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Fall 2010 Anime Preview

Autumn has arrived and October is here, and that means a large new crop of Japanese animation coming out on the other side of the Pacific as many longer Spring 2010 series and shorter Summer series come to an end. Once again I am joined by Nick Hobbs (you may remember him as Lelouch!), and once again we’ll taking a look at several titles that seem likely to be better than the rest. Some are already confirmed for online simulcasting, others may well be announced for this in the coming days. As before, we’ll also be taking note of the OVA and movie scene as well. Without further ado, let’s get started!

Bakuman

Animation Production: J.C. Staff 

Format: TV Series

Premiere Date: October 2nd in Japan

Streaming Status: Unclaimed

Video Links: TV promo



Description:
Moritaka Mashiro is your average fourteen-year-old student who happens to enjoy drawing. His favorite subject? His crush, Azuki Miho. Enter his classmate Akito Takagi, a passionate writer. When Akito discovers tha Moritaka has real artistic talent, he proposes that the two team up to create a successful serialized manga together. At first Moritaka is reluctant due to his deceased uncle, a professional manga artist that eventually lost his popularity and overworked himself to death trying to get back on top. But after a promise made between him and Azuki, Moritaka gets the motivation he needs to put his talents to good use. Together Moritaka and Akito will pursue their dream, but they have a hard road ahead–it isn’t easy to break into the manga business. Bakuman is an adaptation of the ongoing manga by author Tsugumi Ohba and
illustrator Takeshi Obata, the creators of the acclaimed Death Note. Viz Media released volume 1 of the manga in August.

Commentary by Nick Hobbs: I’m a bit iffy about this show, but if the creators of Death Note are
behind this then I am game to giving it a try. On one hand it could be
fairly boring, with two individuals in their quest to be mangaka, while
on the other it could be a lot of fun going through the lives of two
individuals trying to achieve their dreams. Granted, this only works
with great characters, so if that part of the show falls flat it simply
won’t work out. While the premise isn’t the strongest, it certainly has
the potential to deliver to the right audience.

Commentary by GWOtaku: I must say that for an adaptation of a manga that has received critical praise for its artwork, at first glance the Bakuman anime isn’t much to look at. But if appearance is your primary concern or the very thought of watching a slice-of-life story makes you feel bored, this isn’t the title for you to begin with. This is looking like a show where story will be paramount, and from what I have seen the source material absolutely knows where its priorities are. Rather than romanticizing the subject matter Bakuman’s narrative instead empathizes realism, offering a clear window into the manga industry and a serious portrayal of the difficulty of turning artistic vision into something that others consider valuable. Manga fans hopeful for fidelity to this strong foundation have little reason to worry; directors Kenichi Kasai (Nodame Cantabile) and Noriaki Akitaya (Honey and Clover II) are no strangers to handling true-to-life entertainment. Now we just have to hope that Viz will do the natural thing and get this property online sooner rather than later.

Hakuouki

Animation Production: Studio DEEN

Format: TV series

Premiere Date: October 2nd in Japan

Streaming Status: Unclaimed

Video Links: Season 2 promotional video | Season 1 opening

Description: Near the end of the Edo era in Japan a young woman named Chizuru travels to Kyoto in search of her father, a doctor who had traveled there to volunteer his aid months ago but has since disappeared. After stumbling into a battle Chizuru is rescued and taken in by the shinsengumi, a special police force of powerful warriors who have their own reasons for wanting to find Chizuru’s missing father. With this link as her only clue, Chizuru settles into a new life where she lives among the Shinsengumi and accompanies them on their exploits.

Commentary: This series got its start in Spring 2010 and managed to be confirmed for a second set of 13 episodes. Despite its position as a relatively obscure show that is still much less niche than other simulcasted titles this year, for whatever reason Hakuouki has unfortunately been overlooked for streaming just as much as it has seemingly been by fan attention to date. Although this series counts as historical fiction, one look at any promotional video for the series suggests its focus lies elsewhere: just about every member of the shinsengumi in this series is a gorgeously handsome man. Yep, it’s a classic reverse harem situation that’s practically heaven on Earth for fangirls and aspiring shippers, which makes sense considering that the series’ roots lie in a female-targeted game for the Playstation 2. That said Hakuouki also possesses a coherent plot that makes little time for romantic overtures and the first season even reportedly ends with the start of the Boshin War, which means ample opportunity for swordplay action. Thus, whatever its roots, Hakuouki does manage to successfully pull off some crossover appeal for anime fans. The wait does go on for another anime that pays the sort of attention and interest to the era that Rurouni Kenshin once did, though.

