Spring 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 ranked these from least favorite/least likely to continue watching, to most favorite/most likely to continue watching.
Please take my opinions with a grain of salt.

Strawberry Panic Aoi Nagisa is starting at a new school. It's one of three prestigious girls' schools at the top of a hill. These schools share some things between them, such as the cafeteria, though they seem to stay separate otherwise. Aoi has some trouble her very first day (of course), and cannot make it to class on time. In addition to that, she has to speak with the Etoile, who is like the top student at the schools. And it seems like Aoi has already gotten on the Etoile's bad side...

This one sort of reminds me of Maria-sama ga Miteru, but a lot less subtle in its approach. It's too bad, because I thought the subtle and gentle nature of MariMite was part of its appeal. The first episode of Strawberry Panic had me checking the time to see how much was left, and never really got me interested in the story. More serious fans of shoujo-ai may be interested in this one, as that seems like it might be a major theme, but I'll probably give the rest of this series a pass.

Makai Senki Disgaea Laharl has been sleeping for awhile. Somehow he ended up buried in a coffin and left to rot underneath a temple of sorts. This is not particularly a problem for him, being a demon, but he is rudely awakened by an angel. The angel is seeking to destroy Laharl's father, but it turns out he'd already died some time ago. Laharl, ignoring the angel, then seeks out some allies and begins his quest to take the throne of the netherworld in his father's stead.

Disgaea sort of plays out like an RPG, which is not particularly surprising since that's what the anime is based on. There is a lot of humor here, featuring such concepts as an army of subservient penguins that help out Laharl, cooking meals and such. (that part sort of reminded me of Photon) Unfortunately, in the two episodes that I have watched, the plot looks like it is developing very slowly. The encyclopedia link above says the series will only be 12 episodes, so it should get going soon, but initially it's a little disappointing. The art style and general thematic elements seem to be aimed toward a younger audience than most of the other titles on this list, but I will give it a few more episodes to see if it gets better, at least for the humor if nothing else.

Himawari A man is traveling to a village to become a teacher in order to pay off some debts that had been run up by a person whom he had thought was a friend. He is not particularly skilled, but he figures being a teacher in a remote village will be a good job for him and will let him earn money sooner than he would have otherwise. Unknown to him, though, is that his destination is actually a ninja village, where young girls train to be skilled kunoichi (female ninja) to serve the Japanese government as covert agents. Naturally, having little to no ninja skills of his own, the man immediately gets into trouble from the girls that are to be his students. His only help is a new student named Himawari, who is unlike the other students in that she comes from a normal high school and a normal family. The only difference is she loves ninja dramas on television, and longs to emulate the heroes. She'll do her best to keep her teacher safe and become the ninja she wants to be herself.

Think of Ninin ga Shinobuden crossed with Lime-iro Senkitan. Maybe that's a bit obscure, but Himawari is a combination of those two shows. There seems to be a fair bit of humor here, as well as the usual ninja action, so I will definitely be watching a few more episodes of this at the very least.

Inukami As the title implies, one of the main characters, Yoko, is a dog demon. She partners with Keita to help protect Japan from other demons who seek to wreak havoc on the area. Keita seems to have some magical ability himself, and he and Yoko make a good team. The problem is, Keita is always getting into trouble with Yoko, usually because he ends up infatuated with some woman or other and leaves Yoko behind. Inevitably she catches him and magically strips him naked, forcing the police to arrest him and leave him in the holding cell, apparently with the same two guys every time - a panty thief and a flasher. The police are friendly since Keita always helps them out, and they let him bide his time until he apologizes to Yoko or is otherwise needed to fight crime. The first episode deals with a strange demon who was scorned by women in life, but acquired the power to disintegrate the clothes of his target. Unfortunately for Keita and to his chagrin, the power only affects men.

This one is pretty strange. Primarily it seems to be a comedy, with a little ecchi-ness thrown in to boot. Only one episode is available currently (as far as I know), but I am looking forward to seeing some more of this.

