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Archive for the ‘Preview’ Category

 

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.
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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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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.

 
High Expectations
 

♦ 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.

 
 
Medium Expectations
 

♦ 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.

 
 
Low Expectations
 

♦ Shiki

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…

 

♦ Mitsudomoe

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.

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To put it bluntly, I wasn’t particularly satisfied with the first two ‘Anime no Chikara‘ series as the first one (So-ra-no-wo-to) was technically well-made yet didn’t make any mentionable effort to break out of generic anime patterns and the currently airing ‘Senkou no Night Raid’ is extremely dry and a bore to watch despite its interesting setting. So I am earnestly hoping that, as the saying goes, “The third time’s the charm” and A-1 Pictures will finally present something worthy of the projects’ ambitious name. Considering the staff of the third attempt – “Occult Academy” – it has at least a solid grounding and starting point with some really talented people in key positions. First, there’s director Tomohiko Ito who has an impressive record of works for all that he’s never directed a series or movie before. Recently I had an ‘aha moment’ when I found out that Tokiichi Kagurazaka is his pen name as suddenly everything began to make sense. I had always wondered who was behind the laid-back feeling and Hosoda-like elaborate framing of ‘Michiko to Hatchin’ #4, so it makes perfect sense that Tomohiko Ito had been in charge since he was the assistant director of “Toki wo Kakeru Shoujo” and “Summer Wars”.
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Studio GoHands latest project – the adaptation of Tow Ubukata‘s novel series “Mardock Scramble” into three theatrical films – certainly makes me somewhat excited as well as happy that a relatively new studio like GoHands got entrusted with such a big project. The staff list isn’t really surprising to me as most of the artists are either attached to Studio GoHands or were already involved with them in the past. Director Susumu Kudo also helmed their recent “Cheburashka” series, though his involvement with them goes back as far as “Koi suru Tenshi Angelique” (although they still belonged to Satelight back then). I haven’t seen any of his major directorial efforts yet (which were mostly bishoujo shows), but he did some decent episode direction and storyboard work on “Princess Lover!” and “Shugo Chara!”. Judging by the trailer he seems to do a pretty good job in establishing a strong cinematic feeling and lush visuals somewhat reminiscent of certain Gonzo series (particularly “Speed Grapher”).

 
 

Shingo Suzuki and Jun Nakai are both in charge of character design and overall animation direction. Suzuki also did the designs for GoHands‘ first independent work “Princess Lover!” and Shōji Kawamori‘s Genius Party short “Shanghai Dragon”. It seems like Suzuki designed the female characters of “Mardock Scramble” in view of the “Shugo Chara”-like style that is especially obvious in the promo pic at the top of this post (as it was drawn by Suzuki himself). Since Jun Nakai is also participating in this project and apparently has a connection with GoHands, it’s likely that he was the one that brought them in to work on Manglobe‘s “Seiken no Blacksmith” (I wrote about it a while ago), Nakai was the character designer of that show after all. Both Suzuki and Nakai are experienced animation directors who put a fair amount of effort into the drawings and go for a very ‘clean’ look while giving the animators enough room to express themselves. I guess the latter applies more to Suzuki who noticeably tried to preserve the individual animators’ touches in “Princess Lover!”, check out this post for more information.

 

 

I’m rather fond of both Koichi Kikuta‘s and Hiroshi Okubo‘s work, that’s why I’m delighted to see that they are involved as designers. Studio Biho‘s Masanobu Nomura (First Squad, Arjuna, Blue Drop, etc.) is art director and Yoshinori Shiozawa (Spice & Wolf, Heroic Age, Bamboo Blade, etc.) is doing the art setting. Did I already say that I love the background art in the trailer? Most backgrounds these days feel like you’ve seen them before (Deen & J.C., anyone?), but the ones in above trailer really help to set the mood and provide a beautiful stage for the character play. Anime become much more interesting if the designers create a world that is believable and fascinating, and it seems like this is the case here. The colour palette is beautifully chosen as well, kind of makes it feel all the more cold and gritty.

