The main male protagonist, also the best character in this anime.
2011 starts with my review of the extremely high priority title The World God Only Knows, and with this entry, my plan to watch either Katanagatari or The Legend of Legendary Heroes will have to be postponed for a little bit. You will know why I called this title an extremely high priority one below. A 2010 anime, it will then compete with ‘Anime of the Year 2010’ current incumbent that is K-On!!
And this is him with one of his target in the first season.
Our main male protagonist, a dating simulation freak that is beyond help, were duped into signing a contract with Hell to find and capture escaped demon souls. With the undeniable fact that all of those escaped demon souls hides within the heart of women (so that it can be reincarnated when she give birth), the hero will have to apply his ‘experience’ gleaned from those dating simulations in the real world as he makes various girls fall in love with him, again and again.
The main reason why this anime has extremely high priority is because the manga version of this anime is on my top tier reading level, alongside Umi no Misaki and also Tonagura. Titles in this level are important enough, that I idled in the scanlators’ IRC channels so that I can read the latest chapters the very minute after they were released. The titles are not necessarily the best, but exciting enough for me to want them more. As of writing, there are 126 chapters of this manga available. This manga (yes, the manga) has a very quirky element in it that may or may not harm your perception of its anime version, and this will be explained below.
The first season of this anime (second season has already been confirmed) deals with the first 4 of the 16 girls he has conquered in the manga version. Stacked in the favor of this anime’s first season is that two of the best three conquering arcs in the whole manga can also be watched in the first season. But the first positive highlight I gleamed from this anime is its presentation.
Unlike Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, this anime doesn’t follow the manga to the letter. Only the main gist of the manga storyline are retained, while various scenes in the third and fourth arcs are modified, deleted or replaced with new ones. But unlike many manga-adapted anime titles out there, the director actually managed to pull off the execution of those changes very well.
A good example is the third arc, which essence has been completely modified to include the elements of the omake for main female character of the said arc. The original flow of the plot from the manga barely remains, as huge modifications are made for the anime version while still retaining the end results seen in the manga. That of course results in the very well-executed final debut concert for the arc’s female protagonist, that is not shown at all in the manga. The director need to keep doing this good work in the second season because story-wise (assuming that the next 4 girls will feature in it) the second season is not going to be as good as the first. In other words, the second season will have to rely more on slick presentation like what you can see in not only the third arc, but to a lesser extent, the fourth arc too.
She will get her chance to do just that, if this anime reaches 5th season or so.
Returning to the storyline, the anime itself is still at the point where the prevailing plot still haven’t take shape yet, therefore there is nothing I can comment about this anime storywise. But as mentioned in the paragraph above, two of the three best arcs in the manga are being shown here, which is the second arc involving the prideful girl and the fourth one that involves the librarian with speech impediment. The second arc itself escapes major modifications, making it quite similar to what you can see in the manga. The fourth arc has more modifications than the second one, but not as radical as the third arc. All four arcs uses their respective omake mini-chapters, but only the third arc uses it in a significant way, while the others uses them to pad up their ending. FWIW, the second and fourth arcs has good stories within it be virtue of being good in the manga version, but the modifications in the third arc somehow managed to elevate that arc not far behind them. The pacing and the flow of the plot in each of the arcs are great too, which adds up to the good presentation aspect of this anime mentioned above.
Next, I want to highlight the aforementioned quirky element that the manga have and has been manifested in episode 4, 8 and 12 of this anime, and that would be what you and I will commonly refers to as ‘filler episodes’ (popular in Naruto/Bleach/One Piece anime). The problem is that those episodes are not fillers that in the spirit of the same thing that you can see in Naruto/Bleach/One Piece. Instead, those episodes originates from the manga, subjected to the same modifications that the major arcs has, therefore making it a canon part of the series. For people who hasn’t read the manga, those ‘canon filler’ episodes may piss people off, because after all, they damaged the continuity between the major arcs. The filler chapters in the manga (they are stupendously numerous – doesn’t advance the prevailing plot but do help in character developments) is definitely the Achilles heel of the whole franchise. Even Naruto or Bleach, for all of their anime filler episodes, doesn’t really have a manga filler chapter. Not even one.
