First, a thanks for being listed in the community spotlight for the first part of this, which can be found here. During that blog, if you can't be bothered to click the link or just need a refresher, I went over the four series that I've been watching which weren't good enough to make my "Super Six" current series, and the five series which are either over, or coming to an end in the next week. I talk about the remaining Super Six series in this blog, and also the two series which will start this season which have guaranteed seats at the table come October.
The Tenured (the one show which continues into the fall on the list):
To think that I started off the summer season watching R-15 but not Penguindrum is laughable (which some of my predictions I'm sure will be a few weeks in for the final three spots at the table). There's good reason for that though, since I think that in terms of importance, that R-15 is actually the more important of the two shows. Whenever new boundaries are set by governmental or industry agents, whatever is being confined by those boundaries will try to poke out and "see how much they can get away with". On Giant Bomb I wrote a blog once about the Hays Code, and the sexual experimentation in American film once it was abandoned (this in reference to CNN a year after the initial debate was had deciding to "Necro" the Rapelay story). Japan has a near reversal of this situation, where new laws have limited sexually explicit materials, and it's up to shows like R-15 to push at those boundaries and find out exactly where they are. So as far as long term importance is concerned, the nod goes to R-15, but just because you're important, doesn't mean you're any good, which is where Mawaru Penguindrum trumps nearly every show this season.
And there's no reason for me to like Mawaru Penguindrum, and a lot of reasons why I shouldn't like it. I came into anime watching things like Danguard Ace, Starvengers, and Star Blazers thanks to having access to the "Force Five" series of anime programming when I was a kid. (Yes, I just completely dated myself, what of it?) Those were my gateway drugs to anime, not Sailor Moon. And I tried to watch Revolutionary Girl Utena, I really did, but I couldn't help but be completely bored by it. So my track record with projects that Kunihiko Ikuhara is famous for, is one of complete indifference. And it seamed like Ikuhara was THE selling point for Mawaru Penguindrum, people couldn't mention the show without either Utena or Sailor Moon being mentioned in the same breath, which did enough to drive me away. Fortunately for me, R-15 ended up being complete garbage, and I gave Penguindrum a chance, where it quickly became my favorite show from this season.
The reason for Penguindrum's greatness is difficult to describe, because it's doing so many things correctly. First, the visual style seems to be reaching back to something that seems reminiscent of old Dr. Suess cartoons, but does so without looking dated. It's pulling off a visual flair that the people who made Prince no Uta-sama 1000% tried far too hard to reach, and for some reason failed to. It's a stunning looking anime, with gorgeous visuals that evoke old and new animation and just as eye candy it's incredible.
There's a level of control to Mawaru Penguindrum's storytelling which is astounding. It seems to know exactly where the line is drawn, and knows how to put a toe over it when it feels like it. It's a strange show that keeps you off balance, but it seems like every time I get comfortable with the level of bizarre things that the show has as part of it's general premise, it does something truly disturbing. A kiss that lasts a beat too long to be platonic, a look that lasts a beat too long to just coincidence, an edge of malice that appears long enough to let you know it's there but not long enough to confirm, it flashes things that your subconscious picks up on but you can't be sure. It paces itself in a way that would make a show like Kamisama Dolls less of a mess and more of a masterpiece. It knows how to keep you off balance, and the show never wavers from being intent to leave you that way.
Ridiculous premises seem less so, because the entire world of Penguindrum is ridiculous. A nice place I look forward to visiting for the next season, and holds the head position at the table of the Super Six. And note, I'm not telling you what this show is about, because it doesn't matter what Mawaru Penguindrum is about, you're better off not knowing, and better off not thinking too much about it until it's all said in done in December, where people will probably tear this show apart at it's seams for weeks when it's over to try and find the deeper meaning behind the cute penguins.
Those who already have invitations to the table:
So here's a thing, I'm a sucker for anime which is about the process of creation. Whether it be silly, such as Comic Party, or a love letter to the act of creation, such as Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad, there's something about creating something about the creation of something that I can get attached to. And it doesn't even matter that the promise which kicks off Bakuman is absurd, because it rarely focuses on anything other than the process of creating Manga. I wondered at times watching the first season how much what I was seeing was dramatized, because it seemed like it was being drawn from personal experiences. The love story between Mashiro and Miho doesn't matter, because it's the love story between "Ashirogi Muto" and manga that trumps everything in this show. At times you could complain that the pace in Bakuman is languid, but watching the characters struggle and work towards a goal is a hallmark of this "creationism" type of anime. More Bakuman can only be a good thing in my eyes, as now that they've had their hands on a brass ring, it's time to see if the aspiring artists can hold on to it.
This is a Whiskey Media site, right? So, a lot of us might have some familiarity with the game this is based off of? On Giant Bomb some of us might have already spent seven months watching a Persona 4 series before? There might be some difficulty adjusting to calling the main character any other than Charlie Tunoku, but there'll be no difficulty in going back to Inaba to relive the adventures with Char... Yu, Chie, Yosuke, Yukiko, and the rest of the crew.
The scary thing about P4A is that when playing the game you are controlling the story. You can focus on whatever characters you can social link with at whatever pace you choose, and an anime takes that control out of your hands. But as long as we don't spend half of every episode with Ai Ebihara I think I'll be ok with that, just please don't recon this to a love story between Yu and Ai. As a matter of fact, that might be one of the more problematic parts of Persona 4. Do you not pursue a romantic relationship, default to the holder of the Lovers arcana (Rise), or... listen folks, it probably WON'T be Chie, so don't get your hopes up. But as long as our favorite tomboy can eat some steak and kick some tanks, we should all be happy in the end.
The greatest strength of Persona 4 over Persona 3 are two of the things which should work well for the anime adaptation. First, Inaba is an amazing locale, and has a wonderful life of it's own. It's every bit a character in the story as any detective you might find inside it's city limits. The cast also seems to be better realized than Persona 3's cast, since they're high school students who don't act like adults. It helps that the weight of the world isn't heaped on their shoulders, they're just kids, and like a Japanese version of Scooby Doo, there's a mystery to solve which is all the reason they need to form. And it's all the reason I need to watch a cast of characters which is among my favorite in the history of video games. I'll just have to remind myself not to watch it at midnight.