Month: October 2014

Daily Lives of Highschool Boys

Daily Lives of Highschool Boys

nichibros

  • Trailer: DVD Trailer
  • What it’s about: Tadakuni, Yoshitake, and Hidenori are three utterly ordinary high school students. There’s no secret plot to take over Japan, no sports trophy to be won or grand romance to play out. There’s just the everyday world of teenagers in an all-boys academy; arguments, fantasies, awkward encounters and amusing yourself and your friends while hanging out.
  • Why you should watch it: It’s one of the most accurate renditions of male adolescence that I can think of. All of the social awkwardness, jokes that only make sense to you and your friends, and all-around low-stakes activities that nonetheless have all the characters invested in their outcomes. The show is hilarious, and the short sketch format (each episode being broken into three or so individual segments) lends itself well to the setting. The cast steadily expands to keep things interesting, to the point where several of the original characters more or less fade into the background by the end. The Japanese voice actors play their parts perfectly, every single one. The “Literary Girl” skits are some of the funniest stuff I’ve seen in anime for a long while.
  • Caveats: As with any comedy, there are going to be a few jokes you find unfunny, and when that happens you’re stuck with it while it plays out for the next ten minutes. It’s an almost exclusively male cast, so don’t go into it expecting your standard boobs-and-cute girls high school anime.
  • Themes: Adolescence. Friendship and social awkwardness.
  • Similar works: Nichijou, Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun
Advertisements

Chronus

Chronus

chronus

  • What it’s about: Since he was little, Makoto has been able to perceive something that others cannot. Whenever a person is about to die, dark figures begin to gather until they can claim the departing soul. Knowing that convincing anyone of the truth of what he sees is futile, Makoto strikes an uneasy peace with the figures – he’ll ignore them so long as they ignore him in return. But one day, one of the figures turns up at his school, demanding to speak with him.
  • Why you should watch it: Chronus is one of the two stand-out entries in the Anime Mirai 2014 competition, the other being Harmonie. It’s a brooding drama and an understated romance. The muted colour palette and shadowy backdrops fit in perfectly with the general flow of the story, and the show makes full use of the small amount of time it’s allotted without overstaying its welcome or cutting short the story. In short, it’s a well-crafted tale and well worth spending half an hour on.
  • Caveats: Few, really. It achieves what it set out to do. The plot isn’t that original, but it’s a solid execution.
  • Themes: Finding something worth fighting for, despite the odds.
  • Similar works: Colorful.

Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei

Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei

mahouka

  • Trailer: Aniplex Trailer
  • What it’s about: Magic is no longer a mystery, but a codified science upon which all modern militaries depend. To encourage development of the necessary skills, national academies have been set up for prospective talents to hone their skills. Tatsuya and Miyuki Shiba have just enrolled in “First High”, only to discover that prejudice and classism are rife within the student body.
  • Why you should watch it: This is an unapologetic power fantasy. It does away with the usual tropes of having the protagonist start out weak only to discover their true potential – Tatsuya starts off leagues ahead of his peers and stays that way. The magic system, politics, and general worldbuilding is intricate and detailed, and a lot of attention is lavished upon making sure the audience keeps up. The animation of the fight sequences is also pretty fantastic.
  • Caveats: The pacing is really, really weird. The complexity of the world requires a lot of exposition, which isn’t handled as adroitly as one might hope – lots of sit-down “As You Know” conversations. There is a heavy (albeit one-way) incestual romantic substory going on, so if that squicks you out, Id probably avoid the series.
  • Themes: Objectivist-leaning discussion on privilege, responsibility, and classism
  • Similar works: The world of A Certain Magical Index/A Certain Scientific Railgun is in many ways quite similar, though the story and characters are quite different.