Iron Man

Animation Production: Madhouse

Format: TV series

Premiere Date: October 1st in
Japan. This title was first revealed at San Diego Comic Con; the series
has been confirmed for the G4 TV network on U.S. television in 2011.

Streaming Status: Unclaimed

Video Links: Official trailer

Description from G4: “In an effort to make amends for his weapons manufacturing past, Tony
Stark has dedicated himself to building the world up rather than tearing
it down. Traveling to Japan to build a new arc reactor that will
deliver unlimited free energy to the Japanese people, Stark is
challenged by the Japanese government and the media when he attempts to
import the necessary nuclear priming device. And when the
reactor-in-construction is repeatedly attacked by the mysterious Zodiac
consortium, Stark must gather his allies to take on Zodiac and its
mastermind.”



Commentary by Nick Hobbs: This show will probably either be a hit or miss, and considering it is
coming from Madhouse, I am willing to bet it will be a hit. Granted, if
you dislike superheros or the source material, then you more than likely
will not like this show. I for one find Iron Man pretty awesome so this
will easily be a lot of fun to watch, especially in anime form.
Hopefully they will cover some new ground with the character and not
completely rehash what has already been done in the American version,
otherwise it will get a bit boring. With only twelve episodes, I’m sure
the plot will be moving fast with plenty of action to act as a
supplement.

Commentary by GWOtaku: The first of four co-productions between Marvel and studio Madhouse, this Iron Man series has unsurprising and palpable ties to the blockbuster live-action films Iron Man and Iron Man 2. The arc reactor? It’s there. Pepper Potts? She managed a place in the opening credits within a room at Stark’s mansion that looked like it was taken straight out of the movies. Tony Stark? Of course he’s going to be himself, and count me grateful that his character design now resembles Robert Downy Jr. more than the youthful man we saw in that first promotional picture long ago. I’m sorry to say that the series seems to have taken some flack for no longer resembling the much-loved teaser trailer from 2009, where everything was gorgeous 2D. For me the perfect is no enemy of the good, and I maintain that in CG this iteration of Iron Man is still the best the hero has ever looked in animation. At 12 episodes this series isn’t likely to explore bold new territory, but it certainly looks more than prepared to get the job done for Marvel fans and action enthusiasts.

Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn 2: The Second Coming of Char


Animation Production:
Sunrise

Format: OVA

Release Date: November 12th

Video Links: Long English-Dubbed Trailer | Subtitled “Everlasting” Trailer   

Official Description: “With Banagher Links as its master, the Unicorn Gundam goes into action.
The mobile suit that is said to be the key to Laplace’s Box offers a
glimpse of its incredible power in single combat against Marida Cruz and
her Kshatriya. After the battle, the Unicorn Gundam is captured by the
Londo Bell warship Nahel Argama. Also aboard the ship are Micott,
Takuya, and Audrey, who have been rescued by a Londo Bell pilot named
Riddhe Marcenas. Full Frontal, leader of the Neo Zeon remnants known as
the Sleeves, launches an attack on the Nahel Argama with his mobile suit
Sinanju in order to obtain the Box. Frontal, the so-called “second
coming of Char Aznable,” claims to be a vessel embodying the hopes of
the Spacenoids. What will happen when he encounters Banagher on the
battlefield?”

Commentary: I’m pleased to say that the agonizingly long wait looks to be worthwhile, as “The Second Coming Of Char” seems highly likely to live up to the high standards set by Gundam Unicorn’s first episode. Whereas episode one was largely a riveting reintroduction to Gundam’s original Universal Century saga and a strong beginning, here the story looks to be getting started in earnest with Banagher coming into contact with both sides of the conflict he’s been pulled into. While it’d be foolhardy to read too much into the trailers, they do give me hope that we’re in for an even-handed narrative where the Zeon side gets its share of development and respect; neither the masked Full Frontal nor any of his direct subordinates seem to come off as fanatics. Which makes plenty of sense if so, considering Full Frontal’s claim to the legacy of Zeon Daikun instead of the Zabi Family that established the Principality of Zeon from the original Mobile Suit Gundam. Beyond all of that, on a simple note the obligatory battle scenes are looking as fantastically well done as ever. November can’t come soon enough.

Mobile Suit Gundam 00 The Movie: A wakening of the Trailblazer


Animation Production:
Sunrise

Format: Movie

Premiere Date: Opened in Japanese theaters on September 18th. A subtitled premiere is planned at New York Anime Festival on October 10th. 

