It’s the same old story: too much anime, not enough time. The new spring season kicks off in Japan this week, and here I am still trying to catch up with last season’s offerings. Well at least I can save myself – and maybe you – some time; this month’s first episodes round up features two shows I might watch more of and two I’ll shortly be dragging to the trash can. Still, that’s not to say you might not enjoy them.
It’s very hard to underestimate the global impact of Katsuhiro Otomo’s film adaptation of his own, epic manga Akira. It broke box office records when it opened in Japan, and along with Ghibli Oscar winner Spirited Away it is probably the anime film most western ‘non-fans’ have seen. For many of my generation it is a much treasured and personally important film and, without resorting to hyperbole, one that the first viewing of was a life-changing experience, akin to watching Star Wars, 2001 or Blade Runner for the first time.
If you’ve read this site before, or even just glanced over it’s archives, then my appreciation and admiration of director Mamoru Oshii is clearly laid out. As such it would seem not only redundant but also somewhat self indulgent to elaborate further on my love of his tense political sci-fi dramas Ghost in the Shell and Patlabor, or his low budget, live action masterpiece Avalon. Ever since his latest feature film The Sky Crawlers was first announced I have been gripped with excitement and anticipation – although, as always, resigned to the long wait us western fans must endure before we are granted an audience. This week that wait finally ended, and putting aside my deep rooted fanboy allegiances for just under two hours, I was able to sit down and see if anime’s most esteemed auteur could still deliver the goods.
Michiko to Hatchin is yet another anime series with expectations to live up to. Producing studio Manglobe has formed a fierce reputation for itself in the six short years since it’s conception, already delivering stylish, innovative shows such as Samurai Champloo and Ergo Proxy, both of which had also benefited from Sayo Yamamoto‘s impressive storyboarding skills. M&H marks her directorial debut, but she’s also got some impressive staff to back her up. Most notable is character designer Hiroshi Shimizu, who has an insane CV that includes The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, Jin-Roh – The Wolf Brigade, Ghost in The Shell: Stand Alone Complex and Metropolis. Oh, and don’t forget his stint at Ghibli as a key animator, which saw him working on classics such as Princess Mononoke, Pom Poko and Porco Rosso among others. And did I mention that minor deity Champloo and Cowboy Bebop creator Shinichirō Watanabe acted as music producer for the series?
As you can probably imagine, I constantly have a lot of anime waiting to be watched. Some of it is brand new recently broadcast shows, others entire series from years ago that I’m still trying to catch up with. However, cursed as I am with a job and a life, decisions have to be made as to which shows I follow and review, and which I just reject straight away. Usually watching one or two episodes is enough to tell, but occasionally shows come along that although they don’t earn my full attention, I can see they may still have something to offer to viewers. So, in the first of a regular series, I present a round up of first episodes you might want to check out.
There was a point, just a few minutes into the second half of the first episode of RideBack, when I finally decided that it was the first show I’d seen worth following this year. As the main protagonist races her fusion of motorcycle and mecha through her college campus, her skirt bellows in the wind and we hear a passer-by shout “I saw her panties!”. But we, the audience, see nothing. It’s a brief moment, but one that speaks volumes about the series’ intentions.
As you have probably already guessed from the title, Sword of the Stranger is a Samurai action (or chanbara チャンバラ) movie, and the feature film debut of Masahiro Ando, who’s previous directorial work includes the TV series Canaan as well as being a key animator on projects such as Cowboy Bebop, Ghost in The Shell and Planetes. It’s an impressive CV, no doubt about it, and one that means expectations from both the industry and fans are high.
(Note: This is the second part of a review of Freedom. The first part can be read here.)