2012 list: Hyouka

4 Jul

houka pairsafter wincing through shows that plodded along on lame plots and story arcs that barely stirred my waning interest, Hyouka (Kyoto Animation) showed up in my radar like a proverbial needle in the haystack.

as crazy as it sounds, i initially latched onto Hyouka because it was a single-word title, and therefore easy to remember in case it turned out to be good. as 10 minutes went by without rousing my ire, i allowed myself to hope that here — at last — was an anime series to lift me out of my slump. halfway through the first episode, i knew i was on to something good.

with relatable lead characters (each with his/her own quirky qualities), excellent animation and storylines that occasionally throw you for a loop, Hyouka easily makes my list of favorites.

hyouka main cast

the series doesn’t deal with end-of-the-world scenarios, and the characters are not endowed with supernatural powers or qualities that would make them stand out in a crowd. there are no overt tragedies or over-the-top characters to hijack your attention. in short, it’s just a group of high school students who form a club in keeping with their interests (some more willing than others) and trying to make sense of changes/events around them.

hyouka cast


houtaro (hyouka)

main characters
houtaro oreki — a retiring sourpuss with finely honed deductive skills; wants to accomplish anything with the least amount of fuss and effort
eru chitanda — a pretty overachiever who shakes houtaro out of his comfort zone; her one overriding quality is her rampant curiosity
satoshi fukube — houtarou’s easygoing best friend who has a knack for collecting odd information; calls himself the “database”
mayaka ibara — another member of the Classic Literature Club; rather short-tempered and has a crush on satoshi

eru (hyouka)

bottom line, it’s a blessed relief not to have to suffer through copious amounts of gore (for a story to be effective, sometimes less is more; and there are times when something that’s implied can be more powerful than something that’s obvious), pointless fan service or nausea-inducing stock characters.

satoshi & mayaka

the mysteries or “cases” aren’t of the soul-shaking or blood-curdling variety (in single- or multi-episode story arcs), but they’re compelling enough to make you want to stick around and see how things pan out.

Hyouka, which is set to run in 21 episodes, is still ongoing. hopefully, when the show ends (ugh! just thinking about it my teeth ache) there’ll be plans for another season or two (uhm, please?).

anime update — my list of favorites grows longer

1 Jul

poyopoyo portraitunlike the previous season — marked mostly by lackluster series that bored me silly or just plain irritated me — this time, there were actually several shows that exceeded my expectations.

for the first time in many months, i have been diligently scouring the Net on a daily basis for any update on the shows on my “must see” list, and would come away vaguely anxious or disappointed when i couldn’t find any. another tell-tale sign of my growing interest is how fast my portable HD is filling up with my “keeper” (anime) list.

hyouka gang

the standout gems (for me) would have to be Hyouka (still ongoing), Acchi Kocchi and the 2nd season of Kimi to Boku. i will be expounding on these shows later — as new entrants in my list of favorites, they deserve to be given entries of their own.

acchi kocchi poster

On a related note, i must also highlight a couple of shows that struck my fancy — Poyopoyo Kansatsu Nikki and the continuation of Recorder to Randoseru. they would have easily made my list of favorites, too (though nowhere near the top), if only each episode lasted more than 3 minutes (including the intro and ending credits). it bugs me, for some reason.

hopefully the next season will be just as nice and filled with delightful surprises.

i love Working!!

13 Nov

i love Working!!after watching the first 3 episodes of Working!! (season 1) about a year ago, i started to get that familiar giddy feeling — a good omen after several disappointing shows that barely stirred (and mostly irked) me. and, except for a few kinks in a couple of middle episodes that bored me silly, i loved the series! barely had the last episode ended when i turned right around and watched the whole series again.

so why do i love Working!!? as with my other anime favorites, the thing that made the deal sweet for me was its quirky characters whose weird predilections and warped outlook enliven the series (and to a lesser extent, the minor characters who stamp in their own brand of mayhem) more than they should.

