Thursday, July 30, 2009

Sasameki Koto Broadcast Date and Upcoming Trailer

According to the News section of the Sasameki Koto website, the first episode of Sasameki Koto will premiere on TV Tokyo Channel 12 on Wednesday, October 7 at 2:20 a.m. (The site cautions that the date and time may be modified, however.) Let's hope for another Crunchyroll simulcast!! ^^

The website also notes that a Sasameki Koto trailer will probably be shown at the Media Factory booth at Comiket on August 14. Finally!!! I can't wait to see it!!! XD (When it turns up online. ^^)

(If my translation anywhere in this post is incorrect, please feel free to mention it.)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Upcoming Fall 2009 Yuri Anime

Here are all of the series premiering this coming fall! ^^

For the fun of it, I'm going to try to predict the quality of the fall 2009 yuri offerings. Series with reciprocated canon yuri will receive three asterisks (***), series with one-sided canon yuri (disregarding whether the yuri is any good ^^;) will recieve two asterisks, and series that have strong yuri possibility will receive one asterisk.

*** Sasameki Koto- Hands-down the most anticipated series for yuri fans this fall season!! A wonderful romantic comedy (judging from the manga) with a strong cast and a charismatic leading couple, starring a particularly excellent protagonist! ^^ (I wonder if I'm biased... lol) *waiting for a trailer*

** Queen's Blade Season 2- Damn. Studio ARMS is getting this sequel out quickly. Expect numerous slashable, yet unapologetically exploited women (including one siscon) who look like Hugh Hefner's vision of Dungeons and Dragons. If Sasameki Koto is the (probable) filet mignon served at a five star restaurant for yuri fans this fall, Queen's Blade is the fast food burger that got burned, dropped on the floor, and placed in the garbage to serve the flies.

** Shin Koihime Musou- Well...the first season (which I haven't finished) has yuri, but purely of the pervy fan service variety. Service isn't as rampant as in Queen's Blade (from what I've seen), but it contains moe and lolicon-type service, which makes me want to gag. (Or simply stop watching the series. *glares at Kanamemo*) For an anime adaptation of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms that won't make you feel dead inside, check out Beijing Glorious/Future Planet's more literary-minded 52 episode adaptation, also premiering this fall. ^^ (Hopefully it will adapt its source material faithfully without compromising its entertainment value, unlike Genji Monogatari Sennenki.)

**A Certain Scientific Railgun- A spin off from To Aru Majutsu no Index (A Certain Magical Index) which I watched the first few episodes of last fall. It wasn't bad, but not very interesting either. This series focuses on Mikoto Misaka, a young psychic living in a city dedicated to fostering the development of psychics. From what I've read about her, she falls for the male protagonist of the original series, so no yuri from her. But she attends an all-girls' school and has a clingy kouhai named Kuroko (shown to the right in the promo pic) who calls her "onee-sama." I looked Kuroko up and, lo and behold, she does develop a crush on Mikoto and get jealous of the guy Mikoto likes. Nothing I'll be running to see, but at least the original series didn't disgust me. It was just formulaic. I like the title, though.

* Kampfer- A boy turns into an attractive girl and gets stuck in a situation in which he must interact with many other attractive girls. Expect some yuri-ish shenanigans, but nothing good.

As far as non-yuri anime this fall:

When I saw the title Armed Librarians, I thought "Read or Die!!" Otherwise, it doesn't interest me.

I'm sure plenty of people are anticipating Madhouse's latest CLAMP series, Kobato. The series will undoubtedly look great, but the content will probably be as dull as it is in the manga. (Which I read two chapters of.)

InuYasha: Final Act is definitely the highest profile series premiering this fall. But. I stopped following InuYasha in middle school, and have no interest in watching it now (much less 21 tankoubon worth of material). I'll probably watch the final episode when it airs, so that I don't feel as much like I wasted the time I spent reading and watching it. ^^;

Kimi ni Todoke could be good. I've read a few chapters of the manga, and it's well-executed. But...I don't like the protagonist, Sawako. If any of my high school classmates had treated me the way Sawako's classmates treat her, I would have told them to go screw themselves and that I don't care what they think- not continually smile and try to curry favor with them. Her reactions just irritate me.... -_-; (Like Fruits Basket's Tohru Honda.)

