Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Winter 2011 Anime Season

It's that time of the year again! ^_^ This time I'm listing everything in one post. The selection this coming season appears to be moe, moe, and moe, with a dash of shounen fantasy, a palate-pleasing sprinkle of shoujo, a dollop of American comic action, and some harem for both ladies and gents, with a serving of gender-bending on the side. Bon appétit.

Beezlebub: Based on an ongoing Weekly Shounen Jump manga, ""Strongest juvenile delinquent" Oga Tatsumi, in the most random events, finds himself with the infant son of the Great Demon King and threat to humankind, Beelzebub. After being "greeted" by the baby's maid and caretaker, Hilda, it become obvious that Beelzebub doesn't want to leave Oga's side. With his close friend Furuichi and a bunch of other characters on hand, Oga now must raise baby Beel and prevent the world from destruction."

Tried the manga. It read like a mediocre cross between Yuu Yuu Hakusho and Daa Daa Daa! Pass for me.

Premiering January 9.

Sawashiro Miyuki, Toyosaki Aki, Tomatsu Haruka, and Noto Mamiko (squee!) have roles.

Cardfight!! Vanguard: Another show about kids fighting each other with cards and monsters, and sheer guts, no doubt. (I would say that this'll keep the kids happy, but I was that weird kid who never liked Pokémon, Digimon, or Yu-Gi-Oh when they were popular in the U.S.) A promo is streaming here.

Premiering January 8.

Dragon Crisis!: A light novel adaptation in which "a high school boy named Ryūji is dragged by his cousin Eriko to rescue a girl from black-market dealers. The blue-eyed "girl" turns out to be a dragon who is inexplicably fixated on Ryūji — following him even when he is bathing and sleeping. Ryūji has to protect the girl from the black-market dealers and others."

I dare you to watch the PV and tell me that the little dragon girl doesn't irritate the crap out of you.

Premiering sometime in January. (The date hasn't been announced.)

Kugimiya Rie and Horie Yui have roles.

Fractale: "The story is set on an island at the far reaches of a continent where the "Fractale System" is on the brink of collapse. A boy named Kurain embarks on a journey to search for Furyune — a girl who disappeared, leaving behind only a pendant. Kurain will eventually learn the secrets of the "System.""

It's a Noitamina show, so I'm automatically checking it out. It could be interesting.

 Premiering January 13.

Kobayashi Yuu and Hanazawa Kana have roles.

Freezing: "Beings from another dimension, called "Nova" have started a war with Earth. In response, "Genetics Academy" trains female warriors called "Pandora", who can create special weapons and armours to fight against the Nova. Kazuya Aoi enrols, due to a promise he made with his sister, a famous Pandora who died in battle, and meets Bridgette L. Satellizer, infamous for her solitary demanour, and becomes her "tuner", an assistant who nullifies Novas' psychic attacks."

We've seen this story before. And I have never liked it. A PV is streaming here. (Click "2" for the animation trailer.

Premiering January 8.

Hanazawa Kana, Noto Mamiko, Koshimizu Ami, Ueda Kana, Inoue Marina, Kitamura Eri, Kaida Yuko, and Asakawa Yuu have roles.

Gosick: Based on another novel series "set in 1924 in the small Alpine country of Sauville, where Kazuya Kujo studies abroad at the Saint Marguerite Academy. Kazuya joins forces with Victorique, a girl with deductive powers that rival Sherlock Holmes', to solve mysteries."

I like the 1920's fantasy setting, but nothing else looks interesting. A PV is available here.

Premiering January 7.

Sawashiro Miyuki has a role.

Haiyoru! Nyaruani: Remember My Mr. Lovecraft: Another light novel adaptation. "The story centers around Nyarlathotep, a formless Cthulhu deity who can take on the shape of anyone it wishes, but particularly the shape of a seemingly ordinary silver-haired girl. Mahiro Yasaka is a normal high school student who is chased by aliens one night, until "Nyaruko" saves him."

