Dispatches From Winter 2011: PART 4 (Kimi ni Todoke Season 2 and Wolverine)

Kimi ni Todoke Season 2

The second season of Kimi ni Todoke officially premiered with a recap episode.  I didn’t watch that since I actually watched the entirety of the first season when it was coming out, but for those unfamiliar with Production IG’s show (based on the manga by Karuho Shiina), let me break it down for you.

A shy and awkward female student named Sawako Kuronuma longs for friendship.  She has been misunderstood and feared her entire life due to her appearance, which resembles Sadako from The Ring (or The Ringu, for those of you who think speaking in Japanese phonetics for an English word will make it more Japanese).  Of course, despite her frightful appearance, she is incredibly cute underneath that hair and initially gloomy exterior somehow (of course), and through a series of events manages to catch the attention of the popular boy idol, Shota Kazehaya (ditto).  Along the way Sawako makes new friends and learns how to be less socially retarded.  But far more importantly, the show centers on the relationship between Kuronuma and Kazehaya, which teeters on “will-they-won’t-they” tension that will last for several episodes that ultimately leads nowhere.

And that’s pretty much how things stand.   In any case, the first actual episode of season two is a requisite Valentine’s Day excursion that also brings a seating change for the class, resulting in new neighbors for Sawako.  Will she able to make new friends?  Will she still be able to stay close to Kazehaya, despite him being on the other side of the class?  Wait, that shit don’t matter, she has to make chocolate for Valentine‘s Day!  But GOD MY OH, she made too many for Kazehaya!  And several of the pieces of chocolate have sprinkled hearts on them!  Will he accept them like that as is?  Will he recognize her feelings for him with these chocolates?  Will he recognize his own feelings?  BUT WAIT, other people are giving him chocolates too!  Other female students even!  GRANNY GOODNESS she’s much too shy to give them to him, will he-YEAH YOU GET THE IDEA.  It goes on like that for much of the episode, which is par for the course regarding the material in general.  However, that said, the end to the episode was a nice change of pace; it’s actually sort of painful to watch (their broken feelings are my sustenance).  The appearance of what appears to be a rival for Kuronuma’s affection will help get things moving as well.

Frustrating character (in)actions aside, the show continues to do what it did best in season one: keeping you hooked.  The voice acting in this show has always impressed me with its lively and nuanced performances in the first season, and that tradition still continues to my enjoyment.   The animation is also well done, though I can’t imagine Production IG having much trouble animating high school romance comedy dramas given how slick their other fare has turned out (well, aside from their “contribution” to Batman: Gotham Knight).

I had read about 20 or so chapters of the manga a couple of weeks before the debut of the first season.  Although I have yet to go back, I am interested in seeing how this will turn out and will keep watching, maybe even sneak some chapters in-between my weekly readings of GE – Good Ending and Kimi no Iru Machi. Between that, continuing with this series and having finished the likes of Suzuka, Ane Doki, Hatsukoi Limited, Kimagure Orange Road, Ichigo 100% (fuck that ending by the way, it was absolute bullshit) and Maison Ikkoku, I’ve come to realize I’m a gigantic romantic at heart.  Or a raging homosexual.


I’m also as much of a comics guy as I am an anime guy (as soon as I typed that out, I found myself depressed beyond words), so whenever the two worlds collide, it’s interesting to see what comes of it.  For every successful enterprise (Capcom’s work on their Marvel fighting games), there’s usually several disastrous results (the Marvel Mangaverse; DC’s Ame-comi figure line).  So when Madhouse announced it would be creating their own takes on certain Marvel comic book properties, I was interested.  Though they had worked on the impressive Planet Hulk, that was based on an existing comic and aimed for a Western audience.  But with the Marvel Anime project, Madhouse would be given the keys to interpret the Marvel heroes as they pleased.  Iron Man was first, and though I only gave it a glance, it still felt like it had many Western sensibilities, likely aided by the apparent lack of much tinkering with the character, design or origin (it’s basically Tony Stark visiting Japan and wacky antics ensue) and the writing handled by the imitable Warren Ellis.  Given that, I chose not to watch it, opting for the dub to become available; hearing Tony Stark talk about his AIAN MAN suit simply took the immersion out for me.

