Let’s just jump right into this, shall we?
Rinne no Lagrange
Let me sum up the complaints of many other bloggers: crappy web release quality, pointless fan service, genki protagonist, silent moe supporting female, and robot battles. While I do agree to a point on many of these, others I leave up to time to truly work out. The quality is unavoidable given that this is an early, online release. I think the show will look quite pretty in HD, particularly the robots. Madoka does annoy me a little in this first episode since she reminds me a bit too much of my current irritation with Fam of the currently airing Last Exile; she’s perfect at almost everything she does, including piloting a robot for which she seems destined for the very first time, and can balance a full schedule. She’s persistently energetic and positive-minded. However, I think it’s early to rail too much on her character. I’ve always kind of liked upbeat characters and her sense of humor is cute (like her alien parody). The strange, Ayanami Rei-like girl, Ran, also has a bit of a quirky personality that isn’t completely devoid of humor. I’m interested in getting to know her a bit more, as well. As for the mysterious robots, Madoka’s seeming connection to a robot that another character describes as “legendary” certainly catches my attention. This overlaps a bit into my thoughts on the fan service of the show, but Madoka looks to be inheriting a birthright of sorts, one that triggers at a specific age and leaves a mark on the body. Although her inception into a new world was less than original, I’m still hopeful that Lagrange can surprise me in a positive way.
The one area that irked me from the start to the finish was the fan service, which to me pulled down, literally, any pretense for tension. Instead of feeling worried about Ran’s true intentions, I was shaking me head at all the screen shots of Madoka’s butt. I mean, really? Did her ascension to robot pilot really have to leave a mark there of all places? The opening, too, has Madoka wearing a swimsuit underneath her school uniform because of a “feeling” that she might need it. This feeling turns out true when she ends up saving a drowning individual, one whom we never see again. If the scene was some attempt at setting her character as one who acts on heart and not on mind, then the effort wasn’t completely useless. It definitely wasn’t the most effective or artistic way, but looking at director Suzuki Toshimasa’s short and unremarkable record, I guess I shouldn’t have expected much.
New Prince of Tennis
I haven’t seen the original, nor am I a tennis player by any means, but the New Prince of Tennis looks to be just my type of reverse harem fun. Is it still considered a “harem” when a member of the opposite sex is absent? In a way, it makes me, a female viewer, feel even more special in having all these male hotties to myself. The one thing that makes the situation feel awkward, however, is that these young men who look like high school or college age students are in fact only middle schoolers. Everything from their looks to their voice actors and to their unshakeable confidence in their abilities points at a more mature age range; the fact that they are all under 17 (so…16 and below?) just seems strange. Is this how older male viewers feel when watching a moe slice-of-life about grade schoolers and middle schoolers, like Yuru Yuri? It cracks me up noticing all the different moe archetypes in male form. My experience from reverse harem like Hakuouki, La Corda d’Oro, and UtaPri has me already gravitating towards genki characters like Kikumaru and all around good guys (I think) like Momoshiro. Very rarely do I find myself attracted to the lead, so Echizen will have to find himself another supporting female.
The matches between the middle and high school students were all comically presented, with a mysterious staff–including some butch guy doing push ups in every scene–overseeing the newcomers’ potentiality. Whether or not the staff’s goals really are to just push up the overall skill level of their camp and to produce pro level players are to be seen, but judging from the ridiculous spectacle I just watched, I’m thinking those are not their only objectives. I’m willing to sit back and turn off my brain for this competitive anime of bishounen and see what the hype about this anime is all about.
Kill Me Baby
Ok, so the opening wasn’t nearly as bad as the PV, but the repetitive lyrics still persisted in my head for many hours after finishing this episode. Kill Me Baby is an adaptation of a 4-koma manga that centers on the comical, every day school lives of Yasuna and her assassin friends, Sonya and Agiri. The art style suits the comedy skits and the jokes had me smiling most of the time, but as of now the show doesn’t stand out much from others that are similar. I’m reminded of the soldier-type of humor of Sousuke in FMP, the short skits in Azumanga Daioh, and the lack of sanity in Nichijou. While I view all three of these very highly, Kill Me Baby doesn’t even come remotely close to approaching their levels, at least with this starting episode. Kill Me Baby is just too tame, and the transitions between jokes are very rough. I didn’t truly laugh until the appearance of ninja Agiri and her slew of ninja techniques that were either ineffective or disillusioned both my and Yasuna’s views of ninja.
However, I’m holding on to this anime since I’ve become accustomed to comedies with terrible or so-so first episodes that perk up right away in those following. Azumanga Daioh and Lucky Star are examples of these. Nichijou scared me with its pre-airing episode 0, which I yawned my way right through, but greatly improved with its official start. I’m also struggling between wanting the anime to focus solely on comedy and also answering some of my more plot-oriented questions. Why are assassins going to public school in the first place? Why are they so young? And how did Yasuna become friends with Sonya? While I appreciate the creative idea of Sonya and Agiri, I’m not sure if it really works on screen.
Senki Zesshou Symphogear
I expected something along the lines of Macross Frontier with the focus on singing and and the sci-fi setting, but Symphogear brought along a whole lot more. What we have here is a tossed mixture of genre, including drama, sci-fi, action, fantasy, comedy, and musical. And while this does definitely create some confusion, right now I’m excited about the direction this anime is going to take. The first thing our opening episode does is create some nice tension in the form of time jumps. We go into the story knowing that our protagonist, who right now I assume is Hibiki, dies fighting with her singing. Depressing, yes? The atmosphere created with her friend’s visit to the grave had me on edge at the start of the flashback when Hibiki was still alive, pre-music. The following high energy of her first live music concert and Zwei Wing’s on stage performance wiped away almost all of my fears, only to have them return to me immediately with the appearance of the Noise and the very quick deaths of several audience members. This is where things start to get a little crazy.
Symphogear takes this opportunity to immediately show us what this anime is all about. The singers for Zwei Wing reveal their method for fighting the Noise by incorporating their singing with their transformed bodies’ fighting abilities. I’m still not sure after a second watching how the whole process works, but it seems like their unique voices somehow weaken the Noise, and even destroy the weaker ones (again, very like MF). We are also treated to a very magical girl-esque transformation scene as Kanade and Tsubasa somehow change from their performance wear to skin-tight, mecha-ish suits. Along with the weapons that appear out of nowhere, we have a battle that borders on the comical, with almost every one of their singing moves freezing on screen just for a second to display a corresponding name for each move.
In a glorious finish, one of the singers, Kanade, sings her “swan song” to save Hibiki, a song that is in some way connected to her very essence of being. Upon being sung, a powerful force obliterates all Noise in the near vicinity and the singer burns to ashes. The warring actions and emotions of the whole ordeal had my heart racing, and I could easily understand why Hibiki was influenced into following in the footsteps of Zwei Wing. I could go on for quite a while about this single episode, but I’ll save you guys the trouble of reading and just tell you to go and watch it. Let me know what you think. Let me know if I’m crazy for getting excited about it.