Winter 2011 Initial Impressions

I feel a bit like I’m jumping the gun on this one since I haven’t started everything I’m watching this season, but Houkago no Pleiades doesn’t start until February 1st, so it’s either now or in almost three weeks. Anywho, time to get started on what I’m watching this season.

Haiyoru! Nyaruani: Remember My Love(craft-sensei) – Short Flash episodes about a cast of anthropomorphic Lovecraftian horrors living with a human boy.

Not really a whole lot to say here. These episodes are only 4 minutes long, and that includes the standard minute-and-a-half ED, fifteen seconds of sponsor stuff at the beginning, and a thirty second preview at the end. There’s literally only about two minutes of content per episode. That said, it is fairly amusing, despite not really knowing anything about the light novels they parody. My initial assumption about this before it started was that it would be an actual adaptation of the novels, but my hopes have since been dashed. I’d like to see an actual adaptation one day because I do like the setting and characters, but there just isn’t enough time in these to really enjoy it.

Rio: Rainbow Gate! – A casino dealer with the nickname “Goddess of Victory” defends her title as a Gate Holder against other dealers. Wacky casino hijinks and fanservice ensue.

Wow. Okay. This one’s a bit of a trainwreck. I’m not sure it knows what it wants to be and it has all of its priorities wrong. It goes back and forth between fanservice and content that’s actually worth watching. For example, in the first episode we end up having Rio dress in a maid outfit with a really short skirt for no reason other than fanservice. Almost immediately after, we have her walking down the street where she gets involved in a brawl, which is fairly awesome. Then we go back to having her do things in silly costumes (like dressing up in a skimpy wedding dress to play a game of poker), but then she plays a poker game that ends up like Saki-lite, which is kinda cool. (I say that in an attempt to convey the weird imagery that popped up during the mahjong matches in Saki like Nodoka’s alter ego or the water during Koromo’s plays, which in Rio’s case is matched by Rio and her opponent literally wading through a world of giant cards hoping to find the ones they need to win.) The second episode introduced the Gate Battle system and an opposing dealer named Elvis, who was a riot. Unfortunately, the main cast isn’t anywhere near as interesting as he is. That’s what I meant by having its priorities wrong. It seems like the show’s success will be entirely dependent on its ability to bring out interesting characters every episode. The show is dangerously close to being dropped, but I can keep up with it as it is now as long as it doesn’t get any worse.

Kimi ni Todoke Season 2 – Direct continuation of the first season.

There really isn’t a whole lot to say about this one. It started off with a recap of the first season and the first real episode started the next week. It’s really more of the same from the first season, so of course I love it. Highly recommended if you followed the first season and if you didn’t, then I recommend going out to watch it as soon as possible, because it’s a great series.

Puella Magi Madoka Magica – A young girl has her world turned upside down when she suddenly becomes involved in the world of magical girls. Sorry, but it’s an original series. I can’t really explain past the generic premise yet.

Despite the generic premise, the show is shaping up to be quite amazing. It’s got an all-star production team behind it and an all-star vocal cast. The art is great, the soundtrack is amazing, and the show promises to be a really dark take on the standard magical girl formula thanks to author Gen Urobuchi (Saya no Uta, Fate/Zero). No one knows quite what’s in store for the series just yet, but we’ve been promised that it has a “grotesque element” to it by SHAFT and I loved absolute everything about the first episode. The second episode airs today, so hopefully we’ll be thrown into the thick of the plot. I can’t freaking wait. My top premiere so far this season.

IS: Infinite Stratos – In the future, a new weapon called “Infinite Statos,” usable only by women, has been declared far too powerful for use in military combat. As such, the machines are now used for a global sport in a world of peace, with representatives from various countries training and competing with each other. Orimura Ichika is the only male capable of operating an IS, and is thrown into a chaotic all-female school to learn to pilot it.

Eeeeeeeh… I dunno about this one. The production values are high and the setting is interesting, but the characters just scream out “generic harem nonsense.” A lot of people are all over this show, but I’m just not feeling it yet. I enjoyed it, but it felt like it dragged on a bit in the first episode. I’m hoping that the second gets us going on something better, as I have some decent expectations for the series. It’s just that it’s taking us a long time to get to the key issues surrounding the series, like “Why is the lead the only male who can use IS?” and “What’s the worst case scenario if someone were to turn these machines on someone else outside of the sport?” I don’t expect the show to take itself completely seriously, but some answers to the questions people start the series with would be nice.

Yumekui Merry – Fujiwara Yumeji has the mysterious ability to see the aura of people, often being able to predict their dreams. Since awakening this ability, he’s had nightmares about being attacked by an intelligent race of cats. When he suddenly finds himself being attacked in the dream world during the middle of the day and the pain he feels is suddenly real, a mysterious girl he bumped into earlier that day, Merry, a denizen of the dream world herself, helps him out, hoping to find her way back to the dream world.

This one was very interesting and is one of my top prospects for the season. I’m expecting great things out of it. It just has all the makings of a great series as long as it can keep the pace and not succumb to pointless fanservice or annoying monster-of-the-week formulas. It’s got an interesting plot, interesting antagonists, and interesting protagonists. The music is good and the art is good, and as long as it all stays that way, we’re in good shape. Probably my third favorite premiere this season.

