玉響~Hitotose (Tamayura)

玉響~Hitotose (literally Sound of Jade~ One year?) has been an anticipated shin-ban anime for me since mid-year. For me, Tamayura’s main attraction is its fantastic cast including some of my favorite seiyuus: Taketatsu Ayana (who voiced Azusa in K-on!/!!), Asumi Kana, Fukui Yukari and Majima Junji. Talking about Majima Junji, for old fans of Memories Off series (originally created by the now bankrupt KID) like me, it is really nice to see him appearing in so many high-profile titles recently (Hidan no Aria and Hanasaku Iroha). Eventually, Memories Off 1 was his debut work as Minaho Shin, a character we MO fans all so dearly love and respect. Now back to Tamayura.

Here you have it, TAMAYURA!!

The Op immediately told me that Tamayura belongs to one of those “cure” animes. Though being somewhat mediocre in composition, both the Op and Ed songs are performed by high-profile J-pop artists: Op お帰りなさい (Welcome Home)by Sakamoto Maya, and Ed 神様のいたずら (The Trick of Fate) by Nakashima Ai. The story so far follows the life of Sawatari Fuu (nicknamed and called throughout the anime as ぼって Botte) on her moving back to the town of Takehara, where her deceased cameraman father used to run a photo shop (yes, a dying business along with Kodak in the digital age I guess). The first episode mainly covered Botte’s decision to move out from her mom’s, face up the death of her father, pack along the Rollei camera and return to Takehara where her childhood friends are waiting. Sounds somewhat familiar? Well we’ve all had our shares of Japanese drama don’t we… Story wise, the show sets “photography” as its main topic (like “music” in K-on!, per se). I would expect later episodes to dig a little on the techniques and insights on photography, as Botte retraces the photos her father took, which have documented the precious moments of her childhood. So far, the only thing about photography mentioned is “tamayura”, or the little circle of lights that represent “happiness”. Well, I thought we’d go to that bloody Star Trek film for a lens flare fes…

The group of four friends, who are not exactly camera-shy thanks to Botte-chan

The drawing of Tamayura mostly adopts a simple, straight-forward style, which works both ways. The characters are minimal and manga like, which fits quite well with the small-town, nostalgic feeling the show attempts to deliver. However, sometimes the drawing looks a little rougher than what would have been preferred, especially for close-up shots of characters. Based on real locations, the background drawing is good and detailed. You could almost imagine how much photo-shootings and Photoshopping have been going on : D… Don’t take me wrong though, to Photoshop pictures of real locations into manga/anime background still requires a ton of work, and could easily go wrong. The team behind Tamayura is doing quality work in this respect.

Voila, 100% realistic local scenery of Seto Inland Sea guaranteed. Beautiful place indeed

Let me expand a little bit on the point of background. Just like Hanasaku Iroha earlier this year, Tamayura’s story does have a location-a very specific one. The story unfolds in the municipality of Takehara, to the east of Hiroshima City in Hiroshima Prefecture. Even in the advertisement for the show, Takehara and “the scenery of Seto Inland Sea” have been labeled as sell-points. From the travel boost to Noto Peninsula triggered by Hanasaku Iroha, we can see a flourishing scene of anime acting as advertisements for locales around Japan. The Tamayura team definitely has the goal of promoting Hiroshima Prefecture in mind. In the first episode, when Botte took the Kure-line to Takehara, and saw the big word “Okaerinasai” printed on ground at the train station, I could almost feel the tear-inspiring power of the scene as a successful tourism ad. It is a good thing though, since both Noto and Hiroshima are most definitely awesome places to visit, despite the latter being nuked around 70 years ago (it is currently one of the largest metro in West Japan, so no worries of radiation). I would also like to mention that South of Hiroshima and West of Takehara lies the famous Kure port, and the famous Etajima Naval College. Why should I mention that? Well, setting up for a Zipang review… xD. Anyways, we’ll see how much attention Tamayura will attract.

