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Encouragement of Climb (Yama no Susume) - First Thoughts
Written by maehara   
Wednesday, 02 January 2013 21:03
Aoi prefers indoor hobbies and is afraid of heights, but her childhood friend Hinata loves to show off her passion for mountain climbing. As young children they once watched the sunrise from the top of a mountain, and now they've decided to take up mountain climbing in hopes of seeing that sunrise again. They have cooking battles with mountaineering gear, climb small hills in their neighborhood, and meet new mountaineering friends as they learn the ropes of the hobby. When will they finally see that sunrise again?

Another new show, another new short. This season seems to be full of 'em. Encouragement of Climb (or Yama no Susume, if you prefer) starts with a rather awkward-feeling faux-3D pan through Aoi's classroom - before normal visual service resumes when ultra-genki Hinata bounds energetically back into Aoi's life, reminder the shy one just how much trouble her primary-school friend used to be. Now that they're reunited, Hinata's going to make sure that Aoi follows through on her old promises to go mountaineering - and pay no attention at all to Aoi's protests that's she's now afraid of heights.

Hard to get a feel for a show in 3 minutes, but so far, so good. Unlike most short-form shows of late, this isn't a gag anime - this episode seems to be setting up (*gasp!*) a STORY, and while it's having some fun doing that, it doesn't feel as though the comedy's the main point of the show. And while it's clearly not had a budget lavished on it, it doesn't look too bad either.

THE GOOD: Different from the usual short-form idea, and seems to actually be going somewhere...

THE BAD: ...although it remains to be see how well that works in this format. And I'm still smarting from the loss of Poyopoyo this season, so all short-form First Thoughts will probably end with "..and it's no Poyopoyo".

Will be keeping it on this list for now - and at only 13 episodes, and a few minutes each time, it's likely to stay there unless it really makes a hash of it.

Encouragement of Climb is streamed by Crunchyroll.

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Boku no Imouto wa "Osaka-okan" (My Little Sister is an Osaka Momma) - First Thoughts
Written by maehara   
Sunday, 23 December 2012 00:10
Of all the residents of Osaka who lead interesting lives just by living normally, by far the most interesting of them all is the "Osaka Momma." A little sister with this sort of "Osaka Momma" personality has just moved to Tokyo to live with her brother after living apart for ten years!

It may involve a little sister, but at least it's not a 'brocon imouto' show. I could go without any of them for a while quite happily. Osaka-okan is another 'short', though - 5 minutes per episode, which this time out explores the linguistic differences between Osaka and Tokyo dialects. Which probably makes a lot more sense if you're actually from Japan and immersed in these things anyway.

Take one dose of cultural confusion, then, and mix it with a bad case of cheap-looking animation, and this one didn't grab me. The idea is going to be a hard sell to western folks, I suspect.

THE GOOD: It's a show involving a little sister that - so far at least - doesn't have her wanting to get her brother into her pants. That's quite rare these days. The culture-clash idea is actually a good one...

THE BAD: ...but one that really needs you to be immersed in one side of the clash to really appreciate. Also, looks cheap.

An interesting few minutes spent, then, but not a show I'll be following.

Boku no Imouto wa "Osaka-okan" is streamed by Crunchyroll.

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Say 'I Love You' (Sukitte Ii na yo) - First Thoughts
Written by maehara   
Saturday, 03 November 2012 22:18
Tachibana Mei does everything alone, and her peers torment her every day - something that's been going on for years now, for no reason that Mei can discern. It's given her a deep mistrust of "friends", as forming friendships only seems to lead to disappointment and pain later. Her tormentors' latest line of attack is to keep reminding her how long she seems to have been single for - but one day, Mei's roundhouse kick accidentally hits the innocent Kurosawa Yamato, the most popular boy in school.

Wasn't certain about this one when I started - it had the feel that there was going to be a lot of angst to it, and with a lot of good, upbeat shoujo around this season, I was almost looking for reasons to drop it. My queue this season is a long one. I didn't find anything, though, primarily as I can see things in the personalities of both Mei and Yamato that I can relate to. Which isn't to say I like them - Mei's trust issues are perhaps a little overblown, while Yamato comes across with all the false sincerity that only those who know they're popular can get away with - but their interactions over the opening two episodes were entertaining and believable, while the supporting cast (mostly Nakanishi and Asami) provide the necessary light relief. It's a good combination, and certainly worked for me.

