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
Onii-chan Dakedo Ai Sae Areba Kankeinai yo ne
Litchi DE Hikari Club

Simulcasts that I don’t intend to try:

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


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

Blast of Tempest (Zetsuen no Tempest)


(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.


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


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.

Compare and Contrast – Two Fall 2012 anime with a similar premise, but very different results

My Little Monster and Say, “I Love You” 

(Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun and Sukitte Ii na yo.)

Episodes 1 – 2

Ratings: 4 of 5 for both.


My Little Monster: Simulcasting on Crunchyroll Mondays at 12:30pm CDT.
Say, “I Love You”: Simulcasting on Crunchyroll Saturdays at 10AM Pacific Time starting October 27.

Say, “I Love you”

My Little Monster


General: A girl who has spent her entire school life friendless, seemingly by her own preference, is suddenly befriended by an energetic boy who pursues her despite her apparent indifference.


My Little Monster:

A girl, Shizuku Mizutani, who cares only for her grades and her long term goal of landing a high wage job as a result of those grades, is asked by her teacher to deliver some handouts to the boy, Haru Yoshida, who is supposed to be seated next to her in class, but has been missing since the first day of school because he was suspended for a violent attack on a group of upperclassmen. Upon delivering the handouts, he takes her bringing them as a sign that they are friends, because that is one of the things friends do in manga and anime, after all – bring handouts to sick classmates. (Never mind the fact that he is not sick, that she has only ever seen him in passing, and that they are only classmates in the sense that they were assigned to the same class, as he has never attended.)

The teacher has an ulterior motive, as his suspension has been lifted, since it was determined that, while he went a bit overboard, the upperclassmen were actually at fault. However, Haru has refused to respond to any of his teachers requests to come to school. Since school attendance is not compulsory at the high school level, there is nothing the teacher can officially do, so she tries an “end-around”, so to speak, by sending a classmate to try to convince him to attend.

Shizuku has no intention of encouraging Haru to come to school. She just wants to deliver the handouts and go home. Haru, has other plans though. He seems to have no real concept of how to function in polite society, alternating between violent, impulsive behavior and a naive desire to be friends with someone. He latches on to Shizuku as being “his friend” and even goes so far as to confess his love to her.

How will this cold-hearted girl and naive, impulsive boy deal with school and each other, now that she can’t seem to get rid of him?

Say, “I Love you:

Mei Tachibana has spent her entire life without either a boyfriend or friends of any sort. She doesn’t trust other people, feeling that trusting others only leads to betrayal. It is suggested that this opinion comes from past personal experience. One day, as a result of a misunderstanding, she accidentally injures the most popular boy in her high school, Yamato Kurosawa. Much to her surprise, this doesn’t result in him getting angry at her. Instead it has the opposite effect: he decides, quite unilaterally, that they are friends. She rebuffs his advances, even to the point of refusing to exchange cell phone numbers or e-mail addresses with him, but he gives her his on a piece of paper anyway.

Later that evening, when leaving her part-time job at a convenience store, Mei finds she is being followed by a creepy older man that had been shopping in the store. Fearing the worst, the attempts to call her mother for help, but cannot get through to her. Having nowhere else to turn, she ducks into a store and digs out Yamato’s phone number and begs him to help her. He comes to her rescue in a startling manner, leaving Mei’s previous existence as a loner-by-choice in definite danger of being shattered.

Can the girl who cannot, and will not, trust anyone learn to be friends, or perhaps even lovers, with a boy that could have his pick of the other girls in school merely by asking? Why does a boy with model looks and a winning personality want so desperately to win the affections of a girl who would rather be left alone?


On first glance, these two series seem to be cut from the same bolt of cloth, and it is not a shiny new piece of cloth to say the least! The “Lonely/Loser Girl” meets “Energetic/Popular Boy” trope has been done over and over in shoujo manga and anime, much like its counterpart in shounen land: the “Hapless/Boring/Loser/Nondescript Guy” somehow attracts the attention of the “Popular/Beautiful Girl” has been beaten into the ground. It is hard to do something fresh and new when the basic premise has been done so many times before. It is a basic wish-fulfillment story line aimed at the teenage girls who the manga the anime is based on is marketed to. Interestingly, both of these anime are based on manga that began their syndication in the year, 2008, in the same shoujo manga magazine: Dessert. I guess it is no surprise that they ended up being adapted to anime in the very same season.

