Spring 2010 Anime Preview
In a just a matter of days, a new slate of animated programming will begin in Japan. As the fandom fires up its anticipation for what could be a fruitful spring for Japanese animation, here at the toonzone blog we’re going to try focusing in on what we think some of the highlights of the season might be. For the blog’s first attempt at such a project we have not listed every single new show simply for the sake of doing so, though we have instead included a handful of recent OVA’s or upcoming movies that merit singling out.Our hope is that most of what we list here will ultimately be licensed as it deserves, and with any luck several will also given online streaming outside of Japan through one legal service or another for the fans. Before we begin, I’d like to thank Lelouch in advance for the commentary that he supplemented this preview with.
Premiering April 2nd, 2010
Animation Studio: P.A. Works
Synopsis: Produced by Aniplex and Visual Art’s/Key (Air, Clannad, Kanon), this 13 episode series adapts an original story by Key musical artist Jun Maeda. The series takes place in a supernatural school setting in the afterlife. An amnesiac young man named Otonashi becomes involved in a battle between a group of rebellious youths and the ruling student council, who apparently represent divine authority. The director is Seiji Kishi (My Bride is a Mermaid, Yugo the Negotiator).
Comments from Lelouch: I find myself really anticipating Angel Beats. At first I was merely interested in the character designs; I have always enjoyed that particular style and it seems to work for a great number of series. While the story sounds the slightest bit generic, the idea of Angels fighting for their fate in the afterlife is also intriguing and could offer some fresh air in a setting that has been covered quite a few times. With a strong plot this show has the potential to be fantastic, so Angel Beats is worth giving a try.
Arakawa Under The Bridge
Premiering April 4th, 2010
Animation Production: SHAFT
Synopsis: Ichinomiya Kou is a wealthy and successful young man who lives by an ironclad rule: never be indebted to another. However, after an accident where he almost drowns in the Arakawa river, he is rescued by a lovely young girl named Nino. Though Kou promises to repay her by becoming her boyfriend, Nino is not a normal girl. She lives under the bridge that runs over Arakawa river, and on top of that she believes that she is a martian!
Comments from GWOtaku: If you happen to doubt the potential weirdness of this show, just check out the live action commercial. Yes, that green guy is in the trailer below as well. I am honestly not sure what to make of this one. Is it a bizarre comedy or an unusual romance? Is it a mixture of both, a romantic comedy that’s an unusual product of bizarre imagination? Whatever the case, it certainly has the potential to be one of the most unorthodox shows of the spring 2010 season. While by no means a guaranteed triumph, something this unusual is worth keeping a careful eye on. If nothing else, the talent at the helm is certainly respectable. Series director Yukihiro Miyamoto served as an episode director for Monster and Kiba, whereas his co-director Akiyuki Shinbo has helmed otaku favorites Bakemonogatari and Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei.
Premiering April 4th, 2010
Animation Production: Studio DEEN
Synopsis: In this aptly-named series, the ambitious and successful coach Mitsumi plans to breathe new life into a floundering local soccer team by preparing them to defeat the best team in Japan in an upcoming game. Mitsumi has a reputation for defeating talented teams, and he intends to do it again.
Comments from GWOtaku: Admittedly, one could fairly say that we’ve pretty much been through this with The Mighty Ducks and any number of standard fictional stories about sports. Still, while this could be merely average, every now and again a sports anime such as 2009′s Cross Game comes along that proves to be a real diamond in the rough. The story’s situation is complicated by the fact that the coach earned his professional success after leaving this soccer team for a great opportunity years ago in the first place, so instead of being an outsider he apparently has to overcome being seen as someone who abandoned the team. I can certainly see this not standing out, but it’s got some potential to be a welcome surprise this season.
