Winter/Spring 09/10 Initial Impressions GO!!!

This will be quite interesting, as I already see from many other intrepid bloggers’ initial impressions that this season has already left a bad taste in most people’s mouths. There are many that are saying that compared to the blockbuster offerings of this summer, there is a lot of excrement on this season’s schedule and you should steer far far away from any anime airing during this time period.

My view on this season, however, is considerably less negative (admittedly mostly because I’m pro-moe and pro-Hidamari Sketch, but I digress). Having now watched all the shows that have aired so far with the exception of Omamori Himari and Durarara!!, I think I can safely say that the season has some crap but not as much as people are making it out to be. So without further ado let us plumb the depths of said crap and–okay, that’s enough. I’m probably grossing you out. Sorry. Let us explore the season.

How should we rank them? From last to first? From shortest to longest, from best to worst?

Let’s go in a random order.

Ladies versus Butlers!! – This was, I think, unfortunately, the first show I started out with. The “servant school” aspect definitely appealed to me though I couldn’t help but think of all the other specialized schools I’ve visited: the pastry school, the culinary school, the magic school, the art school; overall, it’s definitely a genre that’s been done. Now this is not a bad thing. After all, if I actively avoided all recurring anime cliches/tropes then I really wouldn’t be watching much of anything, not to mention I love the school genre to death. I can think of many ways a school about servants and the implied lady/butler conflict could be interesting, unique and funny, therefore I was looking forward to seeing what it had to offer.

Unfortunately what it had to offer was “not much”. Speaking from the story-loving side of me:

“This honestly might be the worst debut episode I’ve ever seen. The episode had ladies, all right, but that’s pretty much it. First impressions are important for series, and whether or not that was its intention, this series gave me the impression that it was a by-the-numbers fanservice show. No wonder people were so quick to write it off. The reason why I think this series has more to it than that, though, is because this is based off a popular light novel, and last I checked light novels had to include some kind of STORY. HOWEVER the last few minutes of the show really did redeem it for me as I do love a good torturous relationship. Here’s hoping the story branches out more into unseen territory.”

Speaking from the fanservice-loving side of me:

“This was a totally awesome debut. Girls in various states of undress really makes a series for me. It will sell a million copies and go on to beat Bakemonogatari in Blu-Ray sales. The amount of lolis in this show was loliriffic. Croissant-twin-drill girl was pretty cute but the hottest was the one that nonchalantly stripped down to her bra and panties right in the middle of the classroom and smiled afterward, as if nothing happened. And God, that childhood acquaintance! She was SEXY! Did you see her? She was awesome. Man, if I were only that guy. I’d like to–”

OK, perhaps we shouldn’t let that side out that often.

To sum up the two sides, I enjoyed the fanservice, but there needs to be at least some story in a pilot episode. That’s why, as I never drop anything, I will be continuing this, giving the series as many chances as it needs to impress me. It has nothing to do with how attractive those ladies are. Honestly.

So-Ra-No-Wo-To – There is not much to be said about So-Ra-No-Wo-To that hasn’t already been said about it. You’ve probably heard all the rumors that A-1 is secretly another branch of KyoAni and that they are continuing their widespread domination of moe by using the combined sales of all their popular franchises and now So-Ra-No-Wo-To in order to build a “moe cannon” which in an ironic twist will instantly make all viewers view everything but moe as “trash” and will give KyoAni enough funds to buy the Galapagos Islands, where they will be stationed while in the planning stations of the worldwide phase. Or you may have just heard that So-Ra-No-Wo-To resembles K-ON! slightly.

Either way, what you have heard is absolutely true. So-Ra-No-Wo-To looks, behaves, and feels so much like K-ON! it’s like you’re looking at the characters in an alternate universe, with a military backdrop and brass instruments instead of rock ones. It’s pretty clear when you’re watching it that even the character personalities are cribbed. I found Yui, Mio, Mugi, Azu-nyan, and even Sawako. The only one I couldn’t find was Ritsu, but maybe she’ll show up later.

