Three-Episode Test: Red Data Girl

I didn’t think it was possible, but Red Data Girl proves that there’s still anime that can surprise me.

Most of the time, I find myself looking at a new series, watching the OP, and pretty much figuring out what’s going to happen within five minutes of the show.  I think most of us have learned to develop this skill; when there’s just too much information bombarding you from all sides, you need a quick way to edit and focus on what’s most important and to discard or ignore things that are not. In a season where there’s at least ten new shows to watch, separating the wheat from the chaff is a necessary way to preserve one’s sanity.

One of the main reasons why I’m continuing Red Data Girl for now is because I still haven’t figured it out. I remember reading one aniblogger saying that s/he thought that the series was going to be a reverse harem based on the opening. I lol’ed at that, but at the same time, I could see where they’re coming from. It’s not really all supernatural, or a mystery, or a romance — yet it seems to be touching on all those. I think I really do enjoy series that don’t really fit in any specific genre category; in letting the narrative take its time and due course, the anime feels less contrived. Sometimes a story could take a meandering path before it reaches its end, and it’s in the unexpected turns that makes it memorable.

Another reason why I’m sticking with this show is Izumiko herself. Maybe it’s a bit of cheating since I am getting two characters in one… maybe I just like scenarios where  internal conflict is dramatized in the trope of two souls inhabiting one body. I know I loved it in Yurara/Rasetsu. It’s interesting to watch Izumiko become the Himegami (and maybe vice-versa, I don’t know, I haven’t seen enough yet) but still she insists on her own personal autonomy. For me, Izumiko is a ganbare girl, except she does it all without really saying all the slogans and self-affirmations.  She’s not fully confident, but she’s making all these tentative steps in that direction, with the abilities that she’s currently capable with. I like that about her. Very much.

Decision: Sticking around for the long haul. Though I do wish Funimation’s release wasn’t so behind; it’s getting a little tricky avoiding spoilers for episodes that have already aired.

Three-Episode Test: Uta no Prince-sama 2

Gif credit: fujoshi-and-not-ginger

I actually don’t think it’s possible to write about UtaPri2 without attaching an animated gif. It’s one of those shows where you’re not really expected to take anything seriously; if you do, you’ve just been trolled.

Which is not to say that UtaPri2 is rolling in gags every two seconds. In the three episodes, it’s managed to sneak in some minor plot development. I admit that my comments about them become pro were made in haste; as Shining Saotome was only too willing to remind them, one song and one concert aren’t enough to make them idols. They’re still unknown and it’s part of their responsibility in the master class to make themselves known. I actually do like that scene in episode 3 where they all talk about their various jobs in addition to singing with Starish. Like real life (Asian) boy bands, each of the members have to take on additional jobs above and beyond the group, be it acting in dramas or commercials or being a product spokesperson. They are promoting themselves as individuals, but it’s also a crucial part of developing the band’s brand.

It was this week’s episode that cinched my decision to continue watching. Episode 2, which was about Cecil officially joining the master class and meeting the rest of the group, wasn’t very interesting. Maybe it’s Cecil’s princely arrogance that I didn’t like? He just reeks of Gary Stu in how he’s perfect all the time. Excuse me, weren’t you a cat last season?

I was glad to see that this week focused on Syo, the hotheaded shorty and his struggles as a tv drama actor. I like that Syo couldn’t do everything perfectly, had to struggle a bit. I guess they needed that in order to make a song montage bit, but hey, I appreciate the effort in trying to present each member with their individual episode. UtaPri works on archetypes, so expecting complex character development for each of them is as possible as having donkeys grow wings.

Speaking of character development, I confess that I don’t hate Nanami as I thought I would. I think she’s cute, but obviously very dumb in a lot of basic life skills. Okay, she can write and compose songs, but she walks out to a tv studio and doesn’t realize that she’s getting on top of a dangerous set? I’m aware that I’m hating, but she’s exactly the type of character where I’m left wondering why all the fictional boys are in love with her. I realize that all otome game heroines are cut from the same dopey piece of cloth, that they’re all supposed to be blank slates that the player can project themselves on, etc, but most of the time, I’m embarrassed on behalf of the heroine. You’re representing the female of our species — don’t act so dumb! You are making the rest of us look bad.