Witchblade The first episode starts out with our hero, a police officer - Masane Amou, seemingly trying to escape with her daughter to a strange city. Apparently there has been some sort of world event, and children are fewer in number. Thus the government considers them more precious and works harder to protect them. Single parenting seems to be discouraged, and the government is seeking to take away Masane's daughter and put her into some sort of foster care. Of course, this doesn't at first seem to have anything to do with the true story, which is the fact that demons are running amok in the world, and Masane is the possessor of the mysterious witchblade, which allows her to fight and defeat the demons.

I am not familiar at all with the comic or story that Witchblade is based on, and watched the first episode simply on a whim. It seems interesting enough so far, though, looking like a good dystopian sci-fi series. I'll certainly be checking out more episodes if/when they become available to me.

Yume Tsukai Yume Tsukai - Dreamcatchers. The mysterious group has the ability to enter people's dreams and help neutralize the nightmares that haunt their lives. The problem is that with these nightmares, other people around the victim can see them and be affected by them as well. The Dreamcatchers must identify the source of the haunting and then defeat it by any means necessary. One of the major themes seems to be the regrets that people harbor start to eat at them and then turn dangerous. Regrets such as not being more open and talkative, or not being able to give a love letter to someone you like. The Yume Tsukai themselves seem to be a loose affiliation. Misako and Touko are the primary characters, two sisters with differing abilities and attitudes. The older is very laid back most of the time, but becomes serious when necessary; the younger more vivacious and ready to fight. They are aided by various other members from time to time, but so far the story focuses on them.

There is some comedy here, but primarily this is a supernatural drama thus far. There is not really any sort of overreaching plot to this point, and it is more like a nightmare-of-the-week show. But that is fine for now, and I will definitely continue watching.

Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Higurashi are a type of cicada, whose cries seem to be prevalent in this anime. Keiichi has just transferred to a school in a rural town, and shares a classroom with many levels of student. He makes friends easily and soon joins a club with a number of the girls from his class. But the town holds a dark secret. Every year, it seems, there's a mysterious disappearance and a brutal murder by dismemberment. Keiichi is approached by the police because the girls in his class are under some suspicion for their roles in the crimes, but they always seem one step ahead of him. Is Keiichi in danger if he does not stay on good terms with the girls? Are they the ones behind the murders? Will he be able to get to the bottom of everything or will he end up disappearing like their previous classmate?

First, I will say that this show has my favorite opening theme song of this bunch. Now, the show itself is a drama though it initially tried to disguise itself as a school comedy. It opens with a darkened room and a man being dismembered by someone with an axe, but this scene is quickly forgotten as we move on to witness Keiichi's school life. But more and more information starts popping up, pointing to foul play. The show is very well executed - dramatic, creepy, and just plain good. I definitely recommend checking it out, as I eagerly await each new installment.

xxxHOLiC First of all, the title seems to be pronounced "holic". For some reason the x's are silent. Rest assured (or be dismayed) that there is nothing pornographic about this series. Now that that's out of the way...the story centers around an unlucky student named Watanuki, who has the ability to see spirits. He is particularly unlucky because the spirits also see him, and just love to be around him as much as possible, despite Watanuki's own feelings on the matter. He soon meets up with a witch of sorts named Yuuko, who promises to grant anyone's wish, but for a price. For Watanuki, making the spirits go away means working for Yuuko part time, cooking meals, taking care of the shopping, and cleaning as well. But as her assistant, he does get sent on some interesting errands, and helps her out as she grants other wishes.

xxxHOLiC, which is not easy to type, is an excellent sci-fi show based on the manga by CLAMP. There are some good supernatural themes and some very interesting characters as well. I am looking forward to seeing some of Yuuko's past, as well as what will become of Watanuki - whether he'll end up working for Yuuko indefinitely or not. Certainly I'll keep watching and recommend this to all fans of CLAMP and the supernatural.

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya Haruhi is an interesting character. She keeps to herself mainly, until one day in class she is assigned to the seat behind Kyon. Kyon is more forthright than some of the other classmates, and eventually is able to engage Haruhi in conversation on a regular basis. Ultimately this leads to her creation of the SOS Brigade, a club dedicated to finding alien visitors, ESPers, and time travelers. Little does she realize that three people fitting those exact types may already have joined her club in order to better keep an eye on her...

