gundam 00 tieria is so cute when he cries

Gundam 00 first season impressions

Gundam 00 is the first Gundam series I’ve watched seriously since Gundam Seed Destiny ended. I loved the first two-thirds of of Seed Destiny, btw. How did it fall apart so horribly? But that’s a story for another day.

After Destiny ended, I watched the movies of the original Gundam 0079. Interesting stuff, especially for the similarities and differences between it and Seed. And watching Amuro getting Bright-slapped is probably the most satisfying thing in all anime. So that was fun, but not a full series. I followed it up with Zeta Gundam, but I’d downloaded only 5 episodes. Once I ran out I couldn’t decide whether to continue it or not, so I put it on hold… about 7 years ago. I’ll make it my next mecha project after 00. It had potential and I liked Camille.

After Zeta I tried Turn A. Watched at least 10 episodes but it was slow. Really slow. Too much drama, too many cross-dressing shenanigans, nothing I wanted to watch was happening. I skipped to the last episode but obviously it didn’t make much sense. That was it for me and Turn A. Most recently I watched an episode of Victory Gundam… or was it Gundam X? The one with the little boy. Didn’t catch me but I did mean to try a little more.

What’s the point of this long lead in? Nothing! I just like to write. And it does show that I’m not a Gundam hater, no matter how critical I am of it in this and subsequent posts. I watched Gundam 00 because I wanted to enjoy it, and for the most part I did. It had a lot of flaws (dumb protagonists being number one) but I’m only halfway through. That’s why I’ll save judgment until I finish the whole show. A few impressions plus wishlist for season two.

Impressions of Gundam 00 season one
  • gundam 00 animefangirlThe slow build up was a bit frustrating, but the upside is that it helps to keep all the parties and characters distinct in my mind. You’re never left guessing who is who or who is working for who, it’s very easy to follow.
  • The story, such as it is, is easy to understand. More questions have been raised than have been answered so far, but the timeline is clear, the general aims and objectives of the different parties are clear as well. It’s very straightforward.
  • The Gundams aren’t quite as cool as I’d been hoping for. They look decent enough but outside of a few early scenes they don’t act very cool. They get beaten up a lot, which any wrestling fan can tell you reduces your cool factor by 0.1% for every blow. Their weapons are either not interesting (yawn beam saber) or are rarely used even when they should be (Dynames’s long-distance rifle, Kyrios’s pincers).
  • The Gundams need more strategy. The enemies seem to do a lot of planning and thinking about how to take the Gundams down. The Gundams just rely on luck and their superior firepower and armor. That makes some of the battles hair-rippingly frustrating (episode 15!!).
  • setsuna is such a weaklingI can’t decide whether I like the relative weakness of the Gundams or not. On one hand it’s a nice change from the KIRA STOMPS nature of Seed/Destiny and the AIEEEE IT’S A GUNDAAAM nature of Wing. On the other hand, I watch Gundams to see stuff getting blown up, pink explosions everywhere, so 00 is a little dull so far. Ask me again at the end of the show.
  • It’s great how the enemy combat leaders are seasoned and competent and give the Gundams (a.k.a. Gundumbs) a run for their money. TBH I often found myself rooting for them, especially for Sergei of the Human Reform League. Smart, compassionate, skilled… why couldn’t he be the main character?
  • Seeing the tables turned on the Gundams in the last few episodes of the season was GLORIOUS. Smarts + firepower trump simple firepower every time. QED.
  • The last episodes of the season were a huge disappointment. Enemies coming out of nowhere and attacking with very little motivation, unimpressive final boss, ugly mecha, wasted buildups etc etc. But to explain would involve spoiling so I will refrain.
Wishlist for season two
  • The overall story needs to make sense. They’re doing well keeping things logical so far and I’d like them to keep doing so. That’s my main wish.
  • Second biggest wish: better planning, strategy and reconnaissance from all parties but especially the Gundams. They approach battle like they’re in Gundam Wing but they have all the might of an light novel protagonist in front of a truck. Their piloting skills are only so-so so they need to compensate with brains. That goes double for you, Ms. “tactical forecaster” Sumeragi.
  • More Tieria back story. Horrible fashion sense aside, he had the most professional attitude out of all the Gundam pilots. Everyone else got their flashback, now it’s Tieria’s turn.
  • Less Saji and Louise. Please.
  • Less Setsuna, less Mari-whatshername. A forlorn wish, I know.
  • Cooler mecha. I can forgive it in Knight’s & Magic and Aldnoah Zero, but Gundam is the mech show. If the lead mecha don’t make me go “I want all of them!” something is wrong.

