First Impressions – Battle Girls: Time Paradox

These boobs be mad historical.

I’ve noticed recently that quite a few anime critics, myself included, have been using the term “generic” as if it’s some sort of foul sacrilege. We seem to have a knee-jerk negative reaction to anything that contains tropes we perceive to be common or overused. But that’s not really fair, is it? After all, trope by themselves are not bad. Even if a show uses the most well-worn cliches in existence, it can still be entertaining if they are properly executed.

Take, for example, Battle Girls, also known as Sengoku Otome. The plot is a mishmash of elements gleaned from InuYasha, Sailor Moon and Samurai Girls, but still manages to be engaging. The characters are archetypes we’ve seen a dozen times, but they’re forceful enough to be memorable. The animation is limited and cuts corners, but still delivers where it counts. This show is profusely derivative, containing absolutely nothing original. But despite this ostensible shortcoming, a whole lot of fun to watch.

The story revolves around Toyoomi Hideyoshino, who (thanks to her unusual name) is called Hideyoshi by her classmates. She’s a recidivist slacker who prefers to spend her time reading celebrity blogs and texting, despite her plummeting grades. After a particularly stern lecture from her teacher, she decides to stop by a shrine in the hope that divine intervention will help her next test score. She happens upon a strange shadowy woman casting a magical circle in the shrine, and clumsily interferes causing the spell to go haywire. The resultant magical discharge knocks her cold, and she awakens in the fedual era near a town in flames. To her disbelief, Hideyoshi is saved by two Sengoku-era war generals, Nobunaga Oda and Mitsuhide Akechi… except, for some reason, these famous historical figures have been transformed into busty women with magical powers.

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First Impressions: Hanasaku Iroha

When you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.

I’ve always said that Charles Dickens was a brilliant author and an atrocious writer. He’s responsible for some of the most iconic characters in the history of English literature, but his tendency to go into excruciating detail about unimportant things makes his stories nearly unreadable. If he hadn’t been paid in a way that encouraged this, he would be one of my favorite authors. Hanasaku Iroha is not padding its pockets by producing excessive material, but it is reminiscent of Dickens in all the right ways. It feels a lot like a piece of Victorian literature, which is not what I expected from the studio responsible for things like Angel Beats! and Canaan.

Just before spring break, Ohana is shipped off to her grandmother’s inn so her mother can run away from debt collectors with her boyfriend. Rather than taking her in as family, her grandmother puts her to work and makes it very clear that she will not be doing her any favors. Being accustomed to living with someone who is so impressively irresponsible, she has a bit of trouble adjusting to the strict and somewhat oppressive culture her grandmother enforces.

Please, sir, I want some more after the break.

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Final Impressions – Fractale

I might be stuck in a terrible anime, but at least I have this bitchin' hat.

I really wasn’t expecting much from Fractale. We’re all familiar with the grandiose claims Yamakan made at the start of the Winter season… bloviating about moe killing anime and how he was going to singlehandedly save it with his incredible new show. He even promised to retire if it performed poorly. Now that Fractale has bombed, how long do you think it will be until he starts claiming that plebian anime fans such as ourselves are incapable of appreciating the brilliance of his work? In any case, I wasn’t fooled by Yamakan’s posturing; I expected Fractale to be yet another mediocre offering from the overrated director who brought us such turds as Black Rock Shooter.

For most of the season, my prediction bore out. Fractale was an incoherent mess that failed to develop its characters or maintain a consistent tone. There were little snippets of cogent material, but they were buried under mountains of frivolous nonsense. But in the last few episodes, Fractale did something utterly terrible that transformed it from a stalled-out steam train into a full-blown derailment; it decided to play the rape card.

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It Got Better – Nichijou 1

Nichijou teaches about some of Japan's most famous souvenirs... by dropping them on Yuuko's noggin.

The most terrible thing that can happen to a fan is seeing their object of affection losing its touch. Hipsters cry indie tears when they hear the new ‘mainstream’ album by what used to be their favorite band. Film lovers pull the hair out of their heads when they see the person who used to be a great director releasing one piece of crap after another. And I suppose a lot of Kyoto Animation lovers felt the exact same when the studio wasted another 26 episodes on the Sakura High Light Music Club and dealt the death blow with the terrible abomination that was Nichijou episode 0. But worry not, fellow slice-of-life fans: the actual show makes up for this. Kinda.

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I’m Sick of GOSICK

ALL OF MY HATE

Oh, GOSICK, how far you have fallen. Not all that far, actually, since you never managed to climb very high in the first place. It’s been like scurrying up onto a small fence and then toppling over backwards off a cliff. Poorly written similes aside, this show is becoming enjoyable on a level much different than I would have ever expected. It’s like a mix of Detective Conan and Commando at this point. With the right mindset, that has amazing potential.

So let’s dive into episodes four and five of the best unintentional comedy anime of the season.

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First Impressions – Suite PreCure

Tee-hee sparkle sparkle!

Sometimes, you just need to think like a teenage girl.