Premiering April 1st, 2010
Animation Production: BONES
Synopsis: An original creation of Stan Lee, Heroman tells the tale of a young orphan named Joey who lives with his grandmother in California. While a girl-next-door character named Lina is kind to him, Joey is also persecuted by rich bullies at school. When he observes one of them damaging and throwing away a toy robot, Joey decides to fix it at home and keep it for himself. To his great surprise, lightning literally strikes and it transforms into a giant robot that Joey can control via a remote device on his arm. From this point on, Joey’s “Heroman” must wage battle against villains and even alien monsters. Heroman will be directed by Hitoshi Nanba (Baki the Grappler), with series composition credited to Akatsuki Yamatoya (Buso Renkin, Soul Eater). The character designs are the work of Shigeto Koyama (Michiko to Hatchin, Moribito, Gurren Lagann) while art direction and art design are credited to Yumiko Kondou (Halo Legends, Rin ~Daughters of Mnemosyne~).
Comments from Lelouch: At a first glance, Heroman seems a bit of a hit-or-miss idea to me. Depending on which direction they take, this could be completely awesome, or it could come off as a cheap Megas XLR. At a second glance, once you realize that Bones and Stan Lee are both behind this it becomes all the more promising. Bones is a studio met with a lot of positive regard. It certainly doesn’t hurt that L’Arc~en~Ciel and FLOW are doing both the opening and ending, both rather popular in the animation community. Heroman certainly has all of the right things going for it, let’s hope it carries through.
Comments from GWOtaku: Expectations should be high for Heroman. As a cartoon that is by most accounts a westernized show with clearly Japanese art, it could be spring 2010 anime that is most likely to succeed in America by far. It’s got a sympathetic and youthful protagonist, it’s got a giant robot fighting aliens, and thanks to studio BONES it will probably stand as one of the best-looking cartoons of 2010. Yes, I said best looking cartoon, not just Japanese anime. If the quality matches the pedigree, we’ll have a real treat and a potential hit on our hands. One can only hope that Heroman does well enough to justify more than one season–and that it will find its way onto television outside of Japan much sooner rather than later.
House of Five Leaves
Premieres April 15th, 2010
Animation Production: Manglobe
Synopsis: An adaptation of a manga by Natsume Ono (Ristorante Paradiso). Akitsu Masanosuke is a subdued and aimless ronin, a wandering samurai without a master. Badly in need of work, he agrees to work as a bodyguard for a man named Yaichi. It soon turns out that Yaichi leads a gang known as the “Five Leaves,” which Yaichi hopes to get Masanosuke to join. Though he is leery of getting involved with the gang’s activities, Masanosuke continues his job and just might get to know the members of the Five Leaves–and himself–better in the process.
Comments from GWOtaku: Quite frankly, the pedigree of this show is like a dream come true. The eye-catching animation is from Manglobe, whose small but impressive resume includes Michiko to Hatchin and Ergo Proxy. The character design and animation direction are credited to Kazuto Nakazawa and Yoshimitsu Yamashita respectively, both of whom did similar work for the fabulous Samurai Champloo. To cap it all off we have direction and series composition from Tomomi Mochizuki, a great talent that has given us Maison Ikkoku, Kimagure Orange Road, and Twin Spica–one of our very favorite unlicensed anime of the 00s. And of course, like Champloo it happens to be a show about a samurai. Aside from all that, the possibilities of this anime are quite diverse. Will this trend toward action or a character-driven plot? Are the Five Leaves just a group of criminal thugs or is there more to them than meets the eye? Exactly how will Masanosuke develop as a person in either case? I will be stunned if this anime turns out to be less than excellent. If we fans are fortunate, it will be a prime candidate for licensing. As it very well should be.
Premieres April 1st, 2010
Animation Production: J.C. Staff
Synopsis: Misaki Ayuzawa is the class president of the student council at Seika High School, which used to an institution exclusive to boys. A brilliant A-type personality, Misaki takes it on herself to improve what she considers to be the bad habits of the male-dominated student body in her bid to make the school more attractive to female students. However, her efforts and her antagonistic attitude toward boys are in for a challenge when the most popular boy in school, Takumi Usui, discovers that she works at a maid cafe to help pay the bills. Though Misaki worries that he’ll use this knowledge to embarrass her at school, she doesn’t realize that Usui is smitten with her.
