Friday, February 13, 2009

:anime: HardDoor's Winter Anime Preview - '08-'09 Edition

<--To Autumn 2008 Anime Preview

To Spring 2009 Anime Preview-->

Even in the midst of winter there are a number of notable anime that are making their debuts (considering how late this is coming, most probably already have). While this season may not be loaded with as many potential hits like last season, it doesn't mean that there is a dearth of good shows to look out for. Each season seems to have its own inherent theme or trend, and this winter's seems to be one of "relations", be they sequels, continuing seasons of certain shows, or retellings of them. Around ten of the works listed here are related to previous ones, though there are also a few fresh titles--one a novel approach to robots, another being a landmark approach to how anime is viewed across coasts at the same time. Like always, this isn't an exhaustive of every work out there, just the ones I found interesting or of note. This season's main group is quite smaller than previous times, though that is mostly due to me never seeing some of the returning shows beforehand and simply because I found interest in just this handful. Pardon for this coming so late, due to various circumstances, but let's get to watching nonetheless, shall we?

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

Afro Samurai: Resurrection

Debut: January 25, 2009
Format: Film (TV)
Director: Fuminori Kizaki
Character Design: Hiroya Iijima
Score: The RZA
Studio: GONZO
Additional Links: ANN Entry

In this movie follow-up to the hit 2007 series, Afro is forced away from his self-imposed exile once his father's remains and No. 1 headband are stolen by a figure from his past...

Even as a big fan of the original series, I really didn't like the film that much. The plot was uneven and poorly constructed and bloated a simple premise with unnecessary elements and pieces. The effort was there, but it was channeled the wrong way and tried to do more with the story than what was needed (or capable of, considering how the story was set and told). That, a bad (and cliched) final act, an endlessly babbling villainess and Ninja Ninja, and a truckload of other problems made it an unenjoyable watch. If it told its tale in simple manner like Afro Samurai did (and was presented in an episode format), it would have been better. Too bad, as the story itself had a good deal of potential.


Debut: December 12, 2008
Format: TV (12 episodes)
Director: Yuji Himaki
Character Design: Ryo Tanaka
Score: Nijine
Studio: Brains Base
Additional Links: ANN Entry

A love-lorn teen boy suddenly finds himself with a girl, who was transformed from the soft drink can he took a sip from. In reality, it is all part of a secret government experiment, and she's not the only flavor on the market...

It just screams "marketing pitch", but the concept sounds both hilariously bad and hilariously creative (from a harem standpoint). The inherent personality traits/cliches would be amusing at least to see associated with a soda beverage flavor, not to mention that the "indirect kiss" belief would be thrown out of the window in this case...

Genji Monogatari Sennenki [The Tale of Genji: A Millenium-Old Journal]

Debut: January 15, 2009
Format: TV (11 episodes)
Director: Osamu Dezaki
Character Design: Akio Sugino
Score: Seiji Suzuki
Studios: Tezuka Productions, Tokyo Movie
Additional Links: ANN Entry, ANN Article

Based upon what has been historically claimed as the first novel ever written, Genji Monogatari Sennenki (The Tale of Genji: A Millenium-Old Journal) celebrates the story's one thousandth-year anniversary, which chronicles the life and relationships of the titular prince.

Usually when Dezaki and Sugino join forces, good things tend to come of it. Genji, based on the promo and source material, just might make for a very good, interesting, and romantic time. It's also notably special given its anniversary, so its handing should be in assured in the hands of industry veterans.

Kemono no Sou-ja Erin (The Beast Player Erin)

Debut: January 10, 2009
Format: TV (50 episodes)
Director: Takayuki Hamana
Character Design: Takayuki Goto
Score: Masayuki Sakamoto
Studios: Production I.G, Transarts
Additional Links: ANN Entry

Based on a novel by Moribito: Guardian of the Spirt author Nahoko Uehashi, the story revolves around a girl blessed with the ability to command powerful beasts who finds herself at the center of attention between two warring kingdoms.

The premise sounds very promising and the visuals look nice (it is co-animated by Production I.G, after all) and given that it is an NHK production (as were standouts Nadia: Secret of Blue Water and Dennou Coil), the presence of high-caliber storytelling should hopefully be there, as well.

Kurokami The Animation [Black God The Animation]

Debut: January 8, 2009
Format: TV
Director: Tsuneo Kobayashi
Character Design: Hiroyuki Nishimura
Studio: Sunrise
Additional Links: English Site, ANN Entry, ANN Article

From the popular Koren-Japanese manga comes a fantasy tale centering on a lonely high-school boy who gets swept up in otherworldly matters once he crosses paths with a mysterious, and oddly-dressed, girl who is tasked with preserving the balance of the world.

