A New Year means a new season on Japanese TV, and with that comes a new set of anime series.
Armored Trooper Votoms: Pailsen Files is something of a sequel to a remake.
Set in a future where interplanetary colonial wars are waged with the use of slow, stubby mechs, the series kicked off with it’s own take on the Normandy landing. Away from the action, there is some sort of guff going on about secretly trained super-soldiers that may be key to ending the hundred year’s war, but there’s absolutely nothing on offer thus far to stand Pailsen Files out from the overpopulated mech war crowd.
With such ineffectual machines, it’s hard to work out how war in this fictional universe developed into using resource hungry combat suits – it seems to make far more sense to have standard human infantry, but I suppose there could have been a sort of armoured suit arms race – you can’t send soldiers into battle against walking tanks unless they have their own.
It is also saddled with a horrible 80s rock style opening theme.
In a word, so far this show is drab.
Kaiketsu Zorori is about a travelling fox named Zorori who is training to be the master of mischief. With its animal characters, bright, primary colours and loud, clear voice-artist delivery, this show is squarely aimed at the younger audience. In the first episode hour anti-hero meets up with two boar brothers who decide to become his pupils, and sets about a scheme to try and disrupt the marriage of a prince and princess and take her for himself, using a robot dragon, a giant rice cake and lots of slapstick. The art style is reminiscent of 80s classics like Dogtanian and Willy Fogg, but without the nostalgia to back it up this will only really appeal to the target audience of school children.
H20 – Footprints in the Sand is one of many shows about a boy who transfers to a school in the countryside that has lots of girl students. What differs in H20 is that the school, despite serving a village, is a large Victorian mansion style building, and the boy, Hirose Takuma, is blind.
This gives the show an excuse to serve up the bawdy humour common to the genre, with Hirose accidentally touching one girl’s chest and lifting the skirt of another with his white stick.
The harem in this version of the ‘harem comedy’ consists of a clumsy girl, a crazy girl who thinks she’s a spirit, an arrogant girl who has a little gang and the serious girl whom she bullies.
There’s some reason hinted at as to why the serious girl, Hayami, is being bullied, and by the end of the first episode the girl who thinks she’s a spirit, Otoha, visits Hirose in his dreams and temporarily gives him sight.
At this point things could go either way, as all the ingredients are there for another generic harem comedy, but there are seeds which have the potential to develop into something more.
Rosario + Vampire starts as it means to go on, with a schoolgirl riding her bike amongst the cherry blossom, until her skirt catches the wind and you see her knickers.
Aono Tsukune is a 15 year-old high school student. His grades are bad, but his dad finds an entry form to the Youkai academy dropped by a priest, meaning Aono now doesn’t have to repeat the year. On his journey to the school he receives warnings that it’s a terrible place, but when he is bumped into by Akashiya Moka on her bike he forgets all this, as she’s very cute. She also claims to be a vampire.
It turns out that the academy is a school for monsters and that any humans found will be killed on the spot. The monsters are meant to keep to human form and not reveal what kind of demon they are, but it’s still enough to freak Aono out. He tries to flee and is pursued by Akashiya as he’s her first friend, but finds that there are only buses out every month. They also fight an orc along the way who wants Akashiya for himself, but her true vampire form is too powerful, despite only seeming to amount to her hair going white, her face a bit meaner and her boobs swelling against her top.
The show could have made something of the fish out of water scenario, and had the potential for some interesting artwork with such a rich history of Japanese demon folklore, but as evidenced by the poor design of the hulking orc and the dozens of panty shots in the first episode, it’s highly unlikely that Rosario + Vampire will be looking to break the mould.
There are already many better ‘boy meets strange girl’ shows out there so unless you’re a huge fan of anime panties there’s little reason to seek this out.
All in all 2008 has not started off as a good year with which to persuade doubters that anime isn’t all the equivalent of Hollyoaks –predictable, vapid, bland and stuffed with crass titillation.
Thankfully my latest review, of '15' from Singapore, is up over at www.hkcinema.co.uk, there be links on your right.
Happy New Year!