Fall Anime: The First Gift!
Fall Calls for Cool Anime!
By: Head Writer – J.R Tafoya
Hello, Giga-Landers! It’s that time of year again! I always say it’s amazing being an anime nerd because we get Christmas five times a year! One for every anime season and one for actual Christmas!
Again, Yours Truly is here to help you to try and pick out the best presents first as we shuffle through the Fall season of anime! Again, with our young Bryan taking the reigns, we’ve decided to draft anime from a list and description alone. Our rules are simple: No second seasons (unless EVERYONE has seen the first season), no porn, and if you willingly drop the show everyone else can as well (or you can give them permission)!
First up is my pick this season, starting with our strong foot forward. Mahoutsukai no Yome is a melancholic anime about a girl with a terrible life and the mage that comes to turn it all around. A solid pick, if I do say so myself, and a great gift for anyone regardless of taste. The show even has a fantastic OVA that’s three episodes long which I recommend to everyone. Secondly, we have our young Bryan’s pick, Net-juu no Susume. Indicative of his taste in anime, this show is a light-hearted rom/com or slice-of-life that is sometimes too cute to handle. A great present for anyone with a tendency towards cuteness and rom/coms and cake! Last, but not least, is our resident Dr. Gabe’s pick, U.Q Holder!. A far out sequel to Mahou Sensei Negima!, this anime takes the form of the brilliance of Ken Akamatsu’s work without all the fan service to bog it down, with great action scenes to make it a great for all shounen lovers!
As the weather turns a brisk cold and the wind blows gently, open your wings and let my writing that is the wind beneath you carry you to new anime heights! If you’re someone who likes to wait a few weeks to find out which anime is worth watching, then look no further! Your answer lie naught but a single read of this article away!
Mahoutsukai no Yome
(The Ancient Magus Bride)
Outlook: Testing a Girl’s, “It’s What’s On The Inside That Counts” Theory –
As a young girl Chise could never remember a day in her life when she was truly happy. Every day was filled with strife and fear because of a specific power she had; she could see spirits and monsters in the world that no one else around her could. Whether friend or enemy, Chise never knew, but she always knew that she should be afraid of these “ghosts” that she saw. However, since no one else could see them, Chise seemed particularly crazy to everyone else, including her mother, and was immediately ostracized by the world because of this. Even after being taken in by another immediate family member, Chise could find no respite from these demons that tormented her every day.
Desperate, and in need of escape of any kind, Chise seemed to think that suicide may be the only way out. But, before she could act on that impulse, she was approached by a man who suggested she sell herself to make herself useful, in one way or another, to someone else. Deciding this may be easier than her previous idea, Chise resigns herself to this fate. Obviously meant to be a slave, she is auctioned off in front of hundreds of people looking to buy her only to be swept off her feet by an extremely tall man known as Elias Ainsworth, a known hermit in this mysterious community. After being bought for an extremely large sum, Chise is brought to a small home in England where she is then told that she will become the apprentice of the great Elias Ainsworth, Mage Extraordinaire! And to top it all off, this hulking man with a beast’s skull for a face also intends to make Chise his future bride. Though, I can’t say I’d be thrilled either, knowing that my significant other had an elongated skull instead of an actual face.
From the get-go this show is entirely . . . depressing. But, not so much in a bad way. If you’re savvy to the anime community, you’ll know that this show also had a three episode OVA, The Ancient Magus Bride -Those Awaiting Stars-, that is actually important to Chise and the overall story itself; and before watching the show, I highly recommend watching those as well. Chise’s life was never easy, and it’s hard not to sympathize with the poor girl, especially in a society that deems anything “not ordinary” as a burden or unwanted. It makes it really easy to cheer for her as she looks for happiness in a world that’s shown her anything but.
The overall story seems fairly open-ended so far in that all we know is that Elias bought Chise because she is something called a “Sleigh Beggy”, a term we are yet unacquainted with. But, apparently being one of these things and being able to see the spirits is extremely rare which makes Chise a valuable commodity. Beyond this, though, it seems like Elias truly wants Chise to be happy, even if he did purchase her on what he deems “a lucky day”. However, this endeavor may prove a difficult one as Chise has already seemingly given up on life and what it has to offer . . . though, it’s easy to see why.
The first few episodes, including the three OVAs, have already put my heart in dire straights and whether or not that’s because I’ve recently seen a slew of emotional anime movies and I’m in an emotional state, I’m not sure, but I do know that the show is doing a good job of getting me to empathize with the characters. So far, the anime seems to be taking a slightly “Otome”-like approach to the show in that is centers almost entirely on Chise while the rest of the cast is fairly handsome males. That’s not to say it’s an Otome anime though, I promise it’s not quite so shallow. Instead, the anime takes a very drama-centric direction in how it handles its plot points. With just a little action to sprinkle on top, the anime runs very smoothly and has a very “safe” feel to it. The action is very sparse and there has been zero fighting so far, though I imagine that may change in the future with how apparently desirable Chise is.
