You know how Hanayamata ends. You probably know how the majority of the individual episodes end as well. Cliche is both the strongest and weakest thing that Hanayamata has going for it, because on the one hand you can be safe in the knowledge that the quintet of girls will make it through with smiles on their faces and fireworks in their eyes and that everything will be all right. On the other hand though, there’s not a lot else going on. It’s a solid, visually arresting but cacophonous twelve episode series that starts with trepidation and ends with a dance number.
the series feels like its trapped in a swarm of disgruntled sparrows
It’s set in Kamakura though which, if you’ve ever had the pleasure of going there, is one of those places where you can travel in a rickshaw and see horse archery and a bronze buddha statue all in an afternoon. Setting Hanayamata there gifts it with a kind of ethereal magic that the first episode, with its pint-sized dancing blonde girl, captures brilliantly, making it seem that a school club for yosakoi isn’t so outlandish.
Intrinsically I understand that anime has to make money, and that collaborations and product placement are just one way of doing that. Even in its native Japan anime home video sales vary wildly between franchises and advertisements and sponsorships only go so far. One Off feels a little different though with its very prominent Honda partnership.
the familiar sense of personal discovery and heart swelling Sunday matinee ethos
Of course there is the classic story of the original Gundam being produced solely to sell toys, while Pizza Hut has been in everything from Code Geass to Nanoha to Darker than Black; even critically loved shows like Kara no Kyoukai or Steins;Gate have Häagen-Dazs and Dr Pepper respectively. There’s something different about Honda being at the heart of One Off though that isn’t so much product placement as core marketing message.
First released: April 2013 Version reviewed: Blu-Ray
The only time I seem to hear about this “Maou-sama” chap, the “Demon King”, is when anime subverts that most grand of titles. First it was as a fiercely intelligent but largely benign lady in Maoyuu Maou Yuusha and then here in Hataraku Maou-sama (The Devil is a Part-Timer).
It starts straightforwardly enough amidst war in the high-fantasy kingdom of Ente Isla, all darkness, death and monsters as the beef-cakeDemon King lays waste to the once peaceful island nation. Then a hero shows up, starts scrapping with him, only for the mighty Demon King to retreat, warping out and landing in modern day Tokyo with his general Alciel. As introductions go it gets the point across and sets up a series which is surprising not only for how enjoyable it is but also how much it has going on under the surface.
I have this silly rule that when I create a folder for an anime (in an imaginatively titled “Watching” parent folder) I have to watch it to completion. This is why, eventually, I’ll have to finish Samurai Flamenco but is also why I recently powered through Hyakka Ryouran Samurai Bride, the sequel to Samurai Girls. The folder itself was created when the series was first airing in April 2013, and even now I have no idea why given that I’d abandoned that first series when it became readily apparent that it was by some margin, an objectively worse series than Queen’s Blade. And that’s saying quite a bit.
We’ve run out of samurai outfits, why not just put a pirate in there? Why the hell not.
The comparison is expected because both series opt for the “we don’t have much story, let’s throw a whole load of nudity on screen instead” school of thought. Unlike Queen’s Blade though which tempered it’s theatre of flesh with some half-way decent characters, Hyakka is populated unlikable twits. Sure for the former you got utter cretins like Nanael (voiced by Aya Hirano, no comment on the connection) but others like Tomoe and Leina almost made you forget you were watching a series that was spawned from lascivious gamebooks. Hyakka has none of these illusions and presents you with a cast of characters that have all of the charm, wit and pathos of a group of over-sugared four year olds.
A review of Lupin III: A Woman Called Fujiko Miine
The length and breadth of the Lupin III franchise means that any new instalment in it - whether series, film or OVA - has space to rearrange the tried and tested gentleman thief formula. If The Woman Called Fujiko Mine is the first Lupin III entry you’ve seen (and for anime fans of a certain age it will be more likely than not) then it may be odd to move onto the lighter, wackier offerings such as Miyazaki’s well regarded Castle of Cagliostro.
no love lost between professionals
The Woman Called Fujiko Mine, a 2012 series now two movies and a television special in the past, is dark, oppressive and delves into sex, sexuality and sexual violence right from the outset. For better or worse, the series owes a debt to Cowboy Bebop: both share a smooth, sometimes discordant, jazz soundtrack (although Yoko Kanno’s offering is far and away superior), a welcomingly cosmopolitan setting, an episodic structure, and, until it is fully explored later in the series, Fujiko’s past comes off like an homage to Bebop’s Faye. Both series obviously pay their debt to innumerable other genres - film noir being just one - but it’s there that the similarities between the two series ends.