Initial Impressions: Sacred Seven, Natsume Yuujinchou San, Kamisama Dolls, YuruYuri

Sacred Seven: Currently watching
Oh dear lord.  I’m not even sure where to begin with this, but to say that this show was ridiculous, but ridiculous in upfront and nicely executed ways.  I was already pleased with Sunrise when I got into watching Tiger & Bunny, so I expected an action-packed animation here as well.  They not only fulfilled those expectations, but upped the level; I can only hope that the quality remains high throughout the rest of the show. Main character, Tandoji Arma, is introduced as a highly-feared delinquent of his high school, who most people avoid.  His reputation of violence alienates everyone except for a persistent high school girl named Itou Wakana, who thinks the rumors are rumors only, and wants him to join her rock collection club.  She’s not the only one interested in him, however, as the lead of Sacred Seven, Aiba Ruri, also attempts to recruit him in the fight against Darkstones and those associated with them.  Through a predictable series of events, Arma fights the rampaging Darkstone by giving into his own powers, but loses control of himself in the process.  Only through Ruri’s intervention and subsequent release of his full potential is he able to regain his senses and maintain command of his power.  As fun as this show is, I hope that it doesn’t dissolve into a pure battle anime, but gives us something in the form of a plot worth following.

The characters are drawn very similarly to those in Tiger & Bunny, including the highly saturated colors and smoothly sharp lines.  Sunrise certainly knows how to build and release tension in action sequences, as I was absorbed in the battle all throughout the episode.  My main surprise, though, was the blatant display of Sacred Seven’s female task force.  Not only are all the agents female, but they’re females dressed up as maids, who wield guns, heavy artillery, and high technology.  It’s hard to watch them with a straight face, since they are displayed with complete seriousness, but stick out in the otherwise normal surroundings of everyday people with regular clothes doing regular activities like visiting museums.  Despite their unique appearances, no one in the actual cast looks at them oddly, or notices anything strange about them at all.  I’m caught between wanting to be appalled and laugh at their strangeness, or ignoring them like everyone else seems to.

OP: “stone cold” by FictionJunction–Energetic music and a very audible bass beat makes this song pretty catchy, though the voice work itself is again, nothing special.  The graphics are all overlaid with a rainbow gradient, which gives the characters and their actions a flashy feel.  I most likely won’t watch it again, though I wouldn’t go so far as to skip the music if it popped up on my player.
ED: “Kiseki (輝跡-kiseki-)” by Yuuka Nanri–The ending sequence is nice since it doesn’t dilly dally with a series of scenes and images, but instead just overlaps music with the end of the actual episode.  I hope it continues to do this in the following episodes, so I don’t always have to skip through the credits to get to the last little section and/or preview.

Natsume Yuujinchou San: Currently watching
I’m a huge fan of both the previous two seasons, and so I came into this third season with extremely high expectations.  My anticipations were largely well met, though I found myself sitting through the first ten minutes carefully scrutinizing the animation and introductory voice overs.  The opening scenes bring Natsume in with more action than I expected, showing him running around the forest trying to avoid more disagreeable spirits.  His limb movement is awkward at best, jerking around unnaturally from side to side.  The two spirits we see prior to his entrance are likewise poorly drawn and animated.  I’m not exactly sure why Brains Base would even bother wasting time on such an ugly scene, when the rest of the episode is several steps above in quality.  I was similarly put off by the voice over for a good majority of the start of the episode, detailing back story for the viewer.  I can understand why they felt the need to fill the audience in on what transpired before, but think they could have done so in a less obvious way.  Perhaps dialogue, or though unspoken interactions…anything instead of how they did it.  I actually would have been completely fine with no back story at all, since I think it safe to assume that people watching this third season are familiar with the prequels.

Once I got past the introduction, Natsume’s encounter with the Shadow Teacup and another spirit from the Book of Friends brought me back to what I love about this series and helped me forget about the poor start.  Nyanko-sensei’s presence in particular reminds me of how much I treasure this anime for its characters.  I just can not imagine Natsume without Nyanko-sensei’s verbal jabs and harmless threats on Natsume’s life.  This first episode does a good job of also showing the various sides of the spirit world, the friendly, the dangerous, and those that can make up both.  I’m hoping that this third season not only introduces us to many new spirit friends, but that it also closes out the tale without feeling rushed or forced.

