Monday, July 28, 2008

:anime: HardDoor's Summer Anime Preview - '08 Edition

To Autumn 2008 Anime Preview-->

Coming a bit fashionably late, I finally managed to start HardDoor's first seasonal anime preview! Like the boxing one earlier, I hope to make this a permanent fixture of the blog. This is basically a preliminary format, so details about it may change over time or in the next installment. But for now, enjoy! --HD

It's summertime, and with each season comes a new set of anime features making their debuts in Japan. The following doesn't denote every single title, but it does note the ones that I've found to be either of interest or significance. This season has a number of such shows, from returning old favorites and cross-seas adaptations to all new sequels and manga-to-anime adaptations, as well as a few fresh new stories.

*Information courtesy of MOON PHASE and Anime News Network, as well as various other sources.

Batman: Gotham Knight

Debut: July 8, 2008
Format: Film
Directors: Yasuhiro Aoki, Toshiyuki Kubooka, Futoshi Higashide, Hiroshi Morioka, Jong-Sik Nam, Shoujirou Nishimi
Character Designs: Kaoru Inoda, Shinji Kimura, Toshiharu Murata, Shinobu Tagashira, Naoyuki Onda
Score: Christopher Drake, Robert J. Kral, Kevin Manthei
Studios: Bee Train, Madhouse, Production I.G, STUDIO 4°C
Additional Links: ANN Entry

Six stories, six directors, four top Japanese animation studios--all for one superhero. The producers and writers of the Batman comics and recent films team with Japan's most notable anime houses to present a new anthology of stories starring The Dark Knight.

Think The Animatrix, only with Batman. That's the basic premise of this American-Japanese anime cross-production, with its contribution of different styles and directors (though the stories are by American writers and producers). However, it doesn't look like it has been as warmly received as its like predecessor.

Birdy the Mighty Decode

Debut: July 4, 2008
Format: TV (13 episodes)
Director: Kazuki Akane
Character Design: Ryochimo (Ryousuke Sawa)
Score: Yuugo Kanno
Studio: A-1 Pictures Inc.
Additional Links: ANN Entry

An undercover female investigator from outer space unwittingly gets an Earth boy involved during a mission, who's life begins to fade away after getting caught in the crossfire. Though she manages to heal him, both of their bodies suddenly become irrevocably linked as one.

It's good to see the popular '80s OVA gets a makeover in this 21st century rendition. It looks rather nice and its character designs are reminiscent of Eureka Seven's. Also, Yutaka Izubuchi's (RahXephon) contribution as a "Creative Producer" is encouraging. I'd say this has a good chance at getting picked up, though I do hope it gets a much better dub than its first itineration.

Blade of the Immortal

Debut: July 13, 2008
Format: TV
Director: Koichi Mashimo
Character Design: Yoshimitsu Yamashita
Score: Kou Otani
Studio: Bee Train
Additional Links: ANN Entry

A wayward samurai, cursed with immortality, must kill 1,000 wicked men to rid himself of his long anguish.

It's quite the interesting premise. It sounds like the makings of a nice, long-running plot (think "shounen", without the potential baggage), though the fact that director Koichi Mashimo and studio Bee Train are attached to the project may alienate detractors of their other works, such as their "girls-with-guns" trilogy (Noir, Madlax, El Cazador de la Bruja), Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE, and the .hack series. Regardless, this has been one of the most anticipated shows of the season. And a Kou Otani score may sweeten the pot some more...

Chocolate Underground

Debut: June 12, 2008
Format: Original Net Animation (ONA) (13 episodes)
Director: Takayuki Hamana
Character Design: Takayuki Goto
Studios: Production I.G, Trans Arts Co.
Additional Links: ANN Entry

In a country where chocolate and other sweets are banned and healthy food rules, two young boys start an "underground" chocolate movement to bring the delicacy back.

It's nice to see Production I.G doing a bit of a return to their experimental roots with thirteen, web-only, three-minute-long episodes of this manga adaptation. It seems like a funny, sweet little tale worth watching... (puns intended)

Ikki Tousen: Great Guardians

Debut: June 11, 2008
Format: TV (13 episodes)
Director: Koichi Ohata
Character Design: Rinshin
Score: Yasuharu Takahashi
Studio: ARMS
Additional Links: ANN Entry

Hakafu's adventures (and high school battles) continue, but now a supposed long-lost sister has arrived to further complicate matters.

If I hadn't made myself clear in the past, I'll reiterate myself again: I really do not like Ikki Tousen. The show has somehow managed to devolve even more from the first series and now seems to only exist for purely fanservice-related reasons...well, much more so than before.

Mahou Tsukai ni Taisetsu na Koto ~Natsu no Sora~ [Things That Are Important to a Mage ~Summer Sky~]

Debut: July 2, 2008
Format: TV (12 episodes)
Director: Osamu Kobayashi
Score: Takefumi Haketa
Studio: Hal Film Maker
Additional Links: ANN Entry

A mage-in-training moves from the countryside to the city to advance her knowledge in magic. There, she meets a quiet boy who is also in training...