Comments from GWOtaku: This romantic comedy is an adaptation of a manga of the same name by Hiro Fujiwara, which is being distributed in English by Tokyopop. At a glance I admit that I was negative over the maid cafe bit; nothing wears thin faster than a one-note gimmick. However, a serious look leads me to believe that this could make for simple good fun and perhaps even a decent shoujo-oriented romance story. It certainly helps that Misaki appears to be a no-nonsense hard worker that can stand up for herself, rather than a timid protagonist or the type of main character that needed to have a boyfriend yesterday. The show’s comedic bent will surely be helped by the presence of series composer Mamiko Ikea (Sgt. Frog) and director Hiroaki Sakurai, who is credited with the off-the-wall Kodocha and Cromartie High School. I expect this to be considerably better than Working!! and perhaps Arakawa Under the Bridge as well if that show turns out to be too kooky for its own good.
Rainbow – Nisha Rokubou no Shichinin
Premiering April 6th, 2010
Animation Production: Madhouse
Synopsis: Set in 1955, Rainbow follows the lives of juvenile delinquents that practically go through hell on Earth while they are incarcerated in prison. Six of the boys find a measure of aid in the form of “Anchan,” a hardened inmate that teaches them how to survive. When the seven young men are eventually released, the story focuses on how they live after gaining their freedom.
Comments from GWOtaku: This is an adaptation of a seinen manga (a Japanese comic targeted at men 18 and up), much like Naoki Urasawa’s Monster. Considering that fact and the severe subject matter at hand, this could well be the most mature anime of the spring season if not in all of 2010. Whether the young men of the story eventually arrive at a better future or are irrevocably altered for the worse by their experiences is anybody’s guess, though there is good reason to hope considering that the bonds and friendships that develop between them are supposed to be a major theme. At the same time, this is also about the injustice and brutality of their time in prison and undoubtedly the state of postwar Japan as well. All in all, this has the makings of a magnificent drama and it’s definitely an anime to hope for. Just be wary; this is by no means necessarily for everyone.
Senko no Night Raid
Premiering April 5th, 2010
Animation Production: A-1 Pictures
Synopsis: The story takes place in Shanghai in 1931, at a time when the Imperial Japanese Army is being deployed to the Chinese mainland. Meanwhile, in the city of Shanghai, there is a secret group of military spies known as “Sakurai Kikan.” The series will tell its story, one that has been lost to history.
Comments from Lelouch: Despite the trailer being rather short, Senko no Night Raid has definitely got my interest. The highlight of the trailer for me was a mix between the fluid animation and the enticing music. Still, since it was so short both of those alone weren’t enough to make me become hugely interested in the series. Looking a bit further I learned this is a show about a mysterious spy organization called “Sakurai Kikan.” Perhaps it is a bias, but I find myself entitled to check out most things that involve spies, if only because they tend to be awesome. Still, with any series it has the potential to drag and bore the audiences, hopefully (and most likely) this won’t be the case for Senko no Night Raid.
Comments from GWOtaku: After A-1 Pictures’ So Ra No Wo To (a.k.a. The Sounds of the Skies), Senko no Night Raid represents the second product of the “Anime no Chikara” (the strength/power of anime) project between TV Tokyo and Aniplex, whose stated intent is to adapt original ideas into TV anime series. True to that goal, Senko no Night Raid at least appears to be dramatically unique with its promise of an action-oriented spy story and crisp art & animation. While it’s possible that a show about the activities of what are likely Japanese spies in China could be too politically incorrect for its own good, I prefer to offer the show the benefit of the doubt for now. It is worth noting that the dialogue of the trailer apparently references the belief of the characters that they could change their fate, which could well imply a story that’s more character-driven than anything else. We may even have a tale that is tragic rather than triumphant. Given the significant partnership that is emerging between TV Tokyo and the video website Crunchyroll, we may well find out sooner rather than later.
SD Gundam Sangokuden: Brave Battle Warriors
Premiering April 3rd, 2010
Animation Production: Sunrise
Synopsis: In this series that’s very loosely based on Romance of the Three Kingdoms, sentient robots that represent various characters in the story must defend the continent of Mirisha from foes such as General Dong Zhuo.
