Tag Archives: Baby Steps

Anifile’s Top 5 Anime of Spring 2014


So the Spring 2014 season has finished and with it the end of some more series of anime. Some have been good, most have been decent and some have been pretty dire. It’s been a mixed bag and some surprises have cropped up. There were shows which surprised me and others which disappointed. This top five list for the season of Spring 2014 was pretty tough as there were shows which I wanted to put on such as No Game, No Life and Captain Earth but I can only have five and I wanted to be true to my opinion instead of following the consensus. Note that there have been some anime which I didn’t get to see due to a busy convention schedule and as such I shall list the anime which I summarised initially and still think have potential at the end of this post. So let’s spring into action, shall we?

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#5 – Baby Steps

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FULL REVIEW

I’m not much of a sports person, but when I watched this show for the first time I was curious about tennis. There was something about Eiichiro which I liked; he was a methodical individual who wanted to understand every single detail about tennis and use it in a logical manner to better his game. His drive is not from passion which has been seen many times, but through deduction. It makes the audience get behind Eiichiro and feel for him as he struggles to understand the sport both on and off the court. It’s not the most beautiful anime out there, but it’s still good. Baby Steps has a touch of realism about it and feels like a drama that could be easily made into a live-action film or special with little friction. This was probably one of the bigger surprises of the season in my eye; for that it managed to edge out No Game, No Life for the last spot on the top five. It also confirmed that slice-of-life is my favourite genre of anime.

#4 – If Her Flag Breaks

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FULL REVIEW

The biggest surprise from the season goes to If Her Flag Breaks. Why? Well, it made me laugh! Also it’s cute. Usually comedy anime tend to disappoint me and I rarely break out a smirk when I watch something which is meant to be funny which hails from Japan. When I watched Souta beginning to thaw and warm up to his new found friends, it was a touching moment. He had suffered a traumatic ordeal of losing his family and then was bestowed with a power to read people in the form of cutely decorated flags. He uses this power to his advantage and it makes for a cute story about Souta changing the fates of himself and his friends whilst throwing in some dorm room action and cheeky comedy for good measure. There is quite a twist later on in the show which helps the show stay fresher than most would in the second half of a run. All in all, I’d say this was a turn up for the books!

#3 – Chaika: The Coffin Princess

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FULL REVIEW

Chaika: The Coffin Princess was a fun ride. It had a certain something about it which made me think that this show is going to be a hit with anime fans everywhere. With the studio which brought to you Fullmetal Alchemist and Soul Eater, Chaika and her crew have the same endearment level as well as ‘cosplayability’ in the form of the leading lady. Its narrative was easy to understand and the magical ecosystem was not a complete mess which requires a masters degree to comprehend. Put simply, magical sniper rifle rules all! With the help of Tohru, Akari and Frederika the quartet feel like a true team and one that has potential to be a lasting squad going into an upcoming second season this autumn. This show has got a lot of heart and that heart will be pumping strong for years to come thanks to a English release by Sentai Filmworks! Woo!

#2 – One Week Friends

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FULL REVIEW

You know how I said I like shows with charm and heart? Yep, I think you know where this is going. Prepare the tissues, people! One Week Friends is about a girl who has had suffered severe mental trauma which results in weekly memory loss; she can’t make friends. Literally. She’ll forget them each and every Monday. How sad. One boy though tries to help her overcome her affliction by writing down a diary and slowly but surely it works. Yuki and Kaori are beacons in the world of anime in that nothing sexual is alluded. It’s all about one boy trying to make a friend where before it was impossible to do so. A simple story with a beautiful colour palette is something to behold and cherish. If you ever needed a good example of why anime is so special, this anime is a prime candidate.

#1 – Knights of Sidonia

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FULL REVIEW

Oh yeah, you knew this was going to be here. It was no contest. Knights of Sidonia is a landmark anime which marks a turning point in how anime is made. Three-dimensional, cel-shaded models aren’t new to the creative world but it has rarely been used to such an effect than in this show. Tsutomu Nihei’s art style lends itself to the clean lines of the third dimension making the non-mecha moments feel more organic, especially in the latter half of the first season. True, the animation was a little rusty at first but it improved quickly and by the end of the season it was on the mark! Then when you get to the mecha sequences; it’s gorgeous and a spectacle for my spectacles! Nagate Tanikaze’s ascendency to the world of mecha piloting was an awesome ride; the amount of plot points which impressed me were numerous [such as Nagate not being a hothead towards his ‘rival’ Kunato and the whole Izana/Hoshijiro love triangle]. The soundtrack is the icing on the cake with one of the best anime intro themes of recent memory. Its similarity to Attack of Titan should mean that lovers of Eren Jaeger’s adventures would get a kick from Knights of Sidonia but I strongly recommend it over the former. It is, in my opinion, way better. Does it beat my favourite anime of all time, Martian Successor Nadesico? Keep an eye out on my all-time top ten in the coming months. Also, there is a second season and I intend to buy the manga; I’m that stoked about this show!

