Hello again, fellow Vicers. I normally don’t cover my thoughts on new anime titles airing during Winter and Summer since the offerings aren’t normally as plentiful as what you would find during Spring and Fall. But surprisingly, there are a fair number of titles that have gotten my attention over the past couple weeks with some I was planning to check out regardless and others I decided to get a peek at kudos to Anime News Network and their Summer Preview Guide. From slice-of-life dramas to a strange mahou shoujo title involving penguins, I present my thoughts on anime titles that have gotten my attention thus far for the Summer 2011 anime season.
Ikoku Meiro no Croisee
I was in anticipation of this series as an alternative to Gosick considering that series dabbled more into mystery and the chemistry between Kujo and Victorique than having a look at foreigner Kujo adapting to life in Europe. Thus far with Croisee, the series is meeting up to my expectations with the interactions between Japanese girl Yune and French shop owner Claude. Thus far, the series is focused on the two understanding the cultural differences between one another with Yune being new to the sights of France and Claude grasping the strict traditional upbringing that Yune has as a young Japanese girl. The chemistry between the two is believable enough where I could see the two knew just how different they are in their ways of life. The artwork of the series is certainly great to look at featuring bright colors and detailed scenery of the city landscape to be seen throughout Paris while character designs are noticeably on the simple side, particularly with the facial designs of Yume and Claude’s grandfather Oscar. Thus far, the series makes for a worthwhile watch if you are looking for a historical-influenced anime.
Natsume Yuujincho San
If you have seen the first two seasons of Natsume’s Book of Friends, then you will likely know what to expect out of this third season of the series. For those not in the know, Natsume’s Book of Friends continues its focus on high schooler Takashi Natsume and his various encounters with a number of youkai which he has the ability to see and interact with. Having a keepsake from his grandmother called the Book of Friends which stores the names of various youkai she made into her servants, the youkai seek out Takashi for differing reasons concerning the keepsake. Sometimes sympathetic yet other times hostile, the youkai are fleshed-out enough where you have enough sense of their backgrounds and what led them to encounter Reiko. As you might expect out of this plot setup, Natsume’s Book of Friends is mostly self-contained in its episodic plot developments. Those not fans of the episodic setup and slice-of-life premise involving Takashi’s interactions with youkai are likely to not get much enjoyment out of this series. Fans of this type of setup from titles like Mushi-shi are more than likely to get enjoyment out of this series. If you have seen the first two seasons of Natsume, than you will take notice of this season’s better quality visual presentation featuring more defined details and brighter colors used in designing the characters and scenery. While it won’t be completely necessary to see the first two seasons of Natsume thanks to its episodic developments, Takashi’s frequent interactions with his human classmates would make it a good idea to at least give the earlier seasons a peek to learn how he became familiar with these characters, particularly a couple notable ones with abilities similar to Takashi’s.
Kamisama no Memochou
My thoughts of this series are a bit mixed at the moment. Thus far, the series appears mostly focused as an episodic mystery series involving a group of NEETs involved in various detective cases. The mysteries thus far have been an interesting batch as they look into real-life issues with the first episode (being at 45 minutes long) involving compensated dating and the second involving yakuza. The NEET aspect of the detective cases has been hit or miss for me thus far considering the absurdity of the whole thing with eccentric characters such as a gigolo, military otaku and resident loli hikikomori Alice. These characters meshing with the serious themes given off by the show’s mysteries thus far don’t really seem like a good mix with how hard it is to take seriously. I’ll give this series a couple more episodes at most to see how it will spin to see if I will consider watching or dropping it.
One of two Noitamina titles airing this season, Usagi Drop is my definite favorite title for this season thus far. The series focuses around working man Daikichi raising the orphaned daughter of his grandfather named Rin. The first episode serves to setup the start of the series where Daikichi adopts Rin in response to his disgust of how his family is treating her and the following episode featuring the man learning of the challenges of raising a child. The show does well at showing the chemistry between Daikichi and Rin as the former adapts to accepting and raising Rin while the latter warms up to him following the neglect she received from her relatives. The visuals do appear to be the lowest quality I’m seeing amongst titles for this season with the watercolor-like animation used for scenery and the simplistic, rough details used with character designs. Yet despite the visual quality, the heartwarming interactions with Daikichi and Rin makes this series have the potential to be one of this season’s best titles among fans.
No. 6 appears to take place in a dystopian society where information getting out to the public is manipulated, a class system is apparently in place and obedience to the social system is absolute. Shion finds himself knowing of the harsh reality of his life the hard way as helps harbor an apparent fugitive named Nezumi, is revoked of his high social status from helping Nezumi out and learns of a darker side to the so-called perfect world that his society wanted him to believe was reality. The series is clearly trying to take its time building up on its secrets and exploring the dystopia that is No. 6. But I question how effectively the series could pull it off as recent Noitamina shows are known for airing only 11 episodes a piece and trying to create elaborate plots such as this have caused the quality for titles that aired earlier this year like Fractale and C to take a hit in quality as a result of the limited amount of time it has to properly build up its elements and seeming to be rushed. While a plot like No. 6 does have its potential and my interest, I have my concerns with how it will be handled in the weeks to come after seeing how Fractale and C turned out.
This is definitely the most bizarre title I am checking out for this season. Being directed by Kunihiko Ikuhara, the same man who made the complex and sexually-charged symbolism of anime classic Revolutionary Girl Utena, Penguindrum thus far mixes around elements of comedy, mahou shoujo, drama and surreal symbolism in its exploration of brothers Kamba and Shoma when their ill younger sister Himari is frequently possessed by the spirit of a strange penguin-like hat. The show occasionally features characters dabbling into talk about their thoughts of fate such as how the two brothers feel about dealing with the suffering of their sister’s illness or the female lead of a later episode expressing her admiration of the concept. The incorporation of comedy effectively comes from the bumbling antics of the three penguins that accompany the Takakura siblings when they acquire the penguin hat, particularly in the latest episode of the series when Kamba and Shoma are trying to track down a classmate under orders of the Penguin Spirit. The visuals to the series are enough of a treat with enough bright color and plenty of detail to take in from the settings of the series, especially within the world of the Penguin Spirit that the Takakura brothers are dragged into making for the animation highlight of the series thus far.
Dantalian no Shoka
This series appears to be going for a character dynamic similar to Gosick yet with a supernatural feel. In this case, Hugh Anthony Disward takes on the role of sidekick while mystery girl Dalian is the keeper of the various books within the Dantalian bookshelf. At this point, I’m not really sure what the series is planning to go for with its premise other than Hugh and Dalian playing guardians to the books within the library that the former inherited. The series has a great-looking visual presentation with subdued colors and a great amount of detail with showing off the library and the various creatures that came out of the demonic book that was released. For now, I’ll see a few more episodes of the show to see what direction it is planning to go.