I haven't seen the massively popular K-drama Winter Sonata, but the anime adaptation could be good also. It probably will might turn out to be maudlin and melodramatic (not in a good way; if you've watched romantic K-dramas, you know what I mean), but I like how (according to the advertising) it looks like the series is going to follow the characters into adulthood.

And those are my impressions for the upcoming fall anime season! ^^ For now, I'll just enjoy Aoi Hana, CANAAN, Saki, and Umineko no Naku Koro ni (which improved in episodes 3 and 4, although I still think that more time should have been spent establishing the characters' personalities before killing them off ^^;).

I'm going to watch episode 4 of Taishou Yakyuu Musume to see if it improves- otherwise, I'm dropping it. I've also sampled episodes 1-3 of Bakemonogatari, but the story execution felt flat to me (especially episode 3), even though the visuals are excellent. I've put watching Haruhi Suzumiya on hiatus until the "Endless Eight" arc finishes and, finally, I tried episode 1 of Umi Monogatari. It was cute and upbeat (as expected from Junichi Sato), but not very compelling. (Certainly not as good as Aria.)

Monday, July 27, 2009

New Sasameki Koto Seiyuu and Character Designs!

Yay!! More Sasameki Koto news! ^^ The Sasameki Koto website has been updated with new character designs and the seiyuu for the supporting characters! Aside from Miyako and Kiyori's voice actresses, most of the new seiyuu are unknown or little known talent, but I'm looking forward to hearing some new yuri anime seiyuu.

Masaki is being played by Ayaka Shimizu, who has otherwise only played one minor role.

Kiyori's seiyuu is Emiri Katou, who has done a lot more voice work, but few major roles- although she has played Kagami in Lucky Star, minor parts in Aria the Natural and Mnemosyne, and Sakuya in Candy Boy.

Aoi's seiyuu is Mayuki Makiguchi, who has played minor roles in a few series, like Soul Eater, Gintama, and Antique Bakery.

Tomoe is being played by Hitomi Harada, who has done minor roles in a few series, like Bleach, Junjou Romantica 2, and Kimikiss pure rouge.

Miyako is being played by Chiwa Saito, who played Mami in Marimite, Chiyo in Strawberry Panic, Aika in the Aria series, Anita in R.O.D. -The TV-, and Kaori in Gokujou Seitokai, among numerous other roles- I've only listed the 6 Degrees of Yuri roles. Based on her credits, it looks like she can sound suitably cute and acerbic with gusto. :)

And here are the new character designs for yuri fangirl Aoi, and the founders of the "women who love women" club, Tomoe and Miyako. ^^

I love how Tomoe and Miyako look together, and how Sumi and Ushio are gazing at each other on the main page of the website now!! ^_^

Additionally, the Sasameki Koto theme song will be performed by Natsumi Kiyoura, who sang the opening themes for Spice and Wolf and Sketchbook ~full color'S~.

It goes without saying, but I can't wait for this series to air!! XD (Probably in October.)

Really, Comic Con? Really?

Wow. After eagerly perusing the descriptions of the great-looking panels and activities at Comic Con during the past several days, I'm disgusted that con attendees were offered prizes if they take a photo of themselves sexually harassing "committing an act of lust" with an EA "booth babe."

This article
, which I found via a post on Feministing, does a better job at illustrating why this PR move is so incredibly f*cked up. (Although via a quick Google search, I've found numerous other websites that castigate this contest.) I can't help being reminded of Erica Friedman's excellent post describing the boys' club mentality in some fan circles/fan events and Deb Aoki's excellent "Women Make Comics" project.

"Sort of, but not really" CANAAN News

When I saw this headline on ANN,

CANAAN Gets 3 Movies Starting this October

my heart skipped a beat, until I learned that the movies will simply be episodes from the television series spliced together. Seriously P.A. Works, why would you re-release the same thing in movie format? I know that this formula has has been used successfully before, with slight tweaks, like Gainax's Gunbuster vs. Diebuster Aim for the Top!, Hideaki Anno's Evangelion: 1.0 You Are [Not] Alone, Gainax's Gurren Lagann movie, the Death Note Re-Light movie, and probably others that I don't know of or have forgotten. (Even KyoAni is for some unholy reason, currently reanimating the same storyline in Haruhi Suzumiya again and again and again and again and again. Sadistic @#$&#*#s.)