Seeing how similar the basic premises of the stories were, I thought I would check them both out and see what made each one unique enough to warrant a coveted half-hour of Japanese late night TV broadcasting space. What I found was that, while the premises of the two are strikingly similar, the actual mood and delivery is startlingly different. A true testament to the way that two different creative minds can take the same basic idea and produce very different results. Interestingly enough, they both seem to have great potential to be among my favorite shows of the Fall 2012 season!

My Little Monster was the first of the two that I watched. The first episode gave me a strong Kare Kano vibe, with many of the same plot-points being used, such as the girl who is focused on grades and was mortified to find that she wasn’t the top scorer on the entrance exams for high school, the attractive boy who was the guy who outperformed her on those exams, and the guy falling for the girl early on in the story, only to be turned down. However, beyond these basic plot points, there was much that came across as fresh and different. Shizuku is a very strong lead female character. She doesn’t seem to have any deep emotional scars that cause avoid friendships and withdraw from society. On the contrary, she chooses to avoid the distractions of petty entanglements, concentrating on her grades and long term goals. Haru is also a very different character than you might expect. He is a loose canon! His grasp of social concepts is so poor that even the terse and isolated Shizuku is much more adept at understanding social situations than he is. The defining characteristic of Haru is a drive to find friends, something that Shizuku doesn’t really understand.

Say, I Love You starts out with a very different vibe. Mei is also a “loner”, who prefers to keep to herself and doesn’t have any friends, but in her case, it seems that this behavior is founded on past social failures and some fairly deep personal pain resulting from trusted friends turning on her and betraying her trust. She seems much more like a wounded flower than a strong, independent young woman. She doesn’t dress fashionably and other girls in the school pick on her because of it, making it clear that, even living her isolated lifestyle, she is not happy with her school life. Yamato, on the other hand, is the picture of the “School All-Star”. He is surrounded by hanger’s on, both male and female, the girls seeking to curry his favor and the guys just trying to pick up the leftovers and be seen as more cool by the girls, because they hang with the cool guy. Interestingly, he doesn’t seem to seek this out or even enjoy the attention, though he does seem to earnestly respond to each individual with kindness and openness, despite the fact that they appear display none of those characteristics back to him. Everybody wants something from him and he doesn’t really want anything from anyone.

An interesting coincidence has these two first episodes featuring a “flash-back” scene of the lead females dealing with an elementary school classroom crisis: the death of the classes pet bunny. To highlight the difference in approach between the two stories, in My Little Monster, the reaction of Shizuku is lack of comprehension. She feels nothing when the bunny dies and can’t really understand why all of the other kids are so distraught about the death of a mere animal. (This does suggest that there could be some “issues” that she may have to deal with, such as a lack of empathy or a real emotional disability of some sort, and the story does take a bit of that approach as it goes on.) In Say, “I Love You”, the scene is played out quite differently. Mei is blamed for the bunnies death, because a “friend” singles her out as the person who got the bunny out of the cage, leading to the situation that lead to its demise. It is suggested that the accuser is the actual person that was to blame, but Mei is unable to defend herself and runs off in tears, relegated to pariah status by her immature and cruel classmates. This difference speaks volumes about how these two seemingly similar shows are, in fact, miles apart.

Another similarity between the two is the way the first episodes end and the similar impact the ending has on the heroine. In a break from the norm, both of these series end the first episode with a kiss between the male and female leads. In both cases, it is initiated by the boy and the impact on the girl is powerful, if a bit predictable, with Mei staring wide-eyed and blushing thinking “My first kiss…” and Shizuku having a more visceral, and comically displayed, reaction of a full face blush, visible sweat on her brow, and her heart beating audibly. Interestingly, it appears at this point that both of the young men involved are a not necessarily enamored with the leading ladies, based on the reaction after the kiss by one and the reason for the kiss with the other.

