Big change coming soon!

As any of you that actually follow this blog will have noticed, my update frequency has been less than stellar over the past few months. Things have been pretty busy around the home front and I haven’t had time to keep up with the scope that I set-up for myself here at The Zen Of… blog.

The bad news: things just got even more crazy at home, with some nasty flooding issues and potential foundation repair clouding the near future.

The good news: I will soon be joining the staff of an established anime blog, doing episode reviews for some of the new shows each season, the occasional full season review of a “just finished” anime or new release (or old-standby) BluRay/DVD, manga, light novel, or game. The T’s aren’t crossed nor the I’s dotted yet, but it will be happening sooner than later.

So, what will happen to The Zen Of… blog? Since it is a free blog for which I have never paid a cent, I see no reason not to keep it here. The purpose of it will change, as my anime reviews and things of that nature will be going on the other blog, but I will still check in here and post musings on the nature of the universe or other things that strike my fancy, just not very often. I will also post a link to the new home for my anime writing once the move is complete.

Thank you for reading over the brief time that I have been here and continue checking in if you feel like it.

Final Fall 2012 Simulcast Rankings

Well, it’s been far too long, but I have finally written my Fall 2012 final simulcast rankings. There was a lot to enjoy in the Fall season, and the best of the bunch are not over yet!

Final Fall 2012 Simulcast Rankings:

Tier 1:

1. Psycho-Pass

Episodes watched: 11 – Streaming on Funimation.

Episodes for this review: 6-11

Current Rating: 5 of 5

Psycho Pass continued to get better as the season progressed. By the end of the fall season, the show had gotten through the dirty work of introducing the world and most of the characters, though there are still a few who have yet to have their back-stories presented, and gotten to the main villain and the main story that I expect it will follow for the rest of the show. The villain is a particularly well done, suave-evil type and the main issue appears to be the Sybil System, which is the computer system that runs everyone’s lives, including reading their Psycho Pass values (also called “hues” as they are represented on a basic level as colors that are either clear or cloudy. Cloudy hues are the ones that put you in danger of becoming a latent criminal.)  It is made clear over the course of the season that the system not only judges everyone’s mental health, but also places individuals in jobs based on their capabilities, and the vast majority of people in society accept the judgement of the system without question. There is also a small amount of info about  a condition where people go into a sort of vegetative state, where they cease to respond to those around them. It is strongly suggested that this is due to overuse of chemical mood enhancers, anti-depressants, or possibly just an outgrowth of the complete lack of self-motivation brought on by the system.

The story seems to be headed toward a fantastic, nasty, dystopion shock to the system and I look forward to it with great anticipation!

2. Blast of Tempest (Zetsuen no Tempest)

Episodes watched: 12 – Streaming on Crunchyroll.

Episodes for this review: 7 – 12

Current Rating: 4.5 of 5 for each

Moving up to number 2, this show got more intense and more awesome as the season reached its climax with a bang and an event that will totally change the dynamics of the series for the second half. Through heavy use of flashbacks, we have learned a ton about Yoshino and Aika’s relationship, Mashiro and Aika’s relationship, and also a bit about Hakaze and her brother Salmon’s relationship. The story is well told, tightly plotted, and very well written, with heavy use of quotes from various works of Shakespeare, lending a classical feel to the entire enterprise.

As the series progresses, the big question of who killed Aika is still looming, but also the question of whether the Tree of Genesis, or possibly the Tree of Exodus, was responsible for her death ultimately, not to mention whether the two trees will be responsible for the end of human civilization as we know it! The concept of a “Mage of Exodus” is also introduced, and suggested as a possible suspect in Aika’s murder. (Though this may have happened in the first of the new season’s episodes, I don’t recall for sure… I am writing this a few weeks into the new season, after all…)

Blast of Tempest continues to impress, and the characters of Yoshino and Aika, in particular, are wonderful!

3. The Pet Girl of Sakurasou

Episodes watched: 12 – Streaming on Crunchyroll.

Episodes for this review: 6-12

Current Rating: 4.25 of 5

The 2nd quarter of Pet Girl had its ups and downs. On the plus side, the character of Rita, Sorata’s British equivalent as “Mashiro’s caretaker” provided a great deal of plot and character development; the school cultural festival and the interactive anime created by the Sakurasou residents, with all hands pitching in with their own unique talents, was a wonderful arc; and the relationship development between Jin and Misaki was extremely well done. On the negative, we have the continued cluelessness of our protagonist, the unchanging inability to express her feelings of Nanami, and Sorata’s little sister (though the episode with her was mostly a mixed bag, with the annoyance of the character itself being balanced by the frenetic pacing and the obvious “we’re gonna toss cliches at you so fast that you can’t help but laugh at the sheer absurdity of it” attitude.)

The relationship between Sorata and Mashiro is more of a mixed bag as well, with some aspects being very well done. The climax of the season was a very satisfying scene, with Sorata coming as close as he has yet to admitting that Mashiro means more to him than just an annoying girl who he feels obliged to take care of. The show still has a lot of promise, but it lost a step along the way, and is really in danger of dropping down another spot, because…

4. Robotics;Notes

Episodes watched: 11 – Streaming on Funimation.

Episodes for this review: 6-11

Current Rating: 4 of 5

Much like Steins;Gate before it, Robotics;Notes takes a turn toward the serious and intense with the Kimijima reports, the mysteries surrounding the Gunvarrel anime and its last episode, and revelations about the Kill-Ballad cheaters that Kona is trying to catch with Kaito’s help. There is also the “monopole”, something that both the Grand Unified and Superstring theories of physics predict the existance of, which falls from the sky at Kaito’s feet. Everything seems to be tied together, with the Kimijima reports being the major key to unravelling the mysteries. The origin of the show as a visual novel adaptation shows up here, as Kaito starts helping girls with their problems, but it isn’t overwhelming and is handled as well as the same basic plot mechanism in Steins;Gate was.

The show has really improved since the beginning and it could reach similar heights to its predecessor in the Science Adventure series, but I wouldn’t bet on it. It will still be a fun ride, even if it doesn’t achieve the same level of awesomeness as Steins;Gate. Incidentally, one of the characters introduced in this section is also a character from Steins;Gate – Nae, the daughter of “Mr. Braun” the TV repairman who rents the lab space to the Future Gadgets Lab members is introduced as an employee at Jaxa who offers to help the robotics club with their robot. It is a fun connection between the two shows. I have also heard that another Steins;Gate character is at least mentioned, if not featured, in the show, but he has yet to make an appearance.

