And so the Summer wraps up, as does my Summer anime viewing. For those who weren't , I decided to start following airing anime in Japan by season, because that's a thing anime nerds do nowadays. I'll be starting up the Fall series soon here, but wrapping up the Summer comes first.
I picked a total of seventeen series to follow, as listed here.
* Attack on Titan
* Blood Lad
* Brothers Conflict
* Day Break Illusion
* Devils and Realist
* DogI ended up picking another pandering series for the female crowd this Fall season, but it's already infinitely more interesting because the amount of fucks Diabolik Loves gives is absolute zero and it's kind of amazing in the insane things it does. But Bothers Conflict? Stopped the moment the main girl fell over ill. I could write out the entire series of events on a napkin from there and probably be 80% on the mark. If I'm going to subject myself to crap, it better be entertaining crap.
THERE WERE NO SURVIVORS
Yet another dreck pick, I decided to try Hyperdimension Neptunia due to the source material not exactly being what many would consider good and because it was also a videogame adaptation. Science pretty much proved this had to be bad, and it was, but once again, in an uninteresting way. While it's a show filled with both sexual pandering and gaming injoke style pandering (OH MAN, REMEMBER THAT GAME), that only ended up being a small fraction of Neptunia's problems. It's real sin is that Neptunia is completely confused as to what it wants to be, a comedy or a drama, and it's not good at either of those. I could only last four episodes before I become bored by it.
When Neptunia isn't having cute girls getting molested in some way (see giant licking monster who is also a lolicon) or character based comedy, it's having some truly awful and forced drama. There was a point where one of the sisters of the main characters found out that another didn't realize that she saw something suspicious earlier and blamed her for everything bad that was happening. It was played so straight and lacked so much logic that I couldn't even laugh at how pathetic the tone shift was. It's also a very exclusionary series that requires a lot of knowledge of these characters before hand, despite this not being a strict adaptation. The Neptunia series has a continuity reboot with every entry, and the anime is no exception, yet it never uses the time to try and get new viewers into the world around it. Just really amateur, despite the admittedly funny peach and turtle visual puns at a Nintendo themed amusement park. Those turtles, always after peaches!
They are upset over a denial of snacks. FEMINISM MARCHES ON!
Now this one was actually disappointing. I had picked it up because I heard a writer for Code Geass was attached to it in some form, but the end result was both generic and somehow spineless. Fastasista Doll is a series with interesting ideas out the wazoo, but it has no time to develop anything or just avoids any interesting subject matter after bringing it up. By the sixth episode's big ass pull, I finally had enough of the show. It introduces an interesting and surprisingly dark idea of the dolls the girls are using as acting as the masters in the relationship, only for it all to be undone in one of the most insulting ways possible.
Not helping things is that this is a morally messy series. Magical Girl shows are popular because they help teach young girls helpful life lessons or give them a sense of empowerment (just ask any Sailor Moon fan), sort of like how young boys have shonen action shows. The problem is that Fantasista Doll fails horribly at teaching anything worthwhile or just gives off very mixed signals. This is especially noticeable in episode four, which ends with the message that love can turn to obsession and can be toxic. That's fine. Problem is that the show also accidentally said that you can fix an abusive boyfriend. That's fucked up, and it only bugs me more and more as I think on it. Add in that the dolls all seem perfectly happy with their master/servant relationship and things only get more and more unnerving. Yesh.
And now with those disappointments out of the way, I can get to the good stuff. Well, most of it is good.
DAY BREAK ILLUSION
Quick, just throw every color in existence on them! Don't ask why, just do it!
Ladies and gentlemen, the single worst show of the season besides Brothers Conflict. That's the bad news. The good news? It's fucking hilarious. Just about every single thing that could go wrong has gone amazingly wrong with Day Break Illusion, and I love it for that. It's not bottom of the barrel entertainment, oh no. It's a show that tries its hardest and proceeds to endlessly fall flat on its face to the amusement of everyone. It is the clown of entertainment (because real clowns ate just creepy). It's not quite at The Room or Birdemic level of hilariously inept, because it has a budget and a few moments that actually work, but the final few episodes are among the funniest things I have ever seen that were not meant to be funny.
