What is anime, really, if not a means through which to throw scores upon scores wack-job characters with outlandish powers and even more outlandish personalities in a just-as-much outlandish premise at you faster than you can hope to process even one of them? “Nothing!” says week two’s continuing anime lineup.
My High School Romantic Comedy Is Ruined Because of a Multiple Choice Test or Something
I’d just like to take a minute to point out that this is now the second time this year we have had a show whose title is a sentence portraying the story’s main character bemoaning the ruination of his high school romantic comedy, and how far up their own butts this demonstrates that light novel titles of this sort have stuck their heads at this point. In contrast, the show itself is one of the better light novel-based series I’ve come across recently. Even if the titular multiple-choice gag is more or less completely wasted, there are a not-insignificant number of well-played and surprisingly funny jokes throughout the first couple of episodes. Most of the laughs – and most of the general enjoyment – I got from NouKome stemmed from the hilariously blunt white-haired Best Girl whose name (like all the other characters’) escapes me. It’s not so much what she says that’s inherently funny, but the way she goes back and forth with our indecisive protagonist, and her bluntness is representative of how the show casually makes one-off jokes of topics lesser shows like to dance around, avoid entirely, or wouldn’t even really think of. While the rest of the Reject 5 (or what we’ve seen of it so far) manage to avoid falling completely into light novel tropes, it’s White who easily steals the show here. The problem is, despite being a large step above the majority of other series like it, NouKome cannot escape its roots. Even if it happened as part of a joke, we still had a mentally deficient bunny-girl literally fall from the sky and become a major character in the series. The humor (with exceptions) is still crude, overly-referential, and ultimately empty, even with the above-average delivery that increases its laugh quotient. The multiple choice is being used as a way to artificially force irrelevant humiliating situations, rather than to organically push the story forward. The show is, in the end, about a bunch of girls wanting to get into the MC’s pants. In short, it may be funnier than most light novels, but NouKome is still very much a light novel.
Yozakura Quartet: Hana no Uta
Externally, the big draw to Yozakura Quartet is the director, a young animator known as Ryo-timo. Having been brought into the industry as a result of his GIF animations, Ryo-timo is very good at putting out efficient and impactful bursts of animation, and has done animation work for an impressively comprehensive list of recent years’ high-profile animation-heavy titles, but the Yozakura Quartet reboot project is his first time fully at the helm of a series. The fact that there are not one, not two, but three up-and-coming directors (as well as one up-and-coming studio of veteran staff) with TV debuts this fall is a big part of why this season is so exciting. First was Meganebu’s Soubi Yamamoto, who excelled at visual design, and the motion-focused Ryo-timo is the second. Indeed, Yozakura is a series in constant motion – plot points and character introductions fly by like nothing and the show doesn’t even blink. Whatever happens, the show just kinda rolls with it, never stopping for too long to think about anything, and expects the audience to do the same. This is at the same time one of the things that makes it so fun to watch, and so hard to follow. It starts out by just throwing so many characters at you it’s not possible to keep track of them all, but as it goes on it slowly and cleverly weaves them into the story just enough for you to pick up on what makes them tick. It’s an approach that sort of reminds me of the way that Durarara handled its characters. The story’s been primarily lighthearted and episodic so far, though there are some hints at a darker developing story later on that I hope it can handle with the same elegance it did the character introductions in episodes two and three. One point that doesn’t sit quite as well is the surprising ubiquity of panty shots and boob grabs, albeit in the same unfazed, nonchalant style of the rest of the show. It doesn’t pose as big of a problem as in other shows due to this attitude, which prevents it from interfering too much in the story, but Ao’s dress seems to love flying up every chance it gets. This sort of leads me to one of Yozakura’s biggest highlights: the animation. It’s not as balls-out (yet) as Ryo-timo got when he was on animation duty with Birdy Decode, but more channeled into the details and subtleties. The characters are rarely static, and there’s always something happening on screen. Ryo-timo loves to make things move, and there’s never a moment that Yozakura Quartet sits still.
I want to like Tokyo Ravens, because it has a lot to like. It’s really unfortunate that the show is weighed down by as much obligatory light-novel drudgery as it is, because it really feels like there’s a pretty good story somewhere in there. There are some very good scenes done very well, but Ravens is filled just as full with fluff. There are some great turns that are painfully undercut by the fact that they pave the way only for more fluffy cliches. Every time it seems ready to “get to the good part” with some exciting new twist, it takes that opportunity to drop right back down to its laurels, and it makes watching Tokyo Ravens an exercise in frustration. There’s nothing here that’s really all that special, and the CG is kinda lackluster (though I feel like I’ve harped on that enough this season), but about a third of the time, it’s used well enough to be gripping (before it starts slipping). Tokyo Ravens joins the ranks of Outbreak Company, Nagi no Asukara, Log Horizon, NouKome, and Arpeggio of Blue Steel in being a show that I’m too much on the fence about to continue watching when there are so many better shows this season, but that I hope can find an audience among those more receptive to the strengths that each of them clearly have.
This season’s third up-and-coming director, Rie Matsumoto, comes onto the scene with a project that, like Ryo-timo with Yozakura Quartet, she has already brought to life in OVA form over the course of the past couple years. The Kyousougiga OVA was a pretty dense, fast-paced, nonsensical affair, but with 10 episodes of TV anime to work with, Matsumoto has slowed down to give the crazed world of the Mirror Capital more time to come to life. The result is significantly more sane than the OVA was, but even with the slowed pace this is a show that demands your full and constant attention in order to keep things straight. A lot of the story is told through the visuals, making use of imagery, symbolism, the expressive character animation, and the creative, jumpy directing to relay key emotional details. It can be a little exhausting to watch, and it can be easy to get distracted by all the vibrantly-colored eye candy that fills the world. But cutting through the show’s many layers (I had to watch each of the first two episodes twice and read the wiki summaries to really grasp what was going on) is worth it to get to the story beneath; there’s a reason Kyousougiga’s become so beloved among the aniblogosphere as to rival Kill la Kill on the Anime Power Rankings.
One more to go! Next time I’ll wrap things up with a look at the two noitaminA shows and finally get back to catching up on actually watching the new shows that are coming out.