Boy, Spring 2012 sure has been a heck of a season, hasn’t it?
In an odd way, I’m glad Summer 2012 looks like a mediocre season. Frankly, Spring has exhausted me – there are too many good shows clustered on the same days (Thursday, Saturday, Sunday) and in general, and the workload has been more than I can comfortably handle. Summer will be a chance to scale back, catch up on RL, and possibly check a few older series of the bucket list of shows I’ve been meaning to finally watch. Full previews of the Summer shows are below the fold, and the Summer Season Poll is in the sidebar.
On the other hand, it’s disappointing to see a season that looks to be a big step down from Spring. In reality, Summer is usually the weakest season of the year anyway, and there was no way we were going to have consecutive seasons of this quality. Still, this Summer may set a record for undeserving sequels. Anime is no different than Hollywood in being in love with sequels, but this crop is especially weak. Summer also looks to be a return to the trend of recent years where anime falls back on the flavor of the moment for most of its inspiration – these are mostly very safe and trendy choices with a heavy emphasis on moe, yuri, harem and ecchi. The interesting question will be whether the explosion of diversity and creativity we’ve seen this Spring is part of a welcome trend, or a last hurrah for anime as art – a kind of dying spasm, bucking an overall trend towards the derivative and uninspired. We’ll have a much better idea once the Fall schedule begins to resemble its final form.
If you doubt that Summer is a big step down in terms of the creative impulse, consider this – every series except for Tari Tari is either an adaptation or sequel (and Tari Tari might as well be Japanese for “We’re not even trying anymore”). After an increase in original shows in the last few seasons, this aspect of Summer 2012 may be the most disappointing of all.
With that, to the modest collection of previews:
First Look: This is Summer’s early bird, having already premièred (First Impressions here). It’s set in China’s Warring States period (6th-5th Century BC) and chronicles the lives of two youngsters from boyhood to greatness, with many trials and travails in-between. I’m not sold on the visuals as the CGI is poorly integrated, but the story is fascinating and the characters compelling. It’s rare to see classic, sprawling historical epics in anime these days, and this one seems well-written and has three cours to weave its tale. As well, it represents a return to the director’s chair for Kamiya Jun, who directed one of my favorites in Hikaru no Go.
First Look: No, it’s not Chihayafuru S2. But Kana-chan would be thrilled with this adaptation of the “100 Poets” (even if it a liberal interpretation) and I’m pretty excited to see Karuta cards come to life myself. It’s directed by the great Kasai Kenichi (Bakuman, Honey & Clover, Major, Nodama Cantible).
First Look: This is an interesting mix. An eroge adaptation featuring school council elections, slice-of-life (wasting time in the food club) and trying to save said club from extinction. Plus, romance between childhood friends. Director is a first-timer, writer is extremely experienced with quite a few outstanding adaptations, and some mediocre ones too. In short, this could go anywhere – but that makes it interesting enough to check out.
First Look: Thank goodness, another imouto series with incest implications and a twist of harem – how long has it been, 5 minutes? This LN adaptation’s twist is that the brother and sister are twins separated at birth, and he doesn’t realize she attends the new school he just enrolled in. The only – read only – reason this is even on my radar is that director Nawa Munenori also did R-15, one of the great unsung heroes of 2011. Unfortunately he’s done little else of merit, but R-15 gets him at least a trial run here.
First Look: It’s a sequel on NoitaminA, something we haven’t seen in an age. Moyashimon wouldn’t have been my first choice for one, to be honest. The original was a good show but a little overrated, in my view – a bit sloppy and inconsistent, despite the clever conceit. Only a Shinto nation like Japan could come up with the idea of a manga built around anthropomorphized germs though, I’ll give you that.
First Look: I don’t expect NoitaminA to duplicate this season’s greatness for a very long time, if ever, but Natsuyuki Rendezvous has the potential to deliver on its half of the draw. Kurenai and Rozen Maiden director Matsuo Kou brings Kawachi Haruka’s josei manga to the screen, and it’s a romantic tale of a part-time
panda florist with a major crush on his boss – and the love triangle is completed by the ghost of her dead husband. The manga gets great reviews and it’s short enough to thrive in a one-cour slot.
