Saturday, April 7, 2012

First Impressions – Acchi Kocchi, Sankarea, Shirokuma Café

[Tsumiki]_Acchi_Kocchi_-_01_[10bit][1280x720][3A6EEC21].mkv_snapshot_04.42_[2012.04.06_11.02.53] [Commie] Sankarea - 01 [261B2905].mkv_snapshot_00.50_[2012.04.06_11.31.45] [HorribleSubs] Polar Bear Cafe - 01 [720p].mkv_snapshot_07.54_[2012.04.06_12.42.42]

Are you out there, Flower?

Acchi Kochi – 01
[Tsumiki]_Acchi_Kocchi_-_01_[10bit][1280x720][3A6EEC21].mkv_snapshot_00.50_[2012.04.06_10.59.01] [Tsumiki]_Acchi_Kocchi_-_01_[10bit][1280x720][3A6EEC21].mkv_snapshot_01.22_[2012.04.06_10.59.33] [Tsumiki]_Acchi_Kocchi_-_01_[10bit][1280x720][3A6EEC21].mkv_snapshot_07.03_[2012.04.06_11.05.15]
[Tsumiki]_Acchi_Kocchi_-_01_[10bit][1280x720][3A6EEC21].mkv_snapshot_10.13_[2012.04.06_11.08.25] [Tsumiki]_Acchi_Kocchi_-_01_[10bit][1280x720][3A6EEC21].mkv_snapshot_14.12_[2012.04.06_11.12.23] [Tsumiki]_Acchi_Kocchi_-_01_[10bit][1280x720][3A6EEC21].mkv_snapshot_21.42_[2012.04.06_11.19.54]

If any series ever screamed out “4-koma slice of life” it’s this one.  I’ve seen it compared to Sketch Book and Lucky Star, but for me it’s not much like that show at all – much more light-hearted and less built around a central plot.  If anything, I see Seitokai Yakuindomo without the student council and the sex jokes – which is odd because it seems like you’d have nothing left, but that’s what it felt like to me.  Some of the gags were funny, and there was a bit too self-consciously relaxed and cute tone, and overall the viewing experience was pleasant but forgettable.  This is definitely the most low-key I’ve heard Okamoto Nobuhiko in a very long time. 

Sankarea – 01
[Commie] Sankarea - 01 [261B2905].mkv_snapshot_00.17_[2012.04.06_11.31.12] [Commie] Sankarea - 01 [261B2905].mkv_snapshot_04.53_[2012.04.06_11.37.02] [Commie] Sankarea - 01 [261B2905].mkv_snapshot_07.13_[2012.04.06_11.39.22]
[Commie] Sankarea - 01 [261B2905].mkv_snapshot_08.55_[2012.04.06_11.41.04] [Commie] Sankarea - 01 [261B2905].mkv_snapshot_10.41_[2012.04.06_11.42.50] [Commie] Sankarea - 01 [261B2905].mkv_snapshot_12.58_[2012.04.06_11.45.07]
[Commie] Sankarea - 01 [261B2905].mkv_snapshot_14.32_[2012.04.06_11.46.56] [Commie] Sankarea - 01 [261B2905].mkv_snapshot_15.42_[2012.04.06_11.48.06] [Commie] Sankarea - 01 [261B2905].mkv_snapshot_16.30_[2012.04.06_11.48.54]
[Commie] Sankarea - 01 [261B2905].mkv_snapshot_19.30_[2012.04.06_11.51.54] [Commie] Sankarea - 01 [261B2905].mkv_snapshot_21.42_[2012.04.06_11.54.06] [Commie] Sankarea - 01 [261B2905].mkv_snapshot_22.06_[2012.04.06_11.54.41]

Two very hip trends – zombies and bashing DEEN – come together with Sankarea.  And I’m afraid the DEEN bashing is going to have to go on hold for this one, because the series is actually damn good, based on the first episode.

Several things stand out above the norm for this series about quirky first-year high-schooler Furuya Chihiro (Kimura Ryohei).  I’m not sure if I’d call him a zombie otaku or a necrophiliac (this series is edgy enough to cast doubt) but he loves zombies, that’s for sure, and dreams of meeting a zombie girl of his very own.  He’s the son of the local Buddhist priest, and lives on the temple grounds with his senile Grandpa and sister Rero (Iguchi Yuka, interesting as usual).  When his beloved cat Baabu (Fukuen Misato, who I usually like a lot) is killed by a truck, Chihiro decides to put his fetish to work and turns to an old booklet from Northern Japan that he thinks might be the recipe for resurrection.  It’s during his nightly attempts to implement his plan that he eavesdrops on 10th-grade idol Sanka Rea (Uchida Maaya) screaming her frustrations into a well.  There’s also a slightly-older cousin Ranko (Yahagi Sayuri) who’s seriously warm for Chihiro’s form and tries to mask it by typical big-sister style bullying and teasing.

