colorbrandon (Level 12)

Archer season 3... finally began to watch it
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In my Spring 2012 Spotlight, I'll be shining some light on some of the series that I will be watching and series that I think will be worth your time.

Today, let's look at upcoming spring title Kids on the Slope. Embedded below is a Japanese promotional video.

What this Series is About (A Brief Plot Synopsis)

Set in 1966's Kyushu, Kids on the Slope follows 15 year old Kaoru Nishimi and his relocation to the new town. Kaoru is the talk of the school, with rumors about him being a "spoiled brat", a "school prodigy", and a "nerd." This is not the first time he's moved to a different school district, rather, due to the nature of his father's work, Kaoru has been transferring between schools since he was a child. While his class president, Ritsuko Mukae, is giving him a tour of the school, Kaoru feels a bit nauseous. It is the same feeling that emerges whenever he feels even a bit stressed. He asks the class president where he can reach the balcony, a spot, found in every school that provides him solace and comfort. But before she can warn him about what he might find there, he races off, only to find a "storage unit" blocking the door at the top of the staircase. Impatient and annoyed, he tosses off the blanket that is covering the mysterious object, and reveals a sleeping, Sentaro Kawabuchi, the notorious class-delinquent. Sentaro opens his eyes. In a daze, he grabs Kaoru's hand and asks, "Ohh... So you're here to take me away?"

The two, surprisingly, become friends and more importantly, allies. Sentaro introduces Kaoru to his love of Jazz. And along with Ritsuko, class president and daughter of the local record-store owner, the trio develop an unlikely friendship, strengthened by a sincere and devoted celebration of music.

No Doubt About It

The All-Star duo returns

Shinichiro Watanabe, who directed Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo, is a perfect fit to this manga-to-anime adaptation. His modern, hip-hop style is fresh and makes viewers realize the untapped, storytelling potential of anachronism. On the same vein of these musical luminaries, there's Yoko Kanno, handling the music.

Hold the phone! Yoko Kanno?! Yoko ****ing Kanno?! Game over. Anime of the year. Anime of the decade. Anime of the century. For those who might not have noticed, she is responsible for most of the recent Macross compositions, as well as Wolf's Rain, Genesis of Aquarion

Whenever the two meet, you can guarantee that their chemistry will make something amazing. Cowboy Bebop is an example of an anime, which Shinichiro Watanabe and Yoko Kanno worked together on.

What "Josei" means to me

Kids on the Slope draws primarily from the manga, which has been in print since 2007. The target demographic is Josei, which targets women from the age 15-40. This should not put off any potential viewers off though. Too often is Josei confused with the Shoujo demographic, which is more, I hate to say it, childish with its topics.

Rather, I think this a great opportunity to test this idea that I've had about Josei in the past, that it is surprising how heartfelt and touching these stories can turn out. Here are a few popular series with Josei origins that you may notice: Honey and Clover, Usagi Drop, Nodame Cantabile

This series is set to run for 12 episodes, and will begin airing on the 12th of April.

My Bottom-Line: It's a unique, Japanese perspective on a southern United States phenomenon in the 20th century. Kids on the Slope is something that does not come too often: a fresh story with a proven to be talented production team at the helm.

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In my Spring 2012 Spotlight, I'll be shining some light on some of the series that I will be watching and series that I think will be worth your time.

Today, let's look at upcoming spring title Hyouka. Embedded below is a Japanese promotional video.

The beginning poem of the video reads

Youth is not all about tenderness
Though it isn't all about pain either.

What this series is about

Four members walk to school.
Four members walk to school.

Directed by Yasuhiro Takemoto (known for mostly for directing episodes 5-24 of Lucky Star), Hyouka (氷菓, Japanese for ice-candy) is an anime series adapted from a mystery novel by Honobu Yonezawa. Hyouka targets the shonen demographic under the genre of mystery. The bubbly and animated character design might seem familiar to veteran anime enthusiasts. Futoshi Nishiya, responsible for the envisioning of characters in Nichijou (My Ordinary Life) and The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, lends her unique style to the cast of Hyouka.

A first-year student, known for his sloth and unmotivated personality, Houtarou Oreki tries not to involve himself with the rest of Kamiyama High School. His attitude has always been, "don't do anything unnecessary." Ordered by his sister, he joins the Japanese Classic Literature Circle (hm, this seems a bit familiar... doesn't it?). There, he meets the curious and energetic club president, Eru Chitanda. Joined by his child-hood friends Satoshi Fukube and Mayaka Ibara, the quartet becomes a sort of crime-solving team, investigating several incidents around school as well as a 33-year old mystery involving one member's uncle and the hints left behind by former members of the Japanese Classic Literature Club. The series and its creators are devoted to mystery. Inspiration for the characters is mainly gathered from the Sherlock Holmes canon, with the famous detective himself, re-imagined as the main character Houtarou.

A game changer?

