July is just a few weeks away so it’s time for some preliminary words on the upcoming anime, or at least those worth mentioning (which aren’t that many, sadly). Sequels are excluded as well.
♦ Occult Academy
The third work in the joint TV Tokyo/Aniplex ‘Anime no Chikara’ project, produced by A-1 Pictures/Xebec and directed by promising director Tomohiko Ito. I already wrote a detailed preview of Occult Academy recently, check it out for more information.
♦ Highschool of the Dead
An adaptation of the same-named manga by director Tetsuro Araki (Death Note, Kurozuka), scriptwriter Yousuke Kuroda and studio Madhouse. While I don’t think that Madhouse will summon any high-profile episode directors and animators for this project, I’m still positive that quality will be on a decent level since I assume that character designer Masayoshi Tanaka (Toradora!, Hitman Reborn!) also serves as the chief animation director. Tanaka usually invests a fair share of effort into the drawings, even though he’s not really keen on trying out new things with his designs. The PV indeed proves that there’s reasonable quality to it from an animation perspective and Araki’s directing seems to be solid as well. I’m not familiar with the manga so I don’t know what to expect story-wise, yet it’s hard to imagine that the plot is its major selling point. The focus probably lies more on brutal action and pointless fanservice à la ‘Ikki Tousen’, hence I fear that it will be a show in the vein of Gonzo‘s ‘Dragonaut’ – technically strong but with unappealing content.
♦ Seitokai Yakuindomo
I certainly wouldn’t expect anything of this 4-koma manga adaptation if it wasn’t produced by GoHands, a relatively new studio known for the generic but cunningly realized series ‘Princess Lover!’. Director Hiromitsu Kanazawa helms the project, Makoto Nakamura oversees the scripts and Makoto Furuta is in charge of character design and animation direction. As evidenced by the PV, they are again doing some interesting stuff with the animation and the approach to directing is a bit more original than in your average bishoujo comedy series. I find it quite promising that Makoto Furuta supervises the animation, an animator whom I still hold in high esteem for his great work on ‘Princess Lover!’ #4 (he drew all the key animation himself!). This episode embodies most things I appreciate about ‘Princess Lover!’: freer drawings, versatile animation, exciting framing and interesting camerawork. These are aspects that really add to the overall feeling and enjoyment of a show, it just feels good to see the characters move and express themselves in fun and inventive ways. I’m pretty sure that GoHands‘ top animators (Hiroshi Okubo, Koichi Kikuta, Shingo Suzuki, Tomoyuki Niho, etc.) will be involved as well, even though most resources are probably flowing into ‘Mardock Scramble’ right now. Speaking of ‘Mardock Scramble’, its art director (Masanobu Nomura) also works on ‘Seitokai Yakuindomo’, which means that there’s going to be a lot of background art worth appreciating. The first impressions of those who attended last week’s preview screening are by and large positive, so it seems to be a fun watch after all.
This is doubtlessly material that would have had tremendous potential in the hands of a talented staff, therefore I’m quite disappointed that a studio like Daume – which isn’t exactly known for new emerging talent or high quality work – handles the animation production. The only major effort of Daume I really liked was Shinbou‘s ‘Petite Cossette’, otherwise they have a pretty poor line-up of past works. The main creators involved in ‘Shiki’ are nothing to be excited about either, even if Tetsuro Amino is admittedly a veteran director with a long record of works. The few times I had the chance to examine his work failed to make an impression on me, his style striked me as rather faceless and dull at that. On the script side, a relatively unknown face – namely Kenji Sugihara – is responsible for the series composition, it seems like this is even his first job of that kind. The same goes for art director Ichirou Tatsuta of Studio Fuga, who isn’t particularly experienced either. I can’t say that I’m fond of the character designs, albeit it’s noticeable that designer Shinji Ochi made an effort to give the characters some unique touches through the hairstyle. I found the trailer only mildly impressive in terms of production quality (especially the art direction is underwhelming), they have to try a bit harder in order to intrigue me. Hopefully Amino calls in some good directors and animators from elsewhere (maybe from Xebec‘s ‘Break Blade’ movie project?), it would be too bad if the interesting source material was realized in a way that keeps the audience at a distance. Moreover, it’s going to occupy one of the noitaminA slots for two cours (22 episodes), so I hope the actual show will turn out more convincing than the trailer indicates.
♦ Ōkami-san to Shichinin no Nakama-tachi
Another one of the countless series that feel like you’ve already watched them. Of course, the character design looks strangely familiar for everyone who knows ‘Toradora!’ and there’s the typical J.C. Staff constellation of characters, too. Both director Yoshiaki Iwasaki and character designer/chief animation director Haruko Iizuka make for a solid foundation on the staff side of things, though due to the generic scenario I can’t say that it’s something I look forward to.
♦ Nurarihyon no Mago
I think it’s generally known that Deen and action don’t mix very well, yet I’m curious what such an experienced director as Junji Nishimura can achieve with this shounen manga adaptation. Sadly, the trailer suggests that it’s another Deen slide-show, too bad because I kind of like the designs.
♦ Densetsu no Yuusha no Densetsu
As with last year’s ‘Chrome Shelled Regios’, this is another ZEXCS show helmed by Itsuro Kawasaki. ‘Regios’ was anything but good, so I don’t expect much of their most recent effort either.
♦ Asobi ni Ikuyo!
Certainly nowhere near the top of my anticipated list, but since it’s Youichi Ueda‘s directorial debut I’m inclined to check it out (despite its dull story description). In his 20+ years career in this business, he has gotten into directing episodes only very recently (with ‘Asu no Yoichi!’ #6 in 2009) and one year later he already helms a whole series. Of course, Ueda has made himself a name over the course of his career with his great animation and character design work so he is by no means a ‘nobody’. Scriptwriter Katsuhiko Takayama is somebody I remember for his good work on Shin Oonuma‘s shows (ef, Natsu no Arashi, Bakatest). One of AIC‘s younger independent studios, namely AIC PLUS+ (GA: Geijutsuka Art Design Class), produces the animation and Noriko Morishima is in charge of the character designs and overall animation direction. Unfortunately, the designs look just as generic as with ‘Asu no Yoichi!’, her character designing debut. I assume the animation won’t be any good either…
I don’t have much an opinion on this one. Masahiko Ohta directed ‘Minami-ke’ at Daume a few years ago and Takaharu Okuma is known as the character designer of ‘Macademi Wasshoi!’. Bridge is a relatively unknown studio that has only done subcontract work so far. I wouldn’t be surprised if it turned out to be watchable.