One Week Friends–Anime Early Impressions

Isshukan Friends posterI didn’t have high hopes for One Week Friends (Isshuukan Friends) (Crunchyroll). The premise sounded maudlin and not very original–probably lifted directly from a mediocre American movie called 50 First Dates (IMDB).

In fact I’m really enjoying it so far. The originality of the premise is much less important than how well it is executed. The execution here–the directing, writing and acting–all feel perfect.
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The World is Still Beautiful–Anime Early Impressions

Rainbow over castle
So far, The World is Still Beautiful a.k.a. Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii (Crunchyroll) has been delightful. I particularly like the fact that, though it is a shoujo anime, it dispenses with the usual wimpy shoujo heroine.

I can tolerate a wimpy shoujo heroine if she gets a grip and discovers her inner strength, but it’s nice to have one who doesn’t need to do that. This heroine in fact has more than a bit of Lina Inverse in her, though she’s neither as powerful nor as crazy.

The story is mostly set in the Sun Kingdom, a rich an powerful land with a warm, mild climate where it never rains. (Sort of like southern California I guess.) Under its fearsome new king Livius Orvinus Ifriqiyah it has come to dominate the region, forcing all of its neighbors to pay tribute.
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Mushi-shi Season 2–Anime Early Impressions

I don’t have much to say about Mushi-shi Sequel Series a.k.a. Mushishi Zoku Shou (Crunchyroll). I reviewed the original series here. I gave it 5 stars. The new season has the same cast, the same studio, the same look and the same kind of writing.
Bird mushi
So anyone who liked the first season will probably feel the same way about the second. It’s a matter of taste, but I like it a lot.

Each episode is a self-contained story, which means that you don’t need to have watched the first season to enjoy the second. Since I consider it a classic I would recommend that you do watch the first season (it’s available on Hulu) but if you don’t you should still be able to follow the stories in the second season without much trouble.

Spoiler Notes for Nagi no Asukara

Manaka from ED
The usual warning applies: if you haven’t watched Nagi no Asukara (Crunchyroll) and you have any possible interest in watching it then you should watch it before reading the rest of this post.

If you have watched it and payed close attention and are pretty familiar with Japanese culture and folklore then you may not find anything new in this post. The show is actually more generous with explanations than the average Japanese fantasy. However not everyone got all the key points, so you may find this helpful.
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Noah–Movie Review

3.5 Stars

Noah posterIn Noah (IMDB) writer/director Darren Aronofsky gives us a dark, disturbing and thought-provoking retelling of a story that we are all familiar with–a story that most of us would consider dark and disturbing if we had not first encountered it in cutesy illustrated children’s books.

So the first thing I want to make clear is that this movie is not suitable for young children. It is quite violent and some of the violence is of a sort that children will find especially frightening.

Since the original story is just a few paragraphs long, Aronofsky has fleshed it out with some material from the Jewish Apocrypha, plus some stuff that he just made up. Whatever you may say about the result, you can’t deny that it is interesting.
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Hoozuki no Reitetsu Ends

Hoozuki eyecatchHoozuki no Reitetsu (Crunchyroll) is a fine piece of work: a sharp-witted comedy with great artwork. (I’m talking about the drawings themselves. In terms of animation it’s fine but not striking.) If you are at all interested in Japanese folklore you should check it out.
Troublesome cat
You shouldn’t be intimidated if you don’t know too much about traditional Japanese folklore. This is not one of those anime comedies where you won’t get any of the jokes unless you are immersed in Japanese popular culture. In fact, many Japanese viewers don’t know all that much about traditional folklore, so the writers are careful to fill in enough context for each character that you can usually get the point of the joke.
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Nagi no Asukara Ends

I enjoyed Nagi no Asukara (Crunchyroll) but it’s not perfect. It has some pacing problems. Of course that’s common with Japanese TV shows. Hopefully you have some overall story to tell, but you have to organize it into one or two cours, each consisting of 12 or 13 episodes of 24 minutes each. For ratings reasons each cour should end at a dramatic high point and each individual episode must be interesting enough to keep people watching, all while advancing the overall plot.
Eyecatch on Seawall
A very small number of shows do it perfectly. Nagi no Asukara has some great episodes, but also a fair number that drag.

But now it’s time to look back and evaluate the series as a whole. I think it’s pretty good. It has an innovative premise, terrific artwork, likeable though flawed characters and a story with real emotional resonance. But not everyone likes it and I quite understand why it isn’t to everyone’s taste.
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Chuunibyou 2 Ends

As I originally suspected the second season of Chuunibyou (Crunchyroll) was sort of unnecessary. Strictly from a story-telling standpoint it didn’t add much to what had been said in the first season (Crunchyroll).
Rikka eyecatch
But if something is funny enough, that can be it’s own justification–and the second season is indeed very funny. I applaud the ability of the writers to keep the show laugh-out-loud funny for two seasons. That isn’t easy to do.
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Golden Time Ends

Golden Time (Crunchyroll) left me with mixed feelings. Technically it’s very well-executed. It’s offbeat and often quite amusing. But…parts of it were rather unpleasant to watch.
Kouko eyecatch
Now this may turn out to be one of those series that I initially react badly to, but which I end up liking much more after I have had time to rewatch and think about them. Part of the trouble may have been my expectations. I thought of this as a “romantic comedy,” but really the story is more about how the hero deals with his amnesia, presented with a lot of Buddhist ideas about the nature of the “self.” Not your standard rom-com fare.
Kouko and Banri stealing forms
When we first meet the hero Banri he seems awkward and unsure of himself, but we quickly learn that he is brave and resourceful, not to mention unfailingly loyal to his friends. In other words, the sort of person you would probably like to have as a friend.

But we gradually learn that he has only been like this since the accident that cost him his memory. We see in flashbacks that before the accident he was an annoying whiny self-pitying little wimp.
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Noragami Ends

This is probably my favorite anime of the Winter 2014 season. (I say “probably” because there are some other good shows that are about to end and one of them still might surprise me.)
A Tail
This is, of course, a shounen action-adventure series with all that implies, but it is an outstanding example of the genre: well-written and well-thought-out, with fascinating characters.

It’s a bit dark, with elements of horror; certainly not a show for small children. But it’s solidly entertaining and basically upbeat.
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