Day Break Illusion has been described as a terrible Madoka ripoff, but that's not quite right. No, Day Break Illusion is a terrible GRIM DARK version of the Precure magical girl series. The designs feel like they were almost ripped from there, but made more needlessly elaborate and stupid looking. The main characters all have terrible things happen to them and fight monsters that are actually possessed people, and they are only tragic half of the time. The other half, they're just awful people who overreact to the dumbest shit and make a deal with a Satan stand in. That painter, man. The best term to describe it all is "try hard." It wants to be super serious and dark and meaningful, but it constantly fails. The music has obnoxious jump scare cords, the victims are overly cute or innocent, the bad people are cartoonish, and so forth. Some highlights include a death during a flashback that felt like something you'd see in an Evil Dead film, an angry painter destroying all the works of her rival with a grainy filter popping in an out, kids singing nursery rhymes while a monster stalks them, and, oh. The angry mob. It's a thing of beauty. Words don't even begin to describe it. Oh, and Luna. My god, Luna. It's ...really, just watch this trainwreck.
om nom nom
That isn't to say it's always like this. Sometimes, the show is almost on the verge of being good. There are a handful of stories and moments that actually ring heartfelt and do feel tragic. However, they're usually undercut by something incredibly stupid (but to be fair, the Seria backstory being funny may just be because it reminds me of a joke from Choku). There's also a legitimately good character in the form of Ginka, a solid source of comedy and probably the most badass character in the group with what she does. Honestly, she's too good for this show. There's also the problem of pointless characters, like the magician and fool card users. They do almost nothing the whole series, yet are treated as super important by every character. I think they must have a spin-off manga or something. Or they're trying to sell more figures. Probably that.
They gave their best, but their best just wasn't good enough. But it is certainly entertaining in how stupid it is. The show is a bit annoying at first, but I suggest giving it a chance, because it won't be too long before you reached the point where the writers gave up and did whatever the fuck they wanted.
DEVILS AND REALIST
The only show gayer than Free!
Oy, this show. Devils and Realist was shaping to be a pretty good series, but the ending sort of crapped all over that happening. The show is meant to be a supernatural drama with a lot of comedy mixed in, sort of like Black Butler with all the shotacon vibes it gave off (ugh) replaced with a whole lot of gay (wee!). The series was supposed to follow an Atheist named William as he become the central piece of a political conflict between the forces of heaven and hell, which also doubles as the joke the show endlessly brought out early on. That's not what happened.
It did flow like that for three fourths of the series, though. William went to school and worried over getting his scholarship due to his uncle royally fucking him over, demons Dantalion and Sytry would bug him to become the rulers of Hell since he's the decider, throw in some fanservice and ship teases, rinse and repeat. As it started to go on, the larger story started to develop, the stakes were raised, and some interesting developments came up. Characters like the truly evil Gilles and the mysterious Kevin brough a lot more to the proceedings and the show had the chance to be something really great.
Sytry was also a massive plus.
THEN THE ENDING HAPPENED. I don't think I've seen such a half-assed, slap to the face ending this terrible before. I would have preferred a "read the manga" ending to the dreck shown here. It was obvious that the studio ran out of money and the series wasn't as successful as they were hoping, so they just threw together a new ending that makes the ending of Soul Eater's anime look thought out. Character motivations were thrown out the window, the fascinating Solomon was reduced to a Dragonball Z villain, every character suddenly had a complete lapse of logic, and worst of all, the reason for any of the series happening was completely undone for no reason. It was an insulting slap to the face so bad that I had to drop my rating of this series two whole points.
Just read the manga, there is no point with messing with this series, only for that slap to the face. The animation also isn't that impressive either, especially in those last two episodes. They used the exact same scene about three times, not making that up. What a waste.
DOG & SCISSORS
Sadism comes in many techniques.
This is the show that everyone keeps calling the worst of the season and I don't see it. Now, I'm not crazy enough to call it good (it is not good), I just think people are forgetting that Day Break Illusion and Brothers Conflict existed. Dog & Scissors wishes it were even close to being that bad. As for what it actually is, just a forgettable wacky anime comedy with wacky anime violence, nothing more and nothing less.
It's a really formulaic series. There's a bunch of wacky characters, they all have a wacky thing they do, that's the joke. The massive amount of characters is in order to have a way to constantly switch all these one note jokes around to keep things from getting stale, which worked half of the time. I actually did laugh and get some chuckles out of a lot of characters, but they all wear out their welcome pretty fast, made worse with a lot of repeated jokes. Shining Girl in particular gets annoying, with her only two jokes being shine puns and her bodyguards being overly serious.
