picking the sleeper

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“Sleeper” is a word added to any football fan’s lexicon in this modern age. People talk about which teams are sleepers for the playoffs in NFL forums. I can agonize on who will be a sleeper “for fantasy purposes” and that phrase actually connotes less gayness than one would expect. The thing is, it’s a crap shoot. Who knew the Saints– the Saints! — would go the NFC Championship last year? Who knew that Randy Moss and Chris Brown are this years Marquis Colston and Vince Young? The thing is, no one knew. That’s why they’re “sleepers.”

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We make our best guess based on past performance and try to project it forward. Most of the time, it’s easy. Brady. Manning. They’re going to be good as Harrington and McNair would be bad. Easy picks. No shock. No shit Sherlock. But for this post, I’m not talking about the easy ones. I’m talking about the hard ones. The ones you don’t see coming.

In anime, it is no different. Every season, we anticipate what’s going to be good, what’s going to suck. Who knew Haruhi would be a powerhouse? That’s the thing. But unlike the NFL where all the teams have recent history, anime foretelling is too dependent on names. Big names. People want names. They like them. Fate/Stay Night means more than Magikano. Looking at the 50 or so responses (and climbing) about what I should blog for Fall 2007, I think 45 of them are for the names. Gundam 00 (even though I said DQ it… I don’t want to spend a year following a show), Genshiken (which was as front loaded series), Kodomo no Jikan (which no one would care about if Seven Seas didn’t pull it), Shana II (it’s a sequel, and even though most sequels don’t improve on the original, they tend to get more buzz), and CLANNAD (Kyoto Animation is the New England Patriots of anime… Patty spying on the Bring It On girls with her phone-cam just proves the point further).

Most of it is just that there’s too much (even a somewhat light load of ~35 shows is a lot to wade though), so people just start and stop at the big names. But we’re not here talking about a Randy Moss or a Roy Williams; we’re talking about the receiver picked in round 14 of your fantasy draft that suddenly got hot (like Colston or Fur Burger last year). Almost every season, there’s a going to be at least one sleeper hit that’s going to surpass the “hyped” series.

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In Spring 2006, the buzz at the time was all for the big names, like CLAMP’s xxxHOLiC/Tsubasa Chronicles, Disgaea, and School Rumble, which ended season one so well, everyone expected greatness from season 2, or even ああっ女神さまっ. Well, I’d say that the previous no-names of Haruhi (no one outside of Japan really knew, thanks to the novel format), Ouran (a fangirl’s best kept secret), Higurashi (cult favorite), and Utawarerumono (again, few played the game in this blogosphere until after they watched the anime). (Black Lagoon got buzz and lived up to it.)

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In Summer 2006, everyone was drooling over Honey and Clover II before it collapsed faster than A-Team season five. Who would have placed a bet that Muteki Kanban Musume would be a stronger series than Honey & Clover before that season started? Seriously? A manga that sold like 100 copies in the US and brought disaster to ADV’s manga arm is going to be the juggernaut from 2005? Though using “juggernaut” and “Honey and Clover” is stretching it nowadays. (And for sleepers that season, how about Jessica’s, Henrietta’s, and Siesta’s melonpan breaking out onto the scene.)

In Fall 2006, Death Note and Kanon, and Negima!? got the buzz. You can argue which one got more. Mainstreamers went after Death Note more whilst the moe seekers went after Kanon, but like teams that are expected to make the playoffs, they did. But did anyone predict Code Geass would leave such an impression presented by Pizza Hut? Or even Otome wa Boku having such an impact on my meme usage?

In Winter 2007, everyone was buzzing about Kyoshiro to Towa no Sora. I knew nothing of the series, but I guess it was one of those things where a few bloggers posted a few images and that got people excited. And then they watched the series and made the ~uguu~ face. (At least the DVD specials are watchable.) In a somewhat related story, I think I watched a few shows from this season and said, “Screw it, I’m not wasting my time writing a thin slicing post for this dredge.”

In Spring 2007, definitely Lucky Star (thanks to the Kyoto Effect, which is that for another eighteen months, everyone will irrationally hype anything from Kyoto and then suddenly turn against the studio, kinda like what will happen Eli Manning) and Nanoha (if A’s were 1999 Farve, StrikerS is 2007 Farve) got the early buzz. Who would guess that a series made up by Gainax would dominate Kyoto’s best effort and a Maria-Hinagiku-Izumi triple attack? Who’d knew that Nagasarete Airantou with its better source material and marginally better studio would end up inferior to Seto no Hanayome with its weaker material and Gonzo. Gonzo!!! I guess that’s my point. Some of the best shows have a habit of sneaking up on us. (And who would have predicted Darry’s ass… ?)