Don't get me wrong. I'm enjoying CANAAN immensely, but while seeing the series' trademark gunfights and adorable Canaan x Maria moments on the big screen would definitely be nice...I want new gunfights and new yuri-ish moments. I don't see the point of putting episodes that have already aired together to create three movies. An optimistic take on this would be- this probably means the television series is doing well, and the movie releases could get more non-otaku watching.

Ideally, these three movies would pave the way for a fourth movie composed of new material. ^^ A fan can dream.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

CANAAN Episode 4: Best. Gunfight. Ever.

It's time to break my recap rule once again (it's more like a guideline now lol ^^;), and gush over how freaking awesome episode 4 of CANAAN is!!! XD

Canaan and Maria don't interact at all in this episode (despite Maria's best efforts), ;_; but there are plenty of other cool/interesting/squeal-worthy moments to keep fans preoccupied- like the flashback to how Maria and Canaan met and the Canaan vs. Alphard gunfight at the end!! YEAH!!!! XD But more on that later...

While Maria mopes in her hotel room, we finally see Canaan's backstory- how a soldier (or mercenary?) named Siam (?) found her in a massacred village, raised her, and taught her how to fight.

Despite Canaan's harsh lifestyle and circumstances, I like how she's portrayed as a good-humored, surprisingly well-adjusted kid, instead of another ice-cold, emotionless killing machine a la Noir's Kirika or Phantom ~Requiem of the Phantom~'s Ein. She and Siam have a warm father-daughter relationship, when they aren't shooting things.

Until her first encounter with Alphard

in which she loses Siam and swears vengeance against Alphard, and she and Alphard settle on their trademark outfits.

Snarky comments aside, I'm curious about exactly why Alphard killed Siam, since the show hinted earlier that Siam knew her as well.

Back in the present, Alphard, Liang Qi, and Cummings attend a formal party

while Mino treats Maria to a huge meal to snap her out of her misery- without asking why she's depressed or batting an eye over her behavior- his no-strings-attached friendship and implicit trust in Maria's behavior is actually pretty nice.

Until she does something incredibly stupid- walking around Shanghai late at night to look for Canaan. There's a cute flashback showing how Canaan and Maria first met.

*cheers* ^^
(Random comment- does this scene remind anybody else of the end of episode 1 of Fushigi Yuugi?)

After Maria realizes that she always meets Canaan when she's in trouble, she (stupidly!) decides to wander near a group of strangers in an alley, hoping that they'll attack her, and Canaan's Maria-senses will tingle. The strangers seem like they might bother her (although to me, they really just seem annoyed that Maria might be trying to photograph them), but Yunyun (the comic relief girl who shows up at different part-time jobs), of all people, whisks Maria away from them.

Maria befriends Yunyun, in a sense, although Yunyun doesn't seem to find Maria remotely as "amazing" as Canaan does. ^_^

At the party, Canaan attacks Alphard in the ladies restroom (both for revenge and because she doesn't want to lose Maria the way she lost Siam) and they have an all-too-short gunfight that leaves me speechless with fangirlish glee:

I love how Alphard has a loaded gun underneath her dress, just in case. XD

After their tense, ever-so-faintly yuri-ish moment of confrontation (although I'm still for Canaan x Maria, in case you couldn't tell lol),

Alphard easily wins

but allows Canaan to escape, undoubtedly making nefarious plans for the future. :)

I'm not making any pretenses of objectively recapping this episode. I obviously really, really, really like CANAAN, and am using this post as a vent for my fangirlism. Not that there's anything wrong with that. ^^

Friday, July 24, 2009

Fangeeking Over Episode 4 of Aoi Hana

I know that I said I wouldn't post any more recaps of individual Aoi Hana episodes...but...but...

HOW AWESOME WAS EPISODE 4!!!! XD *throws confetti*

The Aoi Hana anime has been great from the beginning, but such consistently excellent execution of a series I love this much is making me giddy...

All that I can say about episode 4 (if you haven't watched it yet) is...