Wagnaria — a restaurant where laughter abounds

Wagnaria is a family restaurant that provides a fitting backdrop to a cast of kooky characters who seem to bring out the worst (or best) in each other. from its lazy, food-loving manager (Kyoko), its male cooks (Sato, whose deadpan delivery of biting sarcasms can scarcely hide a bruised heart; Souma, a junior cook who cheerfully blackmails people into doing his bidding), its new waiter (Souta, with his inordinate love for cute and small things), its colorful waitresses (Yachiyo, a charming but otherwise oblivious, sword-wielding server; Popura, a 17-year-old HS student who looks far too young and small for her age; Mahiru, a man-hating shy girl who has a crush on Souta; Aoi, a runaway who manages to cadge a job at Wagnaria), and an often-absent manager (Otoo-san, who is forever searching for his lost wife), life at Wagnaria is never dull or predictable.

Waganaria staff

right now, my favorite characters are Popura (for her unflagging spirits and indomitable hope that she will soon grow bigger/taller) and Aoi, whose unwitting actions and shrewd-but-wacky view can accomplish things that others can only marvel at. however, this could change as more endearingly zany characters are ushered in and add their own distinctive flavour to the mix.

a new look at things, great characters and snappy dialogue

there’s nothing terribly original about Working!!. Most of the episodes are a mishmash of other shows, but what its makers do well is to present a new twist — or sometimes a new angle — at the way characters deal with their dilemmas. this is often helped by a snappy dialogue, deft characterization, and an occasional look of utter befuddlement in the characters’ faces that the audience can totally relate with. sometimes that look of hapless stupefaction is all it takes to make a scene even more hilarious.

and now, the second season — Working’!!

Working cast

after watching the first episode of this newest season of Working!!, i knew there was no way i could wait for the official copy of this series (that can wait later). i had been spending precious time downloading each episode (uploaded and subbed by some kindred souls who tirelessly make it their life’s mission to share these goodies with the rest of the world). i am now on episode 7 (which left me gasping for breath early this morning) and can’t wait until the next one comes out.

currently watching: Gosick and Hanasaku Iroha

6 Apr

hanasaku iroha girlsit took me only a few minutes to know that i was going to love Gosick and Hanasaku Iroha, but it took me a while to realize that i like both for almost the same reason: the gorgeous graphics and riveting plot.

the advance press on Hanasaku Iroha offered a tempting glance as to how this series would turn out to be, but i’d been before by high expectations before, so i tempered my enthusiasm.

“we’ll see how it goes…,” cautioned my noncommittal, logical side. anyway, after watching the first episode of Hanasaku Iroha (Hanairo), i think i can now safely put my doubts to rest. Ohana Matsumae, the sassy 16-year-old protagonist of this series, isn’t downright irritating nor gratingly noble (which is a huge relief) — she seems well grounded despite her slightly unfortunate circumstances. the other characters have yet to make their mark, but they’re already shaping up nicely.

hanasaku iroha

hanasaku iroha 2

it’s too early to tell yet, but i’m hoping this series will live up to the standards it has set for itself. i have a feeling that there’s going to be a lot of dramatic moments in Hanairo. hopefully, the producers will counteract this with well-placed humor every now and then.

Gosick, on the other hand, was a bit of a pleasant surprise because it didn’t really appear in my radar until about a couple of months ago. reaction from various critics is rather mixed (although leaning more towards the positive side), but i’ve been in Gosick‘s bandwagon 5 minutes into the first episode.

gosick flowers

the lush, incredible design and animation alone would have been enough to lure me in, but i’m glad the producers made the storyline interesting (although it could use some tweaking). and the characters sparkle in a way that’s hard to ignore. i mean, who can resist a pipe-smoking, irascible, prepubescent girl (Victorique) with a weird laugh and a precocious propensity for solving crimes? Kujo, a japanese student who plays her loyal and protective sidekick does well enough to nudge the story along, but it’s Grevil (Victorique’s half-brother and the local police chief) — and his incomparable hair — who really grabs your attention. when he’s not onscreen, you can’t help but fret and hope that he’d come back soon!

 

grevil's weapon
Grevil’s secret weapon — his magnificent hair!

victorique, kujo & grevil

Gosick is slated for 13 episodes, so it looks like there are only 2 episodes left — which is a pity (i’m really going to miss Grevil’s hair *sigh*) — just enough to gear up for a big finale for this enjoyable series. there are so many strings that need to be tied up in the series, so hopefully the writers are up to the task.

let there be a second season, please.

 

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