Impressions – Winter 2013 Anime Season at a Glance

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After surviving the end of the world and the Fall 2012 anime season, we have a brand new season of anime to look forward to! This will be the first time the Mahou Tofu crew will be covering a current anime season, so we got a lot of work ahead of ourselves. This Winter 2013 season, we’ve taken a look at 21 of the shows that have been released since the beginning of January. It’s an interesting season, filled with shorts like Ishida to Asakura and Yama no Susume. We’ve got new shows from the usual anime powerhouses such as Sasami-san@Ganbaranai from SHAFT, Tamako Market from Kyoto Animation, and AMNESIA from Brains Base. Here, we’ve compiled each writer’s thoughts about the various new shows released this season, as well as sequels to a few established series. First impressions are linked for each preview, and we’ll have everyone cover some (not all – sorry!) of the shows this season. Be sure to check back each week for our weekly impressions!

Ai Mai Mi (Dream Creation):

ai mai mi_3The only way I feel that I can accurately describe this show is by comparing it to something that would appear on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim. The comedy is very situational with a lot of non sequiturs, and the jokes contain many pop culture references. If off-the-wall, nonsensical, and unabashed humor is your kind of thing, go for it. Ai Mai Mi is based a unique style of manga that only utilizes four panels, so it’s easy to see how it was designed mostly for quick laughs. Personally, I’d say I’ll have to pass on this one.

Watching: No One

AMNESIA (Brains Base):

Reverse-harems operate on the premise that a lone heroine is surrounded by attractive young men (bishounens) and through emotionally turmoil and angst, finds love in one of them. AMNESIA is unique in that the protagonist has no name and cannot remember anything about her life, and with the help of a mysterious being who only she can see, must reestablish her social connections with five men in her life in order to restore her memories. Brains Base (Durarara!!, Mawaru Penguindrum) is handling the production on this one, which is sharp and colorful. The MC is pretty bland (granted, she DID lose her memories, and probably much of her original personality), but the male leads seem interesting. There seems to be a dark side that underscores this show, which has so far featured bullying and a creepy green-haired stalker, so the success of this show will hinge on the mystery aspect and the character relationships.

Watching: Daniel

Bakumatsu Gijinden Roman (TMS Entertainment):

bakumatsuBakumatsu is a very interesting historical fantasy series. The setting is the Edo period of Japan, but the level of technology that the characters use a times confuses. From zombies made of flour, to the main character destroying a building in a power ranger get up, the confusion leads to entertainment in this goofy series. Fans of Lupin III will see a familiar style in this series because Monkey Punch had a hand in the character designs for Bakumatsu. Overall, the goofy action in this series makes for a fun twist on an old school story.

Watching: Will

Boku no Imouto wa “Osaka Okan” (Toho Company):

This one will be tough to enjoy if you don’t have a good handle on the differences between Tokyo and Osaka culture. Each episode follows our MC and his sister, who was raised separately in Osaka and recently moves back in with him, and their comical interactions with everyday things. Much of the humor derives from Osaka culture, such as differences in the way they call certain things to how they cook certain dishes. The voice work by Ryoko Shiraishi (Hayate no Gotoku) and Kana Asumi is good, but they end up being typecast as the straight-man and the cute tsundere girl, respectively. The show is interesting if you’re into Japanese culture and are amused by the situations in this show; otherwise, you’ll feel like any foreign exchange student watching Family Guy for the first time: confused.

Watching: No One

Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai Next (Media Factory):

boku wa tomodachi ga sukunai nextBoku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai Next brings back the same great romance and comedy that we got in the first series. The Neighbors Club is continuing its mission to help the very odd members learn how to make friends even though we now know that that was not the original purpose of the club. I am liking what I am seeing for the most part because the girls are being even more honest about their feelings which is really fleshing out the romantic element of this series. I am enjoying the slight change in character design that we see in this season because I had a few complaints regarding things in season one. Overall, the ridiculous humor hasn’t skipped a beat, but you do need to watch the first season in order to grasp what is going on now.

Watching: Bryan, Will

Cuticle Tantei Inaba (Zexcs):

cuticle tantei inabaCuticle Tantei Inaba is a very odd action comedy that gives you everything that you wouldn’t expect from a detective series. You come in expecting werewolf fights, but what you get is ridiculous comedy with a heavy focus on male relationships. I would be lying if I didn’t say that you get a boys love feel in every episode, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Any actual action is kept to a minimum, but if you enjoy the odd comedy that this series possesses, then you will be quite captivated throughout the entirety of each episode. Overall, the odd humor is the bulk of the series that will make or break your opinion of it moving forward.

