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Picks of the Week (DVD/Blu-ray)

It’s here! The Summer 2010 anime season is upon us!

Ah, summertime.  Vacation.  The beach.  Girls in swimsuits.  Fireworks.  Matsuri.  Watermelon eating contests.  Barbecues.  The chirping of cicadas.  (if you’re in the right part of the world that is, and you’re at the right time in their life cycle.)  Oh, and yet another crop of anime to feast your eyes upon.  Yay!

Once again, Japanator comes through with another one of their fantastic 30,000 foot overviews of the coming anime landscape.  Same routine as before – capsule description, studio and key staff involved, air date, and a shiny happy picture for you to look at.  You can read all about it in their four part overview – part 1, part 2, part 3, and part 4.

Here’s what’s catching my eye this time around.



Amagami SS:  Animated by Studio AIC, who did, among others, Ah! My Goddess and Nyan Koi, and directed by Hiraike Yoshimasa, who also was involved with both Working! and Solty Rei, two series that I really ended up liking a lot.  This is starting to sound good.  Based on a PS2 visual novel, this looks to be your typical romantic comedy, which is fine by me — I’m all for a romantic comedy if done right.  What sets this show apart is its art style – it appears that the staff is attempting to pull off this subject matter while attempting to mimimize the to-be-expected moe factor.  Pretty daring of them to do that in the current climate of moe maximization, and that’ll make a certain critical panelist of ours (…To Aru Kuritikaru no Panerisuto… heh) happy.  (Me, I personally don’t mind the moe, so long as it isn’t the be-all-and-end-all of the show.)  You can check out a preview if you like.

Black Butler:  Otherwise known as Kuroshitsuji.  This series comes highly recommended by one of my fellow panelists, and I figure it’s high time for me to get off my duff and check it out. Unfortunately Season 2 (which started this past week on July 1) departs somewhat from Season 1, in that the main characters (butler and master) are different.  (I believe that the director, and possibly some other staff, has changed as well)  This worries me, as there have been plenty of instances (in both Japanese and Western media) where a cast change, or a “spunky new character inserted to liven things up” has spelled the doom (or at least the start of a downard spiral to eventual suckage) of a property.  Still, the theme is the same, and a cool one at that — a demonic butler who is bound to serve his young master.  Fun shoujo black comedy stuff.  Also I believe at least some of the characters from the first season will appear in the second.  So I’ll give it a shot.  FUNimation announced in March that they licensed Season 1, but there is as of yet no hint of a release date.  However, they will be simulcasting Season 2 on their streaming service.

Highschool of the Dead:  C’mon, admit it, we all love zombies.  I forget the exact quote, but I remember once hearing someone say something to the effect of “Zombies are the chicken of the horror universe.”  Or something like that.  In other words, they’re that tasty treat that we just love to eat.  (I meant that figuratively, not literally!)  According to Japanator, the manga that this is based on is chock full of American horror references; I really, really hope that the anime writers follow suit.  And there are quite a few big names involved in this, so it might actually turn out to be decent, perhaps even good.  And, okay, I’ll admit it, they had me at “busty high school students.”  (I’m a guy, gimme a break!)

The Legend of the Legendary Heroes:  Very little (if anything) original here.  We have your typical “boy is the last great hope to end a legendary war” type stuff.  Yawn.  Instead, what caught my eye (in a rather negative way — barring sudden miraculous plot development, I’m not planning on following this series) is its name.  What a redundantly redundant title!  I mean, c’mon, if you’re telling a story that’s a LEGEND, you kind of expect the heroes that are spoken of in it to be LEGENDARY (how many legends have you heard or read where the protagonists are boring clods?), so stating that is blindingly obvious.  (If this were not true, then the logical fabric of the universe would have completely broken down, and this universe will likely explode.)  But I suppose “The Legendary Heroes” or “The Legend of the Heroes” was too plain sounding for them.  Whatever.  Redundancy FTW!

Nurarihyon no Mago:  Sounds vaguely like an Inuyasha derivative (at least the part-human, part-demon bit), but this is another series with a pretty impressive cast and crew, so it might be something to keep an eye on.

Ookami-san and his Seven Friends:  A high school comedy/romance.  Yawn.  But wait!  Apparently the show will be parodying various classic fairy tales and lore, both Eastern and Western.  Might be interesting after all.  And with veteran voice talent like Horie Yui and Kugimiya Rie, it can’t be all that bad.

Seikimatsu Occult School:  This is the latest in the “Power of Anime” series.  You know, the same series that brought you So-Ra-No-Wo-To and Senkou no Night Raid.  It seems that I’m in the minority in that I actually sorta, kinda liked those shows.  They weren’t masterpieces, mind you, and they certainly could have been better, but still, they were a lot better than some of the other crap that’s out there.  The material admittedly doesn’t sound terribly original (schools of the occult, time travelers, etc.), but there is some fresh talent thrown in — Tomohiko Ito, a relative newcomer to directing, but who worked as assistant director on The Girl who Leapt through Time), so there is hope.  I’ll give it at least an episode or three.

Strike Witches:  As one Japanator commenter put it, this show is a guilty pleasure. and one that I fell for when the original OAV came out.  Now they’re back with a second TV season.  Magical girls — with guns — and WWII-ish planes.  Nuff said.  Yes, there’s moe, dammit, but in this case I just don’t care.  Unfortunately Gonzo is no longer handling the production, which makes me sad, since there won’t be any CG plane animation a la other Gonzo staples such as Last Exile.

Sekirei: Pure Engagement:  Another guilty pleasure.  Admittedly (again) not a terribly original storyline — a shadowy organization inciting scores of powerful (and scantily dressed, not to mention well-endowed) women to battle each other (and in the process rip most of their already scant clothing off of each other) towards eventual world domination.  (Did I mention they were well-endowed?)  I got sucked into Season 1 purely for the eye candy, and was thoroughly disgusted at its lame not-so-much-of-an-ending.  (I suppose I am a fool for expecting anything better than what I got.)  To me that not-ending just screamed “sequel!” and apparently I was right.  I’ll freely admit that I’ll be watching this purely for the nosebleed factor.

Shi Ki:  Wow.  When I read that this show is the latest member of the highly-pedigreed noitaminA time slot (the one that brought us such wonderful gems as Eden of the East, Tokyo Magnitude 8.0, House of Five Leaves, and The Tatami Galaxy), I was instantly salivating.  Add to that a veteran director — Tetsuro Amino, who helmed Macross 7 and Zeta Gundam — and you’ve sold me.  The fact that Japanese rocker Gackt will be making his debut as a regular voice actor cast member is icing on the cake.  The story is even a relatively interesting one — a mysterious town plagued by a series of murders that turn out to be the work of some dark force.

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