Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Fall 2011 Anime Season

When I started making this guide, this season looked horrible. Now it looks like there may be two or three diamonds in the rough.

Aired on September 26:
Shinryaku!? Ika Musume: More slice-of-life comedy with Squid Girl and her failed attempts to take over the beach.

The first season was awful. I tried the first episode, it gave me a headache, dropped it, heard the second episode had yuri, hated it, and dropped it again for good.

Noteworthy Seiyuu:
Tanaka Rie (Azumanga Daioh's Yomi, CANAAN's Liang Qi, Mai Otome's Tomoe)
Nabatame Hitomi (Strawberry Panic!'s Shizuma, Marimite's Eriko, Ikkitousen's Kan'u)
Itou Kanae (Hanasaku Iroha's Ohana, Railgun's Saten)
Nakamura Yuuichi (Clannad's Tomoya, Macross Frontier's Alto)
Kawasumi Ayako (Chikane, Nodame, Ninin ga Shinobuden's Kaede)

October 1
 Bakuman season 2Two boys aim to become best-selling mangaka.

I won't lie. I hate Bakuman. I hate its sexism dressed in uplifting shounen tournament garb; I hate it for painting its lead's crush as the perfect girl for being meek and modest, unlike that total bitch who's proud of getting good grades; I hate its "men have dreams that women can't understand!" message; I hate how its heroes put down female mangaka, and how every mangaka in Bakuman's world is a guy except the token girl who doesn't have a full grasp of what the shounen market wants because she started out in shoujo. (The shounen market consists of girls as much as boys, really, but hey! They're icky and shouldn't be allowed in the tree house, right?)

Noteworthy Seiyuu:
Kawasumi Ayako

, or CubexCursedxCurious:
A high school student named Haruaki recieves a heavy black cube from his father who is traveling overseas. That night, Haruaki wakes up after hearing a noise in his kitchen, and finds a naked girl named Fear.

It looks as good as it sounds.

Tamura Yukari (Nanoha, Kashimashi's Tomari)
Saito Chiwa (Madoka Magica's Homura, Aria's Aika)
Kitamura Eri (Madoka Magica's Sayaka, Simoun's Amuria)
Asumi Kana (Hidamari Sketch'sYuuno)
Chihara Minori (Suzumiya Haruhi's Yuuki, Saki's Touka, Ga-Rei: Zero's Kagura)

A prequel to Fate/Stay Night taking place ten years prior to the events of F/SN.  The protagonist is Emiya Kiritsugu, father of Fate/Stay Night's protagonist Shirou.

This prequel has some strong new talent that F/SN didn't have (animation production by ufotable, which produced the Kara no Kyoukai movies; Aoki Ei, who directed Ga-Rei: Zero, the Kara no Kyoukai movies, and Hourou Musuko; Urobuchi Gen, who wrote Madoka Magica; and Kajiura Yuki, shame on you if you don't know how awesome her soundtracks are), which looks promising even though I couldn't really get into Fate/Stay Night. Still iffy about trying this one.

PVs found here.

Ishida Akira (Mai Hime's Nagi, Penguindrum's Tabuki)
Midorikawa Hikaru (Utena's Mikage, Fushigi Yuugi's Tamahome)
Ohara Sayaka (Aria's Alicia, Kaleido Star's Layla)
Seki Tomokazu (Nodame Cantabile's Chiaki, Escaflowne's Van)

 Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon:
In the near future, Japan has been divided into feudal territories and conquered by other nations. The floating city of Musashi, which is composed of eight ships in the skies, will be the battle ground for a new war that will determine the fate of the world.

