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12 Days of Christmas – Day 12 – The Power of the Individual

A theme that appeared in a few series this year was the power of the individual – the idea that anyone can make an important contribution, and often also the idea that what makes people different is what makes them valuable. Sometimes, this theme was used well (generally, when the concept cropped up more subtly/not as forcefully). Sometimes, it was used not so well. Frequently, though – in my eyes, at least – it was used memorably. Minor spoilers for Railgun and Liar Game, and slightly bigger spoilers for Occult Academy under the cut.

Only her baseball bat could shoot it.

The power of the individual was a huge theme in Railgun. Of course it was; after all, Railgun was a series revolving around several super-powered people, and it enjoyed shifting its focus – when it wasn’t focusing on day-to-day adventures – to how its characters chose to use the powers they had. Supremely strong lead character Mikoto used her abilties to dole out justice in an often less-than-lawful way (even more so in the Sisters arc of the manga). Powerful (but weaker) sometimes-sidekick Kuroko also used hers to fight for justice, but she used the law as a tool. The actions personally taken by Harumi Kiyama were also motivated by a desire for a better world… and even later antagonist Telestina’s actions were, too, though her “better world” was decidedly warped. Yes, the theme of the power of the individual was employed heavily in Railgun – if you want to get critical, we were somewhat beaten over the head with it. The instance of this that was most memorable for me, though, was in Saten’s case. The superpower-less girl, who was so desperate to be among the ranks of the espers, was the finale’s true hero. Armed with a baseball bat, guts, and determination, she threw a major wrench into Telestina’s plans, and saved the day where her teleporting, electricity manipulating, and constant-temperature-keeping friends were unable to.

Railgun was set in a city in which those without strong powers were essentially taught that they were worthless. The message in Saten’s heroic scene was loud and clear: nobody is worthless, and everybody has the potential to do good. It was a message that popped up with regularity throughout the anime.

I couldn't resist the chance to make fun of Uiharu above. I just couldn't.

In Occult Academy, this message was something more like ‘even a wimpy, selfish jerk can save the world’. Fumiaki, also known as Bunmei, was easily unlikeable in the first three-quarters or so of the series, mostly because he was so incredibly quick to save his skin (even when it meant endangering others). As well as this, though, he, like Saten, struggled with feelings of powerlessness. And also like Saten, with a huge amount of bravery – which in his case was summoned up just in a nick of time – and aplomb, in the end he managed to save the people he cared about. Soon after, he gathered up even more courage, and sacrificed himself to save his friends and everyone else once again.

In addition to the two above, we have Takuto in the currently airing Star Driver, who is the new guy in a place where everyone else has deep ties to each other and to their home. He is quickly popular, but also very much an outsider. And he fights for what he believes is right, despite this meaning fighting against a force much larger than him. He stands out as an individual, and takes this completely in his stride, using this to his advantage or for fun.

Did I mention that Takuto is fabulous? Because I feel like that's an important thing to mention.

Earlier this year, too, we had Angel Beats!‘s Kanade/Angel/Tenshi, who strove to do her best and preserve order, even when she was the target of some (mostly unintentional) cruelty. She fought against alienation and loneliness, as well as the SSS brigade, to do the job she felt she had to do. She did it well.

I think my favourite ‘power of one’ moment of the year, though, came in the fourth round of the tournament in Liar Game. Yukiko Abe, member of one of the opposing groups in the Liar Game, was initially cold, pushing away main character Nao when she attempted to form a friendship. As the round progressed, however, the two were able to get closer. When Yukiko was called “useless” by the leader she had placed all her belief and trust in, she was shattered. She opened up to Nao, and we saw flashbacks to her childhood, where she was abused by her parents and told she was stupid, worthless, and a burden. Of course, Nao’s response to this was to tell her that “no-one is useless”.

Nao soon proved her words right, as Yukiko became of vital importance in a manoeuvre that led to the protagonists turning the tables. Many people played a part in said manoeuvre; indeed, the success of it depended solely on people, quite literally, standing together. Without the cooperation of any single one of them, all would have failed. Yukiko was seen as the weak link in the human chain and she was targeted, but she showed her strength and pulled through.

I can understand how the power of the individual theme could be annoying, given its prevalence in anime and manga – particularly in those aired over the past year. But I think it’s a nice sentiment, and I believe that, when used effectively, it can definitely add to a character and to a work.

That’s it for Borderline Hikikomori’s Twelve Days of Anime series! Have a very merry Christmas, and a happy, healthy 2011.


