So after neglecting this blog for two months due to being incredibly busy, I guess it’s already time for a next season preview again, even though I’m a bit late this time. Anyway, below you can find my expectations and preliminary thoughts on the upcoming series. As usual, stuff I’m not interested in and sequels are excluded.
So this is it, director Yutaka Yamamoto‘s new show which is based on an original scenario and general story outline by literary/cultural critic and writer Hiroki Azuma. Mari Okada organizes and supervises the original scenario’s adaptation into anime series format and Masako Tashiro designs the characters. This is roughly the fundamental constellation of people in charge of this upcoming noitaminA series, and it’s indeed a promising one. Although I’m sometimes of the impression that Yamamoto gets more attention for the controversial things he keeps saying than for his actual work, he’s still one of the more talented active directors in the anime industry these days. Yet even to this day he draws his fame rather from his involvement with the ‘Haruhi’ franchise than from anything he’s done afterwards, so I hope he makes use of the chance he gets with ‘Fractale’ to become known for a project that is actually all his. Yamakan seems to shape the project according to his own ideas rather than just being faithful to Azuma‘s scenario, his intention is apparently to make an action adventure intended for the healthy youth. Or in other words, the kind of ‘Laputa’-like adventure anime that isn’t made anymore these days and that is sorely missed by many (including myself). From the few material I’ve seen so far I certainly get the Ghibli/WMT kind of vibe from it, but that was also the case with one of A-1 Pictures previous series – ‘So-ra-no-wo-to’ – which obviously aimed for a similar atmosphere and even succeeded surprisingly well in this regard. I guess most of the staff of aforementioned series will also be involved in ‘Fractale’, the animation is produced by A-1 Pictures after all with cooperation by Yamamoto‘s studio Ordet, just like it was with his previous anime series ‘Kannagi’. Azuma tweeted that it would neither be a moe anime nor an atmosphere-centric ‘kuuki-kei’ anime (in the vein of ‘So-ra-no-wo-to’), so I have my hopes high that it will actually tell a decent story. On the technical side of things, I am full of confidence that it will have the same level of quality as ‘Kannagi’. Character designer Masako Tashiro is not someone I’ve paid much attention to up until now, but she’s worked on some big projects in the past and the designs aren’t much different from what I would have expected from the likes of Satoshi Kadowaki anyway. I’m glad that Emi Kesamaru, who is the head of Ordet‘s art department and whose involvement with Yamakan goes back as far as KyoAni‘s OVA ‘Munto 2’, is in charge of art direction and image design again, just like with ‘Black Rock Shooter’. Overall, I’m sure that ‘Fractale’ is gonna be more than worthy of A-1 Pictures‘ and Yamakan‘s noitaminA debut and clearly my most anticipated upcoming anime series, I can’t imagine that Yamamoto will let me down when he invests so much effort.
♦ Hourou Musuko
Despite getting it recommended countless times I’ve never read the manga this anime is based on, but I liked the adaptation of one of mangaka Takako Shimura‘s other works, namely ‘Aoi Hana’. The premise of ‘Hourou Musuko’ sounds interesting and from what I have heard the manga doesn’t potray its sensitive themes (such as crossdressing and puberty) in the same immature way as most anime do. I think while director Ei Aoki hasn’t adapted similar subject material before, he certainly knows how to convincingly depict characters and how to stage powerful drama, I still fondly remember his great ‘Shuffle’ episode. And apparently he’s a huge fan of the manga himself. Judging by the PVs, the animation seems to have an unusually high level for an AIC show, too, and the rich texture of the screen is simply stunning as expected of a director with origin in photographing. It has that rare feeling of seamless-ness I’ve hardly come across in anime of the post-cel era, apparently Aoki has learned a lot from the masters of digital photographing such as Makoto Shinkai. Ryuichi Makino, who has collaborated with Aoki several times before (on ‘Girls Bravo’ and aforementioned ‘Shuffle’ episode among others), designed the characters and is in charge of overall animation supervision while Michio Sato has the rare position of a ‘main animator’. As with the other noitaminA show of this season, Mari Okada handles the series composition, so I guess there can’t go much wrong with this series all in all.
