Final spring/summer 2011 anime reviews

Credit to linked pixiv user

Seven anime I’ve been watching this past spring and summer seasons have come to an end. Normally I like to give each series its own review post, especially for the longer shows. But I also like to review anime when it’s fresh in my mind, and if I wait to review each one individually, it’ll take me longer than I’d like to get them all done. So instead I opted to make a single post here for the last four spring/summer 2011 anime I’m going to review. Since there’s four of them, I tried to keep each review concise while still getting out everything I want to say…


Ikoku Meiro no Croisée

My opinion of Ikoku Meiro hasn’t changed much since I discussed it on two previous posts. It was my #1 of the season when I had watched half of the series, and now that I finished it, I would say it still is. To reiterate what I’ve already said about it, it’s a sweet, cute, pretty, slow-paced, historical slice-of-life show, plain and simple. I’ve constantly compared its soothing, gentle atmosphere to Aria, though with historical elements rather than sci-fi. Like its fellow summer ’11 anime Usagi Drop, it doesn’t have much in the way of plot other than furthering the relationship between the two main characters, nor does its small doses of comedy and drama get too extreme. The episodes are episodic, and I’d say Ikoku Meiro’s quality stays consistent throughout its twelve episodes.

What I will add about it that I didn’t already say is that it did a decent job with backstory for Claude and his father and Yune and her sister. The relationship between Claude and Camille was also an interesting revelation, though it did come a bit out of nowhere and felt lacking. For only twelve episodes, I’d say the Ikoku Meiro characters are given enough personality to make them likable without needing a ton of development. Besides the appeal of having a sweet, soothing tone, the two driving points of the series are the refreshing setting of 19th century France, which the series animates and constructs beautifully, and Yune’s cuteness, which the series does well too.

Also like Usagi Drop, Ikoku Meiro’s final episode was pretty much just a regular episode with a bit more emphasis on the relationships between the characters. It was a fine way to end an otherwise plot-less show in my opinion. The only thing that had me puzzled was the fact that Yune kept hearing the ringing of the cat’s bell, so intensely that she climbed up on a roof, and yet the cat was never even there. Was she hearing things?

Again, I feel that Ikoku Meiro stayed very consistent in its twelve episodes so anything further I have to say about it will just be repeating myself. It’s definitely not a show for everyone and you can tell by the first episode if it’s something you’d like.

—–


Kami-sama no Memochou

After the unexpectedly long first episode of KamiMemo threw me off, I decided to stick with the series regardless of misgivings. Further episodes piqued my interest somewhat, and now that I’ve watched them all, I’d say it’s a decent series that simply needed more episode to live up to its potential.

What I mean is that, while the cases that the NEET detectives get involved in are interesting and the dialogue of the show is well written, there were just too many main characters in such a short show that it felt like a lot of them were cheated with screentime and development. Tetsu, Major, and Hiro especially, but even the enigmatic Alice with her unusual status as a NEET detective was screaming for at least some backstory that we never got. But to be fair, not all the characters had this problem – I felt like Ming Li and The Fourth got a good amount of attention, as did most of the one-shot characters in the different cases, such as Renji and Meo.

Surprisingly for an anime like this, I felt that our main protagonist Narumi was the most well developed character. Even though he’s kind of wimpy and annoyingly submissive in most of the episodes, we at least get to know where he’s coming from and how he feels about things. And I was especially pleased with him when he finally grew some balls in the final episode! That’s probably why the final arc of the series is my favorite. Episode 11 almost made me cry because it conveyed the pain and guilt Narumi was feeling about Ayaka so beautifully. Like the case with Renji, it was an arc that was emotionally invested in the main characters rather than guest characters, which I usually prefer. There wasn’t an overarching plot in the show so I felt that KamiMemo ended well with a touching moment between Narumi and Alice, and Ayaka waking up in the hospital.

I know KamiMemo is based on light novels, so most likely my complaint about lack of attention to certain main characters is addressed in the original source. All in all, it’s a decent series if you like mysteries and prefer to see the characters involved in a variety of different plots rather than one ongoing plot. The characters as a whole are rather bland in my opinion, but this could be overlooked if the intrigue of the detective work catches your fancy.

—–


Nichijou

I have to question myself on why I stuck with Nichijou for twenty-six episodes when it never particularly grew on me over that time. My answer is that I’m a hopeless Kyoto Animation fan, and there were indeed some parts I found funny. But honestly, I’d say about 75% of it confused me while only 25% was sincerely funny.

Nichijou is basically a plot-less, slice-of-life variety show comedy, jumping between skits from different characters who live in the same town/go to the same school. The characters with the most screentime are three high school girls – Mio, Yukko, and Mai – and the residents of the Shinonome Laboratory – the Professor, her robot Nano, and their talking cat Sakamoto (no need to question why a child professor is living alone with only a robot for a guardian =P) Pretty much the only time I was engaged in Nichijou’s humor was when one of these sets of characters was the focus, the latter more than the former.