As the shows progress, we get to know some of the supporting cast, like the perverted friend of Yamato who caused the misunderstanding that lead to the two protagonists meeting, and his busty friend from middle-school who obviously has a major crush on him. It is also made clear that Mei is not the only girl in their school who has shared a kiss, or possibly even more than a kiss, with Yamato. As a matter of fact, it is rumored that he has kissed every girl in the school, except for the one girl he was rumored to be dating in middle school. Mei begins to wonder if his attentions to her mean he is really interested in her or if he is really some kind of womanizer.

Meanwhile, Shizuku is coming to the horrifying, for her at least, realization that the physiological reactions she has to Haru’s presence could mean that she’s falling in love with him. This is not something that she is prepared for, as she has studiously avoided any friendships or romantic entanglements. We also meet one of their classmates, Asako Natsume, a very pretty and athletic girl who needs help studying for her make-up exams so she can avoid remedial classes over break. Her reason is that there is a real-life meeting of an on-line community she belongs to that conflicts with the remedial classes. This portion of the story line brings into clear focus one of the key story lines of the show, at least so far: the difficulty some people have finding true friends. Haru doesn’t really know how to deal with people and is usually either starting fights or being taken advantage of by people, Shizuku claims to not want friendship, considering it a bother and a waste of her time, and Asako is pursued by boys because of her looks and shunned by girls for the same reason. The only people she has been able to become friends with are on the on-line community. Shizuku, of course, refuses to help her, but Haru, who was the top scorer on the entrance exam, agrees to help, if she will take him to this real-life meeting.

One section of dialog  in episode 2 of My Little Monster really highlights this theme. Shizuku asks Haru if it really matter that people don’t like him. He responds first by telling her she is “really special”, then asking her this:

“Have you ever felt empty inside? So empty you can’t feel a thing. Surrounded by darkness. It really scares me. But I’m not scared anymore… because I have you.”

By the end of the episode, we have also met another classmate who plays baseball that went to middle school with Haru, learned that Haru is a horrible teacher, and had a variety of mishaps and arguments over a chicken. However, Shizuku has also come to the realization that it might be nice to live in a world where other people care about her and she cares about them, and she confesses her love to Haru. Quite a bit of progress for two episodes of shoujo anime. By contrast, as Mei learns more about Yamato, mostly from Asako, the more she starts to question his character, but at the same time she seems be more and more fixated on him. We also get to see a bit of how he is treated by his “friends” and it is pretty clear that, while he is almost always friendly with them, he isn’t particularly happy to be around them. Along the way, Mei seems to be developing a friendship with Asako, doing things like going out for coffee and using the same cell-phone straps. She also does a small amount of matchmaking, helping Yamato’s perverted friend decide to actually express his true feelings to Asako, after which, the begin to date. By the end of the episode, she confronts Yamato about his playboy reputation, and he, rather aggressively, teaches her about different types of kisses, and asks her if she loves him. She, in a manner of speaking, confesses that she does, and they share a “real” kiss.

So, by the end of episode 2, both of these shows have pretty much reached the same point in their respective stories, but have taken very different paths to get there. Interestingly, I can see shades of the shoujo romances that I am most familiar with each. My Little Monster has the mismatched personalities and penchant for super-deformed character transformations reminiscent of Kare Kano, as well as the crazy, outrageous comical situations of both Kare Kano and Ouran Host Club. Say, “I Love You”, seems to draw more from the serious side of Kare Kano‘s story telling style, with a realistic approach to dialog, and the downright meanness of some high school girls and much less broad comedy. The contrast extends to art style, with My Little Monster being presented in bright tones, with a clean shoujo style to the character designs, but  a more sharp edges and exaggerated character reactions, while Say, “I Love You” brings a softer palette, with plenty of pastels and a strong shoujo/josei character style, similar to the more serious chapters of Kare Kano and shows like Kids on the Slope.

Both of these shows are fun to watch and have compelling characters. The stories, while not gaining many points for originality, aside from some rather bizarre side story sections in My Little Monster that feature a rooster that the tenderhearted, or possibly just tender-headed, Haru inexplicably wants to try to protect from the rain. What they do have, however, is generally impressive level of execution and enough freshness in the characters and plot lines to prevent them from seeming too old hat. The one thing that holds them both back, in my opinion, is some slight issues with word choice and character actions that seem a bit on the misogynist side of the appropriateness needle. It is hard to tell if that type of issue is due to real sexism issues or is more a case of cultural differences in interpretation.