Seirei no Moribito

Seirei no Moribito

moribito

  • Trailer: Fansub trailer
  • What it’s about: The wandering warrior-woman Balsa is in search of repentance, having vowed to save eight souls from death. When the Empress asks her to save the Second Prince of the Empire from the ongoing attempts upon his life, she quickly accepts and takes him under her wing. The story follows the pair as they flee in search of safety from the Emperor’s own forces, who believe that they must kill Balsa’s new charge to save their nation.
  • Why you should watch it: It’s a family slice-of-life-style drama with a decent splash of action to keep things interesting. When a fight does happen, the choreography is superb. Outside of that, the backdrops and scenery are fantastic, and the worldbuilding is first-rate. You get a sense of the society and world around Balsa through the eyes of several secondary characters. There’s a very “Chinese cinema” feel to Seirei no Moribito, not just in the setting but in the style of storytelling as well. All in all, it’s a pretty standard pulp-fantasy adventure story, with all the standard tropes you’d expect thrown in for good measure. It’s entertaining and there’s very little bad to say about it. A very solid series.
  • Caveats: Outside of action scenes the plot can drag at times, with some heavy exposition going on especially in the early episodes. You do really need to go into it with the mindset of watching a slice of life show with some action rather than an action show with some slice of life, though.
  • Themes: Family, duty, honour.
  • Similar works: The Twelve Kingdoms. Avatar: The Last Airbender, kind of.

Higurashi

Higurashi

higurashi

  • Trailer: No good ones, sadly. It’s a difficult show to make one for, I suppose
  • What it’s about: On the surface, Hinamizawa is a peaceful idyllic town. Keiichi Maebara certainly agrees, after settling into a new life at school surrounded by young girls. But nothing is as it seems; dark secrets and a string of murders are just the beginning, and it isn’t long before Keiichi is at the centre of a widening gyre of horror, gore, torture and murderous insanity.
  • Why you should watch it: Horror is a difficult genre for animated shows to pull off. The abstraction makes it difficult for the audience to empathise and get into the right state of tension. Higurashi is one of the rare successes, capitalising on a sense of foreboding in the early sections, and then upon its odd format later. The show is broken into a series of arcs, each covering the same time period but from a different perspective. With each “reset”, you know exactly how bad things are going to get, but you don’t know how it’ll get there.
  • Caveats: Do not let yourself be fooled by the first episode. While even the opening episode does drop some hints about what’s to come, it’s still a pretty cutesy-poo way to start for someone expecting a horror. It’s setting the stage, be patient.
  • Themes: Sin and atonement.
  • Similar works: Shiki

Plastic Nee-san

Plastic Nee-san

plasticneesan

  • What it’s about: Three schoolgirls who hang out in the plastic miniatures club, snarking on one another, playing pranks, and generally having a fun time.
  • Why you should watch it: It’s funny, it’s short, and it comes with a side of fan-service. Each episode is only 2-3 minutes long, so you can fit one in between whatever you’re doing and come away with a smile on your face. Or you can binge the whole series in about half an hour. The skits are ridiculously over-the-top and practically every one of them has been turned into a reaction gif at some point.
  • Caveats: This is not a deep series. The humour is your basic run-of-the-mill slapstick and physical gags.
  • Similar works: Teekyuu. Ai Mai Mi

Aoi Bungaku Series

Aoi Bungaku Series

aoibungaku

  • Trailer: No Longer Human trailer
  • What it’s about: A series of self-contained arcs, translations of six famous pieces of classic Japanese literature into anime form. The common theme across all of them is mental anguish, whether in the form of depression (No Longer Human), obsession and phobias (In the Forest…), or outright insanity.
  • Why you should watch it: Every story in this series, regardless of the director, leaves you slightly on edge. Psychological anime tend to use mental illness as a plot device to serve a larger story; Aoi Bungaku puts it front and centre – the protagonists’ sicknesses *are* the story. The most successful of the batch, No Longer Human, (which follows a life slowly falling apart under the inability to cope with depression) was later adapted into a stand-alone film.
  • Caveats: The first story is about depression and so is naturally going to be a little slow and, you guessed it, depressing. If you don’t like a particular story, skip ahead to the next one – each is by a different director and they all have different approaches to the subject matter.
  • Themes: Mental instability, in all its flavours.
  • Similar works: For similarly introspective anime, try the works of Shinkai Makoto such as Garden of Words or 5cm per second.

