Weekly Anime Round-Up: April 2nd-8th

Visitors of Varms.net and listeners of the Spoony Bard podcast know by now that there is one thing around here we love as much as video games- anime.  Unfortunately, we have not made very many endeavors to cover it, until now.  Thanks to the wonders of the internet, there are many services that will allow viewers to watch anime shortly after it airs in Japan, and I have found myself glued to my television every week to watch these goodies as fast as I can get them.  Each week I’m going to cover the shows I am watching, with a brief description of what’s going on (spoiler free, of course), and if I’m enjoying the show.  Keep in mind I won’t hesitate to drop a show if I lose interest, but I will mention if I do and the reasons I dropped it.

Accel World

This show takes place in the year 2040, in a world where everyone uses “neuro-synchronization” technology.  This technology merges man and computer, allowing it’s users to be connected to the internet and even dive into virtual worlds and play virtual reality MMOs.  The story surrounds a boy named Haruyuki Arita who is picked on for being short and overweight, and plays VRMMO games to escape from his miserable reality.

One day Haruyuki is approached by a classmate he has a crush on to meet her during lunch.  When he does, she asks him to download and run a program called “Brain Burst.”  This program allows the user to enter the “accelerated world”, where the time seems to almost be at a standstill.  This week’s episode ended right when things got very interesting, but that is to be expected for the first episode of a show like this.  This show has some very cool concepts and has lots of potential, and I’m looking forward to more.

Kore wa Zombie Desu Ka?  OF THE DEAD

(Is This a Zombie?  2nd season)

That’s right folks- Korean Zombie Desk Car is back!  Season one offered a crazy mix of comedy, action, and drama, and this episode kicked off with that signature zaniness that kept me watching the first season.  The wacky cast is joined by a new character, this time it’s a cute girl with a severe drinking problem that barfs rainbows.  It also seems that the megalo monsters are back, meaning poor Ayumu must continue to cross-dress as a magical girl to fight them.  I’m excited to see what crazy antics are to come from this show for the rest of the season, especially since this episode was better than I expected it to be.

Medaka Box

Medaka Box is one of the most highly-anticipated shows of this season, since it’s an adaptation of a popular manga and it comes out of studio Gainax.  Never having read the Manga, I have no idea what I’m getting into, but Gainax seldom disappoints.  The show is about a super-popular girl named Medaka, and girl that became the class president with 98% of the vote.  Her main policy as president is having a suggestion box where students can submit whatever problems they are having, and the student council will solve them.  The show has a vibe to it similar to Gurren Lagann, probably because Medaka seems to be like a female version of Kamina.  Medaka has a determined, positive to the point of madness attitude and may turn out to be a very interesting character.  The show still seems to be establishing itself, so I’m not quite sure how I feel about this show after the first episode, but I’m still interested to see more.

Natsuiro Kiseki

(A Summer-Colored Miracle)

This kind of show tends to be something I would normally pass on, but I decided to give it a shot after hearing some buzz around it after it aired.  It’s about four girls that gather around a rock that is said to grant the wishes of close friends, and one day they find out it seems to be true.  The show starts off like a typical “slice of life” drama, seemingly grounded in reality, but the first episode ends with flying girls.  I am not quite sold on this show at the moment, but there is some potential here.

Nazo no Kanojo X

(Mysterious Girlfriend X)

I picked this show up because of it has a rather strange premise, and I just had to see it with my own eyes.  This is a love story about Akira and his unusual girlfriend, Mikoto.  The two begin to date shortly after, get ready for this; Akira develops a physical addiction to Mikoto’s drool.  Yes, you read that right, the main character has to taste drool from his girlfriend once a day or he becomes ill.  How did he become hooked on her drool in the first place?  Well, he tasted some of her drool from a desk she was napping on; because that is the first thing you should do when you see the bodily fluids of another person.  I am watching this show only because I am curious to see where on earth they are going to go with such an insane story.

Sankarea

This one is about a guy named Chihiro that is obsessed with all things zombie: movies, games, toys, you name it.  His love of zombies reaches an extreme when he begins to develop a fetish for zombies.  One day, his cat is struck by a vehicle, and he attempts to revive his dead cat with a resurrection potion he makes with instructions from writings from an old temple.  In this episode he bumps into a wealthy and popular girl from a nearby school while trying to revive his dead cat and not much else happened.  I’m not sure if I will dig this show, but things could get interesting.