Decision: Yes, will continue watching with no regrets. It’s fun, fluffy, and sometimes the seiyuu actually have some nice image/character songs.

Three-Episode Test: Full Moon

I realize that It sounds weird to do a three-episode test for a series that’s more than ten years old and which I’ve already watched. Well, I still wanted to write another Shojo Beat-related post, especially since I flaked out on both Thursday and Friday, so I figure, why not write about one of the SB anime series that Viz actually has available for free online.

Full Moon is a tricky series — it happened before the moe trend really got defined as a ‘thing,’ so while Mitsuki is a quintessential example of a heroine who would be perfect moe fodder now, I feel that she doesn’t have the affectations of the moe kyun characters from recent series. She’s actually pretty with it for a twelve-year old. Considering that she was just informed that she essentially has a year left to live, she’s actually acting extremely mature and composed. I’m a thirtysomething and I don’t think I would’ve reacted that calmly to hearing news like that.

What does annoy me in these first three episodes is the same thing that did annoy Takuto: so you, Mitsuki, claim that you want to be a singer…as part of a promise that you made with a boy? I agree that if she wanted to make it a singer, then great. But for a boy, and for one whom she hasn’t had any contact with in two years? That’s not really great motivation.

And let’s talk about Eichi for a quick second — so Mitsuki is currently twelve at the beginning of the series, and he’s eighteen. So two years ago, she was ten years old and he would’ve been sixteen…and according to Mitsuki, he confessed that he liked her (and I’m presuming that she took it as a romantic confession, not just a friendly, “hey kid, I like you” way). DUDE, that’s creepy.*

I was reading elsewhere that Tanemura was quoted in saying that she doesn’t consider Full Moon a magical girl series, so if I even dared call this a magical girl series, I would be  strangled to death by Mitsuki’s curls! I’m curious if the author only considers works where there are girls fighting enemies with their magical powers as magical girl series. I think that, in this particular case, Mitsuki’s ability to change her appearance to an older version of herself with the help of a magical entity in the form of Takuto does put this squarely in the realm of the “magical girl.” I’m not discounting that Mitsuki’s voice and singing ability are her own talents, but if there was no supernatural intervention in her change of appearance, then Full Moon wouldn’t have been the same series at all, wouldn’t it?

I do have to say that, of any anime that I’ve watched, I really adore all of the songs that they created for this anime series. I could listen to “Eternal Snow” and “New Future” on repeat forever and ever. myco’s voice is perfection.

If this was my first time watching Full Moon, I would probably continue watching, if only for the songs and to find out if Mitsuki would actually make it.

* I do know what happens to Eichi, but remember, these opinions are based only from the first three episodes.

Three-Episode Test: Kokoro Connect

An obvious pitfall with doing these three-episode samplings of ‘new’ anime series is that I will eventually find one that I don’t just dislike, but which I actively dislike.  Congratulations, Kokoro Connect, you are the winner of this dubious honor.

I gave it a chance, I really did! The premise did seem incredibly trite (if you grew up on a steady diet of 80s Hollywood movies as I did, you’d have received your recommended allowance of body-swapping flicks to last you a lifetime), but I figured that it would be more interesting in this scenario since 1) five people are switching personalities, not just the usual two, 2) the swaps occur randomly, 3) the swaps only last approx. 30 minutes at a time. How wrong I was. I was bored by the second episode, and it’s taken a herculean effort for me to finish episode 3.

Let me start picking this apart… As a comedy, there’s not a lot of things that they’re doing so far that’s laugh-out loud hilarious. The couple of scenes that could’ve been potentially funny came out of the two male characters suddenly realizing that they were in a girl’s body and thinking “oh yay, boobs!” Even when the two boys made the videos of Kiriyama and Inaba on their cell phones, that’s something that I’d expect two hornball boys would do. I’m actually surprised that they didn’t go anything raunchier.

