Darker Than Black
In a city ringed by walls that portray a reality beyond them that may not exist, supernaturally endowed human(oids) known as “contractors” (å¥‘ç´„è€…) rule the night. The protagonist and eponymous “black contractor” of the show’s subtitle is Hei, whose nightly sport seems to be eviscerating other contractors with great prejudice. The police don’t like this happening on their watch, and are trying to figure out what’s going on. After the first episode the audience is left scratching its collective head as well, as it’s clear we’re being hung from a cliff and won’t fall with a splat to the bottom until the next episode.
Speaking of falling with a splat, am I the only one who found myself thinking “ugh, he’s hugging a corpse!” at the end of this episode? The poor MacGuffin-bearing blonde was dead from the moment he first set eyes on her, so I felt less suspense at the lack of resolution in the first episode than a mild irritation that they were going to make her suffer further before her inevitable demise.
HD VERDICT: B+
Ultimately I’m just picking nits – it’s a solidly animated show with a Yoko Kanno score, decent designs and an intriguing premise. Whether it will stay interesting beyond a few episodes is anyone’s guess, and whether the reputedly serial episode pair formula will prove to be a winner is unclear. I’ll be watching for awhile regardless.
Seirei no Moribito
Balsa, a mercenary and bodyguard, returns to a part of medieval fantasy Japan where she hasn’t been in two years. She’s just in time to save the life of one of the potential heirs to the throne, and is later approached by his mother who begs her to take her son away and protect him from assassination in the imperial (?) court. I’m a bit fuzzy on the details, but this episode sets the stage for a grand adventure as Balsa and her young charge set off in the cover of night.
This is the show I was most anticipating coming into the spring 2007 season, and it delivers on many fronts. As expected from a marquee Production I.G title the animation is sumptuous, with a few cuts in this episode that felt positively cinematic. Balsa as a character hits right in my strike zone, though she hasn’t shown much personality yet; time will tell whether she’s a square or a hip and swingin’ cat, to borrow from the jazz lingo. In point of fact aside from the visuals the show isn’t very interesting at this point, but I’m more than willing to give it time.
Issues of slightly wooden characters aside, the worst part of the episode by far was the OP – L’arc en Ciel is a BAD IDEA for a high fantasy show. Take a cue from Juuni Kokki and get some stirring instrumentals, or get some badass metal for a more warlike tone – but leave your aging pop stars at the door.
HD VERDICT: B
After the first episode there isn’t enough to go on to justify a higher score, though I’m confident that this is a show that will improve with time. Will most likely watch through the end, if only for gorgeously animated Balsa.
El Cazador de la Bruja
Noir, Avenger, Madlax, and now El Cazador – How many times can Bee Train make the same show? And this one doesn’t even have an Ali Project OP. >:( Fans of mysterious yet utterly boring amnesiac girls capable of random acts of mass destruction with their minds who are secretly puppets of organizations with names like LEVIATHAN will like this show; people who like plot instead of endless teasing that doesn’t ultimately amount to anything beyond “we’ve killed everyone in the universe, now would you like crumpets with your tea?” should stay away.
HD VERDICT: D+
Milk mustache brings it up from an F, hot meganekko OL brings it from a D- to a D, and tawdry Native Amerixploitation brings it to a D+. Never say I didn’t do you any favors, El Cazador!
In theory, this should be a great show. It’s about the queen of monsters and her monster posse living up in a mansion at the top of a hill and fighting other monsters, only her posse are all bishoujo – she’s got a midget strongwoman who can’t say anything other than “guugugugu”, and from the OP we see that she’ll get a werewolf and a vampire as well. Somebody has to clean house, a task which falls to the sister of the protagonist, the contents of whose cranium seem to have settled entirely into her voluptuous chest. Where does this leave the protagonist? He’s the token undead, brought back to life after being crushed by a stack of falling I-beams in a valiant (though probably misguided) attempt to save the queen’s life.