Summer 2010 Preview

Rakuen here, and it’s that time again.  Time to pretend we actually care about the new series for the Summer season.  Okay, the season really isn’t too bad, and all of us have found at least a few shows to watch.  Compared to the 34-show torrent introduced last season, we only have 18 new additions.  In some ways, I like a smaller season.  I felt overloaded during the Spring season with so many series I wanted to watch.   The horror genre has gotten some disproportionate representation, and we see the return of Digimon from a 3-year hiatus.  Three shows take place during the Sengoku period, including the titular Sengoku Basara.  In addition, AIC is going overboard this season with four new shows.  While we’re talking statistics, this post is 2635 words long!  So enough with the introduction, let’s get on with the series impressions!

High School of the Dead

Madhouse

If you noticed the zombies first, you are ready for the apocalypse!

Rakuen: As soon as I opened up the Summer chart, I was already looking forward to this.  I’ve seen posts on imageboards for years, but I never got around to looking at the manga.  We’ve got a zombie apocalypse, we’ve got a school setting, now just give me a plot and I’ll be all over it.  Madhouse is just the icing on the cake for this series.

Lvlln: My main interest in this comes from the fact that it’s about zombies and a few risqué looking images from the manga I saw posted on /a/. That said, it does star a few of my favorite voice actors: Miyuki Sawashiro, Marina Inoue, whom I haven’t seen in any of the shows I’ve watched recently, and FUCK YEAH Yukari Fukui! I absolutely adore her voice, since all the way back in FLCL when she played the teacher, Miyaji. There’s a voice actor who doesn’t do enough voices. Plus, it’s about zombies, and the trailer looks appropriately ridiculous. I’ll definitely be watching it, though my interest in blogging it is medium-low.

Raph: I’m not going to lie: this looks like it’ll be a ridiculous amount of mindless fun. There’s fighting, blood, melodrama and zombies, and Madhouse is at the helm, so gorgeous animation looks to be on the cards too. I don’t like fanservice (as I continually point out) and this series will certainly have a lot of it, but I’ll probably let that slide because I’ll be having too much fun to care. If I’m not, though, I expect to drop this faster than you can say ‘brains’.

Seikimatsu Occult Academy

A-1 Pictures

Sit, boy!

Rakuen: I liked Sora no Woto, even though it didn’t have the greatest ending in the world.  I managed to lose interest in Senkou no Night Raid before anyone had even subbed the first episode.  This time, the premise doesn’t really appeal to me, and the trailer failed to piqué my interest.

Lvlln: I watched the 1st of the Anime no Chikara shows, Sora no Woto, and was pretty disappointed. I haven’t heard good things about the 2nd one, Senkou no Night Raid. The premise sounds interesting enough, but the trailer isn’t inspiring. I might wait for people’s reactions to the 1st few episodes before I consider watching it.

Raph: Admittedly, I haven’t enjoyed either of Anime no Chikara’s offerings so far, even though I love the idea behind the timeslot and A-1 Pictures. I’m going to give this a shot, though, because I’m a sucker for occult/horror series, and this one also has school comedy thrown in (generally another plus). The show looks to be using Nostradamus’ prophecies as a theme, which should be a heap of fun, and I really liked the trailer too. I’m somewhat apprehensive, but I’ll definitely check this out.

Shi Ki

Daume

...I think I'll hide under my bed now.

Rakuen: This kind of falls into the same boat as Occult Gakuin.  I’m not really a fan of the horror genre except in really specific situations.  Zombies are cool, mysterious deaths by some other worldly power are right out.  With that in consideration, I would probably choose this series over Gakuin based on the trailers.  It knows what it wants to do, and it looks like it can do it might do it with a better atmosphere than the train wreck of Ookami Kakushi.

Lvlln: I’ll be honest: the 1st thing that caught me about this one was the title, which is the same as the name of the protagonist of Tsukihime, one of my favorite anime dramas ever. Of course, Type-Moon’s previous work, Kara no Kyoukai, also shares a protagonist with the same name. The premise brings to mind Ookami Kakushi, which I dropped after a couple episodes, but then again, it’s never about the premise, it’s all about the execution. The character designs don’t do much for me, but maybe it could pull off a good horror/suspense. Probably won’t be watching it unless I start hearing a lot of good things about it.

