Anime Review: Winter 2012 Anime Preview Part 1 of 2: Television Series

Winter 2012 Anime Preview
Part 1 of 2: Television Series

I actually started working on this nearly a month ago, but got sidetracked and put it aside until today. Better late than never…

This is a quick look at all shows that debuted (or are planned to debut) between December 22nd, 2011 and March 21st, 2012. I will review the first episode of every single English-subtitled anime show for the season, and for a quick overview of what I’m doing, check out here for an introduction. Unlike many other bloggers, I’m not going into long details here as to what each individual show is about — mainly because other bloggers have already done an exhaustive job in that task, no need to invent the wheel. If you want some interesting synopses and commentary, here’s a few other bloggers to check out:

  • Animuchart’s Big Big Chart (Large JPG) – Used to be that Chartfag was the go-to place for the big poster-sized summary for the season, but looks like Chartfag has thrown in the towel (hey, nothing lasts forever). But there’s plenty of other people with way too much time on their hands to pick up the torch, and here’s the best poster-sized chart out there.
  • Random Curiosity Winter 2012 – In my opinion the best and most comprehensive review site on the interwebs. A picture, basic details, a full paragraph description, a full paragraph commentary, and frequently links to video promos. Details upon details with thoughtful commentary, what more could you ask for? The only disadvantage: Quick single-line summary list of OVAs and Specials, no details or opinions.
  • Star Crossed Anime Blog Winter Preview – Proving you can never be too early, giving a run-down a full month before everyone else, One of my favorite anime bloggers looks at the season, giving each show a “potential” rating from 0% to 100%. One major drawback, however, is the tendency to primarily judge the show based on the studio and/or director making it, and the voice actors involved, rather than the show itself. One major advantage, however, is that it is the only blog to seriously preview the OVAs and Movies as well. That’s one of my big gripes, how everyone seems to focus like a laser on the episodic weekly series, and practically ignore everything else.
  • Winter Anime Catalogue 2012 – Metanorn – Pulling out all of the stops, Team Metanorn gives a blow-by-blow on the Winter season, breaking it down by genre, as well as breaking with blogger tradition and giving movies and OVAs some attention as well. Impressive layout and lots of commentary.
  • Sea Slugs Team Winter Preview – Nine contributors to Sea Slugs run through the entire season, show by show, each one giving their quick one-or-two-sentence opinions and whether they will watch it or not. Snarky as hell? You bet! Wouldn’t have it any other way.
  • The Cart Driver – One of my favorite anime bloggers, and someone whose opinion probably most closely matches mine (that I’ve been able to find so far)
  • Hanners’ Anime Blog – But how could I forget my other favorite anime blogger?
  • A few others that caught my eye: Lost in Anime is someone I seem to be blog-linking to a whole lot, as well as Sekijitsu and Emory Anime Club. I could keep going, but no need for overkill, especially when I’m already running two months late on the previews myself.

It is important to note that as I write this, it is approaching the end of February, and most of the shows for the season started about two months ago. I’m not quite as tardy as last season (where I was three months behind schedule), but that’s still ridiculously late. I decided quite some time ago that I was not going to concern myself with timeliness and keep to my own schedule, even if that means running weeks, months, or even *years* behind everyone else. For anyone looking for timely reviews, there are are literally dozens of bloggers out there to satisfy your every desire. As for me, I have purposely avoided watching any of the season’s shows, or reading any of the impressions/commentary so that I could form my own opinions first.

For the pre-viewing impressions, because there are so many shows for this season I decided to break this post into two parts. This section (Part 1 of 2) will cover the weekly anime series, or about 28 shows. The second section to come shortly (Part 2 of 2) will cover everything else: Original Video Animations, Specials, Movies, Original Net Animations, and Shorts.

