It's a new season, dear reader, which means a new crop of anime. Assuming you're paying attention to me and not too busy pre-ordering your copy of MT volume six that Fred is gracious enough to sign. His wrist may regret it later, but the rest of us won't!
As an aside, I need better rant topics. Most of you certainly don't care one whit about the stuff I deal with day to day. I'm not the artist whose life we all follow obsessively. I don't have Dom's crazy con stories or obsession with staring at grown men chasing a ball. I just have a lot of sarcasm, anime, and the occasional gizmo to talk about.
The summer anime season is something of a dumping ground, I'm told. It's where all the shit winds up. Judging by the stuff I've seen thus far, that seems to be an accurate assessment.
First is Ookami-san. I gather it's based on a series of novels which are not particularly good. At least that's what Dom says, I'm just going to trust him on this one. After watching an episode, I'm not curious enough to check myself. The titular character, one Ryoko Ookami, is a member of a club that is described as a "mutual aid society". You come to them for a favor and they'll extract one from you later in return. Personally, I think it sounds more like some high school mafia. Add in a stalker-ish guy who is afraid of being looked at with a huge crush on Ookami-san and about half a dozen half-baked characters and you have the cast of Ookami-san. Their antics are very fairy tale inspired, including a pumpkin chariot. Also, a very overdramatic narrator.
On the basis of the first episode, I was willing to write off Ookami-san. The second episode saves it. There's enough humor to keep me watching. Much of the drama and introspection feels very ham-handed, and the plot is little better, but the characters are fun enough. This is mediocrity, but entertaining mediocrity.
Next is Seitokai Yakuindomo. The basic plot is a well-worn one: an all-girls school integrates, leaving a few guys surrounded by many girls. In this case, the lead guy isn't there because he's looking to get laid or build a harem. He's there because he's lazy and he lives close. He's on school grounds for all of about fifteen seconds before the student council latches on to him. He's promptly drafted into their ranks and placed in the position of VP. Some antics and a good deal of innuendo ensues. The president makes multiple passes at the unwilling VP who seems to view every girl as another way he might get into trouble.
The problem? It's also not funny. It feels like a cheap knockoff of the much funnier Seitokai no Ichizon. Which is to say it's a less funny version of something that was very funny and unexpectedly good from the past. Alternately, B Gata H Kei without the humor. Skip.
Amagami SS is a slight twist on what appears to be a dating sim adaptation. The twist seems to be that instead of trying to interleave multiple different paths, they're going to animate one girl's path at a time and then reset. This is different enough that it might be interesting if executed properly. Thus we meet our protagonist, whose notable feature is that he was stood up on a date two years ago. This was apparently the highlight of his life, given how he obsesses over it. He proceeds to go about a fairly mundane school day with a sister, a good friend, some generic teasing, etc. One girl, clearly the subject of this arc, seems to take an interest in him. She calls him "nice" at least six times in ten minutes. Most men I know would despair at this point, but apparently not our hapless protagonist.
The problem? Amagami SS is... bland. The writing is bland. The art is bland. The characters are bland. This show appears to be an experiment in aggressive mediocrity. There's nothing identifiably bad but there are also no redeeming features. The second episode really doesn't help, as the slight amount of fanservice it adds doesn't overwhelm the "bleh" factor. Skip.
All is not lost, though. There are a few things worth watching. Specifically, Asobi No Iku Yo and Highschool of the Dead.
Asobi No Iku Yo is a very standard harem show. Except it's not. The first episode opens with a girl in an armored suit - and the ability to conjure weaponry - based on a warship chase down some gunrunners. This doesn't quite work and the ship explodes with her in it. Don't worry, we'll see her later anyway. Explosions apparently don't phase her. Then some kind of mysterious ship goes by and we cut to the lead male. There's nothing special about him, really. He's just the first person to notice that the girl with cat ears and a tail isn't normal. He wakes up later with her in bed with him - sees a lot of boob - and then has to explain her to his neighbor and a teacher. The neighbor girl is a lot of fun. She wastes no time at all in getting lost in a sexual fantasy world as she teases the hapless lead male. Lead Male somehow manages to survive, there is some exposition, and then the girl who was blowing things up earlier shows up again. It's revealed that she's the shy classmate working up the nerve to ask him out.
Despite the harem antics, this show actually doesn't suck. Despite the sheer weirdness of things, the alien girl is actually the most normal one. The neighbor girl seems to work for the CIA or similar. The teacher is linked to some sort of conspiracy who thinks the alien girl is entirely too lame to actually be first contact. The girl who conjures weapons nearly offs her handler and is then handed a mission to capture the alien. There's a surprising amount of plot for a harem show here and the characters are actually fun. The whole thing may go to pot in the near future, but for the moment it's decent.
Now then. Who likes seeing zombies destroyed in graphic detail? Who likes pantyshots and boobs? Who likes adventuring parties?
If you're anything like me, you said "me" to all three. Which means you should be watching Highschool of the Dead. The premise is simple and familiar. A sudden and mysterious outbreak of zombies occurs, and the world promptly falls apart. In this case, the central characters are high school students. The alpha male of this little group, Komuro, is standing on an external stairwell and thinking about his girl problems when he witnesses a zombie attack at the front gate of the school. One teacher is bit and promptly dies, becoming a zombie. A second teacher rapidly follows suit. Komuro responds by grabbing the only two people in the school he gives a damn about and trying to get away from everyone else.
Highschool of the Dead is a very violent show. Lots of blood, lots of death, and even some cannibalism. There's also just as much sex as there is violence. Fight scenes are full of bouncing boobs and pantyshots. The show positively drips blood and sex, and it's not going to let up any time soon. Hang on tight, you're in for a ride.
I admit it, I like this show. I've been reading the manga for a while. The first episode was fairly faithful and set up the key relationships. The next one or two will join the party and then the mayhem truly begins. I'm really looking forward to where this will go.
Not exactly a great season, folks. Then again, mid-summer does have a reputation as something of a dumping ground. Now we know why.