Speaking of the girls, I’m really frustrated with all of them so far. Kiriyama, the karate expert, appears to be another example of a broken girl. She’s been traumatized from previous sexual assault perhaps that she shakes each time a man gets close. Grr-eeat.  And she doesn’t think this is a problem that could possibly affect all of her future social interactions? And Inaba, with her perpetual PMS-constipated combo, is another gem. From the get-go, she’s been grumpy and seems to think that she’s too good for everyone else in the club. Have you ever heard of anyone getting kicked out of the computer club for fighting? I think I was scowling all throughout the beginning of episode 3 when she and Taichi were talking about how he should take charge and pursue Nagase before Fujishima beats him to it. She was melodramatic, angry, and aggressive for no good reason. She’s unnecessarily bitchy all the damn time. I know that I’m not the target demographic for these types of series, but I’m having a difficult time finding these two characters to be relatable.

Kokoro Connect wants me to care about its characters, to feel bad that they’re switching bodies with their friends, and how this could cause future psychological damage down the line. And don’t get me started on the budding amateur psychologists on personality and identity that this show has spawned. Personality is such a complex, multi-layered field that intersects with neuropsychology, endrocrinology, cognition — the anime is covering such a small scope of it and I actually feel that it’s not drawing people’s attention to the right questions that should be asked.  Maybe if the approach was more metaphysical, that is, using the concept of soul instead of personality, the types of conversations among anime blogs would be different, but I guess it is what it is.

I think this is a sign that I can only watch one moeblob anime per season, and since that’s slot has already been taken by Tari Tari, I should’ve stopped while I was ahead.

Three-Episode Test: La storia della Arcana Famiglia

This series pretty much has “merchandising windfall” and “fujoshi bait” written all over it. Is that why I decided to give it a watch? Sure. As much as I generally get bored of anime series that are formulaic, occasionally there would be a series that would rise up from its meager roots and be that series that everyone can’t stop talking about, so unless I watch as much anime as I can, how would I know? Also, I feel that I’m only qualified to hate on anime if I’ve actually seen some of its episodes. That seems fair, doesn’t it?

I don’t actually hate La storia della Arcana Famiglia. I don’t love it either, but it’s a rare anime that I love after seeing three episodes. Love takes commitment and passion — two qualities that I don’t think I have the inclination to devote to this series.

Felicita is your typical cute girl. Her father’s the head of a mafioso-ish group and he decides that he’s getting in age so instead of having to make the decision himself, he sets up a tournament that will determine who will be the next “Papa” of the family. By the way, the winner gets to marry Felicita as a bonus, yay!

Enter your bishounen harem (a phrase which I infinitely prefer to “reverse harem”)* — oh, did I forget to mention that each male competing in the “Duello” has a specific power based around a carot in the tarot. Because, hey, that totally worked in X! How else would you keep your cute boys apart otherwise.

Which is to say, the competing males aren’t necessarily boys. Liberta and Nova seem to be in the same age group, followed by Pace, Debito, and Luca, then Jolly and Dante. I mean, all’s fair in love and war, and age is nothing but a number, but Jolly and Dante are a bit too old for the mafia princess, isn’t she? You’d have to be pretty blind not to notice that the anime is skewing for a love triangle between Felicita and the two boys Liberta and Nova, anyway. But maybe I’m wrong; since this is based off an otome game, anything could still be possible, I suppose.

While I found some initial bits funny and could essentially stick around for the seiyuu and bishonen eyecandy, I think I’m going to give this show a pass. Even in the three episodes that I watched, it was too heavy on the forced drama (mostly on Nova’s quasi-emo hangups and overall prissiness) instead of focusing on the romance! or action! that the first episode promised. When I saw that the “chasing the cat” sequence was lined up for the second episode, I began to worry. At least Code Geass and Night Raid waited a bit in their run before using that gag.

Mi dispiace, Arcana Famiglia. We just weren’t going to work out.


* I think I should start drafting that post where I write down all the phrases used in anime/manga blogs which make me nuts.