Comments from GWOtaku: Believe it or not, this latest iteration of SD Gundam semi-parody animation has actually has some decent staff involved. Director Kunihiro Mori has been involved in several Sunrise productions and his fair share of serious Gundam (Turn A Gundam, G Gundam and Gundam Wing) while series composer Tatsuhiko Urahata has Monster and Fighting Spirit/Hajime no Ippo to his credit. Still, this is pretty obviously a light series that isn’t aspiring to be anything special. It’s about super deformed Gundams serving as avatars for legendary warriors that will be, in theory, rather busy fighting each other. While I’m not exactly chomping at the bit to see this licensed anytime soon, this has to be an easy grab for Crunchyroll provided that Sunrise isn’t too stingy. It might be passable for those that are just looking to watch something simple that they can relax with. Amusingly enough, this could well be one of the more action-oriented anime of the season.
Premiering April 4th, 2010
Animation Production: A-1 Pictures
Synopsis: Based on a 4koma comic. When sixteen-year-old Takanashi Souta is convinced by his upperclassman Taneshima Popura take a part-time job at her family restaurant Wagnaria, it soon becomes clear that he is surrounded a host of unusual and bizarre personalities.
Comments from Lelouch: Working!! looks to be the romantic comedy title that is sure to please. Many series along these same lines have a problem where the Fanservice becomes so over the top and obnoxious that the show itself suffers. This seems to avoid that stereotype and substitutes Fanservice for cute interactions between the characters. The trailer does a great job in showing the silliness of the show and I find myself reminded of Ouran High School Host Club, which is certainly not a bad thing. If everything works (pun intended) out right, Working!! is sure to be a hit.
Yojo-Han Shinwa Taieki
Premiering April 22nd, 2010
Animation Production: Madhouse
Synopsis: An adaptation of a novel by Yusuke Nakamura. Its protagonist is a third-year college student that’s looking back on his prior years in college and the members of the “Tennis Circle Cupid” club that he’s been interacting with.
Comments from GWOtaku: While this show sounds simple on the surface, its unusual style and narrative does command attention. Even a cursory look at the trailer makes it immediately clear that, for good or ill, this is most definitely not your average anime. In addition, this series features a mix of new and brilliant talent. Series composition and screenplay is being handled by newcomer Makoto Ueda, whereas director Masaaki Yuasa is responsible for serious-minded fans that value the idea of anime as art: Kaiba, Mind game and Kemonozume, another favorite unlicensed anime of ours from the 00s. Music is being composed by Michiru Oshima, who scored Fullmetal Alchemist and was one of many to work on Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad. For the 11 episodes that it will purportedly last, Yojo-Han will be airing on the same late night block as Manglobe’s House of Five Leaves; this is undoubtedly going to be an anime that aims high.
OVA’s and Movies
Movie 1 will be released in Japan on May 29th, 2010
Animation Production: Production I.G., Xebec
Synopsis: Based on the manga Broken Blade by Yunosuke Yoshinaga, which is being distributed in English by CMX. When the country of Krisna is invaded by its neighbor and its army war machines, Rygart Arrow feels powerless since he cannot empower the energy source that is needed to operate them. On top of that, it turns out that his old friend Zess is the one leading the attack. However, things change when an old and powerful mecha is found that only Arrow seems capable of operating.
Comments from GWOtaku: While the story here most certainly doesn’t sound like anything fresh and new, Break Blade just may stand as a prominent case example of the mecha genre’s persistence. This is not an episodic project but rather a series of six films, a format that ought to lead to an impressively well-produced title. At a time when the OVA format is considered to have declined and television anime have decreased in both number and length, Break Blade represents a surprising commitment and investment that I very much hope is merited. Whether a chance would be taken on this outside of Japan at this point is surely uncertain, but such speculation is premature for the moment. It will take some time for this title to run its course.
Darker Than Black Gaiden
Animation Production: BONES
Synopsis: This is a short OVA that takes place between the first and second season of the Darker Than Black TV Series. Two out of four episodes have been released on DVD in Japan; the third will come out in May and the fourth will come in July.
