Autumn '08 Reviews

Better late then never ... the autumn season restored my lost interest to anime. From the harrowing experience of Ga-Rei and ef to the insanity of Macademi and Kemeko to the vanilla-taste of Yozakura and Kannagi, oh I shouldn't forget Chäos;HEAd.

Also several other shows continue into the winter, namely Shikabane, Index and Toradora!

ef - a tale of melodies.
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Studio: SHAFT
Directed by: Ounuma Shin
Character Designs by: Sugiyama Nobuhiro
Original Game by: MINORI
Series Composition by: Takayama Katsuhiko
Nakajima Yumiko (Yuuko), Goto Mai (Mizuki), Itou Shizuka (Nagi), Hamada Kenji (Kuze), Touchika Koichi (Yuu), Furusawa Touru (Akira)

Visually and audibly, the second season of ef was a bit better than the first, evident of the studio's style entering maturity. Art was just amazing; especially the background was very detailed and colorful, fitting perfectly with each scene's mood. Animation usually is no big deal for this type of show, but in the case of this studio, it's kept at a minimum, with a lot of stills, but when they get to it they really create very fluid motion and incorporate flawlessly 2D with 3D. OP/EDs were also very good and relevant with the series. Finally the BGM was also one of the strongest points this season.

My main problem, as well as a lot of others', was pacing. This was basically a side effect of the absence of original planning for a second season when the first one was produced. Namely during the first season 3 out of the 4.5 stories from the game were used, though Kei's was basically squeezed in. That left only Mizuki's story, which was rather weak in my opinion and Yuuko's which was not a seperate story originaly.

Despite this still Yuuko's story was very strong emotionally, picking up at the middle of the season as well as in the end. On the other hand Mizuki's story failed at this, partly because of the characters themselves and partly because it felt like eating time from the other story. Note that the bulk of the two stories take place not only at different location (that proved no problem on the first season), but also 10+ years apart.

So what's the verdict ... despite being inferior to the first season, ef2 is still one of the best anime I have seen and I would recommend it without second thought to anyone who liked the first season.

Ga-Rei: Zero
喰霊 -零-

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Studio: AIC Spirits, asread
Directed by: Aoki Ei
Character Designs by: Horiuchi Osamu
Original Manga by: Segawa Hajime
Series Composition by: Takayama Katsuhiko
Mizuhara Kaoru (Yomi), Chihara Minori (Kagura)

If I should pick the show that I just could not stand waiting for it's next episode, then Ga-Rei would be without competition. When I picked the show, >I was already familiar with the manga and more or less had an idea what to expect ... very wrong assumption. First of all a complete new set of characters showed up in the first episode and by its end they all died! OK ... moving to second episode, the familiar characters appear along with some new ones and by the end of the show almost all die. The funny thing is that despite death-flagging characters, they make it alive. In any case, each time an action scene begun, you really could not tell what will happen.

Now let me move to the pacing subject which jarred a lot of viewers. I loved the structured because it was effective for drama, which is at the core of this show ... despite the shounen manga to which it is a prequel. In the first episodes it made a very clear statement of the danger the characters are at, moving during the bulk of its run to explore Yomi's personality and her relationship to Kagura and offering the last 3-4 episodes as a resolution of a three-year build-up.

The animation was top quality, especially taking into account the high amount of action scenes. Art was also good, as long as it stayed away from 3D rolling dinosaurs. I should also note here the hilarious weapons that did an effective job at breaking the tension and drama and help the audience catch its breath.

The OP was hit-and-miss, sometimes it fitted and enhanced the content, but many times it was completely out of place. The BGM was generally ok with two exception when retro techno just ruined the whole atmosphere.

All in all, an unexpectedly good and primarily unpredictable show.

Yozakura Quartet
夜桜四重奏 〜ヨザクラカルテット〜

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Studio: NOMAD
Directed by: Matsuo Kou
Character Designs by: Kikuchi Satonobu
Original Manga by: Yasuda Yasuhito
Series Composition by: Hanada Juuki
Fukuen Misato (Hime), Sawashiro Miyuki (Ao), Fujita Saki (Kotoha), Kaji Yuuki (Akina)

Moving on to my third pick. What drew me to this show originaly were the character deseigns (by the same artist of Kamisama Kazoku, which I loved) and he did not let me down. Animation though was repetative especially when it came to action. What I really like was the musical score, which was basically j-rock, for a change to pop and trance we usually get.