AS SOON AS... *faints*

*revives* This is the best series airing this season. Seriously, I want to send Takako Shimura, Kenichi Kasai, and the lovely people at J.C. Staff chocolate and my effusive thanks for combining their talents to create one of my new favorite shows (so far). :)

Fumi's misunderstanding with Akira and Yasuko was really cute, and ever so faintly nostalgic. ^^ It reminded me of how life-and-death every little thing feels in high school. (Especially the early years. ^^;)

The core of this episode was Fumi's "coming out" to Akira. I personally love this scene, since it reminds me of how I came out to my best friend. And Akira's conversation/advice session with Kyouko on what happened was deliciously laden with dramatic irony.

This episode also introduces the "Mistress of the Library" arc (although Crunchyroll translates it as "Master of the Library", which is a valid translation, but I'll continue to use the translation I'm used to). It's cute to see Yasuko experiencing her own first love in middle school.

Even though Kagami-sensei's kind of a dorky guy, imo, ^^; but at least he did the right thing. Some people who have seen this episode have ridiculously commented that Yasuko was being "unfaithful" to Fumi simply by harboring unwanted traces of her old crush on Kagami-sensei and greeting him when she goes to Fujigaya, which I find baffling. Since he's her sister's fiancée, she has to see him anyway, and ignoring him when she's frequently visiting Fujigaya would simply be rude.

By the end, as Fujigaya's performance of "Wuthering Heights" draws closer, Fumi has put some of the puzzle pieces together and figured out that Yasuko was referring to herself in her "Mistress of the Library" story.

I'm massively looking forward to the next episode, even though I already know what's going to happen. If that isn't a sign of a good show, I don't know what is! ^^

Aoi Hana had darn well better get a second season. As of now, I think this season will end with the material covered by volume 2 of the manga.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

6 Degrees of Yuri in CANAAN

Egad, how did I not notice that CANAAN has a character voiced by Mamiko Noto? (Thanks to Sleepy for pointing it out! ^^)

Mamiko Noto voices Hakko, one of the side characters.

I couldn't tell previously, because Hakko hardly ever says anything and she doesn't have the lilting, more high-pitched voice that Noto normally uses in anime. Hakko is actually the least yuri-ish female character in CANAAN, and she isn't as, uh, prim and proper as many of the other characters Noto has played, like Marimite's Shimako.

I'm also pretty surprised that Miyuki Sawashiro, the seiyuu who plays Canaan,

also voiced Hagino in Blue Drop! (A.k.a. The best yuri series of 2007...after the third season of Marimite. ^^)

Rie Tanaka, the seiyuu who voices Liang Qi,

also played Tomoe in Mai Otome.

I can't be the only person who notices the similarities between the two... ^^;

Finally, Maaya Sakamoto, who has done, like, a million roles, is voicing Alphard! ^^ She isn't a "6 Degrees of Yuri" veteran like Noto, Sawashiro, and Tanaka, but it's pretty awesome to me that she's playing a role in this series.

And I just watched episode 3 today. It was great!! XD In the name of all that is good and holy, if you're following CANAAN and you haven't watched episode 3 yet, watch it a.s.a.p.! There were so many cute moments during Maria and Canaan's date day together! (Although Canaan's comment in the flashback about how much she loves the person who shares the same tattoo as her raised a few questions for me, since that person seems to be Alphard. I'm still rooting for Canaan and Maria, though.)

And I loved the conversation they had at the cafe. ^^

Nothing like a day spent together with your girlfriend.

Although the episode ends on a terrible cliffhanger.

I'm not sure which is worse- the fact that there's an emotional wall between Canaan and Maria as a result of Canaan doing what she pretty much had to do, or the fact that if the bomb were real, Maria would have died.

Arghh, I want episode 4 now! (Blasted cliffhangers.)

New Episode of K-On!

Good news for K-On! fans!! ^^ The 7th Japanese DVD release will contain an all-new OVA episode! The 7th DVD won't be released until January 20 2010 (drats), but it'll be something to look forward to.

Monday, July 20, 2009

First Impressions: Taishou Yakyuu Musume Episodes 1-3

Taishou Yakyuu Musume ("Taishou Baseball Girls") is an unremarkable but decent sports series. One certainly could do a lot worse this season. Nevertheless, my #1 competition-themed yuri subtext series (a niche within a niche within a niche, lol) right now is Saki! ^^ The characters in Saki are more entertaining to watch competing, and Saki has significantly more yuri. But back to Taishou Yakyuu Musume...