Kurokami has the very unique distinction of being the first anime to air simultaneously (well, within 24 hours...) in Japan and the United States (as well as South Korea) on television. Further enhancing its historical significance is that it is the first to have an English dub air as it showing in Japan. In other words, the "dub" (if you can really call it that in this situation) is being done off of pencil test footage prior to the weekly deadline, since the finished product is, of course, still in the works. It is a great experiment, and surely a hard one, and it will go a long way in testing how feasible the long-held dream of true simulcasting anime is. That aside, the show itself sounds pretty interesting, has a strong staff behind it, and the visuals have that typically strong Sunrise look to them. Now, if only Bandai Ent., its distributor and English production supervisor, would put both versions (and the Korean one, if done in that language) online...


Debut: January 11, 2009
Format: TV (12 episodes)
Director: Atsushi Takahashi
Character Design: Satoshi Tazaki
Score: Takafumi Wada
Studio: Madhouse
Additional Links: ANN Entry, ANN Article

In 2020, a former ballet dancer and college student whose dreams were cut short by injury takes interest in riding a robotic motorcycle, where she finds a new avenue in channeling her talents.

The eclectic basis for the show is certainly appealing and imaginative. My interests in Rideback are definitely high, not to mention that it is not too often that Madhouse does a pilot-&-robot show.

Shikabane Hime: Kuro [Corpse Princess: Black]

Debut: January 1, 2009
Format: TV (13 episodes)
Director: Masahiko Murata
Character Design: Chikashi Kubota, Kikuko Sadakata
Score: Norihito Sumitomo
Studios: GAINAX, feel
Additional Links: English Site, ANN Entry, FUNimation, YouTube, Joost, Hulu

A continuation of last season's Shikabane Hime: Aka (Corpse Princess: Aka/Red, or "Crimson", as FUNimation decreeded it), taking place in the aftermath of its finale.

While I am behind in watching the first season, the first episode alone showed a lot of intrigue and promise in its characters and presentation to make me anticipate the rest of it and its second half quite a bit.

Sora wo Kakeru Shoujo (Sora Kake Girl) [The Girl Who Leapt Through Space]

Debut: January 5, 2009
Format: TV (13 episodes)
Director: Masakazu Obara
Character Design: Yousuke Kabashima (Original: Kazayuki Yoshizumi)
Studio: Sunrise
Additional Links: ANN Entry

A girl on the run from an arranged marriage finds her self inside an old space colony and falls into a lot that includes a law enforcement officer on her tail and a demented AI.

A play on the title of the classic light novel (and recent modern classic anime film adaptation) Toki wo Kakeru Shoujo (The Girl Who Leapt Through Time), the show has nothing at all to do with it, but does appear to be one of those comedic romps with some ecchi to go along with it. Perhaps not too surprising, given that much of the main staff from My/Mai-HiME is behind this new Sunrise show...

The Tower of DRUAGA -the Sword of URUK-

Debut: January 8, 2009
Format: TV (12 episodes)
Director: Koichi Chigira
Character Design: Atsushi Yamagata, Junichi Takaoka (Original: Ugetsu Hakua)
Score: Hitoshi Sakimoto
Studio: GONZO
Additional Links: ANN Entry, YouTube

Taking place six months after the events of its predecessor, the Aegis of URUK, Jil and the remaining band of adventurers make their way back up the Tower, though things are quite different from before...

While I liked the first season and thought it was good, I didn't think nearly as high of it as a number of others had. It felt shallow in parts and sometimes got caught up in its parody bits too long, but the second season feels more focused and flows better. I'm enjoying it much more than previously, as of this writing.

Viper's Creed

Debut: January 6, 2009
Director: Shinji Aramaki
Character Design:
Studios: AIC Spirits, Digital Frontier
Additional Links: ANN Entry

A private military contractor (PMC) and the military lock horns in a post-war ravaged world in the future.