Public opinion of KyoAni has been mixed since the popularity of K-On! and The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya has boosted the art house into public arenas. There are those who love the care and attention to detail that the studio gives to each series it animates. Yet there is also a growing dissent among viewers that claim their popularity has made them into a one-trick pony with the ability to only produce anime series that don't really have much story at all ("cute girls doing cute things.") Hyouka promises to be emotional and fun, but also "slightly bitter," as the promotional video puts it. Judging from the scenes that are available, its definitely a looker. I'm not sure how many episodes (either 12 or 21 depending on the source) this series will include, but be sure to check it out when it airs April 22nd, 2012.

Bottom-line: The all-star production team, talented voice work, and the sensational track-record of KyoAni is why I am comfortable recommending Hyouka in the spring of 2012.

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Part of a multiple part series explaining how I sift through all of the anime that airs to find what to watch.

  1. Art
  2. Adaptation/Source Material
  3. Music
  4. Voice Acting
  5. Studio/Production team

1) Art

Much of what makes anime watchable is the eye candy. “Don’t judge a book by its cover” doesn’t apply here, because the better looking the series is, the bigger the production values, the more money that has been spent, the better the writing etc. But keep in mind, "different" art can be good art as well. Good examples of series that feature great art exclusive to itself are (notice, all very different genres and audiences, but all what I would consider staple watches):

Kaiba:

http://www.animevice.com/kaiba/11-2564/

The art is very stylized and often makes you forget about how deep and terrifying the story can become
The art is very stylized and often makes you forget about how deep and terrifying the story can become

Dantalian no Shoka:

http://www.animevice.com/dantalian-no-shoka/11-6141/

Granted, this is the in the opening, but the art is pretty consistent and good throughout the series
Granted, this is the in the opening, but the art is pretty consistent and good throughout the series

Macross Frontier:

http://www.animevice.com/macross-frontier/11-2497/

Great production values, consistent art, even great 3d rendering
Great production values, consistent art, even great 3d rendering

These are just a few of the picks that I think feature great art. Of course, there is room for discussion and this is by no means a comprehensive list.

Notable Offender:

Casshern Sins

http://www.animevice.com/casshern-sins/11-2600/

Example of what to avoid (generic art):

Maji de Watashi ni Koishinasai!!
Maji de Watashi ni Koishinasai!!

Usually generic art = generic anime. Typically this is true, but I always warn myself never to live by generalizations.

Next time we tackle sources and where your anime is adapted from!

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When I was around 11, Yu-Gi-Oh, or Duel Monsters for some, was one of the most lucrative, most popular trading card markets. I remember even attending local tournaments at Toys-R-Us. It was so main-stream in fact that niche shops like Gamestop and even 7-11's would stock booster packs in their inventories. Nine years is a long time for a trading card game to mature. The strange thing is that it is not just the rules and format of the cards that has grown with its audience, the anime has too.

Throughout each iteration of the anime, from the original Yu-Gi-Oh series, to GX, to 5d's, there's a noticeable shift in tone (I am disregarding zexal for the time being). Where GX is mostly a series categorized by school shenanigans and leisure dueling, 5d's is set in a dark and almost dystopian future. In a way, this kind of setting is probably the most appealing to me. The main-character Yusei Fudo is persecuted for his origins, locked in jail, tortured for information, and even blackmailed with his friends' lives on the line.

I want believe that this is Konami's way of nurturing its fan-base. At any local tournament these days, the majority of the players are 17-22, around my age. It is a true thrill seeing a community, that I was once part of, mature with the game and grow with the anime.

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There aren't many who are unfamiliar with this series. Debuting in the spring season of 2011, it has yet to run its full course on japanese television. What is is lauded for, in fact, is its quality and consistency of the art. Reading much of what other anime consumers feel about this has surprised me a bit. It isn't just myself that has come to the conclusion that this series is an insight into a growing Japanese feminism.

The main character, Ohana, is shown to pass through the trials and tribulations from both work and adolescence. Throughout this journey from Tokyo to the rural countryside, she seems to only encounter other strong-willed females. Her maternal Grandmother runs the inn that Ohana is working for. The rival inn accross town is also run by a woman. The only men that are introduced in the story are either sleasy, inadequate, or are unable to commit. Nothing is said about either Ohana's father or grandfather.

Jiroumaru, introduced in the opening episodes as an itinerant author, is revealed as a pervert and a leech, only complaining to extend his, complementary stay at the inn. The manager, Enishi, always calls upon Takako (a woman who "specializes" in modern hotel administration) when the going gets tough.

Other examples for the women are:

Tomoe, one of the senior waitresses at Kissui inn is called by her mother to set up a marriage.

In the end, she decides that her work is more important.

Yuina, heir to the rival inn accross town,

does not feel obligated to follow the footsteps of her mother and decides that she wants to enter a career that she "finds fun."

Satsuki, Ohana's mother runs away with a man during the first episode, sending Ohana to her grandmother in the first place.

The man appears to have flaked later in the season and Satsuki returns to working as a journalist for a magazine.

And if you still are skeptical, let me drop a bombshell.

In the name Ohana, there is the Kanji for "flower." The icon for American Feminism is Rosie the Riveter.

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