get into serious debt with the Yakuza, and agree to spend a night gambling on their ship, the Espoir.
  2. Before you even find out what you’ll be playing, borrow anything from one to ten million yen from your hosts- this money (plus interest compounded at 1.5% every ten minutes) must be paid back alongside the original debt at the end.
  3. Now the game proper begins- each player receives three stars and twelve cards (four rock, four paper, four scissors). To “survive”, you must get rid of all your cards whilst retaining at least three stars within the game’s four hour period. Stars and cards can be bought and sold, but losing all your stars or destroying cards results in instant disqualification and two years spent in a forced labour camp.
  4. Happily, you don’t have to just rely on luck- team up with other desperate people, manipulate or scam them, and you too can come out on top. Just be warned that everyone else will be trying to do the same to you, and pay special attention to named characters- they will pose more of a threat than generics.

So there you have it, a fun and wholesome party game that can be enjoyed by you and your friends! Join us after Kaiji’s next arc for some more gaming ideas.

How Minami-ke made beach episodes good again

Beach episodes, cross-dressing and other events in the daily life of three school age sisters inexplicably living without their parents- hadn’t we seen all this in anime before? And by now, weren’t we all more than a little fed up with the clichés they entailed? It seemed as if that must surely be the case- at least until Minami-ke came along. Just like Ichigo Mashimaro before it, Minami-ke takes everyday situations (everyday in an anime context, anyway), and uses distinctive characters, well-timed delivery and a healthy dose of humour to make them oddly interesting and addictive to watch.

Recipe for three sisters living on their own

  1. Who needs older relatives? Don’t bother explaining where parents or guardians might be; everyone knows school age children can support themselves without any significant source of income- in fact, only the unluckiest ever have to take on occasional part-time jobs.
  2. Get things started with a smart and sarcastic younger sister- wise beyond her years, her vanilla taste is curiously addictive, but when mixed with the other sisters, it produces an even worthier combination.
  3. Flavour with a loud and boisterous middle sister; her presence will spice up any situation, but overuse can lead to a food fiasco..
  4. Balance the taste with an older sister who is motherly, caring and generally unaware of her effect on other people. Her delicate flavour can only be brought out by including her with the others.
  5. Finally, stir in a bunch of assorted friends, classmates and potential love interests- leave to simmer and see what happens.

Remember Kanon vs. Air? How is Clannad faring?

Hard as it is to accept that so much time has passed, a little over a year ago, I pitted Kanon against Air, and concluded that while I enjoyed the latter, the former did very little for me. Now, however, a third “KeyAni” contender has entered the ring- the much anticipated and almost constantly talked about Clannad. Forget sad girls in summer or sad girls in snow- these are sad girls in springtime, and it is once again up to one man to tie all their stories together. Seven episodes in, and Clannad has established itself as somewhere in the middle of the road- it lacks the emotional impact of Air, but somehow manages to keep me entertained far more than the underwhelming Kanon ever did. Even Tomoya, despite being something of tease and practical joker, lacks the aggressive sarcasm and browbeating of Yuuichi, making him into a far more likable lead.

Tomoya’s Harem Diary

Having read up on all the exploits of the harem masters who came before me, I’ve decided not to pursue this whole thing too aggressively- down that road lies madness and far more stress than I want to deal with right now. Besides, what none of the others realised is that the girls don’t need to be reeled in- they’ll just come to you of their own accord. Certainly it’s working for me right now, and besides, if I play things casually I can easily extricate myself from any unwelcome relationships. My only worry is that no one is going to care about my situation because it’s just a rehash of stories that have been used before- how many times can comatose girls in hospitals send out their spirits to roam the local area?

Why Shogi isn’t grabbing me the way Go and Mah-jongg did

To the unitiated, the idea of watching a board game based anime must surely sound like the last refuge of those with nothing better to watch. As it turns out, however, both Hikaru no Go and Akagi are highly regarded amongst their fans with good reason- distinctive characters, well thought out pacing and some interesting situations all came together to prove that yes, you could watch many episodes of people playing Go and Mah-jongg, and still be up for more.

As the third title in this unofficial set, Shion no Ou instantly commanded high expectations, but would a shougi anime prove to have the same appeal? So far, it would seem not.

Whilst it surely doesn’t help that I know even less about shogi than either Go (which I can actually play, albeit not well) and Mah-jongg (which Triad kindly led me through the nose with regards to the basics), Shion no Ou’s problem seems to be that it doesn’t even know exactly what it wants to be. Is it the tale of a prodigious shogi player, or a murder mystery spanning eight years? The answer seems to be both- and neither. Whilst the shogi side of things is often glossed over (one minute you’re in the middle of a match, the next thing you know it’s all been resolved off screen), the mystery elements are equally frustrating. Everything from the staid detective and all-too-nosy reporter to the creepy stalker, everything is just a little too by-the-book. Still, it’s early days yet, so perhaps Shion no Ou can still pull it out of the bag.

Some ideas for other board game based anime

  1. Snakes and Ladders: a tense game with everything to play for- can our hero roll the right numbers to make it up the huge ladder, or will his dreams be crushed by a slithering snake?
  2. Cluedo: our hero begins solving the whodunit murder mystery, only to realise that it echoes the mysterious death of his own father seven years ago.
  3. Scrabble: join in the stress and excitement of trying to master that all-important feat of putting down all seven letters on a triple word score.

Looking for your next dose of the mystical?