Watching: Will

GJ-bu (Dogakobo):

603565-gj_buI wasn’t quite sure what to expect when going into GJ-bu, but I was pleasantly surprised with what I was given. Great animation, an interesting mishmash of characters, and some genuinely funny moments make this harem turned sketch comedy a satisfying watch. I personally don’t like sketch comedy all that much because a lot of times it can feel staged and doesn’t allow for the characters to grow out of the mold that they are given. While I have a few reservations about this series still, I enjoyed watching this first episode (save for the arachnids). If you need a breather from anything serious, GJ-bu is sure to provide you with some nonsensical fun.

Watching: Bryan, Will

Hakkenden: Touhou Hakken Ibun  (Studio DEEN):

d1514dcc1e50766570d11abdb1e032e51357288358_fullSet in a fantasy world with four powerful families, a corrupt church, and Japanese mythical creatures abound, Hakkenden is proving to be an interesting action series with some hopeful potential. While Hakkenden isn’t anything absolutely extraordinary at this point, it definitely has some serious potential to be good. Though, 13 episodes is a constrained time frame to really flesh out the huge story it seems to want to build towards, but hey who knows? If action series that deal with religion and Japanese mythology are your thing, then Hakkenden may be up your alley.

Watching: Will

Ishida to Asakura (Dax Production):

Watching the first episode of Ishida to Asakura left me speechless. It’s not because I was blown away by the story (there is none) or by the animation (it’s barely passable); it’s because I wanted two minutes of my life back. The show, based on a “surreal gag manga”, relies on odd non-sequiturs and crude humor. You have a protagonist that’s incredibly bland, a supporting cast that exists solely to fight over how amazing the MC is, and women who all have giant breasts. The jokes fell flat for me, and would only appeal to people with a really crass sense of humor and a short attention span.

Watching: No One

Kotoura-san (AIC):

Kotoura-san - OP - Large 06Well, I’m not sure if I can ever trust an anime that’s classified as a comedy romance anymore because the first episode of Kotoura-san is the talk of the town with its heartrending opening half. I was very intrigued with AIC’s decision to construct the first episode in the manner that they did, but it worked pretty well (of course, I have no idea what it was like in the manga). The product that you see is a compelling juxtaposition of drama and comedy that will certainly grab your attention.I am greatly looking forward to the rest of Kotoura-san, though I get the feeling we haven’t seen the last of the drama…

Watching: Bryan. Daniel, Will

Love Live! School Idol Project (Sunrise):

If you are a fan of shows all about cute anime girls singing pop songs like The iDOL@STER or K-On, then Love Live! is right up your alley. Centering around a group of girls who form a pop idol group to try and save their ailing school from closing, this show is full of fluff. The animation is vibrant, with the odd CGI dancing thrown into the musical numbers, and story is easily accessible for anyone to enjoy. The real draw of course is the musical performances in each episode, with each character getting a chance to show off their vocals. There most likely won’t be much character development outside of the main trio of characters, and the story isn’t very deep or thought-provoking, but the pop numbers are fun to watch and makes the show worthwhile.

Watching: Bryan, Daniel

Mangirl! (Dogakobo):

mangirl! logoMangirl! is a series of 5 minute shorts about a group of girls who begin their own manga writing business. It’s light-hearted, funny, and due to the length of each episode, the lines of dialogue are launched at a rapid fire pace. Since each episode is short, it’s hard not to recommend someone to give Mangirl! a shot. Of course, if cute girls talking excessively isn’t your thing, then maybe you should stay away from this one.

Watching: Bryan, Will

Maoyuu Maou Yuusha (Arms):

maoyuu maou yuushaMaoyuu is a very interesting romantic adventure that takes place in a world where demons are at war with humans. What looked like some ecchi adventure series quickly became something much more when they introduce an explanation of the economic and social benefits of war. Along with the lesson in economics, we are introduced to agricultural science and many things that make for a really interesting plot. Don’t be fooled into thinking that this is just some school lecture because the series gets balanced out by a very innocent romance that takes place in a world where there is great potential for action in the future. Overall, the depth of the plot and the nature of the romance make for a very unique experience.

Watching: Bryan, Will

Mondaiji-tachi ga Isekai kara Kuru Sou Desu yo? (Diomedea):

Do not grab her ears.