The chemistry between Harumi and Natsuno was one of the few good constants, even if it was predictable. With just how far they take Natsuno's violent attitude, it manages to become refreshing again, while Harumi managed to be a pretty funny straight man who might be crazier than anyone else in the series (the guy really likes books, you know). At the same time, even that got messed up as they decided to have Natsuno start having feelings with Harumi, which is both creepy and a massive derailment of her character. Thankfully it didn't come up too much, or else I would have definitely dropped this.
There isn't much else to say other than Dogthe original manga is drawn pretty terribly and is only passable now, due to some progression in drawing character proportions correctly and stylistic choices. The anime removes the problems with the manga's art and proceeds to really let the creator's bizarre art style shine with some amazing expressions.
"...and that's why the Linux is the superior operating system."
That's great and all, buuuuuuuut there's still some huge problems. After awhile, it becomes really easy to figure out which characters are going to live and which are going to die. It relies heavily on red shirts, which gets to be predictable after awhile. The anime also ends up stopping right before the manga really starts to get into the meaty stuff, and it also starts to drag out. While I was fine with the first half's focus on the battle, the second half started to test my patience with how long it took for the arc's villain to really do anything major. The series also had a mountain of production troubles, leading to a lot of budget cutting measures and episode thirteen nearly being completely blotched. Entire sequences are missing from it, hopefully fixed in the blu-ray releases. The art style is fine and CG is used well, but the titans sometimes just look too stupid to take seriously, especially when the animators started having too much fun and used them to make pop culture references (there is a Freddy Mercury titan, really). It's amusing, but distracting and robs the story of a lot of its weight. Oh, and that ending was just botched. It had an exciting fight, but the largest revelation in the series to date was moved from a major moment to a quick hook for the next season at the very end. Which was really, really stupid.
Attack on Titan does a lot right, but not nearly enough as I wanted. It's a mix of really high highs and very boring lows, and that's troubling. I also can't recommend the manga either, because it just has god awful art for most of it. I'd say if you really want to see what all the fuss was about, pick up the eventual Blu-Ray, which is bound to get an amazing Funi dub. A lot of the animation issues should be fixed, just be ready to slog through some dull moments to get to some of the most exciting things I've ever seen in any anime. You take the good, you take the bad, and then you have Attack on Titan.
ROZEN MAIDEN ZURUCKSPULEN
Roses are red
Roses are also white
This is a bad rhyme
Xbox One has no games
I'm a little divided on this one. Rozen Maiden's continuation of the manga is good, but it's not like anything else I watched and it is certainly not the action show the series sold itself as early on. The series says it's about magic dolls fighting each other, and while that's the original set-up, it's not really the franchise's focus (minus the anime only arcs). Zuruckspulen in particular ignored any major conflict with the main villain for most the series in favor of acting as a character piece with deliberately slow pacing, while continuing the earlier plot at the same time, becoming important towards the end and needing that recap first episode desperately to work for newcomers for later twists. I was a newcomer, and while the recap seemed odd at first, I finally get why it was there.
Rozen Maiden Zuruckspulen is a good jumping on point for the franchise, thanks to that recap episode. It sets up all the important details and characters, then throws you into a completely different timeline with an adult version of Jun, the main character. At first, I thought this was only going to be for a small amount of time before the plot came in, but this ended up being the major focus of the series. The dolls are mainly magical elements in Jun's story as growing into a fulfilled individual, and in that sense, the series works perfectly. There's always some focus on Jun and his role in events, along with him developing slowly out of his crippling psychological traumas from his childhood. It gets a great payoff when he finally meets the Jun who chose to take part in the Alice game for the dolls, and a great epilogue.
Gotta keep your pimp hand strong.
That said, this doesn't mean the dolls are unimportant. The main plot is good, but it takes a backseat for nearly the entire series. Shinku and Suigintou, the main doll and the original villain doll, mostly just hang around adult Jun's place for much of the series, with a slow build up to our main villain finally making her appearance. When the plot finally becomes important, though, the show had properly prepared me for it and it was a great way to wrap everything up. Jun's issues and development is worked seemingly into it all, allowing both the main story and larger plot to have a role with each other. It helps that Kirakishou is one of the most unnerving villains I've seen in a long time, giving a sense of threat and urgency while playing an important role in Jun's development as well. But, all this said, the series is very slow and it feels like it's twiddling with its thumbs for nearly three fourths of it, and that's bound to turn off a lot of people.
