Project Haruhi
12Jul/116

Aquagaze’s Summer Anime Guide, Part One

It's summer, so let's stay inside all day and watch some anime!

The summer season is often associated with subpar anime, one-cour stuffing made by lesser studios, but this summer season is one hell of an exception. I found at least 8 shows I’m interested in and of course, I’m obliged to share my thoughts. However, because my opinion isn’t worth jack, I got some of my friends with higher standards to nuance it a bit.

Find out after the break!

The eyes of a killer

Blood-C

Production I.G.

Cast: Nana Mizuki (Fate Testerossa in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha), Keiji Fujiwara (Ladd Russo in Baccano!!)

Notable Staff: CLAMP (story, character design)

Summary

Ditzy girl with enormous pigtails falls, skips to school, eats breakfast, falls, sings a song, falls, talks to her friends and falls. Oh, and she fights vampires, apparently.

Story

CLAMP takes all the time in the world introducing its ditzy heroine to the world, but it’s no use. Saya’s sudden transformation into an acrobatic badass comes out of nowhere, and I hope the story will delve into this a bit deeper further on. Most of the episode is spent on Saya’s clumsy antics, showing off how awesome she is at sports and quickly going over her entire cast of friends and classmates. Only in the final third does Blood-C shows its true colours with an awesome fight sequence between or lanky heroine and some weird bastard child of a praying mantis and a monster from Bayonetta, yet this once again raised a lot of questions about both the plot and the talent of the writing staff.

Visuals

The world of Blood-C is vividly animated and as always, inhabited by CLAMP’s infamous noodle people. Hate it or love it, once again, but if you can’t stand Saya’s ginormous pigtails, there’s at least the lush twilit landscapes and the wonderfully choreographed fight sequences. Just look at all the blood flying around.

Sound

In one word, unnoticeable. Voice acting, soundtrack, OP/ED and sound effects all fly into one ear and come out through the other.

School uniforms

Straight out of a My Chemical Romance video.

Watch if: You’re tired of vampires who look like Cedric Diggory.

Don’t watch if: The word CLAMP makes you duck and cover.

There's trying to do vampires different and then there's that.

Second opinion

Lifesong: As someone who found the premise for Bood+ interesting in concept but lacking in execution I've had my hopes up for Blood-C to be what I wanted out of the original. Perhaps because of that the first thing that came to mind when I watched episode 1 was how dramatically different it is from Blood+. The rules of the world have been obviously reworked and despite sharing the same name as the main character from Blood+, Blood-C's Saya has little in common. That is not to say I didn't enjoy the first episode. I found the bits at the high school to be somewhat dull as the characters were introduced and hints of their personalities shown. Once the action picked up though, it was easy to see that Production I.G spared no expense on the action. Now that my expectations have shifted, I am sitting on the fence over Blood-C but I am hoping for the best out of the next few episodes. If nothing else I expect good things from the more violent moments this anime should have in store.

Irothtin: What kind of school gives people black summer uniforms? Wouldn't that get really uncomfortable, even with short sleeves and a skirt? And why do the uniforms have CHAINS on them? How does Saya keep her hair in such a ridiculous shape? If she's so clumsy, how is she so good at sports and also demon-hunting? Most importantly, why has she not brutally murdered those damn twins?

THESE QUESTIONS MUST BE ANSWERED!

Marlin Clock: This was a very bland product. The main heroine comes off very flat, she does pratfalls for no reason, and she seems to do nothing but take orders from people. There was also no tension in that fight for me. Even after the mantis-statue-thing has her by the throat she’s perfectly fine and able to get out of it without a single scratch on her. I will give episode two a watch, but if it doesn’t do anything to improve such a forgettable performance I think I’m gonna let it lie there.

Oh, the wonder!

Ikoku Meiro No Croisée/La Croisée Dans Un Labyrinth Etranger

Satelight

Cast: Nao Toyama (Kanon in The World God Only Knows), Hideyuki Tanaka (D in Vampire Hunter D)

Notable Staff:  Junichi Satou, director of Aria, Sailor Moon and Princess Tutu (Series composition)

Summary

Cute girl in 19th century France.