H.P. Lovecraft must be rolling in his grave right now.

Premiering December 10.

Kitamura Eri has a role.

Hourou Musuko: Yay, Hourou Musuko! Hopefully I don't need to say why this show is worth looking forward to. ^___^ Promos are streaming here. (The art is puuurty.) HM is airing on the Noitamina block.

Premiering January 13.

Nitori and Takatsuki are being played by newcomers Hotokeyama Kosuke and Seto Asami, respectively, while Toyosakai Aki, Mizuki Nana, Chiba Saeko, and Horie Yui have supporting roles.

Infinite Stratos: A light novel adaptation. "Infinite Stratos (IS), a weaponized exoskeleton system, has become the dominant tool of warfare and conflict. Unfortunately for the men in society, only women are able to operate Infinite Stratos... with very few exceptions. One of those exceptions is ORIMURA Ichika, an orphan raised by his older sister who is herself a famous IS pilot. When his compatibility with IS is discovered after he accidentally touches an IS at the age of 15, he's given a scholarship and enrolled in a school that specializes in training IS pilots. Which of course means an... intersting life surrounded by girls for this shy, unassuming boy."

You already know whether or not you want to watch it. (Guess which camp I'm in!) PVs are available here.

Premiering sometime in January.

Hikasa Youko,  Hanazawa Kana, Inoue Marina, Toyoguchi Megumi (kyaa!), Shitaya Noriko, and Tamura Yukari have roles.

Kimi ni Todoke season 2: Yay!! ^^ More epic adorableness from Shiina Karuho's Kimi ni Todoke! For anyone who isn't familiar with it: Kuronuma Sawako is a sweet, shy girl with poor social skills who resembles Sadako from The Ring, so her classmates nickname her "Sadako"and generally ignore her. Kazehaya Shouta, the equally sweet guy in her class who she has a crush on, makes friends with her, which causes her classmates to reconsider their first impression of her. She also becomes best friends with Yoshida Chizuru and Yano Ayane (who are both great supporting characters, btw; one thing I like about KnT is how well it develops Sawako's friendship with Yano and Yoshida, in addition to her budding relationship with Kazehaya), and generally makes people like her just by being a nice person. Definitely worth watching.

Premiering January 4.

Noto Mamiko is playing Sawako, and Hirano Aya, Miyano Mamoru, and Sawashiro Miyuki have roles.

Kore ha Zombie desu ka?: Based on a light novel series, "The story centers around a lazy high school boy named Ayumu Aikawa who gets killed during a spate of mysterious serial killings. However, Ayumu is resurrected as a zombie by a necromancer girl named "Yū" (Eucliwood Hellscythe), who Ayumu had just met before dying. Ayumu reawakens in a world surrounded by "masō shojo" (magically equipped girls) and vampire ninja. Ayumu is assigned the duties of a masō shōjo by a magical warrior girl named Haruna."

So it's kind of like High School of the Dead, except that there's magic and vampire ninjas, and the female characters look like moe waifs instead of Playmates. Pass for me. PV streaming here.

Premiering January 10.

Hikasa Youko has a role.

Level E: Based on an ongoing Weekly Shounen Jump manga by Yoshihiro Tatsumi, of Yuu Yuu Hakusho and Hunter x Hunter fame, "Tsutsui Yukitaka is a freshman who has finally convinced his parents that he is ready to live on his own. When he arrives at his new apartment, he is surprised to find that someone has arrived before him; A young man who claims that he is an alien and that he is suffering from amnesia. A series of short stories involving aliens on Earth."

The promo art looks pretty trippy. I'll probably check out the first episode.

Premiering January 14.

Koyasu Takehito has a role.

Mahou Shoujou Madoka Magica: A seinen magical girl show by SHAFT and Shinbo Akiyuki starring a middle school girl who wants to grant wishes, with original character designs by Hidamari Sketch's Aoki Ume, and music by Kajiura Yuki. If you care, clips of the four leads talking are on the website.