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Missing In Action 

Due to my hectic schedule in June and July of this year, it meant that there were some shows which I didn’t get around to seeing after previewing them. There were shows which appealed to me and would suggest checking out despite my lack of review for them. They are as follows:

Ping Pong: The Animation , Even So The World is Beautiful , Nanana Ryugajo’s Buried Treasure & The Kawai Complex Guide To Manors and Hostel Behaviour

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That’s it for the prime beef of this season! Next time, we check out the off-cuts and tripe in my worst five anime of spring 2014.

What did you guys think? Cast your vote now for your favourite from this season!

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Baby Steps


Tennis is a serious sport. Some people may think it’s boring as people aren’t tackling each other or kicking things at high speed or no huge fireballs and twisted metal strewn all over the place; but tennis is a sport with finesse and flair that is hard to beat. A sport hundreds of years old, it has become one of the most popular and easily taken up sports around. All you need is a racket and off you go; it’s incredibly social too! So what if you were looking to do something to take your mind off studying and realise that you have a knack for this sport? Enter Eiichiro as he makes his Baby Steps in the field.

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Eiichiro [known as A-chan by the student body on account of his grades] is an honour student with his sights set on getting a high-paying job and using his intelligence and attention to detail to make it to a great university but he is somewhat uncertain about life after that. He needs something to take his mind off work and that something is manifested in the form of Natsu, a girl who borrows his legendary notes on world history. She entices him into the world of tennis by inviting him to a free tennis lesson and he quickly develops a cute crush on the girl as she plays tennis with the other participants. She has dreams of going pro and so vicariously does Eiichiro, he just doesn’t know it yet! As he progresses, he quickly applies his meticulous note-taking to his hobby and moves up the rankings very quickly through his methodical and somewhat clinical process of acquiring new skills. With each new episode comes a new challenge and a new hurdle to overcome and he get the knack of it mostly through constant assessment and trial and error and an iron determination. It’s quite admirable to witness!

BabySteps_3The whole idea of the rising star in a sporting situation has been done many times before but Baby Steps is probably one of the rarer examples of how to turn the idea on its head and show the development from an academic point of view. Eiichiro doesn’t see tennis as a fun pastime; he sees it as more of a challenge to overcome using his brains and extensive note-taking. He is soon frustrated and confused that his usual approach doesn’t yield instant results, but he is not going to give up easily and pushes through and is able to adapt his style into the sport and move his way up the ranks through sheer persistence despite not being previously interested in tennis. It helps also if your ‘crush’ is into it as well! Natsu is a major catalyst for his entry into the sport; but it’s more than just a crush. Early on, Natsu confesses to Eiichiro that she wants to go pro and leave the club eventually to play competitively; something that she doesn’t wish to let others know about. He’s left in awe at her determination and wishes to join her in her endeavour. Eiichiro is a good main character, in fact a very good one. He’s a smart and somewhat inflexible kid but you got to admire his tenacity and drive once he gets into something. He could easily give up and fall back on his academia, but there’s one scene where he remembers his lofty childhood of wanting to be an astronaut and a fireman and wondered to himself where that version of him had gone; his current drive in tennis is rekindling his child-like keenness and that’s a touching thing to witness.

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Baby Steps is a lot more real than the more famous Prince of Tennis series in that it charters someone who had no idea about tennis and then shows him the friendliness at large as well as the laid-back and enthusiastic community at the Southern Tennis Club. It feels like a real place and the people in attendance feel like real patrons. This feels like a genuine tale. A tale which could happen anywhere at any time. It’s certainly a production which will do the sport of tennis justice and be a healthy addition to its portfolio of why the sport is a great activity for both fun and exercise. The manga itself is rather prolific with at least thirty volumes in its seven year history [four a year!] It’s a popular manga with lots of followers and clearly a high output and equally high demand; the style of the characters lends itself to fast, simple and straightforward designs and uncluttered presentation. It gives you what you need and doesn’t try and overcomplicate visuals which is OK with this type of story. The way that the show conveys tennis is in a very non-threatening and friendly way and expertly broken down by Eiichiro to the point where I felt like I was learning something and the time flew by when I was watching. I was not only getting a better understanding and appreciation for tennis but I was also routing for Eiichiro to do his best and survive. Especially against the incredibly intimidating Takuma, a delinquent who is clearly the best player at the Southern Tennis Club in terms of ability but his sportsmanship leaves a lot to be desired.