♦ Yumekui Merry
Toei veteran director Shigeyasu Yamauchi (of ‘Casshern Sins’ fame) is directing this project with character designs by Masahiro Fujii at J.C. Staff. At first I somehow felt that Yamauchi doesn’t really fit in here, but that feeling vanished relatively fast as I’ve become curious what he can do with this kind of material. Yamauchi said that the manga had been handed over to him immediately after work on ‘Casshern Sins’ finished and he thought that there was more to the manga than just action with pretty girls as it also firmly depicted the characters’ emotions and thoughts. I’m still not entirely sold on the material Yamauchi‘s adapting here, thus I doubt that the plot premise alone would have enticed me to check this out. But with Yamauchi putting his spin on it I think the outcome could be something worthwhile after all. You can clearly see Yamauchi‘s hand and directing skills in the PVs, from the above average processing (compared to J.C. standards) to the elaborate compositions and artistic backgrounds, with latter being a welcome change from J.C.‘s usual boring water-color background art. For Yamauchi, backgrounds are an integral part of establishing atmosphere (as they should be), if you’ve watched his previous series ‘Casshern Sins’ you should know what I’m talking about. Kenji Matsumoto, who created the beautiful background art of ‘Casshern Sins’ #9, #18 and most of #19, #22, #23 and #24 on his own, is the art director of ‘Yumekui Merry’, so it’s not like Yamauchi is the sole reason for the high quality backgrounds. With Masahiro Fujii being chief animation director I’m somewhat positive that the animation quality will uphold rather well, even though you never know for sure due to J.C.‘s typical severe schedule. At least there should be a lot of freelancers involved considering both Yamauchi‘s and Fujii‘s involvement. Incidentally, the official twitter account of ‘Yumekui Merry’ noted a few days ago that a famous creator was involved and that one should pay attention to the ED credits. I think I spotted Hironori Tanaka in one of the trailers, but I’m not sure if he counts as famous… maybe Yoshihiko Umakoshi would be a safer bet.
♦ Mahō Shōjo Madoka Magica
For once a Akiyuki Shinbo/SHAFT anime that is pretty high on my anticipated list. With Aniplex, enthusiastic producer Iwakami and many talented people behind it I can see this becoming one of the best SHAFT series since a good while. Can’t say that I’m a devotee of Gen Urobuchi‘s work, yet I’m curious to see what he’s up to with a magical girl series like ‘Madoka Magica’. It’s different in tone from all of his previous works after all, at least at first sight. I’ve never been particularly fond of Ume Aoki‘s style – but since Takahiro Kishida was the one who adapted them for animation it’s not something that’s bothering me anymore. As expected, Kishida isn’t chief animation director, he’s not someone who likes doing that kind of work. He rather likes taking control over layouts (i.e. drawing them on his own), so we might see him doing this kind of work, at least if he decided to keep working on it after the initial stages. ‘First Squad’ director Yoshiharu Ashino storyboarded episode 1 while Ryouma Ebata supervises the animation, so I suppose we’ll see a lot of other Aniplex-related freelancers on this episode, too. Overall, there are unusually many people on this project that I wouldn’t associate with SHAFT (and thus have been brought on board by Aniplex), from the two chief animation directors Junichiro Taniguchi and Mika Takahashi to layout designer Takao Maki and the ‘action directors’ Nozomu Abe and Tomohiro Kamitani. Hopefully, this will cause a fresh breeze to blow through this project. And I’m glad that Gekidan Inu Curry got for once a main position in the staff list (production design), maybe this show will turn out more flamboyant at times than one might expect.
♦ Dragon Crisis!
Hideki Tachibana‘s second job as a director of a TV series after the disastrous ‘H2O’ from three years ago, this time he better delivers. Admittedly, I’m not one of those who have a high opinion of him as I’ve yet to see work of his that could be considered above average. That is regarding his directorial work, I know well enough that he’s a very talented animator. He made himself quite a name with his (animation) work on Pierrot shows and he was also considered as the best animator of the so-called ‘Takeuchi school‘. That reputation hasn’t really worn off up until now, so many think he’s a bigger shot than he actually is. If you want to have a quick sample of his directing and animation style, I suggest that you check out the ‘Summon Night 4‘ opening (director/storyboard/character design/animation director/key animation), which comes closest to what I would call his ‘masterpiece’. One thing he’s known for are his good connections within the industry, hence some sakuga otaku are expecting a huge gathering of talents considering that Masashi Ishihama (character design) and Aniplex (production) are involved as well. But as the saying goes, one shouldn’t count ones chickens before they’re hatched… The first disappointment is that Ishihama isn’t animation director of the first episode as Mariko Emori is in charge of it, maybe I should have expected that from the beginning. On the script side of things, I guess things are in good hands with Hideyuki Kurata handling the series composition, though I doubt that he can do much about the triteness of the source material.
It’s produced by studio Bones, so quality should be good, but honestly, I’m neither really taken by its premise nor do I consider director Hitoshi Nanba as one of Bones’ top people. For all that, Takashi Tomioka‘s involvement as designer and chief animation director and ‘Eureka Seven’ director Tomoki Kyoda being visual coordinator could entice me to check it out anyway. If you like stories set in this period, then it should certainly be worth watching.
♦ Infinite Stratos
Officially, it’s produced by studio 8-Bit, but as you can easily guess from the overall look of the show, it’s actually Satelight people who are working on this, above all ‘Macross Frontier’ director Yasuhito Kikuchi. The plot and story setup seems to be pretty standard so I don’t expect this to be more than an average show with overall slightly better animation (and CG).
♦ Level E
Based on a manga by ‘Hunter x Hunter’ creator Yoshihiro Togashi and produced by David Production & Studio Pierrot. I’m not expecting anything great, yet I’m somewhat interested in how this collaboration will turn out in the end.