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Spring 2011 Anime Preview

As a new crop of Japanese animation hits the airwaves this spring, Nick Hobbs and I are back again to comment on our best hopes for anime between now and the start of Summer. Some are already simulcasted or likely to be, some are possibly-unlikely licenses that definitely shouldn’t be overlooked. Have a look, enjoy the preview and tell us what you think!

AnoHana


Animation Production: A-1 Pictures

Format: TV series

Premiere Date:April 14th

Streaming Status: Theatrical trailer for Crunchyroll

Video Links: 60 second trailer | Theatrical trailer



Synopsis:
Honma Meiko, also known as Menma, is entering High School with her five
childhood friends Jintan, Anaru, Yukiatsu, Tsuruiko and Poppo. Much to
Menma’s disappointment, all of her childhood friends have changed
negatively over the years. Saddened by this, Menma makes a request of
Jintan, to reunite the six friends as they were in their childhood.

Comments from Nick Hobbs: It wouldn’t be a complete Anime season for me without checking out at
least one slice-of-life series, and this one has all the makings to be
such an emotional and enjoyable ride. Sure, the story is incredibly
simple but you watch these typea of shows for the characters and their
interactions with one another and their surroundings. When done poorly,
they end up being overly silly and fanservice-y. When done right, they
make you laugh when the characters are having fun and make you cry when
they are in turmoil. Just from the trailers alone I am going to give AnoHana the benefit of the doubt and say it will be great, not to mention Menma sounds adorable.

Blue Exorcist

Animation Production: A-1 Pictures

Format: TV series

Premiere Date: April 17th

Streaming Status: Theatrical trailer for Crunchyroll

Video Links: 60 second trailer 



Synopsis:
Okumura Rin is Satan’s son, born into the world of the living to act as
his key to overtaking Earth. When Rin’s mentor, Father Fujimoto Shirou
dies suddenly Rin finds himself under attack by other exorcists. Despite
his bloodline and fate Rin decides to become an exorcist himself and
undergoes training at a secret academy.

Comments from Nick Hobbs: Being the Star Driver fan that I am I have seen this show
advertised quite a bit as the show aired. Even though the demon thing
has been done in numerous shows I can forgive it so long as the show
brings something new to the table. The main character in particular has
most of my interest at this point. Blue flames sprouting from his head
and around his body is all kinds of badass. Being the son of Satan
doesn’t hurt either, which means I expect some pretty decent abilities
from this guy. If the protagonist ends up being one of those yelling
types though I will be thoroughly upset because let’s face it, they are
annoying!

Buddha


Animation Production: Toei Animation

Format: Movie

Premiere Date: May 28th

Video Links: Theatrical trailer | Theatrical trailer



Synopsis:
Tezuka Osamu no Buddha -Akai Sabaku yo! Utsukushiku- is the first installment of a trilogy of films that will adapt the manga “Buddha” created Osamu Tezuka and distributed in English by Vertical Publishing. A combination of history and fictionalized, original storytelling, the narrative depicts the life story of Prince Siddharta–the future Buddha–in India during the 6th century BC. Also important to this first part of the story is Chapra, a slave that attempts to escape his lot in life, and his stalwart mother.

Comments from GWOtaku: Many consider Buddha one of the grandest stories the “father of manga” ever drew and wrote, maybe even the finest. Toei looks to be up to the task of giving this material the stellar treatment it deserves, and there’s no doubt this is a compelling subject matter. We’re talking about the life and times of one of the most important people in world history and religion. Tezuka was unafraid to tell a story about it that included some of his own characters, his own ideas, and some elements of the supernatural for good measure (one character, Tatta, has the ability to possess animals!). A Buddhist himself, Tezuka purportedly uses his narrative to meaningfully and respectfully address and explore Buddhist philosophy. Fans and cinemaholics alike ought to be clamoring for this one; to me it’s no less worthy of exportation than Redline or Hoshi o Ou Kodomo. At least the manga is there to sate our curiosity during the wait.

C: The Money of Soul and Possibility Control


Animation Production: Tatsunoko

Format:TV series

Premiere Date:April 14th

Streaming Status: Unclaimed

Video Links: 60 second trailer | Theatrical trailer



Synopsis:
Despite Japan’s economy being supported by the Sovereign Wealth Fund the
job market in the country is showing no signs of improvement.
Unemployment has hit the youth particularly hard, causing birth rates to
plummet and crime to rise. Living with his aunt after the passing of
his mother and disappearance of his father, Yogi Kimimaro is offered a
place to live in the financial district. He will be given a limitless
amount of money, the catch is that he has to hand over his future.