It’s an odd premise, but the signs are there that this can be special.  I loved the very short scene where the siblings grieved for Baabu together.  I think the scenes between Chihiro and his two friends at their all-male school have a sharp wit to them, and I love the fact that Chihiro chooses an abandoned bowling alley – highly atmospheric and a nod to horror convention – as the place to try and resurrect his cat.  And then there’s Rea, who inadvertently reveals to Chihiro that her father is abusing her (by taking nude pictures of her that’s clear – the only question is whether there’s sexual abuse happening too).  Chihiro and Rea have a nice give-and-take with some real edge to it – they’re both shy and awkward, but enjoy testing each other’s limits.  And yes, this is a DEEN show that looks good, if slightly SHAFT-y (director Hatakeyama Mamoru is a SHAFT vet under the name Omata Shinichi) – the animation is fine, and the character designs superb.  A scan of the staff reveals some real substance – those character designs are by Sakai Kyuuta (Pita Ten, Higurashi, Needless) and the head writer (Takagi Noboru) held that role on Baccano!, Durarara, and worked on Shiki.  I also enjoyed the OP and especially the excellent ED by Annabel.  All told this was both an interesting premiere in its own right and offered tantalizing glimpses of a dark and complex series to follow.

Shirokuma Café – 01
[HorribleSubs] Polar Bear Cafe - 01 [720p].mkv_snapshot_02.28_[2012.04.06_12.37.16] [HorribleSubs] Polar Bear Cafe - 01 [720p].mkv_snapshot_06.20_[2012.04.06_12.41.08] [HorribleSubs] Polar Bear Cafe - 01 [720p].mkv_snapshot_07.34_[2012.04.06_12.42.23]
[HorribleSubs] Polar Bear Cafe - 01 [720p].mkv_snapshot_09.26_[2012.04.06_12.44.15] [HorribleSubs] Polar Bear Cafe - 01 [720p].mkv_snapshot_11.32_[2012.04.06_12.46.37] [HorribleSubs] Polar Bear Cafe - 01 [720p].mkv_snapshot_12.17_[2012.04.06_12.47.23]
[HorribleSubs] Polar Bear Cafe - 01 [720p].mkv_snapshot_16.17_[2012.04.06_12.51.22] [HorribleSubs] Polar Bear Cafe - 01 [720p].mkv_snapshot_17.28_[2012.04.06_12.52.34] [HorribleSubs] Polar Bear Cafe - 01 [720p].mkv_snapshot_18.25_[2012.04.06_12.53.31]
[HorribleSubs] Polar Bear Cafe - 01 [720p].mkv_snapshot_20.12_[2012.04.06_12.55.17] [HorribleSubs] Polar Bear Cafe - 01 [720p].mkv_snapshot_20.19_[2012.04.06_12.55.25] [HorribleSubs] Polar Bear Cafe - 01 [720p].mkv_snapshot_21.19_[2012.04.06_12.56.25]

There was a definite sense going in that Shirokuma Café could go either way for me, and I have no idea how well this style of humor is going to hold up over a full cour.  But if it keeps making me laugh as much as it did this week, we’ve got a winner.

I think the moment when I really bought in was when Sakurai Takahiro’s titular polar bear said “You should totally go with the tuna boat”.  But I was laughing pretty much from the OP and never stopped.  The notion of hearing a preposterously great cast run through their paces as animals living mundane daily lives is the central conceit here.  You’ve got terrible puns, sight gags, and some gentle social commentary to boot, and based on this premiere, it seems to be very smartly written.  Panda-kun is a lazy teenager, whose mother (hilariously played by the legendary Morikawa Toshiyuki) tries to spur him into searching for a part-time job by sucking him up with the vacuum.  Panda-kun isn’t good at much of anything except lying around and eating bamboo – but fortunately he’s able to find the ideal job as a “part-time panda” at the zoo.

