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Working!! (2010– )
Quirky and humorous, but at times repetitive.
20 July 2016
The show is packed full with character driven humour. It comes in both the high and low energy variety. On the whole it's rather loud though. If you're looking for something low-key or soothing, look further.

The fact the show is entirely character driven highlights both its strengths and weaknesses. The characters are, obviously, the most important part of the show. And they're entertaining, original, likable and well-designed and animated. And all of them together make a nice quilt of quirkiness.

But the individual characters are also quite two-dimensional, in the widest sense of the word. Most are endowed with only one or two (very obvious) character traits, which are milked for comedy. But being rather shallow, they run dry too quickly. The show tries to remedy this with a steady stream of new characters. This is especially prevalent in the first two seasons, where there's next to no story progression.

Though there are plenty of witty moments, the space in between is filled with, well, filler; repetitive gags that keep milking the same cows (Taneshima is short, Inami is scared of men, etc.). There are a lot of different cows, which mitigates some of the damage. In itself this would be quite forgivable; many sitcoms are guilty of the same thing, using the same set-up over and over again, and still manage to be amusing. And an argument can be made for repetition being an essential comedic device. But the amount of ingenuity is spread rather thinly over the iterations, there's little variation in the execution. Combine this with the fact there's little to no plot progression and the show can get a tad repetitive, even tedious at times. Especially when you watch more than one episode at a time. So my advice: enjoy, but watch in moderation. Just to make clear I'm not trying to paint a negative picture here, I'll reaffirm; even if you take out all the filler fluff, there is still plenty left to make you smile or even laugh.

As stated before, there is almost no story. Not in the show as a whole and the average episode won't have much of a plot either, just a premise. But it's not about the story anyway; it's about the characters going about their (un)usual business. So I don't think it needed more story, though I do feel it would have benefited from a faster pacing. And in the 3rd season and concluding special, the show finally picks up that pace, finally resolving the few story lines it has. And it does so in style. Its own style, that is.

As a little (but appreciated) bonus: an enjoyable intro clip. It doesn't just rehash existing footage (so lazy) and its quirkiness fits the rest of the show. Panpanpanpan! (See season 2 for this to make sense.)

P.S. Don't forget to check if there's a little extra scene after the credit roll.
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Tari Tari (2012– )
Good atmosphere, a few troubles with pacing.
30 June 2016
The show has a nice balance between drama and gentle comedy. The humour is mixed in smoothly, never obtrusive or breaking the mood. And setting this mood it does very well, with a few effective imageries and no unnecessary vocalization. Overall the emotional moments are well executed, not over the top or forced and with plenty of build-up.

It starts out at a comfortable pace, taking enough time to set the mood and establish the story and characters with their backgrounds. And where it matters it continues to develop the characters in that same measured pace as well. But about half-way the shows staggers, as it continues in little story-arcs focusing on a single character. There are some touching moments and the segments are well executed (it does feel rushed in some spots), but a lot is quite secondary to the main story. You could take them out and the whole would be just as coherent (perhaps even more so). The show systematically lets its characters resolve their issues, as if wanting to place a checkmark next to each name. One character at a time is put in the spotlight, while the others take step back and wait their turn. It makes the collection of individual stories rather segmented, instead of an intertwined whole. It picks up a bit of a 'one step forward, one step back'-routine. The story loses momentum and is in danger of becoming repetitive.

The characters are nicely rounded. Not particularly complex or original, but they're likable, feel real and fit the atmosphere with their not too outspoken personalities, which are established naturally and unhurriedly. Even some supporting characters which at first glance may seem flat, get fleshed out a bit in later episodes.

For a show focussing a choir, it doesn't feature a lot of music. The soundtrack consists of only a handful of songs, which are enjoyable, but not much more. Even within the context of show, the music leaves but little impression.

Though it misses that bit of extra originality or impact to make it a classic, it's still quite well executed and truly enjoyable. I'll gladly recommend this one if you're in the mood for some gentle laughs and mild tears.
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Entertaining, but less would have been more.
20 June 2016
Overall the show is quite enjoyable, but it fails to leave a lasting impression. If you're looking for some light entertainment, give this one a go; contrary to what my final grade may imply, I can still recommend this one. Grading the show solely on the ability to make you smile, it would have received a solid 7/10. But it's earned itself some demerits in other areas. The main cause of its shortcomings seem to me to be the fact it tries to do too much, not giving itself enough time and space to actually do it right.

