Yes we’re fully aware that we’re a season behind, but we’re currently working as fast as we can to bring you the best quality per post. Thankfully we’ve had a lot of good anime covered during the winter, so let’s include some shows that started during Fall 2014. I’ll be using the same format as last year, but now i’m starting to drop shows I feel aren’t worth sticking with (which is rare) and i’ll also comment on shows my fellow writers have already covered starting spring. After all, there’s always room for more opinions. 🙂
Dog Days”(aka season 3)
Let’s get this out of the way: I KNOW THAT DOG DAYS IS CRAP! I know that it’s lacking as an action adventure and bare bones when it comes to the fantasy. The war games are a gimmick so underutilized it’s barely used this season, and the threat of demons never goes beyond giving creatures fevers and stripping girls. It’s inconsequential, pandering fluff that only survives off of cute animal-ear girls. But regardless, I love it for just that! It’s the kind of show I can sit back and enjoy knowing exactly what i’m getting into: cheerful, fluffy fanservice with pretty fights and cute animal-ear girls. And let’s be honest here: you’re at fault if you expect anything more by the 3rd season. Go for the smiles, pretty colors, friendly violence, and cute characters. If you do, you’ll get highlights such as the origins of the original heroes, a fight inside a giant flying whale housing mermaids, and Leo finding a close match/possible lover in battle.
As much as I could rant about how lacking this show was as a slice-of-life, the part that left me most disappointed was the food. For a show that’s categorizing itself as “Food Porn”, I found most of the food they displayed to be absolutely unappetizing. It’s not because i’m a picky eater; I’ve eaten more than 3/4th of the dishes they served onscreen and love more than half of those. But aside from the pike mackerel, the ramen, the omelette rice, and the oden nabe, everything else looked too shiny, paint-like, or plastic-like to make my mouth water. I guess it was their attempt at making the food look clean and appealing compared to the block-like background art(seriously, couldn’t this get a better budget), but that effect can only go so far before the food starts to look like it came from an art studio rather than a kitchen. It doesn’t help that with the exception of Kirin, everyone else looks like their orgasming from the taste rather than appreciating it. Food porn is supposed to make the FOOD look sexy; it looks unappetizing if you do it to the eater instead. To the show’s credit, it spends a decent amount of time showing how to prepare most of its dishes and presents a well-meaning message of enjoying meals with others. But if I have to see Ryou swallow another piece of rice like she got done with a deepthroat, i’m going to lose my appetite at dinner.
Junketsu no Maria
If you told me that the most uplifting show of the season would involve the Hundred Years’ War, the corruption of the Catholic Church, and the precursor to the witch hunts of 15th century, I would question if you were a sociopath. And if you added the fact that a major plot point was the heroine’s virginity, i’d move that from sociopath to possible rapist. But that’s exactly what this show managed to do: craft a story about love and understanding in a time when it seemed to be lost, all while making our heroine’s virginity a major plot point. It acknowledges the fact that this was one of the darkest times in history; two nations saw battle as their only route to prosperity, hypocrites manipulated the faith of innocents for a belief they were just as blind to, and anyone brave enough to take matters into their own hands was labeled as the cause of all misfortune. But the one thing that keeps it from becoming drowned in despair is the journey of our heroine Maria. Her quest for ending this war while confronting the corrupt church triggers not only her own development, but every character’s arc in the story. She pushes through these barriers with only her naive beliefs, and her good-willed recklessness influences everyone involved in this corruption. A lowly servant can face an angel or mercenary to protect his love. A self-righteous priest can own up to his hypocrisy, creating a theology void of holy involvement. And a childish witch can learn from the chaos she causes, confronting god himself when stopping humans isn’t enough. It’s all about how clinging to hope can bring necessary change to people, and by extension change the world. If it isn’t quite clear yet, I love this show. It explores deep themes without drowning in contemplation, uses sexual humor in a family-friendly manner, produces an epic setting that isn’t overwhelming, and brings a smile by the end without feeling sappy. If you haven’t seen it yet and want something mellow that’s not moe, this is further proof that Goro Taniguchi can still tell great stories after Code Geass.