In Summer 2007… one word that used to be two: Potemayo.

So one auxiliary function in asking for blogging suggestions is to gauge everyone’s buzz level for the upcoming season. (Mainly, I got a lot of helpful info and even a few links, so to everyone who had written in, many thanks.) Yes, Gundam is high. Yes, CLANNAD is high. But out of this sorry looking bunch, what could potentially lurk as a Gurren Lagann or even Muteki Kanban Musume-class sleeper?

I have noticed a few helpful tips when looking for anime seasonal sleepers. The first, of course, is that no one has to be buzzing them early, or at least very few people. Not having hype might actually help a show. Watching Haruhi for the first time, I didn’t expect anything. Tip two, of course, is that fresher material helps. If we’ve read the manga already or seen it before, generally it’s not as fresh. Like sushi, the fresher the better. Light novels are actually pretty good for this purpose because there’s very few novel translation groups… so gems like Haruhi and Seirei— series that get tons of love in Japan already– are not known in the English world. Gurren Lagann, of course, because it is all new, pierced the heavens and other objects with its drill. Third, it’s probably from a less-corporate studio. This one is harder to explain. Production IG? They do fantastic work, but you know what you’re getting from them. They’re always in fourth gear, but they don’t have that extra fifth gear. Kyoto has it. Gainax, well, it seems like they have that fifth gear and a NOZ injection system that can either propel them faster or blow them up (with no in between of course). Lastly, look for interesting characters. No one cares about “typical harem loser male #531,491,” but mix in some Dennis Miller-lite sarcasm and a costume raping cohort? Solid gold.

Nonetheless, where does it leave the upcoming season? I have no clue. Readers (no more than one apiece) have suggested series like Blue Drop, Macross F, and ef. DCII: Da Capo II got zero votes. That’s inline with my expectations. I’m also shocked that no one suggested Koharu Biyori, as it is perfectly aligned with AoMM’s value system.

36 Responses to “picking the sleeper”

  1. just lower your expectations, then everything rocks.

  2. that’s why i watch pretty much every anime for 3 ep (unless truely dreadful, then i will settle with 1), then narrow it down to about 10 to 20 that i follow through season

    on the record.. i did follow kodomo no jikan since manga vol 1 release (that says alot about the kinda guy i am)

  3. sketchbook and kimikiss, but then again those aren’t really sleepers, are they? here’s to hoping sketchbook turns out to be more of an aria rather than a hidamari. not a bad floor to have, but it can be so much better.

    speaking of sleepers, whats up with that name? if i took the term more literally, i’d say shows like code-e and zombie loan were more of the sleepers – they put me to sleep…

  4. Or simply let the sleepers come to you, rather than trying to find them. Works for me!

  5. On Kodomo no Jikan, while the seven seas thing did bring it to my attention, its the great story and character develpoment of the manga that made me a fan.

  6. Isn’t it a paradox trying to choose a sleeper hit, especially when it’s a title that people have read or heard little about? For all we know, Maple Story might turn out to be a sleeper hit since there’s no story or source material to speak of so for all we know they could craft an epic story involving rival lesbian factions who dress in skimpy amazonian…oh who am I kidding: it’s going to be a kiddy show judging from the character designs, but I’m gonna check it out anyway since I play the game.

    There’s quite of number of ‘slice of life’ shows that I’m looking forward to, such as Sketchbook but everything else looks like your typical, ‘safe’ titles that should turn a tidy return to the studio.

  7. Actually, I’m quite dependent on this blog for sleepers since I’m too lazy to wade through even episode 1 of some stuff. I don’t know if this is a sleeper per se, but did you see the trailer for BONES’s new anime? It looked like Kenshin with awesome animation.

  8. LOL your last suggestion was good Jason; I’m with you and KOHARU BIYORI
    For teh sleepers, well I guess it will be another long season for me.