The format will be somewhat similar to what I did for the Fall 2011 Anime Season back in December (large portions of this post are, in fact, copypasta). Each show gets a picture, and also a brief one-to-four sentence text opinion, which may include (at most) one or two sentence description, if any at all. Please note that unlike most reviewers, (in *most* cases) I don’t really care which studio is making the show, who is producing/directing it, and what voice actors are involved — instead I’m more interested in the basic concept, the plot, the story, and the characters. And, of course, I am most concerned in what shows are interesting to **me** (rather than what shows are “good” on a more conceptual level), so all of my opinions are colored through my own personal lens.

The previews will be divided into four sections. First, shows that caught my eye, as in those that appear to be the most interesting. That does *not* necessarily mean I think they’ll be the best thing since unsliced bread, but certainly the most intriguing and worth checking out. Second, shows that may have potential, might be worth watching or perhaps everyone else is saying there’s something worthwhile. Not a slam-dunk, but there could be a few gems here. Third, shows that are not entirely hopeless, as in there’s an outside chance one or two of them might break out of the sludge…but I doubt it. Finally, shows that are guaranteed crap, those that have no hope whatsoever. And now, on with the show:

1. Shows That Caught My Eye

Nisemonogatari – Weekly television series. It seems like a million years ago, but set the Wayback Machine to 2009 when everyone was going crazy over one of the year’s most anticipated shows, Bakemonogatari. Eventually the interest sort of fizzled towards the end as the final episodes become delayed and drawn out, but Bakemonogatari seems to have been the signature series of controversial director Shinbo as he made it his own personal playground for his quirky and interesting style of storytelling and visual repetition. At that time, I was blissfully unaware of Shaft’s notorious reputation, and in the first few episodes the Shinbo-isms were fascinating. After a few years and a few more Shaft-produced shows under my belt…not so much. Now we have Nisemonogatari, the sequel that focuses on Arararararagi’s two sisters. Prepare for an overdose of unnecessary head-tilts, sarcastic and dry humor, confusing word-play, impossible camera angles, geometric background designs, headache-inducing quick cuts, and girls, girls, girls! What kept Bakemonogatari on the rails was the characters turned out to actually be interesting, so there may be hope for Nisemonogatari yet. Series preview.

Another – Weekly television series. Hey now, this looks like it could be the hit of the season. Kouichi learns of an urban legend in his class, about a young girl 26 years ago who died suddenly, but everyone decided to go about their normal routine as if she was still alive. And now, a mysterious girl with an eyepatch shows up…could there be some sort of connection between her and the ghost from the past? Dark, moody, brooding and the series preview looks totally kickass. While I am not necessarily a connoisseur of the horror genre, I am always interested in a well-written mystery. I am pinning my serious-drama hopes for the season on Another.

Mouretsu Pirates – Weekly television series. “Bodacious Space Pirates”, yarrrrr! I have actually been looking forward to this for the past year as tantalizing hints have been dropped about it. A high school girl learns that her father has died, and by galactic decree she must succeed him in the family business…as the captain of a space pirate ship! Yeah, this looks as ridiculously over-the-top as you might expect from that snippet of a description alone. Forget about any deeper, thoughtful meaning because you ain’t going to find it here, turn off your brain and enjoy the ride. Series preview.

Black Rock Shooter – Weekly television series. In 2010, it had the anime establishment all in a-flutter with a one-shot OVA based on the Vocaloid character. But in the end, the reaction was decidedly mixed. My own opinion was equally conflicted, as I found all flash and fury with no substance. Reminds me a lot of watching Aeon Flux on Liquid Television. BRS had lots of purty pictures and stylish visuals, but lacking an actual story to back it up, and I might be interested if they tried to match up at least a semblance of a plot to the artwork. And now, looks like I get my wish! So, once again, we return back to the unresolved dichotomy of the love/hate relationship between two high school friends as their alter egos battle it out in a black and blue fantasy world. So, will this live up to its potential and promise? Series preview.

