I'm taking a third semester Japanese language class at the moment so I thought this would be a good time to catch up with the world of anime. I watched the first episodes of several recent series, mostly from the current 2017 fall season, and was pleased to find a few shows I didn't hate and two I actually liked.
Released in the U.S. under the cumbersome title March Comes in Like a Lion, the title is more accurately translated The Lion of March, this series focuses on a shy professional shogi player named Rei Kiriyama (Kengo Kawanishi). Coming from Studio Shaft, this series began last year. Having only watched the first episode, I can say I don't hate it. There's a too precious feeling in shots of Rei on the train accompanied by delicate piano but the visual design is gorgeous, exhibiting a strong Impressionist influence, and the character design is good.
With a title seemingly designed to attract Code Geass fans, this is a rare bird, being a josei series (aimed at women) based on a video game. It's funny how often series aimed at girls and women seemed like series aimed at boys and men but with all the genders swapped--this one could even be called a harem anime with a selection of attractive stock male characters--a wild guy, a stuffy scientist, a sincere bodyguard--all in love with a central female character named Cardia Beckford (Saori Hayami). Like many female protagonists of such series, she seems to have no personality but is possessed of moral purity, hidden magical power, and is at the centre of a grand destiny. In this case, the show has the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen style premise mixed in as the guys happen to be Arsene Lupin (the original literary character of no relation to the hugely successful anime character), Abraham Van Helsing, and Victor Frankenstein. Based on one episode, the show is fun if not remarkable with an average visual style apart from the lovely, complicated character designs likely inherited from the video game.
This series from JC Staff looked a lot better before I saw the first episode. The intriguing premise of a civilisation living on a floating island turned out to be a pretty generic looking Hayao Miyazaki knock-off with flat characters. Everyone on the island conforms to a system, they have magic powers, one boy starts to rebel after meeting someone from another island, etc. The visual style looks good sometimes but corners cut with computers start to show through with too clearly repeating patterns of artificial grain.
Now this series, also from JC Staff, is a lot of fun. Sort of like Eat Drink Man Woman on a sugar high, it's the story about a young cook (Yoshitsugu Matsuoka) who aspires to become a great chef. The comedy here is in how much this is played up into a broad action adventure. Gratuitous flames and winds of fate accompany the adding of oil or herbs and successful dishes provoke orgasm in the tasters. The recipes the characters come up with are surprisingly detailed, a dish at the climax of the first episode involving potatoes wrapped in bacon is put through a complicated cooking process to allow the juices from the bacon to soak into the potatoes in a particular way, something that makes the show intriguing and even funnier.
By far my favourite so far, I'm actually all caught up on this one, the newest episode, seven, having aired a couple days ago. From Production I.G., the visuals on this show are all top notch--character design, animation, and especially the gorgeous backgrounds. The story, too, is refreshingly weird, being a sort of Beauty and the Beast tale of a Japanese girl named Chise (Atsumi Tanezaki) who becomes the apprentise and prospective bride of a strange humanoid with an animal skull head named Elias Ainsworth (Ryota Takeuchi). Set in England, the story reflects a real love for western fairy tales and gothic horror with episodes involving tragic murder. The fourth episode introduces H.P. Lovecraft's town of Ulthar where cats are revered. The cats, like all animals on this show, are extraordinarily well animated and have beautiful, distinct designs. In Ulthar, Chise uncovers a ghost story about a man who murdered cats in an effort to prolong the life of his dying wife. With the ongoing story of Chise and Elias' strange relationship, the episodes feature them encountering shorter problems often involving murky and provoking morality which reflects the relationship between the two protagonists themselves. This is one I will very happily continue to watch.
Twitter Sonnet #1056
Across the thinnest ice a lantern glows.
A passing song reports in vivid clouds.
Behind the morning veils are tender rows.
Ideas of post repair 'neath soil shrouds.
The fading bulbs suspend above the bowl.
A gleam implies inverted worlds of food.
In tightened scribbles notes become a whole.
The story tells no plot but lots of mood.
Remembered pens amend the threaded shape.
The growing skull resumes a fractured height.
In faded chalk the marks direct the ape.
A mall repels the shopper's pastry light.
A glass contrived of flaked croissant illumes
The work of solemn breakfast breading looms.