The recession has hit the anime industry pretty hard. There are only about 20 new shows, so according to Sturgeon’s Law we only have the right to hope for 2 good ones. It’s too soon to say whether any of the new shows will really turn out to be good. Many a show has had a promising start and a train-wreck ending. Still I’ve noticed 4 or 5 that seem to have potential.
Durarara seems the most promising of the new crop. It’s a dark but funny crime drama involving some high school students who like to hang out after dark in a crowded Tokyo shopping district, and some of the district’s odder inhabitants. Many of the latter have violent tendencies and some seem to have supernatural powers. So far the show has mostly focused on introducing the large cast of characters, but it has been quite entertaining.
SORANOWOTO is hard to pin down. It might turn out to be really good, or it might be one of the aforementioned train-wrecks. It is an oddly cheerful show with a strange and rather dark setting: an alternate version of Europe that after decades of war has regressed to an early 20th century level of technology. (This version of Europe seems to have had a large number of Japanese immigrants in the past. The local language seems to be French, but more than half the characters have Japanese names and some of them have retained significant elements of Japanese culture.)
The story involves a girl who joins the army hoping to learn how to play the trumpet. She is issued a bugle and sent with little or no training to join an all-female platoon in a frontier outpost. Their main weapon is a broken mecha that they don’t know how to repair. Frankly they don’t look like they could withstand an attack by 5 drunken rugby players, let alone a professional army.
This show has been compared to K-ON, Aria, and Strike Witches. The comparison with K-ON seems very misleading. The character designs are very similar but this seems a totally different kind of story. It also seems different from Strike Witches in that it is not over-the-top ecchi nonsense, and the animation quality is much better.
Strangely, the comparison with Aria seems more apt. The show so far has a sweet, gentle slice-of-life feel to it, though oddly juxtaposed with the rather grim setting.
However I can’t help similarities to Simoun. So far we have a bunch of girl soldiers left in an exposed position by a high command that is either unwilling or unable to give them the support they need. This could easily turn into an overwrought anti-war fable with a sad ending. It wouldn’t even have Simoun‘s tragic virtues, since the warriors of that story were at least capable and well-trained.
If you liked Nodame Cantabile and Nodame Cantabile Paris Chapter then you will want to check out Nodame Cantabile Finale. Personally I loved the first season but didn’t see the point of the second. The first season told a satisfying story; the second season didn’t really add much to it. Probably the final season will be more of the same. Still it’s a quality production, and a must-see for anyone who can’t get enough of the characters.
Hanamaru Kindergarten is the cutest and funniest of the new shows. The first episode unnerved many viewers with the little girl who insists that she is going to marry her kindergarten teacher, but the whole thing seems basically pretty innocent. (The girl’s mother is nuts to encourage her though. And does she dye the kid’s hair? What’s with that?)
Akiyuki Shinbou is a talented director. Anything he does is probably worth checking out and I really liked last year’s Bakemonogatari. Unfortunately I don’t think Dance in the Vampire Bund is in the same league. The basic premise is that Mina Tepes the queen of the vampires buys an island in Tokyo harbor to serve as a homeland for her people. The loli vampire queen is certainly a disturbing character, but a reasonable one for a vampire story. Unfortunately the other characters, including the werewolf-boy hero, just seem boring. Once I look past Shinbou’s unique visual style, the show seems like a collection of tired old shounen cliches.