Upotte!!

Upotte!! is the only show with a stranger premise than Mysterious Girlfriend X.  This show is about girls that are anthropomorphized assault rifles, and proof that Japan will turn anything into cute girls.  Each of the girls personalities are derived from the features of the rifles they represent, as well as their country of origin.  This show offers a strange brand of humor wrapped around a concept that seems too crazy to be real.  So far the show has been pretty funny, and the weird idea behind it has captivated my interest.

Stark’s Top 10 Best Anime of 2011

As promised in the Disney Afternoon episode of Spoony Bard, I am presenting my picks for this year’s top 10 anime.  In my opinion this has been one of the best years for anime in a long time, with a slew of fun and unusual shows to watch, along with a few surprise hits.  Without further delay, here are my favorite series from 2011, starting with number 10.

10.  Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai (I Don’t Have Many Friends)  A.K.A. Haganai

Kodaka Hasegawa is a transfer student of  St. Chronica’s Academy, a catholic high school full of students who fear him because of his blond hair, giving him the label of delinquent by ignorant classmates.  He eventually runs into a girl named Yozora talking to an imaginary friend she calls her “air friend”.  She convinces Kodaka to help her form the “Neighbors Club” at the school, as a means to make real friends and develop an actual social life.

The real fun begins when a girl named Sena shows up.  She is very popular and comes from a wealthy family, yet is arrogant so she has no friends.  Sena and Yozora instantly clash, and Yozora becomes brutally cold towards Sena.  Yozora loves picking on Sena’s busty, full figure, often calling her “Meat”.  The fights between these two characters alone could make this show work, but the Neighbors Club gets even more recruits as the show moves along.  The crazy members include a freshman scientific genius and pervert named Rika, an effeminate, gender confused boy named Yukimura, a child-genius teacher and nun with a swearing problem named Maria, and Kodaka’s sister Kobato, who is a crazed fan of an anime show called “Full Metal Necromancer”, to a point where she dresses and role-plays herself as a vampire.

This show and it’s insane cast of characters had me laughing and watching to the end.  This 12 episode series is full of comedy, fanservice, and “Meat” bashing, and will bring a smile to the face of any anime fan.  It’s only failing is it seems to have ended right as a major development in the story popped up, so here is to hoping for another season!

9.  Kyokai Senjou no Horizon (Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere)

Horizon is a show that has made it into my top anime of the year by doing what it does best:  having fun.  Horizon wasn’t made to change anime forever or provoke philosophical discussion.  This show is a crazy mix of comedy, sci-fi, fan-service, action, politics, and fantasy, and it will keep on blazing its own crazy path of fun with or without you.  I got hooked after my first episode, but this is a show viewers will either love or hate.

Horizon takes place in the distant future, where the Earth is no longer habitable, and what little area that is left and is survivable has been divided into dimensional territories.  The universe of this show is actually very detailed and in-depth, as one could write an entire article simply explaining it all.  All there really is to know is that there are cool fights featuring an unusual blend of magic and technology, busty girls in skintight outfits, really cool airships, and tons of comedy.  This show is certainly not the next Evangelion, but it delivers lots of fun and plenty of action to anyone willing to give it a chance.  It ends at 12 episodes with an open ending, and a second season is very likely to come in 2012.

8.  Hidan no Aria (Aria the Scarlet Ammo)

Not far into the future, a special school known as Tokyo Butei High School has been formed to train teenagers to fight criminals in order to deal with a dramatic rise in crime.  A boy attending this school named Kinji is attacked by a notorious criminal with a vendetta against the Butei known as the Butei Killer.  Kinji’s life is saved by a high-ranking female Butei named Aria, and eventually the two of them join together to bring the Butei Killer to justice and to clear the name of Aria’s mother, who has been wrongfully blamed for the actions of the Butei Killer.

A unique element of this show is that several of the characters are descendants of famous historical characters both real and fictitious, for example, Aria is a descendant of Sherlock Holmes, so her intuition is almost always correct.  The main storyline is often sidelined by harem-comedy antics with bits of fanservice, and does not conclude after its 12 episode season.  As of now there are no plans for a second season, but there are fans out there, I included that have been hoping there will be at least one more season.  This show was far from perfect, but it was a fun ride with a decent helping of action and cute characters.

