Roving Thoughts archives


Brief early impressions of the shows of the Spring 2012 season

As before, here are my sort of early impressions of another season's worth of shows. These are more or less in the order I watched the shows (which is not necessarily the order they aired in), although I'm not sure this order is useful for anyone but me. As usual for seasons (but unlike last season), the start of the season has been fairly strung out and so have these early impressions; in fact, not publishing this entry is getting embarrassing.

  • Ozma (or Ozuma): I watched a couple of episodes of this and it just didn't grab me. It has a potentially interesting setting and basic plot (and I normally like action SF), but the execution leaves me unmoved and indifferent.

    (I also gave this a lot of allowances for being a Leiji Matsumoto work from an earlier era. Pickier people may have stronger reactions to it.)

  • Hiiro no Kakera: Based on two episodes, this is a relatively bland and inoffensive example of its genre with nothing particularly interesting about its characters or its setting. I don't think I'm going to watch any more; watching the second episode made me realize that I want the female protagonist to be something more than a basically passive, helpless doormat.

    (Passive doormat female protagonists seem to be par for the course in this general genre, so I expect that in the future I can rule out basically all reverse harem shows like this.)

  • Lupin III - The Woman Called Mine Fujiko: I've seen some Lupin movies and bits of the TV series and I've had the chance to skim through a bit of the original Lupin manga. This series is not very much like the anime but a fair bit like the manga. My short summary is that I liked it (and I don't mind the change). This is adult in the general meaning of the word; the animation is stylish and quite different from normal anime, and the show is willing to be subtle and put little details in. It remains to be seen if the show can sustain the mood and the style over its run, or if it will descend to pandering and offensiveness.

    (I could live without the fanservice. I hope it will get better, but probably not; the manga has a bunch of that sort of stuff.)

    A lot of people have written much better commentaries about this show. See, for example, Altair and Vega's colloquium (NSFW).

  • Medaka Box: Medaka is so over the top that this becomes peculiarly amusing; it's impossible for me to take her or anyone around her entirely seriously. I suspect that this won't support the show for very long, but I'm willing to watch an episode or two more (at least in theory, I seem to not be getting around to it in practice).

    Update: two episodes and I'm out. This isn't amusing enough to overcome Medaka.

  • Sankarea: The first episode was kind of slow moving but did manage to hold my interest and make me want to see the next one. The second one continued this trend.

    (See this interesting blog post on the cinematography in Sankarea; I think this sort of thing is one reason the show is holding my interest despite the pace.)

  • Kore wa Zombie Desu? of the Dead: This is more of the same as the first season, at least based on the first episode. I liked the first season (apart from the last episode, let us never speak of that), so I will keep watching for now. I'm finding myself much less enthused than I was expecting, partly because I'm not sure what the show has left to say after the first season.

  • Zetman: It's hard to tell what this is going to be about from the first episode because the OP/ED makes it clear that what the first episode covers is just backstory. Going only on the first episode's execution this seems like a decent but relatively generic shounen action story; in this season it's probably not going to sustain my interest.

  • Fate/Zero #14+: It's more of the same, except that now things are slowly starting to happen. This isn't really a new show, this is just a long gap between two episodes. Since they are running out of episodes, I can hope for actual decisive fights soon.

  • Nazo no Kanojo X (aka Mysterious Girlfriend X): This is different, in a good way. It strikes me as a much more grown up and interesting take on the high school romance genre with characters that are far more interesting than usual. Unfortunately the second episode has shown that I'm highly ambivalent about this; I liked the unusual stuff but found the stock high school romantic fumblings just about unwatchable.

    (Commentary suggests that the third episode continues the stock high school romantic fumblings, so I think I'm out; the genre is almost never my thing, no matter how fresh the take on it is.)

  • Accel World: This wears its heart on its sleeve from the get-go; this is going to be a shonen action show about secret battles. I'm fine with that and it seems reasonably well executed so far, with some interesting gimmicks and clever characters.

    (Future episodes could very easily shoot all of this in the foot.)

  • Tasogare Otome x Amnesia: I do admire the gimmick of showing most of the first episode twice, but I hope they never repeat it; once was enough to get the point. Overall, though, it was definitely fun. I like the characters and it doesn't seem like it's going to be horror.

    (I may eat those last words in an episode or two.)

  • Haiyore! Nyaruko-san: What makes this work for me is that Nyaruko is both cute and horrifying, and may or may not give much of a damn about our protagonist's actual feelings. Without those elements, this would be yet another vaguely amusing, decently done show featuring a magical wish-fulfillment girlfriend. With those elements it has an interesting sharp edge. Also I actually found it funny, unlike most comedies.