5. Kamisama Kiss (Kamisama Hajimemashita)

Episodes watched: All – Streaming on Funimation. (Recently announced for home video release.)

Episodes for this review: 7 – end

Current Rating: 4 of 5

Barely edging the others as the best of the season’s shojo romances is this fantasy romantic comedy about a girl who becomes a god. In the middle portions of the show I had my doubts about it, as it seemed to not go anywhere in particular, but in the final few episodes it stepped up and shone like a beacon of sweetness.

The events of the final episode, where Nanami comes close to renouncing her god powers, we see the true reason why Tomoe shies away from his obvious affection for Nanami, and she fully comes into her own as a land god and Tomoe comes a step closer to admitting his feelings. The very end of the show is likely what propelled it out of a tie with the next show on the list:

6. My Little Monster (Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun)

Episodes watched: All – Streaming on Crunchyroll.

Episodes for this review: 7 – end

Current Rating: 4 of 5

The only thing that holds back My Little Monster is the length. There is just too little of it and too little resolution of the various story-lines. I expect they will make another season, at which point the story will be more complete and won’t leave that “but wait… what happens next?” feeling. The show, to its credit, does acknowledge this lack of completeness by including a reprise of the opening segment of the anime where Shizuku muses over how much more she has to tell us about all of the characters in the show. If that doesn’t mean that they plan to make more, it will make me sad.

In the long run, this sense of incomplete resolution pushed My Little Monster behind Kamisama Kiss. However, consistently good story-lines, great characters, and a whole lot of well written and acted humor pushed it above the next show:

7. Say, “I Love You” (Sukitte Il na yo)

Episodes watched: All – Streaming on Crunchyroll.

Episodes for this review: 7 – end

Current Rating: 3.75 of 5

Say “I Love You” is kind of like a piece of hard candy. It is sweet and seems to have substance when you are enjoying it, the flavor and sweetness stay with you for quite a while after you’ve finished it, but, ultimately, you realize fairly quickly that you are still hungry after you’ve finished a portion. When you factor in some of the paper thin supporting characters and tired plot lines the show used in the later portion of the show, it starts to trickle down toward the 2nd tier of shows for the season. Frankly, the final episode nearly did drop it out of tier 1, not that the episode wasn’t fairly sweet and nice, but it would have been a really good transition between story arcs episode in the middle of the season. It was decidedly not a good, satisfying, or remotely acceptable way to end the series!

At least, in a show with a name like Say “I Love You”, I would expect it to end on a high note with, perhaps, a heartfelt real confession of undying passion on the part of the shy, almost tsundere at times, lead female. Instead we get Mei waffling about the status of their relationship more than is even remotely reasonable, Yamato joining her with wild speculation that he playboy buddy is putting the moves on his girl, Yamato’s sister going back to the bratty little bro-con monster, despite the fact that she long since realized that Mei is a lot like her and a good friend, and basically any actual relationship of personal progress that the characters appeared to have made over the course of the season being wiped out. A better ending may have made this a classic, instead it just makes me think, “Maybe I’ll have Chinese… It will fill me up longer than this!”.

Tier 2:

8. Sword Art Online

Episodes watched: All – Streaming on Crunchyroll.

Episodes for this review: 19-End

Current Rating: overall 3.5 of 5

Sword Art Online never quite recovered from the combination blow of 1) the loss of urgency with the defeat of the original game; 2) the loss of Asuna as a strong independent force who happened to be in love with Kirito and her relegation to “Damsel in distress” status; and 3) the icky factor of the whole bro-con thing. (Yes, I know she is really his cousin, but that doesn’t change the fact that they were raised as siblings. You just don’t stop being siblings one day because you find out that your brother is really your mom’s sister’s kid. It doesn’t change the fact that you have been raised believing he is your brother.) On the positive side, the character of Suguha at least recognizes that it is wrong to have the feelings she does, but it doesn’t change the fact that they could have done the story with better comic effect and emotional impact if they would have left out the actual brocon content and had her fall head over heals for Kirito in the game, only to find out that he is… EWWWWW! MY BROTHER? OMG! GROSS!!!! (Of course, the fact that their voices sound the same in and out of the game, Kirito looks identical to in and out of the game, and Kirito’s fighting style, after practicing Kendo with her brother, should have all made her realize who it was in an instant doesn’t help things at all.)

The end of the story has it’s ups and downs, with Kirito and Asuna being reunited, first in game, then in person, but somehow still aren’t allowed to show affection for one another, despite the fact that they appear to now be in a real life long term relationship. In addition, the amount of expostulation at the end left a fairly large gap between how I would want an action series to end and reality. (I won’t get into the incredulity of the actions of all of the SAO veterans at the end. Let’s just say that, if it were food we were talking about, and you ate something that made you violently ill and nearly killed you, you wouldn’t go to a banquet where that dish was the main course for a good long time.)

9. K

Episodes watched: All- Streaming on Hulu (from Viz Anime).

Episodes for this review: 6-End

Current Rating: 3.5 of 5

If there was ever a show that redeemed itself over the course of a season more than K did, I don’t recall it. This show went from a train wreck of a series, to a cleverly constructed and gorgeously drawn work, to a show that fell just shy of greatness, with an earnest amount of pathos and tragedy in the end. The revelations of episode 5 about the nature of the events that had occurred up to that point cleared up much of the WTF factor of the show. As it continued, we found more about the Kings, their origin, and the complicated unraveling of who, exactly, Yashiro Isana is, why he is important, and how he came to be at the exclusive school where most of the action takes place. The brief back-story portion about the first king and the advent of this magical system of the world folds nicely into the eventual resolution of the big questions about Yashiro, the Colorless King, The Silver King, and what is to be done to make everyone happy, or at least not mad enough to threaten the existence of the human race over the whole affair.

Suffice it to say282d5a4fc9a1454e6412e353fba388ba1336727450_full that I thought the story they told was a good one. There were some aspects of the story that seemed like they needed a bit more to hold them together than a 13 episode series could afford. However, on the whole, the story mixed humor, action, and drama in a good amount, tossed in a fairly large portion of gorgeous visuals of both the sublime and prurient variety, and was, from start to finish, entertaining, which, after all, is the point of the whole venture in the first place. And, it had Neko… Neko is Neko, and Neko is sufficient to make a show enjoyable to watch, all by her self!

Code: Breaker

Episodes watched: 8 – Streaming on Funimation.

Episodes for this review: 5 – 8

Current Rating: 2.5 of 5

Given that I have yet to finish this, you can do the math from there to figure out that it was not high on my priority list from last season. I intend to actually finish it some day, but not right now.