OP: “Boku ni Dekiru Koto” (僕にできること) by HOW MERRY MARRY–The music surprisingly doesn’t wow me like the OP and ED songs of Natsume usually do, but it carries on with the same light-hearted feel and lyrics.  It’s pretty exciting to see everyone back together again, especially since this really does open up the episode, with no starting clip before it.
ED: “Kimi no Kakera feat. Miyamoto Emiri” (君ノカケラ feat 宮本笑里) by Kousuke Atari–This ending theme is much more to my liking, and also seems to fit the anime a bit more.  Kousuke Atari’s vocals are calm and accompanied by a simple string harmony.  The images, too, are softly muted colors that really suit the scene of Natsume and his family lighting handheld fireworks.

Kamisama Dolls: Currently watching
The actual episode changed my mind quite a bit from my impressions from the preview.  When I first saw the image of Utao and Kukuri, I thought it would be some typical magical anime with a girl and her magical being to protect her and fight for her.  That is what we get, to a certain degree, although the larger story itself seems far more interesting and unique.  The main protagonist of the show isn’t Utao, but her older brother, Kuga Kyouhei.  His appearance initially places him into the role of a typical, useless male lead, though we later discover that there is quite a history hidden about his home and true capability.  It’s hinted that he has true rights as a “Seki,” which I can only assume refers to people like Utao and the antagonist, Aki, who can wield the powers of the “kami-sama,” the machine-looking creatures that accompany them.  I greatly hope that Kamisama pushes Kyouhei out of his comfort zone so that we can see a capable male protagonist in action, for once.  Once Kyouhei’s apartment is destroyed by the fight between the Kuga siblings and Aki, sister and brother move to the home of a fellow past village member, and coincidentally the home of Kyouhei’s love interest.  We learn that their hometown, Karakami Village, harbors an ancient secret, but the details have yet to be given.  On a side note, every time Utao summons Kukuri, an eerie, but catchy, little melody plays.  I was humming that tune for a good while after finishing the episode.

The animation and art style are nothing special, and actually look quite cumbersome at times.  It’s like the artists felt uncomfortable with showing various angles of the characters, or that the animators forgot to include some frames.  Hibino-san’s boobs are also disproportionally large and lopsided compared to the rest of her body, and I have a hard time imagining guys who actually find them attractive in reality.  This sub par quality stays pretty consistent all the way through the whole episode.  Hopefully if this show gains popularity, the producers will reconsider putting more time and attention into the animation/art.

OP: “Fukanzen Nenshou (不完全燃焼)” by Chiaki Ishikawa–I actually really like this intro, but it felt odd in this particular instance since it followed a climatic and violent opening.  The upbeat rhythm and singing kind of makes me think of salsa music, as it made me want to jump up and dance around the room.  The accompanying image effects are also pretty neat, with their angular cutouts and block colors.  Some of the characters in the images, though, suffer from awkward proportions and angles.
ED: “Switch ga Haittara (スイッチが入ったら)” by Chiaki Ishikawa–The ending song is pleasant enough, but skip-able after a first listen.  It isn’t annoying pop or rock that I commonly hear in many anime, but there also aren’t any remarkable points to it either.  It’s the following “corner” that interests me more, with its promises of top-secret information relayed by none other than puppet versions of Utao and Kukuri.

YuruYuri: Undecided
I feel bashful saying this, but I actually enjoyed the first episode and found myself laughing at poor Akari’s “lack of presence.”  The opening had me worried since it started with the typical girl waking up late for school, grabbing toast for on-the-go, and walking out with the wrong clothes on sequence.  But as the characters started speaking and acting blatantly yuri, I began to think that Dogakobo was making fun of its viewers and of their expectations.  Expecting a typical cute girls doing cute activities anime? Well, here you go (with some unexpected surprises)! Each of the girls also fit into well established character archetypes: Yui as the serious, older-sister character, Kyoko as the energetic, out-of-control girl with yuri tendencies, Chinatsu as the innocent underclassman, and Akari, poor Akari who lacks strength of presence and character.  The jokes are presented fairly quickly, then just as easily dismissed for the next silly act, which I appreciate since there’s nothing I dislike in a comedy more than overdrawn acts.  Although the title, and Kyoko’s and Akari’s older sister’s characters, blatantly state an inclusion of girl-on-girl affections, I’m hoping the anime tempers it with a good bit of other cute-girl antics.  As of now, I’m undecided on whether or not I’ll keep up with this show, since there’s little to distinguish it from other anime of its genre.  If anything else, I’ll keep it as a weekly splash of adorable fun amidst all the other shows that I’m watching for their plots.