Video Links: Long subtitled trailer | Shorter subtitled trailer

Description from Sunrise: “…..the year is 2314 AD, two years after Celestial Being’s last great
battle, and the world faces a new crisis. A derelict Jupiter exploration
ship, abandoned 130 years ago, has left its orbit and is approaching
Earth. As Celestial Being and its Gundam Meisters begin their final mission to save humanity from an unimaginable threat, Gundam Meister Setsuna F. Seiei is about to discover the true purpose of his
evolution as an Innovator, and the nature of the “dialogues” for which
legendary scientist Aeolia Schenberg’s plan has been preparing the human
race.”

Commentary: Well this is it, the ending of Gundam 00 as originally hoped for by director Seiji Mizushima (Fullmetal Alchemist). For good or ill, Mizushima’s vision is most certainly not playing it safe. He and other staff have freely admitted that some may consider this movie “not Gundam”, and for good reason: for the first time we have a Gundam story depicting not a conflict between humans, but against an extraterrestial race called the ELS (Extraterrestrial Living-metal Shapeshifters) that assimilate their unfamiliar surroundings and seemingly cannot be communicated with. In the context of a story that has championed understanding so much, this is certainly a potent problem; wanting to understand your way out of a problem is one thing, being able to do it is another. In a review for the Daily Yomiuri Chiyono Sugiyama described the film as “exhilarating eye candy” and noted reports that the staff were given as much time as they wanted to craft the battle scenes, so at the very least fans can hope for a finale of epic scale. Is it a must-see for viewers that have gotten this far? Absolutely. The great imposing question is the extent to which this “final battle” will truly illuminate the mysteries and big questions related to the Celestial Being organization that fans have wondered about all along, and of course the fate of the considerable cast is also of interest. Hopefully the film has taken advantage of its two full hours to deliver the complete package.

Kuragehime

Animation Production: Brains Base

Format: TV series

Streaming Status: Unclaimed

Premiere Date: October 14th

Description: Tsukimi is a girl living in Tokyo that aspires to be an illustrator. After moving into the city, she moves into a female-only apartment building that’s occupied by lady otaku and NEET’s. One day though, Tsukimi meets a person that is completely unlike the people she’s surrounded by: a fashionable, mature beauty that she invites to her apartment. All is not as it seems though: Tsukimi has actually made friends with a cross-dressing man that is trying to hide from inheriting his father’s line of work.

Commentary: Kuragehime’s animation studio is likely best known to anime fans for
Baccano! and Durarara!!, whose director (Takahiro Omori) is also at work
on this show.
Information about this title beyond the premise is scarce, although the source material is quite successful in Japan and won the Kodansha Manga award for best shojo manga in 2010. As the latest show to air on the the late-night noitaminA block, we can likely expect a series that will aim at an older audience than usual similar to the Tatami Galaxy and House of Five Leaves. For now, whether this is a show strictly for the ladies or has some crossover appeal is something we can only wait to find out. The idea behind this one certainly seems ripe for comedy, though there could also be more to it than what’s apparent on the surface. We may well find out soon, presuming that FUNimation continues its trend of picking up noitaminA programming for streaming this year.

Mardock Scramble: The First Compression


Animation Production: GoHands

Format: Movie

Premiere Date:
Opens in Japanese theaters on November 6th. Scheduled to premiere on October 8th at New York Anime Festival.

Video Links: Official trailer (NSFW, absolutely for 18+ viewers)

Viz Media Description: “Why me? It was to be the last thought a young prostitute, Balot,
would ever have…as a human anyway. Taken in by a devious gambler named
Shell, she became a slave to his cruel desires and would have been
killed by his hand if not for a private investigator and his self-aware
Universal Tool, Oefcoque. Now a cyborg, Balot has not only physical
powers, but the ability to disrupt social environments. She chases after
Shell, his partner-in-crime Boiled, and faces down a variety of insane
villains in this pulse-pounding cyberpunk noir adventure.”

Commentary: As the first movie of a film trilogy intended to adapt Tow Ubukata’s award-winning Sci-fi novels, the pedigree for this one is certainly impressive. Given the dark premise and the content here this is definitely a film for an older audience, though it won’t be the first time for the cyberpunk genre in animation; Mardock Scramble has got the potential to stand alongside the likes of Ghost in the Shell and Ergo Proxy. I’m absolutely adoring the noir feel of the setting, especially when night strikes and the film’s futuristic city lights up. My one concern is whether this seductive style will also have some serious substance to it similar to its counterparts, but I’d like to think that a film trilogy and a critically acclaimed piece of SF literature has more going for it than a simple revenge fantasy. If that turns out to be true, Mardock Scramble has the makings of a superb cult classic.