The music, of note, also feels very calm and safe. Almost like something you’d hear from an old RPG with a central theme being “medieval”. However, any scenes sporting a bit of action or anything similar tend to revert to a peculiar sound style that harkens back to almost 90’s style anime soundtracks. Though not entirely bad, it juxtaposes very strangely with the rest of the score and leaves a weird impression.
One of the biggest selling points for me was just how beautiful everything was in this show. Much like how a slice of life centers a lot of its beauty on stills and powerful yet humble art, Mahoutsukai no Yome draws extremely beautiful landscapes that are hard not to appreciate for just how exquisite they are. Almost every piece of scenery is drawn with such passion and care that it’s hard to differentiate it from an actual photograph. What finally brings you back to reality is all the supernatural elements drawn in: dragon bones, trees growing hundreds of feet tall, and mischievous spirits dancing around the scenery. It’s very obvious they’ve taken a lot of care in how everything is placed or drawn and it shows with almost every scene.
All in all, Mahoutsukai no Yome is a good bet this season. Adding in the OVAs, it’s emotionally powerful, easy to empathize with, and . . . safe. I think “safe” may be the strongest word I can use to describe this show. When you’re given the same amount of information and point of view as Chise, you start to feel like her: confused, estranged, and alone. But, when Elias’ large frame comes into view and he puts his arm on her shoulder, you feel comfortable and it’s almost as if you’re being protected as well. I think this is a lot to do with what makes the anime so interesting. While it hasn’t gone too in-depth on what magic is, other than borrowing the magic of the fairies, what a “Sleigh Beggy” really is, and the world at large, it’s highly intriguing and generally fun to watch, if a little sad at times.
Anyone looking for an anime with a lot of emotional stories, a world of magic, or for something generally interesting at all, Mahoutsukai no Yome is definitely a good choice this season. Watching the three episodes of the OVA alone is a fantastic gauge on how well you’ll like the show. Even if you don’t think you’ll continue with it, the OVA is a great stand alone story with an ending that helps warm your heart.
A solid choice by Yours Truly, if I do say so myself.
Net-juu no Susume
(Recommendation of The Wonderful Virtual Life)
Outlook: When Japanese Puns Don’t Cross Over –
Of course, I only speak of the title when I mean the puns.
Another Outlook: An Older Version of Younger J.R!
A long time ago, when I’d quit my first job, I found myself in a situation where I had a bit of money that I was sitting on due to how often I worked and how little time I had to spend it. So, instead of doing what “normies” do and going out with friends, I decided that online games and escapism were the best form of recovery. So I poured a large chunk of my waking hours into a specific MMO making sure to avoid all forms of physical contact if at all possible. Then I rescued and raised a kitten, got a new job, and then became the newer, more self-aware weaboo trash you now know and love.
That being said, with a little TMI thrown in, I’ve basically described most of what Net-juu no Susume is about! Although our protagonist, Morioka Moriko, is a hot 30-year-old former business woman and not, well, me! (I smell “cake”!) . . . Anyway, after resigning from her job for unknown reasons, Moriko takes to spending her time on a new game she got from an “osusume (recommendation) site”, a free game called “Fruits de Mer”. So, after literally dropping out of reality and freely deciding to become a NEET (Not Employed, in Education, or Training), Moriko decides to dump nearly 100% of her waking hours into her new MMO.
On this new game, Moriko decides to make her new character avatar a typical “hot guy” instead of playing as a female. Although, she’s not alone in this, I’m sure a lot of us guys have made cute girls as characters, right? (I’m guilty. Terribly guilty. 1000x guilty). Anyway, while slashing away and being thoroughly thrashed by a boss, Moriko’s new character, Hayashi, meets a cute girl named Lily. The two become quick friends after beating the boss together and Moriko/Hayashi is recruited to a friendly guild where she meets her new online friends.
This particular show doesn’t seem terribly deep and that’s because it’s generally not, at this point. It’s a cute rom/com portraying a female voluntarily embracing the NEET life while meeting a female character in-game who is obviously a male IRL. Their interactions are terrible cute and really bring home a rom-com/slice-of-life concept that just makes you feel so warm on the inside after every episode is over. The side story is an obvious allusion to who Lily is in real life and how Moriko meets them over and over without actually knowing who they are. Though that angsty feeling of knowing who Hayashi and Lily are in real life, knowing that they’ve met but don’t know who they really are, tugs at your heartstrings so hard it’s almost unbearable (in a good way).
All in all, this anime is a good shot at true escapism. Remembering back to my first paragraph, it’s easy to see where Moriko is coming from because it’s extremely easy to fall into that trap given the right conditions. The show proves MMO’s provide an easy way to feel instant gratification without too much effort, and social interactions are infinitely easier because we never have to see the avatar’s actual face, just their fictitious one. So, the show really works on a couple metaphoric levels.
Anyone looking for a good romance/comedy, a cute slice of life, or a look into the
hell life that is MMO’s, Net-juu no Susume is a solid choice for this season and very indicative of our Bryan’s taste in anime. I am very much loving the anime myself, but it is extremely basic at this point. However, I feel it may get just a bit deeper later on given the small amount of foreshadowing we’ve been shown. Even one episode is enough to know whether or not you’ll like this show!
