Sunday, September 12, 2010

Anime Review: Kanokon (ANN Ver.)

Anime Review # 006
Title: Kanokon
Release Type: Singles

Since I thought some of you might like to see it despite it not making it to ANN, here's the final draft version of my Kanokon review. Although it wasn't used due to senior reviewer deciding to review Kanokon after all, you wonderful people get a chance to read it anyway! (Excuse the lack of linkies.)

Kanokon Volume 1 Review:

Synopsis: Kota is an ordinary high school student, with the looks of a little boy, who happens to learn his school’s secret. Yōkai are amongst his classmates! Fortunately for Kota, they’re mostly friendly. Unfortunately for Kota, two of them are a little too friendly. Chizuru is in love with Kota but new student Nozomu wants him too. Both are willing to “express” their affection in every way possible and poor Kota’s protests just can’t deter these girls from trying to get out of their clothes and into his pants. And for at least one of the girls, that includes a little spiritual possession.



Review:

Take one sexually-aggressive fox girl yōkai, one quietly lascivious wolf girl yōkai and one semi-perverted but self-conscious high school boy and you’ve got zany trouble in the sex-comedy outing that is Kanokon. Based on a series of light novels licensed but never released by Seven Seas, Kanokon the anime is a series that wants to tell a simple story about a love triangle. It skips the drama and moves on to the ecchi fun but also seems to want to skip out on exploring part of its own premise.

Kanokon’s first episode is somewhat bland and has poor transitions between flashback moments and the present day scenes. Little information is provided that the viewer wouldn’t already know just from a trailer or reading the synopsis on the DVD case. Kota Oyamada is a high school student with the nickname “King of Eros” and the subject of Chizuru Minamoto’s sexual advances. If she isn’t trying to strip him, she’s hanging all over him or tempting him in a completely unsubtle manner. Kota’s unwillingness to more strenuously protest Chizuru’s advances might be more acceptable to his classmates if they knew she was a yōkai fox with supernatural powers. Unfortunately, Kota is the only one in on the masquerade and Chizuru has no concept of decorum or personal space. Naturally, her nymphomaniac actions drive much of the shows humor.

Adding to the madness is the arrival of Nozomu Ezomori. After a brief meeting that manages to show that Kota really is a nice guy and also a bit genre savy, Nozomu stakes out a corner in Kanokon’s central love triangle. She’s a quiet yōkai wolf girl and while there are a few mentions of her supernatural power being potentially greater than Chizuru’s, neither girl seems interested in a magical battle. The two high school girls compete for Kota’s affections with bad cooking and sexually provocative advances. Their dueling escapades can be very funny to watch, especially their childish bickering, but there is a lack of depth. The girls’ reasons for falling for Kota are largely unexplained, even by the standards of the average harem anime. Kota himself thinks it may have more to with his smell than his personality.

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Depending on the viewer’s mood, Kanokon will either be a cotton-candy romp of fanservice fun or a bland pudding of disinterest. Simply put, in these initial four episodes there is little beyond pure zany sex-comedy silliness. Certainly this can be enjoyable and fulfilling but not if the anime fan watching was hoping for a spectacular or emotional yōkai battle. At least in these episodes, the fact that the two girls competing for Kota’s affections are supernatural beings seems a minor detail at best. The supernatural aspect is primarily to add to the fetish fuel content, as in the “toad oil” scene or when Chizuru possesses Kota. Episode 4 “Can’t Take It Off’ is really the only time in this volume that any sort of magic power is even necessary to resolve the plot. Several of the yōkai showoff their abilities, albeit only in ways that trigger more fanservice, and all of the girls get a chance to indulge a few more fetishes via cosplay. The episode is quite ridiculous and fun, easily the major contender for best episode on this disc.

