Arakawa Under the Bridge – First Impressions

Rundown: Rich, pompous, self-made 21-year old Tokyo U student can not allow himself to be indebted to anyone. However he becomes just that when a mysterious girl who lives under a bridge saves his life. Demanding he repay her, she orders him to become her “lover”. He then enters her extremely bizarre world under the bridge.

Zetsubou-sensei, bakemonogatari, and now this: Shaft continues to churn out intriguing shows with curious, multi-textural visual style, self-deprication vis-a-vis anime conventions (cliches, not cons), and rich, carefully-manicured dialogue. Our protagonist is loud and over-the-top, which contrasts nicely with the soft-spoken, calm girl. Her meek appearance and gestures conceal a sharp wit that is likely a match for the confident family heir. It isn’t clear yet what she has in store for him, but this introductory episode (or 9 episodes, according to the numerous title cards) made me curious to find out. Rating: 3.5

Kaichou wa Maid-Sama – First Impressions

Rundown: Heroine is an overachieving class president with a secret (she works at a maid cafe) and initially no time or interest in love. In addition to school duties, she has to support her family which her father abandoned and left in debt, hence the maid job. She clashes with a popular, attractive guy who finds out about the maid job, but he isn’t the villain she initially suspects.

Lovejoy: Once I got past the gimmicky concept, I found this a good romance in the making (also I haven’t really seen any other maid shows). I like how Misaki is the first female class president in a school that’s still mostly male. She’s like an Obama, and she working towards a more perfect union in her school, where neither gender has the run of the place. Being a talented politician requires acting chops, so it actually seems quite natural that she’d work at a maid cafe. Since working there pays well (probably better than a normal cafe, for instance), it makes practical sense too. With so much on her plate and so much competitive drive, it’s logical for her to interpret a guy’s fairly unorthodox advances as hostile. She sees the guy achieving success with little or no effort while nothing comes easy to her, but that’s just her perspective.

Senkou no Night Raid – First Impressions

Rundown: Three Japanese operatives with unique supernatural powers are instructed to retrieve a corporate hostage from the Chinese in 1931 Shanghai. They employ telekinesis, telepathy, teleportation, and teamwork to carry out their mission. There’s also an old-timey car chase scene.

Darker Than Black in 1931 Shanghai, anyone? Well, not quite. I’m not well-versed in Sino-Japanese history beyond my watching of Capra’s “Why We Fight” and Herge’s “The Blue Lotus” but so far the story seems insulated from the larger political spectrum and focuses on the exploits of a few gifted Japanese spies. Unlike Valkyria and Sora no Woto, the core characters in this A-1 joint are full-blown adults, and there’s a dark, serious tone to Night Raid, without ever getting too stuffy or pretentious. The focused action sequences made clever use of the three spies’ powers. This was a good intro, and left me looking forward to their next mission.

Angel Beats – First Impressions

Rundown: Guy wakes up in the afterlife with amnesia; is immediately recruited into an after-school club locked in a battle with a seemingly omnipotent authority in the guise of a white-haired schoolgirl (Angel). They foil Angel with combo of J-pop concerts, handguns, artillery, and stage fans. The afterlife is also densely populated with NPCs. Guy’s told if he doesn’t fight, he’ll disappear.

This is P.A.’s third anime after True Tears (haven’t seen) and Canaan (watchable but shallow). It doesn’t waste any time throwing you directly into the situation at hand, and is paced well throughout. The SSS brigade/club leader reminded me a lot of Haruhi Suzumiya – charismatic; bossy; a little insane, but she has a much larger force under her command, more weaponry, and isn’t fighting on Earth, but in an afterlife with specific rules and roles. There’s thoughtful dialougue, comedy, and plenty of well-orchestrated action, and I didn’t even mind the concert, since it was intercut with other action.

Heroman – First Impressions

Rundown: A meshing of Bones’s vivid style with Marvel-style hero story. Downtrodden kid fixes robot; lightning storm brings Robot to life; with robot’s help, kid saves his would-be girlfriend. Meanwhile, kid’s professor friend successfully makes contact with aliens, but said aliens are evil. And Stan Lee has a cameo.

RahXephon was enjoyable, as was Fullmetal Alchemist. Darker than Black and its sequel were cool, noiry escapades. Eureka Seven was stylish and fun, but its protagonist was really annoying. And Soul Eater’s manic animation and bawdy comedy were a breath of fresh air, but got too serious at times and didn’t end well. Daughter of Twenty Thieves had one of the best first arcs around, but its ending was simply horrific. Heroman continues the style and great music of all these series, but in its first outing, comes up short in the substance department. So far, dumb, but fun and watchable due to its technical merits.