What got me to try this show was when Gigguk (The Anime Zone, Podtaku) posted a tweet saying “Rolling Girls feels like what would happen if you made Kill la Kill an Idol show”. Oh how I wish it was as awesome as that sounded. I firmly stand by my stance that this is one of the most pointless, frustrating, unfocused packages of noise and color i’ve seen since Mekakucity Actors. While it certainly looks unique at first glance, a closer look reveals an indecisive mess. First it wants to be a post-apocalypse mixed with super sentai influences, then it wants to be a road journey starring moe blobs, then it wants to be a collection of coming-of-age stories featuring punk rock and national stereotypes, and once it runs out of ideas, it just blows shit up with seizure-inducing battles. There’s no context, no consistency, no sense of urgency, and revolves around a central plot device that ultimately turns out to be pointless. Furthermore, i’m surprised the world this takes place in isn’t more chaotic considering every character holding responsibility over the cities is either an irresponsible child or a naive doofus. Literally every major conflict involving the lives of an entire population is manufactured by petty quarrels you’d expect to see at a kindergarten. And the main characters who keep it all connected are some of the most useless and annoying i’ve seen in anime. YOUR GODDAMN OPENING SAYS KINDNESS ALONE WON’T COMFORT SOMEONE NOZOMI! SO WHY DID YOU POSSIBLY THINK YOU COULD BE A SUBSTITUTE HERO WITHOUT ANY MEANS OR TRAINING?! ALL YOUR CLIENTS SOLVED THEIR BULLSHIT WITHOUT YOU! YOU HAVE NO REASON TO EXIST! By now this paragraph is as disorganized and chaotic as the show itself, so let me give a direct example. There’s a joke ending towards the end when one of the main characters turns in the manga manuscript of this show. She has the sense of direction of Zoro in One Piece(aka always the wrong way) and the artistic sensibility of Yuuko in Nichijou(aka my kindergarten scribbles), and ironically only a person like this could possibly make this sort of crap.
Yoru no Yatterman
One of the first shows I blogged was Gatchaman CROWDS, an attempt by Tatsunoko Productions to revitalize one of their aged franchises. It was an interesting experiment that abandoned the core of its franchise for stylish social commentary, and it turned out to be one of the more interesting shows of the summer. This time they try revitalizing Yatterman, a meta super sentai series portrayed through the eyes of the goofy villains. Ironically this is their second attempt at making this show relevant after the 70s, which apparently sunk into obscurity for trying too hard to be hip. This time they have the opposite problem; it’s following a dated formula void of anything new apart from a darker tone. Even if Team Rocket the Anime seemed amusing at first, it lost its appeal once it introduced us to the world. If you take out the aesthetic of a super sentai kids show, what you’re left with is an uninteresting, uninspired dystopia. The style was drab, the ideas weren’t interesting, the humor was awkward, the drama was forced, and the references have just gotten too obscure. More importantly, our main trio amounts to little more than mischief makers until the final act, so there’s very little stake put into most of their conflicts. The best I could say about this show was that it initially built up a decent family dynamic with the “villainous” protagonists and that the ending had a clever twist that somewhat deconstructed the entire super sentai genre. But honestly i’d recommend watching Sekai Seifuku: Bouryaku no Zvezda over this; at least that one has protagonists actively trying to take over the world.
Garo: Honoo no Kokuin
Out of all the shows released by Mappa last year, this was by far their weakest. Not to say that any of them were perfect, but the other two managed to stand out despite their heavy flaws. Zankyou no Terror survived it’s trainwreck of a story with stunning direction and powerful commentary. Shingeki no Bahamut elevated its derivative fantasy with a grand scope and sense of adventure. This, on the other hand, can’t seem to make up it’s mind on whether to be a dark medieval fantasy or a goofy superhero show. It opens up with a gripping execution scene followed by a literal birth by fire, setting up a straightforward revenge saga in a world where creatures feeding on fear terrorize people and the ones responsible for releasing them have taken over the kingdom. Couple this with a father-son/ mentor-trainee relationship and you have a solid foundation for a dark superhero story. In fact, there’s a solid 8 episodes sprinkled throughout this show that kick all kinds of ass. The characters each have backstories and motivations, the action looks incredible when it wants to, and it even takes a risk by having the lead fail before he’s able to take the role of a hero(Makai Knight). The problem is that more than 2/3rd of this 24 episode series consists of pointless, repetitive, and downright silly filler. All they do is halt the pacing, produce jarring tonal shifts, and make the creatures called Horrors hard to be scared about. If these things could literally possess you anytime you’re depressed, shouldn’t the whole world be infected by Horrors? Furthermore, this excruciating amount of filler hurts the build-up of the main story and leaves a ton of characters underdeveloped. I’m not saying there isn’t stuff to enjoy here, but you have to dig through a lot of garbage to get there.