Story

Oscar Claudel is an upper class French Santa Claus wannabe and otaku avant-la-lettre. After one of his many travels to the East, he brings back home a little Japanese girl named Yune, who is adorable. Like, really adorable. Oscar introduces Yune to his grandson Claude, a blacksmith –That makes him Claude Claudel, I kid you not- and adorable things happen. The entire series might just consist of Yune being adorable and discovering the European way of life, but who knows what kind of past she has behind her. I hope that the writers will at least drop some hints on where she comes from and why she followed Oscar all the way to France.

Noteworthy in this first episode is the language barrier between Yune and Claude, which is made extremely confusing for the audience, because everyone speaks Japanese, even when they’re speaking French. Especially when it turns out that Yune can speak French, which renders this entire plotline useless. Who came up with this?

Visuals

This show is pretty. Really pretty. From the rich overviews of Paris over the beautiful architecture and the small details in Claude’s workplace, to Yune’s lushly decorated garderobe; if you don’t watch this show for Yune, at least watch it for the scenery.

Sound

I can’t even remember there being any music. Voice acting gets the job done, due to 90% of Yune’s dialogue consisting of ‘Yes!’ in a squeaky voice.

French

Splendid. The studio hired some actual French people to narrate the episode titles and eyecatches, and it sounds hella sexy. As a French speaker, I can also say that pretty much all of it is grammatically splendid, with the exception of the gallery which is mentioned a dozen times: Galerie du Roy. To spare you the nit-picking, that name makes no sense in French. It’s either Galerie du Roi (King’s Gallery) or Galerie de Roy (Roy’s Gallery). The first option is the correct one though, because the Galerie is an exact replica of the Galerie du Roi… In Brussels.

Watch if: You like things that are pretty and cute.

Don’t watch if: You are highly allergic to things that are pretty and cute.

Don't worry, Yune. I don't get it either.

Second Opinion

Lifesong: Slice of life magic at its best... if only the language issues present in the first episode could be ignored. Without spoiling it too much both French and Japanese are supposedly spoken in the episode. However it is nearly all done in Japanese! This left me laughing my way through something that really shouldn't have been funny. I am hoping that episode one was an exception to the rule and that it will be a little easier to take episode two seriously. I want to like this show. Ikoku Meiro's debut made that hard to do.

Irothtin: I stopped watching this one after the French guy acted all surprised when the little girl bowed. I'm sure it's quite good, though.

Marlin Clock: Admittedly, while I am a big anime fan, I’m really not the hugest supporter of the harsher sides of Japanese culture. Nor am I ever a fan when one culture touts itself superior on purely subjective levels. The first episode is relatively free of this, thankfully. The only notable part is how Yune’s prostrating for a simple greeting is supposed to be considered normal. Otherwise it was an enjoyable episode about a young person adapting to a new place and how those around her react to her own mannerisms.
However, the second episode, which was out by the time I wrote this, paints this story in a far worse light. The show tries to paint how much better a Japanese breakfast is with its full course and hot servings. This may just be me, but I would find a good baguette and some fine cheese to be a damn fine meal. What galls me more is that they speak of the traditional Japanese practice of thanking for the meal before eating, yet insultingly shows nothing of the centuries old practice of prayer any Catholic family would participate before a meal. The next part just gets strange. After going out to the market when Yune and Claude are done with their work, he explains new foods to her. He says these things to her IN ENGLISH. Oh, except for grapes. Yes, inexplicably grapes are the only food translated into French. Next is another baffling scene: she is served soup, and once prompted to use a spoon as is manners in any European culture, she can’t do it. The girl can’t use a spoon. I’m sorry but if you’re going to make a work about someone adapting to a new culture, it really is in bad taste to taut the greatness of your own before theirs. I’m still going to watch Croisée because I do like the art and Yune is the cutest character I’ve seen in a long time, but the more they cross into this kind of territory the more I think I might start watching it only to find where these kinds of unfair comparisons are made.

Our hero is so clichéd, he can block hits with one hand!

Sacred Seven

Sunrise

Cast: Takuma Terashima (Togusa in Durarara!!), Megumi Nakajima (Ranka Lee in Macross Frontier)

Notable Staff: Hajime Yatate, original creator of the Gundam franchise and Cowboy Bebop. (Original Creator)

Summary

Badly designed dude with powers from Hell gets a crystal from a big-eyed rich girl with an army of maids. Suddenly, all is awesome.

Story

Almost everything in Sacred Seven is straight to the point: story, jokes, direction; no strings attached, just plain old action. Like in the goddamn 90’s. The story behind Alba’s darker side and all the crystals shows some potential, but as usual, the infodumps are left for the second episode.