Comments from Nick Hobbs: 
The premise of this story reminds me of Eden of the East. Since I loved Eden I can only imagine that this show will be just as entertaining, especially with the writer from Durarara!! behind this. The whole money vs. morality is an interesting theme to
explore and always offers pretty emotional and exciting storylines. I
also like that the animation is a bit quirkier than usual. While I like
clean/slick animation it is nice to mix things up every now and then.
The final element that is appealing about this show is the
science-fiction element, meaning I expect some craziness to take place. A
part of me does wonder what the larger plot line will really be all
about so hopefully that is established right away, otherwise it could
get pointless real quick.

Deadman Wonderland


Animation Production: Manglobe

Format: TV series

Premiere Date:April 16th

Streaming Status: Acquired by Crunchyroll

Video Links: Theatrical trailer



Description:
When Igarashi Ganta’s entire middle school class is murdered, he is
framed and sentenced to death at an amusement park prison. At the prison
Ganta is forced to wear a collar that will inject poison in his body
and kill him within three days. Ganta soon learns that the man that
killed his class is known as the ‘Red Man’ and is somewhere in the
prison. In order to survive Ganta will have to fight other prisoners and
prove his innocence, his only ally an albino girl named Shiro.

Comments from Nick Hobbs: Maybe I just haven’t been paying attention over the years but this
season to me seems to have a good bit of science-fiction based Anime
series coming out. Not that I mind, as I have mentioned before I have
never really gotten into that many. Out of all of them this definitely
seems to be the darkest in terms of how disturbing it could potentially
be. I’m also digging Shiro’s design and concept, since it seems so odd
for an innocent looking albino girl to be in a prison like this. While
the plot itself isn’t all that original I do think the journey through
it will be worth the watch since with only twelve episodes I expect the
series to move quickly. The fighting between inmates will also be sure
to give the show an ample amount of action, which will mix well with the
intense drama that is sure to unfold.

Hoshi o Ou Kodomo


Animation Production: CoMix Wave, Inc

Format: Movie

Premiere Date: 
May 7th

Video Links: 60 second trailer, Theatrical trailer

Synopsis:Hoshi o Ou Kodomo (Children Who Chase Lost Voices from Deep Below) tells the story of Asuna: a girl living a normal, solitary life spending her time listening to mysterious music from the “crystal radio” her father left her. One day though, she embarks on an journey to find a boy again.

Comments from GWOtaku: For all the justifiable praise and suggestions that he could be “the next Miyazaki”, I think this film could really be the one to establish Makoto Shinkai as an auteur in the medium. Shinkai’s prior films were generally contemplative and understated, most interested in exploring human emotion and inspiring plenty of that in the viewer. This time Shinkai’s working in adventure and even some action while holding onto the essentials of what earned him so many fans in the first place. The animation here is lush and gorgeous, and beyond that the film seems to blend fantasy and real life to concoct a surreal, attractive and immensely appealing setting. This thing has immense potential to find an audience on either side of the Pacific. I think fans can be reasonably confident that film screenings–and hopefully a quick license–are in our not-too-distant future.

Moshidora

Animation Production: Production I.G.

Format: TV Series

Premiere Date: April 7th

Streaming Status: Unclaimed

Video Links: Long trailer

Synopsis: When her childhood friend winds up in the hospital battling illness, Kawashima Minami does her a favor and volunteers to step into her shoes as the manager of her school’s baseball team. Their goal is nothing less than the championship at Koshien! There’s just one problem: they really aren’t very good.  But after coming across Peter Drucker’s “Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices”, Minami starts putting its business principles to use to lead the team to success.

Comments from GWOtaku: This show might not seem to be much to look at, but the starting premise here is enough for me to at least call it intriguing. It’s most easily identified as a sports manga, but if it centers on management and business principles first and foremost it seems to me that it can’t help but avert some of the familiar tropes. Even if not exactly original, there’s something fun and appealing about a school girl picking up these principles on the fly and being thoughtful and smart enough to put them into action. This title is apparently something of a sensation in Japan; it’s adapting the country’s best-selling 2010 novel and the book is getting the live-action treatment as well. Outside Japan I’m not taking any bets that it’ll set the world on fire, but it at least sounds fun.

Steins;Gate

Animation Production: White Fox

Format: TV Series

Premiere Date:April 5th

Streaming Status: Unclaimed

Video Links: Long trailer

Description: In Akihabara a mad scientist known as Okabe Rintarou and his friend
Itaru Hashida create a microwave that can send text messages into the
past. When Rintarou discovers a female neuroscience prodigy called
Makise Kurisu dead he tests the invention by sending a text and altering
the time line so that she is alive in the present. After several
experimentations Rintarou and friends soon find themselves being
targeted by the nuclear research organization SERN.