Shocking 1: This is about 2 minutes into the first episode. Almost turned my browser off at that moment... Shocking 2: This thing (actually a cat) is voiced by Fukui Yukari... kay I give in

For me, a painfully felt weakness of Tamayura is its somehow lackluster script that lacks consistency and proper pacing expected in similar titles. Judging from the first two episodes, there are numerous gags/comedy moments acted out in chibi characters, which are critical elements of Botte’s “daily happy life” I guess. However in Tamayura, weight of the story line surrounding loss of family and childhood nostalgia are so heavy, that they entirely set the pace of story-telling. The gag moments, in comparison, are either too abrupt or too weak to carry the flow. The more “serious” lines are not that satisfactory either. At the end of the second episode, for instance, there is the sudden “re-conciliation” with the teacher character voiced by Majima Junji, which is hardly anything “touching” and feels rushed and unnecessary. For an overall beautiful anime, these out of place moments and weak lines are truly regrettable. My hope is that as the drama picks up (something that Tamayura might never do, being based on a 4-coma), there will be more consistency in the flow…

Gags! Oh gags...

Despite the above mentioned flaw, I would keep on watching Tamayura, even just for the sake of its great Seiyuu cast, and Seto Inland Sea of course.

The IdolM@ster EP 9, 10

Sarcasm warning, fans beware!!

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To be frank, EP9 and 10 of Idol M@ster provide little excitement and are bent on cliches. I mean, when you see two consecutive episodes in a standard-length anime each devoted to trivial detective comedy and certain dubious sports event, “filler” warning shall sound immediately…

Well, at least we can expect some non-filler episodes in the future, just look on the bright side.

EP9 features a trivial detective story starring the twins, Ami and Mami. Better start to remember names, since it's past 50% already...

The entire EP9 revolves around a certain case of pudding murder Continue reading

Update: Natsume Yuujin Chou EP9, 10

As expected, Natsume Yuujin Chou EP9 and 10 (airing every Monday) continue with the series’ usual relaxed pace. In EP9 Natsume went through a less-than-friendly though uneventful encounter with a stone spirit whose intention and background are entirely unexplained. Actually, the main point of the episode is most definitely the school Bunkasai (cultural festival) during which you get to see Natsume wearing a pink apron. This is not a joke, btw.

Apparently Natsume is not only popular with youkais, but guuuurrrrrrlz as well

Continue reading

765’s Second Try: The IDOLM@STER (2011)

(warning: sarcasm is detected in the article below, fans beware)

“Are you ready? I am ready…” (from op song Ready!!) Ready to jump the fray of entertainment business and make a bunch of girls with interesting characters (yes, interesting is the meticulously chosen word) into super idols that’ll feed you tens of millions of yen per event? If your answer is yes, congrats, please watch The IDOLM@STER and be done with the idea, NOW.

The currently airing (at EP8) The IDOLM@STER anime is the newest addition to the multi-product franchise started with a 2005 game by Namco. The game received huge popularity and branched out everywhere, even Ace Combat 6 (also produced and published by Namco) featured special Im@s paint schemes for fighter jets, which is an idea so awesome it is one step away from total nuts. The awesomeness doesn’t stop here though. When Namco’s “game inspired” anime Idolm@ster Xenoglossia came out it redefined the meaning of poor product management. It doesn’t take an MBA to see what’s wrong here: you simply do not suddenly throw teenage girl idols originally designed to be everyday people into cockpit of an over-the-top robot fighting machine and protect Tokyo, not if you aren’t making Sakura Wars, anyways. In conclusion, fans alienated, seiyuus (voice actors) quit, brand value lost. So does the newest venture on air, The IDOLM@STER, live up to the tradition of the original game?

The building that homes 765 Production (2nd floor only) gives us an image definition for upstart company

Having never played the game on which the story is based, I personally find the anime acceptable. Continue reading

Expecting Reiko: Natsume Yuujinchou Season 3 (夏目友人帳参)

Currently at episode 8, the third season of Natsume Yuujinchou (referred to as NatsuYuu) inherits essentially everything from the previous two: nature-filled countryside scenery, casually paced story, short-lived (and usually half-hearted) suspense and the ever so plushy Nyanko sensei. And there are few elements added in case you wonder. I am quite sure that it is impossible for NatsuYuu 3 to impress everyone, so what is the source of its extraordinary popularity, as shown by the ranking at NEC BIGLOBE’s アニメワン, a major PC/mobile anime broadcast service provider in Japan? (#1 as of August 27, 2011)

You are constantly reminded of the reason why Nyanko sensei is your fav character

Fan audiences of NatsuYuu often refer to the series as “healing”. Continue reading