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Baby Steps is one of those shows which gets me curious about sport. I was a big kid at school and was limited in what sort of sports I could do and as a consequence I lost interest entirely. When watching this, I was fascinated with the intricacies of tennis and got behind the story of Eiichiro and his rise to prominence. It felt very organic and real; unburdened with the overbearing drama and embellishments of Prince of Tennis , Baby Steps can take pride in the knowledge that it’s one of the more complete and solid series going this season!

Baby Steps is available to stream on Crunchyroll.

RATING: CONTINUE [A believable and straight-up mission statement for why tennis is cool!]

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Spring 2014: Preview Summary


The Spring 2014 preview has been completed and we have had thirty-six brand new series presented before us. Based on their review priority rating [RPR], I have come up with a basic order in which I will review the shows in question based on my initial impressions. You may think that this is prejudging these shows before they’ve even aired but we could easily have some of these shows pull a surprise out from under their metaphorical, you never know until the first few episodes have aired what you’re going to get!

If you missed any of the individual genre videos, click the following links to catch up!
Action / Fantasy & Magic / Comedy / Slice Of Life /
Sports / Sci-fi & Mecha / Game Adaptations

So what have we deduced from these first glimpses? Going from my RPR ratings, rated high to low, we have got this little chart:

RPR #
High 4
Medium-High 8
Medium 13
Medium-Low 8
Low 3

The outlook is good based on this reviewer’s first impressions. Most of these shows look good with some either being above or below average with only a few being considered lacklustre. Below is a list of shows indexed in order of review priority:

High Priority: Devil’s Riddle Story, No Game No Life, Soul Eater Not! & Captain Earth.

These shows have managed to catch my interest down to their innovative art styles, compelling plot and different spin on previously established archetypes. Reviews will be more forthcoming for these titles.

Medium-High Priority: Haikyuu!!, Brynhildr in the Darkness, Selector Infected WIXOSS, Chaika: The Coffin Princess, One Week Friends, Knights of Sidonia, The Irregular at Magic High School & Ping Pong The Animation.

The medium-high list are the shows which are still very good but didn’t quite fill me with rapture at first sight or seemed to play it a little to safe for my liking. Reviews will be posted slightly later.

Medium Priority: Atelier Escha & Logy, Black Bullet, Majin Bone, Dai Shogun – Great Revolution, If She Were To Raise The Flag, Mekaku City Actors, M3: That Black Steel, Even So The World Is Beautiful, Mischief of the Gods, Break Blade, Baby Steps, The Kawai Complex… & Roughneck Wrestler Matsutarou!!

The medium list comprises those productions which have either been considered good or inconclusive based on little or no information. This third premise is for shows that have either had no trailer or minimal content surrounding it published. Instead of labelling it bad, medium is a temporary default for such titles.

Medium-Low Priority: The Comic Artists and His Assistants, Dragonar Academy, Marvel Disk Wars: The Avengers, The Buried Treasure of Nanana Ryugajo, Hero Bank, Blade & Soul, Daimidaler – The Sound Robot & Magica Wars.

The medium-low priority list is populated with shows that seem to either be OK or slightly disappointing based on its promotional presentation. Some of these shows DO have sparks of potential and I’m hoping to see them shimmer and generate a better review score.

Low Priority: Locodol, Is The Order A Rabbit? & Sudden Death.

The low priority list. The shows which seem to have no hope for being good or original. The shows whose existence is questionable, depressing or bemusing. Two of these titles are here because there’s no trailer or supporting content to go with it other than one poster and a small blurb surrounding its plot. Their outlooks aren’t good but you never know. What I do know is that these will be reviewed with less of a priority than the other shows listed.

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One important to remember is that things can change. Shows can go up or down in estimation, we cannot speculate too much in terms of quality or ‘goodness’ until we actually get some episodes under our figurative belts. These ratings are merely for ordering my review roster. I’ll be sure to change things up a little bit and throw in a low or medium-low anime further up just so it becomes a teensy less predictable though; keep you on your toes!

So what anime are you looking forward to? Now’s your chance to vote for as many shows as you like so we can get a gauge on what the Anifile audience is excited about. If the results for one show in particular are high enough but the show is further down the review list, I will respond by pushing it up a little bit. ;)

Right – the stage is set. Let’s watch some anime!

