But what is it with this season? Sometimes you get a few series that all have the same theme (multiple Evangelion-like mecha series, for instance) -- but this season takes the cake for that. Spring '06 must be the Japanese Anime Season of teh_gay. Seriously, lots of effiminate boys, or girls pouncing on other girls. What's up with that?
Soul Link is a bishoujo series from NAVEL, the makers of Shuffle. Main character seems to be a student at the Central Military Academy, Ryota. His class is sent to a space station for training. Over the course of the first episode, his classmates are introduced (with the focus on the girls, of course). There are some suspicious characters on the space station as well as a moustachio'd manager (note the French accordeon music!).
We get some slightly ecchi scenes, but all in all the first episode is pretty tame. The character designs are nice, but we need to see the second episode to see if we can stomach the absense of a plot.
(Also, what is it with skirts in space? If you don't want to expose your panties, don't wear a skirt in a zero-G environment! Sheesh!)
Gakuen Heaven is one of teh_gay series. Keita is an average boy, with nothing special about him. And yet, he is invited to attend one of the top-level boarding schools for boys...
In the first episode, we get introduced to various bishounen ('pretty boys'), who all seem to spend their days in leisure (food and board is provided by the school), just lounging about in their school uniforms (with the shirt half unbuttoned, of course!). Keita gets collected by someone who is called 'The King' on a motorcycle -- no doubt he'll end up as the protegé of the King and the envy of the whole school...
Whereas the undertones of Gakuen Heaven remain undertones, Princess Princess pushes the theme a lot further.
Again, the stage is a boys' boarding school and a new mid-season transfer student. Again, Ryo is a pretty average guy. But this school has the tradition of 'princesses': handsome boys who dress up in womens' clothing (think frilly dresses) to, ah, "add beauty to manly life". Ryo meets two of these so-called Princesses, and is then invited to become one too because of his looks!
It's well-drawn too, and the voice acting is OK. I'm not so sure the goofy super-deformed antics of the characters add something to the series, though.
Strawberry Panic is about another boarding school and another mid-season transfer student -- but this time it's a girls' boarding school.
Aoi is the transfer student, transferring into the first grade of highschool. She gets lost on the grounds of the school, and meets a beautiful girl in a clearing in the park around the school. The girl kisses her and Aoi faints, only to wake up in the infirmary. There she meets her roommate, who seems to think that Aoi is her personal cute pet...
During dinner, Aoi meets up with the mysterious girl from before, and finds out that she is the "Étoile", the most respected girl of all three schools...
Basically, it's the female version of Gakuen Heaven, with a slight frosting of Maria-sama ga Miteru. The busy bees of Madhouse gave this series smooth animation and appealing character designs, and the producers didn't skimp on the budget for voice acting either.
Furakappa is about Kappa living on Hawaii. It's a kids' show with lots of singing and music, and the episodes run for only three minutes. If you happen to have a toddler around who understands Japanese, this might be right up their alley!
NANA is the anime based on the tremendously popular manga by Yazawa Ai (also known from Paradise Kiss). The character designs are similar (long, elongated characters), and one can recognise some typical Yazawa-isms (for instance: the manga-like shading and the fact that the high-pressure sweat gland all anime characters seem to possess is located between the eyebrows and not at the temples).
Nana tells the story of two girls named Nana, who are moving to Tokyo. Nana Komatsu is going to live in Tokyo to be with her boyfriend, and Nana Osaki is aiming for a carreer as musician. The two totally different characters end up next to eachother on the train to Tokyo, but they lose sight of each other when they arrive in Tokyo. Nana K. gets some pressure from her boyfriend to find a job and a house, and, by pure coincidence, she ends up with Nana O. as a roommate!
Lots of characterisation. And once again, Madhouse has done an ace job on the animation. They have preserved the style of the Yazawa's manga. The music and voice acting is top-class as well. If you liked Paradise Kiss, you already know you have to see this.
Air Gear is about youth gangs who use the Air Trek to roam the streets. The Air Trek is a sort of in-line skate with an internal (nanotechnology!) engine, meaning that you could outpace a car on your skates. With the added power and speed, you can do all sorts of crazy stunts.
Main character is "Baby Face" Itsuki, who lives with three sisters. One day, het gets beaten up bu some Air Trek punks. And that evening, he finds Air Trek skates in a closet -- apparently the three sisters are members of the gang 'Sleeping Forest'. Itsuki dons the skates and takes to the streets, and unwittingly challenges the punks from before for a duel! Luckily for him, he gets some backup from the sisters...
Typical shounen stuff, with lots of shouting and casual violence. When the female characters are introduced and their bust size is displayed in a box next to them while they are talking, you know it's going to be one of 'those' series. From the maker of Tenjou Tenge, so that should tell you all you need to know.
Happy Seven apparently was aired in 2005, but only now is it being subbed. Amano is a high school student who has the worst luck -- she is constantly tripping over, steps on her new cellphone, gets balls in her face during gym classes, etc.
One evening, she meets seven girls and one boy, who fight a horde of monsters that come after her. Afterwards, the boy uses a magical stone on her to make her lose the memory of what happened. The next day, Amano stumbles into the club room of the 'Fortune Improvement Research Society', to be greeted by... seven girls. It turns out that these seven girls are (incarnations of?) the seven lucky gods of Buddhism (with the same regalia, such as a fishing rod and a mallet), and they help Amano get rid of her bad luck. And then Amano starts to remember what happened last night! Apparently she is immune to the effects of the magical mind-wiping stone...
This series is cute, and I haven't seen the Shichifukujin being used as some sort of Power Rangers team before. Fluff, but fun fluff.
Disgaea tells the story of an angel assassing sent to kill the demon lord. She arrives in a ruined castle, and finds there his son (a little demon brat) who has spent the last two years asleep. It turns out that the demon lord is already dead, and so his son want to take his place. They get attacked, rescued, attacked again, and the angel tries to befriend the demon and teach him what love is.
Quite random and quite low-budget, with a random 'plot' (just what the hell is a Lost-in-Space spaceship doing in the demon world!?).
xxxHolic is based on the manga by CLAMP. Watanuki is haunted by demons and spirits -- they follow him around and sit on his back. Obviously, this troubles him, but when he touches a fence around a small temple-like complex, the spirits dissapear! Two girls drag him inside, and there he meets Yuko (the dimensional witch from Tsubasa Chronicle!), whose days seem to be spent lounging about on the couch and smoking.
She tells him that she can grant wishes, but that she will need something from him of equal value (the alchemists' equal exchange). She promises to help him get rid of the spirits haunting him -- but the exchange is that he has to work for her...
The strangely elongated character designs we saw in Tsubasa Chronicle have been even turned up a notch in this one -- Watanuki is all arms and legs! The animation budget isn't the highest out there either (just like Tsuabsa Chronicle's), but you know that it's going to be interesting.