The first episode of the series was done very creatively. It is actually a flash forward, to when the club is fully assembled and Haruhi is making a movie featuring the club members. Kyon provides his own hilarious narration to the fiasco. From that point, in the 2nd episode, it takes off like you might expect, being introduced to Kyon, Haruhi, and eventually the rest of the club members. There is some good comedy here, and some sci-fi aspects as well that many will like. It's sort of an offbeat title, so it may not appeal to everyone, but I am enjoying it myself. Fun fact: the beginning of the opening song seems to parody that of Escaflowne, placing Haruhi in Hitomi's shoes, watching the star shoot through the sky.

Black Lagoon Black Lagoon is the story of Okajima Rokuro and the mercenaries whose lives he is suddenly thrust into. Rokuro is more or less just your typical businessman, but the company he works for isn't as squeaky clean as he would like. He ends up on a trip to deliver some valuable information to another company, but ends up being hijacked by a group of mercenaries and held for ransom. Unfortunately his company refuses to pay up. The group eventually welcomes in Rokuro, giving him the nickname Rock. Dutch is the stolid leader of the mercenary group, assisted by Levi, a female mercenary who acts as the "muscle", and Benny, who is the technical expert. Rock soon gets mixed up in more than he ever imagined.

If you're looking for a good action show, then this is an excellent choice. It's sort of reminiscent of Full Metal Panic in a way, which to me is good. According to the credits it has been licensed by Geneon, though no official announcement seems to have been made. Regardless, I will look forward to seeing more of the show, and eventually on DVD.

TOKKO Ranmaru Shindou has just graduated and is starting his career as an investigator for a special task force known as TOKKI. The force is a special division of the police, and seems to handle some of the more higher profile crimes. Working in the same building though, is the TOKKO, a similar group with a more mysterious purpose. Shindou himself, along with his sister, are among the few survivors of a catastrophe some years before, in which the vast majority of the occupants of the building in which they lived were brutally murdered by some strang being. What's more, Shindou has been having nightmares about it on a regular basis, though each time in his dream he is eventually rescued by a beautiful young woman wielding a sword. What's more, it turns out the woman in his dreams is actually a former neighbor of his, and she is a member of the TOKKO group. Shindou seems destined to join this group, but right now he is a rookie in TOKKI, which means cleaning restroom after restroom, and putting up with his boss who looks like he only recently left the yakuza.

There's a little more to this series than I'm mentioning above, but I think that is a good summary to start off with. I'll add that I think this show has the best background music of the bunch; that's definitely an OST I'll be buying. Anyway, the show itself is a good mix of action/sci-fi/horror/suspense. There is a lot of intrigue after just three episodes, and I am eagerly awaiting the next. Reportedly it has been licensed for R1 release by Manga, so I'll surely have that to look forward to as well.

Utawarerumono A severely wounded man wakes up in a strange place, wearing an unusual horned mask on his face. Eventually he is taken in by a nearby village and nursed back to health by the village elder and her grandchildren. Apparently suffering from amnesia as a result of his injuries, he has no memory of his past, and is given the name Hakuoro by Tuskuru, the village elder. The town he's joined is a simple farming community, which is under the control of an unsympathetic emperor (and his even less sympathetic idiot son), who demands taxes/tithes on a regular basis from the village. Eventually push comes to shove, and as a result of the heinous actions of the emperor's son, war is finally declared. Hakuoro must organize and lead the unproven villages into battle, as well as members of the surrounding townships, overcoming one hardship after another. But will he ever recover his memories? And why has he been given the name of Eruruu and Aruruu's (the elder's grandchildren) long lost father?

I initially checked this series after reading the brief summary on Animenfo, or some such site. Watching the first episode, though, I was gripped by it right away. It takes place in a more medieval, mythical land, rather than Japan, where farming is still the chief occupation. There is some good action here, and some good drama and political/wartime intrigue as well. Certainly it's not an all-out action thriller, but I think a lot of people would be pleasantly surprised by how well done this show is.

