Wednesday, April 09, 2008

"Red Garden" meets "Kamichu", and the first Roundup of the spring season

Subject: Noir
One show that wasn't on my radar, but got there when I saw a couple of quick reviews, was Kure-nai. Turns out, it's the director and designer from Red Garden behind the scenes at the studio (Brains Base) that did Kamichu. The artwork for the promotionals and the somewhat quirky plot description about a teenage boy becoming the bodyguard of an 8 year old girl really didn't say "watch me" to me. Go figure. But reading that Red Garden tidbit was enough to make me curious.

And sure enough, it would seem to be a cross between the two shows -- The dark horror edge and extreme character designs are absent, but there's still a harder, serious grownup edge and a natural, unique character style and animation to what is otherwise a show centered around a couple of kids. It's also got a bit of that improvisational edge to the dialogue, with the overlapping and whatnot, which leads me to believe that they're doing it western-style like they did with RG. The first episode is a bit of a narrative mess, though, as they really rush through the backstory and character introductions in a way that barely leaves time to set a hook; relying solely on the unconventionally dark and/or cynical confrontations to imprint impressions on you. Then it levels out a little at the end, almost anticlimatically, but not really in a bad way. It looks like it's worth giving it a few more to see where it's going.

That one was subbed already, but I picked out a couple of raws as well to see if they stood a chance of being watchable.

To continue the theme, Himetsu Top Secret seems to be Meine Liebe meets The Bourne Identity, but pretty much in the "bad way" (as if there could be a "good way"). The production quality seems adequate, but it's pretty much like I figured: yaoi-y borefest. I suppose the only thing it had going for it would be that there weren't any damn schoolkids in it, and I suppose if I stuck with it, there might be a decent spy story behind it or something, but otherwise, not my style.

If Tim Burton watched Gurren Lagaan and decided to make an anime, it would probably be Soul Eater. Though it wasn't on my radar either, I saw the trailer, and that was enough of a hook to get me to take a look. Sure enough, the visuals are quite striking and rather imaginative, and the overall art direction is tight and well-crafted. The characters have a decent spark to them, and some of them might be rather enjoyable to watch. The animation in the action sequences is quite excellent, and the pacing is well executed.

But then it goes and devolves into that same ol' cliche manga-toony slapstick that really gets on my nerves when there isn't anything else to balance it out for me. And unlike the zaniness in Gurren, the rest of this one was kind of flat for me. It may partly be because of the lack of translation, but I think mostly because it's not really trying to be anything more than a generic fighting show, albeit with a high budget. That said, there's some characters in the previews that I want to see, and maybe, just maybe, I can overcome my irritation. I kind of doubt it, but since it's decently crafted otherwise, there's the slightest chance it might.

Allison to Lillia is supposedly Kino's Journey meets... oh, I dunno, Porco Rosso or something, but really, it's not much of either. I dont' understand Japanese, but I can swear that for the first half of it, I have seen the exact same annoying scenes over and over again. With one difference: the character animation, while mostly a bit stiff and under-tweened, had some rather subtley-natural poses and gestures during key sequences. Kind of like with Emma And from about the middle or so, it seemed like there might actually be an interesting story buried in there somewhere. Or at least the potential for one. So, I guess it's worth keeping my eye on just a little longer.

Finally, the Ghost in the Shell series meets, uhh... Jacques Cousteau or something -- that is to say, Production IG's big-budget production of Shirow's cyberscubapunk* latest: Real Drive (aka "RD Sennou Chousashitsu"). And sure enough, it's got all of the strong production values of GiTS:SAC -- if anything, kicked up a couple of impressive notches. Aaand, it's brought along a lot of it's endless, endless talking. Blah blah technobabble blah. From what I've been reading about the dialogue, the fansubbers are going to have a heck of a time trying to plow through all of that for translation. Still, it's really quite good looking, and if the story holds up to all the narrative burden Shirow is putting on it, and the characters wind up interesting, then it should be a decent successor to GiTS.

One other thing that I read was comments about how the girls at that "facility" all seemed to have rather "chubby" thighs. The first thing I thought of when I saw it was that they were animated a lot like the girls in Windy Tales. There's not enough staff data over at ANN yet, so I don't know if there's a direct connection, but I'd wager a little bit that there is...

(* Yes, I am going to keep using this joke. It's mine! All mine!)

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