Evan Burkey

Weeaboo Wednesday: Spring Season First Impressions Part 1

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After an extended hiatus due to me being way too busy with way too much stuff (then again, who isn’t these days?), Weeaboo Wednesday returns with force!

That’s right kids, we just had our first weekend in April, and you know what that means… new spring anime season! At first glance, there were not very many shows I was interested in this year, but in the spirit of being MWN’s Anime Samurai I’ve bit the bullet and watched as many shows as I could, in order to give you fellow weeaboos my first impressions. Remember to take these with a grain of salt, as the first episode of a show is not always indicative of the rest of the series (Lucky Star, I’m looking at you). I didn’t have a chance to watch everything on my list, so be on the lookout for round 2 next week.

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood (Bones)

In the spirit of fairness, I should start off by saying that I absolutely love the Fullmetal Alchemist franchise. I own all the DVDs of the first series, the special edition of the movie, and every issue of the manga… so I am definitely biased when I say that the the new Fullmetal Alchemist series is quite excellent and completely worth watching. FMA is set in a alternate version of 1940’s Europe, and tells the story of Edward and Alphonse Elric, two brothers who study alchemy. In this alternate world, alchemy, which allows alchemists to transform the shape, movement, and energy of matter, was studied and refined instead of physics. The story revolves around Ed and Al trying to find the Philosopher’s Stone, which they believe will let them regain Al’s body and Ed’s arm and leg that were lost in a botched attempt to use alchemy to bring their dead mother back to life.

This new retelling of Fullmetal Alchemist is supposed to follow the story of the manga more closely, where as the first series was created while the manga was still fairly new. Instead of creating filler, Bones created a new ending for the anime that doesn’t follow the manga at all.  The first episode was largely an introduction to the characters, and didn’t contain much story. Regardless, it was incredibly entertaining to watch. This new retelling looks excellent in HD, and the action is incredibly fluid. The original voice actors for Ed and Al return for this new series, but most other characters have different voice actors.

As you can probably tell, I am definitely watching this series every week. To make it easy for American viewers to watch, Funimation is streaming subtitled episodes of the series four days after they air in Japan on Funimation’s website, similar to what Viz is doing for Naruto Shippuden.

Basquash (Satelight)

Basketball played with giant robots. An original series from Shōji Kawamori, the creator of Macross. Sounds freakin’ sweet, right? However, Basquash does not deliver where it should. I understand that this kind of concept lends itself to the “hot-blooded” type of anime, where the main character is going to “show the world” and is loud and abrasive. Unfortunately the main character, Dan JD, becomes very annoying within a few minutes. It really is too bad, because this show has so much potential. The mecha designs are fantastic, and the CGI scenes with the Bigfoots, as the mecha are called, are very entertaining. I will admit that the final scene, in which Dan commandeers a Bigfoot and proceeds to pull off trick moves while moving towards the net looks fantastic, and is very cool to watch. The problem is that the character designs are what kills it for me. Dan is annoying, the female lead is a pair of giant tits that talks, and Dan’s pet Spanky (yes, Spanky…) is flat out stupid.

Regardless of my complaints, I will watch the next couple episodes of Basquash. I really enjoyed the basketball scenes, and hopefully the character development will be there to make me get over my dislike of the main protagonist.

Shangri-la (GONZO)

First things first: Shangri-La’s story is confusing as hell. Maybe they’ll go into detail as the show goes on, but from what I can gather the plot circles around a boomerang wielding girl named Kuniko Hojo, who is in line to become the leader of an anti-government group in Tokyo. The world is plagued by global warming, and the government has institued a system of carbon credits and carbon taxes that dominates world markets. The show setup a lot of character backstory in the first episode, so there was not much plot to go on. The character designs, done by Range Murata (famous artist and character designer for Last Exile) are fantastic, with my personal favorite being Kuniko’s guardian. I didn’t catch he/she/it’s name, but the character is a whip wielding tranny who takes out a soldier by kissing him until he passes out. Ridiculous, I know, but I found it incredibly funny. I plan to keep watching this show, but I don’t know if I’ll stick with it unless they can make the plot a little more cohesive.