Kill Me Baby – Weekly television series. Yasuna and Sonya are your normal, boisterous school girls…except that Sonya just happens to be a trained assassin, and Yasuna is a complete airhead. Slapstick comedy ensues. Maybe I’m barking up the wrong tree here, but this looks like a combination of insane cute crossed with sublimely stupid. If they balance the Osaka-style comedy routine just right, it could be hilarious. As long as I don’t end up jamming knives into my ears to avoid having to listening to the opening song (seriously, the world would be a better place without accordions). In the mean time, NOW IS THE TIME ON SPROCKETS WHEN WE DANCE!!!

2. Shows That Have Potential

Daily Life of High School Boys – Weekly television series. The title of the series pretty much says it all, it is essentially nothing more than a few humorous interludes between a group of high school friends. Essentially, a male equivalent of any of a dozen inconsequential female analogs, like Lucky Star or A-Channel or whatever else floats your boat. Comparisons to last season’s Kimi to Boku abound, a show I did not like. The success or failure will rest largely on the writing and the jokes, so we’ll see how it develops.

Inu x Boku SS – Weekly television series. Ah, this year’s entry for the most HNNNNNNNNNGGGGGGG-worthy character, because no season would be complete without some sort of helpless, moe-type character you want to protect. Goodbye, Alice from Kami-Memo, sayonara to Yune from Ikoku Meiro, adios to Dalian from Dantalian no Shoka. Say hello to Ririchiyo, the haughty young rich girl who descends from a line of half-demons that falls under protection of a very loyal secret service guy, Soushi. Is this prove to be yet another empty vessel of a show primarily to promote the prerequisite desire for tsundere cuteness, as required each season by Anime Law, or can it rise above that shallow trope?

Gokujyo: Gokurauin Joshikou Ryou Monogatari – Weekly television series. “Tales from the Gokuraku Girl’s Dormitory”, as as the title suggests it is silly, perverted gags involving a bunch of schoolgirls. Do I expect any sort of involved plot? Perish the thought! But damn the artwork looks really cute. I hope it doesn’t turn into a hentai-fest…ah, screw it, who am I kidding? It’s almost guaranteed.

Natsume Yuujinchou Shi – Weekly television series. “Shi” is the fourth season in this heart-warming “healing anime” as Natsume continues his task of returning the names to various demons gathered by his grandmother in the “Book of Friends”. This comes hot on the heels of the third season (“San”) during the Summer of 2011, and as I write this I have only recently watched the fourth episode of that season. And if I’m still watching it after four episodes, usually that’s a very good sign. It’s hardly groundbreaking, but just some light, gentle, relaxing moments to break up the non-stop parade of squealing schoolgirls and screaming giant robots (and far too often both combined).

3. Shows That Are Not Totally Hopeless

Recorder to Randsell – Weekly television series. “Recorder and Satchel” (or Randoseru), featuring a seventeen-year-old high school student who is about four feet tall, and her elementary-school brother who discovered that Milk Does The Body Good. He’s tall, she’s short, yet their ages do not match…THAT’S THE JOKE, GET IT??!!!??!! So, will this be nothing more than a one-note gag, or can the characters be interesting enough to surpass the paper-thin set-up?

Aquarion EVOL – Weekly television series. Can it really be called a sequel if the second series occurs 12,000 years after the first, with a totally different set of characters? In any case, this follows the 2005 series, and yet another case of piloting giant mecha to save Earth against some sort of alien menace. And this is yet another case where I have next-to-zero knowledge of the original series, and I’m jumping into the middle of the fray. Looks pretty enough, but it takes more than pretty pictures to woo me over.

