Ξ February 6th, 2011 | → 2 Comments | ∇ The Anime Annals |
Aside from the usual post-Move adjustments (not to mention the continuing and still-frustrating job of job hunting), I’ve been trying to play catch-up with the Winter 2011 anime season premieres. When I first saw the Preview calendar for the newly-airing series starting up in January, I was a bit dismayed at the apparent lack of interesting titles for this season. Man, was I in for a surprise or three! What with the inability to watch the new shows during the moving process, I eventally had a backlog of about 16 episodes to watch, with more coming out daily! Finally, after a couple of viewing marathons, I’m just about to get into my episode 5s…
Out of the typically 30-40 new series each season, I feel fortunate if I find eight that really want to keep me tuned in, and not through gratuitous fanservice or other types of crude manipulation but through the craft of the creators; the Art. I have pretty particular tastes in anime (as do most fans, I imagine), so finding eight shows to track from week-to-week is sometimes a challenge each season. But that’s the number that seems to fill my plate up perfectly, in addition to the few series still continuing from the previous season. The shows I enjoy following the most are those in which the creators are clearly devoted to their project, and the ones I track are usually works that are very well-done. Characters and story are paramount, with eye candy following. (I mean, who doesn’t like sweets? ) “Popularity” is the least important criteria; as is usual in other media, “popularity” pretty much equals “common”, “typical”, and “run of the mill”, in too many cases.
Here’s a Preview clip highlighting a few shows; it’s un-subtitled but for a few titles it gives a good “feel” of the show, especially Level E at the start (!!!), and Wandering Son at 5:10:
What we have this Winter 2011 season is an assortment of remarkably diverse stories, from a wonderfully re-worked and genre-busting depiction of magical-girl anime, Puella Magi Madoka Magica, to a tender and moving series about approaching puberty, gender identity, and friendship, Hourou Musuko (aka Wandering Son). There’s the crazy humor and verging-on-slapstick physical comedy of Beelzebub and Mitsudomoe Zouryouchuu which make for a nice contrast with the sweet, funny, and sentimental look at first love, Kimi ni Todoke (second season). The more adventurous, action-oriented shows (with more mercifully-brief-and-in-English titles!) such as Fractale, Gosick and Level E are at this early point quite interesting, intriguing, and very involving so far, thanks to well-defined characters, visuals, and story. Lastly there is Yumekui Merry, which is kinda like a combination of all of the above LOL
So, nine titles is sorta like Bonus +1! I’ll be writing more in the near-future about specifics, but for now, just an overview of the ones I’m loving at this early date, as most series are only at episode 5 as of this post.
I think the biggest surprise this season has been Wandering Son. I must congratulate its creators for tackling a subject that is both challenging for the viewer and rewarding as well to those who care enough about its characters to follow their unfolding story. To be honest, the subject of gender identity didn’t really appeal to my tastes, but I wanted to give the show a chance based on its possible merits, the characters. And I’m very glad I did. It’s very liesurely-paced and kind of “washed-out” looking (I prefer calling it a “light pastel”), but the focus is firmly on the charater development here. Not only are we witnessing these two youngsters coming to grips with the alien pangs of puberty, but also that they only really feel themselves when dressed (and feeling) as the opposite sex. Really high marks for this one; it’s refreshing to see a different subject broached in a medium that can sometimes be lacking in originality, and a topic that is sure to polarize viewers based solely on prejudice. Hopefully it will lead to more open discussion, tolerance, and understanding, all of which are critical in an open and civil exchange of ideas and opinions. Here’s a subtitled Promotional Video:
Speaking of originality, studio SHAFT and its gifted director/visionary Akiyuki Shinbo deliver it in spades with Puella Magi Madoka Magica. The genre of magical girls is probably my least-interesting type of anime; I’ve only watched the Nanoha trilogy and had no desire to watch another, though I did enjoy Nanoha for the most part. When I saw that Shinbo and SHAFT were taking on this re-imaging and re-defining of the magical girl I got SO excited! I’ll admit to another bias: I’ll watch anything that Shinbo directs. People seem to either love his work or hate it, and I’m firmly in the former camp. His trademark surrealism and vivid color pallete is heightened through its contrast with the genre’s syrupy-sweet storyline and candy-cane visuals. His talents come to the fore in casting a darkening spell over the cast that is palpable: he is showing to the Viewer the consequence and importance of the duty of what being a “Magical Girl” can involve. Very heavy weights indeed… and quite interesting! This clip of the ED reflects a more appropos mood for the show than the cutesy Opening:
Fractale is proving to be another contender for season’s favorite; from OP to ED, from start to finish, it is filled with visual splendor, delightful character designs and development, and a fantastical story that is still filled with many questions that make me want to keep watching: the equivalent to a great story making you want to keep turning the page to see what happens next. We’ll see how that goes, but for now I’m enjoying watching the little “doppel” Nessa’s story unfold… she’s probably my favorite new character of the season. You can watch the first three episodes currently streaming at Anime News Network, here. For a tempting taste, here’s a PV that incorporates some of the dazzling kaleidscope OP in it, and the awesome theme song (I WILL BUY THIS):
Level E’s zany science fiction story (teased-at in the first clip, above) in which many types of aliens are living amongst us is proving delightfully unpredictable so far, and has (for me) a feel of Durarara!! and Baccano! vibes. Which is a Very Good Thing
Gosick has a unique atmosphere; being set in the 1920′s gives it a distinct setting and the characters act accordingly. For some reason it’s taking a little while to warm up to Veronique, the Holmes-ian co-star, who seems a bit too cold for me. But I have noticed a warming trend; hope it keeps up In a way, she reminds me (visually, at least) of a combination of Rozen Maiden‘s Shinku and Chobits‘ Chii. Which is, again, a Very Good Thing indeed! Here’s another great ED which incorporates the last scene as a segue into it:
Of course, being an unashamed Romantic, I love Kimi ni Todoke, and the sequel is not disappointing in the least, throwing a scheming male competitor into the mix this time. I expect that things will get shaken up nicely! Poor, poor Sawako… But her voice actress, Mamiko Noto, really shines in this role; for her it must be the role of a lifetime! Sawako, a very quiet, withdrawn, and timid girl, is expressed so well with this talented seiyuu’s gifted portrayal it must be seen (and heard!) to be believed. The show itself does a wonderful job of making us feel/remember those sharp pangs of first love, and related experiences at that age (even when deliberately frustrating and aching). The OP from season 2:
All in all, I’m very happy with what the new season has delivered. And it just goes to show: don’t judge a season before its premiere! Very pleased, so far, and will update accordingly