It's fun when it sticks to what it does best; lighthearted mysteries of the "let's hunt for ghosts"- and "who stole the apple-pie"-calibre, which the protagonists commit themselves wholeheartedly to solving. This contrast, and the contrast between the two main characters, produces a steady stream of low-key humour. Sure, the investigations always go suspiciously smoothly and they always manage to leap to the correct conclusion based on very limited data. But who cares? It's fun. It probably won't make you laugh out loud, but that's not its intention.

Unfortunately, in a lot of episodes it tries really, really hard (too hard) to be dramatic and touching, cramping the set-up, building of tension and resolution into a span of 20 minutes or less. With mixed results. Supposedly emotional breakthroughs are glossed over and profound issues are solved in laughably simplistic ways. Not to say they're all misses, but the success-ratio is rather low.

There's not a lot of opportunity for development and exposition of the main characters, but there's no real need for it either. Their chief function is to guide you through a small mystery each episode and entertain you in between, which they do successfully. The two main characters interact nicely together and each have some charming quirks and the humour flows naturally from their personalities. The supporting cast is a bit bland though (and not very supporting).

But little room is made for music. After the (perceived) promise made in the first scene, and having been directed to this show after finishing (the wonderful) Hibike! Euphonium, this realisation came as a bit of a let-down. In all fairness, this was largely caused by my own preconceptions, I can't actually hold against the show. So just take this as a friendly warning to spare you similar heartbreak; the premise of scrounging together a concert-band is little more than a framing device. It could have easily been replaced by, say, the formation of a volleyball team. There are one or two nice moments when the theme of music actually serves a purpose. So I do think, had it been more intertwined with the story and given more space, together with the whole let's-get-together-and-build-harmony-bla-bla-bla concept, the show would have been richer for it.

As a bonus; actually acceptable English! Just a few words, but still. What a relief! (A bit sad this should count as a cause for celebration. Sure, it seems Japanese are bad at English as a rule – a fact of which they're quite aware and a point of much appreciated self-ridicule – but if you're going to put gai-jin in your show, hire a suitable voice- actor or at least hire a consultant!)
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Emotionally mature with a distinguishing point of view
23 May 2016
Within this genre there are plenty of inspiring shows about finding a passion and committing yourself. About pouring all your energy and entire being into something, about the joy of creating something together. And this is another one of those shows. But what sets it apart is that it also deals with, after all that effort, being confronted with failure. Because of this distinguishing perspective (plus the fact that it's simply an all-round well-executed show), it deserves to be on your to-watch list.

Plenty of room is made for romance, or at least the way to a romantic relationship. Looking at the premise and after the first few episodes you might be reminded of other unsymmetrical relationships such as seen in "Clannad" (done badly imo), or "Toradora!" (done very well). Though the show can be classified as a romantic comedy, the romance, though prominent, is secondary to the other themes. That being said, it's handled gracefully and in tune with the bigger theme.

It features a cast of diverse characters, each of them providing a unique perspective and adding something to the whole and each with plenty of depth to explore. Each character and his/her story is unfolded at a good pace, never feeling rushed or forced, and in such a way the individual stories feel intertwined.

The interactions and emotional displays are not always subtle. Of course, it doesn't always need to be. To keep things light you sometimes want some comic book-style expressions. But in this case, at times, at moments where I felt subtlety was called for, lack thereof lessened the impact of said moments. When it matters most the show is still very engrossing and moving, but at times it could have used a bit more subtlety, be a bit more trusting of the audience to be perceptive and empathetic.

There's quite a bit of fan-service in the first few episodes. To draw in the viewers, I'm guessing. As I'm watching more anime, I'm starting to build an immunity to it. If it's your cup of tea, enjoy. If not, don't worry; as the show progresses the focus shifts to more important matters and you'll be less harassed by needless cleavage and panty-shots.

The show may need a few episodes to grow on you (it did for me anyway), so be sure to give it that chance.
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Kinmoza! (2013– )
Cute, but bland.
7 May 2016
It feels like 'yet another' slice-of-life comedy. This is coming from someone who considers himself a fan of the genre. Sure, a show doesn't necessarily need to be innovative to be enjoyable (especially in a genre as saturated as this one), but it does need a bit of extra to get you hooked. This show tries to shake things up a bit by adding some foreign (English) characters, creating a bit of new perspective. But despite those efforts it fails to hold your interests.

