First, we watched Gilgamesh. It starts rather unnerving in Earth orbit, and then zooming in on an installation that looks like an eye, set somewhere in Mesopotamia. And yes, the anime does have themes of the ancient Mesopotamian epic of the same name.
There's been a 'terrorist attack' by a guy named Enkidu, and since then the Earth is encased in some sort of magnetic field that renders electronic equipment unusable. It's probably very important for the plot later on, but the significance of the event does not become clear in the first episode. Rather, the first episode focusses on two different locales (and again, the link between the two does not become apparent). The first part deals with some sort of scientific council (it looked suspiciously like the alien council from Dark City), which resides in the eye-like structure. It is decided to shut something down, because it's too dangerous, but one lone scientist succeeds in activating this thing, called Heaven's Gate. (No bad puns about castrated, suicide commiting web-designers, please.)
The second part deals with a brother and sister who are on the run for a bunch of mob types that they owe money. They are saved by a bunch of bishounen who have powers that look suspiciously like magic. And then it's time for the preview (which is kind of cool, with short flashes of the next episode, with short soundbites playing along), and we are left in the dark as to what it is about.
The designers aimed for a 'realistic' visual style, one that I found unappealing. The mouths are too big (I couldn't stop staring at the thick lips of every character), and every strand of hair had to be drawn.
I think we'll watch a few more episodes of this (I love deep storylines, especially if they borrow from ancient mythology), but if it turns sour, I think I'll drop it because of the uglyness.
Next, we watched Bottle Fairy. Apparently it's about a guy who keeps four fairies that live in glass jars in his room. Of course, the fairies are pretty naive, and lots of hijinks ensue. When their 'owner' (whom they call 'Sensei-san' goes off to school and is unavailable to answer their questions, they turn to the little kid of the neighbours, who is about as much an airhead as the fairies are.
Each of the fairies have their own distinct personality, with lots of chances for stereotyping and humour based on that. They also have low-grade magic available to them, allowing them to animate a Pokémon creature or to make a table float.
It's fun and it's cute, what more would one want? It seems like a cross between Tiny Snow Fairy Sugar and Azumanga Daioh -- in fact, they have the same physical jokes as Azumanga Daioh has (and the one with black hair is just a tiny version of Osaka, with some added magic).
We also watched the first episode of Avenger. This one it set on Mars, where domed city states employ fighters to fight for 'em in ritualised battles, while most of the work is done by 'dolls', androids (female androids, of course). We meet Leila Ashley, the fighter of a certain city. She's a moody 18-year old who apparently hates dolls. There's also a young man rummaging through the garbage, salvaging spare parts from discarded dolls.
Not much happens in the first episode: a fighter from outside ("Barbaroi", they call those people) comes to challenge Leila. She defeats him, and all his possessions (including a doll) pass on to her. At the end of the episode, we see her walking away from the domed city, with the young guy in pursuit on some sort of scooter vehicle -- though we're not told why Leila leaves.
The series 'feels' a lot like .hack//Sign and Noir: there is some similarity in character designs and the speed at which the plot moves (which is to say: slower than continental drift). There are long shots, close-ups of the eyes of our tortured heroine and music that does not want to stay in the background. Both opening and ending tunes are done by the Ali Project (of Noir opening theme fame), evoking even more visions of Noir.
Last, we watched the first episode of Full Metal Alchemist, according to my sources the best new series this season. It's about two brothers who practice alchemy. As we all know, alchemy is a science, not magic -- something that these brothers seemed to forget early in their careers. A mistake they paid dearly for.
The two brothers come upon a city that is ruled by a high priest of the god of the sun who turns out to be nothing more than a fraud. Our alchemist brothers unmask the cad and some sort of fight ensues. We get to see what dark price the two young alchemists have paid for their arts, and then the episode's over.
Character designs are like simpler versions of the designs used in Hikaru no Go, and has many super-deformed outbursts by the titular character, the eldest brother. Not so sure about this one, it seems like Rave without the piercings.