Moving to the plot, well Gin's story was rather interesting, but too fragmented in its presentation. On the other hand, the "fillers" whether they were drawn from the manga or beign anime-original were much more interesting and gave depth to the main cast.

My main problem with the show was that it was too sugar-coated. I find the lifestyle approach, especially for Akina and Hime, rather hypocritic and detestable, but still this set it apart from the rest of late night shows, with high viewership, evident of mainstream audiences.

Bottomline is that it was a quite enjoyable watch, though now that I picked the manga, I should say that it was a pity to make alteration in order to appeal to the masses.

Kannagi: Crazy Shrine Maidens

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Studio: A-1 Pictures
Directed by: Yamamoto Yutaka
Character Designs by: Mima Kakeru
Original Manga by: Takenashi Eri
Series Composition/Script/Screenplay by: Kurata Hideyuki
Tomatsu Haruka (Nagi), Hanazawa Kana (Zange/Hakua), Sawashiro Miyuki (Tsugumi), Shimono Hiro (Jin)

Kannagi hit the perfect balance between comedy and drama, something most of this type of shows miserably fail at. There is no real plot to speak of, but the progress and interest is generated by the characters' interaction, which were handled very well by the scriptwriters and the director.

Art was above average and animation quality stable and fluid. The music in general was passable, not really adding to the show but neither ruining the mood. The VAs have also done a very good job to display appropriate emotion.


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Directed by: Ishiyama Takaki
Character Designs by: Shimamura Shuichi
Original Character Designs by: Mutsumi Sasaki
Original Game by: 5bp, Nitro+
Series Composition/Script by: Inoue Toshiki
Yoshino Hiroyuki (Takumi)

This could have been an excellent show, but it was rather rushed and severely toned down compared to the original game. Still it retained the mystery/horror atmosphere and was quite enjoyable.

Art was above average, but the animation was hit and miss. The OP was quite fitting, but the ending made an excellent work to ruin the shows atmosphere. The BGM was rather unnoticeable. VA were mediocre, Takumi's for example seemed to me annoying, but I might be biased by his character which I disliked, Shogun's on the other hand was really good.

Macademi WAsshoi!

a.k.a. Magician's Academy
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Studio: ZEXCS
Directed by: Kanesaki Takaomi
Character Designs by: Okuma Takaharu
Original Character Designs by: BLADE
Original Manga by: Sakaki Ichiro
Series Composition/Script by: Hasegawa Katsumi
Koshimizu Ami (Takuto), Ise Mariya (Tanaroto)

I'll be honest the original reason I picked this show was Enneus, I mean how could I resist a kick-ass maid with neko-mimi;) Anyway, the first half was more or less by the book, what really puts it aside though was the second half which really took me by surprise! Enneus' date, then the love confession of a humanoid AI with the spirit of a rocket, to Suzuho's dying wish! I want spoil them, but really they hit the perfect balanced between cynicism and satire. Though I should admit that they won't be for everyone's taste, most people actually failed to grasp the allegories.

Kemeko Deluxe!

a.k.a. Kemeko-DX, The Unknown Girl Friend
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Studio: Hal Film Maker
Directed by: Mizushima Tsutomu
Character Designs by: Sugimoto Isao
Original Manga by: Iwasaki Masakazu
Series Composition/Script by: Narita Yoshimi
Kitamura Eri (Sanpeita), Saito Chiwa (Kemeko), Haruka Tomatsu (MM)

References to Freud and Passolini, grotesque mecha, atrociously and addictive OP/ED ... this show was really insane. Apart from enjoying it, I must admit that plot-wise it was all over the place.

Art was in principle good, while the animation was from amazing to atrocious. The BGM was rather uninteresting. Finally the VAs did their best and considering the nature of their characters they really did a good job.