Nothing to see here… move along…

10. Shin Sekai Yori (From the New World)

Episodes watched: 2 – Streaming on Crunchyroll.

Current Rating: 3 of 5

It may seem odd to have a show rated 2.5 above one rated 3, but the sad truth is that I have yet to watch any more of this show, so I can’t in good faith move it up. It ended up at the bottom of the pile of shows from the Fall 2012 season, not due to quality, I’m sure, but just because it failed to draw me in in the first two episodes and got lost in the shuffle of a busy life. My son has watched all of it, continuing on into the Winter 2013 season and he assures me that I would like it, but the same can be said for several shows that he watches that I haven’t kept up with. For now, it is what it is. Maybe in a year or two…

Well, that’s a wrap for the Fall 2012 season. There were several very good shows and my favorites are continuing into the Winter 2013 season, which is a great thing, since they are a lot of fun and some very good stories. I encourage all of you to check out the shows on this list and chime in with your opinions!

2012 in review

I have been AWOL for the past couple of months, but the WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog. More posts will be up soon, including a Fall 2012 wrap post and a new list for the Winter 2013 shows, a review of the shiny new Waiting in the Summer DVD set that I got over the weekend (yes, over 2 weeks before it is officially released), and full season reviews for such shows as Tari Tari and the three shoujo manga adaptations from Fall 2012.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 1,900 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 3 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

Fall 2012 Simulcast Rankings – (11/13/12)

Well, it’s been a couple of weeks and it is time to rank the season’s simulcast anime again. Not a lot of movement, but we do have a new Tier 1 series, and it has moved ahead of some of the others. Without further ado…

Fall 2012 Simulcast Ranking:

Tier 1:

1. Psycho-Pass

Episodes watched: 5 – Streaming on Funimation.

Episodes for this review: 4 & 5

Current Rating: 5 of 5

Still the strongest one of the bunch, Psycho-Pass continues to push on with its distopian cyber-punk sensibilities. The recent arc with on-line avatars being taken over by a murderer was an excellent story, introduced the main antagonist (assuming the main antagonist is not actually, Kougami, the main male character himself… as in he is his own worst enemy…) and gave us a peek into Kougami’s past and a bit of explanation of the animosity between he and the male inspector.

There were a couple of plot issues with the arc, as in why the 2nd victim of the murderer didn’t get some protection, given her role in attempting to trap the guy, but that doesn’t really matter that much. The mood and pacing of the show are right on target, and the story is solid enough that it can withstand a few, “but wait? Wasn’t that a bonehead move?” moments.

2. The Pet Girl of Sakurasou

Episodes watched: 5 – Streaming on Crunchyroll.

Episodes for this review: 4 & 5

Current Rating: 4.75 of 5

Edging closer to the top, but retaining the number 2 spot is Pet Girl. The end of the first arc, which I have been told corresponds to the end of the first novel, was satisfying despite the obviousness of the conclusion. (Of course he was going to stay at Sakuraou! How else does the story continue!) It wasn’t where they were going that mattered, but how they got there. The revelations about Mashiro’s manga story line, the Tanabata wishes, the romantic tension for both of the potential couples in the dorm, and the way things resolved were sweet, charming, and very satisfying.

The next episode brings in the next complication: Nanami, the normal girl who is crushing hard on Sorata, moving to Sakurasou, bringing our main cast together in the den of insanity. The growth of her understanding of Sorata and Mashiro’s relationship and Sorata’s steps toward trying to realize his own dreams amid the insanity were well done and set up the tension for the next arc well.

3. Blast of Tempest (Zetsuen no Tempest)

Episodes watched: 6 – Streaming on Crunchyroll.

Episodes for this review: 5 & 6

Current Rating: 4.5 of 5 for each

Cruising along at number 3, this show delivered some major plot advancement, a mystery to solve, a new character, a ton of back story, and some seriously great moments over these two episodes. We now know more about Aika and her relationship to both Yoshino and Mahiro, we know a bit about the mage clan, and have had hints that our mage in a barrel is not exactly what she seems. Is it possible that she is really the danger to the world and her brother is acting in the world’s best interest in thwarting her?

There were so many things revealed in these episodes that would be massive spoilers, that I cannot in good faith go into details, but suffice it to say that Yoshino may not be the nice guy he appears to be, Aika may have been considerably more of a manipulator that it had appeared, and Hakaze may be something entirely different, and tremendously more dangerous, than she appears. Yoshino is the real enigma here… What are his motivations? Why did he do the things he did in these episodes? And why doesn’t he like celery?

4. Robotics;Notes

Episodes watched: 5 – Streaming on Funimation.

Episodes for this review: 4 & 5

Current Rating: 4 of 5

OK, with episode 5, this story leapfrogged some shojo romances and landed itself in the midst of the Tier 1 ranking! The resolution of the initial storyline and the introduction of characters is just about over it seems, and now the group is forming together and bringing on the weird! The game-designer girl, known as “Frau”, appears to be a bit of a broken bird. Her social skills are amazingly humorous, and her speech patterns are fantastically eccentric. The silver haired girl from the ED, Airi, has been introduced, and she is a really great piece of the giant collection of weirdness that is Kai.

Some of the relationship dynamics were on display in these episodes as well, with Aki showing obvious signs of jealousy over Kai and Junna, the karate club girl, going on a “date”. (Even though it was nothing of the sort…) The back stories of our main protagonists, the involvement of other characters, like the shop owner who uses robotic leg braces to walk and Aki’s older sister, and the dark conspiracy threatening the world were all on display in this set of episodes. I have some issues with timeline in terms of what happened when, but I hope it all becomes more clear as we go on…

Suffice it to say that Robotics;Notes took a giant leap forward with these two episodes, the most recent one in particular.

5. TIE
Kamisama Kiss (Kamisama Hajimemashita)
- My Little Monster (Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun)
Say, “I Love You” (Sukitte Il na yo)

Episodes watched: 6 – Streaming on Funimation, Crunchyroll, and Crunchyroll respectively.

Episodes for this review: 5 & 6

Current Rating: 4 of 5

Remaining tied, but moving behind the fast charging science adventure series, is our trio of shojo romance stories. Astute readers might notice that the order I put them in is different this week. that indicates the trending that each has shown and the potential direction they may head after the tie is eventually broken. In short, Kamisama Kiss, with its light hearted, sweet natured, fluffy and pleasant fantasy setting, with just enough of an edge to prevent sweetness overload, is poised to move ahead of the other two.