The show isn't really exciting, but it manages to be gripping. The characters are likable and well developed, and their arcs are all enjoyable. The soft color pallet and lines also look amazing, with some fantastic atmosphere. It's a slow moving piece with a lot to offer, but it's definitely not for everyone. Don't bother coming in and expecting an action packed showdown, but do expect a good character piece.
HE'S A [beat] HEARTBREAKER
Out of every show I was following this season, Blood Lad somehow remained one of the most constant. I once referred to it as one of the most frustratingly enjoyable series I've seen, and the finale just hammers that in. Blood Lad ended with a "read the manga" ending, which is frustrating, but also had some clever ideas presented and some interesting twists on the usual tropes of the shonen action genre. Blood Lad is a show that's smarter than it wants you to think at first, but it's also a troubled adaptation because it just moves far too fast to really develop some of the ideas and characters it has hanging around. It's also not getting a second season due to this being a Brain's Base production, so it's more like a taste of something tasty before being ripped out of your hands when you're about halfway through.
I really like Blood Lad's set up. It's a shonen action series populated by characters with familiarity of the genre, mainly with Staz's old school otaku status. His change from selfish otaku to a guy trying to become like the heroes he idolizes is an interesting one, but the problem comes in that Staz isn't really the focus. He's more like the character things slowly begin to revolve around, while much bigger things are occurring, like Braz's plans for rebellion or Wolf's family troubles. A lot of interesting things are set up and the demon world has a lot of fun concepts, but they never get any proper development, and what is developed feels developed a bit too fast.
They have yet to notice that reality has broken all around them.
The span of events for Blood Lad's first few episodes is roughly one day, but it's all treated like all these characters spent weeks together. Bell starts to crush on Staz, Wolf's old feelings of inadequacy start to crop up, Staz starts to learn of his lesser personality traits far too fast and so on. The plot is constantly moving and turning the whole time as well, leaving no time for any of the elements to breathe. This is ultimately why I can't rate Blood Lad any higher than I have; it's packed with so much that it's difficult to keep up with it and feel really invested with it.
That said, it's still a good show. The deconstruction elements are clever and the characters are likable, especially Bell, and the bizarre art style really fits the tone of it all. It's sort of like Soul Eater on acid mixed with Hellsing as envisioned by a Looney Tunes animator and the subject matter of a self-aware, fun loving deconstruction series. And that's kind of awesome. Reading the manga may be a better idea in the long run, but hey, it's only ten episodes.
Careful, there may be expired water in there.
I'm not a big fan of KyoAni, what with being responsible for Lucky Star's slow as hell anime and the plague that is K-ON (even if Mugi's face is endlessly amusing to be for some weird reason). I decided to follow Free solely for the madness that surrounded its reveal, to see if all that internet drama and hype was worth anything. I've heard some say Free is the best of the season and ...did we watch the same show? Free is not one of the bests, no where close, but I'd still recommend it to just about anyone. Free managed to avoid being yet another eventless nostalgia series with cute characters about youth that KyoAni seems to keep getting attracted to with stuff like Tamako Market and K-ON. Granted, it is this, but with one massive difference; there is substance to be found here.
The story is sort of like an anti-sports drama. Free isn't really about being the best of the best, but more old friends grown distant and trying to mend an old relationship. Thus, the DNA it shares with the usual KyoAni fare, but there is conflict and drama present. It mainly stems from Rin, the old friend who left and ended up coming back a very serious and sour human being. He's a likable and interesting guy, even for all his jerk habits, and the show does a good job at getting you interested in why he became what he has. At the same time, the main character of Haru is so unorthodox and odd that it's hard not to like him after awhile. He's funny in how off he is, but he also gets used to move some philosophy the show is trying to push on friendships and finding your answer in what you're passionate about and sharing that passion with others. It comes into play in an clever way with the newbie Rei, who is also endlessly hilarious. The rest of the cast is all amusing and likable in some way, even the team's former coach. It all comes together perfectly in the ending, with some nice little symbolic touches that speak quite a bit about the cast.
