Fall 2006 Anime Shows - A brief summation of some of the highlights.
(Links open to Anime News Network's Encyclopedia in a new window)

I've listed these alphabetically.
Please take my opinions with a grain of salt.

Black Lagoon Second Barrage The Second Barrage follows the further adventures of Rock, Revy, and the rest of Lagoon Company as they continue trying to eke out a living among the scum of the world in the lawless city of Roanapra. The second season picks up right where the first left off and doesn't miss a beat. The first arc, lasting three episodes, covers the actions of a murderous pair of children set loose upon the city to take down the Russian mafia headed by Balalaika. The different gangs, mafias, triads, etc. all take it upon themselves to rid the city of this new threat, which seems destined to plunge Roanapra into utter chaos.

Certainly the creators of Black Lagoon pull no punches when it comes to what they've decided to put on screen. Lots of action, violence, shoot outs, eviscerations, and so on fill out the episodes. This is a very serious action show, and if you enjoyed the first season then there's no reason to miss the second. The show is licensed by Geneon and should be stateside soon.

Code Geass - Lelouch of the Rebellion Lelouch is something of a genius. He is a master at chess and considers all his actions very thoroughly. Returning to school from a chess match one day, he gets mixed up in terrorist activity. The problem? Japan has been annexed by a country called Brittania (located on the map where the US is) and is now known as Area 11. Separatists have stolen a major weapon from the Brittanian forces and are trying to secure it when they are taken captive. Lelouch, who gets mixed up with the group and ends up with the weapon, discovers its true secret and takes control of it himself. His mission? To free Japan from Brittanian rule at any cost. With the power to make others obey his every word, he takes control of an enemy Knightmare (mobile suit) and leads the separatists to an early victory. But for how long will Brittania let the rebellion last?

Thus far in the series there is a sort of Gundam Seed feel to the actions, with best friends being pitted against each other, and it has some shades of Death Note as well. Regardless, it has been very intriguing thus far. There is some action, drama, and even a bit of school comedy thrown in as well. The character designs are done by CLAMP as well, which I found interesting. The plot looks very detailed and intricate at this point, and I suspect fans of Gundam would be very happy with this show, as long as it doesn't look like a blatant rip-off. There are some good ideas here, and also a bit of political commentary as well.

D.Gray-man Allen Walker is cursed. He is an exorcist, so it is his duty to destroy the Akumas (demons) created by the mysterious Millenium Earl, who is bent on taking over the world with his creations. But because of his curse, his demon-like eye which helps him find and battle Akumas, he is something of an outcast among the other exorcists. Still, he joins up with an organization called the Black Order, whose task is to not only thwart the Millenium Earl and his Akumas, but also to track down a strange power referred to as Innocence. It turns out that all the exorcists can use Innocence themselves, and it is up to Allen and the others to master their own innate abilities as well as defeat the Earl and his minions.

D.Gray-man is based on a Shounen Jump manga, so fans of similar titles like Bleach will probably enjoy this series very much. Thus far I have been liking it, having a good mix of action and drama. Allen still seems to know very little about himself and his abilities, so it is very interesting finding out exactly what he can do and how his and the others' powers work. This seems like it might be a very long series, which makes me a little worried as far as how they can keep making quality episodes, but I see no reason to stop watching it thus far.

Death Note Light Yagami is the consummate high school student: good grades, top of his class, amiable and well liked. But this success has left him bored with everyday life. That boredom soon comes to a close as he discovers a notebook one day which has been dropped by the shinigami (death god) Ryuk. The Death Note, as it is called, allows the user to kill any person by writing their name, envisioning their face, and then describing the situation which causes their death. Light takes it upon himself to cleanse the human race of criminals and other evil-doers, with the goal of making a perfect world ruled by himself. The problem is that by killing dozens and even hundreds of people, he has become a criminal himself. Hunted by the Japanese police, the FBI, and a secretive master detective known only as L, Light must manipulate family, friends, and complete strangers in order to maintain his secret identity as the murderer known only as Kira (i.e. "killer" (mispronounced in Japanese)).

Certainly this was the most anticipated anime of the season. I had already read the first seven volumes of the manga when this started airing, and it has not let me down one bit. It stays very close to its roots, though it does hurry through the first material so it can get to the meat of the story: the showdown between Light and L. There is a lot of intriguing drama in this show, and it is well animated by Madhouse. Those who have already enjoyed the manga will like this series, and if there is one that I'd have to recommend you try out, then this would probably be it.

