At last! And I can even blame my lateness on BRS, who only just aired.
What are brainmarks? FAQ follows for those who need it:
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Not everyone seems to agree, but as far as I can tell Winter is a fairly lacklustre season, coming in the wake of a comparatively awesome Fall. Still, that doesn’t quite mean that there is nothing worth watching, and as usual we’re here to do a little ranked enumeration of the noteworthy stuff.
7 brainmarks this season! Hit the jump and we’re off!
Brainmark #7: Papa no Iukoto wo Kikinasai!
Barely making it into the brainmarks list is a show that I was sure I was going to drop after a maximum of two episodes. The title, the premise, and the way the entire show packages itself in general is just repulsive – and in fact shortchanges the show by making it appear like a ridiculous excuse to unleash ungracious amounts of lolis in baths. Surprisingly enough, this doesn’t quite seem to be the case. The concluding moments of episode two surprised me with a resolute break-away from the carefree and comedic mood that until then seemed poised to envelop the show. While the light mood swiftly returned, the show does show some evidence of knowing what it’s doing, and exhibits some fairly promising efforts to leverage the shadows of the tragic event to explore familial themes. It is of course hardly above laundering some fanservice, but it does so as an on-the-side, as fanservice should always be. Beyond that, it commendably spends its simple writing in an apparently genuine attempt to flesh out the challenges of the sisters coping with loss and with having to live in a tiny apartment with a college boy, working out some decent sisterly interaction dynamics along the way. That the sisters don’t appear to be blood related and are in different age groups makes an interesting bonus touch. Basically, what I expected to be a terribad loliservice comedy turned out to be something more along the lines of a poorer man’s Usagi Drop.
Of course, all things said above aside, don’t go into this expecting Usagi Drop tier stuff. It seems a decent enough show, but at this point I think it still straddles equal chances of decending into shit and ascending into something memorable. But brainmarks are about potential interestingness, and so I think this deserved a spot. I should probably also mention that Hina is really cute and deadpan hot senpai is pretty funny, and that I probably owed deciding to watch episode 2 to both of them. I’m glad I did though. Yo yo yo.
Brainmark #6: InuxBoku SS
I don’t really know why, but I feel compelled to laugh hysterically whenever Nakamura Yuichi does his fabulous kira-kira pretty boy puppy-eyed routine on screen. It is a fun show in terms of voice acting, with Hanazawa Kana doing her deadpan loli, Hidaka Rina doing a pretty convincing Tamura Yukari impression (yeah I mistook the former for the latter), and Hikasa Youko going to town with a pervert routine that would’ve made Sawa-chan sensei inordinately proud. But of course, that isn’t all this show is about. The show has demonstrated in its first three episodes a precarious deftness in spotlighting and developing their main characters and fleshing out a non-novel but serviceable story without missing a beat of its comedic entertainment value. However, while I have little doubts with regards to the humor part of the show, the drama part feels a little like it’s standing on edge at the moment. It employs a dangerous cocktail of strawman villains and manifactured scenarios that thus far fell just short of looking too contrived and forced – saved, in fact, mostly by very timely comedic interventions as well as some relatively good directing and pacing.
I’m pretty happy with what I’ve seen so far. Questionable methods aside, the portrayal of Ririchiyou’s character was pretty well handled, in between the flashy demonic powers, the chibi humor scenes, and the Nakamura Yuichi fabulousness, the show manages to create a compelling image of the kind of life Ririchiyou has had, the things she still struggles with, the things she desires, and the significance of Miketsukami’s entry into her life like a wedge. It’s a little hard to guess where the show plans to go from here though. Dog boy and how he came to be so obsessed with his mistress would probably come eventually. The side characters are fun and the main characters remain interesting for now, but like PapaKiki, this can go in either direction from here. In my opinion, this show would live or die on its ability to keep its key characters alive and identifiable.
Brainmark #5: The Daily Lives of High School Boys
Actually, let’s just call it DanshiNichijou – the english title is just too gay. Probably one of the biggest surprises of the season, DanshiNichijou went the distance, shattered the Kimi to Boku stereotype and convincingly chalked up on the idea that you could do slice-of-life comedies using a bunch of dumb guys instead of cute girls – all the while trampling all over my certainty that I was gonna drop this after the first ep. I wouldn’t have believed I would enjoy a Sunrise show about a bunch of guys in a slice-of-life plotless comedy myself, but this thing is pretty hilarious. The production values are shit, but… this thing is pretty hilarious. There is zero fanservice, zero serious theme explorations, zero plot, zero plot devices other than a typical high school setting, but this thing… is pretty damn hilarious. I hear the Gintama director directs this, and it certainly does emit similar vibes, especially with Tomokazu Sugita just rockin out as witty-glasses-guy-whose-name-I-cannot-remember. Really, who needs names in a brainless comedy anyway. Also..
:3 Did I mention that I’m loving Hikasa Youko’s roles this season? Fortunately DanshiNichijou isn’t as devoid of girls as K-ON was devoid of guys. There’s even a little “Joushi Koukosei wa Hijou” parody corner featuring girls doing dumb stuff. And that thing is, well, pretty hilarious. You get the drift.