Wolverine has been through a lot.  The preview trailer that debuted at Comic Con 2009 was met with a very lukewarm reception, sometimes netting very hostile comments from comic book fans.  Logan was no longer a rough looking, short Canadian with huge, burgeoning muscles.  Here, he was a tall, lanky pretty boy with the most outrageous mullet ever conceived, sporting long fingernails that would put Lady Deathstrike to shame.  Other than the claws, there was little resemblance to the character created by Len Wein, and the western audience scoffed at it. The backlash had an effect though, as Madhouse redesigned Logan to look more like Hugh Jackman’s look in the live action films which works out much better.

Madhouse’s Wolverine is very much inspired by Frank Miller’s classic and brilliant run on Wolverine in the early 80s, where Logan found himself in Japan vying for the love of Mariko Yashida while fighting off her yakzua crime boss father Shingen.  That run pretty much cemented Logan as one of Marvel’s best characters (which gave Marvel a ticket to run him into the ground).  In this adaptation, both Mariko and Shingen figure into the plot here, as do other characters judging by the next episode preview.   The adaptation of that material also allows me to watch this in Japanese without any reservations, unlike AIAN MAN Iron Man.

The show opens with Logan and Mariko being all lovey-dovey before they’re attacked from the sea by guys in scuba gear who happen to have jetpacks.  Wouldn’t that shit get wet and stop working?  Anyway, fast forward a year later to New York, as we follow Asano, a cop and one of Wolverine’s old pals.   Before he and Wolverine can meet up, Asano is attacked by Advanced Idea Mechanics (AIM) thugs.  Of course, Logan saves him in a ridiculous Hollywood-esque action sequence that defies the laws of physics and gravity.

Asano has details on the whereabouts of Mariko, who went missing one day and hasn’t been seen for a year.  Naturally, Logan wants to find her, but is told by Asano that she is the daughter of yakuza crime lord Shingen Yashida, head of the Kuzuryu, the largest criminal organization in Japan.  The group has been helping AIM operate in Asia, but Asano has been unable to gather the evidence necessary to connect the two.  Not only that, but it turns out Mariko is set to wed another man, Kurohagi Hideki, by way of arranged marriage. Kurohagi Hideki owns a majority stake in a sovereign city-state shared by several criminal organizations based in Madripoor.  The arranged marriage would be beneficial to both Shingen and Kurohagi, bringing them even more influence, power and wealth.  The arranged marriage would effectively make them partners for good, so Mariko now finds herself locked against her will in Tokyo.  Naturally, Asano asks for Logan’s help in stopping the two powerhouses from joining forces; in return, Logan can reunite with his lost love.  Thus begins the journey, leading to Logan coming face to face with both Shingen and Mariko.

Let me say this: Asano is a shitty friend; doesn’t contact Logan for years and now not only does he want his help in bringing down Shingen but also drops the bombshell that Logan’s missing love is engaged!  All this in the hopes of coaxing Logan to help him out with this affair. Shady shit man.  That aside, Wolverine has a very good premise, with strong motivations for characters involved so far.  The production values are also fairly high and there’s some good action sequences, even if they sometimes border on ridiculous.  I also really dig the character designs; Logan’s look here fares much better compared to his initial unveiling, and Mariko looks beautiful, giving off a feeling of elegance that rivals Tomoe Yukishiro from Rurouni Kenshin.

I’m less enthused about some things, namely certain facets of Logan himself.  While Logan’s motivations are right on the money, the approach to the character is less so.  Madhouse has chosen to make Logan what the Japanese consider “cool”, which clashes with the character most people are familiar with.  And although I was keen on seeing how Madhouse would go about this, it’s a personality that just doesn’t quite fit.  It’s a little too dreamy, hunky and laid back for my tastes.  That’s coming from a guy who is mad homo for Hugh Jackman too.

Logan is also voiced by Rikiya Koyama, a good seiyuu.  However, his performance here also feeds into the sense of what the Japanese consider stylish and cool, and again it doesn’t feel quite right.  He’s missing the gruff that you come to expect from Logan, something that’s been present for some 20 years now due to performances from the likes of Cathal J. Dodd, Mark Hamill, Keith Szarabajka and Steve Blum.  Everybody else I had no problems with; Fumiko Orikasa and Hidekatsu Shibata give capable performances, and the very dependable Romi Paku shows up next week.

I’m hoping those hurdles regarding Logan can be overcome – whether those hurdles belong to either the show, myself, or both remains to be seen – as the first episode was a solid effort.  That’s more than can be said for Logan’s previous two live action films (here’s hoping Darren Aronofsky’s The Wolverine, also using this same storyline as the basis, will work).  I’ll be watching this one in the coming weeks.


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