The foreign perspective could have been a nice touch if had been played out more. But as it stands the show underutilizes its one discerning factor and instead mostly follows same-old, same-old procedure. Again, not necessarily a bad thing, but it does mean the show needs another way to grab the viewer. Which, unfortunately, it doesn't.

The girls are cute. Of course they are, they always are. (Though their high-pitches voices can get on your nerves.) But there is very little chemistry between the characters, their interactions never resonate. I realize not all shows can be K-On! (my personal favourite when it comes to group- dynamics), but this one just seemed to go through the motions. It never reaches out of the screen and moves you, either when it tries to be endearing or funny.

I guess my final verdict would be; the show isn't actually bad, it just doesn't have anything that's actually good. It's rather bland. If you're simply hunkering for something cute and have exhausted the rest of your collection, sure, go ahead, watch this one. It will fill the time until something better comes along just fine. But if you're looking something with more of an edge or depth, keep looking.

P.S. This review is based on the first 5 episodes (40% of the total). My apologies if the show makes some major course-corrections after that.
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Love Lab (2013– )
Quite ridiculous… and fun!
2 May 2016
Anime like this easily produces a smile on my face, it takes quite a bit more to actually make me laugh. This show made me chuckle at a regular rate.

I'm usually not a big fan of anime that tries to go for a laugh so directly; more often than not it misses the mark and ends up just being annoying. But this show is quite self-aware; it knows it's packed with the usual stereo-typical characters and plays around with them; it acknowledges it uses the classical setup of absurdity/stupidity with straight-man retorting. (An honourable mention to the character of treasurer Sayori here, who, with here snide comments and merciless demeanour added something extra to the high-energy antics of the others.) Everything is played out with such abandon and laid on so thickly it becomes funny, but never feeling obtrusive.

It also has a few emotional moments, but those are executed in a manner true to the spirit of the rest of show; it remains a comedy. (Avoiding the mistake, countless other comedies have made, of (unsuccessfully) forcing sensitive moments in.)

At its heart it's a slice-of-life show, but it's covered with a generous layer of absurdity. So if you're looking for some honest silliness, give this one a go.
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Sakura Trick (2014– )
Fuwa fuwa time
20 April 2016
(+10 points if you got that reference without looking it up).

What I'm trying to say is; the show is fluffy. But sadly, only that; fluff.

This was my first time watching something of the "yuri" genre, being redirected here from another sappy, but enjoyable show. Curious to see how they would handle a girl-girl scenario without turning it into hentai smut, I decided to give it a shot. But before I started I lowered my expectations, foreseeing plenty of pitfalls. I guess it turned out better than I feared, but not as good as I hoped.

The show often seems like a badly written fanfic, with scenes that feel very artificial. "Oh no, I've tripped and now I'm touching your boobies! Oh well, let's make out." Perhaps not that bad, but not by much. Not to say it doesn't have its sweet moments, it does, but overall it just doesn't feel natural. The protagonists' first kiss feels rushed and forced. What follows are tired scenarios to create opportunities for them to kiss again (with a quota of 1 per episode), and a bit of story squeezed in between.

Said story doesn't have much substance. There is no sense of progression, all relationships more or less stay the same between the first and last episode. There is no tension, no real hurdles to overcome. There is a bit of a story arc involving the older sister, but the situation is pretty much held in stasis the entire length of the show, not affecting the main characters, and then quickly resolved the last 20 minutes or so. It just goes from one fluffy moment to the next. The show's storyboard must have consisted of Hallmark cards.

Sure, the girls are cute. Some more than others. Ironically I found the two main characters the least appealing (both felt rather bland and the smaller one (Yuu) got on my nerves by acting like a petulant child most of the time. Were they going for a Lolita vibe? Or perhaps the show just subscribes to the idea that invoking "moe" means adding a touch of mental disability) while the characters I enjoyed the most were those with the least amount of focus on them; Kaede and Clementine - oops, sorry, I mean Yuzu.

The girls are innocent, unfortunately the show considerably less so. Starting with the opening credits, followed by a continuous series of shameless crotch-shots and views of bouncing bosoms throughout the series, the show tries very hard to undermine the very innocence that is supposed to be core of the story.

The humorous portion of the show is entertaining, but fails to hit the mark a bit too often. Luckily it features some nice animation, with the occasional quirk in storytelling, keeping the show fresh. This is probably the saving grace which made me finish watching the series.