I’ve been meaning to start watching PreCure after Sailor Moon introduced me to the wonders of magical girls last year. Like its predecessor, PreCure is one of those shows that everybody has heard of but nobody has seen. In Japan, it’s a hugely popular merchandising juggernaut aimed at little girls, much like My Little Pony in the United States. Perhaps because of its target audience, it has never received much attention in the Western otaku community. Regardless, with a new PreCure show just starting up, I figured it was the perfect time to see what this franchise is all about. This review covers the first two episodes.

From the very first scene, Suite PreCure dives headfirst a Power Rangers style black-and-white moral morass. Mephisto, the evil ruler of the musically themed Minor Land, is trying to steal the notes of the Melody of Happiness in order to transform it into a Melody of Sorrow. When the queen of Major Land scatters the notes all around Earth, Mephisto sends his transforming cat/girl minion Siren to retrieve them. However, Major Land’s adorable mascot Hummy manages to thwart Siren by transforming two girls, Hibiki and Kanade, into Cure Melody and Cure Rhythm. Thus begins the musical battle against the forces of sadness!

More after the break.

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Weekly Anime Review: Fall Season Wrapup

Well, this season of anime was certainly a pleasant surprise. After the lackluster summer season, everyone at Project Haruhi felt that our prospects for the fall weren’t all that great. Fortunately, a few standout series managed to rise above the typical  fare and keep us entertained. Foremost among them was Squid Girl, which we all agree was the best show of the season. Sadly, that’s pretty much the ONLY thing we agreed on.

While recording our weekly reviews on Bakacast, a number of disagreements sprung up. Dusty and Glen are huge fans of Star Driver, whereas I found it too boring to watch past four episodes. Alternatively, I’ve been quite the Panty & Stocking apologist, but Glen and Dusty find it marginally entertaining at best. And we all enjoyed hating on OreImo, one of the most reviled shows of the season… except for Glen, who actually enjoyed it quite a bit. Even our opinions of Iron Man tended to vary.

For the purposes of these reviews, I’ve tried to assign each show to the person who enjoyed it the most. The exceptions are Samurai Girls, which NOBODY liked, and Iron Man, which Dusty gets because he’s our resident comic book nerd. Hopefully, that will make these reviews more than just one unending stream of negativity. No promises, though.

Our in-depth reviews are below the break. Beware the sacrilege! Oh, and the spoilers too.

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Transformers Prime 1-5: Giant Robots Kicking Ass

The Transformers franchise has been in shambles lately, thanks in no small part to the crude machinations of poop-flinging man child Michael Bay. We’re all familiar with the universally reviled film Revenge of the Fallen, which reduced the rich mythos of Transformers to an endless string of racist caricatures and scatological humor. Hasbro is equally concerned about the future of their flagship toy franchise, as evidenced by their willingness to take a more hands-on approach in recent years. Although they can’t stop Michael Bay from making yet another disastrous film, they can forge an entirely new continuity to carry the franchise into the next decade and beyond. And with the help of Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, the writers who successfully rebooted Star Trek, they’ve created what may be the best American giant robot cartoon since the legendary Beast Wars.

Prepare to be blown away by Transformers Prime.
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Series Review – Sora no Woto

This guest review was written by Scott Spaziani of the Otaku in Review blog. Check out his site here, and subscribe to his podcast here.

Sora No Woto is a series that attempted to unite the two feuding cults of anime fans by combining traditional moe elements with a serious and compelling storyline. The result is a story about a young girl, Kanata, who joins the army in order to learn to play music. She is assigned to a post in the most remote part of the nation and ends up living a life of leisure in a world that has been decimated by war.

Although the production values of Sora No Woto are extremely high overall, the show doesn’t have a single original idea. This is a show crafted by committee and it shows in the most obvious places. The character designs and personality types of the main cast seem to be lifted from other popular moe shows. The main character, Kanata, looks and acts like K-ON!‘s Yui Hirasawa, and even has same musical affinity. The technically inclined but soft-spoken and shy Noël Kannagi is, in personality and character design, an obvious rip off of Haruhi’s Yuki Nagato. There elements give the show an artificial feel and are an obvious attempt at pandering to moe fans.

Read more after the break.

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BiriBiri is Back! – A Certain Scientific Railgun OVA Review

When I first heard there was going to be a Railgun OVA, I was disappointed. Yeah, you read that right. Unlike other fans, I was not looking forward to this. Ever since episode thirteen of the original series, I’ve been waiting impatiently for J.C. Staff to cut the filler crap and move ahead with the actual story, as laid out in the manga. The last thing Railgun needs right now is more pointless fluff. Being the pessimist that I am, I was steeling myself for more holodeck swimsuit antics and Pizza Hut product placement. Fortunately, I was wrong.

In a nutshell, this OVA was exactly like one of the better episodes of the TV series. There were lightning-lesbian antics, an urban legend-based mystery that needed solving, a personal crisis for Mikoto and the Power of Friendship™ to help save the day. Hell, you could stick this in the middle of the show itself, and it would be nigh-indistinguishable from a regular episode. This is both a good and bad thing; although this OVA is guaranteed to entertain the hardcore Railgun fans like myself, it also suffers from all the same flaws that made the original show such a hard sell for more casual viewers. This half-hour of Mikoto-filled goodness encapsulates everything that is right and wrong with the franchise as a whole.

Read more after the break.

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