Harry Potter can't be entirely to blame for the continuing creation of series based upon a school for adolescent magicians, but Ichiban Ushiro no Daimaou borrows a lot more from the ubiquitous boy wizard than can be easily overlooked. Thankfully the pilfering doesn't last beyond the opening ten minutes, from there the first three episodes are a maelstrom of raunchiness, magic, humour and insanity culminating in a one-versus-hundreds battle royale. Where the series will go from there is up for speculation as it ably demonstrates that, for better or worse, it is willing to discard common sense and narrative coherency to keep the humour flowing, the naughtiness frequent and pace quick.
taking place after transforming a slavering demon dog into an adorable puppy and the seductive Fujiko lounging around in her frilly underwear
Akuto certainly hasn't had an easy upbringing: left on a set of church steps when only a baby, he was brought up by the resident priests before swotting up and joining the Constant Academy for Magical Arts as a transfer student. On the train there he meets a fellow student, Junko Hattori, and become fast friends; that is until the prognosticating medical check-up demon predicts that Akuto would go on to become a much feared Demon King. Striking abject fear into the student body, he desperately tries to assure his peers that his intentions are far from demonic, however Junko is less than pleased with what she perceives as his deception and rebels against him. Akuto not only has to survive her onslaught but also the devious machinations of Fujiko Etou, the deadpan wit of the android Korone and the ebullient affections of Akuto's childhood friend, Keena Soga. In all probability he may not live long enough to see himself become the infamous Demon King.
On the face of it, B Gata H Kei has a throughly lamentable premise, one sure to invoke a slow shaking of the head, perhaps only piquing one's interest to understand if it is really as misogynistic as it sounds. It isn't, but still squirms awkwardly around the core premise of a libidinous fifteen year old girl aiming to one day have a hundred sexual partners. The chance to switch-up the lustful male archetype is thoroughly squandered by a protagonist who is overly aggressive and nigh-on unlikable and is coupled with a boy whose potato-like features bely his incapability to connect with anyone but his exhibitionist sister and doe-eyed neighbour. This is apart from the uncomfortable celebration of a newly adolescent girl seeking out sexual gratification and the messages about relationships this underpins.
an angry, air-headed ditz with a fuck-everything attitude but prudish sensibilities, who is chasing a friendless boy who would lose a personality contest with a radiator
Yamada is looking for a someone to take her virginity. Not just anyone however, her mild body dysmorphia regarding her genitals and her rampant imagination have so far prevented her from even having a boyfriend despite her idol good looks. When she bumps into Takashi in a book store, she decides he, a virgin like herself, is the ideal person to start her on her quest for a hundred sexual partners. Takashi of course is entirely oblivious to her overtures and Yamada's often misconstrued advances cause more confusion than copulation. Seeking advice from her friend Miharu, she continually seeks to trick or trap Takashi into having sex with her while simultaneously being thoroughly naive to the concepts and her burgeoning feelings for the dense object of her lust.
Sawako's existence: a pure, unspoiled girl, gifted with a charming, near heartbreaking innocence is the most outlandish element of Kimi ni Todoke. The rest of the cast - whether it is the perceptive Ayane or the manipulative Ume - demonstrate traits expected from people, adolescents especially. But Sawako doesn't. Her boundless appreciation for the simple things she experiences, whether that's dinner with friends, karaoke after school or eating lunch in the company of others could easily become tiresome; however her plight is so utterly genuine and her reactions so heart-warming that it overrules the presence of obvious genre tropes and raises a pang of guilt for not believing her character could exist outside of fiction.
the niggling worry that her downfall is only a misinterpreted gesture away begins to ebb
Sawako Kuronuma hasn't experienced the best of school - her isolation from her peers was neither self inflicted nor maliciously enforced. Upon entering high-school however, the affable Shota Kazehaya - who effortlessly makes friends and interacts with people - catches her eye. Sawako envies his personality, but when out-of-the-blue he comes to speak to her one day, her whole life changes as classmates become close friends and she begins to enjoy a more fruitful school life. The change is not without its tribulations though: jealous rivals for Shota's affections attempt to sabotage Sawako's prominence in his eyes and the burgeoning affection she feels for him leads to a number of misunderstandings. As the school year draws to a close, Sawako wonders if she will be able to let Shota know just how much he means to her.
Sasameki Koto takes place in a land of almost perpetual sunsets, golden skies and scenery aflame with oranges, all the while impressionable young girls stand in front of illuminated classrooms blushing with possibility. The series lays in thick and fast and doesn't ever prevaricate as to what the majority of it will be about: unfettered romance. Dainty piano melodies and smooth words flow from the opening leaving no doubt as to the position the series takes on its subject matter.
they feel like characters rather than porcelain dolls butting heads
Sumika Murasame loves her best friend Ushio Kazama who is infatuated with cute girls, unfortunately for Sumika she is tall, athletic and bookish preferring to dress in muted polo necks than frilly skirts. While she pines for Ushio a male from her class, Masaki Akemiya, has fallen in love with her and expresses this by cross dressing and posing for a fashion magazine. Things take a turn for the complex when Sumika and Ushio catch two other girls kissing, and from the hints dropped in the first three episodes, it's safe to assume that other potential love interests will be introduced in short order. The story is typical romance fare with the added twist of same-sex relationships but the plights of the cast produces a level of empathy that is wholly unusual.
Beginning Winter Sonata without knowing its lineage is opening oneself up for confusion. While superficially Japanese, the series originates in South Korea, adapted from a non-animated drama series of which Winter Sonata is the second of four which are collectively known as "Endless Love". The original television cast are brought on in voice acting roles and not re-dubbed which means that when broadcast in Japan, subtitles are included. Past the initial puzzlement as to the difference in language, the first episodes of the series turn out to be little more than a straight-faced romance story, albeit with a nostalgic twist.
a show that resolutely belongs on daytime television, aimed squarely at the unemployed and housebound
The first episode - commonly termed Episode 0 - is billed as a prelude to the main series and wastes no time pouring on the floaty piano music and longing gazes out onto cityscapes ravished by the weather. Joon Sang Kang is in New York suffering from a hematoma behind his eye which makes him permanently introspective and liable to fall over at inopportune moments; meanwhile Yujin Jung writes about the past in cosy Parisian coffee shops while thinking of Joon. With some stunning backgrounds and a genuine eye for emotional detail, the series gets off to a slow but determined start.