The Samurai Springtime Series Summary

Hey guys! So, during my month-long self-imposed sabbatical, I used my time getting acquainted [and re-aquainted] with some of the shows from the Spring 2012 season. Since I have a Premium Account with CrunchyRoll, I find it easier to watch a lot of series as they come out in Japan. Because I’m about a month out of practice, and since the Summer 2012 season is starting to kick-off, I figured I would give you good people my personal breakdown of some of the series I followed [and continuing to follow in some cases] during the Spring Anime Season of 2012. Now keep in mind that I plan on giving these series the full review treatment in due time and that this is only a simple breakdown of my thoughts and opinions. So, with that being said, let’s jump right into it. 

“Kids on the Slope” [“Sakamichi no Apollon”]
Airing Status: Completed
My Viewing Status: Completed
Viewed On: Crunchyroll Streaming
Chances of Being Licensed: 100% [Acquired by Sentai Filmworks for DVD/Blu-Ray Release]

Okay, so you expect a show brought to you by the same director and musical organizer as “Cowboy Bebop” would get an automatic pass, right? I mean, after all, “Bebop” was known for its expert music and story telling style, and is now a legendary title the world over. Well, in the case of “Kids on the Slope”, you would be right. This series took what we loved about “Cowboy Bebop” and transplanted it into a period slice-of-life/coming of age story. The characters were very well done. I really felt for each and every one of them, and I enjoyed watching their day-to-day interactions and their relationships [Or lack thereof…]. Speaking of relationships, I read reviews on other blogs and forums that the relationship [or “Bromance”] between our two male leads, Kaoru and Sentaro, was done a little heavy-handed. Personally, I would agree, but ONLY because this series is so short. Were it a little longer, perhaps a full 26 episodes, it would have probably been better, mirroring the Spike/Jet friendship a little more. The acting in this one was very well done, with mad props to Yuuka Nanri for her rendition of “My Favorite Things” in character voice.  I read a lot of negative comments about her performance of this song, and you know what? I’m inclined to believe those commenters don’t know what in the heck they’re talking about. Considering that English is not this actresses first language, she sings extremely well, and you can understand exactly what she’s saying. Besides, how many times have we Americans screwed up Anime theme songs while doing Karaoke? Come on. Be honest. I thought so. Sit down and hush up. In any case, while on the subject of music. Unlike “Bebop” which used its music more or less as a part of the background scenery, “Kids on the Slope” took the soulful Jazz tones and made it a stand-out character! The music became a part of the story, and a very integral part at that, giving me moments of absolute amazement and numerous rewind and replays. You have no idea how ecstatic I was to see this show get license for both Blu-Ray and DVD release by ADV Films Sentai Filmworks and that it was going to get a dub. Only time will tell if the dub cast will do justice to the original…the bar is set astronomically high.

“Mysterious Girlfriend X” [“Nazo no Kanojo X”]
Airing Status: Completed
My Viewing Status: Completed
Viewed On: Crunchyroll Streaming
Chances of Being Licensed: 100% [Acquired by Sentai Filmworks for DVD/Blu-Ray Release]

This show, quite literally, takes “swapping spit” to a whole new and literal level. “Mysterious Girlfriend X” is one of those shows that makes you wonder “Who the heck comes up with this stuff, what were they smoking, and why aren’t they sharing?” I mean, the whole idea of sharing saliva with others to relay feelings and emotion does not exactly draw up warm and fuzzy feelings in my heart. And when you add to that the fact that the Japanese are pretty big on health and hygiene [After all, these are the people who brought us the TOTO Washlet Toilet…] it kinda makes the whole thing unbelievable not to mention gross. But, despite all this, I found “Mysterious Girlfriend X” to be a really good high-school love story, and I found myself wanting more and more as the series went on. Watching the lovesick puppy Tsubaki go through the ups and downs of his relationship with his girlfriend, the semi-tsundre Urabe, was a joy to watch week after week. After a while, I had come to accept the salivating moments of…well…salvia, and got grossed out about it less and less, especially when you consider the integral role it plays in Tsubaki and Urabe’s relationship and, in some cases, how they relate to others. [Yes, they do swap saliva with others as well…I know, I know…] By the last episode, I found myself wanting more of the series, and I admit I was a little saddened when I heard this would be the only season; consoled only with the fact that the original manga is still going strong and the hope that maybe…MAYBE…more seasons are coming. Before I leave this series, I have to show mad love to Ayako Yoshita, Urabe’s voice actress. This was her very first anime voice role, and I have to give her props–she was AWESOME in it! Add to the fact that she also performed the opening song, “Koi no Orchestra”, and you got the makings of the next big thing in the world of anime voice acting…in Japan anyway.