Panty and Stocking With Garterbelt


Animation Production: Gainax

Format: TV series

Premiere Date: October 1st

Streaming Status: Simulcasted on Crunchyroll (free starting 10/8/10)

Video Links: Official Trailer (NSFW)

Description from Crunchyroll: “Daten City is being rocked by weird happenings. It’s the work of Ghosts
taking advantage of human desires! Two angels, Panty and Stocking, are
sent from above to deal with the threat…but they turn out to be a pair
of delinquent miscreants?! A storm is brewing in Daten City as the
double trouble ghost hunt begins!!”



Commentary: This will be the most divisive anime of the year, and it won’t shock me if it turns out to be more divisive than anything we’ll see next year as well. This show is Gainax and the creative team behind Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann going absolutely nuts for a TV series that’s airing at 3 AM in Japan with few or no restrictions, and it shows. There is literally nothing else like it. Some will look at this and see a trashy show packed with more dirty humor than they can stand, others will take it unmitigated animated fun and perhaps the ultimate take-that attack against the “moe” fad that has been a significant influence on anime in recent years. Is it worth seeing? If you’re starting to feel like all anime looks the same or you are just flat out desperate to see something completely different, the answer is yes. Will it be too extreme? Well, I will go out on a limb and suggest that there is absolutely nothing this show could or will do that couldn’t also be done on South Park as far as content goes. If you have enough tolerance for that show to work for you regularly, then you can probably try this show with little worry. If you don’t, then you’re likely best off staying away.

Psychic Detective Yakumo


Animation Production: Bee Train

Format: TV series

Streaming Status: Unclaimed

Video Links: Official Trailer

Description: Thanks to his special red left eye, college student Yakumo Saitou has always been capable of seeing ghosts. Yakumo comes to believe that every spirit wandering the Earth is bound to it for unknown reasons, and so he decides to begin investigating these mysteries in order to allow the spirits he can see to move on. Yakumo is joined in his quest by his friend Haruka Ozawa, and together the pair will work to solve the supernatural mysteries that surround them.

Commentary by Nick Hobbs: A short supernatural mystery series? I’m in. Every now and then it is
nice to sit back and watch a series where you are sitting on the edge of
your seat wondering what the hell is going to happen at the end of the
episode. I’m expecting this series to be more episodic plots than long
running, but that is alright. As long as the characters progress and the
stories remain interesting that style can still easily work, and it is
nice to know the answer will come sooner rather than later. Of course, I
could be completely wrong and this will have some huge plot throughout
all of the episodes, but the description doesn’t give off that feel. Oh,
and liking the fact that the character has one crimson eye, just gives
this badass feel (and it doesn’t hurt that said eye can see the dead).
All in all, this show looks intriguing.

Redline

Format: Movie

Animation Production: Madhouse

Premiere Date: Opening in Japanese theaters on October 9th. Playing at the Official trailer in San Francisco from October 8th to October 14th.

Video Links: English-narrated trailer at Yahoo! Japan | Redline Trailer 1.1 | Redine trailer 2.1 | Redline trailer 3.1 |  Promo from Pia Eiga Seikasu | 

 

Description from Viz Cinema: “The toughest and the most destructive underground car race in the
universe, REDLINE, has just begun! JP is a reckless driver oblivious to
speed limits, and Sonoshee, one of his competitors with whom JP is
secretly in love with, is a hot girl determined to do whatever it takes
to stand on the winner’s podium. In order to win the finals, they’re up
against the craziest drivers with their heavily armed and awesome
road-tearing vehicles. On top of that, during the race, they have to
avoid military crackdown by the government because the race is actually
prohibited in Roboworld. The only help JP wants is the engine obtained
and custom tuned by his long time buddies, Frisbee the mechanic and
Mogura Oyaji the junk shop. While cars crash and burn into flames, the
race course becomes a merciless hell and JP whips his ride into a dead
heat. Who will survive to win in this mass-destruction race?”

 

Commentary: Imagine Speed Racer or Initial D as adult Sci-Fi crossed over with the best action movie you have ever seen, sporting actual hand-drawn animation of such magnificent quality that you could be forgiven for thinking that studio Madhouse had an unlimited budget to do whatever it wanted.
According to the hype it’s been generating out of film festivals all year long, Redline is this and more. A movie of such imagination, style and diverse design that it’s a success just for vividly demonstrating what the medium of animation can accomplish when serious talent is pushing its limits. The film seems fated to be the spectacular magnum opus of director Takeshi Koike, who is also credited as animation director and storyboarder after apparently spending much of his career doing key animation. If that isn’t a success story, then they don’t exist in this world.

