Right, I’ve now seen the first episode or two of all the shows from this season that I was interested in checking out. And… I’ve no idea yet if I’ll be epi-blogging any of ’em (sorry, but still co-blogging Chihayafuru and not sure how much time I’ll have this term etc. etc.). If I do, then I’ll post something later this weekend. Otherwise, I might not pick up anything else for now in terms of blogging it every week, and write more editorials and other posts instead, which is something that I want to do more of this year, anyway. For now, though, here be some first impressions…
Natsume Yuujinchou Shi episodes 1-2
…well, if you can call them ‘first impressions’ when discussing a show that’s in its fourth season. As mentioned elsewhere, I marathoned the previous seasons of this wonderful series last summer, and I was soon hooked by its unique blend of youkai, drama, romance, action, humour, cat-service, feelings, and themes of friendship and personal growth, centring on a great main character who attempts to overcome various obstacles and steadily develop in strength. This fourth season looks set to continue such developments, with this week’s second episode concluding the arc introduced last week, in which Natsume is almost captured by a group of youkai living in the Eastern Forest who wanted the Book of Friends for their master, only to be actually captured by the sadistic head of the Matoba clan. Time and time again we’ve seen the importance of friendship being championed, and it’s to Natsume’s credit that the theme never gets old. Not that this double episode was like those (bitter-)sweet ‘epiphanic’ stories that are peppered throughout seasons 1-3, but these two action-(and humour-)packed episodes were just as good.
In other words, witnessing Mr. Nasty’s attempts to prey on Natsume’s insecurities, and seeing the captured youkai end up coming around to Natsume’s side, and having another youkai leader (the aforementioned ‘master’) introduced, and seeing Madara and Misuzu in BOSS mode, and Hinoe and the other youkai in adorably comically angry mode, these were all highlights of this episode. As was the new OP sequence, including a shouta Natsume and the older/ current Natsume looking back on him, which not only shows how far Natsume has developed, but also links nicely with Shigure giving Natsume his old sweater and saying that he’ll grow into it still at the end of episode 2. The new snow-themed ED sequence is sweet, too; showing a cold outer world, but having the warmth of so many friends with whom to shelter. Finally, having missed Natsume’s habitual words of wisdom/ reflection last week due to the cliff-hanger, I enjoyed his thoughts at the close of this week’s episode: “Will I ever be able to talk about this feeling, this frustrating happiness. It may be time for me to stop looking away and know for real. Since I’ve decided to protect the book of friends. Since I decided to live accepting what I hear and see.” The phrase “frustrating happiness” is key; we’ve seen Natsume at his most frustrated, lonely, isolated, but we’ve also seen flashes of more optimistic moments, especially in the previous season, where he finally seems to be on his way to finding contentment and happiness amongst his unique situation, family and friends. “Accepting” no longer seems a problem, so “know[ing] for real” seems the next step, and I look forward to taking it with him.
Poyopoyo Kansatsu Nikki episode 1
Go ahead, you may laugh (or should that be, lol) at the fact that I even checked this one out, but, er, it’s actually not bad. Firstly, yes, I love cats. However, even I didn’t think that this would make me watch a shamelessly moe show made up of only 3 minutes long episodes about one. Is it just a kids show? Or just a funny little thing for people who like cute (cat) stuff? This opening episode basically introduces the main kitty character, who goes on to live with a young woman (who finds/ lands on him while in a drunken daze) and her family. Lots of Cute Funny ensues. Clearly, this rather rotund feline is not a patch on Nyanko-sensei, and I won’t say much more for now (so weird writing about something so short), but I’ll keep watching, for the time being. In short: an entertaining and colourful series so far, so no doubt it’ll be a fun little diversion over the coming weeks.
