May 18, 2007

What's Wonderduck Watching?

It's the burning question that's on everybody's mind, I'm sure: What's Wonderduck Watching?

Well, if you click below, you'll find out! Lots of pictures, so dialup beware! I didn't realize it, but I've no less than eight different shows in the fire right now. Good grief. In no particular order, here's a quick rundown...

Nagasarete Airantou is the heartwarming story of a pig named 'Tonkatsu.' Wait, no, that'd be fun to watch. Instead, it's a show about Ikuto, a teenager that's run from his abusive father to make his way in the world. After getting washed overboard in a storm, he winds up on an remote island... populated entirely by women who have never seen a man! Cue the wacky hijinks! It's not an awful show, but it's hardly high art... more like high Fred, Art's younger brother. It's dumb, but it has it's laughs, but perhaps not enough for me to continue with.
...and more importantly, 'why am I watching it?'
Ikuto (L), Suzu (R)

Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Striker S is the show with the most clumsy title in the history of titles. It's also the third installment of this magical girl series; I've not seen the first two. Our main characters (Subaru and Tia) are, basically, recruits in a quasi-military organization that protects Japan against... um... something or other, I'm sure they'll tell us eventually. SkyNet, perhaps; there does seem to be a lot of magical girl-on-machine violence so far. Plot? Not so much at this point, but I'm only three episodes in and it's been fun to watch so far.
Subaru (L), Tia (R)

iDOLM@STER Xenoglossia has hooked me like nobody's business. It's a type of show (giant robot) that I'm not usually a fan of, except it's made me like it. Much like Ouran High School Host Club did, actually. The two series have NOTHING in common, mind you, but they're both genres I don't usually like. Anyway, it's you're usual "high-school-girl-is-the-only-one-that-can-pilot-the-robot" routine, though there are a bunch of girls, and a bunch of robots (called Idols... the girls are "Masters"... ergo, IdolMaster. Sigh.). Our heroine, Haruka, seems to be the only one that can get Eva-00 Imber to wake up (though she doesn't know how), however, and there's a mysterious organization (isn't there always?) that doesn't want Imber going... or something. Not quite sure yet. I'm diggin' it, though. The characters are fun, the art is swell, the story is... intriguing, and there's a lot of penguin references (watch for the girl in the penguin suit in ep1). What's not to like?
Currently not visible: Haruka's penguin pantsu...
Haruka (L), Yukiho (R)

Lucky Star, probably the most anticipated series of the season, started out rough. So much so that I didn't think I'd stay with it. After that jerky, fitful start, though, it's settled into a particularly interesting groove. It isn't laugh-out-loud funny (though there are a few exceptions), but it consistently delivers chuckles. The recent turnover of directors seems to have made the show less ADD-ridden, which is always a good thing. There are a ton of otaku-oriented inside jokes, pokes at other KyoAni series, references to online gaming... almost like the show is making fun of the fans by blatantly pandering to them, actually. Still, it's gone from 'ugh' to 'win' in my book.
I wonder if this excuse would work with my boss?

El Cazador de la Bruja is the third of the Beetrain "girls with guns" series (the excellent Noir being the first, the excremental Madlax the second), and it's proving to be the one that's the most fun to watch. Ellis is a quiet girl with special powers over... well, everything, it seems like, but she doesn't really control them. Nadie is a bounty hunter that's trying to keep her alive (but not for the bounty, it seems). There's a corporation that seems to have created Ellis, and it wants her back. Hijinks ensue. I'll describe it this way: it's Noir with a sense of humor ("Couldn't you have chosen a bigger fork?" "I've got two.") . That's very much a good combination in my book.
Ellis actually smiles in this show... just not in this scene.
Ellis (L), Nadie (R)

Hidamari Sketch is the story of four girls in an art school. Consistently sweet, consistently funny. It's not trying to be Azumanga Daioh, like I first thought, but it's doing a good job of making me care about the girls. The fansubbers are slow as molasses, however, which means maybe one episode every three or four weeks. This might be a series that deserves a marathon viewing session; you can't say that about a lot of them. The animation style is... odd, but once you get used to it (say, an episode or two), it just seems right. Plus, there are rubber ducks in just about ever episode, so it's got that going for it. Which is nice. If you liked Azumanga, you'll like this. Highly recommended, and probably the one series on this list I'd have no problems showing to anybody.
Yuno's the one with the duck.
Sae, hiro, Miyo, Yuno (L to R)