Mondaiji is a series that revolves around a fantasy world and the troubled individuals that get sent there. What I thought was going to be another bland copy of the Zero no Tsukaima plot skeleton quickly became far more with its very serious story. In a world where communities must compete in order to survive, organizations fall and leaders engage in immoral acts in order to rig events. The characters are very interesting with powers that range from super strength to mind control. Overall, the fantasy game that has become a fight for survival is not something new, but is executed properly in this series.

Watching: Bryan, Will

Ore no Kanojo to Osananajimi ga Shuraba Sugiru (A-1 Pictures):

Ore ShuraOreshura is a romantic comedy that seems to be nothing more than another member of the slice of life herd at first glance. However, the strength of the characters is what makes this series truly unique. A guy that wants to be a doctor and a beautiful exchange student that both find the concept of love to be unnecessary meet which derails the plans of the guy’s childhood friend. Even if that sounds familiar, you need to take my word for it when I say that the manipulative idol, meat loving childhood friend, chuunibyou stalker, and fiance make for an extremely strong cast of characters. Overall, the characters really make for a unique harem experience.

Watching: Bryan, Will

Sasami-san@Ganbaranai (SHAFT):

Leave it to Shaft to create another wildly creative yet strange series, a “romantic comedy” about a hikikomori (shut-in) who uses her “Brother Surveillance Tool” to spy on her brother and his interactions with the three unusual Yagami sisters. The watercolor animations are beautiful to look at, and is certainly on-par with KyoAni’s level of quality. The plot is absurd, featuring a brother who’s face is perpetually obscured with his briefcase and the three Yagami sisters, who all seem to have their ages switched around. On top of that, there is a supernatural element that underscores the show, hinted at in the opening credits and in the ridiculously funny “chocolate battle” sequence near the end of the episode. Shaft always manages to create deep complex shows such as the Monogatari series and Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica, so this one is something to keep an eye on this season.

Watching: Bryan, Daniel, Will

Senran Kagura (Artland):

senran_kagura_01_thumbSenran Kagura doesn’t have the makings of a bad anime at this point. I just feel the show is held back by this terribly flawed line of logic that rudely generalizes the mindset of the male population, or something like that. I like the concept of an all kunoichi cast, and the plot has some promising potential. It’s an anime that doesn’t take itself too seriously, has some nice action scenes, and some funny characters. Unfortunately, the excessive amount of fanservice just makes it difficult to watch at times.

Watching: No One

Senyuu. (Ordet):

senyuu.Senyuu. is an action comedy that takes place in a world where demons have invaded the world of humans. The series is mostly comedy that can get sadistic at times, but is always entertaining. I need to say that each episode is only four and a half minutes long which is unfortunate because I feel that we could use some more material each week. This can be beneficial to people that don’t have a lot of time for anime because it isn’t that tough to find five minutes to catch some fun comedy. Overall, the story functions well with the amount of time given making for a fun little accent to your week’s entertainment.

Watching: Bryan, Will

Tamako Market (Kyoto Animation):

Being an original anime series, Tamako Market has proven that the anime industry still has some interesting ideas up its sleeve. Already in the first episode, we’ve been introduced to a mountain of material. A feeling I get is a mixture of the over-the-top absurdity from Chuunibyou with the rural calm of Tamayura: Hitotose. While the characters don’t seem to be anything special at this point (though Tamako is like the cutest thing ever), the hilarious scenarios, the charming setting, and hints of possible drama leave me eagerly awaiting the next episode.

Watching: Bryan, Daniel, Will

Vividred Operation (A-1 Pictures):

A-1 Pictures has produced some great works in the past few years such as AnoHana and Sword Art Online, and one of their latest offerings for 2013 is Vividred Operation, a sci-fi action anime about a group of girls facing off against an alien threat using technologically advanced battle suits. Think any magical-girl series, but with more emphasis on science and aliens. The animation quality is great, with beautiful backdrops and a really cool transformation scene. The series reminds me of Strike Witches with its emphasis on cute girls and spectacular action sequences, and has an intriguing mystery that will hopefully set up some great character development in the long run. Sci-fi action and cute girls, coupled with great voice work and animation, makes this a great pick for fans of this sort of thing.

Watching: Bryan, Daniel, Will

Yama no Susume (8bit):

Of all the short anime shows this season, this might be one of the few with potential. It’s a slice-of-life story about two girls trying to fulfill a childhood promise to climb a mountain together and watch the sunset. It has surprisingly good animation considering that each episode is no longer than 5 minutes, with smooth character movements and good color palettes. It’s fairly ordinary and follows some typical slice-of-life cliches such as the hyperactive childhood friend and the socially-awkward protagonist, but it handles the material well without falling back too hard on those stereotypes.

Watching: Daniel

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