This particular show stands unique among other shows this season or any other in its implementation of traditional 2D animation backdropped against altered live-action photography. Based on some of the screenshots, it looks rather impressive and meshes well together. Of course, having the same studio behind the ARIA series and Osamu Kobayashi (Paradise Kiss, BECK, Kimagure Orange Road) at the helm's a plus, too...


Debut: June 2, 2008
Format: Film
Director: Daisuke Nishio
Character Design: Naoki Miyahara
Additional Links: ANN Entry, AoD/Mania Article

A small group of robots must defend the planet against alien invaders.

A collaboration between prolific studios Disney and TOEI does develop much intrigue. However, it doesn't look to be any different than some of the other content on Toon Disney, which might not be too surprising given that it's a short CG children's film (only five minutes long)...

School Rumble Sangakki [School Rumble Third Term]

Debut: July 17, 2008
Format: OVA
Director: Shinji Takamatsu
Character Design: Hajime Watanabe
Studio: Studio Comet
Additional Links: ANN Entry

The fourth series of the anime adaptation of the popular manga continues the shenanigans of the lovelorn high schoolers and all of their interconnected love triangles.

I've been a big fan of the School Rumble anime series, so I have been anticipating this new "term" since it was announced. With the manga now ending (with a new one coming soon called School Rumble Z), it remains to be seen what the anime will do. And given the none-too-soft uproar over the source material's penultimate chapter and ending, one wonders if the animators will bold enough to even adapt them.


Debut: July 2, 2008
Format: TV (26 episodes)
Director: Keizou Kusakawa
Character Design: Shinpei Tomooka
Score: Hiroaki Sano
Studio: Seven Arcs
Additional Links: ANN Entry

A down-on-his-luck boy, failing twice in passing his college entrance exam, crosses paths with a mysterious girl. Afterwards, he finds out that he is able to command "Sekirei", superpowered individuals (like her) who must compete in a battle tournament.

When I first saw promo pictures of SEKIREI, I was wondering if the buxom females (and sole loli) were of any indication of what lied ahead. Then a trailer came about and my vision of the show became clearer: "A loser boy falls in with a group of too-well-endowed women (and optional loli), who all try to vie for him because he has some sort of special hidden power and/or they find him attractive. General naughty hilarity and naughtiness ensue." Come around to the actual synopsis and blog coverages, it looked like I was right on to some degree. It may seem to be more serious than as just a mere comedy, but otherwise, that's the basic premise. All of the clothes-ripping, body types (more like "type"), and blatant fanservice look reminiscent of Ikki Tousen, which isn't exactly a vote-of-confidence in my book. However, I have stated before that not every show with sizable amounts of fanservice (no pun intended) is awful and there have been a number of people familiar with the manga that have said that the story is better than what the images indicate. That does pique interests, though I don't know if it's enough over the other more enticing shows this season.

Slayers Revolution

Debut: July 2, 2008
Format: TV
Director: Takashi Watanabe
Character Design: Naomi Miyata
Studio: J.C.STAFF
Additional Links: ANN Entry

The classic Slayers franchise gets a new animation treatment with its first new series since 1997. The exploits of Lina Inverse and the gang are followed once more as the sorceress seeks out a powerful new weapon.

I am a little surprised that Slayers got another series in this current age of anime, joining other older properties like Birdy the Mighty, Golgo 13, and Yatterman. However, like those shows, there is a dedicated following and nostalgia attached to them, so making newer versions is a feasible move (from a financial stance) and a good way of getting younger fans to take notice of them. In this instance, the same animation style is used, but updated by the advancements in animation technique since 11 years ago.

Strike Witches (TV)

Debut: July 3, 2008
Format: TV (13 episodes)
Director: Kazuhiro Takamura
Character Design: Kazuhiro Takamura
Studio: GONZO
Additional Links: ANN Entry, BOST TV, YouTube

In an alternate universe setting in the 1940s, the world is under attack by a mysterious alien lifeform incapable of being defeated by mere conventional warfare. To combat it, a select group of magical young girls, adorned with fighter plane propellers and weaponry, must use their craft to take down the menace and reclaim the parts of Europe and elsewhere lost to them. Yoshika is one such candidate and is approached to join the "Strike Witches" unit, though she is a pacifist at heart...

I was rather impressed by the 2007 eight-and-a-half minute-long OVA short and found it surprisingly enjoyable, so I was definitely looking forward to its TV version. It's not too bad so far (available for view on YouTube and BOST TV), albeit reliant on clich├ęs, and some of the fanservice and loli designs can be off-putting. And where is everyone's pants?

The Telepathy Girl Ran

Debut: June 21, 2008
Format: TV (26 episodes)
Director: Makoto Nakamura
Character Design: Ushio Tazawa
Score: Yoshihiro Ike
Studio: TMS Entertainment
Additional Links: ANN Entry

Ran, a young girl blessed with telepathic powers, and her friends engage in solving the mysterious happenings around them.

