The I-thought-would-be-awesome show that underperformed.
And the I-thought-would-suck show that kicked ass.
What can I say, it’s a weird feeling, but I was relieved that I sort of liked episode 2. Doing the lazy-blogger thing, I had read a lot of positive opinion on Soranowoto (wth is Woto?) before I actually hit the show. Maybe that was a bad idea after all, since I came into episode 1 with a lot of expectations. Long story short, episode 1 badly disappointed me. And man, did that bewilder me. I’ve had some time to digest the experience since, and after also giving episode 2 a careful go, I think I can finally come out and attempt to articulate why.
Long story short, I think the bane of this show is it’s apparently deliberate surface-similarity to K-ON. I mean look at the picture above! The art style of the characters, the way the damn eyes are drawn. I joked about it before watching, but it isn’t funny anymore – why is A-1 trying so hard to copy K-ON? I don’t like to think of myself as a K-ON apologist, but let’s face it. Inside of K-ON’s home genres (that’s slice of life and comedy), A-1 doesn’t have a speck of dust on KyoAni. Same goes for animation. Animation here meant literally – the way everything moved. Soranowoto looked amazing as long as things didn’t move, but when they do – especially the humans, things can get a little awkward and inconsistent. Which would normally be perfectly fine given that A-1 is a relatively new studio. But it kept on reminding me of K-ON!! (and the KyoAni folks, their shortcomings notwithstanding, are expert animators). There were just too many K-ON-esque things in episode one that I thought were rather pointless and that I think fell really short, and it really maddened me.
But fortunately it isn’t all bad. The mythical aspects of episode 1 (the revelation of the headless skeleton, the presentation of the festival performance), were quite well done. I also felt much better in episode 2 because Kureha felt so much less like Azusa than Kanata felt like Yui in episode 1. This show does have a good bit going for it. The music is good (even the OP/ED are not bad), the art is pretty, and episode 2 has persuaded me that the characters can develop a life of their own despite their uncanny similarity to that other shows cast. What it boils down to in my opinion is that this show really needs to create – and assert – it’s own identity. So yes, I’m with the folks who think Soranowoto should develop a proper plot.
And if I were a writer in A-1 out to win my own heart, I’d be doing whatever I can from now on to distance this show from K-ON. Like seriously.
PS. Speaking of K-ON, it was apparently Mio’s birthday two days ago.
Baka to Test to Shokanjuu
What an unimaginative title! And yet, watching the show, it captures the essences of this show brilliantly. It’s about an idiot. It’s about tests. It’s about summoned familiars. And no, it’s not about luxurious subtlety :)
So I watched Ladies vs Butlers 01 and wasted 25 minutes of mai laifu in addition to almost becoming dangerously suicidal (friends, don’t watch Ladies vs Butlers! Oh wait, if you want bewbs, then…). So I was extremely wary of a show that looked on the surface like this:
But oh were my fears unfounded! This show is a machine-gun of entertainment. There’s so much to like and be intrigued about! And the best part is the constantly overflowing energy of the show that keeps you breathlessly consuming all the ridiculous stuff they fling at you. First you get plunked into the middle of this ridiculous school system (that easily trumps Hayate’s Hakuo and the Host Club’s Ouran), and before you’re done digesting that you find that SUNOHARA is the main character, and while that is sinking in in walks math-whiz Louise, pro-wrestler Sohara and (puff wheeze!) Emiri Katou Shouta-kun. Next thing you know BAM! It’s war and people are summoning even chibi-er versions of their chibi-selves and your brain desperately registers that this show’s animation is pretty darn above-par even as it struggles to reconcile the fact that the summoned chibi are battling it out like Pokemons in a retro Gameboy system – using test scores for damage!
In some sense this show’s exposition is not unlike Seitokai no Ichizon last season – the strategy seems to be to overload your brain with shallow but delicious win and rely on the sheer ludicrity of the collective to make you laugh, shake your head, and go “Whoa!”. I’d say it’s really successful in terms of entertainment so far, though the natural next question would be what happens if and when it runs out of steam? Personally I’m not too worried. I asked the same question of Ichizon last season, but it turned out that Studio Deen is actually surprisingly capable in mellowing out the mood gracefully and smoothly transiting to a different kind of relish. I’m seeing traces of that ability surfacing in episode two with Yuuji and Shouko. Speaking of the two of them, I’m still a little fondly giddy remembering them haphazardly start off to a date at the end of ep2, so if how much a show’s characters affect you is a good measure of the quality of a show, then Baka to Test to Shokanjuu is definitely doing well so far.
(By the way, anyone else thinks Shouko sounds a lot like Kawasumi Mai?
Regarding the rest of the season as a whole though, it still doesn’t look too great to me. BakaTest could probably count as the Nyankoi/Ichizon of winter seaon, but the only show so far that is hitting me the way Darker than Black 2 and Railgun hit me last season is Durara(rararararara). I guess it’s still too early to be drawing conclusions though.
Oh, and I cannot resist adding, SUGARY CARBS Kindergarten pwns all. Hard. Go watch it nao.
EDIT: BakaTest isn’t by Studio Deen and I don’t know what possessed me to think that it was. Kindly pardon my stupidity :(