The official site made this look funky enough that I thought there was some potential in the offing, but alas, the production budget (aside from the Ali Project OP track, stolen brazenly from the El Cazador credit roll no doubt) is dismally poor. The writing is mediocre and the animation even moreso; with production values this low in the first episode things are looking pretty dire for the future of our zombified hero.
HD VERDICT: D
A decent concept with terrible execution. If you’re looking for a good quasi-tsundere comedy this season, Hayate no Gotoku will fill your void far better than this.
The only Nanoha I had seen prior to this was the first episode of the original series, with its freakishly smooth hand-animated cuts spliced in between more standard digital fare. Those hand-animated cuts, and the enormous, nay gargantuan bangs that all lay on the same side of the characters’ heads except for one girl who I’m sure must have been the villain and no one knew it until she pulled off her enormous bang-helmet to reveal that she was a hideous mutant hellbeast and devoured all the others before they could react, spawning dozens of little banglings in the process know as “A’s” who went on to form the basis for the next series, those two things are all I remember from the episode.
So I was pleasantly surprised by the first episode of StrikerS, where I found the bangs to be not nearly as pronounced and the animation much more consistent (and high quality). Despite a cordial dislike for all things Nanoha I found myself enjoying the episode from a purely technical perspective, and will grudgingly admit that I found nothing abrasive enough in it to stop me from watching more. Though I still think the designs are darn ugly, the bangs are in remission enough that I can cope.
HD VERDICT: B
Great animation (holy per-frame line count, Batman!), a lack of male characters, and mature female protagonists who know how to handle themselves combine in a mystical triforce of appeal that has melted even my most rigidly frozen resistance to the large of bang and small of mouth. How will the StrikerS defend Zelda from the army of mutant Banglings resurrected by demon queen Oppositebang at the end of season two?! I for one can’t wait to find out!
Seto no Hanayome
Momoi Haruko is a mermaid who saves a boy from drowning when he comes with his family to stay at his dad’s parents’ house by the beach. Since he discovers her true identity, he either has to marry her or die – thus proclaims her hard-nosed but loving yakuza mer
HD VERDICT: C
Not even Wonder Momoi can save this very silly show from mediocrity, alas. If it keeps up with the screaming at the level present in this episode not only will it break all prior records for metric fucktonnage of screaming in an anime, it will also ruin several budding voice actors’ careers. Stop, please. Seriously. The animation is average, the designs are unremarkable, and the established theory that afros make everything funnier is put so hard to the test that it just might be the exception that proves the rule. Moving on…
Sisters of Wellber
Back when the show was first announced all of the talk revolved around the mythical promise of nudity in the chest area and simultaneous spousal stabbing, both of which occur in this episode within the span of about a second. The rest is occupied by some very silly skulduggery and I think my alliteration meter just broke. I’ll come in again…
Back when the show was first announced the talk surrounding it centered on the mythical promise of a scene with nudity in the chest area and simultaneous husband-killing. These events do both occur in the first episode, though the bulk of it is spent in setting up the background of the first of our two Wellberian sisters and her enormously strong fairy sidekick, who enjoy
After the aforementioned breast bearing stabby incident the second of the two sisters (not related by blood! or are they?) goes on the lam, being chased by Cloud in a reprisal of his role in Advent Children, only minus the bike – which instead gains autonomy, turns halfway into a tank, and will only follow the orders of Wellber sister number two. Cloud is so pissed off by this that he decides to chase the sisters for the rest of the series, which ends with him being unceremoniously slain by a horse’s rear end and the sisters laughing all the way to the bank.
HD VERDICT: C
This is really not a good show, but the designs are sort of sexy (if poorly animated). The marriage of Avex and Production I.G is indeed an unholy one, and after this first episode it looks like Avex is the one wearing the pants (I.G being busy with Basra and company); I don’t think they would stand for the comedy black hole that is that insipid talking tank if they were the ones in charge. Ah well… I may keep watching, if for nothing else than the vain hope that the princess will declare that she knows kung fu.
Missed the first part of the HD take on spring 2007 anime? You can find it here.