Saturday, May 24, 2008

Upcoming Anime: Kannagi

I suspect that I'm not the only one who was forced to buy the Kannagi manga after a random encounter with the cover of volume 1 in a Japanese bookstore. Really, I'm basically an anime fan, and I hardly pick up any manga at all, but good god. Artist Eri Takenashi hits the moe sweet spot dead on, with clean, well proportioned designs and an excellent sense of perspective and color.

As a bonus, the actual contents of the two volumes that I've read are pretty sweet, too. The outline of the story is bishoujo boilerplate, with ordinary student Jin carving a statue out of wood from a sacred tree, and the statue cracking open to reveal Shinto goddess Nagi, who decides to hang around. But, the execution of Kannagi is well above average, with carefully fleshed out and appealing characters, gentle slice-of-life pacing, and a light, restrained approach to the supernatural aspects of the setting.

The ordinary lives of the characters in Kannagi are the focus for Takenashi, which is always a good sign in this genre. There are malevolent supernatural entities--called Kegare--in the Kannagi world, and Nagi even fights them once in a while, but these never seem like much of a threat, and mostly just lurk in the background like the creepy little pitch black insects in Ed Gorey illustrations. Relationship elements are similarly subtle: Nagi and Jin get along fairly well, but the tensions between them are only romantic in small part.

An interesting feature of the manga is that each volume includes a foldout pinup illustration by a famous visual novel creator. Volume 2 features Nagi and her menacing sister Zange, in a distinctly Higurashi-esque situation, courtesy of Ryuukishi 07. Too funny!

Kannagi is coming to television later this year (nothing definite has been announced, but one assumes fall season), and Megami Magazine has an enthusiastic blurb in the June 2008 Character Catch Up section. The director will be Yutaka Yamamoto, an episode director for Kyoto Animation who also helmed Lucky Star for the first four episodes, before getting demoted and subsequently quitting. So, at bare minimum, we can expect the anime to have an insanely good opening animation. The screenplay is being written by Hideyuki Kurata, who wrote Kamichu! (RIP, Geneon USA *sob*) and Bamboo Blade (which I really need to sit down and watch). With that kind of resume, Kurata would seem to be just about ideal for adapting a story like Kannagi's. Production will be by Aniplex, with assistance by Ordet, the company recently founded by Yamamoto. I'm eagerly awaiting further information; Kannagi is shaping up to be an obvious early contender for best new TV anime of the second half of the year.

Finally, for all of you with fancy-schmancy monitors in need of new wallpaper...
I might be persuaded to come up with desktop images in other resolutions, if anyone is interested.

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