Omedeto, Nadeshiko!

Hearty congratulations are in order this morning, as the Japan women’s national football team (Nadeshiko) won the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup, becoming the first Asian team to do so. If it wasn’t in the cards for the U.S.A. to win this year, I’m glad it was Japan who beat us. The ladies deserved it. The nation needed it. The men’s team will have their chance in Brazil in 2014 (a USA-Japan final is unlikely, but not impossible!), but for now, savor the victory, Japan!

Spring 2011 – Best (and Worst) Openings and Endings

Best Opening: [C]: Control: The Money and Soul of Possibility. A very slick, confident, adn frenetic beginning to a show that also possesses those qualities. A virtual camera zooms into a 1000 yen note, a dollar, a Euro, and a black MIdas bill, and the designs on those currencies explode and fly by with impressive depth and detail. I also like how the financial district’s giant spinning coin is presented.

I didn’t include [C]’s ending, because while it was pretty good, the School Food Punishment song sounded too similar the one used for the Eden of the East ending, which had far better visuals.

Runner-up: Deadman Wonderland. The WWE-grade metal lyrics of this season’s runner-up are kind of silly, but there’s nothing wrong with the music itself; it’s harsh, dark, and unyielding, like the series itself. The mostly red palette and multi-layered, highly-textured visuals also match the show’s mood quite well. While hardly subtle, they also show the dual personalities of both Shiro and Minatsuki. Sweet on the surface, but terrors lurk within.

Best Ending: Ao no Exorcist. I discuss the music and visuals of this ending at length here. Suffice it to say, It’s a great concept, very simple and very nicely executed. A really elegant yet satisfying ending. (Sorry, that video was removed!)

Runner-up: Deadman Wonderland. A peaceful shot of a Ferris Wheel glowing at sunset combined with a soothing, upbeat dance track makes for a nice respite from each episode’s pervading darkness and despair. The slideshow of photos – which didn’t mean much the first time we see them, are given more gravity as the series has progresses: they’re snapshots of the character’s pasts. In each case, they’ve all changed quite a bit, except perhaps Ganta and Shiro.

So, what were the worst openings and endings? The World God Only Knows II was a beginning I don’t think I ever watched in its entirety after the first time. They were clearly trying to replicate the novel and IMO very successful opening of the first season, and failed miserably. See it here. The ending is also something I skipped every time.

Hanasaku Iroha has a pretty (if not altogether original) opening that’s hampered by a subpar vocalist. Watch here, but be forewarned: it’s shrill.

Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko though, takes the cake as the most obnoxious vocals by far, and the visuals just seemed a bit lazy and uninspired. If you’re a aural masochist, you may get your kicks watching it on a loop. As for the ending, it’s just a cutesy-cutesy Arakawa-type sequence with Etsuko Yakushimaru’s shy vocals putting me to sleep. Venus to Jesus was infinitely better.

Aside from having one of the dumbest, laziest logos for a series I’ve ever seen, Tiger & Bunny‘s opening and ending are notable only for their crushing genericness. The blatant product placement didn’t bother me so much.

2011 So Far

With most of Spring 2011 all wrapped up and the Summer 2011 season starting this weekend, it seemed a good time to line up all the series that have aired this year (excluding Fall 2010 carryovers) and see what’s what so far:

Episode # : 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 AVG

AnoHana 4 4 4 3.5 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 3.955
[C] 3.5 4 4 4 3.5 4 4 4 4 4 4 3.909
Hanasaku Iroha 4 4 4 3.5 3.5 3 3 4 4 4 4 4 3.769
Puella Magi Madoka Magica 3.5 3.5 3 4 3.5 4 4 4 4 4 4 3.5 3.750
Deadman Wonderland 4 3.5 4 3.5 4 4 4 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.727
Level-E 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3 3.5 4 4 3.538
Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3 3.5 3.5 3.450
Fractale 3.5 3 3.5 3.5 3 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3 3.5 3.364
Kimi ni Todoke 2nd Season 2.5 2 2.5 3.5 3.5 4 4 3.5 3.5 3.5 3 3.5 4 3.308
Sket Dance (First Half) 2.5 3 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3 3 4 3.5 3 3.5 3.5 3.308
Ao no Exorcist (First Half) 3.5 3 3.5 3.5 3 2.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3 3.273
The World God Only Knows II 3.5 3 3 2.5 3 3.5 3.5 3.5 4 3.5 3.5 2.5 3.250
Tiger & Bunny (First Half) 3.5 3 3 3.5 3 3 3 3 3.5 3.5 2.5 3 3.5 3.154

