JTV’s Best of Anime! Summer 2013

31 Jul

By James Robert Shaw (The Wind Up Geek)

This is my first real review of anime programs and I hope it won’t be my last. My experience with anime started with Battle of the Planets in the late 1970’s and it finished with anime programs in the mid to late 90’s. I had somehow lost interest. I guess one could say it was the changing style, that anime was for the young or it could’ve been the boob and panty shots that were becoming so prevalent. Whatever the reason, I walked away. I made an attempt to watch anime again in 2004 and I admit there were a couple of shows that held my interest. But now with my third attempt I’m determined to see the good amongst the bad (or the most horrid) that is out there. To become a true geek I shall have to reacquaint myself with anime, one of my first loves. Maybe I’ll even attend a anime con or two in 2014 (My last con was AX ’95). But for the future I plan to write seasonal Japanese television reviews both animated and live action. Enjoy!

Chronicles of the Going Home Club

When Andou Natsuki is asked by a fellow freshman what activity club she will join, Natsuki’s response is the Going Home Club (in Japan a student who is part of the Going Home Club is a student who doesn’t take part in after school clubs or activities). Another freshman, Touno Karin overhears the conversation and causes Natsuki to indirectly join the real Going Home Club. Natsuki is shocked that such a club even exists and is even more alarmed to learn they have their own room. Natsuki has no idea what this Going Home Club entails and it appears neither does her friend.

Created by Kuroha, this anime is played out in mini story lines called records and there are four of these in one 23 minute episode. That’s a good thing because stretching out the material into one plot might weaken the material. The only characters in the series that appear to matter are the main characters themselves or those who have direct contact in the storyline. Everyone else are simply extras on a movie set. Their faces are mere background. Viewers can guess this is intended to involve the viewer more into the story by observing the actions of the group. But the atmosphere is ruined when characters break the fourth wall by acknowledging they are in a television series or when Natsuki interjects commentary via a separate narration window.
GoHome

And because this series takes more concentration to watch, it robs itself from being what it could be. For now it’s only worth watching to pass the time and have a few laughs.

2.5 out of 5

Stella Women’s Academy, High School Division Class C3

Gainax is a really great animation company. Like Nelvana Ltd., Mainframe Entertainment and Nerd Corps., they provide quality entertainment and that’s why it’s no surprise I like their newest series, Stella Women’s Academy. Yamato Yura has just started her first day at the financially well to do private high school. She has visions of being a proper lady by doing lady-like things and that includes a career as an office worker. But deep down inside she would like nothing more than to make her social awkwardness disappear and to finally make some real friends at her new school. With a hand gun under the pillow and a closet full of combat gear in her new dorm, she wonders if her roommate Kashima Sonora is involved in a theatre or film club. After being caught playing dress-up, Yura is thought by class C3 as the perfect weirdo to include in their survival games.

Someone compared this series to Gunslinger Girls but they are both completely different. For one you’re not dealing with little girls taken away from their families by the government and trained to kill. This is comedy as opposed to the more serious dramatic storyline of Gunslinger. Here you have a group of girls with guns who will form their own tactical assault unit and will compete in international games. It rings closer to Girls und Panzer (last year’s hit series) but without the heavy shelling. The tanks may have shared the spotlight in Panzer but in Stella, it’s all character driven. The girls are the show. Viewers will find it easy to like them and their little quirks.

I’ll be sticking to watching this series, but the material I’ll be watching this time is in the substance than the eye candy being offered in Panzer.

3.5 out of 5

 

Free! – Iwatobi Swim Club

Haruka, Nagisa, Makoto and Rin — former members of a elementary swim club — reunite in high school although they find not everything has stayed the same. Rin seems more distant since his trip to Australia and, in fact, has a heated rivalry with Haruka. Rin challenges Haruka to a swimming competition and wins. This action only drives Haruka to create a swim club at his school where none existed.

I really feel inadequate at my age to see the hard bodies on this series. Even in my high school (or junior high) years I knew of only one school mate who matched what is displayed here and that’s only because he couldn’t help displaying his abs to the girls. This is fan service for the girls plain and simple but don’t let that stop you from enjoying the series. The animation is beautiful and much of the scenery is very picturesque; viewers may wish to visit such a seaside town as shown in Free. The character development takes time to truly reveal itself. But the rewards for the viewers in the end will be well worth it.

4 out of 5

 

Silver Spoon

Hachiken Yugo is enrolled in a agricultural high school after graduating from a high class junior high in Sapporo. Yugo has no ambitions for farm life whatsoever and it appears he is woefully out of place. But considering Yugo would rather stick it out in his new surroundings then to go home to his family, one has to wonder what his true motives are for choosing this school.

I’ve been around farms and horse ranches. And in that respect I can identify, no, yearn at the thought of attending such a higher place of learning. But sadly I’ve never experienced College/University dorm life. Much of the humour created through this series comes from Yugo coming to grips with agricultural life and his realization of how food gets to the table. That’s a lot for a prep school boy to take in. There’s also enough visual gags thrown into the mix to keep this anime interesting, like when a needy calf rams into Yugo’s crotch causing him to double over.

I’m enjoying the camaraderie between the various students. And it’s established early in the series. In the beginning of the first episode, the characters introduce themselves and name the schools they previously attended. I find it fascinating that the creator gave the nod to real schools in Japan. Athletically inclined Komaba Ichirou is himself from Shimizu First Junior High, in reference to the real Shimizu Junior High in Shizuoka Prefecture.

Anime enthusiasts can grow to love the realism portrayed. The school with it’s wide open spaces and the curriculum the students have to go through is backed up by a hard day’s work on the farm.

5 out of 5.

2 Responses to “JTV’s Best of Anime! Summer 2013”

  1. Artemis 2013-07-31 at 7:54 pm #

    Silver Spoon and Free! are definitely my favourite titles of the new summer season – the former is a breath of fresh air among all the moe and ‘cute girls doing cute things’ shows, and the latter delivers some genuinely hilarious moments alongside the (admittedly much appreciated) manly eye porn.

    • Otaku no Culture 2013-07-31 at 8:15 pm #

      I agree Artemis on Silver Spoon. It’s the gem of the summer. Free would’ve equalled Spoon if not for the obvious pecs and abs show it is. When I watch it in the family homestead there are two things I must do to prepare for an episode: 1. slump into the seat and hope no one sees me or the screen and 2. Use any excuse in the book when caught. My fallback is “It’s for an article damn it!”.

      James

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