    (Only time will tell if the show keeps these elements, of course. If Nyaruko doesn't do a few creepy things every episode, I'll be disappointed and get bored.)

  • Jormungand: This is no Black Lagoon, but then very few things are. It's an acceptable and interesting entrant in the same genre, even if the only character I'm really interested in is Jonah himself.

    (I think this show has the most addictive OP song of this season, broken English and all.)

  • Eureka Seven AO: I haven't seen the original Eureka Seven so I'm undoubtedly missing all sorts of things, but the first episode of this felt merely ordinary to me. I'll likely continue watching it out of hope because a lot of people seem enthused.

    (The second episode makes some of the first episode's characters more interesting and complex than they initially seemed, which I like.)

  • Sakamichi no Apollon: Given the ordinary setting I wouldn't normally have watched this, but its pedigree made me check it out. I've wound up more interested than I expected, although I don't know how long I'll continue watching.

  • Tsuritama: I really enjoyed the first episode; it was crazy, stunning, peculiar, and above all interesting. It's not afraid to mix crazy metaphors into a crazy reality and take both to the limit. I am eagerly looking forward to future episodes; if they can sustain the power of the first episode, this will be a show to remember. I can think of no greater praise than to say that the first episode at least is truly a noitaminA show, a show that could only be made by people who're willing to take chances.

    (Apollon is not really a noitaminA show in this sense; it's different but not daring.)

    The second episode is more conventional and less stunning than the first one, but it's still sustaining my interest.

  • Hyouka: This has visual style, interesting characters, and subtle storytelling. I like it. The larger story it's aiming for may not be original but it looks like it will be well done.

    (This season seems to be a quite good one for shows that are trying for something besides the standard anime visual style.)

    For a contrarian take you can read Shinde Iie. I can see all of the flaws that this review points out, but for me they don't (currently) matter; I'm happy to enjoy the execution.

My best show of the season so far is Lupin by a mile. Nothing else is even attempting to be as interesting. Note that Lupin could fail massively, because this is nature of taking big risks by being unconventional.

This season has so many decent-or-better shows that I have no idea what I'm going to watch for the full season. It's clear that I'm going to have to trim from what I'd normally watch, possibly quite aggressively. As it is I'm already backlogged on episodes for some shows in this list.

Passing on very aggressively:

  • Upotte!!!: When I initially heard about it, the premise seemed merely goofy (and decent anime has been made from goofy premises before). What they decided to do with the premise is cringe inducing and left me somewhere between utterly disinterested and actively repulsed; I didn't even finish the episode.

Not watching even though it may be very good:

  • Space Brothers: All of my impressions so far from commentary around the net are that this is a well done and probably moving slice of life show. I don't watch slice of life shows, not even when they are salted with some promise of space, especially when they are apparently 50+ episodes long.

(This is my flaw and should not deter anyone else.)

I've basically not looked at or considered other shows for various reasons that I'm not going to try to put here. I may be missing some good stuff, but that's always the case and this season is pretty overwhelming (even with potential insomnia ).

anime/Spring2012Brief written at 11:56:23; Add Comment


My Sai Mecha 2012 nominations, in which I commit all sorts of heresy

I was completely oblivious to Sai Mecha last year, but this year I'm on Twitter and so I'm getting a lot more exposure to the whole anime blogosphere thing. So here are my nominations for Sai Mecha 2012, made partly so I can be amused by ghostlightning's scorn and be burned at the stake as a heretic.

My big heresy is that I'm not particularly a mecha fan. Very few mecha persuade me to actually believe in them; usually I am somewhere between passively accepting them as a necessary background element and rolling my eyes. In general I'm not a fan of giant humanoid mecha and especially not a fan of giant humanoid mecha that are presented as 'realistic' (because they aren't, not even with aggressive hand waving, and don't get me started about the control schemes that people use for those realistic mecha).

So my list:

  • The GD-42 Battlemover, Vision's crab (or spider) mecha from Bubblegum Crisis #7 ('Double Vision'). This is the first mecha that made me believe in it and think that it was cool, and it will always hold a place in my heart for that reason. Besides, how can you not like something that completely owned the Knight Sabers when they fought?

    (I expect this nomination to meet either blank looks or laughter.)

  • EVA-01 (Neon Genesis Evangelion): this is the giant robot that created whatever acceptance of giant humanoid mecha that I currently have. EVA-01 was humanoid but not at all human, simultaneously cool and disturbing even from its first appearance.

