It’s pretty bleeding obvious that my writing schedule has repeatedly derailed (my music and creative writing projects are at least progressing though). I don’t have one particular reason why it’s happened; everything feels like I’m driving with the handbrake on, and I feel like I have nothing new to say.
The past couple of weeks have changed that though. It would seem that at least part of the problem was that there wasn’t much around that was worth writing about. After months of new DVD releases and simulcasts that didn’t make me want to sit down and pay attention, Spring 2012 has given me that old nudge of “oh yeah…this is why I’m a fan…”
Fate/Zero season 2
If there’s anything that’s going to get this fanboy out of a bad patch, it’s probably a new Type Moon show…which is an exciting prospect if only because, when basing your expectations on previous animated TM adaptations, you never know whether it’s going to be good, bad or somewhere in between. The first season of Fate/Zero gave me something interesting to watch on a Saturday evening with a nice cold beer (although I ought to be accompanying it with a bottle of this stuff in particular).
It was dazzling in many areas but even my patience was tested by the thick layers of exposition. It’s not that wading through all that wasn’t worth it; it’s just that the entire first half concerned itself so much with examining the motives and mechinations of the main players in the story in such an uncompromising way that many viewers didn’t even notice the things it did well. Now that the story has entered its latter half, the kinetic aspects have the room they need to get off the ground and the proverbial brown stuff has begun to hit the fan.
I can now safely say that, as of mid-April, Fate/Zero is finally a series to get excited about. If a Lovecraftian sea monster and Yukikaze-style Berserkerplane weren’t enough, we were treated to Excalibur being whipped out at last (insert relevant Reaction Guys pic here) and can now sit back and wait for it to get genuinely awesome. As we in Britannia say in such situations, thank fuck for that.
Eureka Seven AO
As Bateszi outlined so well, the sequel to Eureka Seven is a big deal. It’s especially important I think to we old-school fans who got into the anime fandom through seinen SF shows of the previous decade. It’s a somewhat belated follow-up to one of the fan faves of that era, when nobody complained about moe and when cool robots blew stuff up and we had in-depth discussions about what the storylines and symbolism meant.
Out of the new stuff I’m watching that’s currently airing, this is the second series that’s a sequel or prequel; and yet that fact – which would be a bad sign under most circumstances – doesn’t bother me one bit. Neither does the fact that E7 AO features a load of familiar tropes and visual flourishes from Studio Bones’ back catalogue and elsewhere: jumping into the mecha while still wearing his school shirt and fighting an alien-looking creature with a massive explosion made Ao Fukai look for all the world like Shinji Ikari if he grew a pair and decided “you know what? Fuck you all. I’m going to climb into the robot like a proper hero and take on that monster like a boss.”
I’ll admit that I had reservations about this show. It’s a sequel to a story that’s so late to the party that we didn’t expect the sequel at all; it recycles old Bones ideas and, heck, other plot devices of the genre; and Bones don’t have a spotless record for sequels anyway (the Darker than Black thing still stings). It’s early days, and there’s so much that could conceivably go wrong.
And yet, after the second episode, I was having too much fun to care about any of that. It was jam-packed with one moment of brilliance after another: Ao saved his island home, he was reunited with his current romantic(?) interest afterwards and as a character he’s more grown-up and, I might as well just say it, more interesting than Renton was. Whether or not it becomes a trainwreck like Ryuusei no Gemini or Code Geass R2, right now E7 AO has a balance of characterisation and pretty-shiny surfing robot action that makes it an absolute joy to behold.
Sakamichi no Apollon
This reminds me a little of Beck in that it uses music as a catalyst for the everyday drama and growing-up stuff that makes up so much of the anime we usually see broadcast. It’s one of those “could’ve worked even better in live-action” titles but as it is, I’m loving it.
I really appreciated the way the friendship between the three leads just, well, happens in a natural fashion and in all probability I’d be perfectly content with watching them hang out and jam together every week. There’ll be more to that I’m sure since it has such a mature and low-key approach that gives off an aura of “it’s not a cartoon; it’s animation.” Whether or not that statement gets quoted out of context on Shit Otaku Say or similar, I’m sure you know where I’m coming from there.
Speaking of music: interestingly, all three of these new shows have something special in the soundtracks. Fate/Zero has Yuki Kajiura, Eureka Seven AO has brought in ex-Supercar frontman Koji Nakamura and the jazz BGM of Sakamichi no Apollon was penned by Yoko Kanno. I didn’t intend it to work out that way, but I’m sure it’s no accident that three of my favourite songwriters are represented in the new season’s offerings. It’s the icing on the cake, as they say.