Weekly Average 3.4 3.3 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.7 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.8 3.520

Stray Observations:

•  Overall, Spring 2011 was a particularly good season. Even if I included the huge Fall 2010 season in the table above, the top three Spring series would still dominate the podium. Quality, not quantity. Summer 2011 has its work cut out for it.

• AnoHana, just an episode shy of perfection, became a personal favorite. [C] came two shy. These two series couldn’t be more different, but both rocked.

• Best Music: Taku Iwasaki. He provided the excellent score for [C], and has also scored Katanagatari, Gurren Lagann, Soul Eater, etc.

• Hanasaku Iroha sagged a bit in the middle there, but its first half began and ended extremely strong. And even those middle episodes had their charms. Looking forward to the second half this Summer.

• At first I didn’t quite know what to make of Puella Magi Madoka Magica, but it quickly found its stride and ended up one of my all-time favorites, despite its relatively modest score.

• Deadman Wonderland has just one episode to wrap everything up. This show deserves a second season. More than Tiger & Bunny.

• Level E and Denpa Onna both involve “aliens” of some kind – and both scored extremely consistent ratings. Moreso if Denpa’s final double episode is a good one.

 In hindsight, perhaps some episodes of Fractale were ranked too high. This is possibly due to the great visuals and imaginative setting, which carried that series.

• I was harsh in the beginning of Kimi ni Todoke’s second season, but perhaps that was just because I hadn’t quite settled back into the romantic futility. As a result, this series had the most rating variation.

• Sket Dance’s only flaw was its opening episode, with its red herring protagonist. Since then it’s been consistently funny and entertaining, so I’m sticking with it.

• I’m also optimistic about Ao no Exorcist‘s second half, but not as excited about Tiger & Bunny‘s. Prove me wrong, Tiger & Bunny!

• The World God Only Knows II took a dip of .167 below its first season. Hopefully, the third season will arrest that downward trend.

• Best Female Seiyu: Winter: Eri Kitamura as Sayaka in Puella Magi Madoka Magica.
Spring: Haruka Tomatsu as Anaru in AnoHana. She was also Megumi in Shiki.

• Best Male Seiyu: Winter: Level E’s “Prince”,  Daisuke Namikawa.
Spring: Tomokazu Sugita as Sket Dance’s “Switch.”

Okage de futatabi!

Everyone here at RABUJOI wish to express our sincere gratitude to you for taking the time to visit us. RABUJOI’s philosophy has been, and will always be to deliver timely(ish) anime reviews for your reading pleasure, and read you have: In the last five months we’ve more than doubled our monthly readership. 2011 has been very good to us and we hope for that success to continue as we near the Summer season.

We’re well aware that there are a seemingly infinite number of blogs out there reviewing anime. We pride ourselves on providing reviews containing wit, humor, information, and correct spelling, and we’re glad you’ve come, and keep coming, to read them. Regardless of how many people visit or read or come back for more, we cannot look at the future of RABUJOI remains…luminescent. So keep reading, and don’t be afraid to post a comment! Thanks again!

-RABUJOI STAFF

Major Earthquake and Tsunami hits Japan

Our hearts sunk when we heard on the radio this morning that a disaster had struck our beloved Japan. The full extent of the devastation caused by the 8.9-magnitude Earthquake off the coast of Tohoku region, and subsequent Tsunami will not be known for some time, but it is severe for sure.