The primary reason for this is the continuing issues with misogynous-seeming content in both of the “realistic” romances. It is just enough to start them dropping behind the less realistic story of Kamisama Kiss.

The main relationship in Kamisama Kiss is a large portion of why it is such a joy to watch. The ups and downs of these past two episodes, the fantastically bizarre circumstances that continue to make our young land-god’s life a constant trial, and the wonderfully sweet budding romance story keep the show high on my priority list in terms of what to watch first each week.

My Little Monster also appears to be getting stronger, with a love rival appearing, a great deal of back story for Haru, and a bit of a better understanding of what makes Shizuku tick has kept me enthralled with this show. The bits of “I can’t believe he just said that” that crop up periodically are not that big of a deal with this show, and in fact, they have been used with flair, showing that some of the people around understand Haru’s lack of understanding of the finer points of social graces.

Say “I Love You” continues to be one of the sweetest stories around. New complications in the relationship between our two mismatched lovers crop up in these episodes, in the persons of a little sister, who may just be a bit of a soul sister of her brother’s girlfriend, despite her initial dislike of her, and a pushy model who appears to have transferred into their school specifically to bring the hyper attractive Yamato into her agencies clutches as a model that can stand up to her amazingness in front of the camera. The impact on Mei’s self-esteem is palpable, and hopefully short lived, as Yamato should be too attentive and sensitive a boyfriend to let his love feel unworthy of dating him. If they don’t handle it right, it could lead the show down the path to Tier 2.

Speaking of Tier 2… Their is no need for a 2nd article for those this week, as I haven’t seen enough of most of them to make further comments. What I have to say is as follows:

Tier 2:

8. Sword Art Online

Episodes watched: 19 – Streaming on Crunchyroll.

Episodes for this review: 18 & 19

Current Rating: overall 4 of 5 – recent episodes – 3.5 of 5

Sword Art Online continues on its path to questionable-love-interest-ville, but has some very nice action. The smarmy, squicky, smug villain is a bit over the top, and the story suffers greatly from Asuna being a game piece instead of a player. Leafa is an OK character, but the queasy feeling I get when the implications of the Leafa’s player’s real feelings doesn’t allow me to fully enjoy the story. Perhaps that is my problem and not the stories, but I don’t feel that it is.

9. Code: Breaker

Episodes watched: 4 – Streamig on Funimation.

Episodes for this review: 3 & 4

Current Rating: 2.5 of 5

The mixed-message style of this anime, with its inability to decide whether it wants to be gritty and real or funny and light, only got worse with these episodes. The blond haired, socially inappropriate sempai, with her pet names for and fondling of certain portions of Sakura’s anatomy, is a step beyond in terms of believable characters. It is as if she is a special needs kid who Sakura feels sorry for and allows to violate her personal space and basically molest her because she just feels like it would be mean to stop her. But the character is an upperclassmen at a fairly competitive high school and the daughter of a major political figure, so one would think that she would not be allowed to be so entirely inappropriate. However, reality holds no sway with this show, so it is just a recurring gag and a reason for the male characters to get in a little friendly sexual innuendo/harassment of our leading lady. Nothing to see here… move along…

10. Shin Sekai Yori (From the New World)

Episodes watched: 2 – Streaming on Crunchyroll.

Current Rating: 3 of 5

It may seem odd to have a show rated 2.5 about one rated 3, but the sad truth is that I have yet to watch any more of this show, so I can’t in good faith move it up. It almost moved down, becuase…

11. K

Episodes watched: 5 – Streaming on Hulu (from Viz Anime).

Episodes for this review: 5

Current Rating: 2.5 of 5

The plot line for K almost made an attempt to make sense in episode 5. There was a bit of expostulation about the color kingdoms and how the world is organized, a small amount of back story for a couple of the pretty boy magic wielders, and a bit of light frivolous cosplay while our protagonist agonizes over whether he is, in deed, the murderer from the video regardless of the impossibility of his being on campus when he was documented as being there and the time and location of the murder. If only the show showed signs that it was going to actually go to the trouble of fleshing out the myriad of minor characters and competing color legions it might actually become a quality story. As it is, it has potential when it focuses on comedy, with some of the finest slapstick comedy of the year occurring between our white haired protagonist, his black haired executioner turned assistant, and the lovable, lovely, and wonderfully created Neko.

Yep! Neko is worth the price of admission!

Other simulcasts that I haven’t watched yet, but plan to:

Busou Shinki
Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai!
Girls und Panzer
Ixion Saga DT
Magi
Onii-chan Dakedo Ai Sae Areba Kankeinai yo ne
Litchi DE Hikari Club

Simulcasts that I don’t intend to try:

Teekyuu
Btooom!
Aoi Sekai no Chuushin de
Gintama’ Enchousen
Hayate no Gotoku! Can’t Take My Eyes Off You
Hidamari Sketch x Honeycomb
Jormungand: Perfect Order
Medaka Box Abnormal
To LOVE-Ru Darkness
Hiiro no Kakera 2nd Season

Fall 2012 Simulcast Rankings – Tier 2

Fall 2012 Simulcast Ranking:

Tier 2:

(To read from the beginning of the rankings go to the Tier 1 rankings)

7. Robotics;Notes

Episodes watched: 3 – Streaming on Funimation.

Current Rating: 3.5 of 5

The followup to the extremely well done Steins;Gate, Robotics Notes takes place in the final time-line of that series. The basic premise, so far, is that the world has experienced a “robot boom” over the past eight years, (approximately the time frame after Steins;Gate that the story takes place based on the age of one of the characters that appears in both, I think…) and Chuuoutanegashima High School’s Robot Research Club is in danger of loosing its club status. Having only two members and needing funding to finish their giant robot, based on the robots in a famous anime and game series named Gunvarrel. The two make a deal with the vice principal of the school: if they win the upcoming hobby robot competition, Robo-One, they will get their funding. Otherwise, they will hang up their tools and the club will cease to be.

Our club members are Akiho Senomiya, a plucky girl with boundless energy and optimism, and Kaito Yashio, a slacker that doesn’t care about anything except for the robot fighting game, Kill-Ballad, which he plays constantly. At least that is what it seems like at first. It turns out that he does care about at least one other thing: Akiho. It seems that they have a shared past and her older sister, who founded the robotics club, made Kaito promise to look after Akiho. In addition, they both have some sort of strange illness related to the event in their past. In Akiho’s case, she experiences five minutes worth of time in the blink of an eye. It appears to be stress induced and quite debilitating at the time. It is unclear what the nature of Kaito’s issue is at this point, but I’m sure we’ll find out soon.