Ghost Hunt Mai Taniyama is just an average high school student, except she and her friends like to get together after school and tell ghost stories to each other. One day a mysterious young man, Kazuya Shibuya, shows up at the school. It turns out that he is the president a company whose purpose is to hunt down and rid buildings of ghosts and other supernatural manifestations. He has been called in to see if an old building on campus is indeed haunted, and to cleanse it if it is. He is joined by a monk, a miko (shrine maiden/priestess), a well known psychic medium, and an Australian exorcist. After Mai inadvertently injures Shibuya's assistant, she is obligated to help him out herself and assist him in his research.

Thus far only three episodes have been made available to english-speaking fans, but with already being familiar with the manga I have enjoyed these. Fans of the Sci-Fi Channel's show "Ghost Hunters" will probably like this series a lot, but in this case there will actually be supernatural activity (not just hints). The cast is varied and play off of each other well, and I eagerly await new installments as they become available.

Gift - Eternal Rainbow Amami Haruhiko lives in a town which is eternally graced by the presence of a rainbow overhead. The citizens of the town have the ability to make one wish during their life with the help of their significant other. This "Gift", as it is called, can bring couples much joy, but at the same time if the feelings are only one sided, the Gift can go awry and make a mess of things. As Haruhiko is settling into high school life with his friends, including his best friend Kirino who even comes each morning to wake him up for school and cook breakfast, his sister suddenly returns to live with him and his father again. *Cheesy anime cliche alert* Except she's not related by blood. Haruhiko soon discovers that his feelings for his "sister" are not exactly brotherly, which leads to love triangles and much drama and hilarity. Oh yes, there is also a witch flying about town granting Gifts to different people. For some reason Haruhiko can't figure out why she looks a lot like Kirino's best friend Chisa...

Okay, so it's a cheesy bishojo harem show, but I do enjoy these from time to time. The rainbow adds a different element to the story, giving it a feel sort of like Yume Tsukai (figuring out why a gift was distorted and then sorting things out). It sort of feels like Lamune, too, which also aired recently. Regardless, it's a school harem dramedy through and through, so if that sort of thing turns you off then you might want to take a pass on this one. My favorite character so far is Maki, Haruhiko's best friend, student council member, and all-around science geek. He means well, trying to help Haruhiko out, but his actions usually yield hysterically comical results. All in all this one has turned out to be quite enjoyable.

Happiness Kamisaka Haruhi is a young but skillful mage, enrolled in a magic school with her best friend and top rival Hiiragi Anri. Anri is eager to prove her worth, but her control of magic is not what she thinks it is, and as a result she manages to set fire to the magic school. As luck would have it, there is a regular school adjacent to the magic school, and the students are to attend classes there while repairs are being made. There Kamisaka meets a boy whom she believes to be a magic user who saved her from bullies many years ago, only now he seems to not like magic at all. He is the one who inspired her to be a mage, and she has a crush on him as well. Will she be able to verify his true identity and find out why he doesn't like magic? And will Anri set fire to this school as well with her antics?

Probably I shouldn't have watched this show right after Gift, because I've been getting them confused a bit when new episodes get released. Like Gift, Happiness is a school comedy, though with the focus being on a female character (at least initially) rather than a male, the harem aspect is not as prevalent. Some aspects of the show harken back to Someday's Dreamers, for example the interactions of magic users and non-magic users, though Happiness itself seems aimed for a slightly younger audience. A decent show thus far, but it doesn't really stand out from the crowd.

Kanon Yuuichi Aizawa is returning to live in his aunt's house where he has visited a number of times in his childhood, though for some reason he doesn't remember a lot of what happened before. He is reunited with his cousin Nayuki and quickly settles into daily life in the snowy landscape. He also makes friends with a girl named Ayu Tsukimiya whom he continually runs into in the city (literally). She always seems to be looking for something, mainly her wallet, which is why she keeps stealing taiyaki from the street vendor. Through the course of the first episodes, Yuuichi meets a number of girls from school and in the city, and gets mixed up in their various stories and situations.

I'll say this right off: so far, I can't see how this is any different than the original series that aired four and a half years ago. Supposedly this version will be a full 26 episodes, rather than the 13 of the original, so I assume there will be more added that I am not familiar with. For those who haven't seen either version, Kanon is based on a dating sim game, and watching the anime you can see it plays out as you would expect. The action follows our hero Yuuichi around as he encounters the different girls and essentially has mini-quests to complete to help out each one. Hopefully it will evolve into more than that. Don't get me wrong, I've enjoyed the show so far and each girl's story is different and interesting, so I do have high hopes for what will happen in this longer version. But I will also say that I didn't really care for the character Makoto before, nor do I particularly now either. One major thing it has going for it is the first class seiyuu talent it features; be sure to check out the list in the above link. One other thing this series has going for it is that it's animated by Kyoto Animation, who have achieved a decent amount of reknown recently with top flight productions such as The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya and Full Metal Panic: The Second Raid.