That’s it. A very short wishlist because there wasn’t that much wrong with the show apart from the lack of strategy in the battles. Trying to shoot your way out of everything against enemies that are more experienced and better prepared than you doesn’t work very long, which the show illustrates well. And now that they’ve illustrated it, I’d like them to do something about it. Let’s see if they do.

isekai shokudou animefangirl

Dropped Ookami Shoujo to Kuro Ouji, Centaur no Nayami, Isekai Shokudou, Keppeki Danshi! Aoyama-kun, New Game!

I’ve been watching some fun and interesting stuff lately, but for every good show I watch there’s at least one that I dropped because it couldn’t hold my interest past the first episode. The latest victims are:

Ookami Shoujo to Kuro Ouji – Another recommendation I got when I asked for decent, recent, complete series. It certainly ticks all the buttons but shoujo is often a hard sell for me. It often has spineless brainless heroines paired up with borderline psychopathic men, but don’t worry the power of true love will help Mr. Jerkbrains overcome his tragic past and find happiness with our hapless heroine. Yeah yeah, I’ve seen it all before. And the heroine in this show is especially dumb so it’s no fun to watch.

centaur no nayami animefangirlCentaur no Nayami – Almost dropped it instantly when the show opened with a kiss scene. I soldiered on for another 5 minutes but it was just boring. I don’t care at all. And they just wouldn’t shut up about the kiss.

Isekai Shokudou – File this one under “A quality show, but one episode is enough.” I should create some kind of tag for such shows, since it’s a common reason for me dropping shows. The food looks delicious and the characters all seem like decent people. But I’m not much for slice of life shows these days. After one episode it’s like “I get it, okay?” So not a bad show, just not that intriguing.

onyankopon animefangirlOnyankopon – Terrible. And not even cute. And the dances don’t even match the beats. First time I’ve ever watched a 3-minute anime and paused it every 30 seconds hoping it was over.

Fun bit of trivia, onyankopon is an Ashanti word meaning “Great One” or “God” (reference). So the name is a pun on the sound a cat makes (nyaa) + a god = a cat god that teaches people how to dance. Cultural appropriation, I think it was called? Or more like misappropriation. Incidentally there are cat bosses in Wild Arms 5 called Onyame (also “God”) and Onyankopon, so now you know where the names came from. This paragraph I just wrote is 2000000x more interesting than the Onyankopon anime. It’s the pits.

Keppeki Danshi! Aoyama-kun – Could have been good. Should have been good. They should have picked either a 100% comedic route or a 100% serious exploration of Aoyama’s clear mental illness. The half-hearted approach chosen makes all the characters look like either mean jerks or pathetic victims or both. It’s not funny, it’s not sad, it’s not interesting, it doesn’t feature any good sports action, it doesn’t make me want to watch any more.

New Game! – Same as Isekai Shokudou, I’m not that into slice of life and one episode is enough. If the show had a faster pace it would be nice to see how games are made from the inside out. However as far as I can tell it’s just “cute girls doing cute things” set in the game industry. If there’s a manga I wouldn’t mind reading it, but I don’t have the patience for a moe anime right now.

That’s it for the failures, now back to stuff I find interesting.

Hyouka anime – dropped after 5 episodes but it’s decent

Hyouka is one of the recommendations I got from AnimeSuki when I asked for recent, decent and complete shows. I still haven’t worked through the entire list. I use it as a fallback when I can’t think of anything to watch at all, which happens less and less often as my backlog keeps growing.

Blurb: At the request of his older sister, student Hōtarō Oreki joins Kamiyama High School’s Classic Literature Club to stop it from being abolished, joined by fellow members Eru Chitanda, Satoshi Fukube and Mayaka Ibara. They begin to solve various mysteries, both to help with their club and at Eru’s requests.

I watched four episodes and read summaries of the fifth and that was enough for me. But it’s not that Hyouka is a bad show or anything. For one thing the art is gorgeous and extremely detailed. That’s the one thing even the fiercest haters of the show will agree on. For another thing the laidback slice of life mood of the show is very relaxing. I’ve been watching a lot of action-packed fantasy stuff lately, so the 100% reality-based Hyouka was a nice change.