Only two of the other main characters have been introduced so far: Subaru Hidaka – a complete jerk who is also a robotics enthusiast, but doesn’t want anything to do with their club; and Frau Koujiro – the creator of the Kill-Ballad game. There is a mystery surrounding the never aired final episode of Gunvarrel and the issue of the clubs survival is neatly wrapped up in these first three episodes, which seem to serve as a prelude to the “real thing” as the show is just getting on its feet.

My take on this so far is that it could be the best show of the season, but it could also be a mess. The first two main characters introduced are good characters, though the mysterious illness thing is a bit of a disappointment, as that type of story line frequently strains the bounds of credulity too much for a show with pseudo-serious SF chops. However, if they can manage to explain these bizarre illnesses within the bounds of rationality, that will go a long way toward making the show work. It definitely doesn’t hit a home-run right out of the box like Steins;Gate did, but it is be unfair to compare it to the awesomeness that was the first few episodes of that series! It is good so far, but not as gripping as some of the shows in Tier 1. I have a hunch that the fun is just beginning though, so I expect this show to make the jump up by the next installment of this post series.

8. Sword Art Online

Episodes watched: 17 – Streaming on Crunchyroll.

Current Rating: overall 4 of 5 – recent episodes – 3.5 of 5

This returning favorite from the Summer 2012 season is still going strong, but has taken a hit in my overall estimation over the past few episodes. The end of the previous arc, and the SAO game, which corresponds to the end of the first novel in the light novel series, was a powerhouse, full of emotion and heroic action. The start of the next arc brings us back to the real world, where Kirito, whose real name is Kazuto Kirigaya, is trying to adjust to life among the flesh and blood, regain his strength after 2 years in a hospital bed, and deal with the fact that not everyone has woken up from their ordeal. In particular, Asuna Yuuki, his virtual wife, is still in a coma. Also dealing with this turn of events is Kazuto’s “sister”, Suguha, who is actually his cousin, as Kazuto’s parents were killed in an accident when he was very young. She has a brother complex about as big as a continent and is conflicted about her feelings for her cousin and the fact that she knows that he is head over heals in love with Asuna.

Eventually, Kazuto goes back to being Kirito, as he full-dives into another game. This time, he is not trapped in the game, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t someone who is trapped. Asuna is in that game, kept in a cage at the top of the “world tree”.

The Elf themed game looks fantastic, with flying and magic to provide some change of pace from the hack and slay of SAO, and the “new” character of Leafa is a well done piece of writing, at least so far. The new bad-guy that has trapped Asuna, and about 300 other people, is a little too over the top evil, but it will be satisfying to see him get what’s coming to him. The biggest issues I have with the story have to do with the massive brother complex that Suguha has and the inherent icky factor involved. Sure, they are cousins and not actually brother and sister. Sure, cousins in love is a fairly common thing in Japanese culture, not to mention the history of European culture when it comes to cousins marrying, especially in the royal families. (Not that the royal families of Europe are a sterling recommendation for the practice!) But the fact remains that, prior to the SAO incident, Suguha thought that Kazuto was actually her brother. (He found out shortly before he began playing the game, evidently.) The fact that the two of them were raised as siblings makes the siblings in an emotional sense and that makes a romantic love relationship between them unhealthy to say the least.

The set-up for the current arc also seemed to drag a bit. After the action and excitement of the endgame of SAO, perhaps that was needed, but I am happy that the show has moved back into the virtual realm. The returning character from SAO that Kirito “finds” shortly after entering the new game is a welcome addition, as she is one of the better characters in the series. I look forward to seeing how she aids our hero on his quest. The twist at the end of the most recent episode does hold some promise. There is also a fairly severe time limit placed on Kirito’s mission to save Asuna, so that suggests that the story will move along better now that the magic, flying, and swordplay have begun.

9. Code: Breaker

Episodes watched: 2 – Streaming on Funimation.

Current Rating: 3 of 5

I read quite a few chapters of the Code: Breaker manga in preparation for the anime when I read about it last spring. Unfortunately, the anime is just as stilted and fragmented of a story in the early going as the manga was. While I was prepared for this, it didn’t make my estimation of the quality of the show any better. The main female character Sakura Sakurakouji, is entertaining enough, and knowing some details about what revelations about her are yet to come makes her devilishly more entertaining than when I read the manga. However, the remainder of the characters we have met so far are practically unlikeable, particularly the main male character, Rei Oogami. He has practically no redeeming characteristics.

I will continue watching this show, though I may fall behind, as I have already read the manga. I did notice that the anime is not strictly following the manga, introducing some of the characters much earlier than they were introduced in the original. This is probably a good thing, as they may make more sense when the story gets to them this way. We’ll see…

10. Shin Sekai Yori (From the New World)

Episodes watched: 2 – Streaming on Crunchyroll.

Current Rating: 3 of 5

This series has great promise, but so far has not delivered on that promise, in my view at least. I enjoyed the first episode quite a bit, but I didn’t find it gripping. I was a bit disappointed in the second episode, as it did little to make the world more comprehensible or the characters more interesting. Some of the new information was interesting, but not enough to spur me to watch the next couple episodes yet. I will, eventually, but it is not high on my priority list. (Actually, I watched about half of the episode, but the player I was watching in failed, and I didn’t feel like re-watching that part, so I have to wait until I can watch it on the computer and can skip through the part I have seen, which is hard to do on the Kindle Fire version of the Crunchyroll app, which is where I was watching it.)

I have a hunch that the end of the current camping arc will raise the stakes of the show and improve the story, but I have to get there first. The first two and a half episodes didn’t help me do that very well.

11. K

Episodes watched: 4 – Streaming on Hulu (from Viz Anime).

Current Rating: 2.5 of 5

K… What can be said about K?

First things first: it is gorgeous! The art, animation, and most of the character designs are wonderfully done. The action sequences are exiting, the slice of life sections attractive, the background are stunning, and the female cast adorable. Second, the music: it is very good as well. The OP, with its selected English phrases, is reminiscent of a theme from a Bond movie. The ED, with its calm, soothing melody, ethereal background vocals, and pizzicato/harp instrumentals is a thing of beauty almost equal to Tabi no Tochuu from Spice and Wolf or Mitsu no Yoake from Spice and Wolf II, the gold standard, in my opinion, of this style of anime music.