  9. Thought provoking post – the US sports references went over my head (as they usually do) but I must say I loved the developed ‘fifth gear’ metaphor. I can’t say I’ve previously given much thought to the relative worth of upcoming series – possibly one of the advantages of being relatively new to anime is that there’re so many shows from the past to watch that one doesn’t feel especially bothered about stuff that’s currently airing unless it’s considered to be really good by other fans . . . after all, average-to-good shows X, Y, and Z will still be there when I’ve finished various widely-acknowledged classics such as Escaflowne. As Fat Cat Lim points out, there’s a possible paradox in recognising a ‘sleeper’ – does it remain a sleeper if you’ve detected it? Nevertheless, I wouldn’t say that that makes the exercise of searching for sleepers futile.

  10. Nice blog…… First time I have come, so I read all the Haruhi posts. Yes, I was just that bored.
    You never mentioned school days…… No one knew what the game was for a good time here in the states, and the anime popularized beyond belief. I was quite surprised that you are not covering school days, I thought for sure you would be……. Then again from what I learned in the Haruhi posts you like the moe, which is skipped entirely in SD, as it just goes straight to the sex. SPOILER (How does one exactly pleasure three girls at once? I have an idea, but still…..)

    Anyway, nice blog…. Good job with the gear metaphors…..

    >>a NOZ injection system that can either propel them faster or blow them up
    Like half the things I own?

  11. and Nanoha (if A’s were 1999 Farve, StrikerS is 2007 Farve)

    Oh Lord, the wheels within wheels in that statement.

    Gainax, well, it seems like they have that fifth gear and a NOZ injection system that can either propel them faster or blow them up (with no in between of course).

    Perfect analogy for Gainax! I love it!
    .
    Man, the metaphor train is really on a roll at AoMM today.

  12. [quote comment=”153375″]
    You never mentioned school days…… [/quote]

    Good thing he never did, School Days attracted just one thing … comments about how Makoto should die.

    Also you are mistaken that nobody knew, a lot of people did and spread the word about the bad endings that end up being the only reason most people watched it.

  13. [quote post=”1164″]you like the moe, which is skipped entirely in SD, as it just goes straight to the sex[/quote]
    I’m not sure moe is part of a process whose end point is sex.
    Checking AniDB’s info on Koharu Biyori, it sounds like something Yamazaki from N.H.K. would come up with.

  14. Hmm…sleepers. I’m probably going to be blogging Blue Drop and Shion no Ō because, even though I know absolutely nothing about them, they look interesting. Mokke has also caught my eye as well.

  15. i am soooo pissed that the last episode of Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Kai got canceled because of the fallout from a recent murder in Japan. just when they figured out how to do consistently good art too…

    some other shows that seemed to tank or prove inferior to the source material were Claymore, Devil May Cry, and Zombie-Loan (was there source?). the first started to die as soon as it started taking the typical shounen approach of “Let’s get stronger!” the second failed in the art and story department, but scores high with its OST. the third was a disappointment, considering the creator did DearS (i know, it didn’t rank high here, but it ranked just fine with me) and Rozen Maiden, and it was too short.

    aside from the obvious sleeper hit, the ones that also took me by a pleasant surprise were Bokusatsu Tenshi Dokuro-chan 2 (funny that they edited it for TV for violence, but in light of the Higurashi cancellation…), Kaze no Stigma (the male lead Kazuma wins as anti-Shinji, like Simon), Kekkaishi, Lovely Complex (not Ouran funny, but funny in its own right), and Mushi-Uta.

    now to finish off ZnT2 and get SnS2 started already…

  16. i believe Koharu Biyori’s manga is licensed in the US under the name ‘Indian Summer’ if u wanted to pick it up.

  17. mmmmm…..DearS…..

  18. [quote post=”1164″]For all we know, Maple Story might turn out to be a sleeper hit since there’s no story or source material to speak of[/quote]

    maple story is a korean MMORPG

  19. [quote post=”1164″]Gainax, well, it seems like they have that fifth gear and a NOZ injection system that can either propel them faster or blow them up (with no in between of course).[/quote]
    …Sounds like my car after my brother got his hands on it.
    .
    Anyway, my recommends are GHOST HOUND and Majin Tantei Nougami Neuro. Hell, NOBODY’S talking about Neuro despite the fact Madhouse is doing it. Dark horse qualities, right there. Personally, though, I’ll be sure to follow Prism Ark.

  20. [quote comment=”153385″][quote post=”1164″]For all we know, Maple Story might turn out to be a sleeper hit since there’s no story or source material to speak of[/quote]

    maple story is a korean MMORPG[/quote]

    Yes, but unlike other anime series which adapts from their manga or game sources, Maple Story is an open-ended MMORPG so there’s no plot or source material to speak about. So if they wanted, they could script the Maple Story anime series to be a slice-of-life anime series, a simple adventure story, or an epic one full of GAR, plot twists, and lots of hot maple syrup poured on nubile young girls.