I really wanted to find Nichijou’s comedy funny. But it was just so random and…bizarre. Being unique is one thing, but being unique to the point where it doesn’t make sense to the general audience is another. Or maybe I’m just missing the whole appeal of “randomness = funny” theme that the show thrives on. Or maybe I prefer more subdued humor while Nichijou relies on a lot of hyperbolic yelling and over the top slapsticks. It’s kind of strange when one of the main things I look forward to in each episode of a series is what famous seiyuu will do the preview for the next episode.

But to give the show credit, KyoAni is great at giving precise atmosphere to their shows, and Nichijou is no exception. Their animation is also top notch, despite Nichijou’s character designs being less detailed than their usual works. Both OPs are catchy and well animated, and the two EDs are nice. Every now and then the show stays focused on a single group of characters for an extended period of time and moves away from the bizarre hyperbolics for a while. But on the average, it’s just too miss than hit for me. When it comes to unique “ordinary life” humor, Azumanga Daioh does it way better.

—–


Hanasaku Iroha

Like Ikoku Meiro, my opinion of Hanasaku Iroha hasn’t changed much since I picked it as my #3 favorite of the season upon watching nineteen of its twenty-six episodes. So I’ll just add my new impressions about it after completing the series.

An anime with no real ongoing plot tends to hinge on its characters, and I feel HanaIro has a great cast of characters. First of all, the characters are a variety of ages – adults, elderly, as well as high school-aged, which is always a unique touch. Having a two-cour length, I feel that all the important HanaIro characters got plenty of development and attention, especially in their relationships with other characters. Minko and Tohru, Enishi and Takako, Sui and her late husband, Ohana and her mom, Ko, and just about everyone else…relationships in HanaIro were “blooming” beautifully all over. I also like how even characters who have a lot of rather distasteful traits, Ohana’s mom being the main one and perhaps Sui in the early episodes, are still treated with dignity as characters and shown to have grown more likable in the end without changing completely. The only character who bothered me some in this respect is Minko, since she’s insufferably rude to Ohana even in later episodes when they’ve more or less become friends.

I’ve heard complaints that the mid to latter episodes of HanaIro aren’t as good as the early episodes. I personally didn’t notice much of a difference in quality. Out of the twenty-six episodes, there were of course some that were better than others but none that I felt went below mediocre. But one thing this series is totally consistent on is good animation. Although I didn’t care for any of the HanaIro OPs or EDs, the animation throughout the series, especially in the gorgeous backgrounds, is stellar.

As for wrapping things up in the end, I’m glad it ended up with OhanaxKo as OhanaxTohru just seemed too contrived to me. I feel that Sui got the best development in the end, really opening up and softening compared to the stiff, bitchy grandma she was in the first episode. It was great seeing a montage of all the characters in the end though I would have liked to see Ohana having a tearful goodby to Minko and Nako since she spent the most time with them out of all the Kissuiso staff.

To conclude, even if it falters a bit in some episodes, HanaIro has a memorable cast of characters, good writing, great animation, and a bittersweet yet optimistic outlook from beginning to end thanks to its plucky protagonist Ohana.

11 Comments… read them or add your own.

  1. I can’t comment on Ikoku Croisee as it’s one of the shows I didn’t pick up this season.

    KamiMemo actually adapted the first novel in the final arc and had an original first episode. Everything else was really by-the-books. I’ve read that the source adaptation isn’t that great either. I agree with your complaint that the NEET agency really needed more development. We got plenty of the fourth, Min-san, and our various clients, but the main characters (outside of the protagonist) got essentially none! I would’ve liked to see why Alice became a detective or even a NEET to begin with. She vastly needed some background information.

    Nichijou came on strong this second half with coherent plots and wonderful gags. I just wonder what would’ve happened if this had started in episode 3/4 rather than 12/13. I think the show would’ve been much better for it. It actually grew on me to a point where I began looking forward to watching it every week. I’m sorry that it ended up more miss than hit for you.

    And so we arrive to my (now) number 3 show of all time: Hanasaku Iroha. When I say that the quality dropped in the middle parts, I refer to the lack of an overall focus and direction of the show. It lost where it was going during those times (though we see how the movie arc is supposed to tie in later). They seem too “Plot-of-the-week” to matter. To give a good comparison, in Sentai, there’s a new monster every week that they battle; it feels like those episodes were nothing more than just “this week’s battle.”

    I greatly liked the realistic aspects of Iroha. It never set out to be a grand drama, but showed how we can find places and people that help us become better together. That’s what Kissisou was for everyone: a place where everyone involved worked and grew together through their problems (except Enishi as the inn would still be in business if it wasn’t for him not being able to run it). While I didn’t care for some people when they were first introduced, I grew to love every single character in that show.

    I would’ve liked to see Ohana’s good-bye to Minchi/Nako, hell, I just want to see more Iroha period. Thankfully there’s a drama CD that might give us some of that.

    Now (somehow) we move onto Autumn and the series that await us!

    • Yumeka says:

      I agree with you about KamiMemo…and thanks for the info about the original novels. That’s weird that they decided to use the first arc for the last one in the anime. Perhaps they wanted to save the emotional drama in that arc for the end after we’ve gotten to know Narumi and Ayaka in the previous episodes so we’ll feel more sympathy for them.