 

Original Work / Screenplay: Tow Ubukata
Director: Susumu Kudo
Concept Design: Koichi Kikuta
Character Design / Animation Direction: Shingo Suzuki, Jun Nakai
Weapon Design: Hiroshi Okubo
CGI Director: Tetsuro Kodama
Colour Design: Shigenobu Kaihou
Art Setting: Yoshinori Shiozawa (Biho)
Art Director: Masanobu Nomura (Biho)
Director of Photography: Toru Fukushi (T2studio)
Music: Conisch
Animation production: GoHands

 
 

Since there’s not much information about Studio GoHands in the western websphere, here’s a short studio profile:

 

 

Studio GoHands had originally been the Osaka branch of Satelight before it became independent in August 2008. Former Satelight producer Ringo Kishimoto serves as GoHands‘ representative director. GoHands‘ head office and animation department is still located in the former Satelight Osaka studio, though they are preparing a studio in Asagaya, Tokyo. The studio’s name is derived from Satelight‘s mascot character “Gohan-chan“. They are usually credited as “GoHands”, “GO HANDS” or “ゴーハンズ”.

 

GoHands has a guiding principle of producing only one work per year and keeping most work in-house. They have obviously adhered to latter guideline so far as their first project “Princess Lover” was almost entirely produced by their own staff. Satelight‘s Osaka studio was initially centered around former Wanpack members, that’s why that studio is one of the main origins of GoHands‘ animators. GoHands‘ main works from their Satelight period are “Shugo Chara!”, “Angelique” and Genius Party’s “Shanghai Dragon” short, minor works by GoHands‘ staff include “Macross Frontier” #8 and “Baccano!” #7.

 

List of works:
♦ Princess Lover! [TV] (2009): Animation Production
♦ Cheburashka Arere? [TV] (2009-2010): Animation Production
♦ Seiken no Blacksmith [TV] (2009): #10 Production Assistance
♦ Mardock Sramble [Movie] (2010-….): Animation Production

 

Important staff:
♦ Hiromitsu Kanazawa [金澤洪充]: Director
♦ Susumu Kudo [工藤進]: Director
♦ Yuuichi Sugio [杉生祐一]: Director, Animator
♦ Shingo Suzuki [鈴木信吾]: Character Designer, Animation Supervisor, Animator
♦ Takayuki Uchida [内田孝行]: Animation Supervisor, Animator
♦ Kazuaki Imoto [井元一彰]: Animation Supervisor, Animator
♦ Makoto Furuta [古田誠]: Animation Supervisor, Animator
♦ Hiromi Masuda [舛田裕美]: Animation Supervisor, Animator
♦ Hiroshi Okubo [大久保宏]: Designer, Animator
♦ Koichi Kikuta [菊田幸一]: Designer, Animator
♦ Tomoyuki Niho [仁保知行]: Animator

 

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Spring Season 2010 is quickly approaching so it’s time for my preliminary overview. As usual, I leave out all sequels and anime that aren’t worth mentioning in my book:

 
High Expectations
 

♦ Yojo-han Shinwa Taikei

Masaaki Yuasa (Kaiba, Kemonozume, Mind Game) finally gets another chance to show his talent, though this time it’s not an original project but based on a novel. The animation is produced by Madhouse and the character designer is once again Nobutake Ito who created absolutely lovely character models for “Youjou-han”, I’m sure they look just as great in motion. The script supervisor is a new face (at least in the anime industry), namely Makoto Ueda who has only written live-action films so far (such as the time-travel movie “Summer Time Machine Blues”). Overall, “Yojo-han Shinwa Taikei” seems to be the most promising series this season, I can’t wait to see Yuasa‘s imaginative directing again as well as the work of the countless talented artists he tends to work with. And since it airs in Fuji’s noitaminA slot it will hopefully get the recognition it deserves.

 

♦ Sarai-ya Goyou

The other noitaminA series of this season looks also extremely promising with veteran director Tomomi Mochizuki helming the project, Kazuto Nakazawa designing the characters and Studio Manglobe as animation producer. Furthermore, it’s based on a manga by Natsume Ono who is known for adult works like “Ristorante Paradiso” and “Not Simple”. While I think that it won’t have the same kind of creativity and exciting vision of Yuasa‘s new series, I still expect an interesting plot supported by moody direction and good animation.

 
 
Medium Expectations
 

♦ Senkou no Night Raid

In contrast to the first anime of the “Anime no Chikara” project (So-ra-no-wo-to), it seems like “Senkou no Night Raid” will do justice to the project’s concept of creating interesting and – above all – original anime. However, maybe A-1 Pictures deliberately chose a fan-pandering show like “So-ra-no-wo-to” for the beginning to compensate for possible losses of more risky endeavors? Who knows. In any case, this one seems like a show that has lots of potential, especially the novel setting (China in the 1930s) is something I’ve never seen before in anime. And also something I’ve never expected to see in anime since Japan’s role in East Asia during the pre-World War II period is a pretty delicate matter. I’m not too familiar with Jun Matsumoto work and don’t know what to expect on the directing side of things, but the nice character designs by Keigo Sasaki are definitely in its favor. And A-1 Pictures usually delivers solid quality so I guess it won’t fall flat production-wise.

