♦ Kuchu Buranko
The first episode undoubtedly meets my expectations of an innovative and refreshing visual experience with interesting script and concept, so it comes as no surprise that Kuchu Buranko is the most convincing anime of the fall season in my book. It’s interesting to see anime which push the medium into new directions, and this one belongs to that category for sure. I especially like the combination of different animation techniques and also live-action segments to a lovely pool of visual variety and richness, which stands out from the generic and reused imagery of most other anime these days. Kenji Nakamura manages to compensate for the middling animation quality through inventive directing to establish a strong bond with the audience, and I feel that he’s even more accomplished in that technique than other directors with the same kind of approach (like Akiyuki Shinbou). But not only the presentation displays imaginative ideas as the narratives are also pretty unusual. The story is still a mystery at this point but makes me curious how it will eventually unfold, and judging by Nakamura‘s former projects it won’t disappoint in any case. Episode #1 is directed by Kouhei Hatano with Kimitoshi Chioka as assistant, who realized an interesting vision best described as a mixture of bizarre humour and psychological gimmickry fitting to the premise of the series, and I really like the way the hilarity is presented here with this strange balance of absurdity and seriousness.
The first few episodes left me with a good impression alike the former Clamp/Madhouse works. It has its share of funny moments and fun character interactions, even if some of the characters are a bit reminiscent of other Clamp characters. The main character Kobato is a somewhat naive girl and most of the jokes are based on her ineptness or misunderstandings derived from it, but I have to admit that it works very well and doesn’t feel overly forced or something. I also enjoyed the visuals despite the sugary presentation with lots of chibi/SD sequences, because these devices are used in a way that isn’t repelling but brings some visual diversion and supports the gags. It certainly has the typical dreamy mood of the previous Clamp anime and looks very close (esp. regarding color design, backgrounds and overall design) to the “Clamp in Wonderland 2” music video, but not surprisingly, since Kobato’s director Mitsuyuki Masuhara and character designer Hiromi Kato worked also on that one. The animation is decent with some nice parts like Kobato’s song performance in the second half of episode 1, though one shouldn’t expect too much in that regard.
♦ Fairy Tail
I didn’t expect an outstanding opening episode à la Soul Eater in the first place, but nevertheless something better than this rather uninspiring outcome. Speaking of Soul Eater, I could sense some influence from it, which probably originates from director Shinji Ishihira‘s work on it. But that doesn’t mean that they are really comparable concerning quality, meaning that Soul Eater is much more convincing animation-wise due to the looser approach, while Fairy Tail has stiff and hardly appealing animation reminiscent of long-running shounen series. The directing is also surprisingly spiritless and lacks any uniqueness, what leads to the uninteresting presentation of the rather decent source material. All in all I don’t have any hope that the quality will turn for the better.
♦ Winter Sonata
Nothing too outstanding despite the unusual scenario. The animation work by G&G Entertainment and JM Animation is hardly worth mentioning, but what really puts me off is the awful directing (besides the corny script). I can clearly see that they try to abandon typical anime exaggerations and behaviour to create a balance closer to a live-action drama, but it doesn’t work that easily. Of course the stiff to non-existent character animation/acting doesn’t help with that and the unfitting editing as well as the frequent pans over the static backgrounds slow down the flow too much, it might work in live-action that way, but as animation it gets easily boring and isn’t engaging at all.
♦ Cheburashka Arere
The original Russian animated film series by Roman Kachanov and famous studio Soyuzmultfilm is rather unknown among anime fans, but has been very popular in Japan since the Cheburashka movies were shown in some cinemas, it was even inducted into the Ghibli Museum Library. As a result, a Japanese version was announced some years ago, which currently airs during TV Tokyo’s “Nori-Suta 100%” show. The new version is produced by Go Hands, a relatively new studio known for their recent anime “Princess Lover!“, with Makoto Nakamura supervising the project and Susumu Kudo as director. The designs, animation and content are pretty simple as expected of children’s program, but sometimes less is more.
Altogether a very disappointing fall season with very few highlights and lots of cookie-cutter anime, so I’m hoping for betterment next year. The winter season has some interesting titles like Gainax‘ “Hanamaru Youchien”, A-1‘s “So-ra-no-wo-to” and assumedly Brainbase‘s “Dhurarara!!” in the line-up, at least some promising anime to look forward to.