Brainmark #4: Ano Natsu de Matteru
Haruka Tomatsu playing the lead already more or less guaranteed my viewership, but NatsuMachi is surprisingly strong, especially for a JC Staff show. Winter has been a very mid-tier season, with most shows deciding not to wrestle more intricate and ambitious plots and ideas and preferring instead to work their way through more regular and failsafe premises. So it comes down to a battle of execution among the throng of mid-tier shows, and at the present vanguard is NatsuMachi. It’s been exceedingly enjoyable thus far. The production values are wonderful, the art and stylistics are beautiful and effective, the animation is fluid and convincing. JC has really got the packaging down with this one. And while the story hardly breaks any new ground, there is a lot of attention to detail that makes everything feel interesting and engaging. The look and feel and the personalities of the characters are well designed and mesh well together, the alien technology (and cute mascot!) aspects of the show aren’t taken too seriously but are deftly balanced in a plot-supporting role, and the outrageous, hilarious delusions that are running amok all over the show are just a really fun way to inject spice into an otherwise relatively boring standard male lead. I also like how the show takes pauses from the current ongoing story to linger on the side characters and their feelings – seemingly hinting and promising that each character would eventually get swirled into the main story in a significant way. I’m actually getting some Toradora vibes from this, and I won’t be surprised if the show gear-shifts away from light-hearted comedy somewhere in the middle to adopt a more drama-heavy mood. This is clearly JC’s A-team working, and I think that A-team can handle it, so I’m not too worried.
Some asides: I gotta say that while Tomatsu’s uncharacteristic voice work as Ichika is pretty intriguing, you gotta love Yukari Tamura’s Lemon. Really liked the ED too. Also, haremette quality is pretty.. lofty in this show. Good stuff. Ufufufu~
Brainmark #3: Another
This looked like one of the most interesting shows from the season previews, and sure enough. PA Works handles the horror-tinged storytelling pretty well, and their amazing track-record with intricate background art really shines through here. Visually, Another is stunning, and the sound direction also holds its own to create an exceedingly atmospheric and immersive stage for the plot to be presented. Despite all the external trappings of the show, I don’t quite consider Another to be a horror show, at least from the first three episodes. While PA goes out on a limb to keep an uneasy and creepy key keening through the whole experience, the primary objective of the show does not appear to be to scare you and spook you out, but to actually tell a story, and that goes a long way towards making Another appealing to a vehement hater of the horror genre like myself. Still, I feel like the primary chink in Another’s armor is its characters, who generally look good, but so far seem pretty shallow and uninteresting (to say nothing of being a bunch of long-faced grandfathers). Misaki herself though could be an exception. In particular, the image of the girl in the red dress facing the sunshine at the final moment of the ED intrigues me. That’s always a good thing.
And what a nice ED it is, I might add.
Brainmark #2: Black Rock Shooter
Brainmark number two seems to be something of a cursed position on this list, with the two previous number twos turning out to be less than what I’d hoped. And lo and behold, I have here the wildcard of the season. Frankly, I think it’s a testimony to the relative low quality of this season that BRS is here at number two. It also means of course that, after stuttering through a relatively lacklustre OVA, BRS manages to open it’s TV debut with something of a bang. Episode one was interesting and captivating, there is little doubt of that. Coming from someone who knows little about the history of Black Rock Shooter, and who skipped by the OVA, episode one is an arms-exhibit of potential, but with little to guarantee them. The surreal artistic elements are very cool, and the more-than-meets-the-eye storytelling works decently for now. This stylistic “otherworld” that seems to act like a reflection of the “real world” is also pretty neat, and opens the stage for a lot of smart and stylistic storytelling and character portrayal. Potential is definitely there in spades, Ordet just needs to put their backs into this and live up to it.
Also, I haven’t heard the Black Rock Shooter song in awhile. It’s pretty nice. It feels like Supercell made somewhat more interesting music before going mainstream, though they’re still pretty good now.
Brainmark #1: Nisemonogatari
Was there ever any doubt? Towering Chuck Norris style head and shoulders above everything else is Nisemonogatari. Nothing probably needs to be said to justify the number one spot, but if you insist on having something to go by, take a look at my overenthusiastic fanboy-ish post on episode one. Long story short, this show is amazing. Go forth and watch the heck out of it.
Honorable Mention: Kill Me Baby
Terrible production values, even-worse OP, generally uninspired setting… pretty darn funny jokes. Surprisingly fun stuff.
Honorable Mention: Rinne no Lagrange
Another decently executed mid-tier show with some nice stylistics and passable themes. Some people appear to be singing its praises, but I don’t see any spark too special in it.
Honorable Mention: Poyopoyo Kansatsu Nikki
There’s… just something hypnotically captivating about round nekos @.@
(Dis)Honorable Mention: Aquarion EVOL
Shockingly great production values, shockingly bad writing, shockingly ridiculous setting. I suppose this clears it off the mid-tier category, but whether for the better or the worse probably depends on you. Me, I think I’ve used up all my tolerance for stuff like this trying not to drop Guilty Crown, so it’s thanks but no thanks. There are those who say it is “so bad it’s good”, though, so if that floats your boat…