On paper, this series sounds like it could be an epic, fantastical political-intrigue-and-action classic in the vein of Escaflowne. But...well...just watch the promos. :-)

Fukuyama Jun (Lelouch)
Koshimizu Ami (Marimite's Kanako, Saki's Nodoka, Suite Precure's Hibiki)
Yuuki Aoi (Madoka Magica's Madoka, Shiki's Sunako)
Ono Daisuke (Suzumiya Haruhi's Itsuki, Kuroshitsuji's Sebastian)
Inoue Marina (Skip Beat!'s Kyouko, Kämpfer's Natsuru)
Sawashiro Miyuki (Canaan, Blue Drop's Hagino, Black Rock Shooter's Yomi)
Shimizu Ai (Saki's Hajime, Yamibou's Hatsumi, Mai Hime's Mikoto)
Nakahara Mai (Strawberry Panic!'s Nagisa, Mai Hime's Mai)
Kotobuki Minako (K-ON!'s Mugi)
Shiraishi Ryouko (Saki's Mako, Hayate no Gotoku!'s Hayate)
Sugita Tomokazu (Suzumiya Haruhi's Kyon)
Koyasu Takehito (Utena's Touga, Fushigi Yuugi's Hotohori, in what I see as a nice little nod to Utena, the Takakura siblings' father in Penguindrum)

The residents of Kawakami City highly value their samurai heritage. High school boy Yamato is part of a close-knit group of friends- four boys, counting him, and three girls. When two new girls join the group, things change dramatically.

Irritatingly vague description. Thankfully, there's a PV, which doesn't look very good.

Noteworthy seiyuu:
Asakawa Yuu (Azumanga Daioh's Sakaki)
Mizuhashi Kaori (Hidamari Sketch's Miyako, Nanoha's Vivio and Yuuno)
Ogata Megumi (Tenō Haruka)
Goto Yuko (Suzumiya Haruhi's Mikuru, Madoka Magica's Junko)

Working!! season 2: More day-to-day life with the people who work at the Wagnaria diner.

I thought the first season was okay. The first episode has been released in advance, and it's more of the same.

Fujita Saki (Yuruyuri's Ayano)
Tomatsu Haruka (Hanasaku Iroha's Yuina, Shiki's Megumi)
Kamiya Hiroshi (Zetsubou-sensei, Natsume Yuujinchou's Natsume)
Itou Shizuka (Marimite's Rei, Saki's Hisa)
Saito Momoko (Saki's Momo)
Hirohashi Ryou (Kaleido Star's Sora, Aria's Alice)
Hikasa Youko (K-ON!'s Mio)

October 2
Cross Fight B-Daman:
The newest series  based on a children's toy franchise.

Noteworthy Seiyuu:

Hunter x Hunter: A re-boot of Togashi Yoshihiro's popular shounen series Hunter x Hunter. Gon, who lives on a small island, finds out that his long-absent father is a famous "Hunter", a "member of society's elite with a license to go anywhere or do almost anything." Determined to become a Hunter himself, Gon goes to the mainland to take the highly competitive Hunter Examination. He befriends three other people who also strive to be Hunters.

Yuu Yuu Hakusho was one of my favorite anime series in middle school, so I'm kind of ashamed that I never tried Hunter x Hunter. Shounen is the genre that I watch and read the least of, but I'm willing to try this series.

Promo streaming here.

Fujiwara Keiji (Antique Bakery's Tachibana, a million other Ojisan-type roles)
Ise Mariya (Durarara!!'s Mika, Tiger & Bunny's Dragon Kid)
Sawashiro Miyuki

Phi-Brain: Kami no Puzzle:
A series being produced for the NHK Educational Channel. Kaito and his friend Nonoha try to solve the "philosopher's puzzle" that can be found in the underground ruins near their school. The puzzle is the "life-threaning creation" of a group called "POG." Kaito is creatively named a "Solver" after solving the puzzle. Together with Nonoha, he continues to solve philosopher's puzzles set up by POG around the world.
Surprisingly, Satou Junichi is directing this, along with Tamayura: Hitotose.
May'n is singing the OP.


PV streaming here. (Scroll down.)