First Look: Takezuki’s Jou’s LN series about a 16 year-old boy known as Campione, or “The God Killer” and a 16 year-old Italian girl knows as a “Great Knight” of a magical order is popular and seems well-regarded. The plot seems a little pedestrian to me TBH, and I’m not a fan of Kusakawa-san. But the cast (Hikasa Youko, Kitamura Eri, KanaHana, Hidaka Rina, Ogura Yui) is excellent, and writer Hanada-san has done some truly excellent work.
First Look: I’ve yet to hear any reader disagree with the notion that SAO is the better of the two Kawahara Reki LN series to be animated this year – Accel World being the other – and since AW is pretty good, I take that as a hopeful sign. Adachi Shingo’s very distinctive character designs will surely remind you of Working!, and there’s some grumbling that the male lead is a bit of a Marty Stu, but overall this may well be the most anticipated series of a season free of blockbuster properties. This is only Ito Tomohiko’s second directorial effort but the first, Seikimatsu Occult Gakuen, was very solid, and he’s worked on mostly very good series in lesser roles. As a bonus, Tomatsu Haruka isn’t just the female lead but sings the first ED. On balance, this seems like a good bet to be a winner.
First Look: I probably need to have my head examined to even consider this one, but every season there seems to be a series whose premise is so stupid that I can’t help but check in out of morbid curiosity. And this one – high school boy thinks he’s joining the astronomy club, but actually joins the fujoshi club – looks like the one for Summer. Offering some small measure of hope is that Okamoto-san directed the pretty solid and underrated Nagasarete Airountou.
First Look: The writer/director team behind Seto no Hanayome and last year’s underrated gem Kamisama Dolls are back for an adaptation of Tanaka Romeo’s LN series. This is getting almost no buzz but it’s my top pick for the season – I’m a fan of Kishi and Uezu, I love Sakai Kyuuta as a character designer, and the great Otani Kou is providing the music. There’s quality everywhere you look, and the trailers have been gorgeous. It’s the story of a future where mankind is in decline, and tiny faeries are the dominant species – and of the girl who acts as arbiter between the races. Probably the only show besides Natsuyuki Rendezvous that looks like it has a decent chance to be great.
First Look: Japanese warlords as moe teen girls? Well, we’ve had guns and soon, tanks… What – am I crazy? Probably – but it’s a thin season, so may as well give it a try, especially as Madhouse is quiet otherwise. The writer is semi-competent and the cast is good, but honestly, this is a reach for me.
First Look: And here’s the only original (not a sequel, VN, LN, etc.) series of the summer – but “original” is hardly the first word that springs to mind when you look at the premise and watch the PVs. Visually this looks like an abject imitation of HanaIro; premise-wise, a derivative of the avalanche of cute girls @ school shows we’ve been subjected to, especially from KyoAni (whose influence is also plain in the character design). Hashimoto’s résumé offers nothing to suggest why he’s been given total creative control here. So why am I watching? Well – it’s still P.A. Works, and any PA series is a bit of an event. It at least makes the effort of having a mixed-gender cast, though you wouldn’t know it from the promo images. And it’s Okada-free, which offers at least the novelty factor. Who knows – as the Minami sisters say, don’t expect too much – but I wouldn’t be shocked if this turns out to be pretty decent.
First Look: I was a bit of an Oonuma Shin fan at one time – he seems to embody a somewhat more restrained version of the Shinbou style, with his work on series like EF and the first season of Baka Test. But it’s been all downhill from there, and I now associate his name with pessimism when attached to a new series. And that’s too bad, because this one looks relatively interesting, with five members (two male, three female) of a high school “Culture Club” switching bodies (no idea how that odd number thing will work itself out). Visually, you should pretty much know what to expect with Shin and Silver Link, but that’s not all a bad thing – at least it won’t look boring – and it’s a good cast. Plus, writer Shimo-san has done some good work, mostly for KyoAni.
First Look: Another one that’s basically a flyer for me. Chiaki Kon and Akahoshi Masanao have a mixed track record with some decent work, and the premise is just weird enough that it might be interesting – a family that seems to be a mix of organized crime and dark arts, and a marriage competition. I rather like the art from what I’ve seen.