 

Spring 2014: Sports


Welcome back to Anifile’s look on the Spring 2014 lineup. Today’s entry is the sports genre. A type of show which has seen a resurgence in recent years and is represented by four series for the spring session. Let’s get our boots on and kick off with our selection today.

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Roughneck Wrestler!! Matsutarou
[Abarenbou Kishi!! Matsutarou]

Genre: Shounen/Sports [Wrestling]
Animation Studio: Toei Animation
Origin: Manga [Chiba]
Airing Date: April 6 2014

Summary
Our tale is about the life of a roughian named Matsutarou who has incredible strength and a natural at the art of sumo wrestling. However, he has a very wreckless personality meaning he doesn’t take responsibility for his actions or have any goals in life. The anime chronicles his rise to becoming a proper sumo wrestler.

Initial Thoughts
It’s strange for a company like Toei to not put out a trailer for what is meant to be a series aimed at the young male demographic. There’s little to get excited about in terms of visual content, the website for the show is very sparse in terms of information too. No trailer here for this one. However, the fact that Matsutarou is unlike a typical shounen hero in that he has no dream to speak of at the start of the series is quite refreshing in that he is an untapped vessel capable of great things. I’ll reserve judgement for now until I can see some proper content.

Review Priority Rating [RPR]: Medium

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Baby Steps

Genre: Sports [Tennis]
Animation Studio: Studio Pierrot
Origin: Manga [Katsuki]
Airing Date: April 6 2014

Summary
Eiitirou, more commonly known as E-Chan, is a bright young student who is bored with life and needs to find an outlet for his frustration. He stumbles upon the school’s tennis club and is instantly enthralled with the intricacies of the sport. With all his heart, E-Chan quickly rises to the occasion and throws himself head first into the art of tennis.

Initial Thoughts
Now as soon as you read this, I bet most of you are thinking about the show Prince of Tennis and will immediately begin comparing the two shows. However, it seems that based on initial research [once again, no trailer!] that this is a purely tennis anime, little romance going on. E-Chan is driven to become the best at tennis. Another thing that I’ve gleamed from my research is that people are excited with Baby Steps being adapted. It has a strong following and based on its fanbase, it’s a very real show with very minimal moments of bonkers special attacks or heightened supernatural moments. Worth a look.

Review Priority Rating [RPR]: Medium

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Haikyuu!!

Genre: Sports [Volleyball]
Animation Studio: Production I.G.
Origin: Manga [Furudate]
Airing Date: April 6 2014

Summary
Haikyuu!! is about a student named Shoyo who grew to love the sport of volleyball after watching it on TV. Despite the fact that he’s shorter than most players, he wishes to emulate the “Small Giant” a lauded figurehead for smaller volleyball players. Shoyo eventually recruits five other players but is defeated by Tobio, another skilled player. Shoyo devotes his life to one day beat Tobio in another match.

Initial Thoughts
I’m getting massive Free! and Naruto vibes here. The whole intense, male-centric character roster coupled with the determination of a sparky light-haired protagonist to become the absolute number one. Its presentation is very slick and truly adds a lot of drama to an already fast-paced sport. Although most people would be familiar with female volleyball [I’m looking at you, young male audience members!], male volleyball is just as popular and as such it makes sense for there to be an anime. I can see this become popular in western markets and I’ll certainly check this out. Probably my favourite sports show this season based on initial impression.

Review Priority Rating [RPR]: Medium-High

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Ping Pong The Animation

Genre: Sports [Ping Pong]
Animation Studio: Tatsunoko Productions
Origin: Manga [Matsumoto]
Airing Date: April 11 2014

Summary
Makoto and Yukata [known as Smile and Peco] are both members of their local table tennis club. Their teacher observes that they both have great talent as they both frequently play against one another. The teacher spots that Smile’s attitude is the one thing that is holding him back from becoming a great player and this story recounts Smile’s development into becoming a competitive player in the field.

Initial Thoughts
This looks a lot different to most anime. It has its own style which is a lot more realistic and at the same time is able to be more artistic than real-life ever could. It’s like a combination of both world and it’s come together into a striking and unique visual presentation which is likely to not be popular with those seeking the typical anime spread. This is meant to be a tale of table tennis; simple as. Drama and action in spades. Or table tennis bats.

Review Priority Rating [RPR]: Medium-High

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That’s game, set and match for the sports genre for Spring 2014. Most of it is a mystery and we’ll have to wait until the season has begun before we can get the final scores in. Tune in next time for the anime genre biggie – the sci-fi/mecha genre. It’s going to be a big one!