Hey, folks. Long time no see. So, a lot of things have happened. Have I mentioned that I moved to San Francisco? Probably not. Incidentally, this city is amazing and insane.
So, new season of anime means a new group of shows to talk about. As usual, they range from excellent to truly horrific. You're going to get some of each, friend.
First is Dragon Crisis. The basic setup is that you have a guy whose parents are treasure hunters. They're globe-trotting in search of magical artifacts, some of which are very powerful. The Lead Male is actually kind of pissed at his parents over this, as they're not the most attentive of parents. So when he winds up with one in his possession, he's a bit conflicted.
When said item turns out to be a girl, his internal conflict gets turned up to eleven. She's cute as a button, has imprinted upon him, and happens to be a dragon. Oh, and she's being hunted by a larger, more powerful dragon.
It's not a bad show. The relationship between Rose and what's-his-face is fun. The writing is kind of uninspired, but it's not intolerable. Worth watching if a shounen that doesn't involve ninjas is your thing.
Next is Fractale. The world of Fractale is... interesting. It's set in the far future, at a time where reality is incredibly heavily augmented by computer systems that are universally implanted into people. Pretty much everyone lives a nomadic life, terrified of losing their freedom by settling down. Clain is an odd duck, a guy who lives alone in an actual house and spends a lot of time studying "ancient" artifacts (think current computing systems). Then a strange woman shows up, being chased. He hides her, she gives him a brooch, and she leaves. An even stranger woman pops out of his computer.
It turns out that the overarching computer system that their world depends on - the Fractale system - is starting to collapse. The story of Fractale has gotten strange, but it's a very promising show so far. There's something about it that feels like an echo of a Ghibli work. Well worth watching.
Freezing is... very stereotypical in a lot of ways. Futuristic Japan under attack by aliens? Check. High school students pressed into service as weapons? Check. Generic traumatic pasts for characters? Check. Tsundere lead female? Check. Generic, bland, and earnest lead male? Check.
Seriously, this could be any one of a hundred or more shows. I remember when this was called "Gunparade March"... well, except for the semi-magical effects, but that's just a detail. This show isn't even visually remarkable. Drop it like a hot potato.
As if Freezing wasn't enough, there's another horribly stereotypical show this season. From some of the people who worked on Macross Frontier (and decided Ranka was a compelling character) comes Infinite Stratos.
Infinite Stratos is set in a world where gender politics have been neatly turned on their head. There is a small number of mecha in the world of substantial power that can only be piloted by women. And, you know, the hapless male lead. Who happens to be improbably good at everything he does (except comprehending women). From there it turns into about what you would expect from a harem/mecha hybrid. There's the Strict Older Sister, the Tsundere, two Childhood Friends (apparently a firesale a Stereotypes R Us), the Ditzy Teacher, and various generic mecha trappings.
Infinite Stratos is at best a guilty pleasure. The girls waste no time establishing a state of livelock surrounding Ichika (which I've come to call "cocklock") as each attempts and fails to acquire an exclusive lock but succeeds in locking resources required by other actors. Antics ensue.
Think of the exalted work of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The imposing intellect of Sherlock and the Watson who kept him grounded. Now imagine that Sherlock is a little blonde girl (complete with bubble pipe) and Watson is an exchange student. Instead of being set in England, it's now set in a fictional small European nation. This is Gosick.
Once your vertigo settles, I can explain that this show is actually quite good. Victorique is harsh, brash, incisive, and blindingly bright, even if she likes her aura of mystery perhaps too much. She's forced to live cooped up at the top of a tower (cue Rapunzel jokes) and craves the news and stimulation that Watson (er, Kujo) brings her. Without him, she's bored out of her skull.
What does she like? Mysteries, mostly. Crimes, great and small (but preferably great) and criminals against which she can test her wit and Kujo's mettle. It doesn't take long for the two to land themselves in the middle of a murder mystery, which promptly leads to a larger and more complex murder mystery.
Despite how lightly I'm treating it, Gosick is really one of the better shows this season. It's well written and the interactions between Kujo and Victorique are pure genius.
When I was in high school I read that play written by Marlowe in which a man sells his soul to the devil for power and pleasure. With that in mind, I come to the next show, Puella Magi Madoka Magica. In this show, two unsuspecting girls are thrown into a chaotic world where monsters prey on humanity and Puella Magi fight against them. The Puella Magi is a girl who runs the very real risk of losing her life in combat.
Our Mephistopheles is a cutsey little guy named Kyubey. He even offers Madoka a wish in exchange for her sou- er, becoming a Puella Magi. Every wish seems to come with a price, and it's implied that no wish really works out the way the girls would want it to. There are even a few implications that Kyubey is not really being entirely honest with the girls.
The show is actually a lot darker than it sounds. It is unquestionably one of the best shows this season, and it gets darker by the episode. Ah, Faust, be careful what bargains you strike!
So anyway. That's a few of this seasons' shows. Now I have to remember where I left my ticket for Kara no Kyoukai in the theater...