  21. >>lots of hot maple syrup poured on nubile young girls.

    Jason’s personal choice I am guessing…..
    Anyway, I was thinking of a poll that could be done… It would be fairly open ended, but it could work..
    The hardest cock-block in anime. (Hardest replaced best just for the hell of it)
    I can’t think of any besides the plot of Kimi ga Nozomu Eien…. At least for now. I had some good ones earlier, but I can’t think of them now…..
    Heres one… Ultimate cock block in my book from School Days: (SPOiPLERS) Sekai getting pregnant and shouting at Makoto about it in class……. That is gonna be a hard one to top….
    As for my choice of a sleeper? Mokke…. That is, if it still qualifies. Basic plot is there to be really good….. Then again it was on Wiki… But once again, everything is on wiki….

  22. “maple story is a korean MMORPG”

    isn’t Maple story a hentai?

    “>>lots of hot maple syrup poured on nubile young girls.
    Jason’s personal choice I am guessing…..”

    A lot of people have that choice.

    StrikerS was bad but it did gave us a lot materials for the 4koma which was much better then the series.

  23. Maple story is not a hentai……. At least not that I know of. Its an MMORPG…. But damn wouldn’t most the people here be happy if it was based off a hentai….. School days anyone?

  24. you’re thinking of Maple Colors.

  25. I gotta say that the standards of AoMM are pretty low. Here’s how I use my magic:

    1: Adult anime titles are better.
    2: Eroge -> anime conversions will become garbage.
    3: Anything done by $unrise will become garbage.
    4: Gainax are hypocrites; hating otaku and yet relying on them by creating sexy female characters.
    5: Anything done by Kyoto Animation will NEVER replace real sex.
    6: SHAFT needs to FOCUS on stories for anime.
    7: Anime based on manga will probably do better.
    7b: Unless they’re garbage like “Welcome to the NHK” or “Hayate The Combat Butler.”
    7b2: And for the record: NHK glorifies the hikikomori-tachi, NEETs, and losers. “Hayate” gives off that annoying ego; nobody who’s sane would waste time and money on that.
    8: “School Days” with “Zero no Tsukaima’s” Saito instead of Makoto, and without the nice-boatable ending, CAN BE DONE. Hentai anime had proved it time and time again.
    9: (Yet this should be #1.) DO NOT BELIEVE THE BUZZ. FAILURE DOES NOT DISCRIMINATE.

    There we go. Plus; Zombie Loan, Claymore, Code-E, and Higurashi Kai were all just fine. There’s nothing wrong with focusing on plot and character development instead of supplying the otaku blobs with moe blobs. (Moe is for desert, NOT for you to live off of. It’s junk food.)

  26. [quote post=”1164″]Yes, but unlike other anime series which adapts from their manga or game sources, Maple Story is an open-ended MMORPG so there’s no plot or source material to speak about. So if they wanted, they could script the Maple Story anime series to be a slice-of-life anime series, a simple adventure story, or an epic one full of GAR, plot twists, and lots of hot maple syrup poured on nubile young girls.[/quote]

    well, we did got a RO animation… so that could serve as a basis of what the gonna do…
    anyway i’m not expecting something as epic as Lodoss, but surprise me ^^

  27. I am glad AoMM have low standards, the last thing I want is this place becoming a nest for anime snobs pretending to dissect every frames and every dialogues of their higher standards anime as if they were trying to find some post-modernist neo-romantic nihilistic message left by Eric Rohmer who have come back from the dead.

  28. Since Little Snow Fairy Sugar is one of my all time favorites, my method for predicting sleepers has two steps:
    1) follow the cute
    2) follow J.C.Staff
    Of course, this results in a lot of wrong predictions. I thought Kamichama Karin (cute) and Winter Garden (J.C.Staff) were going to be great, but they ended up being blah. But sometimes I get it right; some of the most pleasant surprises of recent years have occurred at the intersection of cute and J.C.Staff, such as Mahoraba – Heartful Days, and the recent Potemayo.
    My prediction for Fall 2007’s sleeper follows the cute as usual: Shugo-Chara.