7.  C3  Cube x Cursed x Curious

C3 is about a boy named Yachi that receives an unusual package from his father, a heavy black cube.  This cube turns into a cute girl named Fear, claiming to be a cursed tool from the inquisition era used as a torture device.  She now hopes to free herself of the curse of her past, however there are many who would hunt her down for her power or simply to destroy her for her terrible deeds of the past.

The fights between Fear and her enemies are the highlight of the show, as Fear shows her dark and sadistic side using her awesome weapons and powers to fight the enemies of Yachi, his friends, and herself.  Yachi also has several friends that come to his aid as the show moves along, including a girl that turns into a sword, and a female classmate that uses cursed tools to fight alongside of him.  This show features some very unique animation sequences, with many unusual and abstract art styles.  It is also a strange yet fun mixture of humor, action, drama, and fan-service all rolled up into one package.

6.  C- The Money of Soul and Possibility Control

C was so odd in concept that I couldn’t help but keep watching.  In C, people can be invited to the hidden realm known as the financial district, where someone can exchange their future potential for wealth.  The catch is, within the financial district members must make “deals” every so often to stay.  The “deal” is a battle between two members of the financial district (called entrepreneurs) and monster-like beings called Assets.  The winner can take the wealth of their opponent; however a loss can result in going “bankrupt”, where your future can fade away.

That’s right; they have decided to turn economics into a high stakes game of Pokémon.  The actions of the members of the financial district and the results of “deals” tend to have far reaching consequences, making major changes to the “real” world.  Losing a deal is devastating to someone when the return to the real world, where they see what truly happens when you have spent “your potential”.  The over the top asset fights and the mysteries behind the financial district and its effect on the real world kept me watching to the end, which was unfortunately abrupt at only 11 episodes.  The ending came in felling a little rushed, but it did at least draw to a conclusion.

5.  Mirai Nikki (Future Diary)

Mirai Nikki is about a student named Yuki that keeps to himself and withdraws into an imaginary world where he talks to the god of time and space, “Deus Ex Machina”.  Yuki uses his cellphone to keep a diary of his daily life, until one day Deus changes his phone to predict the future, and finds that Deus and his realm are real.  This gets even more complicated when he finds that Deus has entered him into a survival game with eleven other players, each one with a diary that has similar yet unique abilities.  The players of the game must use the diaries to predict the moves of their opponents to eliminate them or avoid being eliminated.  The sole survivor of the game will be rewarded by taking the place of Deus as the ruler of time and space.

This show is made even more interesting by Yuno, a girl that has been stalking Yuki and is also a contestant in the survival game.  Yuno is a frightening example of what the Japanese call a “yandere” character, or a character that is loving and obsessive in an extreme, often destructive and unhealthy manner.  Yuno has devoted herself to helping Yuki survive the game no matter what, and will go to any length to do so.  The murderous insanity and obsession of Yuno alone will keep most viewers watching, if anything just to see what crazy shit she will do next.  As of the writing of this article, this show is a little over halfway done, and is running into the winter of 2012.

4.  Kore wa Zombie Desu ka  (Is This a Zombie?)

          

 This show is about a zombie, a pink chainsaw-wielding magical girl, a necromancer, a vampire ninja, cross dressing, demons, a Dyson fan, and magical ninja soup.  This show takes every anime cliché in the book and mashes it up into comedy.  Not since Excel Saga have I laughed at an anime show so much.  Every episode seems to get even crazier than the last, and they even manage to squeeze a story in there.  That was strangest element of this show–its almost parody-like humor would sometimes step back for a bit for a somewhat dark storyline, and that seemed to make the show that much more addictive.  The humor/serious story mix is a bit much for some viewers, but I couldn’t resist the wackiness this show delivers along its storyline.  This was yet another show that pretty much “ends” at 11 episodes, however there were 12 episodes that originally aired and well as a 13th episode that was added with the Japanese dvds.  Both episodes felt to be more filler and fan-service grade material, but they are there nonetheless.  A second season is lined up for April 2012, so there will be even more craziness to look forward to next year.

3.  Guilty Crown

I can’t resist a good sci-fi anime.  Guilty Crown is the big “risk-taker” of the winter season, as it is an original show with a fairly high-budget production.  Guilty Crown takes place 2039 Japan, 10 years after an incident known as “Lost Christmas” caused an outbreak of a deadly disease known as the apocalypse virus.  Japan is ruled by an international organization known as the GHQ, a military force placed in charge of Japan to prevent the spread of the apocalypse virus.  Naturally, there are those who aren’t happy about this, and so a rebel group known as the “Funeral Parlor” has risen up against them.

