2010 SUMMER ANIME PREVIEW

Now that were almost two weeks into the current anime season in Japan, I felt I would post my thoughts on the shows Ive watched so far. Reviews of the following shows are included: Black Lagoon: Roberta's Blood Trail, Highschool of the Dead, Mitsudomoe, Occult Academy, Ookami-san to Shichinin no Nakama-tachi, Seitokai Yakuindomo, Shiki, and Moyashimon (Live-Action).

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Black Lagoon: Roberta's Blood Trail OVA

Roberta's Blood Trail essentially just picks up where the previous seasons of Black Lagoon left off. This time, Roberta, the maid of death and rival to Revy, is trying to bring vengeance to a group of people who murdered someone close to her. While the story of this first episode does not particularly follow Roberta herself, it instead keeps track of the ones that are pursuing her, both friends and foes alike. The action and excitement is still kept at a high level as we follow the folks of the Lagoon Company once again getting involved in the affairs of the Lovelace family.

I thoroughly enjoyed watching this first episode and plan to continue viewing subsequent installments. While people who are new to the series may have a hard time understanding the characters and their relationships with each other, I believe they will still be entertained. For veterans of the Black Lagoon franchise, this series will be like the dessert following a gourmet meal. Though the OVA series is only scheduled to be five episodes in length, it looks like the productions staff is hard at work to make these few episodes a worthy continuation of the original.

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Highschool of the Dead

This is a title I was already anticipating once I learned of it. Besides the title alone having hooked me, the synopsis hooked me even deeper. Seriously, how can we go wrong with zombies overrunning a school, city, and who knows what else in modern day Japan? Of course, there's more to the series even in the first episode than just the zombies. We follow the exploits of one student in particular, Takashi Komuro. Once he sees people being infected by the zombie virus -- by being bitten of course -- he springs into action, grabbing his best friends and heading toward the roof of his school. Slowly we see the infection spreading and our heroes arm themselves with weapons as best as they can. The only way to kill the undead is to bash their head in, so there's quite a bit of blood in the show, not to mention risque shots of the girls of the school as they get caught up in everything. In a sense, you can say that the show is pandering to its audience, but it really does a good job of recognizing what it is: Summer blockbuster-style entertainment. And it takes that and runs with it. Fans of zombie flicks, games like the Left for Dead series, and action/horror anime in general should find a lot here to be excited about. The first two episodes will be available for free streaming on the Anime Network's website (paid members will be able to watch the whole series). For me this will be a must-watch this season.

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Mitsudomoe

Mitsudomoe follows the misadventures of three elementary school girls, the Marui triplets. Each has their own principal personality trait: one is sadistic, another is athletic, the third is more of a bookworm. Between them, however, they manage to create an excessive amount of mayhem in the classroom. For example: once they realize their teacher is interested in the school nurse, their solution is to severely injure his, well, soft parts, so that the nurse may tenderly administer care to them. It should be pointed out at this point that the story doesn't really hold much back as far as content goes, so if you have a problem viewing elementary-aged children who know a little bit more than they should about more mature matters, then this show may not be for you.

As for myself, I will concede that the show does have some pretty comical moments. Although I also spent a fair bit of the first episode cringing a bit, I will probably watch at least one more episode to see if it steps up its game. Obviously this show is not for everyone, but it is trying hard to be an edgy grade school comedy. If that is the sort of thing you feel might be appealing, then by all means give this title a chance. I can still go either way at this point, though to be frank I doubt it is one I will be finishing.

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Occult Academy

Maya Kumashiro, an expert in the occult and dealing with creatures of various forms, is called back to the academy constructed and headed by her father. Unfortunately, he has just met his untimely demise, possibly related to the work he was doing with the occult. The school itself, because of it's connections to the hidden world, is referred to as Occult Academy and is more or less shunned by outsiders. Maya's job is to clean up her father's mess, and her goal is the destruction of the entire academy.

I found that I was definitely intrigued by the story after the first episode. The characters, Maya in particular, are interesting, and the inclusion of supernatural elements also attracts my attention. There seems to be something else going on at the academy, as hinted by the behavior of the other instructors and the sudden appearance of an outsider at the end of the first episode. There's a bit of humor here, but primarily the show seems to be a supernatural drama, with some action mixed in as well. I look forward to seeing more of it.

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Ookami-san to Shichinin no Nakama-tachi Ookami-san (which is a much easier way to refer to this show than by its full title) follows the adventures of the Otogi Bank, a high school organization that takes care of students' problems in return for the right to ask for their assistance at some future date. The Bank members are a motley group, with their laid-back president, magic aficionado, a guy who's crazy about girls but refuses to acknowledge males, and our trio of main characters, Ookami, Akai, and Morino, who essentially play the roles of the Wolf, Red Riding Hood, and the Hunter from the fairy tale. Ookami herself, the de facto muscle of the group, has gloves she wears which are equipped to activate a taser when she strikes her enemies. Akai is sort of a behind the scenes ringleader who is physically weak but mentally frightening, while Morino, who is scopaphobic (afraid of being stared at or being the center of attention), aids them as best as he can.