Hataraku Maou-sama

Hataraku Maou-Sama

hataraku

  • Trailer: English dubbed
  • What it’s about: The world of Enta Isla is a hairs-breadth away from being conquered by the demonic overlord Sadao, when a hero arises and turns the tide. After a final climactic battle at the demon’s stronghold, he flees through a portal to another world in order to recover his strength. Ending up in modern-day Japan, Sadou is forced to adapt quickly to his new circumstances, re-channeling his lust for conquest into his new job as a part-time worker in McDonalds.
  • Why you should watch it: From the premise, the show sounds like it’ll end up as just another forgettable slapstick comedy and nobody expected all that much before its debut (go back and look at the announcement threads and the tumbleweeds blowing through them). But while it’s definitely a funny show, the studio doesn’t go so much for the easy sight gags and over-the-top reactions. Instead, it prefers deadpan gags and overwrought dialogue for the sake of absurdism – it would have done well as a British sitcom, to be honest. It’s really quite an intelligent show, filled with small details and jokes that one could easily miss the first time round. Particularly impressive is the way that it maintains a tension between Sadao’s honest, hardworking new life and the indefensible horrors committed in his name in his old one. If you’re a fan of dry, understated humour then this is a good bet.
  • Caveats: The shows individual arcs are quite strong, but between each of them are some rather generic filler episodes. They’re still fun and provide setup for what’ll come later, but it’s a shame that with a 13-episode show, almost a quarter of the individual episodes are merely “above average” rather than truly great. No word yet on a sequel either, I believe.
  • Themes: There’s a strong anti-capitalist subtext running through the show that’s quite unusual in a Japanese comedy. The huge impact that one’s job or role has upon one’s identity, both in your own eyes and those of others.
  • Similar works: Saint Onii-san is a similar fish-out-of-water story about magical beings (in this case Buddha and Jesus) trying to live normal lives, though it doesn’t quite measure up to the high standard established by Hataraku Maou-Sama. There’s also Yuushibu. if you actually wanted an ecchi harem comedy type of show with this sort of premise.

Spirited Away

Spirited Away

spirited away

  • Trailer: “Disney Presents” trailer
  • What it’s about: While on the way to their new home, Chihiro’s family stops to investigate an abandoned theme park. Unfortunately for them, the park is home to a thriving community of spirits. Chihiro’s parents are transformed into pigs and she is left to fend for herself, finding a job as a scullery maid in a spa for spirits until she can rescue her family.
  • Why you should watch it: Spirited Away is one of Studio Ghibli’s crowning achievements. The animation is fantastic and fantastical, the story compelling, and the characters well-developed. If I had to pick one film to represent the best of anime, this would be it. The English dub is also very well-executed.
  • Caveats: The visuals are often straight-up *bizarre*, which might turn off people unfamiliar with the medium. At its heart, it’s a children’s story, so don’t expect something huge with an epic and deep storyline.
  • Themes: Independence and adolescence. That appearances can be deceiving.
  • Similar works: Anything by Studio Ghibli. I’d start with Kiki’s Delivery Service or Howl’s Moving Castle.

Black Bullet

Black Bullet

blackbullet

  • Trailer: PV Trailer
  • What it’s about: The apocalypse has come and gone. A parasitic species known as the Gastrea has infected every animal and person outside of a few sanctuaries, transforming them into monsters capable of passing the infection onto others. Tokyo lies in the shadows of a protective boundary of monoliths, but some Gastrea still slip through the cracks. Government-sponsored contractors, or “civil officers”, are responsible for hunting them down. They operate in pairs: children born with a mediated form of the Gastrea infection (granting them unusual powers) with an older watchdog. The show follows one such pair, Rentarou and Enju, as they combat threats to the city.
  • Why you should watch it: It’s an adrenaline-pumping action show that switches between humour and pathos on a dime. The fight sequences are excellent, but the show also takes pains to develop the characters of the protagonists and their allies. The show throws a lot of stuff at the wall in a very short space of time, so if you don’t find the first episode to your taste, give it another one or two to make sure.
  • Caveats: The humour is quite lowbrow – mostly innuendo and slapstick. The show tries to pack way too much into the early episodes, making it feel a little rushed. And at its heart it’s a show about ass-kicking little girls and giant monsters. If that doesn’t sound like your kind of thing, it’s probably not worth your time.
  • Themes: Discrimination, humans as weapons. At what point is it no longer worth defending an oppressive citizenry?
  • Similar works: Unbreakable Machine Doll. Attack on Titan.