Nanatsu no Taizai
Oh god, i’m going to get a lot of flack for this…I think this is nothing more than a lighthearted Akame ga Kill. Both involve rebellion stories where a select few fight a tyrannical empire, include a fair amount of blood, take place in a pseudo-medieval fantasy setting, and a cast of characters who stay overpowered from start to finish. The key difference is that Nanatsu no Taizai tends to skew to its roots as a shonen adventure, offering heartfelt backstories and brutal fights where most people come back alive. With so many complaining about the edginess of Akame ga Kill, you’d think this change could make all the difference right? Well definitely for many people as this is up there with the more popular recent shonen series. And to be honest I was buying into the hype, because I genuinely liked how it started. The world had its unique charm, the characters were quite memorable, the action scenes were phenomenal, the music was distinctive even for Sawano, and the pacing was just right for a story about searching for living legends. But then something happened, or to be more specific, nothing happened. The amount of characters kept stacking up and it was about 16 episodes in that I realized we still hadn’t received meaningful development for any of them. Morally ambiguous bits became far too black-and-white, making the brutality of the knights far too extreme to still carry the trust of citizens and making the 6 deadly sins(one’s dead apparently) a tad too likable as fugitives. And while the light-hearted aspects were fine at the start, it became far too silly once it entered a darker tone. It expected me to feel emotional about a pig becoming charcoal for the sake of our heroes. Yeah i’m a sucker for honorable sacrifices in Shonen, but even I found that to be utterly hilarious. That statement right there probably explains my issue with the show: while it was amusing, it could never find the right balance between silly and serious.
Gundam: G no Reconguista
From my experience with Yoshiyuki Tomino(Gundam 0079, Garzey’s Wing), the man is extremely hit-or-miss. He’s capable of creating grand ideas, marvelous action, and memorable characters, but he struggles at implementing them in a well-paced, cohesive narrative. The Gundam franchise, however, has been his success story for decades. It’s become an icon of not only the mecha genre, but Japan itself. And seeing how other’s had handled it marvelously (Gundam Unicorn), I went into this excited knowing that the master of this universe was ready to return. Apparently someone forgot to check his ego or keep his ambitions under control, because this story is arguably worse than Gundam Seed Destiny. Supposedly meant to be an optimistic commentary on the late relief funds for the Tohoku Tsunami, it ends up shoehorning it’s message in a story that would’ve been better without it. It makes characters little more than mouthpieces for the creator, forcefully enters dark territory without any proper discussion involved, connects disjointed plot points by idiotic or out-of-character decisions, and screws continuity with the rest of the franchise to craft whatever Tomino had in mind. Eventually it stops being about holding optimism during war and becomes more like a large scale kindergarten fight where the kids are handed real weapons. Alliances don’t mean crap, casualties become an afterthought, and any emotional turmoil can be solved with a candy bar. And for anyone who still defends this steaming pile, let it be known that even the creator regrets how this turned out. If he wanted to make this an uplifting adventure, my guess is that he shouldn’t have made cannibalism and betrayals feel so empty.
The iDOLM@STER Cinderella Girls
If you’ve read my thoughts on Love Live(see Unblogged Spring 2014 pt 1), you’ve probably heard of my loyalty to the idolm@ster franchise. Well the movie came out and turned out to be a disappointment, while this new show was going to focus on an entirely new cast. So I went into it with lowered expectations, and I came out with mixed feelings. On the bright side, I like all the new idols (Anastasia is BEAUTIFUL) and their interactions are still more endearing to me than Love Live. Furthermore, it’s definitely more focused on its goal than the disjointed mess that the movie turned out to be. However, that’s not saying a lot since I wouldn’t call this one a smooth experience either. It tries to enforce a protagonist angle before ditching it in the 2nd half, gives the most annoying character the only arc in the story(which ironically makes her tolerable later), and rushes toward the concert victory as if it wasn’t going to get another season(which it ALREADY ANNOUNCED). Despite these issues though, I came out of this show wanting more. And thanks to the lateness of this post, i’m getting more very soon.
Sometimes a show’s sincerity and passion can make up for lacking aspects, and this was my prime example for the winter season alongside Tokyo Ghoul Root A. I’m aware that the production qualities here are passable for PA works, how slow it can be for the first 8 episodes, and how out-of-place the moe protagonists seemed compared to the grounded tone. But once it picked up the pace, I was amazed by the sense of optimism it kept without watering down the hardships of working in the anime industry. It’s not as brutal of a depiction as Paranoia Agent, but it certainly didn’t hold back on revealing the stressful conditions, missed opportunities, and daily mishaps that could ruin an entire project. So it uses its massive cast as examples of those who experience this everyday, translating these issues into narrative conflicts and humanizing these characters despite minimal development. You feel the pressure looming down on these characters as if you’re working alongside them, finding the best way to communicate/cooperate, and learning more about their craft based on tough experience. More importantly, you learn more about the animation industry from every aspect by simply following these characters. I’ve learned as much about the modern anime industry from this as the Bakuman manga did for manga. And without relying on otaku references or nerd-pride sermons, they convince the audience that what keeps them going through this everyday is a deep-seated love for animation. While I would’ve liked to have seen more of these characters as people(or real personalities like in Genshiken), I appreciate the show demonstrating that you can make passion seem genuine without having to make it a drama. Sometimes all you need is a believable situation, likable personalities, convincing chemistry, and the will to teach those that are curious. It’s the kind of show I wish more people would see, and thankfully the Blu-ray sales for this are surprisingly high. Perhaps this may open the eyes of many otaku and hopefully lead to more Shirobako. BRING ON SEASON 2!