Another episode 1
Next up is Another, a horror/ mystery show about a boy who transfers from Tokyo into a much sleepier little place where one of the students appears to be a dead girl with an eye-patch and of whom the other students are a wee bit afraid. And it was a pretty solid first episode, I thought. The visuals (as I expected of P.A. Works after watching Hanasaku Iroha for so long) are finely done, albeit in a rain-soaked, grey and mauve-tinted way. The creepy vibe promised from the PV that I saw largely delivers (not least of all the use of Dem Dolls *shudder*), though not so much creepy as slow in some parts. The BGM goes hand-in-hand with the visuals, in the way it raises the tension, before allowing it to simmer again (before being raised again, etc.). The characters seem to be a nice mix of genders and personalities, from what we’ve seen so far. Eye-patch girl is suitably enigmatic, if a little too talkative for a supposed dead girl. The OP and ED are not my cup of tea at all, though; the former is too much in its attempts to be gothic and haunting, and the latter is too slow/ sad/ inappropriate/ dull. I would have to watch at least another 2-3 episodes to see if the mystery shows enough substance to maintain the tension over the course of the series, otherwise fingers crossed for some entertaining horror/ mystery to come.
Daily Lives of High School Boys episode 1
I was pretty excited when I saw the PVs for this the other week, and, when I saw this first episode, it didn’t disappoint. It looks to be just as funny as Nichijou was, if not more so. Main differences being that, because there are only three main characters, the story should be a lot tighter, which is a plus. However, a minus would be that there are less loveable characters to fall for and the boys seem to be playing everything for laughs, with not many subtle/ low(er)-key moments to balance out the more zany ones. Still, the lack of adorable robot girls and talking kitties aside, I like the self-referential parts and in-jokes, which reminded me of Level E a little bit, and the overall feel might be like a cross between Nichijou and Kimi to Boku. In short, a show about three young blokes whose inventively animated shenanigans are tonnes of fun to watch and I’m very much looking forward to more.
Thermae Romae episodes 1-2
A show about a Roman architect called Lucius who time travels to modern Japan and falls in love with their bath houses? Yep, this was certainly something different. The animation is a little on the sparse/ ‘talking heads’ side, but it also reminds me of Nichijou in places, which is never a bad thing, and the use of music is great. I’ve heard that the series is only three weeks in length, though, which is a shame. However, this might be for the best, as I can’t see a terribly large number of points of similarity between Classical Rome and Modern Japan, aside from public bathing. Perhaps more comedy shows, at least ones that are so visually comedic, should only have 10-15 minutes long episodes, too. The racial comments are interesting; I never thought of Japanese (and, I guess, other East Asian) folks as having particularly flatter noses compared to Europeans, but that might just be a reference/ dig at ‘Roman noses’; seen as either beautiful (as depicted in high art), or, er, too pointy. So, bath houses and fruity milk (and bottle tops/ openers and refrigeration) pique Lucius’ interest in the first part, and the second part again tugs at his interest in such superior technology.
In fact, episode 2 is even better than the first. I loved the music even more, particularly the use of ‘Ride of the Valkyries’, the Swan Lake pieces, and the theme for Romeo and Juliet, during the horse riding, the ‘dying’ man’s wish and the birth of the new baths idea, respectively. The Mount Vesuvius backdrop was a nice echo from the first episode and Lucius’ new discoveries (poached(?) eggs and Sake, as well as the onsen) were nicely done. And more concisely, too, unless that’s unfair given the fact that the first episode required a longer introduction. I don’t even know what to say about those monkeys… The onsen man’s Engrish is also a fun twist when he tries to get Lucius to use the other pool, and Lucius’ references to ‘the flat noses’ is as suitably deadpan as it is in the previous episode. Also, even though the show certainly doesn’t focus on race, it might have been more interesting to have the ‘flat noses’ refer to Lucius as the ‘[insert appropriately derogatory adjective] nose’, for more comedic balance. I also liked the rapid montage of modern technological objects and buildings in the background during Lucius’ epiphanies (instead of the more standard stars/ explosions/ sparkles), as that also fits in with the old vs. new theme. I’m really pumped for the next episode, where he’ll meet Emperor Hadrian, I think. Though, it really is a shame that it’s such a short series. I guess there’s always the manga for those who want more.
So, there you have it; my picks for the current season. Hope you’ve all found some anime to enjoy over these cold winter months, whether they be new or old series. Unless I hear of any other shows from this season that I might like, then I’ll probably just stick with Natsume and the High Schoolers at least, while slowly going through the backlog on my amorphous ‘to watch’ list. Have fun!