Tsunashi Takuto transfers to a high school on a small island in southern Japan in order to sing out the joys of youth and find his father. But the island holds a host of secrets: ancient traditions and inhereted super powers, a mysterious society, and marionette-like robots that could change the world if the four seals restricting them were broken. Embroiled in these conflicts, will Takuto find his father, find the strength to protect his new and important friends, and still find a way to live out a joyous school life?
Though I had seen a couple of preview images beforehand, my real introduction to Star Driver: Kagayaki no Takuto came from a friend after the first episode had aired. "Have you checked out Star Driver yet?" he said. "It's so fabulous!" He was, of course, not just using fabulous as a synonym for good, but rather as a way of describing the show's aesthetic. Bright, rainbow colors. Outrageous costumes featuring epaulets. Conditioned hand signals and long transformation sequences. Star Driver is a show that is defined by this aesthetic. It has catchphrases like, "Your galaxy, too, will surely sparkle!" But even so, to judge Star Driver by this aesthetic alone would be shortsighted.
Studio Deen brings us a 12-episode adaptation of light novel series "Is This a Zombie?" about a high schooler, Aikawa Ayumu, who recently became a zombie, and the bizarre girls surrounding him, including Masou-Shoujo (magiclothes girls), Vampire Ninjas, and the mysterious Necromancer Eucliwood Hellscythe who raised Ayumu from the dead after he became a victim of the neighborhood serial killer.
Fractale is an 11-episode series from A-1 Pictures, set in a future where everyday life is moderated by the "Fractale System" that provides for everyday needs and allows augmented reality projections worldwide. Clain is an ordinary boy who's a little disillusioned by the system, but after being visited by a mysterious girl, he embarks on a journey to find the truth behind the Fractale System and those who would oppose it.
Imagine you have a friend who's an alcoholic. You know, they're kind of a good person, fun to hang out with once in a while, some good qualities, but they keep showing up drunk and getting these crazy ideas that don't make any sense, and they have a bunch of other annoying bad habits and tendencies. It's not enough to make you stop hanging out with them, but it really gets on your nerves to the point where you're kind of relieved when they leave you alone. This friend is Toaru Majutsu no Index.
Then imagine that this friend goes to rehab and comes back a wholly improved person. I'm talking, like, they really cut back on their bad habits, they're more humble and respectful in everything they do, and all of a sudden you really like being around this person a lot more. It's still the same person, and it's not like they're flawless now, but it feels like you took the qualities that made them a likable person before, and filtered out all the crap that really pissed you off about them. Suddenly you're not ashamed to call this person one of your close friends. That's Toaru Kagaku no Railgun.
Now imagine that this same friend starts getting cocky and starts relapsing. They show up on your doorstep drunk again, shouting incoherently, maybe not as much as before, but it's still annoying. Sometimes they have these little moments that remind you what a good person they were right after rehab, but you can see that it just didn't last. Can you imagine how frustrating and ultimately depressing that scenario is? You thought they were cured, but in reality it was only a temporary lapse -- isn't that just totally irritating? That's how I feel about Toaru Majutsu no Index II.
Shiki is probably my favorite among anime that I'm currently watching. It's probably best described a horror show, a genre I don't normally get much involved in. I don't mind being scared once in a while, though. I'm not sure if I'm jaded, or if it's just the media I tend to involve myself in (horror being especially rare in anime, somewhat outside my normal range of games, and not really common in the novels I read, either) but it feels like it's very hard to genuinely scare me with a work of fiction. I've been following Shiki since episode 1, and I'm utterly impressed, in part because it managed that feat, but also for other reasons I'll elaborate below.
While selling a friend on it early on, I described it as a Japanese twist on Salem's Lot. At this point, the show has grown beyond that. The mystery unravels such that the cat's well out of the bag and by the halfway point, after which it transitions from being scary into being chilling and thought-provoking. A certain 21st Century Digital Boy apparently found enough impact in the show to prompt not one, but two posts more or less spurred by the series. His reaction was distinctly different from mine, so I started to type a reply on his blog, but pretty soon the comment had grown out of proportion and I decided to spin it up into a full blog post of my own instead. As such, the rest of this post contains massive unmarked spoilers through episode 20 of Shiki.
Dennou Coil is a 2007 anime by Madhouse, cryptically subtitled COIL A CIRCLE OF CHILDREN, which indeed follows a circle of children (and some adults) involved with mysteries related to cyberspace-viewing glasses and the strange beings reflected in them. Along the way it manages to explore themes of compassion, coming of age, and the nature of reality. The show's also known as Cyber Coil, which makes sense because attaching den- (electric- or cyber-) to the front of anything and everything is kind of a running theme.
As a quick aside, I had been kind of thinking about watching this show for a while, but receiving it as a recommendation Reverse Thieves' Anime Blog Secret Santa project was the impetus that forced me to get around to it. I also intend to watch and maybe review the two other recommendations I received, the Ghibli-sans-Miyazaki1 movie Only Yesterday and Yoshitoshi ABe's classic Haibane Renmei — but not before Christmas. As it is, with this season of anime being particularly above average in the number of enjoyable shows, and DJ Max Technika 2 also releasing around Thanksgiving and subsequently commanding a shameful amount of my time, I ended up putting off the show until the last few days and watching 23 of the 26 episodes in a whirlwind of 2 days.