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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?).

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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.

 

yotsuba & me

17 Jan

i’ve been into anime for some time now, and i don’t see myself getting out anytime soon. however, this interest has not translated well to manga for several reasons: time constraints, occasionally slow internet collection, slow development, etc.

that is, until i stumbled into Yotsuba — or rather, after hearing (reading) so much about how critics loved it.

yotsuba 1during a slow day at work, i decided to check it out (as stealthily as i could manage it). it took me a few pages to actually appreciate the whole setup. after that i had a difficult time stifling my giggles — my shoulders shook and tears even leaked out, for cryin’ out loud.

finally a concerned office mate asked if i was okay. trying to convince someone you’re fine while wiping tears surreptitiously is harder than it looks, but after seeing my foolish grin she rolled her eyes and shook her head.

okay, so what is it about Yotsuba that just grabs me? oh i don’t know — maybe it’s her earnest, curious view of the world and her reactions, and the way she inadvertently affects people around her. most of all, i love the way she interacts with things and people around her. i can’t recall how many times i’ve said to myself, “wow, i used to do that too” and “oh no, she did not just do that, did she?

world accdng to yotsuba

my favorite scenes involve Yotsuba and her hapless dad and her interactions with the towering Jumbo, whose gentle and laidback demeanor is a perfect foil for 5-year-old Yotsuba’s quirky and energetic approach to life.

Yotsuba&! is a comedy manga series created by Kiyohiko Azume.

Lucky Star: a winsome gem

14 Jan

i didn’t take to Lucky Star right away. what spurred me on was its fans’ rabid reaction — it made me wonder what the fuss was all about.

after episode 7 (i struggled to maintain my interest), things began to kick in and in a matter of hours i finished the whole series. the next day, i started the whole thing again.

lucky star girls (1)

i even converted (just in case you’re actually having doubts about my enthusiasm) all 26 Lucky Star episodes into .mp4 format so i could play them in my iPod Touch whenever i wanted.

what can i say? i guess Konata‘s zany otaku-flavored zest for life got to me. that, and Kagami‘s hilarious and exasperated reactions, Tsukasa‘s spaced-out cuteness and Miyuki‘s highly refined outlook. heck, after a while, even Soujiro Izumi’s (Konata’s dad) dorky personality and weird tendencies started to seem reasonably normal (and that’s when i knew i had to step back a little to regain my perspective).

lucky star gals

among the minor characters, i liked Yutaka Kobayakawa (name’s rather a mouthful for such a cute little thing); Patricia Martin, the show’s version of an anime-addled gaijin; and Misao Kusakabi, whose laid-back and slyly playful approach to life is guaranteed to drive Kagami nuts.

and oh, the Lucky Star OVA was simply a delight and should not be missed.