Thanks to preview screenings, we’ve got a head start for Winter 2014’s anime line-up with Witch Craft Works (J.C. Staff) and Buddy Complex (Sunrise). At first glance, the 2 animes belong to completely different genres. Yet surprisingly, they had a couple of scenes in common.
In Witch, the male protagonist Takamiya Honoka (newbie seiyuu Kobayashi Yuusuke) gets saved by school belle Kagari Ayaka (relative newbie seiyuu Seto Asami) in a reverse princess-saved-by-knight situation. In Buddy, male protagonist #1 Watase Aoba (Matsuoka Yoshitsugu) gets rescued out of mecha robot crossfire by class belle Yumihara Hina (Hayami Saori).
Then there’s the classic “oops I dropped my eraser so please help pick it up for me” scene:
Both anime have thrown plenty of action into their first episodes (presumably to pull viewers in) and are action-fantasies but that’s where the similarities end.
I’m not a fan of the harem/reverse-harem genre unless and that’s a very big UNLESS, the seiyuus involved are my favourites AND there’s a seeming storyline and plot. Judging from its promo poster and this first episode, Witch Craft Works looks set up to be a harem of so far, 6 witches (the Japanese anime kind), who either protect Takamiya or aim to kill him. The reverse damsel-in-distress situation is not new – most recently seen in Outbreak Company and being set in a school environment, one can expect the usual school-related jokes, which may be the safest stage for a witch-based storyline anyway. As things stand, the 5 witches plotting to kill him have already conveniently transferred to his class by the end of episode 1.
There’s action with lots of things being blown up and armies of wannabe evil looking stuffed rabbits piled up on top of one another to stab (yes, stab) Takamiya. It’s fantasy with cat ears, scythes and pointy witch hats all around. The art and animation looks great so far with what looks like a lot of budget put into Kagari’s flames. There are also of course, backache inducing huge boobs and other sizes amongst the witches to appeal to the spectrum of the seinen crowd. Plenty of awkward scenarios can be expected between Takamiya and Kagari and even more of the unrealistic fan club behaviour the rest of the school has for Kagari as they take their jealousy out on Takamiya.
Witch is Kobayashi Yuusuke’s debut role and he’s done all right by it so far. His Takamiya sounds like a cross between Miyu Irino and fellow newbie Hanae Natsuki. Alongside him is Seto Asami who has so far done some high profile anime, most recently in Kakumeiki. As kuudere Kagari, it’s likely we can look forward to hearing a range of voice acting in her ‘kuu’ and ‘dere’ modes, seeing as how the show is set up so far.
Verdict: The scene is set and throughout the next 11 episodes, we’ll most likely be journeying to unravel the mystery of just who Takamiya is, why Kagari is a witch and why she calls him her princess. The rest of the school will likely to continue bullying Takamiya as he spends more time being escorted and protected by Kagari and if my guess is right, he’ll eventually win over each of the 5 witches with his affable yet genuine personality. These shows usually go this way but I’ll give it the 3-episode test (who came up with 3?) and see if it deserves to be viewed till the end.
Unlike Witch, Buddy Complex is filled with a stellar cast in both lead and supporting roles. Matsuoka Yoshitsugu has proved he can do both action (SAO) and drama (Sakurasou; please give this actor more drama otherwise I’ll have to watch and bawl my eyes out over Sakurasou all over again…) while Uchiyama Kouki (male protagonist #2 Dio) has demonstrated his fair share of action and dramatic roles, winning best new seiyuu in 2011. In supporting there’s Sugita Tomokazu (Lee Conrad), Yoshino Hiroyuki (Jarl Duran), Fujimura Ayumi (Lene Kleinbeck), Hanazawa Kana (Nase Mayuka) and Inoue Marina (Anessa Rossetti) – that’s all just in episode 1!
So just what is Buddy all about? So far we’re told it’s a coming of age, action mecha sci-fi anime based around the 2 male protagonists. Which sounds like Gundam Seed & Seed Destiny, Code Geass, Kakumeiki etc. – it’s been done to death. So what’s key will be the sub-genre, plot, character development, narrative and storyline. Episode 1 starts off with what seems like the midst of war. A purple robot (I really should give it a less generic name but until we know what it is in episode 2, robot will have to do) gets unwillingly sucked into a time warp, turning up in modern day Japan. He realises his nemesis from the future – Aoba, exists in present day Japan and starts tearing up the city chasing after a very clueless Aoba who is currently, wait for it… the very normal regular high school guy! Of course. We get a clue on Aoba’s loyalty to his friends, which, is a must-have in these types of shows, loves basketball and has no knowledge of piloting a mecha robot. Class belle and “returnee” Yumihara comes to her
blush-worthy-crush Aoba’s rescue in her baby pink mecha (it’s Sunrise afterall so must have at least one pink mecha) further confusing Aoba. In a bid to save both of them, Yumihara hatches a plot to time warp all 3 of them to the future where she has a eureka moment about why she can’t stop thinking about Aoba and why all her actions so far finally made sense, leaving Aoba with the parting words, “Dio’s waiting for you”. Aoba wakes up in the pilot cockpit of (presumably) his mecha, in the future, in the middle of a warzone and we hear the radio transmissions from Dio, Lee, Jarl etc. basically a line from each seiyuu.
The character mecha designs are quite reminisce of Sunrise’s Gundam Seed era, not the suited up Gundam 00 evolved look, which hints at some old school anime action and direction perhaps. With Sunrise’s ubiquitous association with the mecha genre, we’re at least assured of their time tested Gundam quality of narration, animation and character development – crucial to coming of age shows. So far, there’s been a time-travelling twist, which brings Suisei no Gargantia to mind though it’s fairly safe to predict that Buddy won’t have the Urobochi Gen’s quality of dark storytelling. Lastly, for anyone wondering who the purple robot is, as credited by ? ? ? ?, highlight for SPOILER – From the official website, the only purple mecha is piloted by Bizon Gerafil and voiced by my favourite Sakurai Takahiro who has brought my admiration to new heights with this character. He sounds like Suzaku (Code Geass) thrown in with a bit of Miyano Mamoru’s higher pitched crazy rage sound we last heard in Kakumeiki. Got me guessing for a while there Sakupyon!
Verdict: It’s the token mecha anime for Winter 2014. It’s by Sunrise. It’s got a stellar seiyuu cast. So even though episode 1 was more or less the usual stuff, I’ll probably be following through to the end during this sleepy anime season. I’m eager to know what the boys’ first contact will be, the bitterness between Aoba and purple mecha and the development of Aoba and Yumihara’s relationship. Gotta have romance in action-mecha right? Especially a coming of age one right? 3-episode test applies though I suspect it’ll be good if not at least as good as Gundam Seed. Watch if you’re nostalgic or haven’t seen Seed.