Japan is well-known for its earthquake-proof structures and disaster preparedness, but still, many lives have been lost and many more have been upturned, with many still in harm’s way.

If you wish to help, visit this link to the Red Cross. The Google Crisis Response page is here. The wiki page containing info on the quake and its effects is here. You can also donate using the form at this link. Pick “Japan: earthquake and tsunami” from the dropdown menu.

To donate via text message (standard rates may apply, depending on your plan):

Our thoughts and prayers go out to our Japanese friends who have endured this appalling disaster.

-RABUJOI STAFF

The RABUJOI Winter Diet

This post may come as somewhat unwelcome news to some watching the shows involved in the winter diet, but as time constraints mount, RABUJOI must evolve and streamline, and so the proverbial fat has been trimmed. Winter 2011 is no Winter 2010, nor is it as good as Fall 2010. There aren’t many series to begin with. Many bad and meh series, which we’ll no longer be watching so we can focus on the good ones.

We decided after two episodes that Rio – Rainbow Gate! was not worth our time. IS – Infinite Stratos also proved too mediocre and generic to stick with despite the mecha eye candy. Elegant battles alone could also not save Freezing, as it featured too many nonsensical character motivations and predictable boob exposures. Finally, we just haven’t been feeling Yumekui Merry. The characters have little in the way of dimension and background, and Puella Magi Madoka Magica is simply more trippy and whimsical, despite slightly inferior character design.

So what’s left? We’re continuing with the three Fall series, and retaining four Winter ones: Kimi ni Todoke, Puella, Level E and Fractale. From a corpulent, uneven eleven to a lean and solid seven.

Final Fall 2010 Anime Rankings

A the end of the day, there were a handful of series I probably wouldn’t have missed had I not watched them…but for completion’s sake I soldiered on. MM! was repetitive and barely went anywhere; Hyakka Ryouran was pretty but vacuous and often boring; Zakuro was cute but inconsequential. Given the chance to rewind, I’d have skipped them.

Yosuga no Sora performed better than its rating suggests; taking a lot of risks and keeping the romance going, no matter whom it was with. World God Only Knows was also fun and contained a lot of novel ideas and mixed the worlds of anime, gaming, and real life with panache. Soredemo was the best slice-of-life of the season, due to the strength of its characters and richness of its setting.

Star Driver won the ratings game with consistently awesome – though brief – action sequences that added or subtracted a little more or less every week, along with maintaining an intriguing duality to all its characters. Panty & Stocking was no Gurren Lagann, but still marked a return to awesome Gainax madness after Shikabane Hime fell flat. Index, interestingly, was at its best when it crossed into Railgun territory, as the religious arcs simply went on too long.

There were a couple series that, while solid, weren’t as good as previous efforts from their respective studios. Case in point: Arakawa was never as interesting to me as SHAFT’s Bakemonogatari or Zetsubou Sensei; while Yakumo didn’t come close to the excellence that was Beetrain’s Phantom ~ Requiem for the Phantom.

In all, however, it was a great, dense season. I enjoyed everything I stuck with, but I’m glad its over and excited for the new Winter season, which begins any day now.

Note that this list counts series that ran exclusively in Fall 2010 as well as series that will be continued either this Winter season or some other time. (Click here or the tab above for an explanation of our Rating system.)

