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.
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.
Do you see that look on Maya’s face? That expression of disappointment and contempt, mixed with just a hint of anger? Yeah, that’s how I feel right now.
Look, I wanted to like Occult Academy, I really did. Back in the early days of the summer season, I called this show “messianic,” a gift from the heavens destined to drive back the forces of mediocrity and darkness. Here, at long last, was an anime that had a plot beyond “cute girls drinking tea,” characters with more depth and originality than tired archetypes like “twintailed tsundere,” and humor more sophisticated than “LOL BOOBIES.” In other words, this was exactly the kind of thoughtful, original show we needed to counter the ever-increasing tide of fanservice and moe garbage that’s been swamping the airwaves. Sadly, it was unable to live up to those high expectations.
Here we are at the tail end of the Summer 2010 season, with hardly anything worthwhile to watch. As Bakacast listeners know, we at Project Haruhi are having a hard time finding things to like in the anime we review each week. It’s getting pretty desperate here, such that we no longer care if the flat, uninteresting characters in shows like Highschool of the Dead live or die. Thankfully that is where Working!! comes in. This lifeline of hope was thrown to me by a friend who knew my despair. “This should help! This is moe as we remember!” she said as I sobbed into her arms about my lack of faith in moe. I remember her smile was like a ray of sunshine, boosting my confidence. Happily, she turned out to be bang-on correct. Read on to learn why she was right!
In case you’re unfamiliar, Black Rock Shooter was originally a character designed by the Japanese artist Huke, which the band Supercell adapted into a wildly popular Hatsune Miku music video. The video itself doesn’t feature much plot; it’s just the titular protagonist travelling around a post-apocalyptic world, looking all emo and angsty. That means when Yutaka Yamamoto and Studio Ordet decided to make a full-length original video animation from this concept for their first independent project, they had their work cut out for them. Not only did they have to prove their little startup studio could produce quality anime, they had to create an entire universe and mythology for Black Rock Shooter from scratch.
So, did they succeed? Did Studio Ordet prove it could hold its own against the older, larger and better-funded anime studios? Sadly, no. This OVA was a disappointment on nearly every level. It’s a pity, since there’s a really interesting concept here. Unfortunately, it was dragged down by poor animation, badly paced storytelling and low production values.
This is totally crazy, I know. This is the show everyone in the interwebs is drooling over. Surely I must have caught some rogue virus that rots away the parts of the brain that enjoy moe anime. I mean, I don’t like K-ON!! either, so just what is wrong with me? You’d think since I enjoyed Clannad so much this new offering from the same writer would be just as good, or at least have the same amount of impact as its predescessor, right?
Looking back at previous Key series, it turns out I didn’t like Air or Kanon very much, so it should hardly seem surprising that Angel Beats! ended up on the disappointing end of the scale with the rest of them. Why is that? The tried and tested formulas were there: mysterious afterlife world, highschool setting, girls with guns, a bit of fun thrown in the mix with emotional reefs to run aground on, etc etc etc. Oh, and a lead female protagonist who looks like Haruhi. Yup, all the key ingredients were there to satisfy my brain, and by all accounts Angel Beats! should have been win… yet it wasn’t.
Okay, confession time. How many of you clicked on this review just because it had “Railgun” in the title?
If you did, you’re in good company; that’s the very reason I started watching A Certain Scientific Railgun in the first place. It was only later that I learned it was a spinoff of another anime called A Certain Magical Index, which itself was adapted from a series of light novels by Kazuma Kamachi. Ever heard of him? Yeah, me neither. However, you don’t need to have seen Index to understand Railgun; the latter stands on its own as a highly enjoyable mix of action, scientific intrigue, comedy and slice-of-life. Yup, this show has something for everybody… including Bleach fans, since its second half contains an inordinate amount of soul-crushingly boring filler. Unfortunately, that turns out to be the major flaw that drags down an otherwise awesome show.
I have a confession to make. I am not a big manga reader. I follow a few titles, but I’m generally ignorant of the latest Japanese comics until I’m clued in by one of my friends. So I came into GA-REI -zero- with only basic knowledge of the manga. I knew it was about slaying evil spirits in the modern world, but that was all; and, honestly, that’s all you need to know. The show works fine on its own. It even made a fan out of me.
Be warned: the first episode is a massive tease. As usual, Tokyo is going to hell, this time because of a massive spike in spirit activity. A group of elite spirit hunters—whose best member is clearly the girl who uses her motorcycle as a weapon—is brought in to clean up the paranormal activity. They’re doing quite well up until the end, when a mysterious girl kills all of them with her katana. Continue reading →