The positive reviews for Redline (that is to say, all of them) are fond of identifying it as a gamechanger, a bold showcase of experimentation that ought to give the anime industry what so many consider a much-needed shot in the arm. For my part, I’m content to say that I’ve been floored every time new footage has come out; calling it fluid doesn’t begin to do the animation quality justice. By all accounts Redline is hardly a deep film, but nonetheless one that looks poised to go down as the most visually striking and one of the most fun animated movies that anyone has or will get to see for years. Given recent news from San Diego Comic Con that Anchor Bay Entertainment cited this film as an upcoming release from fellow Starz subsidiary Manga Entertainment, with any luck fans can look forward to this film joining the likes of Summer Wars and Evangelion 2.0 on home video in 2011.

Star Driver: Kagayaki no Takuto


Animation Production: BONES

Format: TV Series

Premiere Date: October 3rd

Streaming Status: Unclaimed

Video Links: Official trailer

Description from Aniplex: “In the southern edge of Japan lies the Southern Cross Island where its
inhabitants lead a seemingly normal daily existence, but far beneath the
surface a monumental secret lingers in silence—that is, until the
dubious arrival of a boy named Takuto Tsunashi into Southern Cross High
School. When it’s revealed that a trove of approximately twenty giant
machines called “Cybody” are sealed and hidden underground, Takuto and
his classmates become embroiled with a ruthless, clandestine society
bent on usurping this newfound power at any cost. The pivotal key to
unlocking the “Cybody” lies within a special shrine maiden, and as old
secrets stir and new ones begin to arise, how will Takuto deal with his
own secrets? An intensive power struggle is about to erupt and tear
apart the isle of Southern Cross!”

Commentary by Nick Hobbs: This series looks fabulous and crazy awesome.
This definitely looks like it will be the show of the fall, with an
original premise and all the right people backing it. The quirky designs look awesome, the story is interesting and there are
giant robot battles; that’s a great combination. That being said, while I
expect the show to be pretty funny, I am hoping that it won’t get too
ridiculous and will be able to keep a good pace with the plot. If you
dislike flashy and over the top shows, then this probably won’t be for you,
but at least give it a shot. This is BONES after all.

Super Robot Taisen Original Generation: The Inspector


Animation Production: Asahi Production

Format: TV series

Premiere Date: October 3rd

Streaming Status: Simulcasting on Crunchyroll (free starting 10/10/10)

Video Links: Teaser Trailer | Series Opening

Description from Crunchyroll: “Six months since the DC War, where the Divine Crusaders rose up against
the Earth Federation Government, and the “L5 Campaign” against the
alien Aerogaters. With many of its central personnel lost in the war, the Earth Federation
Government is forced to rebuild, and Brian Midcrid, president of the
Unified Colonies, takes the position of its president. During an
emergency session of the Federation Diet, he publicly acknowledges the
existence of extraterrestials, and reveals the events of the L5 campaign
to the masses in what will later come to be called the “Tokyo
Declaration”. He goes on to state that these aliens pose a serious
threat to humanity. President Midcrid continues, asking for the colonies to unite with
earth, and to expand their military forces in a plan called the “Aegis
Plan”. Under the plan, new weapons are developed, and more mechs are
mass produced as the entire planet’s defense network is strengthened.
But threats still lurk in the shadows. The remnants of Bian Zoldark’s
“Divine Crusaders”. Those within the Federation and its army who plot
to turn it into a military dictatorship. And none have yet realized…that the true threats are coming from a world “so close, yet so very far
away”, and a world of silence…”

Commentary: If the opening featuring a song by JAM Project isn’t enough of a hint, let’s be clear. This is a show that is exclusively for hardcore mecha fans and people who have played the strategy RPG that this show came from. This is a show that stars robots of all shapes and sizes, from “real robot” military types to super robots of all varieties and sizes. A robot with mythological roots? That exists. A robot with a gigantic sword for a weapon? That’s here too. A combining robot with a ridiculous amount of firepower? Check. There isn’t much logical justification for all of this existing in the same setting, so it all comes down to how much fun it sounds to see such a variety of mecha beating on each other. Technically this is a sequel to the preceding “Divine Wars” series, but mercifully the animation studio and production staff have all been changed. This time around the series is brought to life by acceptable 2D animation; gone is the cheap-looking and unexciting CG animation that was lackluster even for 2006. If you’re the sort of person that knows and cares who Sanger Zonvolt is, there is mileage to get out of this one. If not, you’re almost certain to get more interested in studio BONES’ Heroman
from the spring or the aesthetically superior Star Driver for this
season.

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