Futuristic wartime settings involving PMCs or other militaristic establishments have become a something of a growing staple of a good amount of recent anime (Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex and Mobile Suit Gundam 00, as two prominent examples), perhaps due in small part to the wars in Iraq and Afganistan and the use of such groups in those conflicts and other terroristic or guerilla-related actions. Viper's Creed is an original story from mechanical designer-turned-director Shinji Aramaki (most recently, the CG Appleseed movies) that seems relatively decent enough. The one caveat may be the involvement of screenwriter Ai Ota, apparently a major contributor to the series. She penned four episodes of Blassreiter, all important ones, that nearly derailed the series completely (as pointed out by a poster on the AoD/Mania forums). While the others were fine, the amateurishly poor job done on those episodes damaged the series as a whole. Perhaps that may not reoccur here, but it does pose some question marks, regardless.

White Album

Debut: January 3, 2009
Format: TV (13 episodes)
Character Design: Kou Yoshinari (Original: Hisashi Kawata)
Studio: Seven Arcs
Additional Links: ANN Entry

Based on the romantic sim game from AQUAPLUS, the series chronicles the rocky courtship between a college student and a popular idol songstress.

Already an early favorite of the season, White Album has an interesting plot that could make for quite a good show, depending how much depth is delved into and serious it takes itself (not that a little comedy hurts...).

-Other Shows of Interest-
There are considerably more shows here than in the primary listing than usual, though that does not mean these are automatically lesser shows. Most are here either because they are shows I'm unfamiliar with as far as sequels go, ones that seem mildly notable, or ones that look interesting, but I'm not too sold on. There have been times that I've actually latched onto a show from here more than I have ones that I was anticipating more in the section above, so there's always that element of a surprise waiting in store...

Asu no Yoichi! (01.08.09 - Sounds like the usual harem fare, but could be good for some laughs)

Birdy the Mighty Decode: 02 (01.09.09 - The second season of up-and-coming studio A-1 Pictures' revival of the popular '80s OVA--of which I'm still vying to see of the first)

Chrome Shelled Regios (01.10.09 - Seems mildly interesting, but the concept comes across as a bit muddled)

Examurai Sengoku (01.10.09 - A samurai tale inspired by the Japanese music group EXILE, though it's hard to tell if it's little more than a vanity project...)

Fresh Pretty Cure (02.01.09 - The Pretty Cure franchise just keeps getting bigger with this new installment--featuring a new cast--but is the "Fresh" in the title unintentionally telling of the franchise's state?)

Haijime no Ippo: New Challenger (01.06.09 - Never seen the much-praised first series, though I may want to take a peek at this new chapter in the saga)

Hetalia - Axis Powers (01.24.09 - Based on the very controversial manga of the same title, whose WWII ethnic stereotypes may be the center of the comedic action, but it's none to funny to the Koreans)

Kotonakare Hero Gingerman (01.03.09 - Bizarre-looking, but potentially amusing, Flash-animated show about a ginger root who stands up for the little guy...err...vegetable)

Kupuu~!! Mamegoma! (01.10.09 - Marketing-based anime revolving around a cutesy seal in the vein of Hello Kitty and all other things Japan-cute)

Minami-ke: Okaeri (01.04.09 - The first season in the series was something that I was anticipating quite a bit, but the show wasn't all that funny and the characters, which I thought would be good, turned out to be more annoying, and even a little mean-spirited, than anything else, making it doubtful I'll try to sit through this one)

Slayers EVOLUTION-R (01.12.09 - Just picked up by FUNimation, alongside with its first season, and while I have watched about half of the original series, I still haven't seen its newest tale, though I'm sure to once the company eventually puts it on its video site)

Sora o Miageru Shoujo no Hitomi ni Utsuru Sekai (01.13.09 - The sequel to Kyoto Animation's first, and perhaps least-known, anime and pet project (which has its fans) gets remade and sees its story get wrapped up)

xxxHOLiC: Shunmuki (02.17.09 - A short OVA continuation of Production I.G's adaptation of the popular manga, which I really liked when it first debuted in 2006)

-In Theaters-

Armored Troopers VOTOMS: Pailsen Files (01.17.09 - A movie compliation of the recent VOTOMS prequel, whose main source I was enthralled with--except for the last episode...)

Pyu to Fuku! Jaguar ~Ima, Fuki ni Yukimasu~ (01.01.09 - Utterly strange, yet hilarious, premise done in Flash animation, with an aspiring guitarist being spurned to play the recorder after constantly crossing an odd master of the instrument)


  1. FYI Fantastic Children was a late-night TV Tokyo production, not NHK prime-time ala Dennou Coil ;)

    word-verification: jorking, which is what I am not doing.

  2. Thanks for the correction (I got Nippon Animation's and NHK's type of productions mixed up -_-;;). Now replaced with "Nadia: Secret of Blue Water".