Based on an ongoing light novel series written by Atsushi Kagurasaka and illustrated by Sadaji Koike, Taishou Yakyuu Musume is about Koume Suzukawa, a 14 year old girl living in the 14th year of the Taishou era (1925) who attends an all-girls' school and helps her friend and classmate Akiko Ogasawara begin a girls' baseball team.

They have an awful time finding (and keeping) recruits in the beginning, but after Akiko explains her chief reason for wanting to form a baseball team (her fiancée, who plays baseball on his school team, told her that all women should stay in the cave while their husbands hunt and gather home and be good house wives, so she wants to prove that she's equal by forming a baseball team), more girls join the team. By the end of episode 1, they have two more players:

Noe Kawashima (voiced by Kana Ueda), who likes to focus on the technical/tactical aspects of the game,

and Yuki Souya, the proper, soft-spoken Noto Mamiko-voiced character who donates equipment to the team,

In episode 2 they find a coach, their outgoing American teacher Anna Curtland-sensei, who has the standard "Caucasian gaijin" look of anime.

The faint glimmer of yuri potential grows slightly when Yuki recruits Tamaki Ishigaki,

her tsundere childhood friend, to the team. I think they would make a cute potential pair- partly because Yuki has Noto Mamiko's voice and Tamaki makes me think of an irate, withdrawn Noriko from Marimite (I guess it's her hairstyle and relative lack of formality lol ^^;), although I'm not really fangirling over them.

Plus, two twins join the team, tomboyish Tomoe (Yuuko Kaida, a.k.a. Amane in Strawberry Panic and Minako in Marimite; she's on the right in the pic below) and literary-minded Shizuka Tsukubae.

Tomoe joins because she really wants to play, despite Shizuka's insistence otherwise, and Shizuka joins because she has a sister complex. -_-;; To help the team get the last players it needs, Tomoe recruits her #1 fangirl, Kyouko Sakurami (voiced by Yui Makino, of Aria fame),

and a girl who owes her money. lol (I'm sure that she won't stick around for long, since she isn't in the promo art.)

In episode 3, the girls get their team approved by their school, under the guise of forming a club to promote the westernization of Japanese society. (I know that the Taishou era was a period in which Japan was intentionally "westernizing", but the characters' "We need to be more like the West!!" attitude still made me uncomfortable.)

Akiko's team plays against an all-boys' baseball team- the team on which Akiko's fiancée plays. The girls lose by a landslide but, imo, they do pretty decently considering that none of them played any baseball before forming their team. I didn't like their reaction to losing, however. One girl loudly cries while still on the field- not the way to be taken seriously as a competitor. (I may be nit-picking, but it does bug me.) And, based on the next episode preview, it looks like Akiko is going to hide away in shame from losing. Blah... this isn't what I want from my "competition"-themed shows. The reaction I would much rather see from Akiko and her team is: "Well, none of us have played any baseball until a short time ago. We did pretty decently for our first game, but now we have to step up practice. When we improve our skills and play Asaka [the boys' team] again, we'll beat them!!" Plus, I would have preferred to see Akiko start her baseball team because she's interested in baseball, not simply to prove herself to her fiancée.

So ultimately, this show has entertainment value, but it isn't what I want from a series about a group of girls in the 1920's defying gender conventions and starting a sports team. (Me and my expectations... -_-;;) One thing I like is that, while the girls almost all suck at playing baseball in the beginning, none of them have inherent talent that allows them to become the best in their field in zero time flat because of Sheer Guts and Willpower (TM). They work for the progress they make. Plus, there's almost no fan service which is, sadly, noteworthy considering the moe-ish character designs in this series.

I plan on watching more of Taishou Yakyuu Musume, but only because it's kind of cute and I like the Taishou setting. And for anybody who liked Koume's musical number at the beginning of episode 1 (which was a clever way to establish the tone and setting of the show), here's "Tokyo Bushi", the popular Taishou-era song that it plays homage to,

and here's Koume's musical number for a direct comparison.

Story: C+
Art: B
Overall: C+ with potential for improvement.