Gundam Build Fighters Try
Having never seen the first Build Fighters, I dived into this spin-off with my growing knowledge of gundam and sports shows. Little did I know that the former would encapsulate my enjoyment while the latter remained a disappointment. As a tournament story, this show came off as lacking in every aspect. While the characters themselves were quite enjoyable and the females were dare I say HOT, the build-up, rivalries, strategies, and even fighting were either rushed or anti-climactic. Teamwork was rarely used despite highlighting it as the biggest change, and the lack of development among its large cast made the training segments more exciting than most of the battles. Even as a meta-gundam series, it’s mostly limited towards references and visual cues rather than actively taking the identity of the franchise. So what exactly did it excel at apart from hot girls, gundam references and the occasionally good battle? The answer is its enthusiasm for gunpla. Even without watching its predecessor, I was fully aware that this entry into the gundam franchise was meant to make model kits accessible, and I think it succeeds on that front. All the gunpla in this show were beautifully-designed and the sheer variety of mobile suits they brings is a site to behold. And seeing how they’re marketing it towards kids by showing these characters build and battle so passionately, I can’t help but smile at the childlike innocence it brings in a franchise so saturated with war. It’s at least better than what the other gundam show turned out to be, and the last episode is a fun tribute to the franchise. Hopefully its predecessor is everything I hoped from this season. Edit: I finished watching the 1st season recently, and it’s definitely got more going for it. TRY definitely has more shipping material though.
Binan Kokuou Chikyuu Bouei-bu LOVE! (DROPPED after ep 7)
Sometimes you come across a premise that sounds so ridiculous you have to give it a try. The concept of boys taking on the roles of Magical Girls isn’t new (Kore wa Zombie Desu-ka, Cardcaptor Sakura), but an entire show revolving around them? And it’s directed by the guy responsible for Gintama? Imagine the genius comedy that could come out of contrasting the power fantasy of a young girl with the tropes of growing boys! So I went to my local anime club, watched it with my roommate, and only one question revolved around my head: HOW DID THEY MAKE A SHOW ABOUT CROSSDRESSING MAGICAL BOYS SO BORING?! Aside from the fact it has a pitiful budget, everything about it screams wasted potential. As a magical girl show, it simply regurgitates each trope in the book without any sense of creativity or excitement. The costumes are generic, the battles are predictable, the sidekick is F#CKING ANNOYING, the characters never learn anything, and the monsters are absolutely pathetic. Meanwhile they shove in slice-of-life moe tropes with Bishonen tropes; two things that never mix properly and become cringeworthy when neither aspect is good. Besides their conversations being pointless and dull, they take up more than 2/3rd of each episode, giving no chance for conversations that could develop our hollow leads beyond some of the most basic Bishonen pandering traits. I won’t deny the transformation sequence gave me a chuckle at first, but it never escalated in terms of creativity and ended up becoming repetitive. If you’re a girl who watched this simply for the manservice and flamboyance, I won’t blame you for liking it. But we live in a world where Free!! and Ikuhara exist; why pick this?
Psycho Pass 2
Alright, I was going to finish this in a final post. However, it became so infuriatingly bad I struggled to even put everything into words. Not to mention it’s been half a year since it aired so I don’t hold enough anger to motivate me. Plus several notable critics(especially Digibro) have already pointed out the flaws, so instead i’ll just talk about how it made me feel. At first I felt betrayed, seeing something so special join the ranks of this medium’s worst. But the more I learned about the hellish process behind making this “sequel”, it became obvious that this was doomed from its conception. This was a throwaway project solely meant to keep fans interested for the movie, thrown at a studio and writer with little guidance and many restrictions. Its only saving grace is that it’s easy to retcon. Most of the old characters remain unchanged and even the new characters have either reset to their old personalities or disappeared. Even the most important plot points fix something that probably shouldn’t have existed in the first place, so everything can return to status quo. If all the effort of the previous staff went into the movie, then surely it can help us forget this mess.