Gaff (Level 11)

Suddenly thinking of staging Othello at work. #alltheworldsastage
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For me, one of the main attractions of anime was the breadth in available stories. From comedy to martial arts, shonen to shojo, drama to romance, there's something for everyone, and, once in a blue moon, you will be surprised at what the Japanese, the masters of cashing in on everything possible, can come up with. And sometimes you're left with the feeling that's probably best summed up in those famous three letters: W. T. F.  

 I'll let you decide what is happening here.
 I'll let you decide what is happening here.
Kanna Aoyagi's just turned 16 and her older sister asks if she could work for her company as a voice actress. The catch is that it is an eroge company! Any sane person would refuse, but since Kanna's sister sacrificed so much for her, Kanna is willing to give it a shot. Of course, she has to overcome the initial insecurities, hide her secret identity from her class mates, all the while trying to be a normal girl. You read that correctly, take a basic magical girl plot line, switch out magical girl with eroge voice actress and, voila, you have Koe de Oshigoto. For the rest you have the fairly standard characters: the older sister, the senior, the childhood crush and the one who actually points out she's under-age and get browbeat into submission.

 SHINING FINGER!!!
 SHINING FINGER!!!
While it all seems very absurd (and for the most part, it sort of is), it does give a peek into a side of the industry that we don't see very often. And despite my WTF-meter being on a hair trigger during the OVA, there were some genuinely funny moments, which were magnified by the sheer absurdity of it all. Seeing Kanna struggle with certain words is funny, in a way that is the very definition of schadenfreude.  
 
"Giving someone the finger". Err.
"Giving someone the finger". Err.

Based on a still ongoing manga, there seems to be a larger story to be told. I can imagine a few milestones (first actual game, promoting it, love interests, school activities, etc, in short the usual stuff) that would be fun to see Kanna stumble through, though I can't help but shake the feeling that without the gimmick and some light industry insights, Koe de Oshigoto wouldn't stand out as much. And I can't help but feel that I lost something. Could it be my innocence? Nah. I lost that ages ago.
 
    
     
Bonus feature: Can I get an "A", Alex? 
Bonus feature: Can I get an "A", Alex? 
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Back in the Nineties, the all female group Shonen Knife started to become known in the West: a weird mix between garage-punk and bubblegum pop, their songs could be about banana chips or Singapore, "a small island nation just north of the equator". I'm not kidding, that literally is a line. Very catchy, simple tunes, with a Japanese office lady singing about her favourite snacks. Strange, maybe, but that's how things were in those days.

  

  
 .daed si oiM
 .daed si oiM

Now, fast-forward fifteen years, make those ladies twenty years younger and start recording their day to day lives, like a behind-the-scenes documentary: How the band came together, their first instruments, their first gig, etcetera. Think something like Anvil, or This Is Spinal Tap, just replace the burly unshaven men with young teenage girls. The comparison might be weird but it is apt: There's not much of a story here except for the chemistry between the characters.


And characters they are: you have the clumsy Yui, the well-off Mugi, the tomboy Ritsu and the shy Mio, who are later joined by the strict-but-soft Azusa. They're all well-acted, well-designed and smoothly animated, but something feels off and it's not, like most characters say in K-on!, the lack of music: the main four stay pretty much the same during the two series. They don't fight, they only suffer insecurities when the script calls for them, there's no interest in pursuing romantic relationships. It's less like watching a band than watching the latest idol group, fresh from the record labels. They too have this unnerving sterility about them, every move calculated to draw in more fans. Less Spinal Tap and more like the Monkees.


Do Moeblobs Dream of Moe Sheep?      
Do Moeblobs Dream of Moe Sheep?      

Not that that's bad: K-on!'s goal is to entertain, not to shed a light on the struggles of a small beginning band. And it does it quite well. The gags amuse, the little bits of music makes toes tap, the animation's flawless in most places. It just lacks the sincerity and character development other slice-of-life anime, like Azumanga Daioh, display.

 

It's pop in its purest form: appealing and throw away, well-executed and slick, but like most fast food, lacking substance. 

 --- 
 
Hmmm, this should've been a review for K-on, the franchise. Oh well, I'll see what I can do with this. Consider this a rough draft of sorts!