Madoka will have splendid figurine, soundtrack, and DVD sales, no doubt. My reaction is "meh."

Premiering sometime in January.

Saito Chiwa, Kitamuri Eri, and Mizuhashi Kaori have roles.

Update: New PV featuring the OP and ED themes now streaming.

Mai no Mahou to Katei no Hi: A series by P.A. Works that is, "designed to raise public awareness about the importance of family bonds.""In the story, eight-year-old second-grader Mai Tatsumi uses magic to understand her family's feelings. Moeko Shimizu created the original concept with "Getsuyōbi wa 'Katei no Hi'" (Monday is "Family Day"), the winning entry in a writing contest she entered in 2005 when she was a fourth-grader." "In addition to the planned broadcasts, 2,000 DVDs will be distributed to nurseries, kindergartens, elementary schools, and middle schools. The anime will also be streamed on the Internet via YouTube for free."

Because of this show's unusual promotion and distribution alone, I'll try it. It looks like a pleasant show.

 Premiering sometime in February.

Maria Holic season 2: Someone once explained the appeal of this series for himself to me as, "It's about this big dumb lesbian getting beat up." I'm not exaggerating that quote at all.

Mitsudomoe Zouryouchuu!: The 8 episode second season of a series about gutter-minded little girls that idiots compare to South Park. If you love gags about being kicked in the crotch and naming a hamster "Nipples", you're probably already into this show. PVs can be found here.

Premiering sometime in January.

Takagaki Ayahi, Tomatsu Haruka, Toyosaki Aki, Saito Chiwa, Chihara Minori, and Inoue Kikuko have been roped in.

Rio -Rainbow Gate!-: Rio is the main character of several pachinko games and now she's getting a TV series. Umm...that's it.

A PV is streaming here.

Premiering January 4.

Inoue Marina, Taketatsu Ayana, Shimizu Kaori, Ohara Sayaka, and Hikasa Youko have roles.

Starry Sky: An adaptation of an otome game series. "Tsukiko Yahisa is the first female student to enroll at Seigatsu Academy, a former [garden of bara] all-boys school specializing in astronomy. She is closely watched over by her childhood friends, Kanata Nanami and Suzuya Tohzuki, who often protect her from the male student body. Throughout the games, she befriends other young men whose personalities are based on the Western zodiac constellations."

This will please its intended audience.

Premiering December 23.

Ishida Akira, Ono Daisuke, Orikasa Fumiko, Midorikawa Hikaru, Kamiya Hiroshi, Fukuyama Jun, Miyano Mamoru, Kishio Daisuke, and Sugita Tomokazu have roles.

Suite Precure: The eighth Precure series. Toei hasn't revealed what (or who) it's about. Heartcatch has been fun, so I'm interested.

Premiering February 6.

Wolverine: Madhouse's next Marvel TV adaptation. The Iron Man series wasn't good, so I don't have high expectations for this one. PV streaming here.

Premiering January 7.

Yumekui Merry: "The action fantasy revolves around a high school boy named Yumeji Fujiwara who has the mysterious power to see other people's dreams or nightmares. One day, he meets Merry, a beautiful girl [the elfin-looking purple-haired thing above] who came from the world of dreams."

Pass for me. A PV is streaming here.

Premiering sometime in January.

Endo Aya has a role.

And that's it. ^_^

This will be my last post here until December 23. After finishing up finals, I'm dragging myself home on the 21st and spending the 22nd screwing around at City Place and attending the Nutcracker with a friend. (Which she and I do every year.) Until this blog revives in a burst of flame from the ashes of the next 3 weeks, thanks a lot for your patience! 3 weeks until winter break!!! XD

Sunday, November 28, 2010

More on Upcoming Yuri Anime (Updated w/ clarification)

Looks like a certain yuri alien series that nobody was all that excited about anyway is getting a limited edition 6 minute anime bundled with its third manga volume. Since the anime adaptation announcement didn't specify that it's going to be a TV series, I guess that this is it.