“Eureka Seven Astral Ocean”
Airing Status: On-Going
My Viewing Status: Following
Viewed On: Funimation Streaming
Chances of Being Licensed: 100% [Acquired by Funimation Entertainment]

Okay. OtakuAndrain is going to kill me for saying this, but there were several times when I actually considered dropping this series. Don’t get me wrong at all; “Eureka Seven: AO” is an awesome series, and a unique sequel to the first anime. However, it is not for the uninitiated. By that I mean if you don’t have a lot of knowledge about the original series, then you can get lost relatively quickly. This was the case with me; because it’s been years since I saw the first “Eureka Seven”, and financial/availability/time issues prevented me from buying the DVD’s [And please, NO comments about streaming it online; I know I can stream it, but I rather own it on DVD], when I started into “Eureka Seven: AO”, I was admittedly lost regarding some of the more unique plot points like the mecha, scub coral, corillans, etc. However, I’m not 100% ready to throw in the towel just yet. This story is really good, and I am understandably curious as to how this story will be integrated into the first series. I can say already that so far, the tie-ins are unique, but there are still plenty of questions to be answered.

“Space Brothers” [“Uchū Kyōdai”]
Airing Status: On-Going
My Viewing Status: Following
Viewed On: Crunchyroll Streaming
Chances of Being Licensed: 100% [Acquired by Sentai Filmworks for DVD/Blu-Ray Release]

Of all the series this year, this one has held my attention each and every episode. From the opening sequence with “Feel so Moon” by UNICORN to the last frame where a JAXA astronaut heading to outer space is highlighted, “Space Brothers” is a must see for ANYONE who is even remotely interested in the space program in either Japan or the good ol’ US of A. I found the story to be very well constructed and attention grabbing. It’s a lot like “Planetes” in a way; it’s a down-to-earth [Nyuk, nyuk…] series with real, relatable characters going through a real process with emotions that you would expect any normal person to have. The characters are, by far, the most amusing group of people I’ve seen in quite a while in an anime. The two leads, Mutta and Hibito, are about as real a representation of brothers as I think you can get; while yes, in some way, they are competing with each other, the way it’s done and they way they are written keeps the series from being your typical shounen-style “I MUST DEFEAT MY LITTLE BROTHER AT ALL COSTS!!!” and makes this a “I’m going to follow my dreams…but I bet I make it farther than you because it’s my responsibility as a big brother to be ahead of you.”  The creators REALLY put in their work for this series with regards to accuracy in the space program while bending certain things to make it work for the story. “Space Brothers” also gave me one of the biggest squeal moments this season. Having been to Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX several times, you could imagine how excited I was to see the JCS and the visitors center, Space Center Houston recreated in shocking detail. This was compounded by the fact that the summer of 2011, the 2nd to last time I went to Space Center Houston, I was sitting immediately behind a group of Japanese tourists, all of whom had cameras and taking pictures of just about everything. While at the time it didn’t seem like a big deal [After all, this IS a tourist spot…] I suddenly began [and still currently am of the opinion] that the group that I saw was possibly a production group who were taking reference pictures for the show [Kinda like Jun’ichi Sato did for the “Aria” series]. A year later, when I went back, I went for broke and asked the tour guide if he had any idea about an anime production crew working with NASA for a project. This guy looked at me as though I was speaking Japanese myself saying that he had no idea about it. Ah well, no harm in asking right? Anyway, if you’re looking for an awesome show to follow, then I recommend you give “Space Brothers” a try; you will NOT be dissapointed!