The weak point is that the show doesn't have as much substance as I made it seem. What I just described is heavily dragged out, padded with comedic moments with the cast just being themselves. Thankfully, this isn't unwelcome, it makes for a nice break from all the character drama. It helps that the cast have a nice chemistry in the writing and there's a few stand out characters that thankfully get reeled in before the joke gets old (Gou and Rei are comedic highlights by a mile). It's also important, as character building happens between the guys during these moments, but not always. It feels like the show could lose an episode and probably stronger in structure.
Oh, and yes, there is a lot of wet man muscle, but the show isn't nearly as shameless as many might make you believe. Trust me, I know shameless, this show is pretty tame. But hey, the ladies seem to have gotten what they want, so whatever. With all that said, there's nothing that really pushes Free into "great" for me. It's enjoyable, but it's very light and fluffy. There is substance, but it's not too much, just enough to balance out the art style and comedic bits from getting to be too much. It's absolutely worth checking out, my negativity aside, and I'm thinking that the eventual second season might be worth checking out. I just hope it brings something new to the table by then. I really fear KyoAni is heading into retread territory here. But hey, they actually made a show with similar themes to K-ON and got me to like it, maybe they can pull it off. As they say, KyoAni always finds a way.
ms paint joke, so original
This fucking show. I picked up Danganronpa because the art style looked hilariously terrible and because it was a videogame adaptation, which is usually short hand for absolute garbage. I wanted another trainwreck on my plate, and Danganronpa was all like "NOPE" and then gave me one of the single most addicting anime I've ever watched. Looking back, the show is incredibly flawed, but what does work just works way too well to really hold its flaws against it too much.
The series is a Battle Royale style set-up with kids forced to kill each other with a mystery spin, set up we've seen before, but the show really sells it in its style. The bizarre character designs fit perfectly with the mad world around them, giving off a sense that something has gone horribly, horribly wrong at some point. It was a stylistic choice that seems like a bad choice at first, until the series starts to get moving and people start dying. Murder methods, the aftermath of the murder scenes, the odd expressions of madness, it all just comes together in its own way. Monokuma, the series villain, and the execution scenes ripped right from the game just really make it all come together. The execution scenes in particular, which are quite the drug trip to watch. The mismatching animation style only seems to compliment the show's style even more in some weird way.
The story itself is addicting. This is a series that lends itself to a lot of speculation and theories and gets incredibly addictive. I ended up sharing a lot of theories with some friends, which I almost never do with anything I watch, simply because the set ups were so good. On the downside, the series cuts out a lot of character bits for the sake of pacing, leaving several underdeveloped, and the main plot is much less interesting than the mini murder arcs. The show does save itself with a last minute reveal that was really clever, though. It sometimes moves too fast for its own good, but I can't be as criticial as I normally would be on that.
Danganronpa's lightning fast pacing is its saving grace, pushing into an area of addiction I haven't felt since Lost. It knows just how much to show you to keep you coming back, while throwing in enough twists to keep you surprised and on your toes. It doesn't give you enough time to notice any tropes it uses, or to find out which ones it has subverted, making it more difficult to predict. It knows how to entertain, and sometimes that's enough.
SUNDAY WITHOUT GOD
This is spooky, yet there are no skeletons.
This was an interesting series that's way out of my comfort zone. By all accounts, I should hate Sunday Without God. The amount of DNA it shares with Key works is staggering. Unexplained magical plot developments, similar character design, lots of sad and happy on high levels, tons of use of the soundtrack to carry the emotion of a scene, similar animation tricks and so on. I hate Key works. I love Sunday Without God. I think the reason I like it so much is that Sunday Without God is a perfecting of the usual Key formula, it took notes of where they went wrong and tried going over those flaws, and mostly succeeded (until the ending).
Where I usually have an issue with Key works is that their stories usually have really bad and contrived writing. Solutions to problems will pop out of nowhere when they're dramatically convenient, and problems tend to pop up in the same way. It wouldn't be so bad if it didn't happen so often and done so poorly (Air is a big old pile of bullshit, for example). The characters only having two braincells or having only a few characteristics like "cute" don't help. Sunday Without God is a bit smarter than that. The show takes its time early on to build up the world and the personalities of a few major characters, mainly Ai, and ease the audience in. Not everything is explained, but what isn't explained doesn't feel like quite a cheat due to how lost all the characters are, even the gravekeepers. The magical elements also don't have a heavy impact on the plot until the final arc, preventing the usual deus ex machina and diablos ex machina abuse that comes with these types of series. God left the world, the nature of death has radically changed and it's hard to say what's going to happen to man in the end. Simple and to the point, if the details are a bit different than they usually are in stories like these and we never really get to see many of the living dead being insane, minus in one episode. The rest is so strong that it negates this issue.