Tantei Opera Milky Holmes Act 2 – Weekly television series. What, Milky Holmes back for a second heapin’ helpin’ of color-coded magical girl madness? Not only that, but I’m not dismissing this immediately out of hand, especially after I’ve already panned the first episode as well as the OVA special? Yeah, I’m rethinking my original opinion from over a year ago, when I took the damn thing at face value without considering the heavy dollop of self-satire involved. If I adjust how I look at the show, viewing it as a shameless parody, this could fall closer into the “TerriBad” category of anime, “so bad it’s good!” Well, perhaps not good, more like “so bad it’s entertaining!”

Ano Natsu de Matteru – Weekly television series. “Waiting in the Summer”, where a group of friends spend the lazy days of summer making a film, and end up on a journey of self discovery. The twist: One of them is an alien girl, apparently. The anime blogging world wants to make this sort of a cross between AnoHana (which I am currently loving) and Onegai Teacher (if anyone remembers *that*, same director and writer, which left me thoroughly unimpressed). At this point, color me cautiously optimistic, but not yet sold.

Thermae Romae – Short television series. This is a three-episode early season filler for the Noitamina animation time-slot, as an ancient Roman is transported from the bathhouses of Rome into a modern-day bathhouse in Japan. The concept alone is enough to give me pause and pique my interest, even though it seems like everyone is ragging on it before it even gets out of the gate. The other thing is this is an “Noitamina” show, something which used to have quite a bit of critical cache, but after a number of less-than-popular flops, it doesn’t have quite the solid reputation it once had.

The New Prince of Tennis – Weekly television series. Did someone say…tennis? The Prince of Tennis has been around forever and a day, with a few dozen manga volumes and about 178 anime episodes under its belt, so there’s a massive backstory already built up. Guess what? I’ve avoided it completely so far, because I have no interest in watching a bunch of high school boys jumping around on a tennis court. There’s nothing here that grabs by attention.

Area no Kishi – Weekly television series. “The Knight in the Area” is a long-running and apparently popular high school soccer manga that is now making the jump to the world of anime. Meh, sports shows do not exactly have a stellar track record with me, so I’m not very hopeful.

Zero no Tsukaima F – Weekly television series. “Familiar of F Zero Final” is the fourth and concluding series in a long-running anime series that I have never watched, involving “Zero Louise” who is a failure at the magical Tristein Academy, ends up summoning an ordinary Japanese boy as her familiar, hilarity ensures yadda yadda. Much like last season’s Shakugan no Shana, this means that I would be jumping into a show that already has many episodes behind it, with characters well established, so I could end up just as lost and confused. Not only that, but Louise is apparently an archetypal “tsundere” character that you either love or hate with a passion, so we’ll see how this goes.

Rinne no Lagrange – Weekly television series. “The Flower of Rin-ne” appears to fill this season’s “young rookie piloting giant robot to save the Earth” anime quota, as happy-go-lucky schoolgirl Madoka is asked to control a mecha to fight off an alien menace. For anyone who has cared to read any of my reviews, my dislike of giant robots is deeply ingrained, but surmountable. My only real hope is that they don’t take the story seriously at all, the more they poke fun at themselves the better.

Papa no Iu Koto wo Kikinasai – Weekly television series. “Listen to Me, Girls, I’m You’re Father!” Awoogah, aWOOgah! Pedo alert, pedo alert! College freshman boy is forced to shack up with his three underage siblings (14, 10 and 3 years old) in a tiny one-room apartment. Hey, the jokes practically write themselves, right…right? Oh, I can already sense where this is going from a mile away, and I’m not looking forward to my quota of pre-teen pootang. ’nuff said.

Senki Zesshou Symphogear – Weekly television series. And last but definitely not least…Symphogear! Oh, where to begin? In the near future, mankind is threatened by the alien menace known as Noise…and Earth’s only defense turns out to be two school students and idol singers who battle them…with song! No, this is NOT a retreat of Macross. But it does have the potential to be bad…gloriously bad. So much so, that it could even be…TerriBad. That unique mix of “terrible” and “bad” that makes it fun to watch just to see how much of a trainwreck it truly is. For recent examples, think Sacred Seven. Think Star Driver. Think Infinite Stratos. I’ve been strongly considering watching more TerriBad Anime on purpose, so this could fit the bill.