Ikkitousen: Dragon Destiny, on the other hand, I'd have problems showing to ANYbody. This sequel to Ikkitousen (my guilty pleasure show) is lightyears better than it has any right to be, but it boils down to being a fanservice delivery vehicle. There's actually a plot to this one (unlike the original), but it's not exactly earth-shaking... in fact, it's really kind of pointless. People fight. That's about it. Think of it as Dragonball Z with better animation and a lot more boobs, and you're in the ballpark. Still, I've enjoyed I:DD more than any of the other shows on this list... god help me.
Main character in the first series, minor in the second... thankfully.

The final series on my plate is the newest offering from Gainax, Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagan. I've not had a chance to watch any of it, so no pictures. It's another giant robot series, and since it's Gainax, it has about a 75% chance of making a smoking crater, but I've heard good things, so... I'll give it a whirl soon.

That's it... eight shows, AND finishing an AMV. No wonder I stay up late...

Posted by: Wonderduck at 09:25 PM | Comments (14) | Add Comment
Post contains 998 words, total size 8 kb.

1 Damn. Now I think I may have to give El Cazador a shot. I own and generally like (but not love) Noir, while Madlax left me bewildered after a few episodes. Hmm.

And, indeed, Xenoglossia is more entertaining than it has any right to be...

Posted by: GreyDuck at May 19, 2007 03:24 AM (CdXfx)

2 I'd be more enthusiastic about Idolmaster if the fansubs weren't so shoddy. Serin is a new group, so I'll cut them some slack (unlike, say, Doremi), but it's frustrating nonetheless. Almost enough to make me wait for the R1 DVD release, but then the score is by my favorite anime composer, Tsuneyoshi Saitou, so I'm sticking with it for now.

The original work creeps me out, though...

Posted by: Andrew F. at May 19, 2007 03:22 PM (ncbLS)

3 Huh. Andrew, I hadn't noticed anything particularly poor regarding Serin's fansubs. I might have to go back and rewatch them... darn. What a shame. Twist my arm. :-)

The game "Idolmaster" is... um... interesting, yes. Urk.

Posted by: Wonderduck at May 19, 2007 04:08 PM (h/YdH)

4 No fair counting series which you plan on watching! If you didn't add Gurren-Lagann, we'd be neck and neck. I swear, "Nagasarete Airantou" was on my list too...

The motif of "normally I hate mecha, but in this case" is really common. I used that line myself in case of Stellvia, although in reality I reassessed my relationship with mecha after seeing the Dai-Guard. I was mentally prepared to accept Stellvia. Or, look at SDB and Vandread. Need I list more of the same? Mecha is the genre which "serious" people feel obligated to hate, and no wonder. Thank you, Gainax, for ruining a good third of all anime!

BTW, a few people who have seen both said that Manabi Straight and Hidamari Sketch are largely isomorphic, and typically Manabi wins. I still want to see Hidamari myself, in order to know for sure if I'm losing anything. Manabi's situation with fansubs is bad as well. It was stuck, then restarted with awful softsubs... But it had such a big impact on me that I armed myself with dictionaries (both paper and electronic), placed my cursor on the "Pause" button, and fought my way through raws. If Hidamari is even 50% as good, I know I should watch it... although maybe wait for fansubs or R1 DVD.

Similarly, I think we need someone not as invested to watch both Vandread and Stellvia and compare them. Personally, I consider them to be a fairlily even match, but then I only saw Vandread because of Steven, so I was prejudious. And you know how important the frame of mind is in anime.

Posted by: Pete Zaitcev at May 19, 2007 05:56 PM (9imyF)

5 Actually, Pete, you misunderstood my feelings regarding mecha shows. I don't hate them at all. I just better identify with PEOPLE, as opposed to giant robots.

I don't blame Gainax for 'ruining mecha for serious fans,' I blame Sturgeon's Law... and I LIKE Evangelion up until the final two episodes. *shrug* Not enough to suggest it to anybody, but I don't feel I wasted my money on the show.

Ah well, I've always wanted to watch Vandread, even before SDB started blogging it up.

