Anime-nia 2008!

Ohayou! Or konbanwa depending on when/where you're reading this (not that anyone is actually going to read this but...yeah). This past weekend, in order to satiate/pacify myself during my trip back to visit my parental units, I decided to indulge my anime obsession in a major way by taking in a large sampling of fansubs of various series that I've either been interested in for a long time, or that I've seen a lot of merch for/hype about lately that didn't look completely awful. As it turned out, most of my assumptions about these series (with the exception of one, about which I had no real expectations) were dead on, which makes me feel pretty damn good about my intuition/sensibility about things, and any time I manage to make myself feel good about anything with regards to myself, whatever I did is worthy of some exaltation. Thusly and therefore, I shall present this brief report on my viewings.

Enjoy...OR DIE!!!

First up was Zero No Tsukaima.

I knew almost nothing about this series other than it had magical-girl-type themes, there was lots of merch out there related to it, and it featured a redonkulously cute (albeit anorexic/bulemic-ly skinny) pink haired main character. I had some wariness about potential dramatic content, but luckily, these fears were allayed rather quickly as the slapstick kicked in with a mighty bang.

Now this is not to say that I fell for it hook line and sinker instantaneously, because it had some moments that had me cringing a bit. First of all was the (rather cliche) perverted headmaster/principal/whatever you wanna call him of the school were the series takes place. Hopefully we won't be seeing much of him. Secondly is the similarly cliche big-breasted provacatess, who uses her "ample charms" to manipulate male characters. Cut. Then there's the role reversal that seems to be catching on in a lot of anime series, where the main female character treats the main male character as her slave (Tsukoyomi Moon Phase, Rozen Maiden, Princess Resurrection, Spice and Wolf [to an extent], Melancholy of Haruhi (to an extent), ... ). Not that I don't completely understand why this trend has become popular, but as with any trend - I don't like it. And then finally (and this is really nit-picking) there is the similarity in basic premise to Harry Potter (wizard/magician/whatever you wanna call it academy with the fantasy-accoutrements and whatnot).

But from what I've seen, there are many good points as well. Namely the comedy - duh! And of course the outrageously cute Louise. So basically, I'm looking forward to seeing more to make a better assessment. At the very least, I was far from disappointed.

Next up was Bokusatsu Tenshi Dokuro-chan
(Club-to-Death Angel Dokuro-chan).

I pretty much knew what I was getting into with this one, and I wasn't disappointed. Basically, you've got a preposterously cute main character with a propensity for brutal, gore-splashing violence towards the main male character. This is such a wonderfully metaphor-laden concept that it makes me do the Homer Simpson "We interrupt this program to bring you...a football game" dance. There are elements here and there that make me squirm a little, but so far it's been great fun. I really wonder if this will ever make it to the US though, because it's pretty offensive in some themes besides the violence. We'll see.

Next up was Shakugan No Shana.

This was the one I had the most reservations about, and they pretty much all proved true. This series served up the melodrama like Schwarz's restaurant serves up the beef - thick and heavy. Ugh. And it's one of those series that seems intended to be popular rather than good, thus the inexplicable apparently pre-teen heroine and the "kick ass" sword fighting sequences, and fancy-schmancy magical visuals. Blech. Whatever. And it also features a twinge of the aforementioned boy meets girl, girl becomes his master trend.

But really, what annoyed me was the melodrama - the main dude and his sappy dialogue and the breathless manner in which he delivers it all. Boo. I couldn't even make it all the way through the first episode before I said, "I have too much other better stuff to watch, I'm not going waste my time waiting to see if this develops into something less annoying than it seems at this point" and shut it off.

The thing that perplexes me about this series though, is that most of the photos I've seen from it portray it as a cutesy-girl show, in a similar vein to Zero No Tsukaima. Weird. Perhaps I'll give it another chance when I've watched all the other goodness I have lined up, including the hundred or so items in my NetFlix queue. ^_^

Then came Bamboo Blade.

This was another one that I had high expectations for due to (surprise surprise) its cute main character, somewhat original storyline, and potential for actually good action, but also had reserves about due to some whisperings about "yuri" themes/insinuations/whatever, which I view as more pandering fanservice, and a concept that's been beaten to death from Hollywood to Tokyo and back again on the silver and small screen. Luckily, no such eye-roll-inducing inclusions have reared their ugly heads, and there's been a surprising amount of comedy, with hints at even more.

We'll see how it all pans out once we meet all the characters, but my hopes are pretty strong at this point.

Then I started watching the much-ballyhooed and insanely merchandised Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha (Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha).

At the time when I started watching it, I had just gotten into a bit of a bad mood, so its sugary-sweetness didn't feel right for the moment (and the weak character designs/art didn't do much to win me over, nor did the brutally cliche magical visuals in the intro [I swear they have used the exact same "summoning circle" or whatever in every magically-themed anime for the past five years or so]), so I decided to put it on hold until such time when I was a little more chipper, and decided to watch the gore-laden Machine Girl, but it turned out that the copy I had didn't have subtitles, so I decided to give Nanoha another shot (since the opening scene of Machine Girl cheered me back up in no time - who needs subtitles when you've got this much gore and artery spray?).

It really didn't turn out to be bad at all. There was a little sap to it, and it reminded me a bit of Cardcaptor Sakura for some reason, but it had promise. We'll see how it develops with further viewings.

Finally, I moved on to what I was almost positive would be a "sure thing" - Minami-ke.

And boy oh boy, was I spot-on! All signs had pointed to Minami-ke being a nice, fun showing (thus my snatching up a number of CDs related to the series before ever having seen an episode in its entirety), and it even managed to EXCEED my expectations! There were some moments that really had me laughing uncontrollably, and probably had my family (which seems basically incapable of un-chemically-altered happiness) thinking I was crazy.

Seriously GREAT stuff. Possibly the best anime comedy since Azumanga Daioh (though Pani Poni Dash and Ichigo Mashimaro would be strong contenders).

All I have to say now is - we need a Chiaki hugging pillow...STAT!