4. Shows That Are Guaranteed Crap

Amagami SS Plus – Weekly television series. Uhhhhh…because one season of wanktacular harem faptasy was not enough? Last year, the first season involved the male protagonist playing out various romantic fantasies with six (or was that seven?) different girls, like playing different “routes” in an erotic video game. I didn’t like it the first time around, and second season…will probably be exactly the same thing. It’s a sketchy concept aimed at a very narrow high-school-aged Forever Alone demographic, because 2D is always better than 3D AMIRITE? Admittedly very nice artwork, but the idea alone is a loser to me before it even starts. Expectations: ZERO.

High School DxD – Weekly television series. This looks like it is filling the spot for the “totally shameless harem anime” for the season. Titties, ass shots and barely-concealed sexual innuendo galore, as our hapless loser-boy gets surrounded by amply-endowed-barely-clothed girlies, after getting killed on his first date, with angel and demon girls galore! So, what makes this different from the merry-go-round of crappy harem shows I’ve endured in the past two years? Nothing, really — the concept and setting are really just the barest of glue holding the characters and story together, it’s all about the T&A and anyone who tries to argue otherwise is fooling themselves. This is no different from Ichiban Ushiro no Daimaou, or Itsuka Tenma no Kuro Usagi, or Maken-ki, or Hoshizora e Kakeru Hashi, or whatever P.O.S. you want to dredge up.

Brave 10 – Weekly television series. Um. Set in feudal Japan, ten ninja warriors are gathered to end the constant war, apparently with “BL” overtones. Sure, the fangirls out there might squeal in delight, but this sets off all the warning bells for me. Should I even bother, and just give it the pre-emptive thumbs-down now?

Smile Precure – Weekly television series. OWWWW! MY EYES!!! SOMEONE PLEASE TURN DOWN THE BRIGHTNESS BEFORE I’M BLINDED!!! This is just the latest in a long string of Pretty-Cure related shows featuring the latest bevy of color-coded magical girls…because you can never have enough magical girls, apparently. Pretty soon they are going to have to start inventing colors because we’ve already gone through literally dozens of girls in all the previous iterations of this uber-series.

Poyopoyo Kansatsu Nikki – 3-minute television shorts. Poyopopo, you not a cat, you are a pillow. Or marshmallow. Or beach ball. Get out of there!

Fushigi no Yappo Shima: Pukipuki to Poi – 5-minute television shorts. Apparently it’s a stop-motion adaptation of a children’s book. That’s about all I know.

Danball Senki W – Weekly television series. It’s a direct sequel to last year’s Danball Senki series, which I have yet to sample. Basically yet another kiddie game-related fighting show, only this time with miniature robot characters that battle it out; the high concept reminds me a lot of Cross Fight Bedaman.

Himitsu Kessha Taka no Tsume Gaiden Mukashi no Yoshida-kun – Weekly television series. Apparently the second season of “Eagle Talon”, about a secret society trying to take over the world. I have just two words that damn this to the dustbin “Flash Animation”. And that’s all I need to know.

Well, there ya go — the good, the bad and the ugly for the Winter anime season. For 2012, I am planning on changing some of the ways that I review shows, cutting the amount of work I do in about half. For example, instead of reviewing shows one episode at a time, I plan of watching up to three episodes of a series (if three are available) and reviewing them at once. Also, some shows (such as OVA specials for series that I have already reviewed previously) will only get “summary reviews” instead of full-length ones. Also, it will probably be a few weeks before I get around to posting reviews of the above-listed shows, so stay tuned.

Anyway, that’s the episodic television anime shows for the season! Coming up soon is “Part 2 of 2”, covering the specials, movies, and OVAs, in about a week or two. Any comments from the peanut gallery? Bueller? Bueller?

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