 

♦ Angel Beats!

The premise doesn’t sound too exciting, I grant, but the involved people make me hope that “Angel Beats!” will be something worthwhile after all. Jun Maeda – who is undoubtedly a capable writer – is both the original creator and script supervisor, so I believe that the final outcome will be much better than the story description makes it sound. As far as the animation studio is concerned, I expect the same level of high quality as with P.A. Works‘ former anime. Or even better, since they obviously put even more effort into it. The character designs by Katsuzo Hirata are decent and move pretty well as evidenced by the trailer. Speaking of the PV, I really dig the music so I look forward to hearing more of it. Seiji Kishi helms the project, not the best choice but at least he has lots of experience with comedy.

 

♦ Rainbow – Nisha Rokubō no Shichinin

The story description sounds completely different from all the other stuff this season, which is of course a big plus. It seems to feature a fairly realistic and depressing setting with focus on the characters. I certainly can see some potential, the questions is if the staff is capable of making the best of it. I can’t say much about the director’s (Hiroshi Koujina) previous works, but I hope he knows how to handle this kind of material. And I guess Madhouse doesn’t put too much effort into this anime (as with most manga adaptions), meaning that the animation quality will probably be nothing to speak of.

 
 
Low Expectations
 

♦ B Gata H Kei

I wasn’t particularly interested in this show until I heard that the team of Yusuke Yamamoto and Satoru Nishizono (Welcome to the NHK!) were going to be involved. Therefore, the result could be much better than one would expect due to the weird premise.

 

♦ Arakawa Under the Bridge

Finally, I get to see Yukihiro Miyamoto as series director again, and even on a series that isn’t “Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei”. He’s one of Shaft‘s best directors (right after Shinbou and Oonuma) and sure has some good sense for appealing staging, hence I hope to see him back in the episode director’s chair as well. In the case of “Maria Holic” it was the material that didn’t hold up very well, so let’s see what he and Shinbou can get out of a (seemingly) more interesting manga.

 

♦ HEROMAN

Well, it’s Bones animating a story by Stan Lee, so one could expect a nice change for once. However, truth be told, it doesn’t look too creative and seems to needlessly use all possible stereotypes, that’s why my expectations aren’t too high even if the production will apparently have the usual Bones quality.

 

♦ Kaichō wa Maid-sama!

Directed by Hiroaki Sakurai and produced by J.C. Staff. I don’t expect too much even though Sakurai is admittedly an experienced director.

 

♦ Working!

The first episode was nothing out of this world yet good enough to watch some more of it.

 

♦ Mayoi Neko Overrun!

I’m not too enthusiastic about this one, but since the director will reportedly change every episode, I suppose that there could be some decent work here and there. At least if AIC hired some talented directors for this project.

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Compared to the last few winter seasons the number of new anime has noticeably gone back and, sadly, more than half of them seem to be the usual cheap cookie-cutter stuff that dominates modern anime, though there are still a few promising series in the lineup.

 
High Expectations
 

Durarara!!

It’s basically the same constellation of people who created the outstanding Baccano!, strictly speaking it’s based on a light novel series written by Narita Ryougo with the well-attuned team of Noboru Takagi (series composition) and Takahiro Omori (director) handling its adaption into animation. The animation is once more produced by studio Brains Base, but Omori‘s projects attract all kind of artists so I’m sure we’ll see some talents doing great work like in Baccano!. Takahiro Kishida, who is also a regular on Omori‘s works, created the wonderful character designs, haven’t seen anything better for a while. I’m pretty sure that Durarara!! will be the highlight of the upcoming season (which isn’t that difficult to speak the truth), can’t wait to see what Omori intends to do with this one, his imaginative and intense directing style that reaches out into every aspect of the production promises some enjoyable time.

