Saturday, October 10, 2009

Autumn 2009 Anime: Moe Edition

Mikoto "Railgun" Misaka does not play well with others.

October 10 is (International?) Moe Day, a perfect excuse to get back to writing about the 2D world. This year’s autumn season offers a healthy selection of new, more or less moe shows. I haven’t checked out a couple of obvious bishoujo (pretty girl) offerings that are sequels to titles where I never followed the originals (Asura Cryin’ 2, the new Queen’s Blade), and I haven’t quite felt inspired to check out Sora no Otoshimono, descriptions of which sound… unhealthy. Here are three moe series that I do intend to follow.

Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu: Purezza
(The Secret of Haruka Nogizaka: Purity)
Genres: School Comedy, Otaku
Rank: B+

The original Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu anime was one of the pleasant surprises of 2008, and Purezza is looking to be at least a little above average for this sort of thing. In the sequel, average guy Yuuto Ayase and perfect honor student Haruka Nogizaka continue to s-l-o-w-l-y develop a romantic relationship while trying to hide the fact that Haruka is a secret anime otaku. Yes, that’s an improbable premise on several counts, but last year's version of Nogizaka Haruka had a certain sweet restraint that won me over.

One of the appealing aspects of the 2008 incarnation of Nogizaka Haruka was the show’s high technical standards. These seem to have slipped with Purezza, though the show itself still looks decent, and the opening is outstandingly well animated. The action exhibits signs of trending towards the unpleasantly frantic, unfortunately. The character designs remain lovely and distinctive, sort of midway between mainstream moe and the decadent excesses of 1980s shoujo manga.

Seitokai no Ichizon
(At the Discretion of the Student Council)
Genres: School Comedy, Slice of Life, Otaku
Rank: B-

Kurimu Sakurano is president of the student council at prestigious Hekiyou Academy, and has surrounded herself with officers of outstanding talent and beauty… with the exception of her vice president, the creepy and unnecessarily straightforward ero-game otaku Ken Sugisaki, who announces that he worked to get top grades and the vice presidency for the sole purpose of forcing his company upon the cute girls of the student council. Seitokai no Ichizon follows Ken’s delusional attempts to make the student council into his harem, and the student council’s attempts to ignore, or at least refrain from strangling, Ken.

Setokai no Ichizon seems like it will be saddled with unrealistic cookie-cutter character development (Ken, self-centered jerk with a concealed heart of gold, is a particularly egregious offender), and the production values of the show look cheap. High-moe character designs and a constant stream of anime in-jokes are enough to keep me watching for the time being, but Setokai no Ichizon has essentially zero chance of dethroning Lucky Star as the reigning king of all slacker otaku anime.

Toaru Kagaku no Railgun
(A Certain Railgun of Science)
Genres: Science Fiction, Supernatural Fighting
Rank: A

Toaru Kagaku no Railgun is a side story spinoff of Toaru Majutsu no Index (A Certain Magical Index), which received an excellent anime adaptation last fall. Railgun focuses on a group of second stringers from Index—some of whom didn’t actually appear in the anime except in the OP—centered around Mikoto Misaka, one of the most powerful Level 5 ESPers in Academy City.

As with Index, Railgun mixes shounen-fighting action with bishoujo characters, in a parallel world overflowing with clever sci-fi and supernatural elements. Character designs from the manga are from the clean, simple, relatively naturalistic strain of moe, and the anime has done a beautiful job of transferring them. The animation in Railgun looks downright slick, even better than the already quality work done on Index. I’m really looking forward to seeing what director Tatsuyuki Nagai, of Toradora! fame, does with this material. Toaru Kagaku no Railgun is looking like one of the best of 2009, though it will have a difficult time measuring up to the finale of Kara no Kyoukai and two juggernauts from Kyoto Animation.

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