In an interesting casting decision, Naoko-san, the "strange alien from Yuri-sei (Yuri Planet) who loves yuri, eroticism, and girls", is being played by Arai Satomi, best known for voicing Railgun's Kuroko.

More screencaps are available here (credit goes to darkchibi07 for finding it) and Yurizuki has a page describing the manga. It really looks like a piece of crap. ^^

For something much, much better of yuri interest to look forward to-
Hourou Musuko!! For folks who don't know, Nitori (the protagonist in the middle of the pic above, an introverted transgender girl) dates a model named Anna later on in the manga- and Anna agrees to go on a date with her when she's dressed as a girl. (Be forewarned that the relationship doesn't last, but the series is still running and Shimura knows what she's doing.) Nitori gets a crush on her best friend Takatsuki (to the left in the pic) earlier on, although whether one would label this as yuri is debatable since Takatsuki is FtM. Not like it matters.<-- Next day clarification: This was my rough way of saying, "I don't want to spark a discussion as to whether Nitori's feelings for Takatsuki are yuri or not because that sort of debate can strike nerves and hurt feelings for people and I don't want to go there." It's a great story. Chiba (to the right in the pic) is the first person to get that Nitori's a girl (even giving her girl's clothes), and also gets a crush on her early on. More love complications pop up involving other people.

You can find some great-looking trailers (an English subbed version of the second trailer is available here), a cute relationship chart with links to the character pages, and two wallpapers on the official website.

While Nitori and Takatsuki are being voiced by new talent, Nitori's older sister Maho will be played by Mizuki Nana, Anna will be played by Horie Yui, Nitori's eccentric classmate Chizuru will be played by Chiba Saeko, and Chizuru's clingy best friend Momoko will be played by Toyosaki Aki. Quite a cast there.

Hourou Musuko is premiering on January 13.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

As A Yuri Fan, I'm Thankful For...

Yay, it's Thanksgiving! ^_^ In honor of this holiday of being grateful for what one has, stuffing oneself with delicious food, and (in my case) getting a small vacation from school, I am listing what I'm thankful for as a yuri fan.

Every English-language manga and anime company that licenses good yuri- from the ones that have made a consistently strong showing to the ones that released something good once-upon-a-time. (E.g. Tokyopop with Sailor Moon.) An especially big thanks to RightStuf, Media Blasters, ALC Publishing, and Seven Seas. And on the flip side, massive thanks to the fans who buy the stuff they like instead of stealing it, making it possible to get more yuri licensed. (More Hayate x Blade, less Maria Holic!) Oh! And the fact that we haven't had anything like this (in English) in eons. And one more thing...I will love any company that licenses Aoi Hana forever and ever and ever (with money). Speculative thanks in advance.

Yoshiya Nobuko. I always introduce her towards the beginning of my yuri panels because yuri wouldn't be...what it is without her novels. And she was as out as one could be when she was alive.

The earliest yuri mangaka- particularly Yamagishi Ryoko for Shiroi Heya no Futari and Ikeda Riyoko for her repeated use of yuri/gender-bendy themes in her work (Rose of Versailles, Oniisama E, Claudine, and Futarippochi). So many tropes of yuri manga were solidified by these two.

Every writer/artist who has created yuri manga and/or novels that I enjoy since then, and every studio that has produced good yuri anime.

And definitely not least, other yuri fans. Whether on forums, at panels, on other blogs, or this humble little blog, it's great to be able to share my nerdy hobby with other people. ^__^ Thank you! (This is starting to sound like an award speech...)

Feel free to chime in with what you're thankful for. And to everyone celebrating, Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Manga Review: Girl Friends volume 5

Well...it's the final volume.