Comments from Lelouch: Despite personally enjoying the second season of Darker Than Black (Ryusei no Gemini), it has been met with quite a bit of ridicule. If you happen to be one of those people and have decided to simply drop Darker than Black, you are making a huge mistake. If you are weary of stepping outside of the first season because of all the negative comments regarding the second, these OVAs offer a fantastic substitution. They leave off where the first season ended, Hei and Yin on the run from the Syndicate, a mafia-like organization that controls a large portion of the world (though mostly in Japan). Gaiden offers a great mix of action and drama, and for those who enjoy the relationship between Hei and Yin these will definitely cater to you. In truth, these are really what the second season should have been all about. Better late than never, as they say. While there will only be four episodes, with two released already, they make for a short but sweet lead-in to the second season. If you were left a bit confused while watching the second season, these clear up a lot of the questions, and for those who haven’t watched yet I would actually recommend checking these out before moving along to Gemini. In general, these are a must-watch for anyone who enjoys action, drama and romance.
Animation Production: White Fox
Synopsis: An adaptation of light novels by Nisio Isin (Bakemonogatari). In the Edo era, martial arts expert Shichika Yasuri lives an isolated and peaceful existence with his sister Nanami. From his father he has inherited a “swordless” martial art that excels at defeating the art of the sword. One day, he is tracked down by a military official known as Togame and asked to help her recover twelve mythical swords of immense power that were crafted by a swordsmith of unparalleled skill. Both cunning ninja and honorable samurai have failed in this task, having succumbed to the temptations of the power or honor that comes with owning such a weapon. What Tagome needs is someone with skill and no self-interested ambitious–someone like Shichika. On their journey to recover the legendary swords on behalf of the shogunate, Shichika and Togame will encounter many challenges and opponents along the way.
Comments from GWOtaku: This OVA began in January of 2010, with a new episode of 50+ minutes being released every month. The only anime series that White Fox has animated on its own was the very recent Tears to Tiara, but you certainly wouldn’t know it from the fresh designs and animation quality of Katanagatari that have earned it its attention to date. Since this series will take quite some time to finish on its monthly schedule we’re undoubtedly in for a substantial wait for a license if one comes, and it’s still young. But for now, this is an action/adventure title that deserves anticipation.
Trigun: Badlands Rumble
World premiere at Sakuracon 2010; Japanese theatrical premiere on April 24th.
Animation Production: Madhouse
Official Synopsis: In Makkah, a town surrounded by quicksand, there are rumors about a legendary big Gasback robbery gang. The mayor, Kepler, is assembling ruffians to protect the town. There is a reward for the Gasback gang, which brings in bounty hunter after bounty hunter. Merrill and Milly visit the town for an insurance assessment, and they are appalled by the situation. Moreover, they see in their line of sight the form of Vash the Stampede. Merrill, in awe and feeling the tragedy of destruction, plans to somehow chase Vash out of town. However, Vash, as usual, is nonchalantly making passes at a female bounty hunter Amelia. In the middle of all this, the Gasback gang suddenly appears back in town. And in the confusion, is that Wolfwood? Amid all the various expectations and complications, here opens the first act… (hat tip to sakuracon.org/)
Comments from GWOtaku: It was years in coming, but very soon the many fans of Yasuhiro Nightow’s Trigun will have a brand new adventure to look forward to–this is a story not told in either animation or comics before now. Fortunately, with the original series recently relicensed by FUNimation, the prospects of this movie licensed and released are likely as good as can be. If you loved the series, the odds are extremely good that you’re going to love this movie. Rather like the Cowboy BeBop movie this takes place in the middle of the series’ events, so the characters we got to know will all be back doing their usual thing.
The major staff that made the series as great as it was have all come back, right down to music composer Tsueno Imahori. The mandatory humor and gunplay action will be there of course, but before everything else I’m just happy at the prospect of having Vash back–I mean the lovable guy who was half a fool, half the humanoid typhoon, and every bit a guy with a good heart that does his best to do the right thing. I must say that I’m curious what twists the story will take in order for the movie to fulfill its much-touted “Vash vs. Wolfwood” theme, although I think we all know that beyond this issue there’s a big villain that will need a sound thrashing.
That’s all for this season. Until next time!