Posted by: Wonderduck at May 19, 2007 08:20 PM (A5s0y)

6 Maybe I was a bit harsh on Serin's subs... rewatching episode two, there were a few spelling and grammar errors, but not as many as I had remembered. A few names were misspelled, and there was a minor translation error ("My apartment is waiting!" should be "Wait at my apartment!"), but considering they're doing this for free I should probably quit bitching about it. Something about watching fansubs just brings out the grammar Nazi in me...

Posted by: Andrew F. at May 20, 2007 05:53 AM (ncbLS)

7 I prefer to think of it as "idiosyncratic" spelling... and the fact that they understand Japanese AND English well enough to translate it into something I can understand means that they can be a little 'idiosyncratic' in my book.

Posted by: Wonderduck at May 20, 2007 05:56 AM (A5s0y)

8 In Nanoha Strikers, they -are- protecting Japan! More or less by not being there. Whole show is taking place in another dimension.

Watch the first two seasons of Nanoha, definitely. The third one is okay so far, but it's seriously running off the goodwill the first two built up. (Downside, you've more or less spoiled the outcome of both seasons. But it's still good, especially A's. Also, no Subaru or Tiana in those seasons, as they take place 10 years earlier...)

Posted by: Avatar at May 20, 2007 07:26 AM (PyY3O)

9 The nice thing about El Cazador is that they've finally fessed up to basically cloning Noir. See the pan up through the city-scape about 3/4 through episode 4.

I tried the first Episode of Lucky Star, but it didn't bite me. Now you're making me curious.

Posted by: Will at May 20, 2007 04:35 PM (SOx9v)

10 What, you mean the "Noir Building"? Got a laugh out of me, I'll tell you that.

Lucky Star starts slowly, no question, but it hits it's rhythm around ep4. If you can get past the random conversation storytelling before that, it'll pay off.

Posted by: Wonderduck at May 20, 2007 04:41 PM (A5s0y)

11 Yeah, the building with the giant Noir facade. I was chuckling for quite a while after that.

Well... sounds like I need to grab a couple more of those episodes then. Episode 5 of El just showed up on the tubes, along with episode 4 of Rocket Girls and 7 of Xenoglossia (a show with a name that strikes a chord with me because of my fondness for the Xenogears and Xenosaga RPGs).
I've never really pushed my limits on bandwidth with my cable provider. This fan-sub nonsense is getting redonkulous.

Posted by: Will at May 20, 2007 05:25 PM (olS40)

12 Pete, how about Chris Beveridge? He rates by DVD, which he views one-at-a-time when they're released. His scores:

Vandread: B+ B- B+ B+
Vandread Second Stage: B+ B+ B+ B+

Stellvia: B B B B B+ C+ C+ B

So he gives a slight edge to Vandread.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at May 21, 2007 02:13 AM (+rSRq)

13 Beveridge's rating graph is a good match with my own feelings about Stellvia. The show deteriorated somewhat in the second half, and only recovered in for the grand finale. I'd give it almost same letters.

In Vandread, I liked the first half more too. Mostly it was a bunch of small things, like art changed with the variable-thickness confined lines and pontier chins. It saw some serious character upgrades, e.g. Bart, and some not quite as big, e.g. Barnette, so it was good. However, every time the idiotic bickering started in the kitchen or infirmary, I clenched teeth. And of course, the ending sent me into orbit with the steam out of my butt. Being prudent as I am, I made the posting about it private, to unscreen a few years down the road. So Chris' graph is constant and mine would be more like the Stellvia's, with a good D in the end.

But to answer the quiestion in short words, yes, Chris' feedback is about what I was looking for. I am going to continue considering these two shows as equals, but I'll keep his ratings in mind.

Posted by: Pete Zaitcev at May 21, 2007 05:27 PM (9imyF)

14 "I'd be more enthusiastic about Idolmaster if the fansubs weren't so shoddy. Serin is a new group, so I'll cut them some slack (unlike, say, Doremi), but it's frustrating nonetheless. Almost enough to make me wait for the R1 DVD release, but then the score is by my favorite anime composer, Tsuneyoshi Saitou, so I'm sticking with it for now.

The original work creeps me out, though..."

Serin aren't that new of a group (relatively speaking of course). They've been around for at least a year. But I agree on the subs though... absolutely shocking

Posted by: arkon at May 21, 2007 10:04 PM (BRQCR)

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