  29. [quote comment=”153400″]I am glad AoMM have low standards, the last thing I want is this place becoming a nest for anime snobs pretending to dissect every frames and every dialogues of their higher standards anime as if they were trying to find some post-modernist neo-romantic nihilistic message left by Eric Rohmer who have come back from the dead.[/quote]

    This has nothing to do with post-modernist neo-romantic nihilism. If people are incapable of creating worthwhile stories, why should we pretend that they are?

    Besides; if I had to choose between being a snob and being a target of robbery and ridicule, then I’ll add to the former that motto “The Customer’s Always Right.”

  30. Maplestory plz.

    I’m looking forward to Kodomo no Jikan and Clannad most. But whatever.

  31. [quote comment=”153402″]
    This has nothing to do with post-modernist neo-romantic nihilism. If people are incapable of creating worthwhile stories, why should we pretend that they are?

    Besides; if I had to choose between being a snob and being a target of robbery and ridicule, then I’ll add to the former that motto “The Customer’s Always Right.”[/quote]

    You sound like my anime club’s resident Lucky Star hater. This may shock you, but a lot of fans of moe/SHAFT crack shows/whatever are fans because they find this stuff entertaining, not because it’s been hyped up or because we can’t identify crap or some such. We’re capable of analyzing what’s good and bad on our own, and since there’s no “one right answer” to reviewing anime, we came up with our own right answers. And usually we have seen your “better quality” shows as well, and may even enjoy watching them too (I know I do).

    AOMM is written by someone who obviously has a similar mindset to mine: capable of critical analysis, but also in touch with his easier to please fanboy side. You have to find a balance between the two, and a lot of us, probably including Jason, have found it.

  32. [quote comment=”153406″]You sound like my anime club’s resident Lucky Star hater. This may shock you, but a lot of fans of moe/SHAFT crack shows/whatever are fans because they find this stuff entertaining, not because it’s been hyped up or because we can’t identify crap or some such. We’re capable of analyzing what’s good and bad on our own, and since there’s no “one right answer” to reviewing anime, we came up with our own right answers. And usually we have seen your “better quality” shows as well, and may even enjoy watching them too (I know I do).

    AOMM is written by someone who obviously has a similar mindset to mine: capable of critical analysis, but also in touch with his easier to please fanboy side. You have to find a balance between the two, and a lot of us, probably including Jason, have found it.[/quote]

    “Similar mindset?” You’re not capable of having your own? :P

    Seriously, though: I’m just here stating my opinion. You can take it or throw it in the trash. I’m not going against the flow of Haruhi/Lucky*Star fans in order to be cool. (I use the shows as YouTube fodder, so I shouldn’t complain.) I hated Haruhi because the show, IMHO, was a cross between “standard stupid harem anime with loser male lead” and Evangelion. And I hated Lucky Star because it was Haruhi’s shadow.

    I’d probably get beatened in broad daylight by some circus clown for my views. But 1) that’s yet to happen and 2) I’ll damn sure take ’em down with me.

    So yeah. I may be a small voice amongst the loud ruckus: This anime season will be full as much failure as winter 2007. Maybe Suteki Tantei Labyrinth, maybe Night Wizard, maybe Rental Magica, and maybe GHOST HOUND.

    I could be wrong. I’ve been wrong. I was wrong about Seirei and dumped after 4 episodes. I was wrong about Zombie Loan and collected them all. But I’m not on anybody’s bandwagon. That’s so last-millenium-ago.

  33. Maple Story isn’t just a mmo. Its not even just a korean product. It is by far one of the biggest flying pieces of flaming turd in the gaming world. It is so bad, it is almost epic; if they do make a anime off of it, they must..no..there is no other consequence then a absolute train-wreck. I will watch the first episode, if I don’t claw my eyes out first.

  34. Speaking of trainwreck, I am pretty sure Jason have heard of the epic bloodbath end of School Days anime.

    Will he blog about it tho?

  35. I think I always end up watching something I really like but gets minimal discussion. Hitohira last spring and Mushi-uta this summer. I doubt they’re the sleepers that wake up the whole room with your wails of epic win, but it feels good to watch a good show that a lot of people might have overlooked.

    As for fall, my guess for a sleeper would be Moyasimon, about time for some culturing anime… not. Actual guesses now would be Shion no Ou and Neuro. Fall is going to be hit-or-miss, for the most part. For all we know, Dragonaut(CG Dragons, lol) will end up as a hit. Prolly going to sample most of the shows to dig up any good stuff.

  36. Dragonaut has all 5 SOS-dan member in it….

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