The Pet Girl of Sakurasou – Episodes 1 and 2

The Pet Girl of Sakurasou

Episodes 1 and 2

Rating: 4 of 5


Simulcasting on Crunchyroll Wednesdays at 2:00 pm Central Time.

The Pet Girl of Sakurasou


(From MAL)

The school romantic comedy revolves around a second-year high school student named Sorata Kanda who lives in Sakurasou, the dormitory for problem children at Sorata’s school. One day, Mashiro Shiina – a cute girl who happens to be also a cosmopolitan, brilliant artist – moves into Sakurasou.

Sorata thinks to himself that he should protect Mashiro from the weirdos at Sakurasou, but Mashiro has a surprising secret: she has no idea how to take care of herself. She gets lost if she goes out, and her room is a complete mess. Sorata’s dorm mates designate him as the “master” of Mashiro, and thus, an ordinary boy and a brilliant girl must live like “a master and his pet.”


When I saw the description of this anime earlier in the year, I was curious enough to look into the source material. What I found was a translation of the first three chapters of the manga adaptation. I found it funny and a bit surprising, given the level of cliche elements the story uses.

Now that the anime is available, my opinion has not really changed all that much. The show has a large amount of standard romantic comedy tropes, including the transfer student, the girl that is obviously in love with the protagonist without his having a clue, the 30 year old single teacher who is in search of a man, etc… However, the show also has quite a bit going for it. The first thing that struck me as a major positive is the protagonist: Sorata. He is not your average milquetoast boring guy. Yes, he is a milquetoast boring guy, but the fact that he has the self awareness right from the start to suggest that perhaps it isn’t his life that is boring puts him a cut above. Also, his inability to take a pass on helping a creature in need, cats in particular (which is the reason he is living in Sakurasou – he got caught taking care of stray cats in his dorm room), gives him a leg up in terms of the “nice guy” image. Yes, all milquetoast boring guys are “nice guys” unless the trope is subverted, but this is one that I actually can buy. I have known people that were unable to send a stray packing, even to the point that it put their apartment lease in jeopardy. (We ended up keeping her cats for quite a while after they were found. The fact that she was watching ours the weekend that the landlord found them did pile on the guilt a bit… Maybe it was our dumb cats that got caught?)

Then there is the female lead: Mashiro. Many people have commented on her as a major negative point in the show. I don’t see her as a negative at all. By the end of episode 2, we have a good feel for her as a character. She is flighty beyond all reason, has very little ability to function on her own in society, and very little, if any, modesty. But she also has a refreshing openness and a unique way of looking at the world which really pushes her character into a different realm. The portrayal of Mashiro is almost as a savant, similar to “Rainman”, but with art, instead of math, as the innate talent of the character. However, it seems to stop just shy of that. At the same time, she isn’t just a flighty slob who can’t take care of herself, she is a genius that doesn’t function on the same level as an ordinary human. There is a sequence where she is studying Sorata’s facial expressions that suggests she has a lot more going on upstairs than she gets credit for. She appears to be fully aware of what she is doing in that scene and manipulates Sorata to elicit the reactions she is wanting to study in a fairly deliberate and skillful manner. She also doesn’t come across as entirely naive and innocent in that scene. And, as Sorata finds out at the end of episode two, she is a world renowned artist. Having a brilliant artist character portrayed as having a rather loose grip on reality is not a particularly new thing, but it is also not something that detracts from the series.

The supporting characters are entertaining, from the over-the-top anime creator and her childhood friend, playboy scriptwriter to the computer nerd that only communicates through his “maid avatar” personal assistant program, to the “normal girl” with a crush on Sorata who dreams of being a voice actress, and the 30 year old, massively inappropriate teacher and dorm “mom”, who also happens to be Mashiro’s cousin. Some of them have the potential to become annoying, but for the time being, they add to the fun of the show.

The music is quite nice, but doesn’t really stand out in any way, though the ED does have a certain charm to it. The art is well done, with bright tones and a slightly washed out brightness to many of the scenes, but it is also not the strong point of the series. So far, what stands out for me is the character dynamics and chemistry between the two leads, the humor, and a surprising depth in the direction the story is going, with a strong emphasis on the difference between the thought processes of a “genius” vs an “average” person.