Last K-On! Related Post for Today… I Promise!

I just can’t get enough of these Miku Miku Dance videos. This one is very new and I just can’t pass this up. Here’s the K-On! opening theme song, “CAGAYAKE! Girls”, created in Miku Miku Dance – Band Edition. This is the last K-On! video I’ll post for today… I promise!

Macross Frontier + K-On! = Sweet!

This is filed under the old adage, “two great tastes, tastes great together.” Someone from Nicovideo created a video mash-up, using a K-On! modified version of the Miku Miku Dance program and Seikan Hikou from Macross Frontier. What we have here is an awesome music video. Enjoy!

Shion no Ou

Every season on Unwound, we (read: I) go through a rigorous selection process of what anime series and films we should review on the show. It doesn’t involve darts with anime titles stuck to a wall or paper fortune teller/cootie catcher. Usually, I choose anime series that garnered a lot of hype like Code Geass or Gundam 00, mainly because they are hyped. However, I also choose anime series that no one wants to talk about, much less watched at all. Shion no Ou is a perfect example of one of the best anime series nobody watched.

Shion no Ou’s story revolves around a gifted middle school shogi (Japanese chess) prodigy named Yasuoka Shion. When she was five years old, she witnessed her parents’ brutal murder. The ordeal was so shocking, Shion lost the ability to speak and can only communicate through writing on a notepad. The one part that Shion remembers about the tragic event was that the murderer took her father’s shogi piece, a king, which leads her to believe that the murderer is a shogi player. Following the event, Shion’s neighbor, the Yasuoka family, adopted her and has taken up the game of shogi. Under the tutelage and influence of her foster father, Shion is in love with the game of shogi and is fast becoming a professional player. Shion’s love for shogi is also a double edged sword, as she discovers that shogi is not child’s play at all.

The beauty of Japanese animation is that anything under the sun can be told in an interesting way. It’s proven with Hikaru no Go, and it’s a similar case with Shion no Ou. Even though Shion no Ou’s story seems like it’s a “been there, done that” situation, it is different and interesting enough, that it can stand on its own legs, despite Hikaru no Go’s existence.

What got me hooked with Shion no Ou is the titular character herself. Shion’s bubbly attitude and roller coaster experience with the game of shogi and the other characters are captivating. Also, she’s a character who’s easy to root for, since many of her opponents, mostly adults, are just plain cruel to her. (Come on! She’s only a kid. Pick someone your own age!) Some of the other characters have extraordinary back stories. In the first episode of the series, we learn that Saitou Ayumi is a male shogi player, who crossdress because earning money in the female competition is easier and more lucrative. On the other hand, other characters are missed opportunities, like Nikaido Saori, a female shogi player who came from a rich background. The only interesting fact about her is that she plays shogi for self-respect and to be respected as a player.

My only complaint about Shion no Ou, was that even though the writers somehow combined a compelling story about a cold case and shogi, I wish they somehow explain about the basics of playing shogi. But then again, perhaps the writers and producers of Shion no Ou probably didn’t account for this series to be viewed by people outside Japan.

Even though it seemed like it ended so quickly, Shion no Ou was a surprising ride. Just when you think Japanese animators are running out of ideas, they keep churning out more of the good stuff. It’s without question that we like Shion no Ou and we hope that you’ll give it a try as well.

Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu

Let’s begin right off the bat. Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu is one of the most disappointing series in the last decade, perhaps of all time. I can see various reasons why Mike decided on the anime (alongside ToLOVEru) for our first episode of the season. Let’s run by the various reasons this series became a review candidate — a cute and popular high school girl who just happens to be an anime fan AND is played by Mamiko Noto: check, a male character that is not completely spineless: check, a premise that involves protecting said girl from embarrassment and ridicule for being an anime fan: check. These are the components of what could’ve been the surprise romantic comedy hit of the summer of 2008. Unfortunately, the folks of Studio Barcelona thinks it is best to take this interesting twist to the boy-meets-girl theme and not do anything at all.

Our story revolves around Ayase Yuuto (Hatano Wataru), our typical high school male lead and of course Nogizaka Haruka (Noto Mamiko), the titular and quirky high school girl. Haruka, like all original rom-com female leads, is Hakujou Academy’s top idol and the girl of men’s creepy fantasies. One day, Yuuto’s crazy otaku friend Nobunaga (Reiko Takagi) asked him to return an anime magazine called Innocent Smile to the school library. As he returns the magazine, he literally bumped into Haruka, with a copy of Innocent Smile flew out from her bag, exposing her most embarrassing secret — she’s an akiba-kei.

(You may have noticed that term akiba-kei for Haruka, and otaku for Nobunaga. The difference between the two terms is that an otaku is a full-fledge fanatic, while an akiba-kei is a person that has some interest in anything that’s related to Akihabara. Well at least that’s what the Wikipedia otaku would want you to know.)

We’ve seen stranger situations before in the boy-meets-girl theme — from a girl turning into some dude’s right hand to a girl reverting back to a mind of a 7 year old — but we have yet to see something a relatively realistic. Let’s be real, a cute girl who happens to be an otaku is just another plot device. I’m surprised that it took this long for this plot device to be animated, especially a few years after the wildly popular Densha Otoko franchise was released to the wild. Despite my cynicism, I had some expectations thinking that this might actually work, but alas, it wasn’t meant to be.

The staff at Studio Barcelona didn’t exploit Haruka’s secret. Instead, we’re exposed to the same cliches and frustrating story arcs found in practically every rom-com anime since Love Hina. The series is peppered with episodes that are unrelated to the main character that drags the already short 12-episode series. Episodes such as Yuuto dating Haruka’s younger sister Mika (Goto Mai) and, Yuuto and the gang wasting an entire episode trying to learn about the secret love life of Haruka’s quiet maid Hazuki (Shimizu Kaori). Plus, the series’ screenwriters couldn’t figure out how to correctly intertwine a possible love triangle candidate, Amamiya Shiina (Satō Rina) into the existing story! I mean, sure there’s the typical episode of misunderstanding a scene, but unsurprisingly it was resolved quickly. And to add insult to injury, on the last episode, I was expecting Haruka to come out of her closet and admit that she’s an akiba-kei. Instead, we have a “class war” type of episode where Yuuto has to prove that you don’t need fame or money to prove a person’s worth… or some shit like that.

In any case, it just goes back to how Studio Barcelona mishandled a clear-cut premise into something completely unrelated. At the end of the day, Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu is just forgettable and not worth your time. Even though it tries to have some feel good moments, the only thing you’ll feel from watching the entire series is regret.