Tuesday, May 31, 2016

:anime: Free/Low-Cost Anime Pick of the Month:: Not Too Shabby, Shorties…

[Post Date: May 31, Actual Post Date: June 27. Spent much of May updating, upgrading, and setting up three computers with Windows 10, respectively. Spent much of June dealing with the ramifications of getting little sleep and having a slew of other things to do/come up. Slightly better now, still haven't got an appropriate amount of sleep. Wait, what's "sleep" again…?]

As much as the practice gets derided, and as much as people attempt not to, everyone, in some form or another and likely more than a few times, has "judged a book by its cover". Even when one tries to keep an open mind and be fair, that quick bolt of suspicion can strike faster than one's better discernment. Sometimes, that instinct can prove correct, but other times, the end results may yield an exact opposite reaction.

One area this occurs in the most is the realm of entertainment. With literally hundreds upon hundreds of titles to peruse in anime, alone, and so much of it freely available at a click or tap, it is very easy to be attracted to a title or pass on it by a simple glancing at the promo picture for it (unless you went that extra mile and also clicked or hovered the cursor over it to read its description). I mean, there are so many titles out there, after all! You know what you like, your time is precious, and hey, maybe you'll actually watch that one show one day down the line ( …or not). Whatever the case, there is a strong chance that you skipped over an anime once because you thought you wouldn't like or that it would not interest you.

Even as someone who, by anecdotal evidence, knows that it is better to just watch a show rather than base their viewing habits on popular opinion, and to approach works with an open mind, it can still be difficult not to at first blush. As a result, it might be relegated to the nether regions of a massive queue, or worse, forgotten about until a long while later. Even with broad taste, it can be easy to dismiss a show simply based on whether all of the girls have giant breasts (bonus points if a blase-looking male is present), the description involves anything "club" or "school council"-related, or if it looks like it was done with the least of care.

Obviously, there are times when such concern is not misplaced. However, there are other times when going out on a limb and testing fate can yield its own little, enjoyable rewards. Last year, it was about liking anime that others did not quite. For these next four Free/Low-Cost Anime Pick of the Month installments, though, we will looking at shows that, at first glance, appeared to be sure clunkers or not worth the time, but instead, proved to be anything but that. In the first in this series, we will look at three anime (coincidentally, all shorts) that I was certain/dreading and only checked out to see if that were the case (and also because I like to take chances like this…). But, well…

Muromi-san (Namiuchigiwa no Muromi-san)
[Official Site] [ANN Entry] [MAL Entry] [Crunchyroll]

Seems Like…: A cheap-looking, lame attempt at a cute-girl, moe-type comedy, distinguished solely by "mermaids"; something Tatsunoko Pro. did for a quick buck.

In Actuality, It's…: A really funny, very biting comedy with a lot of wit and a surprising level of envelope-pushing material.

Muromi-san seemed like a dead-ringer for a dead-on-arrival title, but it turned out to be the complete opposite from the start. The premise is simple—boy rescues mermaid, mermaid falls in love with boy—but it mines a lot of from it and mythology at-large. The modern takes on the latter (mermaids have mobile devices and nasty hangovers, apparently) and anthropomorphic beasts of legends are humorous enough on their own, but its edgy, mature-minded humor (both in reference and content) is its greatest driving force. The cute character designs only enhance the overarching feeling of a backwards slice-of-life fantasy/fairy tale, topped off by the occasional gasp-worthy spurt of raunch. And yes, Tatsunoko did a solid job with its colorful production and was indeed not a "quick buck" thing. If you are a big fan of smart, sharp, or ribald comedies, you may find much to like here…

Crane Game Girls
[Official Site] [ANN Entry] [MAL Entry] [Crunchyroll]

Seems Like…: Seems like…hmm. What I am suppose to think about a show revolving around three wannabe idols that save the world from asteroids by playing crane games? / We have truly reached the furthest boundaries of both the idol and cute-girls-doing-cute things subgenres…

In Actuality, It's…: As utterly ridiculous as you would expect it to be. It's also completely why it works.