I ended up watching the whole series, but objectively can't give it more than a 5/10. But still, if you're in the mood for some pink, aimless fluff (and some gentle girl-on-girl action), go ahead and give it a shot.
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This one pulled my heartstrings
13 April 2016
A bit of a mushy title for my review, I know, but it corresponds with the tone of the show; it's sappy - no point in denying it – and I loved every minute of it. Well, I loved most minutes of it.

A short synopsis: Girl meets boy, girl likes boy, girl doesn't really know what to do next. Oh yeah, almost forgot. Girl is just a girl this time around, not an alien/humanoid interface created by the Data Overmind.

Before we continue; I hope you saw "The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya" and its movie "The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya"? If not, you should probably do that first. You'll be able to appreciate this show more and parts of my review won't make a lot of sense otherwise. Go ahead, I'll wait here.

Done already? Excellent. You fly right through them, don't you? But what's up season 2? Sub-par, if you ask me. All those redundant "Endless Eight" episodes just to reach that anti-climactic conclusion?! I mean, seriously, after-


Sorry, I digress.

Now, if you just watched all that, enjoyed it, but (like me) thought Nagato-san had more "moe" in her left pinkie than Asahina as a whole (regardless which outfit she was forced to wear) and felt the demure humanoid interface (and her human counterpart) deserved a hug, than this spin-off is definitely for you. Even if you didn't feel that way and just enjoyed the original show (the movie in particular), give this one a try as well. Fair warning though; liking the original might indicate you'll like this spin-off as well, but it might also mean you'll hate it. It is quite a different beast.

Dealing much more with the trials and tribulations of the protagonist's timid heart, rather than Haruhi's antics and the supernatural surrounding her, the show's overall tone is considerably calmer and more down to earth than the original. As stated before, it can get downright sappy at times, but it does so in an endearing way, never feeling overbearing. It's a tribute to the underdog; the quiet one, always hidden in the shadow of others; the shy one sitting on the side- line; the one waiting for an opportunity to open up. The spotlight is being turned on Yuki Nagato, and it's her moment to shine. Well, perhaps not shine, but she does twinkle gently. The old cast members (and their voice actors, for both original and English versions) are all reunited, filling supporting roles, keeping things lively and light-hearted. There is some nice interplay between characters, feeling more organic than in the original, which is only logical, given the different nature of the two shows.

At this point I feel I should point out this Nagato is not really the one we got to know in the original show, or even her alter-ego from the movie. What made the original(s) so endearing (I think), was how much effort it took for her human side to show, making it all the more gratifying when it did. Compared to the original(s) this Yuki is actually quite well-adjusted, if just a bit shy. That being said, the new version is more than adequately equipped with quirks and lovable features.

And then, a few episodes in, when you've resigned yourself (happily) to continue watching our bespectacled heroine stumble her way into romance (quite effectively, I must say), you're thrown a curveball when she "disappears". (Relax, that's not a spoiler; it says so right in the title.) Amidst all the accidental touching, obligatory blushing, stammering and other clichés (don't worry, they hang a lantern on it), there is room for surprise. I can't give away too much about what happens, but I'm not ashamed to admit; my eyes misted over a few times.

Before you start watching I should warn you though; the anime has only partly covered the published manga and at the time of writing it's unclear whether or not the remainder of the story will be brought to the screen. As it stands the series' ending is a bit lacklustre as a finale. But I'm sure a copy of the manga is floating around somewhere, for those of us desiring closure.

Which brings me to the reasons I can't give this show more than a 7/10. It doesn't have much of a story; it moves from one sweet moment to another, provides an enjoyable ride, but doesn't actually go anywhere. (I realise this is not necessarily a bad thing. Your average sitcom won't have much of a story. Shows like "Lucky Star" make a point of not going anywhere, and we enjoyed that... didn't we?!). Though it does has plenty "slice of life" elements, it's also a love-story, but after the last episode you're not really left with the satisfying feeling of having been told a story. A love-triangle is touched upon, but it deserved a lot more attention. The story-arc of Yuki's disappearing act is the only real bit with highs and lows. (Which I really liked it, it pushed my rating up from a 6 to a 7.) But in hindsight, it was handled rather hurriedly. It comes in quite late and the consequences for the rest of the (lack of) story is limited. I mean, it's in the title of the show, you'd think they'd explore it a bit more. The rest of the show feels comfortable, but flat.

All in all, it's an enjoyable show with plenty of sweet and endearing moments, but it could use some more substance.
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