Despite the high-school romance setting, it is also refreshingly free of the usual melodramatic love triangle do-they-don’t-they time wasting you often get in shows like that. And lastly, it’s nice to have a mystery show that doesn’t involve murders or other gory crimes. The “mysteries” solved in the first five episodes were relatively banal but sometimes it’s nice to have a whodunnit without the blood splatters.

No, not really.

Having said all that, Hyouka just wasn’t compelling enough to get me to watch the whole show. Oreki is your typical “bored with everything” anime genius with a voice like a 40-year old man. His friend Satoshi is an insufferably perky know-it-all. Mutual friend Ibara is just kind of there when she’s not being caustic. Chitanda is the most annoying of all. Whether you like the show or not will depend on how much you can stomach her pushiness and endless nosiness.

But I’ve watched many a show with an even less appealing cast. The real reason why I dropped Hyouka is that five episodes were enough. It’s enough, I get it. They like each other and they hang out and they solve minor mysteries. Okay, that’s fine. It’s fine for 5 episodes but do I really want to watch another 18 or 19 episodes on the same theme?Not really. I’ve seen what it has to offer, it’s decent enough but there’s nothing that makes me want to watch any more. The mysteries aren’t that gripping, the characters aren’t that likeable, the art is beautiful but not interesting enough to stare at all day.

In the end I used Hyouka as a kind of palate cleanser between more active and more involving shows. If you like slice of life, light-hearted mysteries or high school romance you might enjoy it. Even if you don’t, it’s a nice change to try a few episodes just to get a different experience. Whether it’s good enough to watch the whole thing or not depends on you.

Forgotten Japanese Singers – The Neutral

It’s been a while since I did one of these features. It turns out most anime songs don’t make much of an impression on me in the long run. I forget them pretty quickly, which means I don’t remember a lot of anisong singers/bands either. And the ones I do remember are often still active on the Japanese music scene and hardly “forgotten” at all. There might be a correlation between memorability and longevity when it comes to success in music, but I can’t prove it.

Still I dug deep into my archives and found something at last, hence today’s update… Or so I thought! It turns out this band is still active too! I’m happy for them, but how I am going to write my blog feature at this rate? Sorry The Neutral, today you’re going to have to pretend to be forgotten so I can “remember” you!

Today’s artist: The Neutral (ザニュートラル)

Notable anime song(s): Nichiyoubi no Taiyou (日曜日の太陽) from Narutaru

Biography: The Neutral is a Japanese pop band from Hyogo Prefecture. They were founded in 1998 (official website) with a current lineup of Shigeru on vocals, Kiyomasa on guitar and Homerun Yotani on bass. Until 2016 they were a 4-man group with Beat Daisuke on drums.

The original members all met as high schoolers, so they still have that “buddies teasing each other” air about them. Their profile page is just them making fun of each other from start to finish, interspersed with a bit of band history. I like it when bands have personality and don’t take themselves too seriously, it’s so funny.

Anyway, The Neutral made their major debut with “Chance wa Soko da!” under the Dream music label and released 4 albums before moving to their own label in 2012. They released their Best Of album, “The Neutral Best” in October 2013. One of the songs on it, “Kazoku no Jikan” made it to #2 on the charts, their highest ranking to date. According to the wired CAN system, whatever that is anyway. They’re still in the music business today and had a performance on October 22nd at a Rocktown festival in Osaka. They also released their 11th single “7170” in September 2017 so they’re doing pretty well.

I encountered The Neutral when I watched Narutaru and heard the opening song, Nichiyoubi no Taiyou. It has a light, cheerful reggae feel to it that isn’t common in Japanese music, much less in anime theme songs, so it stuck in my memory immediately. I liked reggae a lot, back then. The contrast between the poppy sounds and the mournful lyrics also synched up well with the cartoon graphics + unhappy events shown in Narutaru’s opening sequence. Not to mention the infamous disconnect between the early parts of the show and the later, darker episodes. It was a good choice of theme. Watching the anime once was enough for me, but I still listen to Nichiyoubi no Taiyou very often.

Other songs by The Neutral

Based on songs I found uploaded to Youtube. Let’s try a couple and see if it’s time to add The Neutral to my regular playlist.

Kimi ni Todoke (君に届け) – It’s a nice song, easy listening. Catchy and happy like Nichiyoubi no Taiyou. More impressive was how much fun the singers seemed to be having on the stage. Attending one of their lives would be a lot of fun. The audience seems to be full of surprisingly harmonious young ladies though… Maybe it’s not a live but a music video?

