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Kotoura-san - First Thoughts
Written by maehara   
Friday, 11 January 2013 22:35
Because of her unusual special abilities, Haruka Kotoura has never had a real friend or a loving family. On the contrary - they've made her life hell, and made her as lonely as a girl could possibly be. But that changes when she transfers into a new school and meets Manabe, who rather than being repelled by her special talent instead finds it rather exciting...

A bit longer than the usual First Thoughts, this one. The ability to keep your thoughts to yourself, to hide what you're really thinking, is one of anyone's core defence mechanisms - the world would be a terrible place if the people around you knew exactly what you were thinking, and we all had to be completely honest and direct. Haruka's mere presence strips that defence mechanism away from anyone near her - and the reaction, naturally, is for them to lash out at her. And Haruka's apparent inability to keep her mouth shut in the face of conflicting words and thoughts doesn't help her. As a result, her life could barely be any worse - an eternal prison of mental torture, rejection by others, and loneliness. The first half of this episode, which brought us up-to-speed with Haruka's life, was not particularly easy viewing.

And then there's the complete mood whiplash caused by her encounter with Manabe, who's perhaps the second person to come into her life who lacks the ability to be duplicitous (the first I suspect being her grandfather). What he says is what he thinks, and finding this out is the first ray of light in Haruka's miserable life in quite some time. Sure, there are going to be trust issues as she tries to unlearn her fear of getting close to people, but she certainly seems to be making a start.

You wouldn't think this was based on a 4koma romantic comedy. The tone of the opening half of this episode is the surprise of the season so far, as the tone of the show's promotional material give no clue it was going to go that way, while the source material (which I admit I haven't seen) apparently doesn't take the drama route either - drama's hard in 4koma format. But the anime has taken a big chance, and it's paid off in spades with the best opening episode of the season so far.

THE GOOD: Where to start. As hard as Haruka's past is to watch, it's a great sequence because it really does make to connect with the character and the pain she's gone through. Manabe, by comparison, is an idiot, but delightful to watch for his honesty. The mood whiplash between serious and romantic comedy works, because of the way the two of them go on to connect.

THE BAD: The show has raised unrealistic expectations, I think. I would be very surprised to see it spend much more time in the drama side, and that'll focus more on the comedy - the visual style and OP song are fairly strong hints at that - but I think that would be a shame and a waste of the potential that this episode has shown.

I would be ecstatic to be proven wrong, though. Kotoura-san has shown right out of the blocks just how good it could be, and I really hope the anime runs with that idea. We would be in for something special if it did.

Kotoura-san is streamed by Crunchyroll.

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Tamako Market - First Thoughts
Written by maehara   
Friday, 11 January 2013 22:33
Tamako works at her father's mochi shop, and along with her friends she enjoys a comfortable life at Tama-ya, the local shopping district. A talking bird suddenly interrupts their little slice of paradise, and things begin going downhill from there. The bird, you see, is a representative of the royal family of a tropical island, on a mission to find his Prince a bride. And while he doesn't (yet) think that Tamako's up to that job, he's happy to tag along with her himself...

Two things struck me with this episode: one, I want to throttle that f***ing bird; and two, I think that, as far as my own tastes are concerned, I may have passed 'peak KyoAni'. Tamako Market has all the hallmarks of a KyoAni show: the laid back feel of cute girls doing cute things, the recognisable look & character designs, the sense of light fun without getting too carried away... (Yes, I know these don't apply to all KyoAni shows, but they apply to enough of them.) It's all getting a bit "been there, done that".

Heresy? Perhaps. But it's telling that this episode didn't raise a grin or a giggle. Despite (because of?) the talking bird with the ATTITUDE. That probably wouldn't have happened a year ago. There are some hooks here - the bird's mission implies there might actually be a plot this time around for starters - but I don't know if I can be bothered waiting for it to kick in...

THE GOOD: It's KyoAni, to production values and attention to detail are top-notch - purely on the visual level, there's no ground for complaints.

THE BAD: It's KyoAni, who have made this sort of thing their bread and butter. But I honestly don't know if I could be bothered anymore.

Maybe it's caught me on a bad day - dodging riots to get home doesn't make for the best mood. Maybe I genuinely have gotten tired of typical KyoAni fare. Three-episode rule applies, so we'll soon find out.

Tamako Market is streamed by The Anime Network (North America) and Anime On Demand (UK & Ireland).

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Hakkenden: Eight Dogs of the East - First Thoughts
Written by maehara   
Friday, 11 January 2013 22:31
Five years ago a village was burned to the ground, and only three children survived. Now, as they live in peace in a church near a new town - a town that's not entirely happy with their presence - it seems that a powerful organization has come looking for them. To save their lives when their village was destoryed, the kids made a pact - and the nature of that pact is what's now of interest...