Raph: I have been looking forward to this series as soon as it was announced. Not only will it air in the Noitamina timeslot, it’s also based on an incredibly atmospheric manga (which, in turn, was based on a light novel by the author of Ghost Hunt and Twelve Kingdoms). The trailer was extremely impressive, showing off strong art and music, and horror/mystery is a combination I really adore. There are also vampires, which will be off-putting for some, but they’re portrayed differently to the norm. There ain’t no sparkly prettyboys (admittedly, there are bishies; I’m sorry, I’m sorry!) here, just a boatload of mysterious deaths. Suffice to say, it’s a definite watch for me and a possible blog as well. [/end shameless and unsubtle fanboying]

Nurarihyon no Mago

Studio DEEN

I see you sprayed your hair with anti-gravity.

Rakuen: My immediate reaction was Inuyasha 2.0, but the similarities seem to change when you get past the protagonist’s design.  Unlike the relatively sour Inuyasha, this Youkai hybrid wants to do good.  I like series that challenge the stereotypes in this manner.  In addition, it doesn’t look like it will be infinite episodes long.  I might consider a quick look.

Lvlln: Premise sounds kinda meh, and the trailer really didn’t show much. Has some big voice actors, though, in Jun Fukuyama, Yui Horie, and Aya Hirano. But interest level is low.

Raph: The director and studio behind this also did Simoun, which I haven’t seen but am certainly planning to. I don’t think I’ll be watching this series unless it gets fantastic reviews, though, because the premise and setting don’t appeal to me at all.

The Legend of the Legendary Heroes

ZEXCS

Well this looks like a delightful adventure cast.

Rakuen: Are thesauruses just too expensive in Japan?  The redundant title aside, this seems like a mixed bag to me.  It has a fantasy setting with magic and swordplay, but it also might move a little too slowly for my tastes.  Breaking swords to end a fight in five seconds looks impressive, but if you want to do it, you have to have something else to fill the cracks, like Katanagatari’s wordplay.  I’ll wait for some reviews.

Lvlln: OK, so the title is pretty awesome. I might watch it just for that. The trailer was pretty funny, and I do enjoy that classic fantasy setting, so I’ll probably give the first few episodes a go and see how it turns out.

Amagami SS

AIC

Can we go for the Harem End this time?

Rakuen: I don’t usually put a much stock into romance anime, but the premise at least looks interesting.  I like stories from multiple viewpoints.  On the other hand, this might suffer a little from Endless Eight syndrome.  After all, in many of these choose your path visual novels, the same events happen in multiple storylines, some in all of them.  Much of Amagami hinges on its ability to avoid repetition.

Lvlln: I’m really interested to see how this parallel story telling thing will turn out. I like how AIC decided to go in that direction in this adaptation, trying to tell several good romance stories instead of telling just one that is diluted and harem-style. I also really like the more realistic/muted character design. High school romance isn’t really my thing, but I’ll watch at least the 1st story just to see how it turns out.

Raph: I love stories in any medium with multiple plotlines, and this should also satisfy my romance-anime cravings. I’m inexplicably nervous about the show, however, and am meh on the character designs, but I’m going to check out the first episode regardless. If I like it, I may very well blog it too.

Ookami-san to Shichinin no Nakama-tachi

J.C. Staff

It's party time!

Rakuen: I’ve heard good things about Toradora.  Even my cousin Jnkolm has said it’s a pretty good series, well worth the time to watch, and he’s a guy who is generally impossible to impress.  With weight like that, I feel obliged to watch it.  Oh, wait.  This is Ookami-san?  Sorry, my bad.  Well, I’ll watch the series recommended to me first, then I might come back for this.

Lvlln: I haven’t watched Toradora, but even I was thinking that this is too similar to that show, especially after watching the trailer. Looking at the cast, it features a lot of the same voice actors as the RailDex series, like Kanae Itou (Saten), Shizuka Itou (Kaori Kanzaki, the girl with the katana from Index), Kimiko Koyama (Komoe, the loli teacher), Aki Toyosaki (Uiharu), and of course it’s easy to tell that Satomi Arai is narrating the trailer. In any case, this seems a bit too much of a run of the mill high school comedy for me, so I’ll pass.

Raph: While I’ll be the first to admit that one of the leads looks remarkably like a taller Taiga (from Toradora!), I actually love the character designs and the art style here. I also love J.C. Staff and the premise is great, so I’m hoping this will be a lot of fun. Definite watch for me and also a possible blog.

Mitsudomoe

Bridge

What the hell have you done to sixth grade?

Rakuen: Minami-ke had class.  Hanamaru Kindergarten had charm.  This… you know what?  Screw this.