Crane Game Girls could have easily been one of those low-rent shorts that tries to be silly and cute but fails at both, and the first episode or two could make one a little nervous about where it is all going (like, into the trash bin). However, it knows how preposterous its premise is and just goes with it, neither beating you over the head with unsubtle winking or carrying itself as if its plot were something to behold and taken with the utmost seriousness. Playing it straight provides the show to naturally poke fun at itself, and does so with the right amount of humor and good timing. The Flash-like animation style may seem to accentuate a cheapness with it, but it is quite deliberate and inspired, similar to an Adult Swim cartoon (additional props for consistency and not using the look as an excuse to be slack).  CGG is one of those titles that, on paper, have no right to be good or even remotely amusing, but it is. Heck, it verges on "admirable"—and you make learn a trick or two on tackling those pesky coin-eaters, too!

Wagamama High Spec
[Official Site] [ANN Entry] [MAL Entry] [Crunchyroll]

Seems Like…: Your run-of-the-mill fanservice exhibition, replete with shamelessly bouncing bubble boobs, "accidentally" indecent exposure, and psuedo-yuri action, with nary a raison d'etre beyond that; the type of no-name, forgettable anime that that has a weird name (and a webpage with a funny URL).

In Actuality, It's…: a relatively-tame, perfectly-unassuming slice-of-life short?

Wagamama High Spec…is an odd case. First, it should be stated—as its promotional art telegraphs—that it is is based off of an eroge. While many anime adaptations tend to serve as a advertisements for their source material, Wagamama was truly meant to be an actual advertisement for a game of the same title, debuting a few weeks after it. It serves as a primer on the four girls who you'll meet in the game, who take part in the student council that the game's protagonist is recruited into. The end of each episode also takes a quick profile at the game and each of the girls.

Indeed, it is assuredly a glorified ad for the game. Kind of. Maybe, not quite…

Even though eroge and visual novel leads tend to be nondescript and faceless, WHS' is nowhere to be found and only mentioned in passing a few times it. He is such a non-factor, you'd be forgiven in forgetting he was even an entity in the girls' world (besides being done on purpose, that is sort of funny because…). Moreover, you may be further forgiven for forgetting that this was propositioning a game, to say nothing of an erotic one. While plenty of eroge have been made into harmless anime, that expectation seemed unexpected here, given the bodies and routine looks of the girls. However, rather than a continual bawdy sequence of jiggling and thinly-veiled excuses for fanservice (save for the 1st and perhaps 3rd episode, though they play it up more for laughs), the series is a relatively-safe, easygoing, straightforward comedy.

Those items underscore a strange duality with the anime. For all its advertising purpose, the girls look like pale imitations of their game visuals (if not the anime's promo art!). It accentuates the overall cheapness of the production, whose consistency (along with the girls' bust size(s)) wanes with each advancing episode. That's rather odd, and unwelcoming, for something that's supposed to represent and promote a work (though it wouldn't be the first…), but it's even odder when the series' episode codas shift from explains bits about WHS to pimping a different game, Kakoi Tamae (or "KakoTama"). While it stems from a cross-promotion and doesn't play a role in the show itself, the transition and placement still feels out-of-place, particularly when the anime's supposed to be informing the viewer about WHS-proper.

This may all sound like a disparaging of Wagamama High Spec, but in actuality, the series is fine and works well as simply a standalone work. It doesn't do anything outwardly special and it won't change your life, but not every work has to. It's an amusing, and a bit sweet and goofy, slice-of-lifer and too bad a choice if you are looking for a quick shot of anime in your day (each episode is 3:30, but the actual content is 2:00 flat, sans ED & coda).

As such, it does not really pay to judge an anime by its promo picture or description. Perhaps the tendency trends even higher when it comes to short anime, which some fans view as more disposable and less worth their time (…which is ironic…). However, if you decide to throw caution to the wind and take a nibble, you just might find something you'll like that you weren't expecting. And sometimes, those experiences can be the most rewarding…

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