Hello all! Recently I’ve been finishing a lot of anime series that I started months and months ago, because I’m watching 50+ series at the moment and my summer holiday is finally giving me some time to finish them. I thought I’d talk about a few underrated gems here, some which need to be polished a little, but others which are pretty darn shiny and just need more attention.
Danshi Koukousei no Nichijou
While this may be more well known than some of the other anime on this list, I don’t hear/see as many people talking about this as much as some similar comedy anime. While there are some golden moments of comedy in this series, some relateable moments from high school students (mostly boys, but girls feature in this too) and scenes which I would highly recommend to any anime fan, unfortunately, this series wasn’t as good as I was hoping. This being a sketch comedy, comparable to something like Nichijou where similar themes and comedy skits pop in throughout, it started better than it finished, on the whole. While Nichijou succeeded in referencing previous moments of the show and still retained originality by presenting new jokes/scenarios in each episode, Danshi ended up repeating itself and most of the jokes became predictable and overused about halfway through the 12-episode series. Luckily, the characters are the highlight of this show, and while being well-developed for a comedy anime, part of the humour lies in their unpredictably, but I guess that’s normal with teenagers, eh?
While, on the whole, Danshi Koukousei no Nichijou was still a very good laugh and deserves to be mentioned and referenced more in and outside of the anime community, sadly the humour doesn’t quite match the quality of more famous, popular comedy shows of similar genres.
I have mixed opinions about this series. It presents some fairly original, controversial ideas concerning the ethics of developing gun-shooting, purpose-built cyborgs from badly injured girls who otherwise wouldn’t survive. While this idea is to the show’s advantage, for me the anime didn’t quite capture the seriousness of the actual concept. This was partially because the facial expressions throughout the series, particularly those of the young girls’, were rather flat, almost as if the girls had plastic faces that couldn’t move very much and were strained into mostly very subtle expressions (I’m pretty sure that even cyborgs’ faces aren’t made of plastic, considering how human-like they are in almost every apsect). While the relationships between the cyborg girls and their “handlers,” (the men who look after them and take them out on combat missions to fight crime) are well shown and are good/interesting for the most part, we do not get enough time to relate to most of the girls and the handlers as individuals. The show focusses on one character in particular, especially as the series comes to a close (which is one of the more surprising moments in the series, the ending being fairly good for such a short anime). The portrayal of Italy in this anime, particularly the Tuscan architecture and landscapes, is detailed, engaging and interesting, although this is coming from a Tuscany fan, so I may be biased. The slightly inaccurate portrayal of Italians (making them seem more Japanese in behaviour than Italian) can be just about excused, at least by me, considering this was a Japanese animation. Also, the scenarios in which some of the characters are put is quite interesting, and the personality change of one of the girls was surprising and helped the story.
I would recommend this animation simply for the concept alone, but please bear in mind that it could have been executed a little better. I wonder if this anime had been made more recently whether it would have looked and felt better? I guess we shall never know…
This anime is full of bright colour, fancy costumes, and a range of colourful characters. The animation is gorgeous throughout and the character designs are beautiful and inventive, while being reminiscent of a few other fantasy/historical anime. Our main character, Nai, is absolutely adorable, and relateable throughout most of the series, despite the fact that he is not entirely human… Gareki, while being your typical stern, slightly grumpy male protagonist, gradually opens up as the show goes on and seeing his relationship with Nai is very sweet, this is possibly one of the highlights of the show. While the majority of side characters here are interesting and entertaining, we possibly don’t get quite as much backstory about them as they themselves deserve, and consequently they feel slightly flat compared to the main characters, which is a shame, because they had more than enough potential. Some of the personality changes/reveals as the show goes on are fairly intriguing, while others seem a little forced and random. Also, the world we see in the anime seems very original, well-developed and vibrant, but we don’t get to see enough of it and we don’t have enough background about the different places and politics in the story, at least in my mind.
All in all, Karneval is a lovely series (with one of my absolute favourite ending songs, funnily enough!). Its main, most glaring flaw, is that it is too short. A show like Karneval is ideally at least 24 episodes long, enough time to explore all of the characters and setting that we only get to glimpse briefly in this anime. I know that a lot of studios don’t have the budget to see a series through to the end of the original story/manga, but I feel it would have been particularly nice for this underappreciated show. I would definitely recommend this to people who are fans of show like Black Butler, as the animation style is similar, but there are not too many dark moments despite the feeling of suspense and adventure throughout the series, making this show more suitable for younger/more sensitive viewers as well.
Before I go into the highlights of this show, I’ll deal with the more negative stuff first…
There are some moments in this series, in terms of the bending of physics, that, even for an anime, seem absolutely ridiculous. Considering the realistic animation here that is reminiscent of many sci-fi and cyberpunk anime, these cartoonish moments feel jarring and forced. Separately, the main character seems a little flat most of the time, although he does improve towards the ending of the show. Lastly, the separation of different timelines is very confusing at first, which may initially put viewers off.
And now, onto the highlights…
This seriously dark and beautiful show ended up being very interesting, engaging and heart-wrenching. It also presents the vampire theme in a good, mature way, making it probably one of the better series with vampire characters that I’ve seen. If you’re going into this expecting something like the Twilight Saga, sorry, you’re going to be majorly disappointed. The vampires in Kurozuka are better. Period. There are a lot of Japanese themes presented in this anime as well, with mythology and history being referenced in an intriguing way, enough to keep mythology and history buffs interested. Having said that, this show also has some very well executed sci-fi elements, again, allowing the vampire theme to be presented in a fairly original light. There is enough gore for any Hellsing Ultimate fan, which will likely put off some viewers, but if you can get through it, there’s enough action and a reasonable amount of character development here for you instead, along with, as I’ve already mentioned, the fantastic animation. The main characters, for the most part, are very well done, and you become attached to most of the (good) side characters as well. There are certain reveals at the end, mostly relating to the main characters, which were pretty much unexpected for me, and the ending of the show, in my mind, was a worthy conclusion, one of the better anime endings I’ve seen for a while.
All in all, while this show has some flaws, it is on the whole a very engaging, well presented story. While the mixing up of timelines at the beginning of the series is very confusing, as you basically have no idea what’s going on, once parts of the story start falling into place, you feel more engaged with the characters and the plot and you’ll be able to enjoy the show much better. While I’d normally recommend watching the first two episodes of an anime to decide whether you want to continue it, I’d maybe recommend watching the first three or four episodes of Kurozuka before deciding whether or not to press on with it.
And the main message to take away from this blog post is…
Don’t be afraid to try shows that people aren’t constantly mentioning! Feel free to dive into more obscure/random/unique shows, as you may well find something you like. I hope that you’ll feel inspired to watch one or more of the shows I’ve talked about, whatever your preferential genre is. If you haven’t watched much anime before, out of all of these, I’d recommend Danshi the most, as it gives a fairly good impression of modern anime comedy and it’s fairly accessible for people who are not so aware of anime/Japanese culture. I’d then, in order, recommend Karneval, Gunslinger Girl, and Kurozuka.
Stay tuned for my next post, where I’ll attempt to recommend Hidden Gems that are great for people who are new to anime! I’ll recommend shows that I’ve already mentioned in previous blog posts, and talk about others which I haven’t yet brought up.