Gosick – In a small European country, a young Japanese boy befriends a rather strange but incredibly talented young girl who has an amazing gift for solving mysteries.

I can’t really do the premise justice, but that’s the gist of it. The show features Victorique, pictured above. She’s an adorable little gothic lolita with an inquisitive nature and deductive talent rivaling that of Sherlock Holmes himself. There have been a lot of mixed reactions on this one based on the premiere. A lot of people found it boring but liked Victorique. Some people hated both. Then there were the people who liked it. I fall into that camp. I actually rather enjoyed it. It was a bit of a slow start, but there were some laughs, some interesting parts, and all of the necessary information was conveyed. I think that if anything, it simply suffered from First-Episode Syndrome and needed to get the characterization and exposition out of the way. I expect it to pick up soon and be quite a ride.

Onii-chan no Koto nanka Zenzen Suki Janain Dakara ne!! – A girl with an extreme brother complex discovers that her brother and parents aren’t actually blood-related.

Quite the interesting show, this one. I’m not sure what all to say about it other than the art style is very jarring at first, but I quickly got used to it and the humor is kinda weird but did eventually start to grow on me. I assume I’ll continue watching this one, but it had a bit of an odd start. I do sorta like where the premise is going with the lead girl keeping her knowledge of her non-blood relation a secret from her brother and her brother’s childhood friend closing in on him as well. It should be funny enough to warrant continuing to watch it.

Mitsudomoe Zouryouchuu! – Continuation of the first season of Mitsudomoe.

The first episode was mostly unrelated, featuring very little of the usual Mitsudomoe cast and instead focusing on the in-series Gachi Rangers. It was just as hilarious as before, though, if not more so. This is going to be a great season for the show, but it will unfortunately only have a brief 8-episode run. It’s a shame, because this is one of the best shows this season.

Dragon Crisis! – A young boy’s life is thrown into chaos when his second cousin returns from overseas and begins searching for relics. The two get involved with a mysterious organization when they take one of their illegally obtained relics, which turns out to be a young dragon girl that they take in and name Rose.

I initially had no intention of picking this one up for several reasons (looked generic, didn’t really care, DEEN) but ended up picking it up after a bit of persuasion (decent reviews, Rie Kugimiya loli). I actually ended up somewhat enjoying it. I think it suffered a bit from exposition and characterization and I’m not sure what kind of a show I’m in for, but there’s a Kugimiya loli that says “Ryuji” about 900 times, and ALL OF MY TORADORA FLASHBACKS. Rose is pretty cute though, so I’m willing to keep watching just for her.

Kore wa Zombie Desu ka? – A young man is killed by a local serial killer but revived as a zombie by a Necromancer. When he becomes accidentally involved with a Masou-Shoujo from another world, he accidentally steals her magic and is forced to take her place as a Masou-Shoujo to defeat monsters.

I don’t know what the hell a “Masou-Shoujo” is, but I don’t really care anymore. This show is excellent. DEEN pulled off a miracle here with this amazing show (and the decent Dragon Crisis! as well). It’s interesting, it’s funny, it has good characters, it has a reasonable amount of fanservice, the overall quality is good. I’m surprised that I like this show as much as I do. It was just fantastic. Easily my second favorite premiere this season and I anxiously await Monday so I can see the next episode.

Fractale – In a peaceful and perfect future, a young boy has a chance encounter with a mysterious girl, but her disappearance leaves him with some questions and a mysterious pendant and avatar that will aid him in his journey to find both her and the mysteries surrounding the world’s Fractale System, the system that makes life easy for the world’s populace, and the reasons for its ongoing collapse.

This one was interesting. I have mixed feelings about how much I liked it for now because it feels a little difficult to process after only one episode, but there’s something special about this one in that it feels like it could easily be a Miyazaki/Studio Ghibli production. There’s just something about the somewhat anachronistic setting and the way the characters act that feels similar to what I’ve seen out of those movies. There’s even an aerial chase scene that’s extremely reminiscent of Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. I don’t know how this show will turn out, but it’s looking fairly promising and I hope to get to know the world and characters better as the series goes on. It just felt like there was so much to pour into the first episode that it couldn’t get to it all, but the potential is so high for this one that I can’t simply pass it up due to that.

Wandering Son (Hourou Musuko) – A young boy who wishes he could be like a girl and his friend, a young girl who wishes she could be like a boy, experience the trials of the journey of self-discovery.

This was pretty interesting. A very real take on a series about growing up and self-discovery and the insecurities that follow (so far, anyway). I’ve never read the manga, but I heard that it skipped the entirety of the elementary school arc at the beginning, apparently consisting of a few volumes, so I’ll definitely start. I’m quite impressed with the content. The art style for the show is also gorgeous. I absolutely love it. The voice work leaves a bit to be desired, though. I’m not terribly impressed with either of the two mains, especially the male lead. And dat Rie fu ED. Can’t wait to follow this one. It should be great.

Well, that’s it. I may or may not bother with an addendum for Houkago no Pleiades, but we’ll see when the time comes. Despite all of the negativity I keep hearing, it looks like this will be a pretty good season with a lot of great shows.

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