Fukuyama Jun
Ishida Akira
Shimizu Kaori
Fujiwara Keiji
Miyano Mamoru (Ouran's Tamaki, Steins;Gate's Okabe)
Yukino Satsuki (Madlax's Vanessa, R.O.D. The TV's Nenene, Azumanga Daioh's Yomi)
Sakurai Takahiro (Code Geass' Suzaku, Bleach's Izuru)

October 3

A group of boys who have been best friends since kindergarten enter high school. The story follows their day-to-day lives.
Going by the PV, this is going to be the all-male equivalent of the cute girls doing cute things slice-of-life subgenre. It was really heavily promoted at the Otome Road Animate when I was in Tokyo, for what that's worth.

Noteworthy seiyuu:
Kimura Ryouhei (Penguindrum's Shouma)

Tamayura: Hitotose:
Like the Tamayura OVA, the Tamayura TV series will follow Fuu, an aspiring photographer, and her friends as they go about their day-to-day lives in a picturesque small town.

I thought the OVA was okay. It had some sweet moments. Maybe the TV series will be better. I'll give it a shot.

Sakamoto Maaya (love her voice!) is  singing the OP.

Other noteworthy seiyuu:
Taketatsu Ayana (K-ON!'s Azusa)
Gibu Yuko (Aoi Hana's Ah-chan)
Ogata Megumi

Sengoku Paradise Kiwami:
Last spring brought us a crappy all-female version of the Sengoku era based on a pachinko game. This season will bring us a crappy bishounen take on the Sengoku era based on a mobile game community.

No noteworthy seiyuu, surprisingly.

October 4
Chihaya's only dream is for her sister to be a successful fashion model. After seeing her class's new transfer student Arata playing karuta, Chihaya starts playing and enters the world of competitive karuta.

Promisingly, Chihayafuru's director, Asaka Morio, also helmed Cardcaptor Sakura and NANA. Chihayafuru also won the most recent Kodansha Manga Award for shoujo manga (it's really josei, but the shoujo category includes other josei titles like Honey and Clover and Kuragehime; the shounen category includes seinen titles like Love Hina and Sayonara Zetsubou-sensei) and the second Manga Taishou award.

This definitely has the potential to be good. (Although it mostly reminds me of how much I want that new season of Saki.)

Seto Asami (Hourou Musuko's Takatsuki)
Kayano Ai (Ano Hana's Menma)
Miyano Mamoru

Maken ki!: High school boy Takeru attends a school where students fight each other with super-powers and several girls compete over him while flashing their underwear.


PV streaming here.

Shitaya Noriko (Himeko in Kannazuki no Miko)

There's still a market for these Key-wannabe eroge adaptations. Shingo is part of a small group of boys sent to be the first to attend a previously all-girls' school. The girls there hate boys, but that won't stop Shingo from getting laid.

PV streaming here.

Noteworthy seiyuu:

October 6
Boku ha Tomodachi ga Sukunai:
High school boy Kodaka doesn't have friends because people think he's a delinquent because of his blonde hair. (He's blonde because he's half-British.) Yozora, a girl who doesn't have friends because of her unfriendly attitude, decides to form a club with him for people who have a hard time making friends. And what do you know? The club looks like this.
PV available here.

Itou Kanae
Inoue Marina
Hanazawa Kana (Morita-san ha Mukuchi's Mayu, Black Rock Shooter's Mato)

An adaptation of the Persona 4 game. A high school boy named Yuu moves to the village of Inaba to live with the Dojima family for one year. A string of murders is pinned on him, and he has to prove his innocence. Teenagers fight with mechs also.

At first it looked like an interesting cross between Jigoku Shoujo and Lain, but then it went into "OMG we can all pilot super-powered robots!!" mode. (I don't mind ridiculous elements as long as the show using them doesn't expect its audience to take it COMPLETELY SERIOUSLY, which this one seems to.) I don't pay any attention to the Persona games, so I'm not looking at this adaptation with any expectations of what it "should" be. It just doesn't look very good.

