The new season has already started, but we’re still running behind. Thankfully due to a larger staff, there aren’t as many shows that have been left out. So to make up for lost time, i’m also going to be listing shows that kept me entertained or astounded throughout the year with no mention in previous posts. No ongoing shows will be included, but expect a final opinion on next season’s post(Garo, Nanatsu no Taizai, Shirobako). Also special mention to Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn for leaving me at a loss for words for how perfect it is!
Denki-gai no Honya-san
I like to call this show the cheap-man’s version of “Working!!”. It shares the same concept of romance in a workplace where quirky hijinks ensue, but the characters aren’t as memorable, the animation is much cheaper, and most of the jokes fall flat. For every joke that gave me a chuckle, there were 3 others that felt lazy or repetitive. I know that these employees run the erotic section regularly, but I get tired of the hentai references after 3 episodes. I would be panning this show as a poor rip-off if the romantic moments failed as well, but those moments are what saved the show. They range from puppy love to childhood crushes to a love triangle involving a likable ex-girlfriend, and all of them share a sweet moment to squeal about. It’s enough to satiate my appetite for this premise, but I can’t wait for the 3rd season of Working!!
Here’s a comedy that has a clear comfort zone, but dwells in the same jokes too long and wallows in its own cynicism until it drains the laughter dry. It’s fine to have a mean-spirited sense of humor, but you have to be creative with your joke set-ups and balance the tone so that an element of fun is still there. This show, on the other hand, thinks that simply having characters be dicks to each other will trigger laughter, and a pinch of sweet drama is enough to balance it out. Well i’m sorry to say, but that doesn’t last past 4 episodes. Aside from Kokkuri acting as a foster parent for Kohina, there’s never a convincing reason for why these characters would stay together despite constantly being annoyed by one another. The pinch of drama I mentioned can be genuinely touching at times, but it clashes with the overall cynical tone the show wants to hold. Kohina is occasionally amusing with her extreme deadpan shtick, but the entire show can be summed up by the cup noodles she’s addicted to: dry before served, easily manufactured, and spoils your appetite for something more fulfilling.
Danna ga Nani wo Itteiru Wakaranai Ken
Two things that are rare in anime are good shorts and married protagonists. Plastic Nee-san and Pupa cause me nothing but boredom or pain, while the only show with married major characters I can immediately think of is Clannad After Story. So it came to my surprise that not only was this short incredibly funny, but Kaoru and Hajime make for the most heartwarming couple of the year. In less than 40 minutes, the show manages to make this relationship believable and progressive. You can tell that these two aren’t an ideal match made in heaven, but the sense of companionship between these two and how active they are in trying to understand each other brings to mind how real relationships tend to be. Real relationships aren’t as rosy or contrived as romantic comedies would have you believe; they’re more focused on learning to accept eachother’s differences and helping them become better people. And to top it all off, the show does a great job at portraying marriage as both a stressful, yet rewarding endeavor that may even make up for something that was missing before. Sure it basically repeats the same joke and the side characters consist of cliche personalities, but the core relationship is something special in this medium. I can hardly wait for season 2!
Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis
If I had to be brutally honest with this show, the mythology they have here is no less shallow than Highschool DxD. It copies several aspects of other fantasies, spends very little time on world-building, struggles at staying focused on where the story should go, and lacks proper character development for the most part. It’s also one of the Best anime of the year. For all it lacks in well-written material, it more than makes up with its presentation, style, and sheer amount of awesome. The action looks great, the music is epic, the pacing is fast(maybe too fast), and every problem I mentioned has an upside to it. Each of the characters may be underdeveloped, but the main trio has a pretty solid connection and the cast itself is such a varied group of personalities that it’s hard not to enjoy their presence. The setting may be derivative of several fantasies and mythologies, but it’s done in a way that celebrates these cliches because of how awesome they are. Who doesn’t want to see a medieval setting that includes Gods, Angels, Demons, Bounty Hunters, Knights, Magicians, Necromancer zombie girls, Dragons, Colossal monsters, golems and so much more?And while the plot shifts its focus in an inconsistent manner, it does a great job at making this story feel grand in scale and ends on an solid, emotional conclusion. If you don’t go expecting something you’ve never seen before, what you have hear is a solid adventure series that’s bound to entertain. I expect no less from the director that brought us Karas and the studio that brought us Zankyou no Terror.
Sora no Method
Here’s what you get when you mix the drama of Anohana with the premise of Anonatsu, but make the presence of an alien practically irrelevant and make the drama absolutely irritating. As a drama, it drags on pointless conflicts with extreme reactions without any explanation for why they happen until the end. As a sci-fi, Noel serves absolutely no purpose aside from being moe-jesus. And for a story that tries so hard to convince you that broken friendships can be fixed, I never bought that there was ever a friendship left to rebuild nor did I ever think it was properly fixed. Constant use of flashbacks doesn’t make up for lack of current chemistry or even meaningful memories, which it sorely needed considering two of them acted like total shits to the others while the rest acted like complete strangers. Not to mention that their motivations for acting this way are so childish and contrived you’d expect them to come out of playground misunderstandings between kindergarten brats, especially since they’re solved just as easily. I do want to give credit to the relatively new Studio 3hz for making this look as pretty as a PA Works production, but I can’t even give it a pass as a first attempt.