She should try one of those new-fangled things called an iPad or a Kindle.
Character developments are still in their infancy for the first 2 volumes (or 16 chapters) of the manga that has been adapted in this anime. But the main male protagonist is definitely the best character in this anime by a million miles. If the 4 girls per season rate holds, meaningful character developments and existence of a prevailing plot will only happen in the third season. That’s why the second season, barring any miracles, is going to be inferior than the first one because the plot in the next 4 arcs is inferior to what you can watch this season. But maybe if this anime take a lesson from K-On!! and doubled the length of the second season, the plot quality problem can then be mitigated. Just like in the manga, references to other games, manga and anime are made too, although understandably, the sets of titles referenced in both manga and anime are different. See below screenshot for an example of a parody seen in the anime.
edit (13 January 2011): I have just found out that the next season will at least feature up to Kujou Tsukiyo arc, which means that there will be 5 girls in it (as opposed to 4 in this season). And inclusive of the introduction of Hakua, there should at least 6 major arcs in it for next season. And of course, there are at least 3 or 4 filler chapters too. If the news that there are 5 girls in it (therefore having 6 arcs), the second season cannot be 12 episodes only (the episode count should at least be doubled), or else what happened in Nodame Cantabile: Pari-hen will also happen to this anime's sequel. I am also concerned by the fact that the second season will end with the Kujou Tsukiyo arc (assuming that, just like the first season, the chronology in the manga is used), because her arc, as of today, is the worst conquering arc in the whole manga IMO. Therefore, the skills of the director that is shown in the third arc of the first season will really be needed in the sequel, or else the second season will end in a low note.
I do hope a third season will come though, because not only the prevailing plot will start there, but the Ikoma Minami arc, which is the best conquering arc in the whole manga to date is in it too. Her arc, as of today, is the only story-driven arc (apart from the prevailing plot of course) that you can read in the manga, as opposed to the character-driven arcs that comes before and after her arc. Cannot really wait to see her in the anime :)
A parody of Black Jack, a title far superior in quality than this series.
Character designs in this anime is great, especially for female characters. As a homage to all dating simulations out there, black hair is a endangered species though. A positive aspect for this anime.
The voice acting gigs in this anime is uneven though, especially with the main male protagonist inconsistent performance (he is good at times, and below average at other times – definitely need more improvements). The main female protagonist fared only a little bit better, but fortunately all 4 girls in their own arcs has strong performances. The librarian (with her dialogue-laden arc) and the poor rich girl are the ones who performed really well here.
This metafora literary device is common in the first half of the manga, before fading into obscurity after the prevailing plot appears.
Another highlight of this anime is definitely the prominent multi-genre OST that was deftly employed differently depending on what arc is playing. They are very well done, as if you are playing a dating simulation yourself. Meanwhile not all theme/insert songs are good, with only the ED theme (excluding the one that plays in the 4th and final episode) and the first song sung by the third arc’s female protagonist in her debut solo concert are good. The latter in particular, is excellent.
The animation quality in this anime is good, even in fast-paced scenes. Choreography in this romantic harem comedy is not applicable, at least for the time being. The director has done really well with his presentation and reconstruction efforts, which will be needed in the second season. A positive aspect for this anime.
The anime got the timeline wrong though. This arc was supposed to happen before summer, not in winter. Let just see how this fact will be reconciled in the future.
8 out of 10, which is a strong start for this series. K-On!! will keep the ‘Anime of the Year 2010’ title for the time being. The one that will come next will be either one of Katanagatari or Legend of Legendary Heroes, so keep your eyes peeled on this blog in the near future.
Quoted For Truth!