Alright, I'm going to do things a bit differently this time. It will be easier for me, and hopefully easier for my readers. Instead of doing single, long posts detailing the first 1-2 episodes of each new series (which I never manage to get around to doing for all of them anyway), I'm going to do one post (maybe break it up; we'll see how quickly I get to them) that lists each new series I checked out with a brief description of what the show is (or seems to be) about. Ie: a Gundam show, a moe high school show, a fantasy epic, a space opera, a romantic comedy, etc. And a few details (like studio, basic critiques on animation, etc, things like that).
So let's get started!
I have to start this one out by mentioning that it's based on one of my favorite (and still ongoing in the US) manga, by Yoshiki Nakamura. I think it's delightful, funny, romantic, and well written and drawn. She does have some problems; the plot occassionaly errs on the side of super cheesy and disbelief. Her profile images (meaning the view of her characters from a straight side perspective) need some work as well. But I really do enjoy the book.
From what I can tell of the anime so far, it matches up with the manga very well, though it adds an extra little scene here or there which work into the story just fine. It has some good voice acting, which is saying something, because the main character Kyoko has some insane mood swings and I'm sure it's a lot of work on her voice actress (Marina Inoue), The show is very bright and colorful as well. The plot follow young Kyoko Mogami, fresh out of Jr High, who moved to Tokyo with Sho Fuwa, the boy she was in love with. Sho wanted to move away from home to pursue his dream of being a famous musician/celebrity. We soon realize that Sho is vain, spoiled and fairly cruel, making one wonder what the innocent and selfless Kyoko is even doing with him to begin with. If she was in the dark to his true self, it doesn't take her long to discover that he essentially only brought her along as his maid, and finds her plain and boring. This infuriates her, and she vows to get revenge on him by becoming more famous than he is. Pure, innocent Kyoko vanishes and is replaced by a vengeful, desparate, grudge bearing woman. To get her revenge, she joins rival talent agency LME. Unfortunately she lacks the most important thing to being a celebrity, nay a human being - the ability to love and (want to) be loved by others - which she lost when Sho ditched her. So she joins the agency under a special Love Me section, where she is charged with regaining this emotion, which will lead to the agency sponsoring her debut. Too bad fellow LME talent and major celebrity (and Sho's biggest rival) Ren Tsuruga is trailing around telling her that her goal of becoming a celebrity will never be accomplished with her attitude and motives for revenge.
Tales of the Abyss
I am really enjoying this one. Anything with a creature as cute as a Cheagle is worth taking a look at, at least. But I have a soft spot for super adorable animal-like sidekicks. Like genius dogs, cuddly space ships in disguise, flying foxes, and patchwork pooches.
If you've enjoyed previous iterations of this series, then I see no reason why you shouldn't like this one as well.
Main character Luke is a boy of prophecy. His birth was spoken of in the Score of Lorelie, an ancient script read and recorded by Yulia Jue that details all of time. The Score is enormous; as big as a mountain. But it broke into pieces, most of which is in orbit around the planet. However some of it landed on the planet and is now the cause of war between the two main kingdoms of Kimlasca and Malkuth. Nothing in the prophecy has ever not come true, but no one has ever really tried to go against it either, instead using the prophecy to dictate their actions. Luke has the power to bring destruction (according to the prophecy) or peace to the land. The story is certainly intriguing, and the characters are more interesting that in the previous Tales (Symphonia, I believe, earlier this year).
Vampire Knight Guilty
This is a sequel, or rather the second part. The first only ran 13 episodes. So more than just being a sequel, it's like the second chapter of the story. I've been reading the manga for this, which, in the US, is caught up with the end of the first season of the show. So I'm not sure where it goes from there. But I can give you a summary of the first season, though I think the manga is a lot better. The anime feels a little choppy somtimes; like parts of the story are missing. It feels that way because it IS that way. Now, understandably, not everything can get in there, but sometimes it just seems like you miss part of the story somehow, or that certain character choices and reactions don't make a lot of sense. It all makes sense in the manga (as much sense as it can given the secrets and mysteries of the plot).
In Vampire Knight, students attend Cross Academy. The school is broken up into a day class, attended by normal students, and a night class, attended by vampires. The purpose of the school is to promote healthy, safe corespondence between vampires and humans. Or to teach vampires that they can live without harming humans, as they are not allowed to feed on human blood (the school is testing blood tablets and substitutes), and actually have very little contact with the students of the day class (with some exceptions like the time when the day class ends and the night class begins, or the school dance). The main characters are Yuki, Zero and Kaname. Yuki is the adopted daughter of the school's headmaster, and was saved from a rabid vampire's attack by the vampire Kaname. Kaname is of an elite, noble class of vampires; meaning that he's a pureblood, and he carries a particular status among other vampires. Zero is from a family of vampire hunters, but his family was attacked and killed by a pureblood vampire, and Zero was bitten and is now a vampire himself (the idea is that if you're bitten by a pureblood, you become a vampire, but you eventually degrade into a mindless monster). There's an obvious love triangle between the three, with the obvious catch that either Zero or Kaname, if they give in to their feeling for Yuki, could end up killing her.
It's a bit of a comedy, but it's meant to be a drama. The manga-ka, Matsuri Hino, has previously written comedies, and it's clear that it's difficult for her to break away from that. She manages alright though, as a bit of comic relief is welcome in an otherwise deadly serious story (pun intended). The art/animation style is one of my favorite things about the show, and the colors which, though dark, are still vibrant and beautiful.
Nodame Cantabile - Paris Chapter
When we last left Nodame and Chiaki, they were on their way to study abroad in Paris. They had just finished their schooling at a Japanese music school. Nodame studied piano, hoping to become a kindergarten teacher, and Chiaki studied conducting. With (sometimes harsh) encouragement, Chiaki convinced Nodame that she could be something more if she continued to practice. And Nodame hypnotized Chiaki into overcoming his fear of flying in airplanes. Not wanting to lose the man she loved, Nodame, and Chiaki, who desired to continue watching the clumsy pianist improve, agreed to go to Paris and study together. This is where the new chapter picks up. Nodame is still clumsy, unorganized, and a pain in Chiaki's side. She is as much a chore as she is an encouragement. Chiaki is still the handsome, confident student who is revelling in his new opportunities now that he can finally study seriously abroad. They will continue to grow as people and as artists in this new country.
It's a very charming, adorable, fantastic show, and it's first season was my favorite anime of the season (spring '07). It's still full of great classical music pieces, and although the music scenes aren't fully animated, you're still listening to full orchestrations (or solos) of some great songs. It's also a whole new cast of characters for the most part, since they left everyone from the previous season behind in Paris; but some of the more notable characters do make appearances.