Saki (GONZO)

To it’s credit, Saki has one of the more original premises I’ve seen in an anime. The story revolves around Saki Miyanagi, a high school freshman who gets asked to join the mahjong club at her school. Because her family forced her to play mahjong but would punish her for losing or beating them by too much, she hates the game, but also has become an expert at keeping her score at zero. The mahjong club realizes her skill at the game and tries to get her to join, while trying to convince her to win.

Though the premise is original and quite interesting, and the characters of Saki are likable, I have one major problem with this show. I don’t know the first thing about mahjong. The scenes in which the club plays mahjong are completely lost to me, even though the commentary provided by the club members not playing helps to smooth it out a little. Big props also go to [Underwater-Mahjong], the group that is subbing this show. The subbers inserted notes that explain most of what is going on in the game, and it does help one who knows nothing about mahjong understand what the heck is going on. Regardless of their excellent job, many of the mahjong moves and plays still went over my head.

Regardless, I still plan on watching this show for two reasons. First, I really like the characters, especially Saki, and I want to see how they develop as the story progresses. Second, the mahjong sequences are incredibly entertaining due to the rediculous camera work and music that goes along with them. I’ve never seen a tabletop game be portrayed in such an intense, hardcore way, and it comes across as halfway cool and halfway hilarious.  Watch the above video and you’ll see what I mean. As far as a recommendation, this show is a tossup. I’ll at least watch the next few episodes, but if it gets extremely mahjong heavy I can see myself getting over my head and lost.

Valkyria Chronicles (A-1 Pictures)

Before I go into my impressions on this show, I need to ask you a question. Do you, the reader, own a Playstation 3? If you answered yes, stop reading this article and go buy Valkyria Chronicles. It is, by far, the best game on PS3 and one of the greatest games I’ve ever played, not to mention one of the best looking. The fact that it tanked in sales is criminal, putting Valkyria Chronicles in the list of such games as Beyond Good and Evil, System Shock 2, and Psychonauts. Seriously, why are you still reading? GO BUY IT NOW.

Ok, now that my little rant is over… on with the anime adaptation. Valkyria Chronicles is set in a fictional version of Europe, known as Europa, in 1935. Every nation depends on ragnite, a powerful resource used in everything from fuel to medicine. Gallia, a small country stuck between the imperialistic Empire and the democratic Federation. Gallia is very rich in ragnite, and the story begins with the Empire invading the Gallian border town of Bruhl, where Welkin Gunther and Alicia Melchott, the two main characters, reside.

The anime adaptation follows the story of the game very closely, but changes a few slight details to keep the story moving. Even a diehard fan such as myself won’t be bothered by these minute changes. The animation looks fantastic, and includes some of the filter that gave the game it’s distinct “watercolor painting in motion” look. This doesn’t work as well for the anime as it does for the game, but there is a significant less amount of filter in the anime, so in the end it looks great. The voice acting is well done, though it is a little odd to have played the game in English, then hear different voices for the characters in Japanese. I thouroughly enjoy the story of Valkyria Chronicles, and will definintely be watching this series each week. The anime is done well enough that someone who has never played the game would enjoy it as well, if the viewer was interested in the setting and storyline.

K-On! (Kyoto Animation)

I never thought that Kyoto Animation, makers of Full Metal Panic, Lucky Star, and The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, could make a show with more moeblob-ness than Lucky Star. Apparently I was proven wrong. I know that I shouldn’t be promoting the goofy, deformed animation and derivative plots that KyoAni constantly puts out, but I just enjoy it so much. K-On! is about 4 high school girls who are the sole members of their school’s Light Music Club, though none of them can play instruments or read music. The story revolves around them trying to learn to play instruments and becoming friends. Unoriginal and derivative plot? Yes. Moeblob character design that all looks the same? Check. However, I will continue watching this series if only for my fanboyish love of all things KyoAniki, and that I sometimes need a show that lets me turn my brain off while I watch it. The cuteness overload helps too.

This season’s turning out to be much better than I thought it would. Since I didn’t get to watch everything, next week Weeaboo Wednesday will be back with my impressions of all the shows I missed this time around, as well as a few followups on this week’s shows.

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