Spring is here! ‘Tis the season of cherry blossoms, freshly starched school uniforms, confessions of love, and more new anime than a single person could possibly keep up with who wasn’t clinically insane (or had some semblance of a social life). Today we begin the arduous task of handling that insanity for you, providing the HD perspective on as many of the season’s new shows as we possibly can before we’re hauled off to a room with padded walls. They say an initial sign of madness is referring to oneself in the plural… In today’s installment, pulled from the quickly swelling grab bag of raws at hand: Gurren Lagann, Hayate no Gotoku, Lovely Complex, and Lucky Star.

Gurren Lagann

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When I heard that Gainax was producing their first giant robot TV anime since Eva I was skeptical. The designs didn’t grab me, and coming off of the somewhat tepid interest I had in Top wo Nerae 2 I wasn’t expecting much. I was all the more pleasantly surprised blown away when I finally sat down to watch the show – it burst onto the screen with the sort of burning energy one associates with the best in classic giant robot fare, tossing us playfully into a postapocalyptic world where men are real men, women are real women, and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri are real small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri (apologies to Douglas Adams). Even the angsty kid isn’t so bad, and with any luck we’ll see a quick evolution of his character beyond the bipolar “YOU KILLED MY PARENTS YOU BASTARDS” and “I can’t pilot this thing, I’m too scared, you do it, I mustn’t run away I mustn’t run away I mustn’t run away” into something more nuanced and interesting.

The doujin artist community has been all over Yoko for the past week like *insert metaphor for being all over something here*, with some great pictures of her showing up over at the image source board I often frequent. It’ll be fun to see what the coming convention season brings.

I’m probably not the only one who noticed a paler version of the golden arches lurking in the sponsor credit roll at the beginning of the show. I can’t help but wonder if we’ll see Yoko ordering out for Big Macs a la C.C.

HD VERDICT: A

After two episodes I’d recommend Gurren Lagann to anyone with a pair of eyes and at least one ear – the show looks and sounds great, and if it keeps up this level of quality over the coming months I’d say Gainax will have a very solid hit on their hands. If you’re someone of the raw consuming persuasion you might find it worth your while to check out the web radio over at Onsen, and the official Gainax staff blog – nearly enough supplementary material to keep you immersed in the Gurrenverse all week long.

Hayate no Gotoku

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Hayate is an average high school student who takes spiritual direction from Santa Claus and supports his unemployed and utterly irresponsible parents through a series of odd jobs. As an average high school student he’s technically not supposed to be working, which gives his current employer, Ikari Gendo, an excuse to fire him and give all his back pay to his parents. He rushes home in an attempt to stop them from wasting it, only to find that not only is his pay entirely gone, his parents have run away and left him with an enormous amount of debt.

Hilarity ensues as he is confronted by yakuza, escapes, decks Santa for his unsound “meek shall inherit the earth” policy, attempts to abduct Kugimiya Rie Louise Nagi, a rich heiress, fails, lets her be abducted by yakuza, chases after her, rescues her, and is offered a job as her butler – all with Wakamoto Norio along for the ride as narrator.

HD VERDICT: B

Hayate bears all the trademarks of a run-of-the-mill gag anime, and as such it wouldn’t merit more than a C if it weren’t for all the great gimmicks in this episode. Wakamoto Norio makes any anime more funny, especially when he starts talking about the show as he’s narrating it; beating up Santa is also a sure fire recipe for laughs, if a cheap one. I find the visuals to be uninspired, Hayate to be a generally pointless character without any weaknesses or interesting personality quirks, and listening to Rie-chan just makes me want the second season of Zero no Tsukaima to come faster. Worth watching for a quick laugh, but I don’t anticipate seeing this one through to the end.

Lovely Complex

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Boy and girl fight like lovers all the time, don’t realize they’re the perfect pair, are actually good friends, help each other try to hook up with other people, fail disastrously, console each other, fight, agree to compete to see who can get hooked up first, rinse, wash, repeat cycle as necessary with ever-higher stakes and an expanding cast of characters. IT’S THE SHOUJO WAY.

And an entertaining way it is, too. The boy is short and he resents it, the girl is tall and she resents it, otherwise they’re both the very models of modern Japanese youth – Japanese Kansai youth. Osaka accents and jokes about how they’re a manzai pair all around.

HD VERDICT: B+

If you’re looking for a decent shoujo romantic comedy with plenty of sight gags and an overall feel-good tone, this is your show for the season. Barring a lapse into the “failed relationship of the week” syndrome, that is.

Lucky Star

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Zoom Player was being uncooperative in the screen capture process for Lucky Star, resulting in an otherwise inexplicable preponderance of Konata images. Being voiced by Hirano Aya and given the lion’s share of interesting lines she’s obviously groomed as the star of the show, but what I’d say has everyone’s attention after watching is less Konata herself than the full frontal assault of saccharine bombastic poptastic might that is the opening theme and accompanying animation. Wow. Gurren Lagann’s OP is fantastic, but Lucky Star’s leaps down your throat and grabs a particularly big vein near the heart, threatening to sever it if its demands for ULTIMATE OP status of the season are not met.

The frenetic awesomeness and ultimate danceability of the OP are unfortunately the least ambiguous things about the show, as it immediately becomes apparent that for better or for worse it’s based on a 4-panel manga. I’ve never had much luck with the format, either in print or anime-translated form, and though I may risk lynching for this I have to admit I never did finish the Azumanga Daioh anime – perhaps the pinnacle of animated four panel work. Yes, Lucky Star is animated by Kyoani. Yes, they’re trying to pin a Haruhi association to it as hard as they can. Anyone expecting a second coming of Haruhi in Lucky Star is bound for disappointment, though; if you liked Azumanga and Sensei no Jikan this will be right up your alley, but if not it may be a bit difficult to swallow.

HD VERDICT: C

This score is based largely on my personal preference, but it seems almost insulting (not to mention artistically questionable) to go from the most exhuberant OP of the season into a placid discussion of how you eat your Oreo cookie. I’m agnostic on the character designs, but they don’t lend themselves either to really exciting animation or to adaptation by doujin artists (beyond further four-panel gags). If I want chibi high school students I’ll watch Manabi Straight (secon season please!), and if I want stories about otaku I’ll watch Genshiken (second season please!). Sorry, Konata / Aya-tan. That said, I’ll probably watch a few more episodes – it’s Kyoani, after all.

And there you have it – four down, a whole hell of a lot to go. You can find the second part of the HD take on spring 2007 anime, with summary judgment on seven more shows, here.