What else is there to say? Not much that is pleasant, I’m afraid. As of the fourth episode, the story is lacking in coherence, originality, and likeability. The motivation of and relationship between the competing groups in the show is unclear at best. The majority of the characters are one dimensional, undeveloped, or intentionally enigmatic. Yashiro (aka Shiro) Isana, the “protagonist”, self proclaimed to be such in one of the episodes or episode previews, if I recall correctly, is either a clueless wonder, a multiple-personality case, or merely a psychopath. It is hard to tell which. Many of the other characters seem to be psychopaths, or at least psychics/magic users with no concern for the little people. The most recent couple of episodes have begun to try to make some sense of the plot, but it has  a long way to go before it could be called coherent. Far too many of the characters and plot lines are generic or inconsistent.

So why am I up to date on this show, when I am behind on the two shows prior to it in the rankings? One word: Neko! The character of Neko is a delight! (And not just because she spends a good deal of the first three episodes, as well as large portions of the OP and ED animation, naked.) The character of Neko is what I am talking about. Who is she? She is, simply put, a cat. She happens to be a cat that occasionally transforms into a very attractive young woman, but even after the transformation she is still, in essence, a cat. She is funny, endearing, and totally adorable. She obviously has some sort of magical/psychic powers, and they are fairly impressive powers at that, but for the most part, her concerns are the concerns of a cat. She is a loyal cat, who wants her master to be happy and safe, but she is far more concerned with when her next snack is due and who is giving it to her than with the problems Shiro faces or the reasons people are trying to kill him. One of the best moments in the show is when one of the other characters, whose efforts to kill Shiro have been thwarted by her powers, asks her what exactly she is. Her reply is “I’m Shiro’s cat! And Shiro is mine!” complete with very cat-esque jumping and cavorting, and a few more exclamations reaffirming this relationship. The fact that Shiro doesn’t seem to have any more clue about Neko’s origins than he has about the reason why so many people are trying to kill him adds to the enjoyment of the character.

I will have to admit that the revelations near the end of episode four do give me some hope that the story will improve. Whether it improves or not depends entirely on how they develop that revelation and whether they bother to do anything other than action sequences with the multitude of other characters that have been littering the screen for these past four episodes without a single bit of effort to make them anything other than plot contrivances and flashy, pretty things that move in attractive ways in front of our eyes to the accompaniment of an appealing soundtrack. However, regardless of the success or failure of the writers in terms of plot coherence, world building, or character development, I will be back for my weekly dose of Neko.

I have always been a cat person… ;)

Other simulcasts that I haven’t watched yet, but plan to:

Busou Shinki
Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai!
Girls und Panzer
Ixion Saga DT
Magi
Onii-chan Dakedo Ai Sae Areba Kankeinai yo ne
Litchi DE Hikari Club

Simulcasts that I don’t intend to try:

Teekyuu
Btooom!
Aoi Sekai no Chuushin de
Gintama’ Enchousen
Hayate no Gotoku! Can’t Take My Eyes Off You
Hidamari Sketch x Honeycomb
Jormungand: Perfect Order
Medaka Box Abnormal
To LOVE-Ru Darkness
Hiiro no Kakera 2nd Season

Fall 2012 Simulcast Rankings

This series of posts will be similar to the old column from ANN called “The Stream”, which has not ceased and is going to be replaced by a once a month special version of Shelf Life. I will post my personal ranking of the season’s simulcast titles, with a short review of some and a links to lengthier reviews when available. I don’t know how often I’ll update it. It depends on my time and motivation… Doesn’t everything? Without further ado…

Fall 2012 Simulcast Ranking:

Tier 1:

1. Psycho-Pass

Episodes watched: 3 – Streaming on Funimation.

Current Rating: 5 of 5

Set in a distopian near-future where people’s mental states can be read by machines and “criminal intent” is a crime in and of itself, our protagonists are, Akane Tsunemori, is a raw recruit just starting in the Criminal Investigation Department  (CID) and Shinya Kougami, and “Enforcer” who also works for the CID. Akane is a brilliant person who could have chosen any job she wanted based, but chose to go into law enforcement. Shinya is more of an enigma at this point. It is clear that he has a background in some sort of law enforcement, but has been assigned as an enforcer because his Crime-Coefficient is so high that he is considered a “Latent Criminal” and therefore is not allowed to roam free in society. His choices, along with the other Enforcers, appear to be total isolation from society/imprisonment or working for the government by helping hunt down other “Latent Criminals” in order to catch them before they harm innocent people.

Very much in the mode of stories like Blade Runner (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?) and Minority Report by Phillip K. Dick, with a mixture of cyber-punk sensibilities from authors like William Gibson (Johnny Mnemonic, Neuromancer, Virtual Light), this series, out of the mind of Gen Urobuchi (Fate/Zero light novel, Mahou Shoujo Madoka★Magica), shows huge promise for fans of distopian future stories, cyber-punk, and psychological thrillers. In other words, people like me! (Blade Runner is one of my favorite movies of all time, and I am a big fan of both Gibson and Dick.) So far, in the three episodes I have seen, the story has built its world and the female lead with style, flair, and a nice attention to detail. The art is extremely well done, from the dark, brooding city backgrounds to the high-tech designer cloths and room decor. The character designs are very reminiscent of another Shounen classic, Hitman Reborn and for good reason, the original character designer is Akira Amano, the creator of that manga.

The music is another strong point, with the in-episode soundtrack doing a great job of setting the mood. The OP, Abnormalize by the indie post-hardcore/progressive rock treo Ling Tosite Sigure is excellent, with a haunting feel to the vocals and a driving rhythm and strong guitar line. However, the real treasure musically is the soulful, yet hard driving Namae no nai Kaibutsu (Monster With No Name) by Egoist, the name of the fictional band from Guilty Crown, which Supercell uses for songs sung by their 2nd vocalist, Chelly. The mixture of soft, moody vocals on the opening lines with the power-pop synthesizers and up beat mid-section, then the abrupt slow down at the end is the perfect way to conclude an episode of this action heavy, yet highly introspective and thought provoking series.

I look forward to two seasons of this offering from the folks at noitaminA and Production I.G.!

2. The Pet Girl of Sakurasou

Episodes watched: 3 – Streaming on Crunchyroll.

Current Rating: 4.5 of 5

At first glance, this series seems to be nothing more than over the top, ecchi/slapstick comedy, with many of the familiar tropes of traditional shounen romantic comedy, with some hints of the harem sub-genre. However, by the end of episode 3 it is clear that, while bawdy humor, classic misunderstandings, and fan service are staples of the show, it is not all that it has to offer. It is also clear that the theme is much more the traditional love triangle/straight romantic comedy as opposed to harem, as the love interests of the various characters are exposed for all to see.