I can dig it.
Ai is also a really likable and well developed character. She's cute and all, but it's not what defines her as a person. The first three episodes are all about giving her the start of her character arc and defining who she is and her motivations, and it works. She's idealistic, but not stupid. She learns from others and is driven to help those in need because how she was raised, and she doesn't want to let go of that. She avoids grudges, choosing to find the best in a broken world. Those first three episodes, despite seeming pointless to the final plot, are absolutely essential to getting this series to work. The other arcs are all interesting travels throughout different parts of the world, with positions challenged and questions raised. I found it all interesting and really wanted to spend more time with all these characters.
The series has some major flaws, though, thus why I can't give it a higher score. While Ai and various side characters are very well developed, Ai's traveling companions for the whole series, Scar and Julie, aren't given the time they need. The problem is that more episodes were necessary to really make their arc complete, which the series didn't have time for. The pacing also gets very fast after the events of the Ortus arc, leaving less time to learn more about the world, which is a real shame. The world is almost like a character in its own right. The ending also has some Key style magical bullshit issues, and while it is effective for the most part, I couldn't help but think about that one thing that was bugging me after it was over. Despite this, the show is very enjoyable and really got to me with its subject matter and characters. Give it a shot, if it's the type of thing you may like, you'll like it. If it's not the thing you're interested in, give the first three episodes a shot and see if you want to stick around. I'm glad I did.
Well, don't you have a lovely ....uh ....personality?
I rarely get excited over new anime, including adaptations. Watamote was no exception. For awhile. Then I saw the opening and knew that I was going to end up loving this. I did. Watamote is one of my all time favorite manga, and the anime adaptation from Silver Link surpassed it in many ways, taking full advantage of animation to enhance old gags and make new ones that would never be possible in the source material. They even managed some more amazing expressions, which I thought was impossible to do.
As for those of you who don't know about Watamote, it's a series about a shut in girl named Tomoko who desperately tries to become popular, with very little understanding of how the world around her works. Comedy ensues, along with the occasional traumatic flashback. It doesn't sound funny at first, but it ends up working solely by how low Tomoko has ended up. She's every negative quality of otaku and nerd culture rolled up into a ball of self-loathing and social ineptitude, both relatable and detestable, but still human at the core. One moment, you're laughing at her, the next, you can't help but feel bad for her. Then she does or says something terrible and it's back to laughing at her misfortune, rinse and repeat.
Sure, if you'll give me the antidote.
The anime adaptation has a lot going for it. This marks Izumi Kitta's first major role, and it's one hell of a first impression. She just finds that perfect limbo of manic and despair that sums up Tomoko and goes all the way with it, while the visual gags are upped in number from the manga to great effect. All but the first episode and one later episode have near perfect comedic timing, tossing a barrage of gags and situations every moment and not letting a moment pass without something to laugh or cringe at. Of course, the show also knows when to slow down before reaching the punchline, punctuating to perfect effect.
The show isn't flawless, due to two weak episodes and the occasional joke that goes on a bit too long, but Watamote excels as an adaptation. This is how you adapt a short comedy manga, using your new medium's elements to build on everything already presented. If Silver Link can keep this up, they'll have a bright future in this industry. Highly recommended, as long as you once had a time in your life where you weren't exactly the most popular person around.
STELLA WOMAN'S ACADEMY, HIGH SCHOOL DIVISION CLASS C3
And so the empire of K-ON was challenged. With firearms.
You know, if this wasn't a Gainax series, I probably wouldn't have decided to watch it. Imagine my surprise when it turned out to be an adaptation and not an original project, because it has a lot of shared blood with Gainax's other major series, mainly an unorthodox approach to an otherwise been done type of story. C3-bu wants you to think it's another show about cute girls doing things (in this case airsoft, weirdly), but it starts to pull the rug out from under the audience halfway through episode five and its much darker and more interesting subject matter starts to weave in and out before it becomes very important in the last forth. Well played, C3-bu. Well played.