Episode # : 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 AVG

Star Driver 3.5 3.5 3.5 4 3.5 4 4 4 3.5 4 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.731
Panty & Stocking 4 4 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 4 3.5 3.5 4 3.5 4 3.5 3.692
Bakuman. 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 4 4 3.5 3.5 4 4 3.654
Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 4 4 3.5 3.5 3 4 3.583
Kuragehime 3.5 3.5 3.5 4 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.545
Ore no Imouto 3.5 3 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 4 3.5 3.500
The World God Only Knows 3 3 3.5 3 3.5 3.5 3.5 2.5 3.5 4 4 4 3.417
To Aru Majutsu no Index II 3.5 3 3 3.5 3 4 4 3.5 3.5 3.5 3 3 3.375
Shinryaku! Ika Musume 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3 3.5 3 3.5 3 3.5 3.375
Arakawa Under the Bridge x 2 3.5 3 3.5 2.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3 3.5 3.5 3.346
Psychic Detective Yakumo 3 3 3 3 3 3 3.5 3.5 3.5 3 4 3.5 3.5 3.269
Yosuga no Sora 2.5 2.5 3 3.5 3.5 3.5 3 3.5 3.5 3 3.5 3.5 3.208
Otome Youkai Zakuro 3 3 3.5 3 3.5 3 3 3.5 3 3.5 3 3 3.5 3.192
MM! 2.5 3 3 3 2 2.5 3 3.5 3 3 3 3 2.875
Hyakka Ryouran Samurai Girls 2.5 2.5 3 3 3 2.5 3 3 3.5 3 2.5 2.5 2.833

Weekly Average 3.2 3.2 3.3 3.3 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.5 3.4 3.5 3.3 3.5 3.5 3.391

RABUJOI’s Top 15 Anime of 2010

15. B Gata H Kei – A surprisingly solid and funny series that really delved into the unclean mind of a teenaged high school girl approaching the threshold of adulthood. Her antics and attitudes toward her eventual boyfriend were the source of constant entertainment.

14. The World God Only Knows – Having a character with a ridiculously obsessive gaming habit really invigorated what would have otherwise been a placid but uninspired sequence of romances. That his vast gaming experience gave him such an edge in analyzing and conquering real-life girls’ hearts proved a winning theme.

13. Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt – No shows matched the manic intensity and sheer irreverance for dignity as this latest Gainax installment, which had excellent, diverse animation and a kick-ass soundtrack.

12. So Ra No Wo To – The first anime-only “Anime no Chikara” series didn’t turn out to be the best, but it was still quite good, being perhaps the anime that most closely resembled a Miyasaki-like alternate fantasy world, richly depicted.

11. Katanagatari – Spreading out its twelve installments over tweleve months gave this series the most presence this year, and when each month ended it created great anticipation for the next. Some months were better than others, but the chemistry, music, and clever battles were more than enough to put this epic journey on the list.

10. Working!! – Sometimes you just need a simple, happy, straightforward slice-of-life without villains, monsters, or the world on the line. Working!! was just the ticket, with an eclectic cast of oddballs just working at a restaurant.

9. Star Driver – While only half over, this series was the best of the fall, and firmly established its penchant for gorgeous vistas, short-but-sweet battles, cinematic score, and intricate tangle of characters, most with dual personas.

8. Senko no Night Raid – The anime that went there: China in the 30s, to be exact. It told a story different from history, but it didn’t go all nationalistic about it; there was no black-and-white here. But there were spies with superpowers, which was awesome.

7. Durarara!! – This show did such a good job establishing the rich, energetic city of Ikebukuro, Tokyo, the real place was one of my first stops on a summer trip there. But it wasn’t just the soul of the city it captured, but the complexity of its people and their hopes and dreams. It could have ended better but few series started as good as this.

6. Angel Beats! – From episode one, this series pulled you straight into the afterlife and played by its own rules. An etherially beautiful yet confined setting, a sizable cast of lost souls, a soaring soundtrack, and the right dose of comedy earns Angel Beats! its high standing. More than anything, it was just fun.

5. House of Five Leaves – Though I was originally hung up on its creepy and altogether unattractive character designs, I wisely stuck with this ultimately gorgeous, atmospheric story of a time in Japan long past when life was tougher. It’s a well-told, well-acted, authentic story that really drew me in.

4. Occult Academy – In any series here deserved 26 episodes, it was this third and latest “Anime no Chikara” series. It did a great job developing Maya’s character, but too often went on side-tangents and had an incredibly-rushed ending. Still, the best episodes of this series can be counted among the best single episodes of the year for the sheer awesomeness they packed.