P.S Damn you Mother’s Basement! I can’t watch an OP without seeing how deep and meaningful they can be now, and this anime beckons further that it’s deeper than it already seems, just from the OP alone! How could you ruin me like this!?
Outlook: Ken Akamatsu Minus the Upskirts! –
Anyone looking into the anime, which I’m sure many of you already have, will notice that it’s actually labeled “U.Q Holder!: Mahou Sensei Negima! 2”, and I refuse to label it this way for a few reasons, but maybe we’ll get to that later (We won’t. Maybe.).
U.Q Holder!, as it’s original title suggests, is a far sequel to Mahou Sensei Negima! Taking place about 70 years after Negi finishes his duties as main character. Our new hero is Konoe Tota, grandson to the hero Negi Springfield, an orphaned child in the care of a woman named Yukihime. During a car accident two years prior, Tota lost his parents and any memories he had of them. However, his new guardian, a buxom, blonde-haired, blue-eyed, femme fatale has taken it upon herself to raise and train him in martial arts, but not magic. She promised her god-child that if he were to ever land a hit on her, regardless of time or place, she would let him go to the Capital. Apparently the dream of our young impressionable hero.
During one of their regular bouts, Yukihime is attacked by a money-hungry bounty hunter and it is revealed that this “Yukihime” is none other than Evangeline A.K McDowell, the immortal vampire who aided Nagi, and his son Negi, years ago. Caught by surprise and torn limb from limb, Eva is disabled and Tota is immediately dismembered. During his final moments of life, Eva reveals that if he ingests her blood, he will become an immortal vampire, just like her, but he will be stuck as a 14 year-old for eternity. As any shounen hero would do, he drinks the blood pouring from her dismembered body and promptly beats down the creep that would attack his stand-in mother. Obviously, with Eva’s identity exposed, she decides to move Tota to the capital with her, where he can join a group of people like him known as “U.Q Holders”.
Instantly this anime has one thing that Ken Akamatsu, the creator’s, previous works do not. Or should I say, they lack something that the other works have: an overabundance of fan-service. And this is a good thing in my book! Ken Akamatsu has long been known for doing hits like Love Hina and Mahou Sensei Negima!, but synonymous with those things is an obvious and overbearing upskirt fetish. This one subject, however you view it, completely diverts the attention away from one of the things that Akamatsu is amazingly proficient in, and that’s world building. Negima! Was a testament to his genius and very likely the reason he made a “far out” sequel like U.Q Holder!.
Without the apparent fanservice, we get a closer look at who the characters are. It’s touching how a cruel and hateful vampire like Evangeline could take in the grandson of someone she formerly hated, and raise him as if he were her own son. Their relationship is like you’d expect from someone that’s almost an older-sister or a mother, traveling with their young boy. However, Eva pulls no punches when it comes to his training and Tota learns very quickly that being immortal isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Imagine watching all of your friends age and die, over and over. Much like the heart-wrenching opening scene of the first episode, Eva displays a level of affection she doesn’t outwardly express often, if only for us and her son.
While I never finished Negima! Myself, I can already see the cameos from his original works coming in to play with U.Q Holder!. However, the anime treats it a little bit as if it were a joke and every time Eva tries to explain something about the past, something we may have read in Negima!, she’s cut off by some random coincidence which has become something of a running joke that garners a few laughs. The comedy is fairly solid, however low-brow (which I am), and the fight scenes are animated beautifully as deserving of Akamatsu’s brilliance. The story is even moving at a brisk and comfortable pace as we learn just a little more about this dystopian world with Tota and his new best friend Kuromaru.
Even if you haven’t read all of Negima!, or even if you haven’t read it at all, U.Q Holder! Is a fun anime that really tones down the fanservice that’s almost synonymous with the name “Ken Akamatsu”. However, instead of upskirts, they’ve been focusing on Eva’s voluptuous thighs, and that’s a win for “men of culture” like myself. I mean, something NOT creepy.
This is all of the best parts of Ken Akamatsu’s writing without all of the bras and panties to bog it down. However, the marketing seems to be very keen on letting you know, without a shadow of a doubt, that this is Negima Part 2! Even going so far as to add “Negima” to the end of the title and even using the Opening song from the origina Negima! Anime from back in 2005! However, I like to think that U.Q is much more than just Negima 2.0, despite it being in the same world. With it’s own fun characters and the capacity to bypass overused tropes and “anime situations” to progress the story, U.Q has the capacity to be something great, just as Negima! was.
U.Q is a fun anime packed with action and fights like so many shounen anime are. However, this is a lot more gory than anything he’s done before so you may want to be wary. The anime seems to be taking a page from more current anime that rely less on tropes and stereotypes, and focuses much more on real comedy and fleshed out characters. With much deeper characters, stronger character development, and a great start on Akamatsu’s take on world building after magic has been introduced to mankind, U.Q Holder is shaping up to be something extremely fun to watch.
It definitely gets a pass from me, and a thumbs up to our resident Dr. Gabe for a solid choice of a fun anime this season.