The series starts out simple enough. Yura, a shy girl with crippling self-esteem issues, decides to join the school's airsoft club after a few practice games, finding a new world where she feels she can find a place in all the excitement. The club is also inhabited mainly by self-proclaimed weirdos, so Yura doesn't have to worry as much about fitting in. That's how it starts, though. At the halfway point of episode five, the show has a moment that hints that Yura's character arc didn't end with trying to better herself at the end of episode three, hinting that her personality issues may have only gotten worse, possibly because of her odd view of reality. She has an incredibly vivid imagination, in more ways than one. This is what ended up keeping me around and what really surprised me.
That's a mirror, Rento.
Yura is a great character, and her arc is a really interesting one. It's a nice twist on the usual coming of age yarn, and it goes to some really surprising places, bucking a lot of the usual story beats you'd expect from a series like this. What's better is that it's well handled. The show doesn't play its cards early, it just occasionally hints that Yura isn't all there and a few characters are becoming aware of it. The ultimate ending to it all is great, a happy ending that does feel earned and brings Yura's character arc to a complete moment. I know the series won't be getting another season due to disastrous blu-ray sales in Japan, but I really want to see more of C3 and their adventures, because of just how good Yura is as a character and how fun the rest of the cast are (especially Rento, the weirdest of the weirdos).
The final episode, however, is bizarre. It's basically a filler episode that should have been placed between episodes four and five, but couldn't since not all of the characters present were introduced. I don't mind, though, because said episode is hilarious and a cheerful sendoff to all these great characters and this great show. Gainax, I hope you continue adapting what you want to adapt and make what you want to make, because you guys rarely ever disappoint. We need more studios like Gainax, and I'll stand by those words for years to come.
Cows just leave everyone speechless.
Now this was a refreshing experience. I didn't have any feelings towards Silver Spoon, due to it being an anime about farming and that sounding incredibly dull. But, then I found out it was created by the same writer and artist of Fullmetal Alchemist, so I finally gave it a shot. Glad I did, because it's one of the smartest shows to appear this season and one I plan to follow the future seasons of. It also managed to be entertaining at the same time, using a lot of FMA humor and pacing. It's a slice of life that understands how to properly engage an audience.
Right off the bat, Hachiken manages to be a great main character because he's instantly relatable, even if you don't share the same experiences or past troubles that he had. The important part is that he's as alien to the world of farming as the viewer is. As he learns, the viewer learns, but the show goes beyond teaching about farm life and starts to touch more into life philosophy, with all the characters debating and discussing their thoughts with each other. This manages to be the real backbone of the show, as the series brings up different observations about how people view life and animals and make you reach your own conclusion, showing that everyone has a different answer.
At the same time, Hachiken and the other kids all work great with their own personalities. Hachiken's drama is interesting in engaging, partly because he realizes that his issues aren't the center of the universe. He understands others around him have their own problems as the series goes on and he becomes humbled, leading to development for nearly the entire cast. Everyone is easy to tell apart by both design and personality, so even the most insignificant character becomes memorable. You can really tell this comes from the same writer as FMA, just due to how easy the world is developed and how familiar it begins to feel so quickly.
Silver Spoon isn't so much slow moving as just going through daily life. People work hard, talk with each other, and everyone grows as a result. It's the type of series that really makes you think on the most mundane things, and sometimes that can lead us to the most surprising realizations. Silver Spoon is an enjoyable experience, even in the darkest moments, and it's a perfect way to follow up on something as large and exciting as Fullmetal Alchemist. It's a reduction in scale, but not a reduction in intelligence and heart.
THE ECCENTRIC FAMILY
dead people cant be proud, stupid
It's amazing how close this was to being the best of the season. The Eccentric Family just looked like a quirkly little show to me, but then it got me right in my heart and I awaited each new episode more than any other (until the number one pick reached the "this is really smart" point). This surprises me, because The Eccentric Family isn't really the type of stuff that usually gets hooks in me. It doesn't have a grand mystery or conspiracy, and it doesn't have a ton of action. Really, it's just very heartfelt and has damn amazing writing, which shouldn't be surprising as it's an adaptation of a novel by a famous Japanese author. It's not the smartest show, but it is the one that really makes you happy to be alive, just tapping right into why we love doing what we do by using mythical raccoon dogs that turn into peoples and stuff.