3. Shiki – Shiki started off slow and strange, but its meticulous build-up paid off in the best way. It too suffered from odd character design, but once one was acclimated to it it really complimentary to this dark and twisted horror story. Vamps and werewolfs are so overdone these days, but Shiki really contributed something unique and terrifying. Its soundtrack was also among the best of the season.

2. The Tatami Galaxy – Density. That’s what this series had in spades. Visual and verbal. For those who could keep up with the rapid-fire narration, it was an immensely satisfying and hilarious ride, with an ending that tied it all together.

1. Armed Librarians – The Book of Bantorra – This cool, confident, unrelenting anime wrapped in late January, making it just eligible for a 2010 list. January was a long time ago, but the awesomeness of Bantorra still shines clearly in my memory. No series throughout the remaining months packed so many interesting characters, stories, twists and turns into its run.

Thanks!

As the year of 2010 and the very long, dense Fall 2010 season winds to a crawl (only four episodes left to review), we here are RABUJOI would like to once again take the time to thank everyone who has visited the site and skimmed, read, and/or perused our reviews. We don’t believe in such a thing as a blog thanking one’s readers too often — without readers, RABUJOI would be no more than digitally talking to a wall. Thankfully that hasn’t been the case, especially this December, which has brought us more than double the readers as November, an increase unexpected by all.

It’s always nice to see people reading your stuff, whatever it may be, but ultimately, watching good anime is its own reward; watching great anime, more so. With 2011 comes a brace of fresh new series, some from studios and starring seiyus we know well, while others are unknown, or at least less well-versed. But like the beginning of a new sports season, everyone starts out undefeated; unblemished; perfect. In the next couple weeks we’ll be putting the new series through their paces and share with you our impressions. We’re looking forward to it. So, keep reading, if you wish, and from all of us, have a happy and a healthy New Year!

– RABUJOI STAFF

Fall 2010 Anime Rankings – Thru Week 9

Don’t know about ya’ll, but we love charts and statistics. It’s why we love sports, cars, sports cars…and anime. We were wondering how we’d rank the anime we’ve watched so far this season, and then realized, we’ve already done that; we just needed to organize them and tally the averages. Below is the result. (Click here or the tab above for an explanation of our Rating system.)

No big surprises: Star Driver is the top-ranked series, fueled by four 4 Ratings, while an inconsistent MM! brings up the rear, owning the only “Mediocre” 2 Rating among the shows on the list. Zakuro, Yakumo, and Yosuga no Sora are exactly tied, interestingly enough. Note that none of the series stray too far below our 3 Rating of “Recommended”. If they did, well, we wouldn’t be watching them!

You’ll see an updated version of this chart when the season concludes.

Episode # : 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 AVG

Star Driver 3.5 3.5 3.5 4 3.5 4 4 4 3.5 3.722
Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt 4 4 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 4 3.5 3.5 3.667
Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 4 4 3.625
Bakuman. 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 4 4 3.611
Kuragehime 3.5 3.5 3.5 4 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.571
Ore no Imouto 3.5 3 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.444
To Aru Majutsu no Index II
3.5 3 3 3.5 3 4 4 3.5 3.438
Shinryaku! Ika Musume 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3 3.5 3 3.389
Arakawa Under the Bridge x 2 3.5 3 3.5 2.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.313
The World God Only Knows 3 3 3.5 3 3.5 3.5 3.5 2.5 3.5 3.222
Otome Youkai Zakuro 3 3 3.5 3 3.5 3 3 3.5 3 3.167
Psychic Detective Yakumo 3 3 3 3 3 3 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.167
Yosuga no Sora 2.5 2.5 3 3.5 3.5 3.5 3 3.5 3.5 3.167
Hyakka Ryouran Samurai Girls 2.5 2.5 3 3 3 2.5 3 3 3.5 2.889
MM! 2.5 3 3 3 2 2.5 3 3.5 3 2.833

Weekly Average 3.2 3.2 3.3 3.3 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.5 3.4 3.345

Domo Arigato Gozaimasu!