The awesome action really starts when a socially-awkward high school student named Shu Ouma gets mixed up in a fight between the two forces and is infected with a genetic weapon that gives him “the power of kings” also known as the genome void.  With this ability Shu can pull weapons and tools from the chests of certain people.  These items are known as “voids”, and represent part of the personality of the person they are extracted from.  These tools vary wildly from person to person, and have amazing effects.  This show is action-packed and full of mystery and intrigue, and I want to watch more and more with every episode.   Guilty Crown was one of my contenders for number one this year, and one of the reasons it isn’t is simply because it hasn’t ended yet, also and there have been some incredible shows this year. It continues on for a second season in winter 2012, and until then I’m stuck with lots of questions to be answered.

2.  Puella Magi Madoka Magica

This anime was one of this year’s biggest hits.  It was a top contender for this year in many rankings, and usually dominates without question.  I had a tough time deciding whether or not this should be my number one pick of the year, and if I could have two number one spots this one would be in there. However my personal taste put this one at number two, but keep in mind this show is so close the difference is trivial.  When this show was airing I had no clue why everyone could not stop talking about it.  Every picture I saw looked like nothing more than a magical girl show for kids.  It was a tough sell, but I eventually gave into peer pressure and watched it.

My mind was blown away.  What appears to be this saccharin sweet magical girl show turns out to be a dark tale of conflict, deception, and despair– while features the cutest, most heartless, purely evil villain in all of anime.  In Madoka Magica, the adorable cat/rabbit like creature called Kyubey approaches teenage girls with an irresistible proposition- he will grant them a wish, in exchange for becoming a magical girl in the duty of fighting witches, dark beings that normal people cannot see, yet are a cause of unusual suicides and murders.  However, even this noble task is more than what it seems, and the deals made with Kyubey come with many hidden costs.

The story is filled with major plot twists and revelations, and gets epic enough to where many fans have said this show is the “Evangelion” of our time.  As a matter of fact, Hideaki Anno, the creator of Evangelion himself has publicly praised this series.  I was shocked by how much I fell in love with this show.  The amazing and unique animation, flashy fight sequences, and riveting storyline will hook any anime fan, and has been given acclaim by both critics and fans around the world.  As an added bonus, the soundtrack to this show was done by Yuki Kajura, the amazingly talented composer behind  the music of the anime series Noir and one of my favorite all time video games, Xenosaga episode 3.  The show draws to an incredible conclusion at 12 episodes, however 3 movies have been announced.

1.  Steins;Gate 

I have the only “top anime of 2011” list that does not have Madoka Magica as the top listing, and trust me, even though it was a tough call, this show was my personal favorite.  This show is about a group of friends that discover a method to use cell phones to send e-mails to the past, or as they call them, d-mails (short for Delorean Mail).  The first half of the show consists of the antics and misadventures the group has experimenting with the d-mails, however the latter half of the show has the group of friends realizing that their actions not only have dire consequences, but that also there are those in the world that are not pleased with their actions.

This show has an oddball cast of interesting and amusing characters that grow on the viewer, and deals a lot with internet and otaku culture.  The series itself seems very slow to start, but trust me, after a few episodes almost any sci-fi anime fan will get hooked by curiosity alone, and once things get moving viewers will be holding on to the edge of their seats.  This show concludes at 24 episodes, however there is a movie coming soon that will further expand upon the ending.

Spoony Bard Podcast: Episode 37: This One’s About Anime, Deal with It

Stark and I recorded a podcast.  It is long.  I knew that something was awry when Stark started the pre-cast conversation by referring to what we were about to do as “the podcast of his dreams”.   Something else seemed to be up as he seemingly had nothing to say in that prep conversation, and even told me that he brought notes.  For someone that I have struggled to get an hour long “podcast friendly” conversation out of, he came to play.  Try as I might I could not shake him from talking about anime.  If you are looking for an expert on the subject, I think that we found ourselves one.

You guys wanted to hear about anime, and we did that for you.  From our introduction in middle/high school all the way to current, we talk about everything noteworthy about our lives and anime.

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