Archive for the ‘Fall Season’ Category


The new anime fall season is nearly upon us so I guess it’s time for my preview. As usual, it’s not about just mentioning each and every upcoming series, but about those I’ve some expectations for. Therefore, I’ll ignore most of those unwatchable cookie-cutter anime that make up a significant part of each season’s line-up. Sequels are excluded as well.

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Now that I have finished watching this rather generic series, I want to point out the only episode that is a real achievement in my eyes: GoHands’ #10.
Overall, Seiken no Blacksmith suffers from the typical problems of most light novel adaptions as it neglects proper storytelling in favor of ridiculous otaku-centric plot devices, it’s simply hard to take anime with little girls in major roles seriously. The story and the behaviour of most female characters are consequently coined by otaku taste, but it admittedly had some fun bits here and there and I didn’t expect much story-wise anyway – yet I’m still disappointed to see a series of that kind from manglobe. With Michiko to Hatchin they introduced so many great characters – also one of the most mature little girls I’ve seen in anime – but that was from a different director and writer and above all – an original project.



Anyway, Episode 10 has noticeably more dynamic animation and interesting posing as well as solid layouts and some nice bits of background animation, all in all comparable to Princess Lover #1. Unsurprisingly, the three key animators of PL #1 – Shingo Suzuki, Hiroshi Okubo and Kouichi Kikuta – were also involved in Blacksmith #10 (among some other GoHands animators). Okubo and Kikuta handled most of the exciting action sequence of the second half which convinces through the power and impressiveness of Okubo‘s parts (great camera motion and background animation) and Kikuta‘s fancy drawings and framing. Latter has a very obvious style which reflects his past as gif animator – his drawings may be rather rough (reminscent of other gif animators like Shingo Yamashita) but his morphing of the designs into interesting shapes and offbeat proportions make the actual movement turn out very satifying. Kikuta‘s approach to timing and layouting is similarly interesting, he tends to move the characters quite a lot within the given frame and often moves the backgrounds/camera to achieve a more dynamic effect (even if there’s sometimes a bit too loose connection of animation and the BG art), apparently Kikuta attracted some attention with his interesting layout style since he was entrusted with creating the layouts for Princess Lover! #2 and #8. In 2007, he created a short for the online contents site GyaO! [youtube] which provides some information about his style (and also regarding his liking of yuri…). Below some cuts which were animated by him (from Princess Lover! and Seiken no Blacksmith):



Staff list of Seiken no Blacksmith #10:


Screenplay: Masashi Suzuki
Storyboard: Masamitsu Hidaka
Episode Director: Yuuichi Sugio
Animation Director: Jun Nakai
Key Animation: Shingo Suzuki, Hiroshi Okubo, Kazuaki Imoto, Makoto Furuta, Kouichi Kikuta, Hidemi Kanazama, Yuki Terano, Takayuki Uchida, Yuuichi Sugio, Ai Ishimori

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To aru Kagaku no Railgun #9
I wasn’t particularly impressed by “To aru Kagaku no Railgun” so far (apart from episode 1), even if Tatsuyuki Nagai‘s supervision makes it more bearable than most of the other currently airing “bishoujo” series. He tends to work with many freelance artists so now and then you come across suprises if you follow his works closely, Railgun #9 is such a case. This episode was directed and storyboarded by Shigeyasu Yamauchi (director of Casshern Sins and many Toei shows) who created a very rich and atmospheric episode out of the weak and sometimes ridiculous scenario, though overall it wasn’t anything too outstanding, but rather solidly crafted. There are some nice moments throughout the episode and also an exciting action scene, and Yamauchi obviously paid much attention to details. The conception of the environment is more pronounced than in the other episodes as the storyboard feels actually thought-out and does really well in giving the anime’s world a concrete feel, something pretty rare in this kind of anime. The various drama parts and the corresponding inner monologues feel not so much out of place and boring like the ones in the previous episodes because Yamauchi knows how to stage them in an interesting way, pay attention to the nice compositions and metaphorical imagery like the light/shadow contrast:



The animation is admittedly not significantly better than in the other episodes, yet a more dynamic and expressive style is noticeable and some faces are somewhat reminiscent of Casshern Sins.



Kiddy Girl-and #5
The animation production of this episode was handled by White Fox (Tears to Tiara), so it’s no surprise that Naoto Hosoda is involved as well since he changed his register from AIC to aforementioned studio some time ago. Hosoda directed, storyboarded, supervised the animators and did the key animation for many cuts himself, that’s why his personal style is visible all over the episode. He’s one of the few “moe” exclusive directors/animators who have come up with their own style, and his approach totally reflects his skills as animator. The episodes he directs are full of unexpected movement and playful ideas as well as animation which feels flowing and completely rounded. He moves the characters a lot and gives them lively mimic and gestures which make their acting so much more convincing, Kiddy Girl-and #5 is no exception from this.



The final action scene is definitely the highlight due to Hosoda‘s great animation and storyboard work, it’s really amazing how he manages to surprise the viewer through unforeseeable motion, shot progression and use of perspective. I like how he makes use of the whole screen and creates a feeling of depth by moving the characters closer to the camera or distancing them from it. The storyboarding makes the whole scene much more intense as the characters move simultaneously over the screen so that you can literally feel the hecticness of the situation. It’s certainly one of the better episodes I’ve seen lately thanks to the fun moments and exciting action, and in contrast to Railgun I find the scenario and overall tone more appealing due to the lacking seriousness (at least that’s my impression based on #1 and #5). I don’t know if it’s a coincidence but the concept of episode 5 reminded me of Tears to Tiara #14 (also Hosoda‘s work) which was also about the exploration of an abandoned place, including an equally stunning final action scene. Maybe I’ll check out some more episodes of Kiddy Girl-and, the staff lists of #6 and #7 look also somewhat promising. Anyway, here’s the nice action scene of episode 5:


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Kuchu Buranko


♦ Kuchu Buranko
Kuchu Buranko #1
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.


♦ Kobato
Kobato #1
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
Fairy Tail #1
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
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
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.

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