      I guess the reason I didn’t notice the quality drop in HanaIro is because I’ve seen a lot of anime with episodic “battle” or “problem” of the week formulas and it doesn’t really bother me. But I can understand how someone expecting it to keep up the direction it took in the early episodes could be disappointed. I did notice the shift from comedy to drama though. But despite a few less than perfect episodes, I’m glad you ended up liking it again in the end ^_^

  2. Myna says:

    I disagree with the character in HanaIro being well developed. I honestly didn’t see any significant change in any of the characters between the Shijima women. Satsuki is kind of my favorite character. I think she’s awesome. Minko is a very strong candidate for most annoying character of the year.

    The second half made me want to blow my brains out; I thought pretty much every single episode in the latter half was horrendous. But thankfully the finale was really satisfying. I think I might’ve preferred HanaIro being one cour with a second season or bonus OVAs later on. But whatever; my hatred for PA Works continues.

    • Yumeka says:

      By “development” I don’t mean that they change over the course of episodes, only that we get to see different parts of their personalities and lives. We get to see how Nako handles herself at home, how Sui feels about her late husband, and the particulars of Ohana’s relationship with both her mother and Ko. Fleshing out a character is another form of development as is having them change over time, at least to me.

      Despite Satsuki not being a very likable character, I think that she’s a very well written, believable character. I also agree with you that Minko’s inconsistencies with development as far as whether she’s become friends with Ohana or not was kind of annoying.

      I think the only P.A. Works show you haven’t tried yet is True Tears. But I already know it’s the type of show you’d hate. Guess they’re just not the studio for you.

  3. Hogart says:

    While I saw the appeal of HanaIro’s characters, I felt it was a bit jarring to have Ohana and her mom/grandma feel so real while the rest of the characters felt like anime cliches (except perhaps Beanman). They spent way too much time on the side characters and not enough time selling me on why Kissuiso was worth fighting for.. honestly, I couldn’t tell why all those incompetent boobs suddenly loved it (except as a plot device).

    Ikoku was cute, and had a few nice moments of characterization or setting-related ideas. The OVA was probably my favorite episode (episode 4.5 I think). But for some reason it never really pulled me in like Aria or Usagi Drop did. I guess it just felt too much like an excuse to mostly just show a cute Japonaise doing cute Japonaise things.. though that was enough to keep me amused.

    • Yumeka says:

      Hmm, that’s an interesting view of the HanaIro characters. You’re right that they could have spent more time delving into why each character is so bonded with Kissuiso. I also agree that Ohana and her mom and grandma were the most realistic characters. I don’t think all the others were blatant cliches (Nako and Minko maybe a little) but compared to the aforementioned three, they could have been presented better.

      I haven’t watched episode 4.5 of Ikoku – didn’t even know about it. I’ll have to check it out =)

  4. Kal says:

    I watched Ikoku and Hanasaku Iroha. And I agree on both accounts. Ikoku was nice and cute, and no extensive plots. Just a gentle flow from episode to episode. Pretty nice overall.

    Hanairo did have very good character development. I think Minchi really did like Ohana a lot. I saw her as just a girl that has trouble dealing with other people. Even with Nako, she was never overtly nice to her, but they were friends. I still can’t forget the 3rd episode, it just does not fit into the rest of the series. The situation, and the minor character that was introduced there really did not help the rest of the series much. Apart from that little smudge there, the whole series was really good over all.

    The other 2 series you mentioned do not really pique my attention much. I think I will pass up on those. On to the next season!

    • Yumeka says:

      I too believe that Minko really likes Ohana, I just felt she was constantly inconsistent about it, being nice to Ohana one minute and then being as rude to her in later episodes as she was in the beginning.

      I agree that episode 3 was an “oddball” episode and that Jiroumaru was a pretty unnecessary character. Nothing would have changed in the story if he was just a guest character in that episode and didn’t become a reoccurring character. I don’t think he got much of any starring roles or development later on besides a few random bits of humor.

  5. Shance says:

    Croisee was never on my top list of shows, but it was never crappy either. Moreover, its nature made me watch it not for the moe, but for the fact the unique fascination of Japan for the western cultures, specifically the British and the English. However, the show finished with an open-ended note, with people trying to find closure for everything it has started, like Claude buying back Yune’s mother’s kimono, or Claude and Camille doing something to make a relationship between a commoner and an upstart noble work out. If it weren’t for this, the show would’be gotten a higher rating from its viewers, but I digress. For all we know, a new season for Croisee may be just around the corner.

    • Yumeka says:

      You know, I totally forgot about the “Claude buying back Yune’s mother’s kimono” subplot from the first episode. It definitely would have been nice to have that resolved, as well as fleshing out Claude and Camille’s relationship more. Hope there will be a second season!

  6. Inushinde says:

    I felt somewhat the same about Nichijou. It was certainly interesting and unique, but sometimes that uniqueness got in the way of the actual humor.
    I still found it entertaining, but I entirely get where you’re coming from here.

    As for HanaIro, it was pretty good towards the end. It left on an uncertain, yet definite sense of closure which was certainly appreciated, and that’s more than I can say for most series.

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