Screenshots aren’t going to sell you on the latest Yozakura Quartet anime: Hana no Uta (Song of Flowers). The borderline lazy and haphazard line work and wildly varying character styles between episodes will be enough to turn anyone with a jaded artistic eye away. If you actually watch it though, well the animation still errs on the side of janky, but aesthetic issues tend to ebb away when it becomes clear how refreshingly playful the thirteen episode series is.
a teenage ogre at odds with her power? Hey wait is that a witch in a pink mini-skirt?
This starts with a cast that is comprised of nothing less than a cat-eared telepath, a pair of terrifyingly strong ogre siblings, a half-demon who can summon objects with just a word and a nurse descended from Dr Frankenstein. Eclectic to say the least and the kind of barely restrained bedlam that constitutes interplay within the core group can range from dancing to a Wii fitness game during a town meeting to mock battles overseen by a lackadaisical town spirit.
The third episode of Dusk Maiden of Amnesia (Tasogare Otome x Amnesia) has a fascinating hook: perception.
it is critical to the nature of Yuuko - she only exists because others can see her
In the context of the episode it arrives when Kirie challenges Teiichi's vision of Yuuko as a busty, alabaster skinned school-girl and instead claims she is "dripping with hatred" with filthy, cracked skin. From then on Teiichi can only see this ghoulish visage of Yuuko until he forcibly excises it from his mind. It's claimed in an earlier episode that Yuuko only exists in the form of the beholder, so if someone believes her to be a wandering spirit then that's what they'll see her as.
The best thing The World God Only Knows has going for it is confusion. With its anti-social protagonist and dating-simulator slant, the series can't make up its mind as to whether it's an acerbic take on the two dimensional approach to dating-simulators, or a parody of the spate of story-reset-repeat visual novel adaptations that have spawned recently. Equally though, it could end up as neither and result in bland drivel that the first three episodes skirt dangerously close to.
It all starts so promisingly with Keima who, despite being obnoxious and reclusive, somehow isn't instantly repulsive - likely the effect of his dandy cravat. After a bubbly spirit girl drops into his life the story spanks along and seems to eschew common staples like the moving in ritual or the transferred into school ritual. Then the first episode ends with the girl transferring into his school and the next episode starts with her moving into his house. The series doesn't so much ignore genre tropes as delay them, then air them half apologetically.
Boogiepop Phantom is a series which immediately makes one wonder whether their television is functioning correctly. Shortly after the melancholy opening it adds the speakers to that list. By the end of the first episode it adds the viewer's brain. It is a reverie of madness, murder, altered states and narrative intrigue: each episode teasing an explanation but rarely delivering in full, each appearance of the titular Boogiepop - or is it the Manticore? - promising a new thread to tie in with the myriad others. Existing in a microcosm of light novels, manga and a live-action movie as well as sharing idiosyncrasies and the brutally obtuse style of its spiritual predecessor, Serial Experiments Lain, the question the series' lineage poses is whether it can stand by itself or whether it relies too much on its forebears and source material to support itself.
some of the darkest aspects of humanity are explored with obsession, madness and memories playing a key role
A month before the opening of the series, a pillar of light erupts in a nameless cityscape, dragging it into darkness. Those who witness the light began to change, much like the city itself, now with a permanent aurora in the sky and a magnetic field that makes compasses useless and corrodes metal at a frightening rate. Those who changed exhibit strange powers: the ability to see and consume insects clutching peoples' chests, the power to separate composite objects like coffee or humans even the capability to show people scenes of their pasts. All the while they are stalked by the urban legend Boogiepop, supposedly the personification of death, who appears without warning to rid the world of the deviations that have sprung up. Clandestine talk of impossibly powerful corporations and unnatural evolution ensure that understanding the circumstances behind all of the strange occurrences will not be straightforward.
Like the creatures themselves, Mushishi came more or less out of nowhere. A critically acclaimed manga by Yuki Urushibara mostly unheard of outside of Japan, and Studio Artland for which this would be one of their first fully produced series outside of some relatively obscure OVAs. For it to be so unspeakably brilliant is at odds with common wisdom; story and sound fuse together to create an astonishingly beautiful vision of Japan. Blossoming with wonder, it is a world that is delightful to be lost within: enraptured by the craftsmanship applied to the smallest detail and ensconced within the gentle auditory landscapes.
the loss of a child, the desire for the wellbeing of a community, the sacrifice of one for many - these are the heart and soul of the series
Comprising twenty six mostly episodic stories, the series follows Ginko: a silver haired nomad and a self-proclaimed Mushishi. Picking up where physicians may fail, he concerns himself with mushi, a primal and fugacious life force that suffuses the world but is often only known through their effects on its inhabitants. Sometimes these can be as innocuous as a living painting within a kimono, other times causing afflictions such as memory or hearing loss, but sporadically, they can affect entire communities whether inadvertently or through the misguided auspices of humans themselves. Regardless, Ginko travels listlessly from case to case, sometimes stumbling across one and other times cajoled by letters which travel through the mysterious mushi roads.