Will Definitely Blog: Natsuyuki Rendezvous, Jinrui Wa Suitai Shimashita, Tari Tari, Sword Art Online, Kokoro Connect. Yup, that’s all I’m sure of – the rest of them are all “maybe”. Of course, Hunter X Hunter, Eureka Seven: Astral Ocean, Hyouka,Ginga e Kickoff (hopefully), Shirokuma Café (apparently), and Uchuu Kyoudai will carry over – and then there’s the new season of Doctor Who. We’ll see about AGE and Accel World – I imagine I’ll continue coverage though it’s not 100%.
Not a bad crop of OVAs and theatricals – probably better than the TV lineup on balance – not surprising as summer always seen a rush of big-screen anime releases. Among the highlights:
Sankarea (OVA) – 6/8: Presumably a stand-alone ep, or perhaps a segue into a second season.
Asa Made Jugyou Chu! (OVA) – 6/23: OK, I’m morbidly curious about this borderline hentai manga adaptation.
Hyouka (OVA) – 7/7: “Episode 11.5” of the TV series.
Accel World Special (BD Bonus) – 7/25: 4-koma gag omake adaptation.
Shinryaku! Ika Musume (OAD) – 8/8: With the dip in BD/DVD sales for the second season, this might possibly be it for the delightful Squid Girl. I hope not, ~degeso.
To LOVE-Ru Darkness (OVA) – 8/17: I’d check this out even if Ishihara’s censorship panel hadn’t targeted it. S2 of the TV was pretty awful, but I have a certain fondness for the franchise.
Nazo no Kanojo X (OAD) – 8/23: One of the best romance anime returns with a special BD extra episode. I hope we see a second season but stalker points aren’t looking too good.
Dantalian no Shoka: Ibrahime (OAD) – 8/2012: The long-awaited extra ep of the underrated GAINAX series.
Arve Rezzle (OVA) – TBA: This one is a complete flyer for me, to be honest – Verdant from RC is high on this one, and his tastes and mine often overlap. Plus, I like the illustrations from the LN. It’s sort of an interesting premise – in 2022, many people have transferred their consciousness to cyberpace with their bodies preserved in a liquid culture called “body pool”, including Remu’s sister – but something has gone wrong, and her body appears to have been taken over by another girl. Plus, bonus dystopia.
Berserk Ougon Jidaihen II: Doldrey Kouryaku (Studio 4C) – 6/23: New Berserk anime is certainly newsworthy. Trailers weren’t impressive, but we’ll see.
Rurouni Kenshin: Shin Kyoto-Hen Part II (Deen) – 6/23: Part 2 of Mari Okada’s assault on RK canon hits theatres, with a trip to BD soon after. Hopefully it improves on the mediocre first part, because RK deserves far better.
Space Battleship Yamato 2199 Part II (XEBEC) – 6/30: Obviously.
Guskou Budori no Denki (Tezuka) – 7/7: Seriously old-school anime from the a story by “Night on the Galactic Railroad” writer Miyazawa Kenji, directed by the man who did the film version of that story, Gisaburou Sugii. Could be very, very interesting.
Mahou Shoujou Lyrical Nanoha: The Movie 2nd A’s (Seven Arcs) – 7/14: Another Nanoha season retold in movie form.
Ookami Kodomo no Ame to Yuki (Madhouse) – 7/21: Hosoda Mamoru is one of the three most important anime directors working theatrically right now, and anything he does is worth long and careful consideration. This is the tale of who falls in love with a wolf-man, and the children she conceives with him. Expect true quality and big box office from the most important anime film of the year. Previews:
Fairy Tail Movie: Houou no Miko (Satelight) – 8/18: The mangaka is working on composition, so hopefully this will prove to be a winner.
Asura (Toei) – 9/29: Tiger & Bunny director Satou Keiichi brings us an “unremittingly dark” tale of a boy who’s mother tries to eat him during a famine in medieval Japan (really – unremittingly dark?). Competing at Annecy this month, this could be a real sleeper – the art looks fantastic.