If it has a school that teaches magic, then it’s not a good anime for this year. It especially sucks for this one because it’s the best out of the 5. After seeing Mahou Sensou, Seirei tsukai no Blade Dance, Seikoku no Dragonar, and especially Mahouka, I sincerely lost hope in any show using this premise having potential. But the first 3 episodes of this show had me genuinely entertained, introducing a cast of likable characters, a pretty gripping set-up for a subplot, and a good balance between tones. Moreover it had a harem lead who’s honest with his desires, handles bitter danger with sarcasm, and manages to fit the bad boy stereotype without being a total asshole. So it sucks that it stopped going places after those first 3 episodes and opted towards the same scenarios used in the other 4 shows listed before, all while taking up 90% of battles with poorly-written magic lectures. It has a promising start, some likable personalities, and pretty cool sound-effects, but it’s all surface coating for a bland, mediocre show. Oh well; at least it’s not painful to watch like the previous entries.
Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuusha de Aru
My experience with this show mirrors that of Black Bullet from last spring; a show that irritated me at the start before gradually winning me over. It starts off sticking to a monster-of-the-week formula mixed with Magical girls, but slowly shifts focus to how they deal with the consequences, especially when volunteering with no ulterior motives. Many will consider it a Madoka Magica rip-off, but I think it’s a much better rip-off than Genei wo Kakeru Taiyou and even better than the latest entry in Madoka Magica(more on that later). While certain plot points about good will being rewarded with pain become predictable, the loss of senses affecting everyday life makes for a gripping subplot. The CG can be jarring at times, but the art direction and costume designs in this show are absolutely gorgeous. And while the premise, characters, message and conclusion derives from many cliches, I like how seamless the transition to a darker tone was and how focused its themes were. It’s not spectacular and the journey to the good stuff is a drag, but it’s surprisingly entertaining towards the end.
When I first got into this show, I had little to no expectations. I was mildly entertained by the manga, but quickly got bored over time thanks to two bland leads, repetitive humor, and inconsequential stories involving witches. And while none of these issues were technically fixed, they ironed out enough of the minor issues to make the overall experience entertaining. The battles between witches was a joy to watch even with heavy use of CG. Side characters such as the Tower Witches made up for the bland leads and repetitive jokes. And while the story is usually inconsequential, the final arc sets up a large universe that’s genuinely interesting. It’s not a spectacular show in any regard, but it’s clear that JC Staff did the best they could with the material they were given and managed to create a mildly entertaining magical romp. If anything, the OP and ED will be stuck in my head for months to come.
For something that’s celebrated as one of the better sports anime to come out in recent years, the weakest part about this show is the actual sports. I won’t deny that they explain the rules of volleyball well, but matches are rare throughout these 25 eps and the ones that exist are monotonous. The moves were repetitive, strategies lacked variety, half of the games they go through are practice matches, and the actual progress throughout their sports career is extremely slow due to a high loss ratio. I wouldn’t mind this so much if the tone was more down-to-earth, but putting it through the context of a hyped shonen makes it seem like you’re going to the Superbowl to see a game of catch. So if it flops on the most important part of its genre, why is it still so celebrated by its fans? It’s because what it lacks when it comes to confrontations on the court, it more than makes up for it with its great use of teamwork and training. My experience with sports anime is relatively new, but I haven’t seen another sports show that nailed down the connections between teammates and the hard work put into training quite like this. No character seemed to dominate the flow and I felt for these guys whenever they got the slightest taste of victory because so much time was dedicated to them becoming better players and a closer group. This is also the reason why the ending was so effective when *SPOILER* they end up losing the final match. If you’re going into this show, know that what it’s best at is developing bonds between different individuals all headed toward the same goal.
Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki Kun
Aside from Inou-Battle wa Nichijou-kei no Naka de, no other show this year represented the idea of playing with expectations quite like this. What started off marketing itself as a textbook shoujo romcom ends up being a satire of the entire genre. Whether it involves the process of making a shoujo manga, twisting certain traditions on their head, or showing how relationship tropes play out realistically, there’s a clear indication that the writers know what makes the genre both celebrated and mocked. Because even as it’s criticizing the genre as a whole, it also celebrates it by offering some of the sweetest shippings i’ve seen out of this year. Every character is memorable in some way and their relationships are hilarious to watch thanks to some gender-bent stereotypes and well-defined reasons for getting together. Sure none of these relationships get time to develop considering the joke about this show is how shoujo romances usually tend to reset, but it’s quite easy to root for their relationships because their interactions are so goddamn entertaining. Kashima x Hori is my favorite of the ships, and I hope for more of everyone here in season 2.