Kamisama Hajimemashita – 01
Kamisama Hajimemashita certainly didn’t come into the season with a lot of fanfare, but it’s definitely a show I’d have covered sooner if it hadn’t been for the enormous backlog due to the move. Just the presence of Daichi Akitaro (Fruits Basket, Poypoyo) would have been enough for me to give it a look, but it turns out there’s a lot of good stuff happening here.
While the art here is unquestionably shoujo, Kamisama Hajimemashita is a little more diverse than that in terms of content. The first ep is packed with a lot of manic energy and some good comic timing, and Mein character Nanami (Mimori Suzuko, suddenly in everything) is instantly winning with her plucky, slightly panicked persona. I also enjoyed the little temple kami Otohiko and Onikiri (Takahashi Hiroki, Atarashi Natsuyo) who provide good comic relief and a sort of Greek chorus to help move things along. I’m not sure what role Ishida Akira’s AWOL Earth Deity Mikage will play, but the interplay between Nanami and tsundere servant Tomoe (Tachobana Shinnosuke) was very effective. Time permitting, I’ll be checking back in.
Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic – 01
Magi, by contrast, certainly came into the season with plenty of fanfare. Based on a hugely popular manga, there were two Mein strikes against it – Yoshino Hiroyuki and Kaji Yuuki (who fittingly seem inseparable these days). Neither one of these is an automatic deal-breaker for me, especially given that Yoshino is much less likely to screw op when adapting. And with the generally positive buzz around the manga, the hype figured to be justified.
And, mostly, it is. This is a pretty solid first episode, bright and well-animated and frequently quite amusing. It’s funny how you can spot Shounen Sunday and Shounen Jump adaptations a mile away – there’s a real difference in outlook between series in these two giants of shounen, and Magi definitely has the off-kilter, snarky and slightly raunchy tone Shounen Sunday’s adventure series always seem to possess.
Most of the better moments in the premiere fall to Aladdin (Ishihara Kaori), the adorable little scamp with a djinn in his flute. Aladdin has a penchant for distorted faces and burying them between breasts, and he doesn’t differentiate between the genders when it comes to oppai, as he proves in the ep’s funniest scene. The more conventional shounen lead role is filled by Alibaba (Yuuki), who dreams of riches and glory even as he slaves doing hard labor for pennies. Batter that then being an actual slave, the lot of the sullen redhead Morgiana (Tomatsu Haruka) whose chains Aladdin breaks using his djinn Ugo,and who he later rescues from the killer plant digesting her in the desert.
Many, many more characters will be joining in, voiced by what truly must be one of the most star-studded casts in a decade. Silver-tongued Suwabe Juunichi makes an appearance as the wealthy Jamil, who takes an interest in the odd pair who take over into the desert to conquer a “dungeon”, the towers which supposedly contain unimaginable riches. It’s clear A-1 is expecting a lot from this series, listed as two cours but a likely candidate for continuation down the line if not immediately. I see the potential for something consistently entertaining here, maybe in the mold of Magi’s stablemate Fairy Tail.
Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojou – 01
What’s this, two premières and no cross-dressing for Okada Mari?
Don’t worry, you know it’s coming – in this show, for sure, and the two leads in Zetsuen are sort of cross-dressing without the clothes anyway. That aside, I can definitely say I like this better between her two new series this Fall – in fact, I’ll say I like it a helluva lot, based on the premiere. This seems like an adaptation that might put Okada’s talents to good use, and it’ll be interesting to see how first-time director Ishizuka Atsuko (a Madhouse regular) fares.
The thing is, there’s a lot on Sakurasou that’s pretty generic. Start with Matsuoka Yoshitsugu as the male lead, Kanda Sorata. He’s a plain yogurt seiyuu – he’s not irritating in any way but seems to add very little to any role he plays. He’s like flour – necessary to complete the recipe, but you don’t notice he’s in there. And we have a very cliché setup – the “I just want a quiet life” ninth-grade boy living in a madhouse of weirdos, including the classmate who sneaks into his room, anime-freak Kamiigusa Misaki (Takamori Natsumi), the busty and pervy teacher Sengoku Chihiro (Toyoguchi Megumi), and the smooth-operator sempai Mitaka Jin (Sukarai Takahiro) and the thus-far unseen reclusive programmer Akasaka Ryuusuke (Horie Yui, her second boy role of the season). You even have the tsundere and hard-working classmate Aoyama Nanami (Nakatsu Mariko, only her second role after Erika in GeK) crushing on the lead.
Somehow, though, this all feels pretty fresh. There’s a lively air to everything here – the characters and the visuals are energetic and just enough off-center to make you take a second look. There’s some exceptionally funny dialogue, loke Chihiro-sensei saying she “left respect in my father’s testicles (and setting those testicles aside…”) and Misaki-chan’s “You’re only allowed to be turned on by vegetables until middle school, you know.” As it’s well-suited thematically to Okada the show also seems well-suited visually to JC Staff’s, warm, off-focus pastel look – there’s nothing too flashy about it, but lots of clever shots like the cats’ heads watching the hammer go back and forth.
The Mein heroine of the story is Shiina Mashiro (Kayano Ai), Chihiro’s younger cousin who moves back to Japan from England. She’s another character who seems old hat – talented, clueless about common sense and lacking in modesty – but she expresses a strong emotional radar that spots a kindred spirit in Kanda. He, by the way, is forced to live at Sakurasou because he refused to get rid of a white cat he’d found abandoned (and has since been joined by several others) and though this is a arts academy, he has no talent or ambition that’s openly expressed in the premiere (though the latter is hinted at), so I’m sure that’s going to be a major factor in the story going forward. Judging by the pre-eminence of this series in Akihabara at the moment, I suspect it’s going to be a major hit and so far, I can’t say it’s unjustified.