Monday, February 25, 2013

Anime Club 2013: First Impressions

Hey, everyone!  Andy here, AKA DaLadybugMan!  So, as I often do when I’ve started watching something but haven’t seen all of it, I’m going to give some first impressions!  Today, we’ve got a pretty big lineup of the shows my anime club has been watching this Spring Semester.  So let’s get to them!

Ghost Stories

Imagine that someone took a decent but kind of mediocre children’s cartoon, say, Ben 10 (note: I have never actually seen Ben 10 so I have no clue where it falls on the good-bad scale).  They’re trying to sell this cartoon overseas but it’s just not anything that would really stand out.  What do you do?

Well, Ghost Stories was in a similar situation.  The answer they came up with was “mess with the script to make it as hilariously offensive as possible.”  Yes, this is a show where middle-schoolers spout lines like “It would never work out between us—not because you’re a rabbit, but because you’re black” or “I’m too young to die!  The only girl I’ve had sex with is my babysitter!”

As for the story, it follows a girl named Satsuki Miyanoshita who, along with her brother Keiichirou, have just moved to her deceased mother’s hometown.  Along with three friends, she finds out that her mother was a ghost hunter (who ya gonna call?) and the five go around sealing the ghosts that cause trouble every week.  Oh, also they accidentally seal a ghost (demon?) inside her black cat, who he speaks through.  Very episodic so far, but that doesn’t really matter to the dub, since it’s about the jokes instead of the plot.

Basically, it’s a dub that takes great joy in being as audaciously offensive as possible.  So if that’s the sort of thing you like, watch it.  And all you purists who only watch subbed anime…make sure you watch the dub.


Nichijou, aka “My Ordinary Life,” is best described as “slice-of-life meets sketch comedy meets drugs.”  Or, if you’re the type of person who’s already familiar with anime, “Lucky Star or Azumanga Daioh…but on Excel Saga.” 

It follows two main groups of characters.  The first is a group of three ordinary high school girls.  Yuuko is probably the most awkward spazz ever who’s constantly cracking bad jokes to try to get reactions from her friends and who…has issues studying.  Mio is sort of the “straight man” of the trio, though she gets very passionate about food and drawing…particularly some of her, um…revealing drawings of attractive men.  The final member of the three is Mai, a quiet bespectacled stoic who’s pretty much a troll, messing with all the characters (and by proxy, the audience).

The second main group is a bit more eccentric.  You have the Professor, a cute little eight-year-old girl in a lab coat with a fondness for snacks.  Oh, yes, and she definitely is a professor.  After all, she’s the creator of Nano, a robot girl who just wants to be a real boy girl (wheeeen you wiiiiish upon a staaaaaar….).  She’s incredibly self-conscious of the giant screw sticking out of her back, as well as all the random little gadgets the Professor has installed in her.  As a result, her default emotional status is usually “flustered.”  The two are joined by Sakamoto, a black cat who can talk to them as a result of the scarf around his neck—another invention of the professor.  He’s very dignified—or at least acts it.  He is, after all, a cat, and it’s hard to maintain your dignity when chasing your own tail or playing with a blade of grass.

There are some other side characters.  The farmer’s son who acts like an aristocrat and rides a goat to school.  The girl who pulls out guns and explosives whenever she gets angry.  The principal, who wrestles deer.  The boy who sports a mohawk—not because he thinks it looks cool, but because he can’t grow hair anywhere else.

In terms of plot…well, it’s really hard to tell if there is any.  It’s sketch comedy (which means it’s a bunch of short, humorous clips) and it’s a slice-of-life anime (which means that it just sort of follows people doing everyday things…a term I use loosely when it comes to Nichijou).  Though there has been a scene or two where the plot threads of the two main groups have started to cross.  Who knows?  Maybe a story arc will develop in the future.

There’s really only one way to describe this show: strange and absolutely absurd.  It’s such rapid-fire, nonsensical comedy that watching more than one or two episodes at a time gets exhausting.  Do I recommend it?  Well…all I can say is that you should look up a few Nichijou clips on YouTube and, if you’re interested, watch the first episode.  If you like it, watch it.  If you don’t…run.  Run very far away, because it only gets more absurd from there.