   

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Stop me if you've heard this before: Keima Katsuragi is a 17 year old high school student, who excels at galge, dating simulation, games. One sunny day, he unwittingly accepts a challenge from Hell: Capture loose souls that happen to like hiding in girls' hearts - to keep things worksafe, a kiss will do - and send them back to the underworld. Or else his head will come off.  
Only one problem: Keima hasn't really talked with real girls, let alone kissed one. Well, he doesn't have to do it alone: he has the help of a broom wielding, supernatural neatfreak named Elsea! 
Truly, this is the age of rooftop appearances. Also, that skirt is WAY too short.
Truly, this is the age of rooftop appearances. Also, that skirt is WAY too short.
It's kind of odd seeing two animes featuring decidedly niche games in the same season (OreImo has the risqué Siscon games, TWGOK has dating sims). Whether that's a subtle commentary on the current anime audience... I'll leave that for another time. 
Back to first impressions! Well, the plot isn't exactly original. If I'm allowed to make broad generalisations, it resembles series such as Shugo CharaPopotan and many more: Our initially unwilling protagonist has to help people overcome their inner demons and capture those demons for zeny / world safety / to girl of his dreams. The premise though is comedy gold. Forcing Keima to draw on his knowledge of dating sims and apply them to real life is fun to watch, if only for the heaps of corny dialogue the writers put in. Though personally I'm a bit miffed at the success he's getting with those tactics... 

 So, I have to kill my fellow students to survive? Wait, wrong movie.
 So, I have to kill my fellow students to survive? Wait, wrong movie.
I'm curious to see where this goes, though my gut feeling says we're heading for some big denouement where Keima learns that the game world is a poor substitute for the real world, he can be who he wants to be and that the girl he really wanted was there beside him all along. And to all the children: Congratulations! 
 
Bonus feature: Either I'm seeing things or there are some familiar faces lurking in the background... 

 Or hurray for generic background character designs?
 Or hurray for generic background character designs?
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Kyosuke is a typical 17 year old high schooler from a fairly normal family, except for the fact that his little sister Kirino is a part time model. And is a complete tsundere. And is secretly completely crazy about "little sister", siscon, adult games. Of course, one day Kyosuke finds out about her secret, thus getting dragged into his sister's hobby. Wacky hijinks ensue! 
  
Walking into your little sister's room and finding contraceptive pills is personally one of my awkward highlights, so I can somewhat imagine how poor Kyosuke must feel. On the other hand, finding out that your sister has been collecting siscon eroge and merchandise is probably on a completely different level of awkwardness. The art so far has been exceptional, Kirino is, after stri- removing the kind of tsundere trope, a nice simple and cute design, the comedy is genuinely funny, but still, there's still that small spot in the back of my mind that says that this is SO COMPLETELY WRONG IN TOO MANY WAYS! 
 
Bonus feature: How many eroge can you recognize? 


 Nice boat... Err, collection.
 Nice boat... Err, collection.


 Wait a minute, that's not a siscon game!
 Wait a minute, that's not a siscon game!
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Daten City is being terrorized by Ghosts, the souls of the deceased taking revenge on the living. It's up to Panty - a sex crazed blonde angel whose panties transform into a gun -, Stocking - a goth loli with a serious sugar addiction, armed with a stocking that doubles as a blade -, and Garterbelt - a cursing, afro wearing, streetwise preacher who tries to keep the two in line with the subtlety of a drill sergeant - to defend Daten City against them and... Sorry, that's as much as I could glean from the first episode.

 Our Angelic Duo
 Our Angelic Duo
As with much of Gainax' work, the story isn't always necessarily the main focus. Evangelion, FLCL and Gurren Lagann were basically coming of age stories. The execution of the storytelling is where Gainax is at its most distinct: Evangelion's cut-up editing, FLCL's punk pace, or Gurren Lagann over the top machismo. Their latest work, Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt, comes from that same mold, this time straddling the fine line between American cartoons of the late Nineties (think of Genndy Tartakovsky's Powerpuff Girls, Dexter's Laboratory and so on) and Japanese anime. The result? An anime that runs at a breakneck speed (something I haven't seen since Excel Saga) and filled with little adult in-jokes. And as usual, Gainax isn't afraid to switch styles on the fly.

 Claymation? In my Gainax? Again?
 Claymation? In my Gainax? Again?
And that's maybe one major problem: It's so fast, so fleeting that it doesn't really leave an impression beyond the hyper-kinetic goings-on on the screen. The first episode doesn't exactly leave you wanting for more, other than the pure visual thrill since the story hooks are non-existent. The constant innuendo can get tiring, not to mention the sheer pace of it: by fitting 2 stories in a 20 minute episode you're rushing through the "setup - climax - aftermath" plot twice.  
In the end though, it's still early days for the series: There's still a lot Gainax can do in 13 episodes. For the curious and those who are looking for something new, Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt will at least dazzle you for 20 minutes, though I'm not sure you'll find anything more than that. 
 
Bonus feature: It wouldn't be Gainax with some nice fanservice!  

 Disclaimer.
 Disclaimer.
 
 These images may not reflect the actual product.
 These images may not reflect the actual product.
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