Now that’s pretty damn hilarious on so many levels, but there’s so much more.  I loved the “service” the pandas were told to provide the preschoolers visiting.  Then there’s the motley crew at the Polar Bear café, starting with the deadpan Sakurai and his best customer, Penguin (Kamiya Hiroshi).  The failed job interviews, the sloth wanting to live in the yard, “the usual” – it’s pretty dumb, but it’s kind of smart too – and it just simply made me laugh.  The notion of animals living among humans is hardly new to animation, especially in anthropomorphically-obsessed Japan, but this is an interesting take – animals getting jobs “performing” as themselves at the zoo being the prime example.  As I said, this might not hold up over the long haul, but for one episode the chemistry here is just right.


12 comments:

  1. son of a local priest,

    About Sankarea you should look forward to it.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I had my doubts about DEEN but it looks like there was nothing to worry about. The Sankarea adaptation is amazing. Very faithful, both visually and story-wise. The few fillers and tweaks they added worked well too. I also love that unmistakable SHAFTiness, which works wonderfully in small doses.

    So yeah, I have pretty much nothing to complain about the adaptaion. The OP is maybe a bit too cheesy for my taste but I really like the ED. The only thing that has me worried is the fact that the manga is still very much ongoing and I have no idea on how they plan on ending the anime. Here is hoping for a second season.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Yep - I'm here!

    And yes, unsurprisingly I really enjoyed Acchi Kocchi! :D Just my style....

    Sankarea is not really my cup of tea subject wise, but I may download the first ep to give it a watch later.

    Polar Bear Cafe ... hmm ... I have been curious about it - thanks for the summary of it. It looks interesting, but to keep up that sense of humor (heck, in some ways ANY sense of humor) is a tough task - a recent example for me being the stale period throughout much (not all) of the second half of the season of Daily Lives of High School Boys last season. Anyhoo, I will definitely give it a try.

    But for now I am pleased as punch that Acchi Kocchi is airing this season!

    - Flower

    ReplyDelete
  4. I shat bricks when I expected something of DEEN quality in Sankarea but got a SHAFT-ish feel instead. Rea's seiyuu is pretty good for a newbie. I'm just worried for the limited material for it but if it's this good then I'd better just enjoy it.

    And Shirokuma Cafe is pretty darn awesome. FukuJun is awesome in these type of shows, not to mention Sakurai Takahiro and Kamiya Hiroshi joining him.
    Definitely a good pick and will watch all the way.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I've always sorta felt that DEEN takes more crap than they really deserve.

    Anyway, sandwiching Sankarea between Acchi Kocchi (which is cotton candy turned into anime. Harmless, fluffy, sweet and completely without substance) and Shirokuma Cafe (Which is...amusing, in a strange sort of way) strikes me as spectacularly inappropriate for some reason.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm devastated, but I'll recover...

      When you blog as many shows as I do, these digest posts are a necessity, and I don't have the luxury to base them on style compatibility, only scheduling compatibility. And Sankarea ended up being better than I expected anyway, TBH. And I don't dismiss the substance of a smart comedy like Shirokuma, either.

      And yes, I think the reflexive DEEN hate goes too far. They're not generally synonymous with high quality, but they have their share of good shows from time to time.

      Delete
    2. That wasn't a criticism so much as an amused observation.

      On either end, harmless fluff comedy.

      In the middle. NECROPHILIA.

      Just a tad...jarring.

      And yes, DEEN is a perfectly serviceable studio, and while their work is rarely brilliant, its also rarely horrible, They also brought me four seasons worth of MariMite, so its really hard for me to hold their low points against them.

      Delete
    3. I think Shirokuma has just a wee bit of an edge to it - compared to the sweet cotton candy of A.K. it's 50% vinegar, anyway.

      Delete
    4. I think Acchi Kocchi is the most fluffy, harmless, inoffensive and generally substanceless show I've ever watched.

      Thoroughly enjoyed it, but there was definitely no there, there.

      I was shocked at how much I enjoyed Shirokuma, though I'm about done with Panda. Really enjoyed Shirokuma's puns more than I had any right to. Definite sign I'm getting old.

      Delete
  6. No mention about Panda's seiyuu? And Acchi was surprisingly good. And kuma cafe was more surprising. I was all ready to drop it. Since the premise about talking animals seems very non anime like. (Outside of everyone's favorite movie studio G).

    @Enzo: you really know how to rub it in... Another 5cm picture. The header now.

    It is fortunate that the site takes a while to load, I can scroll away before it loads

    ReplyDelete