13 March, 2010

Anime Chekku

What with a certain anime convention coming up in just under a month, I figured it was a good time for me to watch some anime to really get in the mood. Here's what I've been watching recently:

Zan Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei

First up is the fourth incarnation of one of my favorite series, Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei. I've been waiting for the right moment to watch this since it aired, before the holidays. As expected, Zan is on par with the rest of the series' incarnations, and is very much more of the same (which, if, like me, you like the same, is a good thing). If you're unfamiliar with Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei, it is, in my opinion, the perfect blend of social satire, cynical humor, psychological disorders, and adorable moe. And if you think that last element sounds out of place, you may be right, but that's precisely the reason I adore the series so much. And because the art is so good (and the girls so cute), here are a few more screen caps:

Moving on...

Mongolian Chop Squad

Er, that is, Beck. Despite the premise being quite obviously right up my alley, and in spite of the recommendations I've received, I've been slow to catch Beck, and the reason is in the title. Although I could see it being a reference to revered guitar god Jeff Beck, the fact is, my first reaction is to think of a decidedly different Beck who, though I'm not actually familiar with his music, kind of turns me off. In fact, even within the anime series, when the band debuts in America, they have to come up with a different band name (which ends up being Mongolian Chop Squad) for (I think) that very reason.

In any case, it was a good series, about the initial tribulations surrounding the formation of a Japanese rock band. Featured in the band is a hot young guitarist who spent some time in New York, and played alongside another musician currently in a more popular band, and a high school student who turns out to be something of a musical prodigy. Together with the other members of the band, they struggle to make it both as performing and recording artists. Though I liked Chiba's character, his hip hop approach to the vocals wasn't really my style. Koyuki's singing style was better, but still more ballady. What that band needed was a rock vocalist.

The liberties taken with the story of the guitar Lucille are hilariously patchy, though I'm sure that was intentional. But Sonny Boy Waters? The character with the best taste in music was the guitar teacher/humorously awkward old guy, who is a fan of old British rock - he even mentioned the Yardbirds! There were a few minor time jumps in the story that felt a little awkward, but it was nice to see the passage of time that was covered. I wasn't really satisfied with the stilted development of Koyuki and Maho's relationship, though. For the characters who spoke some English, the accents were (mostly) expectedly bad, which was kind of distracting. And to end on a good note, the band's performance at the music festival near the end was really inspirational.


Toradora! is a story of romance, involving a fragile-looking but aggressive girl named Taiga (tora = tiger), and a boy with a mean face but a gentle heart (representing the dragon = doragon). It's one of the many series featuring a tsundere character voiced by Queen of Tsundere Kugimiya Rie, who also voiced hikikomori (and yes, tsundere) Nagi-ojousama from Hayate no Gotoku, who I am rather fond of.

To my surprise, Toradora! featured a number of other familiar voices, including Maria (Tanaka Rie) - also from Hayate no Gotoku (and to my complete surprise, also the voice of my beloved Chii) - as the sensei. I recognized the distinct voice of one Nonaka Ai, who plays Kafuka Fuura in Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei, as one of the minor characters. One voice I [shockingly] didn't recognize was that of Horie Yui, playing one of the supporting characters, who also voiced two characters I've had my eye on in the past - Sawachika Eri from School Rumble (<3), and Narusegawa Naru from Love Hina (now I'm showing my age ;_;).

I kind of didn't want to like Aisaka Taiga at first, because to me, she was just a character trying to usurp the voice of Nagi-ojousama (like how Kannagi's Nagi usurped her name), but I got to like her in the end. Although I missed Nagi's usage of "zo" at the end of her sentences. Even though I have the impression that it's more of an aggressive male pattern of speech, I always thought it was cute when she used it. But Taiga doesn't use it.

I think the thing I like about tsundere characters, is that I can relate to their reluctance to show their feelings, especially when those feelings are embarrassing (which usually involves admitting that you like someone). And while I may not have the violent or downright standoffish fronts associated with tsundere characters (at least I hope not), I find that attempt to shield their vulnerabilities immensely attractive (at least in fantasy).

But hiding one's feelings can have painful consequences, for yourself and for those around you. And the way in which this series deals with those consequences is what lifted my appreciation for it above merely a fun show to watch. When I got to the end of the "intervention" scene, it was so good, I went back and watched it three more times in a row before continuing on (I'm not sure I can even remember the last time I've done that). The ending may not have been perfect (or completely satisfying), but that confrontation was worth the price of admission alone.

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