I have no complaints for the animation or art style, and find both well suited to the anime’s current purposes.  Unlike Ro-Kyu-Bu! and its use of bobble heads and big chests, the middle schoolers of YuruYuri actually look like middle schoolers.  I find their uniforms a fresh change from the usual skirts and blouses, with their use of long-sleeved dresses with short-sleeved blazers.

OP: “Yuriyurarararayuruyuri Daijiken (ゆりゆらららゆるゆり大事件)” by Nanamori Chu☆Goraku Bu (七森中☆ごらく部)–Cute! Augh! Attack of cute girl voices singing with pep, accompanied by brightly colored visuals!  The song is ridiculously catchy and seems like it’d be fun to sing along with for karaoke.
ED: “My Pace de Ikimashou (マイぺースでいきましょう)” by Nanamori Chu☆Goraku Bu (七森中☆ごらく部)–The closing song is very similar to the opening song, with the same high-pitched and energetic voices singing along to rougher sketches of the girls.  This one isn’t as repeat friendly, since I started getting bored of it less than half-way through the first listen.

9 thoughts on “Initial Impressions: Sacred Seven, Natsume Yuujinchou San, Kamisama Dolls, YuruYuri

  1. I haven’t watched the previous seasons of Natsume Yuuchinjou so I was surprised that it was so easy to jump into. Everything was explained in a satisfactory manner and I found myself enjoying this show.

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    • I figured it would be easy for people to jump in who hadn’t seen the first two seasons, so I’m glad that the show did pull in new viewers like yourself🙂 I do hope that you’re able to try out the first two seasons some time!

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    • I’m curious about what you didn’t agree with :p I always like details! And I wouldn’t know about the Arma/Lelouch reference since I haven’t seen Code Geass. I did watch maybe 1/3 of the 1st season, but then stalemated.

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  2. I loved the previous 2 seasons so I was really expecting a lot in the 3rd season! The story, plot, new characters, ending theme were really great and I really enjoyed it!

    However, there was one thing that really bugged me. I have read a couple reviews and none of them seemed to have mention the change in “animation”.

    I am quite disappointed that they changed the art. Although it wasn’t very noticeable but Natsume’s hair has less strokes, the art is much more simple, and his eyes don’t give that unique drowsy look anymore. He looks plain now! His eyes are wide open, oval shaped, and yeah… makes the face look rounder >.>

    The art really attracted me in the first 2 seasons, and i’m really sad that they made it a bit different now =[ Natsume seems more chatty and optimistic now, which is great, but that wasn’t how he was like in the last season!
    *sigh*

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    • I’m glad you mentioned art style, since I felt that something was off about the visuals when I watched the first episode. I wasn’t sure if the style had actually changed since it’s been a good while since I’ve seen the first two seasons. I’m sure that’s also why other reviewers didn’t mention it. I did, however, notice the poor animation in various sections, which greatly displeased me since I usually attribute visual quality and consistency with Natsume Yuujinchou.

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      • Yeah, I noticed it right away, cause i re-watched the previous seasons so many times! ^-^;; And since I’m a bit picky, I started comparing the two, and gosh, I found a lot of differences ~_~

        *sigh* It seems that the 3rd season (kind of) lost its touch =T What really attracted me to the series, was the art and that Natsume was a person who kept things to himself, but now it’s just different. I heard that there is a new writer/person working on the series so maybe that explains why.

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  3. […] “I can understand why they felt the need to fill the audience in on what transpired before, but think they could have done so in a less obvious way. Perhaps dialogue, or though unspoken interactions…anything instead of how they did it. I actually would have been completely fine with no back story at all, since I think it safe to assume that people watching this third season are familiar with the prequels.” – Marina Sauce […]

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