Peco, from "Ping Pong, the animation", with his game face on.

Peco, from “Ping Pong, the animation”, with his game face on.

Ping Pong is the show I have been enjoying the most this season. One of the first things people notice are the unusual visual style, so I thought I would address that in a post.

Probably the first thing people notice is that some of the character designs are intentionally “ugly”, or that at times (well, frequently), the character designs morph in some way. I like the fact that Ping Pong character designs intentionally avoid the standard anime designs. Instead we are presented with a startling variety of characters: some with bushy eyebrows, some with faces so deeply wrinkled that you can barely identify the mouth, some with eyes that are tilted so far that they almost become vertical. Everyone’s appearance is horrific in a way, and has an eerie beauty in some other, and that works perfectly with the character studies that are developed throughout the series. Characters are shown from a variety of perspectives. Some views of the characters are unflattering, some are flattering. Nobody is shown completely to be good, or virtuous, just as even the characters that seem at first to be villains are shown to have nobility in unexpected ways. People are alternately selfish and selfless, lazy and ambitious, belligerent and respectful.

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Intense contrast as the storm clouds part.

Episode 5 ends Hyouka‘s initial arc. I was extremely pleased with the way everything came together in the end. Nevertheless this is yet another post about how great this series looks.

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That awkward moment when you realize you already drank the last sip of coffee.

Hyouka continues to impress visually. KyoAni truly defines the top tier of animation production quality. The great news is that episode 3 of Hyouka gives us some solid development on the over-arching mystery behind the episodic mysteries of the first two episodes. The characters also have grown on me.

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Mashiro would rather die than give up on his dream.

Shounen powers ACTIVATE! Episode 6 of Bakuman’s second season brings us perhaps the most shounen episode of this franchise yet. Mashiro has collapsed from the strain, and for some reason the quack doctor thinks removing part of his liver will help. Mashiro refuses to stop drawing, however. Even if it kills him, even if he loses the love of his life, he will continue to draw manga. In particular he is working on a color spread, which gives us another chance to check out his art tools — this time some nice color markers.

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The power of photography and other arts and crafts is explored.

Tamayura ~hitotose~ is an expansion of the Tamayura OVA that I reviewed previously. This is an example of the “healing” genre, and is directed by Junichi Sato, the master of this genre, and the director of Aria (he also worked on a recent work in the genre, Ikoku Meiro no Croisée). For those who don’t know, some aspects of the “healing” genre, especially Sato’s work, are a strong grounding in a particular place, the power of human relationships to bridge gaps and sustain us, the nobility of work done by human hand, and the potential to make a fresh start (or perhaps better phrased, the opportunity the future brings to those willing to face it). I’ll take a closer look at these themes below.

I was looking forward to this series because I’m a fan of Sato’s work, but I wasn’t sure how much the OVA could be expanded. Having now seen the first episode, I can happily report that this first episode already expands the story of Tamayura, adding important details by exploring the story of the months prior to Fu’s arrival in Takehara. This was a very good first episode, and I am looking forward to following Tamayura this season.

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"What does the manager have to know, or at least to understand, to be equal to his task?" -- Peter Drucker

The first episode of Moshidora (What if a female manager of a high school baseball team read Drucker’s Management?) has aired. This is the last of my three most highly anticipated shows of the Spring 2011 season. In this post, I comment mostly on structural elements as revealed by the first episode. This series looks to be coming at an accelerated pace. If the subbers keep up, I will attempt to do the same.

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And so it begins.

Bakuman episode 4 covers the essential tools illustrators use to create the manuscript from a name. No, I don’t even care about the other stuff.

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