Nowadays incredulity follows the Gonzo logo. That once stalwart mark associated with Gankutsuou and Full Metal Panic, which in its latter years branded atrocity (Dragonaut) and mediocrity (Speed Grapher) alike and culminated in the studio's unceremonious booting from the lucrative Strike Witches franchise.
It's with much surprise then that Last Exile: Fam of the Silver Wing is so good. Not just "good for Gonzo", but genuinely entertaining. Could this be the series to restore the studio's lustre and break it free from a reputation of shoddy endings?
The first series of Last Exile didn't set the world on fire like a 10th Anniversary show should, however it had a unique blend of steam-punk styling and airship fetishising that made it pleasant to watch even when haphazardly animated. With eyes on a grander narrative the purely character driven plot of the first series is mutated into something more political and imperialist.
A lot can be said for a good story well told. Ano Natsu de Matteru rockets into the romance genre with a concept that by all rights should be weary from overuse, but is instead energised by likeable characters and a story that is impassioned and dramatic with little triteness.
Crowbarring five teenagers onto a sub-tropical island was suspect enough but meeting up with a childhood friend...
Not surprising really given the talent behind almost every facet: the director has past triumphs with Toradora!, Ano Hi Mita Hana andA Certain Scientific Railgun, the writer is the same person responsible for Please! Teacher and music is provided by the imitable I'VE SOUND group including opening lyrics penned by none other than alumni KOTOKO - it's like getting the band back together. The creators indelible fingerprints are everywhere, whether it's the cerulean skies and over-saturated greenery encapsulating a youthful summer or the skilful manipulation of character affections and steady meting out of drama; to say it was well produced would be doing it a disservice.
Spring 2012 is coming, attempting to wrap up Winter 2011.
This is not the Age of Aquarius. The first series of Aquarion was mediocre at best - surprising really given Yoko Kanno's duties on the soundtrack and the birth of what should have been a decent pop-star in the form of AKINO. EVOL comes after an ill-advised OVA and reboots the premise by retaining the giant robot consisting of separately piloted craft - think Getter Robo except with squeals of orgasmic delight from the female aviators - but amps up the ridiculous factor to eleven. The opening episodes are pleasing in how seriously the show doesn't take itself with a a male protagonist who floats on wings growing from his ankles when he has any naughty thoughts.
Nisemonogatari is a very understanding series. It understands the difference between pornography and eroticism is a fine line and gyrates provocatively on the latter side. It understands that by emasculating the protagonist and slavishly worshipping the otherwise entirely female cast it champions misandry over feminism. It understands family members transcend the commonly held notions of love and hate and that often reason and logic don't apply. It also understands, and this is crucial, that as a phenomenon, the Monogatari franchise (including Bakemonogatari before and the upcoming Kizumonogatari film) are fleeting. And damned if it isn't going to burn magnesium bright while it can.
inspires slavish devotion and cultish adoration because it has passion circulating in its veins
All the pieces from Bakemonogatari are in place here: art and animation that sucker-punch the retinas, banter that strafes wit and tedium and a supernatural affliction story framework for support. Like Akiyuki Shinbo's previous role as director with studio SHAFT the production is, sometimes pompous, but always slick and confident and plays strongly to the intended audience. Specifically, eroticism for otaku. Not the flesh markets that series like Queen's Blade, Yosuga no Sora or Ladies versus Butlers are, but understanding how to titillate rather than satiate and the confidence to put the story on hold for an episode to indulge in this.