“Naruto Spin-Off: Rock-Lee and his Ninja Pals”
Airing Status: On-Going
My Viewing Status: Following
Viewed On: Crunchyroll Streaming
Chances of Being Licensed: 15%

I am not a “Naruto” viewer. I have knowledge of the series, of course, and I know the characters and a few rudiments of the plot, but ask me about in depth story lines, and I will raw a blank. What in the world drew me to watch this spinoff of the popular “Naruto Shippuden” is anyone’s guess, but I must admit…I was surprisingly entertained and enjoyed watching the chibi-fied versions of Lee, Ten-Ten, Neiji, and Gai run around on-screen in all their gag comedy glory. It was funny to watch these characters, who, under normal circumstances, are pretty serious and talking about deep serious things like avenging deaths, training, missions, and things like that, act completely out of their element. Even for a “Naruto” outsider like me, with limited knowledge, I was able to catch on to the little in-jokes the creators threw in. Fair warning though; The Opening and Ending songs are songs that will get JAMMED in your head and remain there all day long. I will admit though, the gags can sometimes get a little tiring, and seeing as how its still airing at the time of this printing with no sign of stopping, I’m afraid, like the original series, “Rock Lee and his Ninja Pals” might windup over staying it’s welcome and become stale. [Hence the low chance for getting an US Release]. But if you’re looking for some laughs and a break from the Naruto norm, you can’t really go wrong with this particular show… Believe it.

“You and Me 2” [“Kimi to Boku 2”]
Airing Status: Completed
My Viewing Status: Completed
Viewed On: Crunchyroll Streaming
Chances of Being Licensed: 20%

Is it a boys version of “Lucky Star”? How about a less-gag ridden version of “Cromartie High School”? Maybe it’s a toned down “Daily Lives of High School Boys” [“Danshi Koukosei no Nichijou”]? Or maybe, just maybe, it’s a re-tagged, updated version of the atrocity known as “Boys Be…”? Who knows. All I can say is that “Kimi to Boku” is as unique as the cats that seem to be in every single episode. However, that’s not saying it borrows certain tropes and cues from the above mentioned series; it’s an all high-school boy main cast like “Cromartie”, “Boys Be…” and “Danshi”, it has the same relative character trope lineup as “Lucky”, but it adds a mellowness and reality that is rivaled only by the “Aria” series. Nothing really happens in this story as it’s driven solely by the characters and those around them. I recall other reviewers mention the fact that the show is pretty much a boys version of “Lucky Star” with “cute boys doing cute things” as compared to “cute girls doing cute things”.  I think this series is much more than that, telling a unique story of a unique time in these characters lives, but because of certain elements in the story, it is easy to see how this series got that particular label–after all, in one episode in the first season, the boys get together to give Shun [The guy with the salmon colored hair] a haircut. Also, in the beginning of the second season, the group gets together to have a slumber party. Not to mention, the odd cut-to-cat scenes that occur just about every episode. But, despite all this, “Kimi to Boku” is a very well done slice-of-life story which, while a touch on the slow side,  is a very engaging tale that will warm your heart…unless you hate cats.

“Medaka Box”
Airing Status: On-Going
My Viewing Status: Dropped
Viewed On: Crunchyroll Streaming
Chances of Being Licensed: 100% [Licensed by Sentai Filmworks]

I dropped this one after about 5 episodes. I found I couldn’t really enjoy this one like I wanted to. Perhaps it’s a sign that I’m losing my interest in “Student Council”  style plots. Or maybe it was just the over-the-top [in more ways than one…] female lead, who takes it upon herself in the beginning of the series, to assume all the tasks of the Student Council and as the series goes on, assign who she wants to in some key positions while maintaining all the power herself. This one really didn’t do much for me, but evidently ADV Films Sentai Filmworks thinks it’s worth investing in so to each his own.

And so, that brings an end to my personal tour of the Spring 2012 anime season. Out of the 7 series I followed during this time, all but 1 got the Samurai Seal of Approval. Look forward to full reviews on these shows down the road.  OtakuAndrain will be along in a bit to offer a synopsis of the Summer 2012 season. As for me? Well, I’m knee-deep in my next reviews, of course! This months theme is “Anime in the Old West” which means I will be reviewing three shoot-em-up western-style series, so you KNOW you can look forward to that! We’ll be starting with the one that, in my opinion, kicked off the whole “Old West” anime trend in the first place; “Trigun”. We’ll also be doing an update on the “Toonami Resurrection”, and [I REALLY, REALLY, REALLY HOPE…] we’ll be unveiling the new award system for “The Cajun Samurai”. July promises to be a very busy month for us, but we do it all for you guys, so please continue to show your support!  Until then, Love and Peace!

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