OK, actual plot. So the plot isn’t bad. The debut episode was actually very good. All the elements people like were bundled up into one here. The moe is strong with this one. Kanata Sorami is a name to remember, because if she doesn’t win SaiMoe 2010 already I’ll be surprised. She is obviously Yui. She speaks like Yui, she moves like Yui, she’s (initially) terrible at her instrument like Yui, she’s Yui. She’ s as cute as a button in those oversize military clothes, but she’s even cuter with them off (yes of course there’s more fanservice). A lot of the appeal of the episode is just watching her be a girl, and there’s nothing bad about that. To boot, there’s also an interesting story dealing with an ancient spirit underneath the town they’re stationed at, and the festival they hold in order to appease it. It’s not real clear at the moment but it will probably make more sense in future episodes. I cannot comment on the animation as I watched this in VLC player and it hiccuped all over the place, so yeah. But it was probably very good. Once again, I’ll be watching this one.

Ookamikakushi – Hoo boy. Here’s one of the big ones, one I was looking forward to. So if you didn’t know, this was originally based off a visual novel which was directed and written by Ryukishi07, and had character designs by Peach-Pit (of  DearS, Rozen Maiden, Zombie-Loan, and Shugo Chara! fame). This, to me, was already a recipe for awesome. I was eagerly anticipating this for a long time.

Now, it’s finally out. And what can I say? It’s obvious that this is Ryukishi07. We have a happy, cute, and romantic little exterior, but a violent and vengeful interior. We see innocent, pure characters get turned into beings seemingly possessed by demons, we have characters that are dabbling in the occult, we have feuding villages, we have a new boy transferring into the town, we have murders, and we even have the dreaded “transferring out”. I would say at this point that this is like Higurashi but I’ve learned to trust Ryukishi07 to never make the same story twice. Hopefully this trust will not be in vain. After all there does seem to be some new girl with a cool circular scythe. That’s got to count for something.

Baka to Test to Shokanjuu – Actually, this series deserves its own post. I’ll write about it later but just know for now that I really, really liked it.

Chu-Bra!! – Another series that might indeed deserve its own post, but for a different reason. I’m sure a lot of people wrote this show off from the very beginning; after all, it does have “Bra” in the title and the premise does indeed have to do with lingerie, more specifically starting up a lingerie club for underwear enthusiasts. Folks, this is what you call the proverbial “bottom of the moe barrel”. When the industry pulls out fare like this, it’s almost like it’s sending out its own SOS signal (or SOS-dan signal, depending on your view of Haruhi). Even as a moe fan I recognize this. Really, with this, either you love it, tolerate it, or you hate it. I’m more in the “tolerate” camp but I’m not going to say the episode wasn’t enjoyable. However, I can’t see the novelty of the premise lasting on for 12 or 13 episodes. What I do see is that for me, I may be taking an unexpected travel from from the “tolerate” camp to the “OH MY GOD WHAT DID I GET MYSELF INTO” camp.   But such is life, and such is the things I get myself into when I refuse to drop series. Who knows. Maybe it’ll surprise me.

Dance in the Vampire Bund – Bravo Shinbo and SHAFT. I haven’t read the source material but from what people are saying you really took some liberties with this one. Personally, I love it. It reminds me of that time when a certain studio called KyoAni made a certain show called Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu and flipped the order of the episodes around so that no one had a clue what to expect and first-timers were treated to a rather poor B-movie that made absolutely no sense. I love it when studios troll their audience. I loved Endless Eight for that purpose (go on, shoot me). And now SHAFT is doing it too. So bravo.

I did at least know the main characters of Dance in the Vampire Bund, and the way they were introduced in the anime was absolutely brilliant. Mina, the loli queen of the vampires, was in the audience rather than being the main character, and the male lead (forgot his name) only showed up in a brief interview. The vampire maids were brought in as special guests on the poorly-produced TV show. I also heard that the episode referenced forthcoming events in the story which I would also expect from SHAFT. So awesome show, guys. Just don’t drop quality on Hidamari, ‘k?

Hidamari Sketch X Hoshi Mittsu (3 Stars) – You already know my feelings on Hidamari Sketch. It’s Chicken Soup for the Otaku Soul. It’s the feel-good anime of the century, and will keep you warm in your otherwise cold and lonely life. Hidamari is life, love, and HNNNNGGGGG MY NUTBLADDER. The title says 3 stars, but I give it 8 billion stars. So there.

I’ll update this later with other shows airing as they come. Yes, that means you have more to read. No, you can’t leave. You can never leave…

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