Visuals

Character designs are lanky and slender. Think Star Driver, only without everything that made Star Driver FABULOUS.  Especially Alma has enormous legs and looks a few years older than he really is, but his superhero costume, including a scarf of asskicking and a much-needed hairdo change is splendid.

Sound

Both OP and ED are performed by FrictionJunction YUUKA, one of Yuki Kaijura’s many bands. Connoisseurs may remember Kaijura as the composer of Puella Magi Madoka Magica and the creative pivot of Kalafina. Voice acting is decent, with the exception of Ruri Aiba, the rich girl. I simply can’t understand why you would cast Megumi Nakajima, a voice actress with such a distinct voice, just to have her sound like a generic cute girl. That girl from around the corner would have done that for 500 yen and a free ramen voucher.

Ridiculousness 

Hoverboards. Maid armies. A talking stone face that says hell at least once every line. Yes, this show is ridiculous. But that makes it all the more worthwhile.

Watch if: You want some more animation in your tokusatsu.

Don’t watch if: You are allergic to any kind of action series that isn’t thought-provoking and post-modern.

"This is my kind of anime!"

Second Opinion

Lifesong: Kids who transform and fight evil and still have time for their studies! Cliché? Yes. Overdone? Most likely, but I seriously don't think it has ever looked this good before. I really don't have much else to say about Sacred Seven's debut aside from pointing out the awesome production values. I wouldn't really recommend it to anyone who doesn't like the basic premise of Power Rangers and similar tokusentai shows. That said, the first episode was dressed to impress. If you are even remotely interested in the premise I say you should give Sacred Seven a chance.

Dragonzigg: We all know Sunrise does great action shows, which is good because that seems to be the primary draw for Sacred Seven at the moment. The show feels a little schizophrenic to me - our brooding protagonist Alma and his tortured dialogue, combined with the pretty nasty looking monster in the episode seems to indicate that this show is trying to play the action/drama tropes straight, but then we have an army of sniper maids and a battle suit piloting butler to deal with as well. I have to say I hope the show leans more heavily on the goofy side, as that seems to be the one that has more potential here. Continuing props to Sunrise on their technical chops though- the animation is great throughout, the fights are stunning and I really like some of the character designs, particularly Alma's powered up form that's revealed at the end of the episode. It feels a little messy at the moment, but if it can pull it together this stands a chance of being the action show of the season.

Irothtin: What is it with school shows having main characters who are nice-guys-mistaken-for-delinquents? When I didn't talk to anybody at school, I didn't get any cool rumours about me at all! At any rate, this seems to be a fairly formulaic action series so far, though I'm wondering if we'll see any other people who can transform or if it'll only be the main-dude-whose-name-I-can't-remember. Considering that they teased he has more attacks than the one he used at the end of the episode, I'm betting the latter.

Speaking of which, excerpt from the Skype Chat:

Iro: what's the name of the main guy in sacred seven again
Marlin Clock: guh
Iro: FORGETTABLE-MAN
Marlin Clock: unhappy-kun

Special mention goes to rich guy (Aquagaze note: Iro, that was a GIRL) with an army of battle maids and to the character who's a chunk of carved rock and makes expressions by magically materializing sweat drops and such out of colored dust.

Marlin Clock: The moment I saw a maid lining up a sniper shot, I knew this was the show for me. I really enjoyed the amount of camp that went into setting up the mythology of this show in the first episode. I am not going to expect a thick story here. What I hope for is an enjoyable superpower show, but also one that changes its formula. I liked Star Driver, but no one can defend how boring and cliché every fight was. (Aquagaze note: *raises hand*) Here’s to hoping what seems to be less conventional powers in play can be engaging enough to keep my attention.

Congratulations, you have now watched YuruYuri!

YuruYuri

Dogakobo, DAX Production

Cast: Shiori Mikami, Minami Tsuda (Phryne in Fractale)

Notable Staff: Mashiko Oota, director of Minami-ke and Mitsudomoe (Director)

Summary

Cute girls doing cute things, volume #5358.

