I’m at the point now where I pretty much look at NoitaminA as just another hour on the schedule. Why? Because there’s clearly no longer a broad mandate to air a certain type of series, and more and more we’re seeing the block air shows that could just as easily show up on any other late-night slot. When they aren’t showing repeats (or just not showing anything) there will still be the occasional daring and different series – like Ping Pong – but no more often than in any other slot.
That brings us to Nanana’s Buried Treasure, which is far from the worst series NoitaminA has aired recently but may just be the most “un-NoitaminA” one. It’s a LN through and through, a silly premise engineered to pay off some moderate fanservice and generate a fantasy/action storyline. I didn’t dislike the premiere at all – it was nicely drawn and animated, and well-directed by Kanta Kamei (Usagi Drop). I just fail to see anything in it that’s remotely original or unusual, and it appears to be so lightweight that a stiff wind would would blow it away. Even now, that makes it puzzling to contemplate just what makes it a NoitaminA series.
The story, such as it is, follows a 16 year-old named Yama Juugo (Ono Yuuki) who’s “escaped” his parents’ house and is moving into an apartment on Nanae Island, a man-made paradise for students that sounds an awful lot like Academy City in the description. He’s got a boilerplate busty/boozy landlady, Maburo Shiki (Uchiyama Yumi), and an unexpected roommate – Nanana (Tanabe Rui), who’s the ghost of a girl who was murdered in the apartment 10 years earlier. She spends her days eating pudding and playing online games and everyone takes this with a preposterous lack of protest, and she immediately starts in on bossing around and physically abusing Juugo. There’s also a backstory about a treasure worth “hundreds of billions of Yen” which also contains several magical items, which is going to loop us into a criminal outfit full of moe girls called Matsuri, who’re no doubt also after the treasure.
I could go on, but it’s pretty self-explanatory. As for as NoitaminA is concerned Ryuugajou Nanana is pretty much proof that the dream is truly dead, but on its own terms it really is halfway decent. Nanana is pretty annoying but Juugo has more spark than most male leads, the visuals are quite pretty, Kamei knows what he’s doing and with the adaptation written by the experienced and capable Kurata Hideyuki (Kamichu, Samumenco) it’s likely that the crisp pacing we saw in the premiere will continue. Don’t expect substance here, but you could do a lot worse for fluff.
Sidonia no Kishi – 01
If Nanana is a Miata – a pretty little thing without much going on under the hood – then Knights of Sidonia is a Volvo. I can’t help but hearken back to the Kingdom anime experience when watching the first episode here, because it looks like we’re going to have a very interesting epic story, but the CGI… Why – just why?
There’s a pretty important difference with Kingdom, actually, in that Sidonia no Kishi will get nowhere near the length of run that it had, and in fact is rumored to be one-cour. That strikes me as a very bad idea for this type of story, which has echoes of Legends of the Galactic Heroes and Uchuu Senkan Yamato. This is also an interesting one to check out because the studio behind it, Polygon Pictures, is also the CGI house that will be partnering with Ghibli and Miyazaki Goro on Sazoku no Musume Ronja later this year. Early returns are mixed – the backgrounds are actually quite well-drawn and the CGI works fine in the set pieces, but as always it’s brutal in the character modeling and the close-up scenes – borderline unwatchable. And there figures to be a lot of that in “Ronja”.
But that’s something to worry about in the Fall – for now, as with Kingdom we have a very engaging story right out of the gate here, if you can get past the eye poison. The hero of the piece is Tanikaze Nagate (Ohsaka Ryouta – a very good seiyuu who’s seriously risking overexposure at the moment) the “mole man” who’s been living underground with his grandfather on board the giant seed ship Sidonia. The solar system has been wiped out by an alien called the Gauna (though humanity hasn’t encountered one for over a Century) and the human race apparently survives only in these ark-like ships. After his grandfather’s death Nagate comes to the surface in search of food, and immediately gets himself injured and captured trying to steal rice. But someone in the hierarchy clearly knows him, because he’s plucked up and placed into the pilot training program, eventually to pilot one of the Gardes, huge robotic weapons. On a routine ice-mining sortie he and his party of cadets are attacked by a Gauna, and the cycle of war apparently begins again.
I’m not going to say there’s nothing in this premise we haven’t seen before – it’s actually pretty derivative – but there’s nothing wrong with a classic sci-fi scenario if it’s well-presented. And so far, this is well-presented. There are interesting little tidbits tossed out there – anti-military protestors warning of “undead” running things, a third gender having been created – though the example, Shinatose Izana (Toyasaki Aki) looks and sounds 100% female – and a rival for Nagate in Kunato Norio (Sakurai Takahiro). My two concerns here are the CGI and the likely one-cour length – this looks like a good story, but it’s going to have to be very good to overcome those obstacles. Still, epic sci-fi is a pretty rare thing in anime these days and if Sidonia no Kishi truly is an example of the species, I suspect I’ll stick with it to the end.