Kujibiki Unbalance Upon entering Rikkyoin high school, all new students draw lots to see who will form the new student council. The new council will be supervised for the first year by the current council to see if they are capable, and if they fail at any task all members will be expelled from the school. The role of president falls to the least likely candidate (of course), Chihiro Enomoto. He is very timid and unsure of himself, but he at least has his best friend at his side as vice president: Tokino Akiyama, who has extraordinary luck. Joining them is secretary Renko Kamishakujii, an avid inventor and scientist, and her cheerful assistant Kaoruko Yamada. An unlikely team, to say the least, and the fate of the school rests on their shoulders. One of their first missions is to find the remaining member, the treasurer, who turns out to be a middle school student who was told to draw a lot by mistake. But the Kujibiki (lot drawing) is law, and she must serve as treasurer. Their second mission? Stop a terrorist attempt on the life of the current president!

Some people may remember that Kujibiki Unbalance started out as a three episode OVA series that was released with the Genshiken TV series. This new TV series is somewhat different, though it does retain all of the characters. So far it has been a pleasant surprise, being primarily a comedy series with a little drama mixed in for good measure. The interaction of Renko and her assistant, as well as the devices they build to (attempt to) complete their missions, are simply hilarious. Chihiro himself, being the hero, is not a particularly interesting character initially, but we do see some flashes of insight into his background and a possible connection with the current president. Tokino is amusing, and the others quickly learn to use her luck to their advantage, which in this case means having her figure out which wire to cut on a bomb that is about to explode. All in all an interesting cast which has the makings of a very good show. It's surprising to me, given the relative success of Genshiken, that this show has not received more support from fans and fansubbers.

Negima!? Negi Springfield is a mage in training. Even at 10 years old he is something of a prodigy, completing magic school and ready to get some training in the real world. He is assigned to be a teacher (teaching English since he is British) at the middle school at Mahora Academy, an all girls school that has students ranging from grade school to college-aged. Negi is not supposed to let on that he is a mage, though it's clear from the start that this is not something he will succeed at. Luckily he is not without allies, such as Takahata-sensei who is himself also a mage. Negi ends up living with two of his students, Asuna Kagurazaki and Konoka Konoe (the granddaughter of the headmaster). He also has his animal companion with him, an ermine named Chamo-kun, who seems destined to get Negi mixed up in various mischief. First, though, Negi has to look into reports of a vampire attacking students.

The original Negima series was aired only a year and a half ago, but reportedly the creators were very unhappy with how the animation turned out, and took what was to be a 52 episode series and cut that in half. Now, we have a newer version with a new animation team, and so far it does seem like that aspect has improved a lot. The story sort of rushes through the preliminaries that were covered in a lot more depth in the first series (and of course the manga), so that may turn a few newer viewers off. Really, though, I don't think prior knowledge of the story is essential as we are introduced to the world of Negima as different situations arise. I am a big fan of the manga, having read through volume 11 so far, and of course all of Ken Akamatsu's other works, so there was really no doubt that I'd be watching this series. Fans of Love Hina will probably be fine with Negima, as well as (male) Harry Potter fans. Certainly there is a harem aspect, given that Negi is in charge of a class of 31 sixteen year old girls, but I think a lot of people will be attracted to the magic aspect as well. Lots of comedy and a fair bit of action as well in this one.

Pumpkin Scissors The war has finally ended, and now the people of the empire must try to make their recovery and try to return to a normal life. This is not easy though, as greedy feudal lords, organized groups of bandits, and others still threaten their everyday lives. That's where section three of the military comes in, better known as Pumpkin Scissors. Headed by the intrepid, headstrong lieutenant Alice Malvin, it's their job to respond to complaints regarding the war relief effort throughout the empire. But they are ridiculed, and treated as no more than a band-aid on a gaping wound. On their first mission, they encounter a man named Randel, whom they discover was a member of the anti-tank corps (he can take down a tank on foot). They enlist him as a corporal, and soon find out there is a lot more to him than his size and somber nature.

First, I have no clue what the name means, but it sounds cool. Anyway, this show is a coproduction between AIC and Gonzo, and is very well executed. Primarily this is an action show, but at the same time it has some drama as well. The members of Pumpkin Scissors all seem to have had unusual and different pasts which led them to section three, in particular the corporal. There looks to be some good intrigue here as well, hinting at human experimenting and the like. I feel this is one of the better shows of the season. I also enjoy the ending song and animation a lot, funny stuff.

Red Garden Set in a prestigious New York City high school, the story centers around four girls...who are dead. One day school is canceled because of the suicide of a girl, which is already the sixth over a two month period. Rachel, Kate, Rose, and Claire, each members of different cliques, are going home separately from school when they notice strange butterflies all around them. Their friends can't see the butterflies, and each ends up following them to an isolated park. There they are told that they are dead, and are then made to fight a monster using only their hands. They have been given a new lease on life by a strange couple who seem to control different groups which each consist of four girls. This leads to many questions, of course: what are the monsters that they are made to fight, how are they not dead, who are the people making them fight and why?