Horie Yui (Aoi Hana's Kyouko, Hourou Musuko's Anna, Penguindrum's Natsume)
Kugimiya Rie (Marimite's Touko, Mnemosyne's Mimi, every petite, violent tsundere in anime)

October 7
Last Exile: Fam, the Silver Wing: The long-awaited sequel to Last Exile. Fam is a sky pirate who steals airships and re-sells them, along with her partner Giselle. They make a deal with the Kingdom of Turan: they will save its princess from an enemy nation in exchange for Turan's battleship.

I actually never got into Last Exile. ^_^;; This new season sounds like it could be a good action-adventure. It's 13 episodes long, which might cause some pacing issues for this type of series. Hopefully that won't be the case. At the very least, this series will look amazing. Sakamoto Maaya is singing the OP.

Toyosaki Aki (K-ON!'s Yui, Hourou Musuko's Momo)
Orikasa Fumiko (Suite Precure's Kanade, Bleach's Rukia)

Sekai-ichi Hatsukoi 2: A yaoi romance about a manga editor and his boss, and a couple of other couples.

Sekai-ichi Hatsukoi has a really cute concept (a romantic comedy between people who work in the manga industry!), but after the rapey seme x squirming uke dynamic popped up between its leads, I tuned out of the first season.

PV here.

Konishi Katsuyuki (Gurren Lagann's Kamina)
Nakamura Yuuichi
Midorikawa Hikaru
Kamiya Hiroshi

Shakugan no Shana III: The third and final season of a series about a high school boy who finds out that he's dead and helps a super-powered sword-wielding girl named Shana fight supernatural entities.

I haven't seen the first two seasons even though it's a popular franchise. Kugimiya Rie plays Shana, so I can guess what she's like.

PV streaming here.

Other seiyuu:
Noto Mamiko (Marimite's Shimako, Jigoku Shoujo's Enma Ai) Why can't she be in a series that I want to watch?

October 8
You is a poor high school student. One day at the supermarket, he reaches for a bento that's on sale for half-price. Someone knocks him unconscious, and when he wakes up, he finds that he is part of the "supermarket survival battle" for half-price bento.
PVs streaming here.


Katou Emiri (Sasameki Koto's Kiyori, Madoka Magica's Kyuubey)
Ise Mariya
Kayano Ai
Yuuki Aoi
Taketatsu Ayana
Miyano Mamoru
Horie Yui
Tamura Yukari

Kidou Senshi Gundam AGE:
AGE will cover a century, or three generations of Gundam pilots. Several hundreds years after humans have migrated to space, an unknown enemy begins to attack human colonies. The enemy attacks the home of seven year-old Furitto. Furitto's mother gives him the "AGE device", which contains the blueprints for a legendary mobile suit called "Gundam," before she dies. Furitto spends the next seven years at the Earth Federation base Arinsuton on the space colony Nora, where he and a team of engineers work on developing the Gundam. The same enemy that killed Furitto's mother attacks, and he must fight them using the Gundam.

PVs streaming here. (After the first PV ends, another will start playing automatically. After the second ends, the third, longest one will start)

I'm not a Gundam fan, so I won't be watching, but it should be fun for people who are fans of the franchise.

Endou Aya (Macross Frontier's Sheryl)

October 9
Yukiteru is an isolated high school boy who uses his cell phone to talk to his imaginary friend "Deus Ex Machina." Deus turns out to be real(?), and tells Yukiteru that his cell phone will report events that will happen in the near future. There are other people who have made similar deals with Deus, and they have to try to kill each other. The last person standing will inherit Deus' position.

The battle royale angle has potential for good drama, but the overall description sounds "meh."

Yukana (Mai Hime's Mashiro and Fumi, Full Metal Panic!'s Tessa)

October 10
Chibi Devil!: An adaptation of a series from Ciao, about a middle school girl who finds a baby devil on her bed one day. Going by the manga covers for later volumes, she finds more of them.