Kanokon’s strength is that it truly enjoys being an ecchi sex-comedy, with Chizuru representing the sex maniac character type in a rather lovable manner. At the same time, it’s easy to wish the anime staff had chosen to focus a bit more on the supernatural elements or at least put a tad more emotion into the series. The first episode, dull as it is, provides some subtext that suggests that Chizuru falling for Kota may be because he is the first person not to reject her completely upon finding out she’s not human. The first volume of Kanokon will have the right audience laughing at the wild sexual antics of the “King of Eros” Kota and his two co-queens. All of the characters are likable and appealing visually, though lacking in depth.

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Media Blasters’ release of Kanokon under their Anime Works label may contribute to a negative fan reaction from even the right audience though. Arvintel Media was tapped by Media Blasters for the English dub, producing a language track that while serviceable has highly detrimental flaws. In terms of translation and casting, Kanokon has a decent English dub. The use of the term yōkai wins points and most scenes flow well in English. Dorothy Elias-Fahn’s Chizuru mixes sexy and cute, managing to be quite likable in the role with a more adult quality than the Japanese. She also expresses a pleasant duality of voice when speaking to Kota versus other characters. It’s clear the actress enjoyed herself. Mona Marshall feels somewhat off as Kota and a few scenes, mainly in the first episode, feel uneven. While not a bad performance, it is less than expected. Rounding out the triangle of affections is May Kao as Nozomu. Her character’s first appearance is a bit weak but she builds on it. Her best line deliveries are when Nozomu is insulting Chizuru, though that’s not to disparage her other scenes. May is a surprise gem, with greater vocal presence than her Japanese counterpart.

Where the English dub for Kanokon fails is in technical merits. While initially doing a decent job, the third and fourth episodes have severe and highly noticeable errors. Episode three features a moment of silence where the English audio cuts out during Chizuru’s bath and episode four has Kota speaking as if in a bad Godzilla film dub in one scene. Given that Media Blasters has elected to only produce English dubs for select title, it would behoove the company to place a greater emphasis on quality if they intend to skimp on quantity. Arvintel’s work on this dub initially shows promise but someone clearly dropped the ball twice. Japanese dub fans have a clear advantage with this release. Ayako Kawasumi’s Chizuru has slightly more emotion but an overly cutesy tone. Mamiko Noto’s Kota has greater consistency and vocal presence. The brothers of the female leads sound especially better in the Japanese dub, having greater vocal presence and line delivery. Miyū Takeuchi however feels a bit lifeless as Nozumu.

This volume has minimal extras: a clean opening and closing. The opening theme “Phospher" by Ui Miyazaki is sprightly but has better visuals than lyrics, showing the cast of characters in action with several fun images of the secondary characters reacting to the viewer. The closing theme “Koi no Honoo” Yui Sakakibara is stronger. Although the visuals are lacking without the credit text, the song gives a warm emotional feeling. The music is catchy with lyrics that provide more intimacy than the episode content so far. As of now, the themes are the only extras but John Sirabella of Media Blasters is looking into acquiring a series of video omakes.

Overall, the first volume of Kanokon is an average sex-comedy fanservice title. While there is a possibility the content will become more complex as the series continues, if the viewer isn’t interested by now, this is probably the wrong show to watch. For those who enjoy the silly and sexy antics, Kanokon is still more of a guilty pleasure than a top tier favorite due to the lack of depth.

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Ratings:

Overall (dub) : C-
Overall (sub) : B+
Story : C+
Animation : C
Art : B
Music : B-

+: The cosplay episode is crazy fun, the characters are surprisingly likable, fetish fuel.

-: First episode is dull, virtually nothing to offer beyond sexual humor in these episodes, the English dub has serious production flaws and some miscasts.

So that's my ANN review of Kanokon! It may read as a bit more critical than normal but I really just could not see this as more than a guilty pleasure anime. Some guilty pleasure anime have more going for them: a sweet romantic angle, great action or just more depth than the average in terms of story-telling. Kanokon, while very funny to me, is just plain not going to appeal to a whole lot of people. Even some fans of ecchi comedy are going to be turned off by it.

Still, I enjoyed it despite the technical problems with the English dub. Really, if not for the fact the problems were relatively brief, I'd have dropped my grade even further. And to think, I said positive things abotu the studio before discovering those mistakes! (I'd seen the first ep streamed and it seemed fine so I somewhat assumed basic competency. Oops.)