The show has a surprising amount of depth in both character development and story concept, considering the apparent frivolity of the basic concept. For a more detailed review of the first three episodes, check out some of my earlier blog posts for episodes 1 and 2 and the excellent and thought provoking episode 3.

3. Blast of Tempest (Zetsuen no Tempest)

Episodes watched: 4 – Streaming on Crunchyroll.

Current Rating: 4.5 of 5 for each

Taking inspiration from the works of William Shakespeare, this ambitious series could become a complete mess, or an instant classic.  Of special note with this series is the music. The OP, Spirit Inspiration by Nothing’s Carved in Stone, which is entirely in English, is a hard driving, powerful piece that sets the tone for the show well. The incidental music is also very strong. The ED, happy endings by Kana Hanazawa, who also does the voice of Aika, who is featured prominently in the ED animation, is a bit of a conundrum. It is a fantastic song, beautifully sung, but many feel that it doesn’t fit the show and breaks the mood that each episode is prone to end with by the change in tone. I am unsure of how I feel about the song at this point, other than the fact that, as a piece of music considered in its own right, it is wonderful and the singer does a fantastic job with it.  For a full review of the first four episodes, click here.

4. TIE
My Little Monster (Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun)
Say, “I Love You” (Sukitte Il na yo)
Kamisama Kiss (Kamisama Hajimemashita)

Episodes watched: 4 – Streaming on Crunchyroll, Crunchyroll, and Funimation respectively.

Current Rating: 4 of 5

If ecchi romance like Pet Girl isn’t your thing, this trio of shoujo romance series, all based on shoujo manga titles that debuted in 2008, may be right up your ally!

Each unique, they all share some things in common: sweetness, outrageously handsome leading men (in a shoujo manga way), sweetness, and highly likable, strong heroines who are caught in a “fish out of water” type situation, at least initially.

Did I mention that these shows are really, really sweet?

As a fan of romantic comedy who embraced his “inner teenage girl” years ago  (and I mean that in an entirely non-creepy way, if that is possible…) I am enjoying these three shows tremendously. They are all well written, unique in their own way, yet familiar as an old blanket that you like to cuddle up in while you watch a good, teary romance! Each show has its own flavor, though, as I commented in an earlier blog post, two of them share practically the same premise.

They each have their strengths and weaknesses based on their approach to storytelling.

Kamisama Kiss, being a fantasy story at heart, is helped by the wonderful mythology of land-gods and shrines that it gets to present, keeping the story fresh while it introduces the characters and their relationships. However, like all modern fantasy stories that use traditional Japanese mythology, it can seem a bit hard to fathom in spots for the foreign viewer, and some of the supernatural characters seem a bit one or two dimensional and are not allowed to escape from those dimension, at least so far.

Say “I Love you” has a strong sense of realism, with the type of back-stabbing and cliquish behavior among Mei and Yamato’s classmates and the honest approach to teenage sexuality setting the story apart. However, this strength is also part of the show’s weakness, as the characters, including the two protagonists, are not always likable or nice, though Mei is less likely to come across as a jerk than the rest of the cast. The show also has some issues with inappropriate behavior on the part of both male and female characters that push the boundaries of sexism, with more than one situation where a female character is sexually threatened and more than one uninvited kiss or embrace. (To the show’s credit, the reaction of the girl on more than one occasion is to not welcome the uninvited familiarity, but on the downside, that doesn’t usually dissuade the aggressive male from their advances either, though that may be changing as the show goes on.)

My Little Monster has a decent sense of realism in spots, but tempered by an absurdest streak a mile long. The characters are a bit more “day-glow” in hue than the other more dramatic, non-fantasy romance. However, this courageousness, while hilarious in spots, does sometimes fall flat and prevent the characters from being taken seriously due to the “cartoony” feel and the heavy use of super-deformed animation techniques. The show also has similar issues to Say “I Love You” with inappropriate behavior toward the female characters and adds some very questionable word choice, some of which seems to be specifically done for humor, which falls a bit flat on my ears. (Using terms like “I’d do you” and threats of rape as humor doesn’t really set well with me…)

All have well done music, with attractive delivery of their respective OP and ED numbers. The incidental music is also strong for all three. The voice acting is very well done, with especially strong performances by Ai Kayano as Mei Tachibana in Say “I Love You” and Haruka Tomatsu as Shizuku Mizutani in My Little Monster, who also sings the OP. These two are among my favorite voice actresses working today and they do not disappoint in these roles.

If I had to pick one that may break the stalemate, it would have to be Kamisama Kiss, since it has less of a problem with inappropriateness, or the fantasy setting masks any problems in a way that makes it more palatable.  For now, the three are equal in my estimation, though not at all alike in tone, style, delivery, or mood. That is part of what makes them so enjoyable.

Next time – Tier 2

Blast of Tempest (Zetsuen no Tempest) Episodes 1-4

Blast of Tempest

(Zetsuen no Tempest)

Episodes 1 – 4

Rating: 4.5 of 5

Availability:

Simulcasting on Crunchyroll Thursdays at 2:00 pm CDT. Licensed for home video release by Aniplex of America.

Blast of Tempest (Zetsuen no Tempest)

Synopsis:

(From MAL)

The story revolves around Mahiro Fuwa, a teenager whose family was mysteriously murdered one year before and his friend Yoshino Takigawa. Mahiro is contacted by Hakase Kusaribe, the leader of the Kusaribe clan who was left stranded on an unknown desert island by her followers, and agrees to help Hakase in exchange of her help to find out the culprit for the death of his family. Upon learning of his friend’s intentions, Yoshino joins him on his quest to stand against the Kusaribe clan who intends to awake the “Tree of Zetsuen” whose power can bring ruin to the entire world.

Several dialogues and plot elements in Zetsuen no Tempest pay homage to the works of William Shakespeare.

Impressions:

When I read the initial description of this show, I figured out that they were doing some sort of riff on Shakespeare’s The Tempest. That is one of the works of Shakespeare that I haven’t seen or read, but I seem to know quite a bit about it none the less, as I have seen or read several science fiction stories that have used aspects of it in their plot or as “talking points”, so to speak. The two that come to mind are Dan Simmon’s Illium and Olympos, and an episode of the fan made Star Trek New Voyages: Phase II titled World Enough and Time, which guest starred the original series co-star George Takei. So watching the first episode, I couldn’t help but wonder if the mage on the island wasn’t a combination of Prospero and Miranda or if Mahiro was supposed to be a Caliban analog and his dead sister, who figures prominently in the first few episodes via flash backs and is featured heavily in both the OP and ED as well as the promotional art, was destined to become something along the lines of Ariel. (She is the brown haired girl on the left side of the picture above.) So far, I don’t really know enough about the original to say one way or the other, but there have already been some Shakespearean quotes, from Hamlet, interestingly enough, and a very “classical” tragic feeling to the mood.