Persona 4: The Animation

So I might not get this too much since it’s based on a video game that I’m not familiar with.  As a result, I haven’t been paying too much attention.  Basically, the concept (as I understand it) is that there are these three high school students (two guys and a girl) who start investigating this “midnight channel.”  Every time someone shows up on the channel, they end up getting kidnapped.  So they end up going into the TV to save these people from their shadows—the darker sides of them that they want to hide from everyone.  Once the person faces their shadow, they get a Persona: an avatar that fights for them.

It’s a pretty amusing show and I like the concept.  Not one that I’m crazy over, but it has fun characters, good character development, a good sense of humor, an interesting premise, and a solid dub.  If that sort of sci-fi is your genre of choice, it’s probably worth watching.  Check it out.

Just be wary of the bear puns.  They’re…not pleasant.

Blue Exorcist

I’ll be honest, we’re watching this one subbed and I haven’t really been paying attention to the subtitles.  It’s about a guy who’s the son of the devil but he’s training to be an exorcist or something?  I dunno, it’s probably okay?  Don’t look at me.

Sword Art Online

Also known as “Sword Angst Online” and “Swag Art Online.”  Well not really, but that’s what the people in the club (myself included) call it. 

The premise of the show is that there’s this MMORPG that you hook up to with a full-body simulator.  Oh, and after the launch, it turns out that the helmet can’t be forcibly removed or it kills you, you can’t log out, and if you die in the game, you die for real.  But it’s okay!  You can be free if you beat the game!

Basically, it’s something everyone will get the feeling that they’ve watched before.  There’s very little that’s refreshing or new about its concept.  It’s got good execution, though.  It’s kind of like doing the zombie genre (only in this case, it’s more like a genre that’s a zombie), but doing it with style.

Sword Art Online is one of those wonderful shows that strikes this absolutely beautiful balance.  On the “recognition vs. surprise” scale of entertainment, it falls heavily on the recognition side, but it generally chooses to go with the stuff that usually works.  It doesn’t totally suck, so you can at least be entertained while watching it, but it also makes some questionable choices that make it absolutely RIFE for riffing.  If you’re the type of person who likes to crack jokes about a show or movie as you watch it, watch this now.  Get some like-minded friends together and watch it.  I guarantee that, while you could certainly be watching a better show, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a show that gives you a better viewing experience.  It’s cheesy, it’s cliché, it’s dumb, but in all the best ways.  It’s mediocre without being bad or boring, which makes it the perfect guilty pleasure.

Madoka Magica

I’ve mentioned Madoka Magica in a previous post.  Quite extensively, in fact.  This is my third viewing.  So it’s not exactly like these are “first impressions” for me.  In fact, I can say right now that if you’ve never seen Madoka Magica, watch it now.  Don’t look up anything about it.  Just watch it.  It’s all of twelve episodes.  That’s under six hours.  That’s really not that much time, especially if you spread it out over some time.

However, I can bring up my first impressions of the dub, since I’ve seen four episodes of it now.  My opinion?  It’s…okay.  The Japanese cast was really strong, and the English cast overall just can’t compete.  Admittedly, the first four episodes might not be too good of an indicator.  Maybe they get better later on as they grow more comfortable with their roles, Homura hasn’t gotten much of a chance to truly shine, and Kyoko has had all of maybe two lines (Madoka and Kyubey don’t have as much of an excuse, though).  However, there were two performances that really stood out to me: Sayaka and their teacher.  The teacher’s just a small role, but she brought such energy and the voice fit the character so well that I took notice.  And Sayaka?  Sayaka’s performance was spot-on.

Darker than Black

Okay, so I’ve seen Darker than Black before, too, so I can’t do a “first impressions” thing for it.  I loved it when I first watched it.  And on a second viewing…well, it’s pretty good.  Not as great as I remembered, but I still think it’s worth recommending.  The world of DtB, at very least, is still as wonderful as always, and Yin is an absolutely amazing character.

So those are basically my first impressions (or second impressions?) of the shows we’re watching in anime club.  I may talk about some of them more. Who knows?  We’ll just have to see.

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