Everyone here at RABUJOI wish to express our gratitude to you for taking the time to visit us. RABUJOI’s philosophy has been, and will always be to deliver timely anime reviews for your reading pleasure, and read you have: November’s traffic numbers absolutely obliterated both the blog’s previous two months of existence, as well as our most optimistic expectations.

We are cognizant that his fall has been rather unique in the sheer volume of reviewed series, and that numbers may settle down come winter, when the number of series worth reviewing will be halved. Regardless of how many people visit or read or come back for more, we cannot look at the future of RABUJOI as anything but bright. Thanks again!

-RABUJOI STAFF

Fall 2010 – Best Openings and Endings

Openings

Star Driver – The sequence was directed by Shinichiro Wantanabe, and it shows: few do rough+fluid better than him. The right-to-left side-scrolling mimics how you’d read a Japanese manga. I love how the cybody bursts out of the ocean at the end, and Takuto jumps in and blasts off: Alrighty, we’re ready to start this thing! A stirring rock number by Aqua Timez brims with hopeful lyrics and melodic diversity, matching and augmenting the energy of the animation.

Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru – I love jazz, and I love Japanese Jazz even more (Pizzicato Five is a good example). You can’t help but tap your feet to the number that accompanies lots of vibrant, syncopated animation in which the cast dances and sings along while performing maid duties. The title is a CGI spinning globe covered in lights. This opening perfectly encapsulates the soul, energy, and potential of the big city. I also liken the whole opening to Hotori’s imagined ideal of the city and her life: happy, upbeat, and full of promise.

The World God Only Knows – This opening could very well have been done by the same people who did Eden of the East (one of my favorite openings ever), as a lot of the style is simply lifted from there, but I don’t care. Like any effective opening, it’s an accurate depiction of the series as a whole: Keima is a god in the (2D) world of games, and uses that power in the real (3D) world. The transition from pulsing electronica to an impromptu aria is sudden, but it works, as it reinforces the religious undertones of Keima’s abilities.

Honorable Mention: Kuragehime – The numerous parodies to western popular culture (Star Wars, Sex in the City) are fun, but the main reason I like this opening is the sweet, earnestly-sung theme, “Koko Dake no Hanashi”, by Chatmonchy. It’s not an easy song to sing, requiring lots of range, but it’s beautifully pulled off with a nice balance of resolve and vulnerability.

Endings

Panty & Stocking – Both the ballad (“Fallen Angel” by Aimee B) and the animation are spot on in this short but sweet ending that captures the essence of the show perfectly, and in a refreshingly more serious tone than the show itself. The animation consists of the girls in simplified form about to be killed by various means (driving off a cliff, eaten by a monster, passing out in the desert and picked apart by vultures), all while bobbing their heads to the beat. The dark visual themes are lightened by the style in which they’re rendered…and the gorgeous vocals. In the end, the girls ascend to heaven, get their halos, come back down, and tip them like barbershop hats. The whole thing lasts only 58 seconds.

Arakawa Under the Bridge x 2 (episodes 1-5) The opening of Arakawa’s first season was one of my favorites, and season two’s, while fun, isn’t quite as good. This season’s ending is better than last’s, however, with a fully live-action sequence following Hoshi through a lush green forest and on stage, and Kappa along the riverbank. Even the real-life bridge itself makes an appearance. While the live action character’s faces are just plain creepy, I love it whenever anime jumps ino the real world (the splendid endings of FLCL and Kare Kano, for instance), and the haunting, slightly melancholy ballad is a good musical choice, though it couldn’t be further from anime Hoshi’s out-of-tune strumming.

Shiki (Second Season) – Many series pick one musician or group do the opening and one to do the ending, then switch them either halfway through the season or in the next season. A post/Gothic rock band called Buck-Tick did the stirring opening for Shiki’s first season, and it was excellent. This season, they did the ending theme. Slow pans of four key characters lounging nude in a foreboding, eerily moonlit pond full of blood. Combined with Buck-Tick’s dark, brooding theme, the atmosphere has the darkness and silky thickness of a warm pint of Guinness.