From a longer-than-usual FT, to one that'll be shorter than usual. I knew abaout halfway through the opening credits for Hakkenden that this was lining up to be one of those shows that's simply Not My Thing, but since I'm not one to assume I watched through the episode anyway (hey, I got further with it that I did with Amnesia..). Three kids make deals with a demon to save their skins, gain Powers in the process, and those powers in turn become of interest to the Forces of Evil - in this case, the church. I'm sure I've seen this before, repeatedly...

Not that that's necessarily a bad thing. I've watched enough magical girls shows to know they're as repetitive as hell, but that just proves the value of good execution. Hakkenden lacks that - it gives me no reason to like the lead characters, and when I hear lines like "They are the Goko Five Foxes from the Osaki Family, one of the Four Houses of the Sacred Beasts under the Church's care", my mind just hears "Silly shounen fighting show" and switches off.

THE GOOD: Well-animated, at least, and some of the scenes are suitably creepy. I appreciate good creepiness.

THE BAD: Just hackneyed, over-used ideas repackaged for a new audience, and I really couldn't be bothered.

Go directly to the drop list, do not pass Three-Episode Rule, do not collect £200.

Hakkenden is streamed by Crunchyroll.

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Seitokai no Ichizon Lv.2 - First Thoughts
Written by maehara   
Thursday, 10 January 2013 23:48
Hoping to take his mind of his entirely non-existent love-life, Ken Sugisaki heads to the local game store, hoping to pick up a galge or two to sooth his feelings of inadequacy - only for store clerk Minase to do an A* job of reminding him why he's a complete loser. With galge in hand, though, the quest for the perfect harem end begins - with the lessons he's learning being played out in his daily school life. What could possibly go wrong..?

...and so this episode begins, before it takes a lengthy detour into recap-land to cover how Sugisaki came to be on the student council in the first place - a case of raging hormones for the other members, tempered by Minase's unerring ability to put him in his place. Since I never saw the first season, this works well - particularly since there's been a few years' break. The characters are fully aware of what this episode's about, too, as witnessed by Kurimu's comment that "the reason I had Sugisaki tell that long story was because we're getting another anime!". How meta.

What that means, of course, is that I get an excuse to try a series I would otherwise have passed on for fear of being out of the loop. Shame more shows don't take that approach, really. As for what we're getting here: I like the feel of this episode, the series has a sense of humour that's just about on my level (just short of the gutter), and while the girls all fit the usual galge archetypes, that seems to be kinda the point.

THE GOOD: I made me laugh. This seems to be getting harder and harder to do. Sense of humour tweaks my funny bone.

THE BAD: It is pretty much by-the-numbers, so if you're looking for something original, this isn't going to be it.

I normally wouldn't bother with 2nd seasons where I haven't seen the first, but in this case I'm glad I made the exception. Decent, lighthearted fun - roll on the 'proper' episode 1.

Seitokai no Ichizon Lv.2 is streamed by Crunchyroll.

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Amnesia - First Thoughts
Written by maehara   
Wednesday, 09 January 2013 22:39
The Heroine wakes up on August 4th, with no memories of who she is or where she's been - but there's a mysterious spirit floating nearby her, giving her advice on what to do when young men Toma and Shin come to see her, concerned for her health after her collapse. But, as she continues to find herself unable to remember... well, anything, the spirit - named Orion - does his best to try and help...

"The Heroine", because she never gets named on-screen. Amnesia is one of those rare shows that I couldn't manage to complete the first episode of - I got about two-thirds through before a lethal case of "I really don't care about these characters or this story or anything that I'm watching" kicked in. The series is based on an 'otome' game - a dating sim aimed at a female audience - and you can't half tell, between the female lead with zero personality (protect what you want onto her), and the bevvy of bishounen that surround her. With her memories gone - an unfortunate side-effect of meeting alien spirit Orion, it seems - she now has to somehow 'reconnect' herself with those around her in the hopes that that will prompt her memories to return. Or something like that.

THE GOOD: Visually striking, particularly in how the eyes of a lot of the characters are drawn. THE EYES.

THE BAD: Everything else. Seriously.

Meh. I've limited tolerance for this sort of thing when it's the more traditional harem of females - a little eye-candy to ease the pain. When it's a harem of guys, there's really nothing here for me - although that's as much a side effect of me being waaaay out of the target audience as anything else. Dropped.

Amnesia is streamed by Crunchyroll.

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