There’s something about supernatural series that always seems to draw an audience, but separating the wheat from the chaff (or at least the mildly palatable chaff from the completely dry stuff) can often be a painful process. To help you along, here’s a quick guide to some of the new supernatural series on the market this autumn.

The one to avoid- Rental Magica: With a milquetoast lead who can invoke god mode powers when the plot demands it, and a supporting cast of powerful girls with past issues and a crush on said lead, it was clear that this tale of renting magicians was never going to be much more than mildly entertaining. Unfortunately, it quickly slipped from even that mediocre position to something so unexciting that even paying attention to an episode became a chore. Don’t watch unless you have unexpectedly high amounts of time on your hands.

The one to try- Mokke: It may not be anything special, but Mokke at least has one thing to its credit- aside from the incredibly boring episode five, its episodic tales of the supernatural are at least entertaining. There’s nothing particularly ground-breaking or original here, but it’s typical bronze tier material.

Why cats will always make anime worth watching

Aria and YKK perfected slice-of-life, and it seems hard to imagine that anything could ever top them, but even so, it’s nice to dabble in other entries from the genre from time to time. One such series is Sketchbook ~full colour’S~, a peaceful tale of quiet girl Sora and her time in the school art club. To be perfectly honest, Sketchbook does try a little too hard to recreate the gentle atmosphere of a slice-of-life series, but it does have one trump card to play- a glut of furry, huggable felines. For a cat lover like myself, seeing so many of them is a real treat, and it truly proves the old adage that “fat cats make anime better”.

Microbes can be cute too

If someone had told me a few months ago that I would ever find microbes cute, I would tell them that they must have had a bit too much to drink- surely the likes of Aspergillus oryzae could never be described as such? Then Moyashimon came along and my outlook was changed completely- unrealistic as it may seem that anyone could see microbes, if they could, at least they had a certain charm. As the latest entry in the legendary noitaminA block, Moyashimon had to live up to the likes of Honey and Clover, and whilst it isn’t quite up in that tier, it is holding its own so far.

Second seasons: the good and bad

These days, every season seems to bring a sequel to a popular (or not so popular) series, and Autumn 2007 is no exception. Given my unhealthy fascination with second seasons, it seems only right to rate the current crop.

The Good- Genshiken 2: Watching the exploits of a group of otaku university students was never as entertaining as it was in Genshiken, and after so many false starts with regards to a second season (first we had a Kujibiki Unbalance TV series, then an all too brief OVA), fans finally got what they had been waiting for. With even its filler episodes proving to be enjoyable, Genshiken 2 has managed to keep the series very much alive and well, developing characters both old and new along the way.

The Bad- Shakugan no Shana II: Whilst it seemed good enough at the time, I have to admit that in retrospect, the animation was really the only thing I loved about Shana. The villains were underwhelming, the jokes and harem elements a little too repetitive- all in all it wasn’t bad for watching once, but it wasn’t something I wanted to buy on DVD to see again and again. Nonetheless, with franchise completion at stake, I resolved to try the second season, only to discover that it was a fillerific experience with little new to offer. The action scenes that might have saved the series were nowhere in evidence, whilst the good old love polygon was beginning to tire thanks to the introduction of a “not so new really” new character stereotype and a “you didn’t hear me confess, let’s pretend it never happened” moment.

If you enjoyed this, also try…

Can’t get enough of the Autumn 2007 anime season? Well, you could of course watch more episodes, but why not spend your time reading the doubtless superior posts my fellow blogworld members have constructed instead? Here are some links to get you started.

a stone and a small ripple | Anime Diet | What is eternity doing tonight? | The End of the World | Hige Vs. Otaku | far away no where | nirai kanai | Cruel Angel Theses

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9 Responses to Autumn Season Pick and Mix

  1. Pingback: nirai kanai » Blog Archive » Woah! We’re halfway there! Woah! Livin’ on a prayer!

  2. Pingback: Anime Diet » Fall 2007 season - the fall of Otaku

  3. Pingback: From elitist to apologist: “Social watching”, and why Autumn’s quantity isn’t a bad thing » Cruel Angel Theses ♪

  4. manga says:

    Where´s Da Capo 2? :p

    As usual a great post written. Don´t really like Kaji, have they gotten themselves away from the rock-paper-scissor game? When I saw that they spent a whole ep just explaining stuff I left it.

    Shion no Ou is to much focus on police work/murder than Shugi, which is kinda boring. Hikaru no Go was wonderful. But the manga is better 🙂

    Shana was quite good. But mainly because it was much tsundere and good action. Of the two eps I watched of Shana 2 well I hated them, same enemies, same stuff. Not much new, except for Shana wanting to be all lovedovely with Yuji or whatever the male lead´s name is..

  5. Pingback: Anime Diet » Romance, Drama, and Trauma: A Tentative Mid-Season Reflection

  6. Pingback: The End of the World » Autumn season 07: preconceptions and the element of surprise

  7. nooneofconsequence says:

    Rental Magica is nowhere near as bad as you describe it to be. It may not be outstanding or revolutionary, but it does everything well enough to be entertaining and not come off as mediocre.

  8. Xerox says:

    Agreeing with nooneofconsequence. Rental Magica is pretty good. Why does everything need to be “Omfg amazing” for it to be a decent show?

  9. 0rion says:

    This is quite simply the funniest and most awesome post I have read in weeks. Not counting my own, of course. 😉

    I can’t even point out all the lines that made me laugh, there’s way too many. 😛

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