'Story'

It’s Akari’s first day in middle school, and of course, she’s going to be late. Bolting out of the house with toast in mouth, she bumps into her upperclassmen and friends Yui and Kyouko. Together, they decide to join the Amusement Club, which serves as a poor writer’s excuse to make ‘doing nothing whatsoever,’ the main premise of the show. Judging from the first episode, YuruYuri is a poor man’s K-ON!, with everything that made the moe juggernaut special replaced with yuri cranked up to eleven. It’s enough to get a few laughs out of you, but fluff nonetheless.

Visuals

Character designs are cute and colourful but the overall animation quality is nothing to write home about. The fact that almost everything takes place on the same location, the clubroom, doesn’t help.

Sound

The main cast consists almost entirely of brand-new talent, with the more well-known actresses kept aside for minor characters, including Aki ‘Yui from K-ON!’ Toyosaki as a yuri fangirl, oh dear. The extremely catchy OP deserves a mention here though. Yuri yu la la la la yuri yuri!

Eyecatches

Seriously, these eyecatches are simply ridiculously long. While they ‘only’ gobble up one whole minute of the screen time, they seem to last a whole lot longer and absolutely refuse to end.

Watch if: You are bored.

Don’t watch if: You’re not.

You obtained the sword of lesbianism!

Second Opinion

Lifesong: Surprisingly funny and self-aware. The fact the this show went out of its way to make fun of itself and its characters greatly amused me. YuruYuri left a good first impression on me. Certainly not a must watch anime but if you are looking for cute girls doing cute things in a funny self aware fashion this a good place to get your fix.

Stay tuned for Part Two!

About Joris

Joris (aka Aquagaze) is a college student from the distant world of Europa. He likes indie music, JRPGs and anime. ‘The crazier, the better’ applies to all of his interests, including himself.

  • Jon

    I’m calling him Unhappy-kun from now on. Damn emo kids getting all up in my cliches.

  • Anonymous

    Alright so…

    Blood C
    Eh. It sounds just like what I was expecting. After getting bored to tears by Blood +, hearing Blood C was going to be made by Clamp didn’t set me up for anything good. Blood C sounds like it’s trying to either pull off the trope “Girl who’s incredibly stupid and very unassume is actually a stupid badass protector of the night” thing or , as the former being an unintentional side effect ,make this Saya more appealing to modern otaku by adding ditziness and what have you. Nope, Blood is kindddddddd of boring. 

    La Crois
    Hey, Clock? Yeah I think you’re thinking too much about the culture clash there. I’m speaking without having see it though so take this thought with a grain of salt. It’s most likely as Aquagaze said, how the young Japanese girl will react to the new culture, and how the culture will react to her reactions. To assume it’s being pretentious …well that just seems pretentious in of itself 😛 Not much to think about on this though …

    Sacred Seven
    Suddenly people were mentioning a school setting? Well I didn’t see that in the intial summary, but seeing as how the story is merely secondary, a way to just set all the crazy action scenes, I guess it doesn’t matter. This sounds …really cool. Makes me glad I read this review, because I probably would have never payed the show any mind had I not came across it. Perhaps it will start absurd, and slowly descend into a melodrama action packed story filled with intrigue? (lol guesses)

    YuriYuri
    lol ummm …Yeah. I dunno… I kind of liked Minami-ke. Maybe i’ll give it a try “when I get bored” XD

    • Jon

      “Perhaps it will start absurd, and slowly descend into a melodrama action packed story filled with intrigue?”

      Well, it’s by Sunrise, so we can certainly count on the melodrama part. Here’s hoping it doesn’t become as stupidly overblown as Code Geass.

    • I’m quite aware of this to be honest. I think just coming from a catholic family the idea of them not showing a prayer really rubbed me the wrong way and it put me in a bad mood for the rest of the episode.

    • Jon

      Maybe that particular family isn’t Catholic? Or maybe the studio just wanted to avoid putting explicit religious references in a lighthearted slice-of-life show? Given that most Japanese are irreligious, bashing them over the head with Christian symbolism seems like it would accomplish little besides making the target audience uncomfortable. And since this show presents a romanticized, historically inaccurate version of nineteenth-century France to begin with, I’m not sure what the big deal is.

      Out of curiosity, is your Catholicism also the reason you find the homoerotic tensions in No. 6 distasteful? That seems to be a developing trend…

    • Dayriff

      I do get the complaint that the *idea* of praying or in some manner giving thanks before a meal wouldn’t be strange to Oscar and Claude, even if they aren’t religious enough to do it themselves.  Saying grace before meals is very common even for barely practicing Christians.