This is a Gonzo production, but you wouldn't necessarily be able to tell that by looking at it. The style is pretty unique, a little similar to Blood: the Last Vampire, and it may actually turn a number of people off to the series. Despite its strangeness, it is still well executed like all of Gonzo's other works. The story itself is pretty grim from the outset, but the story that is being weaved seems pretty interesting. There is a lot going on that is yet to be explained fully, and I look forward to discovering more of it. This is turning out to be an interesting experiment, if you could call it that. Some of the ideas seem reminiscent of Gantz, though I hope they do a better job of carrying it out.

Tenpou Ibun Ayakashi Ayashi Yukiatsu is running from his past, and seems to be content to live the life of a peasant in feudal Japan, but a group of warriors is hunting him down to have him join their ranks. The group hunts beings known as Youi, which seem spiritual in nature but are able to manifest physically as large monsters and exert great power. It turns out that Yukiatsu has a unique skill that helps him defeat these creatures, and he soon discovers his abilities as he tries to save a widowed woman and her son from a Youi. But then he has to make a choice: join the Ayashi in their quest to exterminate the Youi, or continue to run from his past and his abilities and instead join the woman and her son.

So far this show feels a lot like Mushishi, though of course the Youi are much larger than the (typical) Mushi. It's an action/drama series, not too much humor thus far, set in Feudal Japan over a hundred years ago. The background music is excellent, as well as the animation which is being handled by Bones. The Ayashi (Youi hunters) consist of six or so people, each with their own abilities both physical and spiritual in nature, and they all seem like interesting characters so far with strange backgrounds of their own. Not too much has been explained yet, but the show is just so well done that I can't see any reason not to keep watching more.

Tokimeki Memorial - Only Love Riku has just transferred to a new school, and the student council seems dead set on making him the center of attention immediately. As a result, the Big Four Sportsmen of the school have all taken an interest in him and want him to join their clubs. He also seems to keep running into three girls in particular, Amamiya (the school's idol), Tsukasa (who is very athletic), and Mina. Tsukasa even goes so far as to make him her boyfriend soon after they meet. Aoba soon finds himself in more trouble than he can deal with, and has to figure out whether he even wants a relationship with Tsukasa or the other girls and how he can deal with it.

Well, it's another school harem comedy based on a dating sim, something that seems to have gained a lot of popularity in recent years. This one in particular doesn't seem to have too much that is unique to it, but the characters are interesting enough so far to make it worth watching further. My favorite character so far is the little bird kept in one of the cages at school which Aoba eats lunch on a bench next to. The bird, though it cannot talk, seems eager to help Aoba out, even giving him what appear to be pep talks in addition to knocking out a would be attacker. So far it's been good, but again as with other similar shows it has to work hard not to do the same stuff that's been done many times before.

Yoake mae yori ruriiro na - Crescent Love Feena is a princess from the Moon Kingdom, and in an attempt to foster goodwill between the moon and the earth, she has decided to come to earth to live for a while. She ends up living with Tatsuya Asagiri, since his older sister is high-ranking official in the earth government. Feena wants to see what it's like to live normally on earth, since it has been many years since she last visited. She enrolls in Tatsuya's school and even takes on a part-time job to experience what that is like. But could it be she is also falling in love?

Another game-based harem comedy? Say it ain't so! Fans of Shuffle rejoice, this show is just for you: royalty from another world has come to earth to experience life here and somehow gets mixed up in many different crazy situations and potentially fall in love with our hero. Not that it's a bad show, but a lot of it you feel like you've seen in various places before. The characters are likeable enough. Feena has her personal cameraman (with assistant) following her around to document her experiences, but he harkens back to Happosai of Ranma 1/2 in the way he appears out of nowhere as well as having a personal interest in taking candid photos of the princess changing clothes, in the bath, etc. Tatsuya is pretty down to earth himself (no pun intended) and isn't as wishy-washy as other similar characters. It looks to be a pretty entertaining series, but again there's nothing really groundbreaking about it.

Final thoughts Unfortunately, these fifteen shows only represent the tip of the iceberg of what is currently airing in Japan. Alas, there is only so much time you can dedicate to anime when you have a job and have other hobbies you are pursuing. Anyway, from the above titles I would most recommend Death Note, Pumpkin Scissors, Ghost Hunt, and Kujibiki Unbalance. Among the numerous harem show/dating sim adaptations I viewed, probably I would favor Gift~Eternal Rainbow first among all the others. Hopefully you find this article useful and discover some interesting new anime to watch!