THE GOOD: Believable characters in believable situations, without making the mistake of overplaying the drama too much.

THE BAD: Yamato in particular is someone I wouldn't trust as far as I could throw him - which makes the way the trust-wary Mei does trust him a little bit of a stretch. And both leads have some pretty major character flaws.

Nothing here, though, that would make me drop it - which is a pleasant surprise, and makes Say I Love You another welcome addition to a surprisingly shoujo-heavy season. And that's not a complaint...

Say 'I Love You' is streamed by Crunchyroll.

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Busou Shinki - First Thoughts
Written by maehara   
Sunday, 21 October 2012 20:52
A boy and his Arnval Shinki, nicknamed Ann, move to his hometown in Japan to start high school. As Ann helps unpack her master's things while he's at school, his other Shinki, Ines and Lene, help her out and discover a box labelled 'Important'. After tidying up the place, they inadvertently send a knife flying into the 'Important' box and decide to check the contents, finding a love letter inside - a love letter they promptly lose...

5-inch tall female-form robots (with skimpy outfits to match), capable of turning in an instant into little battle robots capable of flattening your apartment - and, in the case of our nameless male lead's Shinki, they're mostly suffering from a bad case of the warm fuzzies when it comes to their owner that leads to them getting all flustered over the thought of a love letter, and quite keen on the idea of cooking him a love-filled dinner. No small task when you're so small. It's all enough to push the "D'awwwwww...." meter past critical. I wasn't too sure when I started on Busou Shinki what I was going to get from it, and after the opening two episodes I'm tending to think they've focussed on the wrong aspect - the battle scenes are great, fluidly animated with great action and plenty of explosions, but it's on the I-wanna-be-your-one-and-only aspect that most of the time is spent, andto be honest I can get my fill of that from shows featuring full-sized humans. The only reasons to go for Busou Shinki in preference would be if you've a thing for miniatures or ball-joints. I know you're out there.

THE GOOD: Nice battles, cute character designs, and Hina should meet anyone's tsundere needs.

THE BAD: Too lovey-dovey for its own good.

I admit it, I just more action. I can't say I didn't like this, but it would definitely have more potential if it had gone in a different direction than the opening episodes did. I'll keep watching for a few more and see how it goes.

Busou Shinki is streamed by The Anime Network (North America) and, when they get themselves together, Anime On Demand (UK & Ireland).

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Ebiten - FIrst Thoughts
Written by maehara   
Saturday, 20 October 2012 19:34
On his first day at Ebisugawa High School, Itsuki Noya goes to the 'Tenmon' club, thinking it's the astronomy club - just the sort of thing he'd be interested in joining. Not quite - this is the Astronomical Club, which is something rather different - but before he realises his mistake, the club president, Kyoko Todayama, decides to put Itsuki through a sereis of bizarre bizarre tests that at least seem to be astronomy-related. After the tests are more or less deemed worthless, Itsuki is made a member, saving the club from being abolished.

Ebiten is going to be one of those shows that you have to take episode-by-episode. The basic setup involved the show, led by its 'astronomy' club full of fujoshi (and poor Noya), taking the piss out of a well-known classic series - which works great if you know the show they're riffing off, but doesn't if you don't. Episode one has high Saint Seiya content - not something I've watched much of, and it when straight over my head until Athena appeared. Episode three I didn't even recognised, and fell asleep through. Episode two, on the other hand, does Sailor Moon - which I do get (it's one of my formative shows), and so I enjoyed that one immensely. The series goes to great lengths with its homages, with the OP credits and eyecatches of its targets being lovingly recreated using Ebiten's own characters.

It's just a shame that those characters are so.. well, meh. Kyoko takes Haruhi Suzumiya at her Mikuru-abusing worst and cranks it up to eleven; Noya mostly stands around looking bemused at what the girls are up to; Mikuru expy Hanamori provides great eye-candy, but not much else. There are other characters, including the student president who's on a crusade to shut her former club down, but none of them really make much of an impression.

THE GOOD: When they hit the mark about a show you really know, it's damned funny. But that's a bit 'if'.

THE BAD: Cast are poor. If you don't know the show it's playing off, it'll go right over your head.

This'll be one where I watch the opening credits each week to see what they're riffing off - if I recognise them, I'll watch, if I don't I'll skip. Seems the only way to do it, really.

Ebiten is streamed by Crunchyroll (North America only).

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