The show looks to be interesting and the character designs look nice as well (reminding me of Dennou Coil's and My Neighbor Totoro's), and nearly anything with Yoshihiro Ike providing the score is worth at least one look.

The Time of Eve

Debut: August 1, 2008
Format: ONA (6 episodes)
Director: Yasuhiro Yoshiura
Studio: Studio Rikka
Additional Links: Studio Rikka's Page, ANN Entry, AnimeNfo Entry

In a future world populated by life-like androids and robots that are used in the service of man, a boy takes interest in the oddities exhibited by his house's own android.

Not too much information was available on this series, or even what format it was in, prior to its August debut, though a trailer was made available earlier in the year. The concept of human-android love is a staple in science-fiction and has been explored many times in anime, yet this particular one, at 15 minutes per episode, at least looks both visually-enticing and unique, and might even prove to be rewarding overall...

Ultraviolet: Code 044

Debut: July 1, 2008
Format: TV (12 episodes)
Director: Osamu Dezaki
Character Design: Akio Sugino
Studio: Madhouse
Additional Links: ANN Entry

Based on the 2006 film Ultraviolet, this animated series follows a super-powered woman simply named "044".

With the perennial partnership of director Osamu Dezaki and character designer Akio Sugino, and works of studios Madhouse and Tezuka Productions behind the scenes, the 12-episode series certainly seems promising (and looks great), though I do wonder if the very negative effects from the recent live-action movie will damper any interest in it...

Xam'd: Lost Memories

Debut: July 15, 2008
Format: TV (26 episodes)
Director: Masayuki Miyaji
Character Design: Ayumi Kurashima
Score: Michiru Oshima
Studio: BONES
Additional Links: ANN Entry

A teen boy suddenly begins to transform into a strange, sublime creature in the midst of an explosion that occurs in his town...

This show (previously known as Bounen no Xamdou) had a good amount of buzz and talk going into its debut. It was a BONES production; it looked like a mixture between their masterpiece Eureka Seven and of a Ghibli project; and the trailer only backed up the intrigue. However, things seemingly hit a snag, as rumors pointed to the show being either delayed by the director's sense of perfectionism, or due to that, the producers were unable to obtain a TV spot (highly embarrassing and bizarre, given the profile of the series). Sony , as one of the producers, instead has made it exclusive only to its Playstation 3 gaming/media system. The episodes themselves don't come cheap, as it costs $2.99 for just a standard definition copy (a dollar more for HD) and you only get a 24-hour window to view it with no download-to-own option. The Japanese, in an ironic turn, will get the show at a lower cost and will have a three-day rental window.

-Other Shows of Interest-
There are a few other shows of interest that haven't been covered, but that doesn't imply that the following are of a lower tier. I just didn't want to turn this into an unwieldy master list of debuts.

Cobra The Animation: The Psycho-Gun (08.29.08 - Another old classic returns, this time for its 30th anniversary...)

Hidamari Sketch x 365 (07.03.08 - Looks like a cute little show...)

Kiku-chan to Okami (08.15.08 - It appears to (possibly) be a children's special with an experimental animation style. Something to look out for...)

Kohime†Musou (07.08.08 - Another anime loosely based on The Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Familiar, though interesting overall premise.)

Mach Girl (7.08 - Tatsunoko reimagines their Mach Go Go Go (Speed Racer) classic with a girl racing in her three-wheeled motor-vehicle, the "Mach Pink", in three-minute-long episode shorts.

Mahou Sensei Negima! ~Shiroki Tsubasa Ala Alba~ (07.17.08 - More Negima! for the show's legion of fans, this time covering chapters of the manga yet to be animated)

Mission-E (07.07.08 - A number of people have been awaiting this one, a sequel to last year's CODE-E)

Natsume Yuujin-Chou [Natsume's Book of Friends] (07.07.08 - Seems like an episodic traveler show...)

Nogizaki Haruka no Himitsu [Haruka Nogizaki's Secret] (07.03.08 - A nice twist on the otaku-focused story, with a popular school girl hiding her hobby from the public)

Ryoko's Case File (07.05.08 - Certainly a very interesting-looking mystery/suspense show, with a female lead...)

World Destruction (07.07.08 - There's been some buzz about this particular title, given its gaming roots and Production I.G's involvement)

Zero no Tsukaima: Princesses no Rondo (07.06.08 - The Familiar of Zero franchise, one that I've been interested in checking out, receives another entry)

-In Theaters-

Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea (07.19.08 - Another tale from Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli, this time with a Little Mermaid-like theme)

The Sky Crawlers (08.02.08 - Mamoru Oshii's anticipated adaptation of a philosophical fighter plane light novel series. Of course, it wouldn't be "Oshii" if it didn't involve philosophy...)

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