Strangely, this series doesn't have a website of its own or any promo art. The story sounds like a pass anyway.

October 13
In 2029, Japan is under the control of a multi-nation organization called GHQ as a result of the outbreak of an unidentified virus. High school boy Shu, who has psychic powers in his right hand, meets a cute, scantily clad girl who needs his help in overthrowing the government.

Going by how the female lead is presented in Guilty Crown's PV and promo art (following links NSFW) again and again and again...definite crap. I'm really surprised that this is airing on the Noitamina block.

Koyasu Takehito

The 11 episode Noitamina BONES series that's being touted for reuniting Mizushima Seiji and Aikawa Shou, the director and script writer for the original Fullmetal Alchemist anime, respectively. (Aikawa actually wrote 30 episodes of FMA, as well as Conqueror of Shamballa.)

The story takes place in a futuristic post-war Tokyo, in which the state is ruled by the Big Brother-like Media King Rinroku Kaishou. Kaishou is renowned for solving mysteries using his vast information network- but most of those mysteries were actually solved by the "Last Great Detective" Shinjirou Yuuki. Yuuki works with a boy side-kick named Inga, whose relationship to Yuuki is ambiguous.

I'm afraid that this series isn't going to be able to take advantage of its strengths (like its setting) as much as it could because of its length. No. 6, which also stars two young men unraveling the truths beneath the surface of a dystopian world controlled by a totalitarian government (and aired on Noitamia), faced similar issues. (Tangent: I enjoyed No. 6 and was very happy with its ending for being pretty much the opposite of what I was afraid would happen. I liked Safu, but was a bit protective of Nezumi being the (imho) gay character who was risking his life to help Shion rescue her. But why the hell did Nezumi walk away? What's out there for him to do? Build sand castles out in the desert until he feels like returning? It felt like that bit was only tacked on because it would spawn a lot of doujinshi and fanfic about how Shion and Nezumi get back together. But yeah- good story that should have been more ambitious.) Also, Inga seems really annoying. Hopefully, like Eden of the East, Un-Go will manage to tell a great story over its short length. (Please, don't let Inga ruin it.)

Toyosaki Aki
Honda Takako (Hourou Musuko's Yuki, Kara no Kyoukai's Touko)

What are you planning to try?

Saturday, September 24, 2011

More Yamaji Ebine: Sweet Lovin' Baby

Unlike Yamaji Ebine's famous trio- Love My Life, Indigo Blue, and Free Soul- Sweet Lovin' Baby is a collection of short stories, half of which are yuri.

"Sweet Lovin' Baby" is about Kyou, an OL who becomes close friends with a seemingly perfect lesbian couple, Rei and Magobee...shortly before they break up. Over the course of the story, Kyou realizes that she's gay herself. (In one amusing subplot, the co-worker who's always nagging Kyou about getting a boyfriend sets her up with a man who tells her that it can't work because he's gay. He and Kyou become friends instead.) Kyou remains on friendly terms with both Rei and Magobee, and admits that she has feelings for Rei...but still misses the time she spent with Rei and Magobee as a couple. I found this story poignant because I know what it's like to see two friends who seem perfectly happy with their long-term relationship suddenly break up. It adds a bittersweet extra layer to the age old discovery-of-one's-sexual-identity narrative. (I also love that Kyou comes out to her co-worker.)

"Rain Was Falling" isn't nearly as complex, but it's a very cute story about 18 year-old Toriko, who thinks she's "broken" because she hasn't fallen in love with a man. She spaces out and doesn't notice when it starts raining. A novelist named Sumire holds an umbrella over Toriko and invites her to dry off in her apartment. They drink cocoa and discuss art, and when Toriko tells Sumire what she's worried about, Sumire gives her a kiss. Sumire lends Toriko an umbrella when she leaves, and Toriko looks forward to returning it. (As a wise friend once commented when we were watching Sense & Sensibility, "Why doesn't shit like this happen when I get caught in the rain?")