Having watched two episodes now, the characters themselves are certainly interesting. Some are still one dimensional, but the relationship between Ookami and Morino looks like it will be a good one to follow. I've enjoyed the plot setup so far as well, with the Otogi bank being sent out to complete various jobs. Some viewers will enjoy the frequent chiding narrative comments as provided by Satomi Arai, the same voice actress that voiced Kuroko in Index and Railgun, while it may instead prove to be annoying for others. Myself, I feel like I'm enjoying the series thus far. It mixes action and comedy together with a bit of supernatural aspects thrown in as well. As long as the characters are developed a bit more and it doesn't devolve into a monster-of-the-week show, I think I will continue to enjoy it.

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Seitokai Yakuindomo

An all girls school has recently made the transition to a co-ed high school. And our hero, Takatoshi Tsuda, is one of a handful of males that has enrolled to the recently integrated school. Granted, he only enrolled in the school due to its proximity to his home, and certainly not for the insane female to male ratio. Soon enough he learns the drawbacks of being exposed to what girls his age are like when there aren't any boys around: they talk openly about their personal hygiene issues, and openly ask each other for feminine products, oblivious to any male presence. Right away, however, Takatoshi is recruited to join the student council as the vice president and sort of a representative of the males. The problem? The other three members, all females, are each insane in their own way. The president talks very openly about the most perverted of topics and gets along merrily with Takatoshi even as she suspects him of the most vile thoughts and acts. One of the other members shares the same views as the president, though she's much more easygoing and gentle, while the third has issues with her height and her genius status.

This one is actually a little more risque that Mitsudomoe, which surprised me a bit. The president's misconceptions about males are usually worth a chuckle, but at times it all seems over the top. Hopefully this will be more of than a one trick pony once it gets going, though after the second episode it was just more of the same. Some of the stuff is genuinely funny, but other times it's just trying to hard. The show is obviously based on a four-panel comic, and this does provide a wide variety of situations in each show that our heroes are confronted with. Ultimately, I feel like it's another school based comedy where a guy is thrown into an instant harem situation, even though they are not really his harm, and he is forced to deal with it. If there is one thing that consistently turns me off to anime, it is where people are forced into a situation without given any choice of their own in the matter. Maybe this one will be funny enough for me to look past that, but as of right now I'm just giving it a chance one episode at a time.

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Shiki

Once I learned that Shiki was created by the same author that gave us Ghost Hunt, I already knew that I would be watching it. After viewing the first episode (available at Funimation.com), I feel justified in my decision. The story takes place in a quiet country village, where everyone knows each other and nothing out of the ordinary seems to happen. We focus initially on Megumi, a girl who is infatuated with fashion and getting the heck out of town as soon as she can. She becomes interested in a western-style home, basically it looks like a castle, that has been constructed on a hill that overlooks the village. When the residents of the house finally arrive, Megumi cannot help but go to welcome them, and as a result of forces unknown, she ends up missing. Finally appearing a couple days later, with clothes ragged and torn, covered in blood, and a vacant look in her eyes, we immediately suspect something is up with the house on the hill. But what?

This title had very deliberate pacing during its first episode, where we were introduced to many of the townsfolk and got a sense of what life was like in the village, but it's clear that supernatural elements will figure in strongly from here on out. The characters are very distinctive so far, and I feel the producers have given us a good foundation for what will follow: we have our setting and our characters, now let us move on to the main story. I'm not sure if it is going to be vampires or some other supernatural creature that we're going to be introduced to here, but it looks to be a show that will be worth seeing in its entirety.

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Moyashimon (Live-Action)

When I first learned that this was not the Moyashimon anime that Funimation had licensed, but rather the Live-Action series, I was pretty disappointed. However, after watching the first episode of the half-hour long drama series, I'm not sure that I entirely mind. While the story diverges a bit from the original anime as well as the manga, I think the first episode provides a good introduction to the world of Moyashimon. It follows the main character, Tadayasu Sawaki, a first-year agricultural university student who can see microbes with his unaided eyes. When he meets his professor, a friend of his grandfather named Itsuki, his special ability is quickly put to the test. Itsuki's students, the long haired and bearded Misato, the (slightly, in this series) overweight Kawahama, and the dominatrix-like Hasegawa, are particularly interested in seeing what Sawaki can do. After seeing him easily identifying different microbes presented to him, as well as diagnosing Hasegawa's athlete's foot, they acknowledge his skills and his collegiate career is off to a roaring start.

Coming from the anime and manga, I have a few minor complaints about this adaptation. For one, Sawaki's best friend Kei is already missing during the first episode, having taken a leave of absence that happens later on in the original stories. Also, Sawaki himself is no longer excessively short, instead being of average height. But those are really unimportant for the most part when compared to the main storyline. The microbes themselves are done via CG, and being that this is a weekly TV drama, I cannot really complain about their quality. Ultimately I think this is a title to be excited about, especially if you are a fan of either the anime or manga already. The parts that have been changed or left out do not really affect new viewers' enjoyment of the show either, so I feel that this is one that I can recommend to anyone.

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All in all, I feel that there are some very good shows to be excited about this season. As usual, I urge readers to take my opinions with a grain of salt, and to not shy away from trying out new shows on your own. Please do not just take my word for it. Enjoy!