Volume 5 moves from Akko and Mari (finally!) acknowledging each other's feelings to their going out as a couple. Mayu, a close friend of Mari's from when they were in elementary school (Mari was the only person who befriended Mayu when she was being bullied, you may remember), runs into Mari and Akko while they're out shopping on a Christmas Eve date. Mari and Mayu start meeting and mailing each other a lot, which makes Akko uneasy.

Seeing Mari and Mayu spending time together, Akko thinks about what makes her different from Mari's other close friends. She really wants to sleep with Mari, but she's intimidated by the (false) idea that Mari already has experience. (Looking up porn for sex ed doesn't help.) Akko learns that Mari was just giving Mayu make-up and fashion tips to help her get the attention of the boy she likes. When Mari asks Akko to help Mayu with her make-up, Akko begins to realize what she would enjoy doing for a career.

Soon everyone is planning what to do after graduation, and Akko decides to attend a vocational school to become a make-up artist. This upsets Mari, who thought that she and Akko would attend the same college. Of course they make up, and Mari decides what she wants to do.  Everyone graduates, and Mari and Akko are still together in college/vocational school.

Well...it's over. (I'm starting to sound like a broken record. XD) This volume has a hard-won happily-ever-after, a cute Christmas Eve date, beautiful art, and strong writing. Morinaga balances romantic escapism and realism with the same cheerful, lighthearted touch that has endeared her storytelling to fans since her Yuri Shimai/Yuri Hime days. This volume isn't 100% perfect (which Morinaga herself feels, in a different way, in her afterword- although I think she's too hard on herself about the ending; my nitpick is that I would have liked to see Mari and Akko come out to someone, and seeing them together after graduation when they're attending their respective new schools would have been the cherry on top), but it's a sweet ending to an "arresting, slow-cooking romance" (as described in my review of volume 1) that Morinaga Milk clearly put her heart into writing these past few years. For five volumes of hair-pulling, smile-inducing, freakishly realistic, amusingly escapist entertainment, thank you, Girl Friends.

Story: A-
Art: B+
Overall: Strong A-

A note: I started taking photos of the manga I review because I couldn't find a decent-sized picture of the edition of Cutey Honey I have. I've continued to do it as a subtle way to encourage people who read manga via scanlations or raw scans to support the people whose work they enjoy. (I don't know if there's any point in doing that for something that's well out of print and out of stock, though.)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Manga Review: "That's Why I Sigh" (a one-shot in Yuukan Club volume 14)

"That's Why I Sigh" is a romantic comedy one-shot by famous shoujo mangaka Ichijou Yukari. It was published in 1993, long after Ichijou's more well-known yuri story from 1972, Maya's Funeral Procession.

At 17 years old, Iketani Kyou is sick of women. They always want to get into his pants, but it's never anything more than shallow (and occasionally creepy) infatuation on their part, so he's pretty dubious about the idea of falling in love and having a real relationship. At one point he thinks, "Ah, God, is it my life's calling to work in a host club?" His plain-featured best friend Hide is the polar opposite. Women never pay any attention to him, bypassing him for Kyou, so Kyou's complaints just annoy him.

Hide gets a crush on an "angel" he's seen (but never spoken to) who attends a nearby girls' school. The girl, a feminine, petite blonde named Rena, is always with her tall, androgynous best friend Mako. After Kyou and Hide have a misunderstanding with Rena and Mako on the train, Kyou discovers that Mako is a bartender at the bar where her father works as a drag queen. Mako likes women (and she's in love with Rena)...but she also hates guys. Kyou asks Mako to help him set up a date between Rena and Hide. ("Don't worry, he wouldn't even have the guts to hold hands with her.") To keep Kyou from telling her school about her part-time job, Mako agrees and she and Kyou go on a double date with Rena and Hide.

Nothing happens between Rena and Hide, but Rena is definitely straight and it turns out that she dances at a ballet company. Each dancer has to sell a certain number of tickets per show, and Mako uses the money from her part-time job to buy out Rena's tickets for her "friends." Kyou sees right through it and when they're alone he tells her that it's wonderful that she's able to fall in love, regardless of whether it's with a girl or not, which makes her start crying from relief.