The story has a surprising amount of layers to it. The short version is that a tanuki named Yasaburo is a member of a family that used to rule over tanuki society, but their father died. Tanuki live in a city with humans and tengu, who rule the city infrastructure and skies respectfully, and there's a lot of politics between all of them. The focus is really on Yasaburo just living his daily life, which happens to be crazy due to how fantastical Kyoto is. It's a mixture of the four brothers remembering their now gone dad and living life, while seeing their complicated relationships with tengu, humans and other tanuki. That doesn't sound like much, due to the dreck that usually revolves around a premise like this, but it turns out to be a ton. A lot has already happened by the time we meet Yasaburo and his family, and the show is very careful on how it makes its slow reveals on how all these many characters are connected and knows when to use those connections to make something big happen.
Donuts, the perfect peace offerings.
What makes the series work is that Yasaburo and his family are incredibly fun. They're tricksters who constantly get themselves in complicated problems, and they handle the problems with a sense of fun. Mid-air fireworks battle, trying to calm down a berserk tengu blowing storms all over the area, entertaining a group of humans who yearly eat your kind every year, all just a normal day in the life. There's some really amazing moments and some really fun set-pieces, but the real enjoyment just comes from conversations. There's a lot of clever exchanges between the various characters, especially between Yasaburo and Benten, and it helps add some extra meat to get invested in. Then you have some characters that are just hilarious, especially the Professor. His role in the finale had me laughing even more than anything did this season, I could barely control it. The art is lively and colorful, and all the characters match perfectly with that style. There's really nothing bad I can find to say about it.
The Eccentric Family is highly recommended for just about anyone. It's a lot of fun and it's really funny, but it manages to have some thought provoking moments as well. There's a conversation between Yasaburo and one of the Friday Fellow characters that sticks out as a highlight. It really gets you to care and gets you to enjoy it, makes you want to just have some fun. It knows how to perfectly balance the melancholy with the exciting, and I love it for that.
THE CROWDS ARE CALLING MY NAME
It should not be a surprise at this point that I'm picking Gatchaman Crowds as the best show of the season. It's really, really good, and very unconventional. It's also easily the smartest anime I've seen in ages. As a fan of comic books and an old fan of Power Rangers during my childhood, Gatchaman Crowds really gets the superhero myth, and it knows just how to celebrate it and criticize it. At the same time, it uses that myth as the basis for greater commentary on much larger themes with a new and interesting perspective and a refreshing idealistic tone. Where so many other shows before it mistake knowing the problems with the world as intelligence, Crowds also realizes you have to occasionally offer an answer to the problems, and the answers it suggest aren't that bad.
I'm not going to go too much into this one, as I already wrote a giant love letter to this series , but if you don't want to read all that, I understand. Gatchaman Crowds is meant to be a hopeful message for the possibilities of our world and the technology we now have at our hands. It looks at the internet in ways nobody else does, seeing the communication potential in it and the possibilities for helping others, while aware of its darker uses. Hell, the villain is basically an ultra powerful troll from space, and there's even an Anonymous style group at one point. It makes a balanced view, but it ultimately and honestly believes that humanity can be above their base nature by finding ways to use that nature for the better. The Gatchaman themselves play an important role in the end, especially with the superhero connection and the final thesis of the show, that we can all be heroes.
Friday night, motherfucker.
This is a refreshing experience and may go down as one of my all time favorite anime. Truly fantastic, and I adore how Tatsunoko keeps bringing back their old properties. The updates to these shows, like with Casshern, see something in the source material that wasn't apparent before and uses that angle to make something more meaningful. Crowds is the masterpiece of these reboots, and it's respectful to the original series in an interesting way. Add in all the use of artistic themes and concepts being raised today to try and better ourselves as people, and you really have something amazing.
I can't say I agree with Crowds on everything, but I love the thought, and there is a lot of thought. The characters all have perfect arcs that feed back into the show's major themes and focus, Berg makes for one of the most enjoyable villain in years, and the character design is colorful and alive. All that alone would make a good show, but Crowds aimed higher and took a route I've never seen traveled, and I love it for that. If you ever needed proof that idealism isn't dead and can be capable of something beautiful and worldly and not just simply be overly happy, here you go. Gatchaman Crowds is one of the best anime I have ever seen, and I'm honored that someone in this industry made something like this. Now, how about you guys reboot Robotech? You guys worked on some of it, don't lie. Hell, why don't you call up Go Nagai and see if you can't get the right to make a Devilman reboot? You guys could go fucking nuts with that.