I can’t remember the last time Brains Base had three shows in a single season. This Spring one of them (Isshuukan Friends) is a no-brainer, another (Kamigami ga Asobi) is a no-chance-in-hell, and then there’s this one – which is right in the middle. The premise sounds generic, but I like the staff (this is the Blood Lad writer/director team and the mangaka of Love Lab) is certainly above average.
If I started out on the fence, I finished up there too – intrigued, but not sold. This is an old story – a kid moves into an old Japanese-style apartment complex (a converted mansion, as most of them are) full of weirdos – which many newer fans seem to think started with Sakurasou but draws a line of succession through the likes of Mahoraba all the way back to the grand dame of them all, Maison Ikoku. The kid in this case is Usa Kazunari (Iguchi Yuuta), whose parents have moved out of town and left him (at his request) behind on his own. The girl he’s crushing on, Ritsu Kawai (Hanazawa Kana) is also a tenant, as is the perv Shirosaki (Shinomiya Gou) he meets on the way to his new home. The landlady is soft-spoken but snarky Sumiko (Kobayashi Sanae), eccentric as required by law for this premise but not as much as some you’ll see.
That premise is indeed about as traditional as you can get, but the first thing that leaps out at you in the premiere is the visuals – gorgeous Shinkai Makoto style backgrounds and play with light and shadows – and the dissonance it creates with the comic style. That style is very broad comedy, quite ecchi and slapstick. As Miya Shigeyuki showed with Blood Lad he’s excellent with comic timing and if on the busy side, adept with visual humor – but the writing in the premiere results in inconsistent results. Sometimes it’s funny, sometimes it isn’t – which is about how I felt about Love Lab. In fact that disconnect between the look and content of Bokura wa Minna Kawaisou is the most interesting thing in the premiere, and I rather think it was supposed to be.
As for characters, that’s another “we’ll see”. Usa seems to have a bit more verve than many leads, though I can’t help but be disconcerted by the uncanny vocal similarity between Iguichi and a young Ishida Akira. This isn’t my favorite of HanaKana’s personas, and Kawai (the series name is a pun between that, the name of the dorm and the phrase “kawaisou” meaning “pitiful” more or less) could go either way. Shiro is pure comic relief at this point, as is the busty drunkard Mayuki (Satou Rina) who gets amorous (and stupider than normal) when hammered – which I’m guessing she often is. We’re sure to meet more misfits in the coming weeks, too. I’m interested to see if the wackiness settles down a bit after the premiere as it sometimes does with this sort of premise. This model, if hardly fresh, can definitely work if the writing and direction is there – it’s just a question of waiting to find out if it is with this show.
Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii – 01
The success of the first episode of Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii (spoiler alert for the blog post there) is largely a matter of horses for courses. If there was ever a series that was made for a studio, it’s this show and Pierrot – the fairy-tale, quasi-European look and tone has their name all over it, and 57 year-old director Kamegaki Hajime (Fushigi Yugi) in an old hand at shoujo adaptations.
For whatever reason I always jumbled this and Bokura wa Minna Kawaisou in my head – must be the rhythm of the names and the closing of the title with an adjective – but boy, are they different. The animation in this series is as old-school as the tone, even basic – but it fits. The heroine of the piece is Nike Remercier (Maeda Rena), 4th Princess of the Rain Duchy and – after a loss at a game of Janken with her older sisters – packed off to marry the King of the Sun Kingdom, Livius (Nobunaga Shimazaki). The latter is the most powerful nation on the planet, it seems, and the former a backwater, so Nike’s father is in no position to say no to the Sun Kingdom’s offer to exchange continued autonomy for a new bride.
Everything about this premiere is old-school shoujo – the look, the style of comedy, the dialogue – and while it certainly wasn’t spectacular I found it quite charming. Nike is the classic plucky Princess, determined to make her own way to the King rather than be escorted by her minders. Naturally this leads to all sorts of complications, and she ends up being robbed and forced to rely on the kindness of a low-ranking merchant widow and his two daughters. Eventually the two hoodlums who robbed Nike are paid off by a General who clearly has it in for the King to kidnap Nike – after which she shows a certain ability to manipulate the elements, and ends up converting the two idiots into underlings.
As for the King (who has a servant played by Sugita Tomokazu), he’s unseen until the final moments of the episode, when he’s revealed to be a teenager even younger than the Princess (think Ciel Phantomhive in two years). This naturally conflicts with the fearful image he has in the Rain Kingdom, naturally enough given that he’s managed to conquer the known world. This is of course going to be the central relationship of the series, one where the King will no doubt prove a brat but Nike will end up falling in love with him anyway. I look forward to seeing it play out if it’s brought off with as much wit and style as the premiere. I very much liked the way the old-school presentation was checked with winks to the audience, like the older ruffian telling his brother he’d “leveled up as a villain” when he suggested murdering the merchant’s daughter, and joked about “scoring points with the male audience”. Can this kind of series work in 2014? Well, it won’t sell many discs, that’s a given – but I imagine the anime is here to move manga, and if the series is as good as the first episode it might just ably pull that off.
Fairy Tail 2014 – 01
I had an up-and-down relationship with the original Fairy Tail anime, though it was mostly up. Until the anime caught up the manga and sunk into mediocrity with original material I was quite entertained by it most of the time, and occasionally more than that. And if I’m to be honest, there are very few anime characters I truly consider to be sexy, but Lucy Heartfilia is definitely one of them.
Well, Fairy Tail is back and adapting manga material again, and while I doubt I’ll pick up the series as a blogger I’m looking forward to being a viewer again. It doesn’t seem as if much has changed – A-1 is still in charge, Ishihara Shinji is still directing, and the show feels very much the same. It’s still occasionally quite funny, always high-spirited and while rarely brilliant, peopled with likeable characters who’re fun to spend time with every week.
It appears as if the focus of the first major arc of the 2014 series is going to be dragons, and it starts with a history lesson courtesy of the soul of the deceased Zirconis (Kuroda Takaya, who’s very busy here – he also plays Arcadios), who has nothing to say to humans after Wendy summons him but is only to happy to gabble on when Happy points out he’s a cat. There are familiar names (like Acnologia) in Zirconis’ tale of the birth of dragon slayers and the decline of dragons, and it seems as if it should provide fertile ground for an involving storyline. The nature of Mashima Hiro’s writing is to write long arcs with very little downtime in-between so that’s important – if an arc is a clunker you’re stuck with it for a while. The other plotline the premiere touches on is the rivalry between Fairy Tail and nasty rival guild Sabertooth, the two sides currently engaged in a battle for supremacy in the Grand Magic Games.