Anyway, my score via catgirls would be:

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I laughed but I had to endure the first episode's extreme weakness first and I only really started enjoying it in eps 3 & 4. First volumes like this are generally pretty weak but this was surprisingly so.

Bye-ni!

12 comments:

  1. Kanokon, is as you say, a guilty pleasure. You either like it or you don't. :P
    I, for one, like it, for it's pervy funtime, but do admit that it's not "the greatest thing evar."

    The production issues aside, the dub sounds pretty alright.
    Though it does had some generally odd casting choices. It'll be interesting to hear more dialogue from certain characters once future volumes get released...

    Arvintel did a better job on Ah My Buddha, I thought. (even though two main characters and two VERY minor characters changed voice actors halfway through the show...)

    Anyway, yeah I was surprised when the Kanokon review was from Therton, since I was expecting yours. :P

    ReplyDelete
  2. I did give it a little bit more of a higher rating, but if I remember correctly it was because it was the start of the series.

    I did miss that episode with the bad English speaking episode. Since I watch anime in an odd way.

    But yeah, I do think they did drop the ball a bit on the dub.

    Great too see you back.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Nice job on the review Richard J.

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  4. Yeah! Richard is back! I try and check in once in awhile to see if you have any new news/reviews up. Kanokon lol good stuff but yeah the English dub could have been better. Curse Media Blasters for being cheap.

    BTW Richard I would LOVE it if you make a review for the new bilingual release of Bludgeoning Angel Dokuro Chan! Excellent dub! Can't get enough of it!

    Anyways glad to see you back and active!

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  5. Oh yeah, Queen's Blade's dub on the other hand is actually really good. Media Blasters and Headline did great on that dub, I thought. :)

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  6. @ bal-anime: I never said I didn't personally enjoy Kanokon. It's just, there's not much there beyond the obvious. Queen's Blade is a better series in many ways but that's for another review.

    @ wilhelminaanime: Yeah, MB really should use a more reliable English dubber.

    @ Brad: Thanks!

    @ Excel Generations: Dokuro-chan review? You want a Dokuro-chan review? Really? ;)

    You'll get your wish but not on ANN. (I'd asked about it before but no dice.) Hope to get it out before the end of the month.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hurray! <3 BTW has anyone watched Hetalia yet? I made a preorder for it at Rightstuf or as Richard would say Right(you get no dub)stuf because they had an awesome deal for Corpse Princess plus a T-Shirt. :) Anyways yeah im STILL waiting... very unhappy... Both Hetalia and Corpse Princess have been reserved for weeks and they haven't shipped it yet! I have been to Best Buy and Fry's multiple times and both shows were there and only pissing me off while my friends get to buy them AND watch them!

    Also Hetalia seems to be sold out EVERYWHERE! It's reminding me of Baccano. Same situation but this is a good sign! ;D

    ReplyDelete
  8. Rightstuf sent me my Corpse Princess parts +shirt awhile ago... no idea why your order's being held up, but it's probably Hetalia.

    As for Hetalia, I've seen the first 4 eps, it's kinda funny. I may get it later at some point, but I'm buying too much other stuff at the moment :P

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  9. @ Excel Generations and bal-anime: TRSI has Corpse Princess shirts? Excume me while I check on that!

    @ Everyone: Sorry about the Kanokon cover pic going bye-bye, Photobucket is being silly again. See new post on subject.

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  10. @Richard- I tried to tell you about the shirts at TRSI on the FUNi blog comments section, however my post never made it through for some reason xD;

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  11. Hey you guys read on Funi's blog site too? I have made a few comments myself i use the same name everywhere.

    Also here is the link for the Corpse Princess bundle part 1&2 with t-shirt. It is also back on the weekly special too so it's mega cheap only $72 total!
    http://www.rightstuf.com/cgi-bin/catalogmgr/viMiT85qQeOZ=sLs1F/browse/item/88907/4/0/0

    ReplyDelete
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