Kyou can't get Mako out of his head after the date and realizes that he's in love with her. Bottom line: Rena tries to seduce Kyou, Kyou winds up taking her to the hospital instead, some crazy stuff comes to light (with a resolution as unlikely as pigs flying over the frozen fields of hell, but that's manga for you), and Mako gets over Rena and her fear of men. She and Kyou remain good friends and she's still gay. Lalala.

"That's Why I Sigh" is very typical and atypical at the same time. Kyou, Mako, and Rena seem like archetypes in the beginning (cynical playboy; man-hating lesbian; pure, delicate flower) and end as surprisingly complex characters. (And empathetic, in Kyou and Mako's case.) There's a nice balance of humor (mostly of the ironic, observational variety) and realistic drama, mostly involving Kyou falling in love for the first time (and refreshingly, making his feelings clear without pushing them on Mako) and Mako becoming more comfortable in her own skin.

The scene in which Kyou supports Mako's feelings is a real gem and the ending nicely subverts the "gay because she hates men" trope. Rena's soap opera-like subplot is the weakest bit, but the story doesn't dwell on it too much. It's a sweet story, and definitely worth checking out.

Story: B
Art: B+
Overall: B

Update: Re-posted on scans_daily.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Manga Review: Plica-chan

There isn't anything else like quite Amamiya Sae's Plica-chan. It began in the now-defunct lesbian magazine Anise (which printed other manga also) but later moved onto the Love Piece Club website (some strips, as well as the main LPC site, are nsfw). It isn't available in tankoubon format. Plica is a comic aimed squarely at queer women that aims for a realistic depiction of lesbian life in Japan.

Plica is a closeted lesbian who drinks herself into a stupor when the woman she's in love with invites her to her wedding. In a stroke of incredible luck, the person who takes Plica home and helps her clean up is a beautiful woman named Mari, who could tell why Plica was depressed because she has been in a similar situation. (Sans the getting smashed and throwing up on a stranger bit.) Plica and Mari soon start dating and have a happy love-love relationship. No massive angst here.

There are two prominent side characters: butchy Saki, a teacher (unlike Plica and Mari, who are both office workers) who isn't as closeted, and Machiko, a woman who is newer to the "bian" scene (and looks like Moe from the Three Stooges). Saki's on-again-off-again girlfriend Rui and Machiko's friend Roku also appear occasionally.

Plica follows the usual strip format of telling a joke or making a point within a sequence of square panels. (Although unlike most Japanese comic strips, the Plica strips usually contain more than four panels.) Some of the strips cover random day-to-day stuff, like Plica's habit of brushing her teeth in the bath or her urge to dance when she's alone in an elevator- or, quite amusingly, how she ignores people who hand out free tissues (which is an advertising practice in Japan) unless it's a hot woman offering them or she has a cold.

Some strips deal with relationships (facilitated by Plica's over-active imagination- my favorite part of Plica, btw) and some deal with issues like coming out and homophobia. In one strip, Plica speculates on how her mom might react to her coming out while they're watching a TV special about lesbians ("The Lesbian World: Undercover Report")- none of the options that she can imagine look good.

There are some cute strips that flashback to Plica's childhood ("How long have you been a lesbian?") and some that poke fun at assumptions made about lesbians by the straight and lesbian characters alike (see: Plica's great reaction to hearing that lesbian sex is endless), including the obligatory deconstruction of girls' school yuri tropes.

The characters are generally likeable, although Machiko's "Woe is me, I'm miserably single" schtick wears thin. Some of Plica's generalizations about human interaction early on in the story fall flat, but they're outmatched by the story's gems. All around, it's enjoyable and highly recommended for anybody interested in what it's like to be a lesbian in Japan- or in reading a manga that's different from the norm.

Story: B+
Art: B-
Overall: B+

The fantastic Sparkling Rain anthology has some Plica strips printed in it.