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.
The recent airing of the second series of Hyakka Ryouran Samurai Girls poses the question of why the stylish but lacklustre first season was deemed worthy of a sequel, but also conjures up the spirit of genre stalwarts such as the long running Sekirei and Ikkitousen franchises - each series with a more ridiculous alliterative subtitle than the last - as well as one-offs such as Tenjho Tenge. The specific taxonomy of these series is usually spread between "fantasy", "martial arts" and the all-encompassing "fan service" categories, but works equally well as just "fighting fanservice" (FF).
smutty, double-X chromosome fighting still sells
With a few exceptions, the entire point of these series is to group voluptuous girls together so they can beat seven shades of tar out of one another, usually with disastrous consequences for their clothing and decency. Twice tickling the lizard brain for those who are titillated by such things then: violence and sex. Tweak the variables from breasts to blood though and you have horror (see Blood-C, Elfen Lied, Ga-Rei Zero etc.). Catering to base desires though doesn't leave a lot of room for story or character development with many of the plot lines and episodic stories simplistic even if they were in a children's Saturday morning cartoon and utterly worthless for anything other than hurtling the cast from one arena to the next.
The formula is all too familar: alien lands on earth, befriends local youth and romantic hijinks ensue. The opening episodes of Asobi ni iku yo! do nothing to tweak this formula beyond adding cat-ears and a tail to the buxom interplanetary interloper. The recent Ano Natsu de Materu at least kept things clean, here the feline Eris is disrobed and in the protagonist's bed within minutes. Seconds later and the domineering childhood friend arrives (how inconvenient!) and the quiet and traditional Japanese beauty follows shortly afterwards.
Those who, somewhat rightly, switch off after those episodes though would be missing what turns out to be a surprisingly entertaining romp through science fiction of old and a locale less travelled: Okinawa.
Blood-C received a lot of stick when it aired. Upon announcement of the sequel film Blood-C: The Last Dark, the series was labelled as a nothing more than a twelve episode trailer. It's not entirely unjustified when taken on a plodding, twelve week schedule; in aggregate though the series' strong points shine through safe in the knowledge of the next episode's position on your playlist.
the kind of trouser-stirring animation Production I.G. are capable of when enough money is thrown at them
The nagging unreality of protagonist Saya's situation never departs after the first of her friends is butchered and is only magnified when the wholesale slaughter is played out. The brutality of the monsters and their sublime indifference to the general populace juxtaposed the puppies-and-sunshine school life the opening episodes peddled.
"What are you watching?" "It's about a rebellion and government sponsored mercenaries, but in space." "What's it called?" "Bodacious Space Pirates" "..." "..." "Want to watch a documentary on polar bears?"
These are not today's surly pirates who kidnap and extort or even those of yesteryear who rape and plunder but- well, in three episodes there hasn't been much of any kind of piracy. The assumption is that there will be pillaging and perhaps even looting at some point, it may even take place in space but whether these endeavours will be bodacious is the primary question.