[C]: Control: The Money and Soul of Possibility – First Impressions

Okay, it’s official: this season rules. At least as far as first episodes go. Control: The Money of Soul and Possibility is definitely the weirdest series, but that’s why I likes it. It starts a little cryptically; laying everything out without too much explanation, but that’s okay. Sometimes the best way to get things started is to just jump in.

As for our protagonist, Yoga, he is trying to make his own way in cold, unyielding capitalist Tokyo. He dreams of a fixed income with a fixed lifestyle; nothing too fancy, just a modest life with a wife and kids. What we all want, right? But he works numerous jobs while taking university classes, and only has $80 in the bank. Not enough to even go out for drinks. And certainly not enough for a girlfriend.

So up pops a surreal clown-like banker-dude who offers membership into a surreal bank. Yoga initially refuses, but when he suddenly finds 500,000 yen ($6,000) in his account and withdraws some of it, the bait is basically taken. Yoga is a scrupulous fellow who slipped up due to simple human greed, and now he’s by default a member of Midas Bank, which takes one’s “future” (read: life) as collateral in exchange for cash.

It also involves fighting other bank members with elaborate weapons and summoned entities in a crazed-out cyber-dimension, as well as pretty elf-like sidekicks. We don’t know much more about all that, but I’m sure we’ll learn soon. There’s a lot to like about Control: it’s got big, interesting ideas and a big budget to express them. The opening and ending (school food punishment) are the best this season. Looking forward to how strange Yoga’s life is going to get. Rating: 3.5

Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Boku-tachi wa Mada Shiranai – First Impressions

With yet another gorgeous, well-made series with a immediately appealing cast, this is shaping up to be a great spring 2011 season. The only glaring flaw in AnoHana so far is that it has an obnoxiously long title…and everyone has an ordinary name and a nickname I need to remember. Everything else is solid.

“Jintan” used to be the “leader” of his group of six friends. Then one of them – “Menma”, a frail-looking girl with silver hair – died. With that hole in their collective hearts, they drifted apart. Now high school age, Jintan is a shut-in with social anxiety, and the only one who sees the “ghost” of Menma. He’s having trouble growing up, especially when she’s always whining and hanging off him.

The reason for his trauma is, he felt he wounded her deeply the last time he saw her, and never got the chance to apologize. She was also someone he was in love with, so her loss is something he hasn’t been able to recover from. His friends, while more mature on the surface, nevertheless still share his grief of losing Menma, in their own way.

These six characters are pretty diverse, and even though they’ve just been introduced, I’m already rooting for Jintan to re-unite the group. You want to hope their dormant friendships could weather the storm of – well, life – and all gain strength from the reunion. It doesn’t seem right that they’re apart and cool towards one another right now. And it certainly isn’t what Menma would have wanted. Rating: 4

Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko – First Impressions

I’m a fan of Studio SHAFT, ever since the manic-hilarious stylings of Mr. Despair. Though still not complete, I’ve already placed Puella Magi Madoka Magica up amongst my favorite anime. While that Winter anime has a female lead, this show will focus on a male one, named Makoto.

Like another lead this season (Ohana in Hanasaku Iroha), he is in a new town and a new school, with new family of sorts, consisting of his doesn’t-look-39-at-all aunt, and what for most of the episode is nothing more than a pair of legs sticking out of a rolled-up futon.

This girl, Erio, who reveals herself later as an Earth “observer” descended from aliens, could also be related to Nino from Arakawa. She is stunningly beautiful; somebody Makoto will have no problem living with. But she and her “mother” are definitely oddities. Erio’s manner of speaking is very odd indeed. As the straight-man, Makoto wants to try to live as normal a life as possible; going to school, checking out the cute girls, et cetera.

Like Puella Magi, Denpa takes place in a very nice-looking – if less futuro-baroque – setting; a huge and proud-looking city. The animation is very smooth and the colors are very pleasing. We don’t know quite how much absurdity Erio will cause, but I’m sold enough on the charms of the characters and the quality of the dialogue and production to keep watching until I find out. Rating: 3.5