Comments from Nick Hobbs: I haven’t really ever taken the time to get into a science-fiction based anime, so I figure now is as good a time as any. Most of the time the
animation in this genre looks too gritty for me but from what has been
released the animation and designs look very clean and pleasing to the
eye. Makise in particular draws a lot of attention with her red hair and
blue eyes. Time travel is a fun science-fiction ploy to play around
with and if done right it can be a very rewarding story. Of course, this
also means things can get really messy so I can only hope the show
doesn’t get muddled in confusion.

Tea For Universe, Tea For Life


Animation Production: Bee Train

Format: TV series

Premiere Date: April 7th

Streaming Status: Unclaimed

Video Links: Episode 1 Japanese trailer

Description: At the time of the Sengoku period, Furuta Sasuke is a retainer for Oda Nobunaga. But he’s an odd one, a man who values art and the tangible things of this world more than warrior’s code. Learning from Nobunaga’s tea master, Sen no Rikyuu, Sasuke hopes to pursue the “way of tea” as this era of strife surrounds him.

Comments from GWOtaku: This show (a.k.a. Hyouge Mono) has an uphill battle to fight. It’s about Samurai, but it appears to have more in common with last year’s House of Five Leaves than any similar action-oriented title. It’s also produced by Bee Train, which has earned a stigma for poor pacing and unexciting execution that, I have to concede, isn’t unwarranted. Still, we do have an unusual period piece on our hands here, and its now-uncommon length of 39 episodes offers it plenty of space to do some world building and tell a solid character-driven story. The question is whether folks will pay attention. Writing for the popular anime blog Random Curiosity, “Divine” refers to the original manga’s “realistic yet mildly comedic approach” and remarks that “…it breaks away from the typical anime formula
that a lot of self-proclaimed anime connoisseurs call for.
Unfortunately, those same people won’t even consider such offerings when
they’re available,”. I sincerely hope he is wrong.

Tiger & Bunny


Animation Production: Sunrise

Format: TV Series

Premiere Date: April 2nd

Streaming Status: Simulcasted by Viz Media

Video Links: Official subtitled trailer

Description: In the city of Stern Bild, superheroes are real–and televised. In fact, they are avatars of corporate interests, fighting the good fight against crime while wearing their sponsors’ logos. All the while they’re caught in action by “Hero TV,” a sort of reality show where the heroes compete to earn the most “Hero Points” and be recognized as the “King of Heroes” every year. Now the city’s first superhero duo is about to debut, as the honorable but aggressive veteran “Wild Tiger” is paired up with a rookie partner. Can these two possibly get along?

Comments from GWOtaku: If you try one new anime series this season, at least try Tiger & Bunny.

Viz deserves major accolades for picking this up at a time where a lot of their focus is on anime connected to manga properties that they produce. Sunrise deserves credit as well; these days it’s cause for celebration when superheroes get the anime treatment outside of a manga adaptation, and it looks like they’ll be doing it again later on with Sacred Seven. The starting premise is fun and the show generally just looks cool, even despite CG animation that’s perhaps a bit too conspicuous. With direction from Keiichi Satou (Big O, Karas) and newcomer Masafumi Nishida handling the series composition and script, Tiger & Bunny is an action show that could be a genuine breath of fresh air for anime this year. Here’s hoping it can live up to the potential–and that if it does, the support will be there for another season.

X-Men

Animation Production: Madhouse

Format: TV Series

Premiere Date: April 1st

Streaming Status: Unclaimed

Video Links: Short trailer

Synopsis: When an anti-mutant group known as the U-Men are responsible for the
kidnapping of a young mutant girl in Northern Japan, Professor X is
forced to reassemble his team of mutants in order to stop them.
Disbanding after the loss of Jean Grey, Cyclops, Wolverine, Beast and
Storm come together with Xavier in an attempt to bring peace between
mutants and humans. X-Men will be the third series that Madhouse and Marvel have collaborated on.

Comments from Nick Hobbs: Even though I haven’t checked out Iron Man or Wolverine from the Madhouse/Marvel team-up I am psyched for X-Men.
I’ve always been more partial to the team than any other superhero(s)
so it makes it a pretty easy choice for me. I will say that I wish Jean
was a part of this series instead of Wolverine, if only because he
already has an entire series to himself. Still, it has been awhile since
we have gotten anything animated from the X-men, making this all the
more welcome. I’ve also read relatively good things about Wolverine and the action in it so hopefully this series definitely has good action choreography as well as keeping the story interesting.

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