Witch Craft Works makes a strong, refreshing first impression by inverting the typical “guy saves girl” scenario. Here, the guy, Takamiya Honoka, is a pint-sized, defenseless weenie, while Kagari Ayaka the girl is the well-bred dashing hero who sweeps him off his feet. We like how Takamiya is derided by his peers simply for breathing the same air as their princess, and their daggers only sharpen when she suddenly takes him under her wing.
All the sudden attention from this lovely lass, and all the hate from the rest of the school, has Takamiya feeling self-conscious: why is Kagari associating herself with him, saving him from robotic bunny armies, and getting bloodied and burnt protecting him? All Kagari will say is that it’s her duty to protect her princess. She values him, so he should value himself, is the lesson learned. Not to mention Kagari is like the badass big sister of Kiki (of Delivery Service fame), dutiful, determined, and kind.
In our opinion there aren’t enough anime where the guys are the ones who are weak and get rescued, so the fact that this is one of those anime is a large part (but only part) of its appeal for us. But Kagari is no coarse, “butch” caricature; she kicks ass and saves Takamiya while maintaining her grace and femininity. Her tone and posture are often stiff, but there’s an undeniable warmth and affection in her actions and words (the latter coming courtesy of seiyu Seto Asami, who’s a good fit for Kagari).
There’s also a great sense of inner peace about her; she’s worshiped as a goddess among her fellow students, but she neither condones nor discourages their obsessive behavior; she’s merely the calm island dispassionately dwelling within their storm. We also appreciate Takamiya’s ultimate decision to set what ego he has aside and trust Kagari’s strength. It’s a wise man who knows when he’s the one who needs to be saved.
Rating: 8 (Great)
We’re dropped right in the middle of a fantastic new world as Kal-El (Carl?) Albus and his loudmouthed sister Ariel man a cool-looking tiltrotor and head for a floating island Isla, where they’ll attend flight school as the island flies to parts unknown in what could be a one-way journey. It’s a day filled with ceremony, pomp, and excitement, and the world appears heavily inspired by Last Exile, et al.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s just that comparisons will be inevitable, and if the series hews too close to the themes and structure of something we’ve already seen, it will be hard to justify watching it in a Winter season that looks stuffed. It’s encouraging, then, that once the big flashy airship-y introduction is finished and Kal-El is settled in his dorm, the show switches gears to romance, something Last Exile never had in spades.
Kal-El is clearly the victim of some past injustice that has led him to his present situation in life, and he resents the fact that nobles are all over the place, waving their nobility all over the place. When a silver-haired classmate gives him one too many stink-eyes, Kal-El runs out to the nearby river, where he meets Claire Cruz, who makes him feel better. Yuki Aoi proves again she’s as adept at playing shy characters as Taketatsu Ayana is at playing irritating ones.
The colors of Kal-El and Claire’s surroundings grow warmer and deeper as he bikes her home. He wasn’t happy about coming to Isla, but things are immediately looking up, thanks to Claire, even if she turns out to be a noble. It’s a simple but sweet little romance in the making, but the show makes it clear it’s also ephemeral, as Kal-El warns in his narration that the world will soon show them how cruel it can be. That’s fine, but considering how mirthfully the show portrays them, we wouldn’t mind seeing a few more good times first!
Rating:7 (Very Good)
By all accounts, Sword Art Online was fairly popular franchise, so a sequel was all but inevitable. Sometime this year we’ll be getting one!
The first season had some pretty awesome action and adventure, but were disappointed in how the badass Asuna devolved into a generic damsel-in-distress in the second half, and how cartoonishly evil the villain became (though the argument could be made that such a villain has a place in an RPG).
One thing SAO definitely got right was its first opening, which gives us an enticing taste of the virtual world we’re about to enter, nicely paired with LiSA’s (Oribe Risa)’s single “Crossing Field.” We also know Risa as the vocalist for Yui in Angel Beats!.