 
 
Medium Expectations
 

So-Ra-No-Wo-To

This is the first anime of the so-called “Anime no Chikara” project which is a collaboration of TV Tokyo and Aniplex to create original anime with talented creators. Mamoru Kanbe is directing it so I expect a half-way decent result, and besides it’s rare these days that a scenario sounds as interesting as this one (even if there’s a bunch of assumedly stereotypical bishoujo’s involved). It’s an A-1 Pictures production which commonly means averaging quality if there aren’t the right people involved, but Toshifumi Akai‘s participation as chief animation director (who aquired some renown through his work on Kannagi, or more specifically his animation supervision of #10 and key animation on several episodes) makes me hope that the animation could turn out pretty good. The eye-catching resemblance of Akai‘s character designs to K-ON! respectively Yukiko Horiguchi‘s style is of course no coincidence as he obviously likes K-ON! (like he wrote on his blog) and Horiguchi‘s work. The PV reveals some convincing animation which even comes close to Horiguchi‘s lively and rich animation at times, though I suspect that they can’t keep it up… anyways, I’m curious if Ordet will be participating too since the designs are of their lineage in some way.

 

Hanamaru Kindergarten

Gainax and Seiji Mizushima do indeed sound great, but despite the reputable director I doubt that Hanamaru Kindergarten is a high-priority project for them. That said, I’m glad to see a new comedy series by Gainax and the trailer certainly caught my interest through the usual overdone Gainax humour. If anyone can make something really worthwile out of this source material, then it’s without doubt Gainax.

 

Katanagatari

After Shaft x Shinbou‘s Bakemonogatari, Katanagatari is the second anime adaptation of NisiOisin‘s work, this time by White Fox and Keitaro Motonaga (School Days, Akasaka, etc.). It’s interesting that the anime will air over a period of a whole year with one 60 minutes episode per month (so one for each novel volume), this should allow for some additional polishing of their animation work. I really liked the style shown in the PVs and the animation wasn’t that bad either, but hardly surprising as there are some talented people attached to White Fox (like Naoto Hosoda, I’m sure he’ll do some work on Katanagatari). Since it’s based on novels by NisiOisin, it’s probably not on the low standard of most other light novel adaptations, but let’s wait and see what the director (whose former works weren’t particularly creative) does with the material.

 
 
Low Expectations
 

Ōkamikakushi

I’ve wanted to see a Ryukishi07 work adapted into anime by another studio than Deen for quite a while as his stuff is actually interesting and entertaining and deserves something better than such an awful mixture of still-images and trite directing, but this combination (Nobuhiro Takamoto and AIC) isn’t too promising either. I fear that it won’t be anything more than standard fare with some decently interesting storyline, though quality-wise probably a notch better than the extremely bad Deen stuff. If the first two episodes manage to catch my interest, then I’ll watch some more of it for the sake of Ryukishi07‘s original scenario. The setting is certainly reminiscent of Higurashi, and Ōkamikakushi seems to be the same twisting and blending of various genres and concepts that make the “When they cry” franchise so remarkable.

 

Dance in the Vampire Bund

This season’s new Shaft x Shinbou anime, apparently presented in a more violent and darker fashion reminiscent of Petite Cossette and Soul Taker. It’s Shinbou so I expect a halfway decent result even with this generic sounding source material.

 

Seikon no Qwaser

While the content seems to be nothing more than an extremely fanservice-y version of the usual fantasy/school stuff, it could surprise on the technical side of things since some interesting staff is involved. Director Hiraku Kaneko is a good choice for this kind of anime as his (nice) work as animator is equally coined by fanservice, the same goes for Hiroya Iijima (chief animation director) who did a lot of work on adult animation, though he concentrated more on TV anime in the last few years. Remarkable are also the two relatively new companies Taki Corporation and Hoods Entertainment that handle the (animation) production, latter is another offspring of Gonzo, to be exact mostly of the section which worked on Linebarrels of Iron. The promo shows some decent animation quality, though if the scenario is as ridiculous as I heard from various sources, then I won’t bother with it.

 

Baka to Test to Shōkanjū

So Shinbou‘s protégé (Shin Oonuma) is directing a series at Silver Link? They recently worked on some Shaft shows so it’s far from being a surprise, but it won’t be anything too outstanding even with Oonuma directing, it just doesn’t strike me as interesting at all, much less as something meaningful like ef ~ a tale of memories.

 
 

I left out all the unbearable and insignificant cookie-cutter stuff as well as the sequels like Nodame Cantabile Finale, Hidamari Sketch and Gag Manga Biyori+, even if some those follow-up series probably rank among the better anime this season.

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