    Yes, I know, it rests in GARhalla to make a reappearance in the final rounds. I'm still putting it on my list because it's a touchstone of my giant robot experience.

  • Tachikoma (GitS: SAC). The Major rides around in them so this totally makes them count as mecha, right?

    (The great thing about Tachikoma as a nomination is how hard it is to separate their appeal as mecha from their appeal as characters. I look forward to the rage if they get into the voting.)

  • Tauburn (Star Driver), because you cannot get crazier than this if you try hard. Tauburn is the endpoint of crazy, nonsensical, yet totally beautiful and stylish mecha.

  • Aquarion (Aquarion EVOL): The EVOL Aquarion is better than the original one because it has far more craziness, crazy combos, and weird powers. Also there are apparently at least two of them, maybe more, and if that doesn't scare you it should.

  • Giant Robo (Giant Robo: The Day the Earth Stood Still). Giant Robo (the show) is in large part an extended love letter to all of the old classical giant robot shows of past eras. How can I not nominate its titular mecha?

  • Godannar (Godannar). I'm still not sure if Godannar is supposed to be serious or a straight-faced, over the top parody of the genre. Either way, I choose to view it as a love letter to the more Go Nagai-esque 'disturbingly excessively human' giant robot shows of yesteryear, and so I nominate its titular giant robot for the same reason as Giant Robo.

    (Besides, I've actually seen both Giant Robo and Godannar, unlike any of those giant robot shows of yesteryear.)

To round out my list to ten, I will also nominate the following:

  • Gurren Lagann (Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann)
  • Gunbuster (Aim for the Top! Gunbuster)
  • Takemikazuchi (Sora no Woto), because I can't think of a tenth nominee that I like better once I was reminded that this is eligible.

Bonus 11th nominee to make up for EVA-01 not counting:

  • Uranus (Giant Robo). In several ways this is a cooler robot than Giant Robo itself, with more style and wackiness. Uranus is the comedian to Giant Robo's straight man.

(It seems that Big O is everyone's tenth nominee but I don't really like it that strongly; it'd be kind of an unenthused default 'can't think of anything better' choice for me.)

As kind of mentioned above, all mecha from shows that present their humanoid mecha as in-show realistic or even plausible are automatically excluded because I cannot take them seriously. So, despite the fact that I can admire the aesthetics and all of mecha like Gundams and Macross variable fighters, none of them are getting a nomination from me.

(If I was forced to nominate a mecha from Gundam or Macross it would be the Zaku II, which is in many ways the ubiquitous Gundam mecha that everyone can recognize even if it's brutally ugly and rather silly. But even apart from other issues, it rests in GARhalla so there's no point.)

PS: I am aware that there are some mobile weapons from Gundam that are not giant humanoids. I kind of like them, but they're contaminated by being in Gundam and the shows never treated them seriously as a viable option; they were obviously just there to be monsters to be defeated, never as feasible design ideas to be embraced. If the show isn't going to respect them, I'm not going to either.

anime/SaiMecha2012Noms written at 20:12:34; Add Comment


A thought on what Moretsu Pirates is about

When I started hearing about it and during the early episodes, I expected Moretsu Pirates to be an action show. You know, with pirating (or at least privateering), space battles, and so on. Since then I've come around to the feeling that Pirates is actually a character study, primarily of Marika.

As an action show, Pirates is kind of disappointing because there hasn't been much action; the show's been 'slow-moving' (from an action point of view). Viewed as a show about the characters, I think it's more interesting and the pacing, plots, and focus make more sense and fit better.

(For example, as an action show the resolution of events at the end of episode 12 is terribly disappointing; you have a tense charged situation that should be resolved through exciting action and instead, well, it isn't. But as a character piece it's an interesting view at a side of Marika that we hadn't seen before, among other things.)

All of this leads me to not expect Pirates to have some big action finish in the later parts of the show.

(This is almost short enough for Twitter but not quite. Well, maybe if I was cleverer about writing short things.)

anime/PiratesRealization written at 23:55:49; Add Comment


A look back at Ano Natsu de Matteru

I've been thinking over my view of AnoNatsu ever since it ended recently. In the end I can summarize my tangled thoughts this way: I enjoyed the show quite a bit but I don't know if you will, because I don't know how much sense parts of it will make if you haven't also seen Onegai Teacher (which I have).

To start with let's talk about the things that AnoNatsu did well and in particular, I want to talk about how it wasted no time on cliches. If you've watched much romance anime, you know that there's a whole stable of shopworn cliches that the genre uses to stall for time; these are things like the misheard conversation, the important words that are drowned out by some other noise so the target doesn't hear them, the person who can't actually confess their affection (sometimes starting out to make a confession and then suddenly changing the words they're saying), and so on.

