K – 02
I still sort of like K, though it remains a case of style over substance. Interestingly the style is quite different than in the first episode – and maybe that’s not too surprising given we have seven writers. In Hollywood, that many writers is considered a tipoff of a project that was a disaster in the making – it remains to be seen how it will play out here, but there is a sort of “kitchen sink” vibe where it feels like GoHands is trying to fit in as many clichés and stylistic flourishes as they can.
Story wise? Who knows – there really wasn’t even an attempt to advance anything this week, just a lot of comedic interplay between Shiro and Kuro a lot of all-purpose cat-girl fanservice from the finally-transformed Neko. I still like the look of the piece, the action sequences are excellent and the attempt to create a Durarara feel is so strong they’ve even got characters who look like DRRR characters. We’ll see.
Btooom! – 02
I’ll say it up front – this series is ugly. And I mean physically ugly. Maybe it’s supposed to be, because it’s a classic case of a “man’s inhumanity to man (and woman)” stories that revels in the glories of human depravity. But damn, the character designs are really distasteful to me, girls included – crude and grotesque. Since the designs are pretty close to the manga that’s understandable to a degree, but I also find the animation rather crude. No one’s a bigger defender of Madhouse than me but so far, I don’t think this is their best work.
The flipside is that I think Btooom! is really quite good. It’s certainly difficult to watch due to the violence and the sheer unpleasantness of most of the cast, but for a straight-ahead sci-fi action vehicle it’s very well done, and that does happen to be a genre Madhouse has some good history with. The plot has hit the ground running and hasn’t guarded its secrets too closely, though the underlying force behind the “game” has yet to be illuminated. This week the focus turns to Himeko (Mimori Suzuko) a shallow teenaged girl with an unpleasant group of friends who has a passing relationship with Sakamoto online. After an encounter where her actions unintentionally lead to her friends raped by a senior and his bandmates while she flees the scene and leaves them to their fate, she wakes to find herself stranded on the island with a grossly overweight otaku stereotype, a violent psychopath and a sanctimonious teacher.
I’m not crazy about the use of rape as a dramatic device, but if there were ever a series where it fit I suppose it would be this one, where the cruelty and depravity of the human animal is the central plot point. While this episode amounted to a linked sequence of atrocious behavior more than a real plot, it served its purpose well enough in terms of showing us how Himeko became the cold-hearted killer she’s sure to be for the rest of the series. I’m looking forward to seeing the cast branch out to some demographics that are less conventional for anime, which should happen starting next week.
Zetsuen no Tempest – 02
If this series were any more BONES… Well, it could only be BONES, let’s put it that way.
So far the vibe I’m getting is No. 6 meets – logically enough – “The Tempest”, though there’s something more elementally anime in the notion of giving The Bard a hard sci-fi makeover. I don’t know if hair clips will be enough to satisfy the Okada fetish but there’s no doubt the strongest chemistry in the series is between Yoshino and Mahiro. But the character I’m digging the most so far is the spectacularly named Evangeline Yamamoto, who’s got gams till next Tuesday and a sultry, sly performance by Mizuki Nana to seal the deal. I love a good dame, and Evangeline is a dame and a half.
While there were times during each of the first two episodes where I felt my attention drifting from all the emo navel-gazing, there’s a sense of style to Zetsuen no Tempest I quite like. The classical soundtrack – as overdramatic as the characters – helps make sure that at least a semblance of one of Shakespeare’s most histrionic plays survives the transition. The bishie leads, the Greek tragedy roots, and the almost noir quality of Evangeline make for an interesting mixed drink, and the presence of Aika as a sort of plot device from the beyond the grave is a nice twist.
Of the larger world-threatening plot featuring the Kusaribe Clan and their giant eye-fruits, so far it’s pretty much just plot without a lot of feeling behind it – but it does introduce the likes of Koyama Rikiya and Suwabe Junichi to the cast, and their rich tones fit right in with the theatricality of the enterprise. I’m more interested, frankly, in what’s going to happen when Mahiro finds out who Yoshino’s girlfriend really was.