Lvlln: Reading the description, I thought maybe this could be a cute show like Hanamaru Kindergarten ended up being. But looking at the trailer, no, this is just lolicon material. I’ll pass.

Raph: Despite the horrendous character designs, I was considering checking this out. That was until I saw the trailer, which I found unimpressive and unfunny. No thanks.

Asobi ni Ikuyo!

AIC Plus+

What a purrfect female lead!

Rakuen: Every series needs to have a catgirl stylized anime.  It looks like AIC Plus missed the memo on this one, because Strike Witches has already filled the bill.  It also uses the “mysterious girl” trope.  I’m not feeling it.

Lvlln: Sounds like another typical “girl falls out of the sky into a boy’s life” story. I’ll pass.

Raph: There’s a strong voice cast and surprisingly good character designs here, but the premise seems really cliché and it looks like there’s going to be a hell of a lot of fanservice. I may give this show the benefit of the doubt  and check out the first episode, though, if only so I can drop it because of too much T&A.

Seitokai Yakuindomo

GoHands

I want YOU to come up with an original premise!

Rakuen: I really liked Seitokai no Ichizon back in the winter season, and while the school setting is slightly different, the setup is roughly the same.  We have a guy, and he works with a bunch of girls.  Of course, Ichizon went the parody route, and this one might go for regular comedy instead.  Still, I’m trying not to flood myself with anime this season, so I’ll wait for a second opinion.

Raph: Ahh, the student council comedy. I’m of two minds about this: the set-up is pretty bad (in a newly co-ed school’s student council, there’s one boy among a bevy of gorgeous girls) and I don’t like the character designs. However, I do think there’s potential for humour and this could be funny. I plan to check out the first episode, but it probably won’t be a high priority on my watch list.

Shukufuku no Campanella

AIC

If you can't tell this is based off an eroge, get your eyes checked.

Rakuen: …no.

Lvlln: So this one apparently literally has a girl falling out of the sky and into a boy’s life. I do like the colorful backdrop in the trailer, but it also seems too sugary sweet for me. I’ll pass.

Raph: I found the trailer and character designs bland, and I don’t like the premise, but I at least liked the colour palette and backgrounds. I’m not going to watch this unless it gets heaps of praise from others in the aniblogosphere.

Black Rock Shooter

Ordet

This OVA will be an absolute blast.

Lvlln: OK, so this was in the Spring preview post, but like a certain other online streaming anime, it was delayed. And just like that one, it also stars Kana Hanazawa and Miyuki Sawashiro. In just the past year, those 2 have been in 3 shows together: Bakemonogatari, Durarara!, and Angel Beats! (ok, for like 1 episode in that one). I was excited about the show already, being a big fan of Supercell and also of Hatsune Miku, but the announcement of these voice actors puts my excitement level over the top. This is one I’ll be looking for torrents for the moment it’s released on July 24.

Sequel Blitzkrieg

I (Rakuen) know most people gloss over the sequel and franchise preview segments because you usually know exactly what to expect.  If you liked it last season, you’ll probably still like it, and if you didn’t, you won’t have interest.  However, I have interest in two of the series, so I figured I should throw in a little extra and cover all five.  No images, studios, or other extraneous information, this is just rapid-fire titles and impressions.

Sengoku Basara S2

Are you ready guys?  Put ya guns on!  I watched the first two episode of the first season for this post, specifically because of the meme.  It’s over the top action that’s just good fun.  I have to blitz the rest of the series to prepare for the next season.  This will probably be what I write about in addition to Giant Killing.

Kuroshitsuji 2

I read the first volume of the manga, and honestly, I kind of liked it.  I never watched the anime, which is both good and bad.  On the positive side, they wrote a completely different storyline.  On the negative side… they wrote a completely different storyline.  I’m trying to avoid overwatching series this season, so I’ll probably pass on it.

Strike Witches 2

Second verse, same as the first.  It’s got girls, sailor fuku, panty shots, and rocket booster legs.  I remember seeing the first episode of the original about a year ago, and it just felt like a fanservice fest.  You’d have to cut me a tremendous deal to get me to catch up.

Sekirei: Pure Engagement

Bishonen and shoujo characters beat the crap out of each other.  Okay, honestly, I’d rather watch Tenjou Tenge.  In fact, I might just do that instead.

Digimon Xros Wars

Say what you will about Digimon, but this is my childhood we’re talking about here.  I feel like watching this just for nostalgia reasons.  Also, it looks like it will parallel the Sengoku period.  I doubt I will seriously write about the series, but maybe there’ll be some conjunction to Sengoku Basara…





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