AnoNatsu didn't have any time or patience for these cliches. When the show let this sort of situation come up at all (and caused me to start wincing), it immediately moved to demolish it again. Pretty much every single one of these potential cliches was mowed down by the end of the episode in which it first appeared. Indeed, mowing down the cliches was not infrequently used to aggressively move the show on. I found this endlessly refreshing and quite enjoyable.

(For various reasons, I've seen enough romance anime to have become thoroughly tired of these cliches.)

A story like this fundamentally revolves around the characters and I think AnoNatsu did a good job here. The characters generally aren't exceptional but they are well done. As people have said, Kaito and Ichika (the main couple) are a bit boring, but I think that was necessary; I don't think AnoNatsu had the time and space to both make Kaito and Ichika's romance really interesting and also cover the other characters. Instead AnoNatsu makes the leads fall for each other in a pretty straightforward way in order to leave room for other things.

(Although it's unfair I can't help comparing AnoNatsu with Toradora, which had a bit more than twice as many episodes and thus had much more time to let the story grow slowly.)

And finally, let's be honest; Remon pretty much steals the show any time she appears. She is not so much a character as an archetype, the friendly Trickster; you never know what she's going to do next, but it's probably going to be both interesting and knowing.

Which brings us to my major concerns about the show, which are Remon and the ending. I didn't mind the ending, but in many ways it's very abrupt and very Remon. And however much I like her, Remon herself is an extremely convenient if low-key deus ex machina, one that's ultimately responsible for a significant amount of the plot and the foreshadowing and layering in the show. Which is where we get into my overall concern.

AnoNatsu is clearly a spiritual sequel to Onegai Teacher; there are plenty of clear similarities and a certain amount of nodding references. It's probably not a literal sequel (I don't think you can quite reconcile the timelines and the worlds of the two shows) but a lot of things make much more sense if you assume that something like Onegai Teacher happened in the past of AnoNatsu. In particular, it really helps to assume that Remon is also more or less Ichigo Morino from OT, perpetually frozen at her current apparent age.

You can make things in AnoNatsu make sense without this link if you read a certain amount of things between the lines (and I have seen commentary from people who have not seen OT and did enjoy AnoNatsu). But I think that having seen OT and seeing the link at least makes AnoNatsu much easier to enjoy, and I don't have any idea myself how someone without that background would find AnoNatsu.

Liked: yes, clearly, since I eagerly watched all of it despite not normally watching romance anime. However, it's no Toradora; ultimately it will probably be forgettable but fondly remembered.

Rewatch: no. It's not that fascinating.

anime/AnoNatsuReview written at 22:21:08; Add Comment


Using automatic exposure locking

Back in 2008 when I set up my D90 and wrote down my settings, I said this about the AE-L button:

I don't know enough to use exposure holding, but if I do 'tap to hold' seems to be the least obnoxious way of doing it.

Boy, I was kind of innocent back then. Nowadays I have learned what autoexposure locking is for the hard way and I use it reasonably frequently. The simple way to put it is that locking the exposure is the quick way to deal with the importance of watching your exposure from shot to shot.

If you're not in full manual mode, the camera can change the metering during a sequence of photographs; it can do this even if all you're doing is changing the exposure compensation. Locking the exposure with AE-L counteracts this, giving you a stable exposure that you can make consistent adjustments to. Otherwise your attempts to adjust the exposure to get the picture right can be happening on top of quicksand, so that you dial in some negative exposure compensation to correct things but then the camera decides to expose more so in the end your exposure winds up just the same. This is both pointless and frustrating when it happens (and very puzzling if you don't notice the exposure shifting on you; here you are adding exposure compensation yet nothing is happening, or the wrong thing is happening).

I've repeatedly stubbed my toe on this so these days I've learned that if I'm taking a sequence of pictures of the same thing the first thing I should do is hit the AE-L button, especially if I'm just working to get the exposure right. Otherwise, even if I'm just lowering the camera to look at the histogram after I've taken a picture the composition can be just different enough when I bring it back up to my eye that the Nikon matrix metering changes the base exposure.

I maintain that my choice of 'tap to hold' is absolutely the right option for this on Nikon cameras, at least for what I want to use AE-L for. It would be very hard to have to keep one finger on the AE-L button all the time, even when I'm doing things like checking the histogram for specific areas of the picture.

photography/UsingExposureLock written at 01:01:09; Add Comment

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