"Doomed Love" is about Yukako, a gay high school student who, alas, only gets love confessions from boys. The girl Yukako likes, tall, boyish-looking Nanami, is straight but only attracts girls. Yukako confesses to Nanami, who rejects her and vents that she's jealous because the boy she likes confessed to Yukako. A crying Yukako points out that she and Nanami both share the painful feeling of being rejected by the person they like, and Nanami apologizes. Even though I don't like "Doomed Love" as much as "Sweet Lovin' Baby" and "Rain Was Falling", it's still a well-written, more-complicated-than-normal take on a one-sided crush.

"Miyuki" is Yamaji Ebine's professional debut. (Fun fact: Along with Love My Life and Ariyoshi Kyouko's Applause, it's a personal favorite of Plica-chan's Amamiya Sae.) Ichiko, an art school student, is in love with her school mate Miyuki, but thinks that her feelings aren't requited. Luckily, she's wrong. ^^ "Miyuki" is good, but the fact that it's Yamaji's debut shows. The art is sketchy- less clean and confident than her later style; and her storytelling feels more tentative, as it naturally would for a budding talent who's still finding her voice. It's a must-read if you want to see where Yamaji Ebine's career as a mangaka began.

Of course, it's a given that you should check out this collection if you like like Yamaji Ebine's work or realistic yuri in general.

Story: B+
Art: B for "Miyuki", A for the rest
Overall: A-

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Crack List: Top Series to Watch for Yuri Characters in the Military (Update 5 added)

Today is the first day after the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell! As a small salute to this day, I decided to create this top 5 list. Which characters made the cut?

5. Arguably, most of the Time and Space Administration Bureau in StrikerS. No one's really canon, but holy smokes, so much subtext. Nothing nothing nothing will convince me that Nanoha and Fate aren't an item. I'm not invested in Subaru x Teana, but they add extra slashability to the series for anyone who wants it. After Nanoha and Fate, Signum is the one who I most want to be gay am most convinced is gay. Anyway...lots of cool, subtext-heavy women in military uniform = should be listed here.
As a bonus, Nanoha and Fate in wedding dresses.

4. Just about everyone in Koihime Musou, most noteably Sousou and Hakufu. I really tried, but I didn't find any good couple pictures to post here. Still, for its seemingly all-lesbian alternate world ancient Chinese armies, this franchise belongs on this list.

3. 90% of the Meisters in Mai Otome: When your country's military might depends on super-powered women who must be willing to never have sex with men...yup. It would be shocking if Mai Otome didn't make this list.
And yay! I found a decent Chie x Aoi pic.
And some Haruka x Yukino. (The non-ShizNat couples deserve some love too.)

2. The sybillae in Simoun: For the military aircraft powered by kissing alone.
Can't resist another Aer x Neviril pic.

1. Haruka and Michiru: They are senshi, after all. For being completely unambiguous and the best characters on this list, Haruka and Michiru easily come out on top.

Is there anyone else who you think deserves to be on this list?

Next day update: As Erin pointed out in the comments, Rose of Versailles' Oscar deserves an Honorable Mention for being a trailblazing heroine in a trailblazing series. Vive a la Oscar!

Update 2: This is meant to be an anime-only list, but as Erica pointed out via Twitter, Kurogane Pukapukatai would be a shoo-in if manga were included. 

Update 3: I've only seen random bits of Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex on Adult Swim (I keep meaning to watch it properly, but haven't yet), but Major Kusanagi seems like a cool character and fellow Tweeter bystrouska mentioned that she has some subtext. 

Update 4: The subtext in Rimelda's obsession with Madlax makes them that much more fun to watch. A hat-tip to Sheldor for reminding me that Bee Train's girls with guns trilogy does have a character who I can add to this list.

Update 5: As commenter µ points out, Blue Drop's invading all-lesbian alien race, the Arume, includes a number of characters who fit this list.