[NOTE: I hesitate to go into too much detail in these type of reviews for fear of putting in too many spoilers, so I apologize if I give away anything from the plot that you would rather not have read, but there are some things in the story that just you just can't write about without mentioning some details. For the most part, the specifics that I will mention are all revealed before the end of the first episode, though, and I wasn't surprised by them when they were revealed. Don't get me wrong, it isn't like it was badly done, I just figured it out a bit before the reveal in the episode and smiled and nodded when they made explicit what they had been intimating for a good portion of the episode. That said, on with the review...]

Blast of Tempest shows a great deal of promise. The magical system presented is interesting, with the mages using the “fruits of civilization” to power their magic. The animation, particularly for the action sequences, is very well done and the visuals and characters designs are great too. The story is fairly strong so far, with enough explanation of how the world works and what is going on to make it comprehensible, but leaving enough out that it keeps you wondering why everything is happening the way it is.

One of the key plot points has to do with Mahiro’s sister, Aika, who was killed nearly a year before the “present time” in the anime. We are introduced to her through flashbacks and memory. In the opening, she comments that Yoshino is a con man who can “lie with a straight face” and Mahiro seems to think that she doesn’t like him. However, by the end of the first episode, and much sooner than that, in reality, we come to realize that the text message that Yoshino keeps looking at on his phone that is from his “girlfriend” is actually a message from Aika. While Mahiro is bent on revenge against his sisters unknown killer(s), Yoshino is suffering in silence, since he was in love with her, but for some reason doesn’t want Mahiro to know. (It is fairly clear that Mahiro was rather over protective of his sister and probably wouldn’t look fondly on even his one “friend” being in a relationship with her.

Another strong point to the story is the “friendship” between Mahiro and Yoshino. The two seem to be incompatible to say the least and it is hard to tell why they would be friends. Yoshino frequently says unkind things abut Mahiro, and it is not entirely clear that he actually considers Yoshino, or anyone living, to be his friend. In fact, the enigma that is Yoshino is one of the most fascinating things about the story.

Episodes two and three serve to introduce more of the characters and the world, display how magic works, and provide an opportunity to demonstrate how intelligent, or perhaps how devious, Yoshino is. It also delves a bit into the mystery surrounding  Aika (and Mahiro’s parents’) death, and shows a bit about how the Japanese government is handling the strange occurrences that are resulting in people turning into metal. But it is episode 4 that really digs in and lets us get to know the two main characters, with a back story that answers many questions about their relationship, but also brings up new questions, about Yoshino in particular.

Of special note with this series is the music. The OP, Spirit Inspiration by Nothing’s Carved in Stone, which is entirely in English, is a hard driving, powerful piece that sets the tone for the show well. The incidental music is also very strong. The ED, happy endings by Kana Hanazawa, who also does the voice of Aika, who is featured prominently in the ED animation, is a bit of a conundrum. It is a fantastic song, beautifully sung, but many feel that it doesn’t fit the show and breaks the mood that each episode is prone to end with by the change in tone. I am unsure of how I feel about the song at this point, other than the fact that, as a piece of music considered in its own right, it is wonderful and the singer does a fantastic job with it.

All in all, this is one of my favorite shows of the season. It has the potential to go off the rails, as all modern fantasy stories do, if it concentrates too much on flash at the expense of substance, or if the story is not worthy of the very well done set-up. So far, it looks like it will stay on course.

The Pet Girl of Sakurasou – Episode 3

The Pet Girl of Sakurasou

Episode 3

Rating: 5 of 5

Impressions:

At the end of episode 2, Sorata discovered that Mashiro is not the person he thought she was. He had seen her manga drawings and recognized her talent, but he also recognized that her work was inherently flawed in terms of story and considered her someone striving to be a manga artist but with no major accomplishments and no common sense. When he discovered how wrong he was, it was a bit of a shock, because Mashiro is not only an unaccomplished manga artist, she is also a world renowned master painter who has had her work exhibited in many of the finest galleries in the world.

Finding out that the girl he looked at as an incompetent, but talented person who was only marginally capable of functioning at school without his help is actually a famous, extremely talented, and highly respected artist whose work has been considered groundbreaking was a big shock. He was already harboring a major inferiority complex about the other residents of Sakura Hall, but this pushed it to another level. It seems that a major reason why he wants to move out of Sakura Hall and back to the regular dorms is this sense that he doesn’t belong there. Yes, the dorm is generally for people who don’t function well in a regular dorm, but it seems that the reality of the situation is that the residents are really problem children because of their brilliance, not because of behavior or attitude problems.

To avoid spoilers, I will not go into specifics about what makes this episode the best of the season thus far. Suffice it to say that the emotional roller-coaster ride of this episode is a thing of beauty! Sorata, and to a certain extent Jin, the screen-writer/playboy, both are suffering from similar issues: the feeling that they don’t belong or are unable to be an equal to those around them, or to a specific person in Jin’s case. This causes them to behave in ways that seem to be contrary to their interests. There is loads of character development, including an indication that Sorata may have more than “protective” or “caretaker” feelings for Mashiro, though he doesn’t seem to have acknowledged them entirely. The relationship between Jin and Misaki, the anime creator, is also explored, with their issues coming into focus for much of the episode. In the end, Sorata learns a great deal about Mashiro and that he really didn’t understand her at all. The question of whether he understands himself appears to be one of the primary plot points to be explored in the coming episodes.

The show uses a great deal of bawdy humor, classic misunderstandings, and fan service to spice it up, but its heart seems to be in the right place. There is surprising depth to the characters and their relationships, as well as a fairly strong philosophical bent to the storytelling style. I look forward to seeing where the show leads us as we get to know the residents of Sakurasou over the next season of anime.

Anime Specific Crowd-Funding Site Launching Soon

GOOPA Inc is launching an anime focused crowd-funding website called Anipipo. No word on how soon it will be a reality, but they have secured funding for the site and opened a pre-registration site, including and English language site: en.anipipo.com

I have seen several anime and manga projects on Kickstarter, but this is anime specific and based in Japan, so it could lead to some interesting results.