.hack//ROOTS Haseo is new to The World, but already he seems to be generating plenty of interest. He is PKed on his very first day of playing the game, only to be rescued by Ovan, a mysterious man who is the head of the Twilight Brigade guild. The Twilight Brigade guild is small, consisting only of Ovan, Shino, Sakisaka, and Tabby, but there mission is to find the mystical (possibly mythical) Key of the Twilight (which you might recall from the other .hack series). Of course they are not without opposition. Foremost, they are thwarted by the TaN, another guild with less clear and less honorable intents. Everyone tells Haseo that he is special, and is important to The World, but will he ever figure out how?

Being a fan of everything ever released in the .hack universe, it was a no-brainer that I would be watching this. I was actually a little slow to start watching this, but looking back, having watched the first six episodes in just two days, I guess I just had to be in the right mood. Anyway, ROOTS follows on the heels of SIGN, with more or less the same tone of mystique and intrigue. There's some action, a bit of comedy, and of course a bit of drama as well. Already I'm getting anxious about what might happen next, and await the next installment. And, just to add an interesting tidbit, the voice actress for Shino also voiced Subaru in SIGN. Plus, Tabby's voice actress also portrayed Mimiru. A coincidence? Maybe, maybe not.

Jyu Oh Sei Thor and Rai are twin brothers living on the world of Chimera. The Earth has long been abandoned, and humans have been forced to create other new civilizations. With living on new worlds, however, humans can no longer live past the age of 50 for some reason, and even that is due primarily to the medical enhancements they receive in their teen years. Thor and Rai, though, being only 12 years old, have not received these enhancements. This becomes much more significant because one day when they return home from school they find their parents murdered. In order to cover up the crime, they are sent without trial to a prison planet, where the show takes place. The prison planet is dominated by plants, many of which are dangerous and carnivorous. There are five factions of people that have formed on the world, four of which are called Rings, and the fifth the Wild Children. Each of the rings are (more or less) well organized and have their own hierarchy, with the leader being called Top, a position won through combat trials against other would be victors. (try not to laugh when the leaders of the four rings are referred to as the Four Tops) It is said that to escape the planet, you must become Jyo Oh Sei, the beast king, and defeat each of the four rings. Thor, eager to find the people that murdered his parents and left him to rot on the prison planet, is striving to do just that. It won't be an easy task, and what's more, even at 12 years old, he doesn't have a whole lot of time left to accomplish this.

Jyu Oh Sei is another series that caught me more or less by surprise. From the very first episode there is a lot of good action and drama, as the twins are thrust into an unknown world, possessing only beam knives to defend themselves. Apparently clocking in at only 11 episodes, it seems to be moving along very quickly, perhaps even too quickly. I've already seen the first five episodes myself, and find them hard to top so far. Thor himself is a very interesting character, as well as Third, who is, well, third in command.

Tsubasa Chronicle Kind of lost among these other new titles, Tsubasa Chronicle finally returns after a three month hiatus. The series, based on CLAMP's manga, picks up right where it left off, with Syaoran, Sakura, and the gang once again traveling to a new world in search of Sakura's memory-feathers. This is a great show that has wide appeal, including drama, comedy, action, and sci-fi, and I strongly recommend it to any who haven't seen it yet. Funimation apparently has licensed the first season, but there is no report whether or not the newest installments are included in that license.
School Rumble Second Semester If there is one series that I feel needs to be licensed for R1 release right now, it's School Rumble. Finally, roughly a year after the first season finished airing, and about four months since the two OVAs were released, fans finally are treated to the new series. This semester picks up right where the previous season and OVAs left off, with the same level of wacky hilarity. Some people may have some misconceptions where the title is concerned, but first and foremost this series is a school comedy, and secondly a romantic comedy, though in spite of the students' many attempts, you'd be hard pressed to find anything "romantic" happening. I highly recommend this to everyone who needs a good laugh, and I would particularly recommend it to fans of school comedies such as Azumanga Daioh. One of the first things the second semester opens with is the school's cultural festival. Of course, our heroes in class 2-C can't agree on what to do, but they come up with a novel solution: sneak into the school in the middle of the night and hold wargames, and the victorious group will get to choose what they do. Mere words cannot describe what happens in these war games, stretching over two episodes, so you'll just have to check it out for yourself.