Thursday, December 23, 2010


Well now, ‘tis indeed that time again – the hilariously silly, completely self-indulgent Yuletide season that rounds out yet another year passed by; a few weeks in which people reflect and wax nostalgic over the past 12 months, bandy about inane Top 10 lists, thank-tank the best and worst, and drink way too much at rabble-rousing Christmas parties.

Never quite one to be left out of a bit of wining, dining, carousing, or making twee judgment calls myself, I here get to ruminate over Japan’s celluloid offerings in 2010 and in general. Read on and/or weep.



2010 been an absolutely dire year for TV anime, with most of the more innovative studios (Madhouse, Production I.G, Gonzo, Studio 4°C) seemingly in hibernation over the past twelve months – or at the very least keeping their claws sheathed.

While Madhouse did pull off something nifty in the Redline feature movie directed by Takeshi Koike, and Keiichi Hara’s anime movie Colorful was one of the cinematic highlights this year, the medium was lacklustre on the tellies.

It’s quite clear that the Japanese anime scene is going through a rough patch right now, very much like that which has crippled the newspaper/magazine and music industries, which may (or may not) have much to do with either the Internet or the global financial downturn or both; I’ll leave that appraisal to better qualified people.

So, it may come as some surprise to discover the series that rates as the best animated program on Japanese tellies this year.

But with all disclaimers aside, I'll readily admit it – I'm hooked watching this show every Sunday morning at 8:30, and not only because it's my four-year-old daughter Cocoa's preferred eye candy.

HeartCatch PreCure! (ハートキャッチプリキュア!) is an infectious, disarming, super-cute kids’ series that lacks the annoyance value of, say, Pokémon and has enough humour and action quotient (they kick giant monster arse every week) for adults to lose themselves in it as well.

Having kicked off on TV Asahi (Channel 10) in Tokyo back in February this year, HeartCatch is the seventh version of the long-running girls’ concept series created by the 'mysterious' Izumi Todo – actually none other than an alias for the creative types at Toei Animation.

To my mind the current is the infinitely better interpretation to date; last year’s, for example, called Fresh Pretty Cure!, was just plain bland.

By contrast, for a young girls' romp, there's a surprising sense of patience in the development of the story-telling arc of HeartCatch PreCure!, there're the surreal kaiju-style monsters every week, the villains ham it up, our heroes aspire to fashion, and the character designs are exceptionally cool.

What’s it all the fuss about, anyway?

The yarn started up with our shy, upright schoolgirl heroine Tsubomi (Cure Blossom), swathed in pink, then she was joined by trusty neighbour and fashion-minded sidekick Erika (the all-blue Cure Marine). Five months into the series, the third heroine emerged with the gold enshrouded, androgynous Itsuki (Cure Sunshine) – who dresses in boys clothes but shines in her girly PreCure persona. More recently the mysterious, reticent senior high school student Yuri was revealed to be the somewhat bitter Cure Moonlight.

While it's obviously aimed at the purchasing powers of the parents of the target demographic, there's something for everyone – even the more critical expat foreigners and their open-minded kids.

And it’s hands-down the best anime thing to screen on TV in Japan this year.


1. Thirteen Assassins (d. Takashi Miike)
2. Redline (d. Takeshi Koike)
3. Colorful (d. Keiichi Hara)
4. Villains (d. Lee Sang Il)
5. Space Battleship Yamato (d. Takashi Yamazaki)
6. Cold Fish (d. Sion Sono)
7. Assault Girls (d. Mamoru Oshii)
8. The Last Chushingura (d. Shigemichi Sugita)
9. Caterpillar (d. Koji Wakamatsu)
10. Zebraman: Vengeful Zebra City (d. Takashi Miike)

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