The second week of spring anime certainly had more to offer than the first.
Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka?
For years, Japanese scientists have been working in laboratories across the country to perfect their process for creating cuteness. They have gotten exceedingly efficient at it as seen last summer in Kiniro Mosaic. It seems that they have now surpassed even Kinmosa in terms of pure cuteness as Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka (or GochiUsa for short) is the most adorable damn thing I have ever seen. There isn’t a ton of substance to GochiUsa (surprise!) but substance isn’t really necessary for something like this to be enjoyable. The show adds just enough tweaks to the formula, like the talking bunny who is actually Chino’s grandfather, to keep things fresh while sticking to the same type of character interactions that make shows like this work. I really liked the way Chino struggles to deal with Cocoa’s unbridled enthusiasm for practically everything and the way she makes pouty faces at her is wonderful. Rize was incredibly sweet in her own right especially in the scene where she was trying to hide the fact that lifting the heavy bags of coffee was no big deal for her.
On the animation side of things, White Fox is showing off their typical stellar animation and the bright, solid color scheme really works wonders here. The vaguely European town is a nice touch that really enhances the feel of Rabbit House as being a traditional café that one might find in France (sans cute girls and talking rabbits of course). The one complaint I had about the first episode was that there was a bit more fanservice to it than I expected. Rize being caught hiding in a closet in her underwear could have been fine on its own but the use of camera angles that followed left little doubt what the creators were going for here. It isn’t something that will ruin the show and it really doesn’t feel as exploitative as some of the more objectionable fanservice out there (or as exploitative as the cuteness if we’re being honest here). All in all GochiUsa looks to be one of the best cute, SoL anime in a long time so if you have any interest at all in the genre it’s probably worth a look.
I have a soft spot for shows with a melancholic and reflective tone and it’s that sort of tone that was pervasive in the first episode of Isshuukan Friends. That’s to be expected given the premise since everything positive Fujimiya and Hase do is tempered by the knowledge that after a week it will be forgotten, at least by Fujimiya. The show has sense of timing and coherence to it that belies the fact that it was originally a 4koma manga. That isn’t terribly surprising either since even the original manga didn’t feel like a 4koma while reading it. I really like what they’ve managed to do here with a show that is really just two people talking to each other and doing everyday activities together. What other characters there are seem to only matter when they’re saying something to Hase or Fujimiya related to the central issue of their relationship. It reminded me a bit of the episode of Hyouka where the entire episode consisted of Chitanda and Hotarou in a room alone together discussing something they heard over the PA system. That was one of my favorite episodes of Hyouka and while the dialog here doesn’t have the same spark and wit to it, the general concept of a show consisting merely of a cast of two has some innate appeal to me.
Visually there was a very “Usagi Drop” feel to Isshuukan and while I don’t expect this to carry the same weight that Usagi Drop did, I do think there’s a certain universality to the desire for friendship much like the universal nature of Usagi Drop’s story. This is another Brains’ Base show so I expect the animation quality to hold up even though I’m not sure it’s entirely necessary for a show like this to have top notch animation. As long as the characters expressions can properly convey the emotion involved in each interaction, the rest of the animation isn’t terribly important. The chemistry between the two will eventually trump everything and the good news is that Isshuukan Friends seems to have that nailed already making it one of my favorite new shows of the young season.
Love Live: School Idol Project Season Two
(First season spoilers below)
µ’s MUSIC START!! (again) It’s good to have Love Live Sundays back again after missing them for the last twelve months. The second season picks up right where the first season left off only now Honoka has been elected as student council president. I can’t say I think she’s particularly qualified for the job but I also can’t say that this outcome is that surprising. Once µ’s became the talk of the school and Honoka became the most well-known student on campus it isn’t much of a stretch to have her be elected in a student vote. This is probably just an excuse to show a different side of the relationships between the school idols although I entertained the idea that Sunrise is actually making some kind of commentary about the inherent flaws of the democratic process here. Some things don’t change though and we’re back to where we were a year ago with the gang gearing up for another Love Live event. On the one hand, it’s kind of a reused premise since this is technically what happened in season one but I also have to say I felt kind of cheated when they dropped out of Love Live at the end of the first season so on balance I’m happy to see them getting a second shot to go for it with the original group of nine.
The first episode also telegraphed where things are likely to go at the end of this season as it was blatantly pointed out that this second Love Live is going to take place right before graduation meaning it will likely be the last thing they can do while Nico, Eri and Nozomi are still high school students. It’s all setting up for a pretty tearful finale as the cast reflects on the friendships they made in the process of forming µ’s while they give a tearful goodbye to the graduating third-years. This type of plot centered around saying goodbye to close friends has always been a soft spot of mine and it was one of the reasons I loved the end of the second season of K-ON so much. I don’t know that Love Live can carry that level of emotion but if it gets anywhere close to that with this premise it will likely end up well above the first season in my estimation. All in all a solid return for Love Live and any concerns that fans of the franchise had about the second season being a heartless cash-in can probably be pushed aside, at least for now.
Ryuugajou Nanana no Maizoukin
Sometimes expectations of anime can be significantly colored by a single word. When I saw the word “NEET” (not in education, employment and training for the uninitiated) I made the unfair assumption that Nanana would be another show glorifying the sedentary, closeted lifestyle that makes NEETs a drain on society. I was happy to see that rather than focusing on the avoidance of responsibility and generally giving the NEETs whatever they want with no effort on their part, Nanana chooses instead to focus on the freedom granted on somebody who chooses not to live a traditional lifestyle. It isn’t about freedom from responsibility but rather the freedom to explore and dream. It’s a much more uplifting message than what I expected and it actually has me excited for the second episode.
As for the actual show, the main character Juugo is an interesting one as he’s been kicked out by his parents yet instead of the typical disaffected youth he seems to have a good deal of empathy in him, at least when it comes to Nanana. I like the interactions between the two of them for the most part although I could have done without Juugo’s more pervy moments. In another show maybe but Nanana has so much going for it that I don’t think this really does anything to enhance the show. The island itself seems like a very interesting place and I’m looking forward to seeing it explored more thoroughly. If you skipped this show because of the NEET angle or for any other reason I’d highly recommend giving it a shot.
Ah, volleyball: a sport that will always have a special place for me after I spent three years in high school playing it. I was skeptical coming into Haikyuu because I figured any sports show adapted from a shounen jump manga is going to be playing fast and loose with reality as far as actual gameplay goes. Haikyuu, at least for one episode, seems to have avoided that since despite spouting all the typical shounen protagonist BS, Hinata’s team got their butts kicked by the vastly more talented and more experienced team from Kitagawa. I’m also heartened somewhat by the fact that this isn’t about Hinata gathering a rag tag group of volleyball misfits to beat more talented opponents using bogus protagonist powers but instead he trains to that he can go to a high school with a good volleyball program and play with other talented players. That’s how things are supposed to work and it’s good to see Haikyuu getting them right. It doesn’t look like Haikyuu will be getting the Kuroko no Basuke treatment from Production IG as the volleyball itself was pretty well animated. There weren’t any real flubs in terms of how a match actually looks and progresses although I did roll my eyes a bit when Hinata basically flew across the court to hit the failed set near the end of the match. That behind the setter hit where the hitter start in front of the setter is really hard to get to when you’re playing middle and you know it’s coming. With Hinata playing outside (farthest from the setter) and not knowing where the set is going it goes beyond unlikely into almost absurd territory for him to hit it. Still, if Haikyuu can keep such moments to a minimum (or if things like that don’t bother you) it looks like it’ll be one of the better sports anime out there.