Kazoku no Jikan (かぞくのじかん) – Too sappy and sentimental for my liking. Mommy this, Daddy that, I don’t like those kinds of songs. Musically it’s a bit boring too.

Tatakai no Uta – Something to do with Aura Battler Dunbine? Its rather noisy.  It sounds like something Arashi or Hikari Genji or some other boy band would sing while running around the stage. Not sure if like.

Pan to Pistol (パンとピストル)- Amusing music video and lively song. Pan! Pan! Pan pan pan! It grows on you the longer you listen to it. I like it.

If you like Nichiyoubi no Taiyou, The Neutral’s songs are all in the same vein so I think you’ll like the others as well. The Neutral is pretty good.

Knight’s & Magic anime review – Not particularly good (spoilers)

Knight’s & Magic is set in a world where medieval knights use giant robots called Silhouette Knights to fight against demon beasts, magical ravenous animals that devour everything on sight. The protagonist is Tsubasa Kurata, a mecha otaku from Japan who gets killed in a car accident. Tsubasa is reincarnated in this new parallel world as Ernesti “Eru” Echavalier, a boy born into a noble family. Tsubasa’s previous otaku memories inspire Ernesti into creating his own Silhouette Knights in order to defend his kingdom. [Wikipedia]

The good:

  • Ernesti draws his only waifu

    No harem, at least for now. No having to deal with the main character getting flustered over girls. No time being wasted on relationship drama when better things could be happening. I like that.

  • Other people other than the main character play valuable roles and get some important kills. The side characters in Aldnoah Zero and In Another World with My Smartphone are weeping in envy.
  • There’s a LOT of mecha if you like that sort of thing. Each pilot goes through about 4 different mechs from starts to finish, from weak basic ones to almost invincible super robots. I like that Goldlion thingy, really cool. The Tzendolg centaur mechs were interesting too.
  • An enemy eventually shows up who has good machine ideas, so it’s not like he’s the only super-smart genius in the whole world.
  • Some of the mecha battles are actually pretty good. Nowhere near as smart or as strategic as in Aldnoah Zero, but since the machines are cooler here with more clearly-explained features they’re more fun to watch. Personal favorite is the first showdown between Ikaruga and the Drake.
  • Very little fanservice or innuendo and not much gore despite the huge number of casualties on both sides. It’s not exactly family-friendly but a younger crowd can watch Knight’s & Magic without too much trouble.

The bad

  • The main character is annoying with his supercilious super-polite attitude and constant positivity.
  • There was too much focus on mecha and not enough on the main character IMO. You never really get under his skin. In fact it’s not even a given that he has any skin to get under. He’s just a bundle of positive energy, no hopes or dreams or interests other than in mecha. It’s really boring. For the first half he doesn’t do much fighting either.
  • Too much focus on mecha development. I want to see the mechs doing their stuff, not sitting in a dockyard being worked on for half the show. The focus on development also means the machines are constantly changing, so you can never get attached to the designs and abilities of any robot until near the end.
  • I like robots. I like isekai. But I like them separate. I want to explore the other world when I watch such a show, but in Knight’s & Magic most of the time is spent working on robots with a bunch of other humans. MEH.
  • The premise promised battles against demon beasts, and indeed the first battle against the Behemoth was a cracking good one. But after that very few such beasts show up and it’s never explained where they’re from, what they’re after, where the technology to build these robots came from, etc. That’s why I said I wanted more world-building and fewer robots.
  • That first Behemoth battle where Ernesti hacked the robot was interesting as well. How come he never did it again? It gives much greater mobility and maneuverability. The trade-off is wearing out the machine faster, but with a little more practice he could have learned to control the limiters. It seemed like a waste to show him using the robot as a machine rather than as an extension of his body as he did at first.
  • Some characters like Addy and that princess girl are annoying. I wish Knight’s & Magic had had the guts to kill at least one of them off.

TL;DR

Knight’s & Magic has too much mecha, not enough isekai, main character is a shallow one-note bore and some of the other characters are a bit irritating. It’s worth a watch if you like the mecha side of things, or if you’re tired of shows where every girl is madly in love with the main character. For me it didn’t really have much to offer. I’ve seen better mecha and better isekai, and both quite recently. On to the next show!

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