I don’t have particularly long things to say about what’s on this season, but I do have some short things to say, so here goes.
Jojo no Kimyou na Bouken: Stardust Crusaders
This is the hottest thing on the Japanese tube at the moment. I got on series one’s case for being kind of cheap and ugly looking, and it didn’t help that the earlier arcs of the manga didn’t really live up to all the Jojo’s talk that’s built up over the years (part two ain’t bad, though.) This new series, however, is on fire. The production values are impeccable, accurately reproducing Araki’s style and bringing it to life with imaginative battle sequences and slick cinematic presentation. I never got people’s obsession with the first series’ music, but this show’s soundtrack fits perfectly, boasting some right-on-the-money leitmotifs, and all the bombast of a Hollywood soundtrack mixed with some that “anime sound” to remind you that you’re watching a Japanese cartoon. I only fear for the animators drawing all those detailed designs–will this show be able to keep up the quality for the assumed over two-cour runtime?
I’m not one of those guys who’s obsessed with Yuasa Masaaki, but I do like his work, and I like Ping Pong. Episode one had a bit too much 3D CG, but subsequent episodes strike a more pleasant balance. The show is compellingly ugly, mixing Matsumoto Taiyou’s gritty aesthetic with Yuasa’s bold cartoon expression. The show’s also pretty cheap, but it fits with the show’s rough aesthetic, and it looks good where it counts. The story is obviously less about some kind of shounen manga sports arc and more about the characters, who are all really interesting. Everyone stands out as a distinct individual with realistically quirky personalities, such as veteran teacher Koizumi’s habit of speaking English for no reason, or Chinese exchange student Wange’s strict devotion to his game and harsh evaluation of others. The main pair, Smile and Peco, perfectly capture a picture of two best friends who couldn’t be more different, and their interactions and personalities are incredibly well crafted and familiar.
Also, that opening rules.
I’ve been giving SHAFT the cold shoulder lately. Sasami was garbage, and I didn’t even bother with a single episode of Nisekoi. I wasn’t going to touch Mekaku-shi Actors either, as I distinctly remember kids at the school I used to work at reading the Kagero Project novels the show is based on (with the novels based on a series of Vocaloid songs), and I figured myself too good for something aimed at teenagers. However, I realized I basically have the mind of a 15-year-old myself, and actually don’t hate Mekaku-shi Actors. Don’t get me wrong though, it’s popcorn stuff. The characters all have very simple, easily amusing personalities and gimmicks, though some of them do get on my nerves. Also, given this is a huge show with a huge audience, it looks great, which I’m of two minds about. On the one hand, it’s great to see SHAFT’s slick style taken to its full intentional, but on the other hand, I wish this kind of time was taken on a better show. Monogatari Season 2 looked good some of the time, but it was unfortunately a lot of long shots of static characters moving nothing but their mouths.
The show isn’t a keeper, but it works. And, I do like everyone’s dead, tired eyes.
Dragon Ball Kai
Dragon Ball is a series that, at this point, commands two different levels of nostalgia in my mind. I of course watched THE DUB on Cartoon Network, caught some episodes raw on the International Channel, and watched fansubs of the movies with my friends years back. When I studied abroad in 2009, the first airing of Kai had just begun (I distinctly remember an elementary school kid singing the opening on his way home) and I was keen to take a dip in the nostalgia pool, especially given that the show was cut down so that every single rise of a finger or something similar didn’t take roughly ten episodes or more. The first Kai was a good edit of the original–some of the re-done animation looked hokey, but the new music was a decent enough facsimile of the original. It’s the opposite now–the staff seems to know better at this point not to mess with the original animation, but for some reason they decided to fuck up the music. I’d almost prefer Mr. Faulconer’s score to this one. Also, as with the last Kai, there is absolutely no need to change the opening and ending sequences. The new eye-catches are pretty bad too, like the one with Goku and Vegeta putting on fusion earrings, then immediately getting thrown towards each other, colliding at the crotch. Did it happen that way in the original? I’d really just like a version of Dragon Ball that kept all the good stuff from the original (background music, opening/ending animations, actual story stuff) and cut all the bad stuff (Super Saiyan Constipation).
I’m actually interested in seeing this outing until the end, because I never watched the original DBZ until the end when I was a kid. It gets old after a while, you know? And even though Kai is cut down, both this airing and the last one feel a little slow, so I can’t even imagine how slow the original must have been.
I watched the Manga-ka and Assistant show. This kind of stuff would have been funny if I was in college, but the show’s humor doesn’t really work on me anymore. I also caught Insufficient Direction, but it seems to be the kind of thing that can be consumed faster just by reading it, so I think I’ll do that eventually. I’m really interested in the new Mushishi, but I haven’t gotten around to it yet.
In the wake of Kill la Kill, this season does feel a little empty, but all the shows I have my eyes on now are still really good, so I’m satisfied.