Aquarion Evol – 01 & 02

Amata Sora is a projectionist at a movie theater. He meets girl named Mikono, who wants to learn more about the legend of Aquaria. While they’re walking around, enemy ‘Abductors’ launch an attack on the city. Seperate male and female ‘Elements’ Cayenne and Zessica pilot mecha called Aquaria in a counterattack, but Amata and Mikono are trapped under stone wings, so he has to use his ‘wings of the sun’ to fly them to safety.

Doing so awakens Aquarion, and his ‘union’ with Mikono combines all the other pilots’ mechas into one – Aquarion Evol. By using their myriad element powers, including Amata’s flight, amplified by Mikono’s presence, they’re able to send the lead Abductor Kagura into the atmosphere and defeat him…for now. Back on the surface, Cayenne and Zessica take Amata and Mikono into custody.

Bam, wham, thank you ma’am. Aquarion Evol busts out onto the Winter scene with a one-two cinematic punch that immediately pushes it to the top of our watchlist. Granted, it borrows heavily from other mecha series; Macross Frontier, in particular. It has the same director, Shoji Kamamori; the well-designed characters feature hair in every conceivable color; there’s the same conflict between a more earthlike conventional civilization and a more warlike, elemental foe; there are plenty of Itano Circuses; there’s an underlying love story…even Yoko Kanno and her orchestra provide a fittingly ambitious soundtrack. When it borrows so well, who are we to complain? Ambitious describes pretty much every element of this two-part pilot. Whether moving or standing still, we’re treated to a sumptuous feast of eye candy fit for a king.

The only downside to starting off with such awesomeness is there’s frankly no way we see this level of quality being maintained for the whole run; but hey, prove us wrong, Evol!  We felt like we were watching a high-end movie. Clearly, they wanted to start off firing with both barrels, and they succeeded, to say the least. The pilot wasn’t just candy though, there were charms in what it had to say as well as what it had to show. The idea that guys and girls have to be kept apart and sealed off with “guize stones” (read: chastidy belts) to avoid “impure unions” and forbidden acts is a pretty funny premise; especially when push comes to shove, it was the lasses and lads coming together that helped them defeat their foe this time. Now comes the consequences, and in all likelihood, Amata and Mikono’s assimillation into the organization that protected them up to this point. Looking forward to it.

Rating: 4

Chihayafuru – 14

The Individual matches begin, and the team is split up by class, with Chihaya alone in A. In the second round she has to face the current queen, a rather odd girl named Wakamiya Shinobu, who has been class A since the fourth grade. At first, Shinobu’s impossibly fast, highly defensive style utterly overwhelms Chihaya. She starts to lose heart, but once she remembers winning her first card from Arata, she regains both her composure and her power, tying Shinobu on one card, then taking two in a row with authority.

Of all the action series we’ve watched recently, there’s still nothing quite like the explosion of Chihaya taking a card. They’ve really gotten good at building up the anticipation. This week, we didn’t have any doubt that Chihaya’s first encounter with the queen would result in a major drubbing, but it surprised us that she held in there, remembered that karuta is about not having mercy and never letting losses get you down. Both she and Taichi know Chihaya can be as fast or faster than this queen; it’s a matter of believing in oneself and drawing her ability from within. She certainly made a statement in front of a lot of people.

She also showed this Shinobu girl something she hasn’t experienced in a long time: a chalenge. Someone who didn’t just shrink before her relentless, seemingly infinite talent, but settled down and fought back. First of all, kudos to the writers for finally giving us a left-handed anime character! We’re left-handed, and were wondering if anyone from Japan was. We know it can be a slight advantage in many sports; so why not Karuta. Shinobu also looks to be a very interesting character. Like Chihaya, she has her quirks (they share an affinity for tacky t-shirts, for instance) and we could even see them becoming friends. But at the end of the day, Shinobu is in Chihaya’s chair…or we should say throne.

Rating: 4

Some Words On Carryovers

A few Fall series are continuing into the Winter 2012 season, some of them longer than we initially believed (episode counts from reference sources proved inaccurate). New Winter series we like will be taking precedence, but we thought we’d list off the fates of the many carryovers; too many to hold on to moving forward:

Chihayafuru, Last Exile, Bakuman 2, Mirai Nikki, Sket Dance: We’ll continue to watch these series until they end.
Guilty Crown: If Episode 13 is not the last episode, we’ll make a decision on whether to drop this series after 13 airs.
Persona 4: We’ll probably drop this series after Episode 14.

Another – 01

26 years ago in a village middle school, a smart, popular girl named Misaki suddenly died one day, but her classmates made the decision to carry on as if she hadn’t, until graduation. In May 1998, a student named Sakakibara Kouichi transfers to the class after recovering from a collapsed lung, and is unnerved by the odd, gloomy atmosphere of his classmates and the school. He has also started seeing a strange, eyepatched girl who sketches alone and never interacts with anyone else…named Mei Misaki.

A quietly chilling, forboding start to this new novel-based horror series from P.A. Works, fresh off of Hanasaku Iroha, one of our faves. Both take place in small, quaint towns, but that’s where the similarities end. Whereas the town around Kissuiso was warm and welcoming, this place gives us the willies, in spite of the beauty. Something’s lurking beneath, and like the protagonist Kouichi, we start off in the dark about just about everything. The only info we have over him is a prologue that explains the taciturn girl he meets is, well, dead.

His new classmates – friendly enough chaps – seem more interested in asking him questions than answering his. Nobody will acknowledge Misaki’s existence, and Misaki herself would prefer Kouichi to leave her alone. It doesn’t help that they associate his name – Sakakibara – with death. We’ve been slowly eased into a cool horror bath, and as is true of many works of the genre, we can reasonably expect to a slow burn answers-wise. For now, Another has set up an unsettling and intriguing introduction to a place and situation that frankly I wouldn’t want to be when the sun sets and the lights go out. Godspeed, sickly kid!

Rating: 3.5