Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Thoughts after 2-3 episodes of the spring 2014 anime

Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii
Is the spring anime season really this good, or am I just in the right mood? Whatever the case, I am enjoying too many shows to keep up with.

These are the shows I won't miss (in alphabetical order):
  • Bokura wa Minna Kawaisou – Dawning romance in a boarding house. The usual puerile humour is well counteracted by a sweet romance and lovely images. Hanazawa Kana gives us something special here as the shy but determined girl who seems to be discovering love.
  • Brynhildr in the Darkness – Enjoyable and involving. Extravagances in the plot may attract or repel you: the reappearance of a supposedly dead childhood friend, aliens, a secret government lab where young girls are experimented on, imminent death by general bleeding if you don’t keep taking special pills. From a manga by the author of Elfen Lied. Taneda Risa is excellent as the main girl.
  • Gochuumon wa Usagi Desuka? – Incredibly cute. Well-drawn moe girls running a café. Good voices from Sakura Ayane, Taneda Risa, Uchida Maaya, et al. Nothing but cute girls doing cute things, but this version pleases me more than K-On ever did.
  • Inugami-san to Nekoyama-sanYuri comic-strip comedy starring Touyama Nao and Uesaka Sumire. Hilarious absurdity. Five-minute episodes, unfortunately.
  • Isshuukan Friends – Sweet and deep. An unlikely but powerful set-up that produces heartache, some psychological depth, and growing romance. Beautiful look. Terrific performances from young seiyuus Amamiya Sora and Yamaya Yoshitaka, and Hosoya Yoshimasa as what may be the best wingman character ever.
  • Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei – Excellent (and popular) show starring Nakamura Yuuichi and Hayami Saori, who are both at their best. Nakamura's character keeps revealing more and more fighting skills. Hayamin plays his brilliant sister, who keeps revealing her love for him. They navigate through shoals of friends and enemies in a high-school for powerful magicians.
  • Mekakucity Actors – Shinbou's take on Kagerou Days has fans of the latter up in arms. As a Shinbou fan, however, I'm loving the show. And Jin, the author/composer of the original, is the one who is scripting it for anime, so perhaps he approves, too.
  • Mushishi Zoku Shou – I finally get the beauty of this show, which has never reached me before. I used to think of it as just another boring monster show. We'll see if week after week of them vitiates the appeal of these touching fantasy short stories set in a version of bygone rural Japan.
  • Ping Pong the Animation – At last, a Yuasa show I can appreciate. To me, Tatami Galaxy seemed over-complex and emotionally shallow. However, the simple framework of a well-told sports story here allows me to appreciate the brilliant, if rather ugly, animation.
  • No Game, No Life – Hilarious comedy set in an online-game world, painted with wonderful extreme coloration. Our hero and heroine are mutually dependant siblings whose deep closeness stops just short of being erotic. He has crafty gamer macho; she is a loli genius. A nubile princess (played with brilliant exuberance by Hikasa Youko), in despair at her family's fall, feels herself inexorably drawn to our bold hero.
  • Seikoku no Dragonar – Just another fantasy harem comedy, but I'm enjoying it. The dragon born to be our high-skilled hero's partner turns out to be a tsundere loli with an aversion to clothing. And human girls in this school for dragon-riders are also becoming his friends. Good voice work by Sakura Ayanae, and especially by Ise Mariya as the Kugimiya-esque tsundere girl/dragon.
  • Sidonia no Kishi – Real science fiction, with a well-conceived future world in which huge colony ship/asteroids have fled an Earth devastated by giant alien invaders. Human photosynthesis, fast-growing clones, an intermediate gender, and a young hero who has risen from a rat-like life hidden in the bowels of the ship to become a super-skilled pilot who can confront the aliens.
  • Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii – Shoujo fantasy with a strong, independent heroine who reminds me of Kajika in Hanasakeru Seishounen. And that's a good thing. She is a princess of a minor state sent to marry the emperor of the world, who turns out to be a brilliant, cold-eyed boy of eleven. Of course she will tame him with her magic and bring joy to them both and to the world.
  • Soul Eater Not! – As the title is intended to suggest, this is not Soul Eater, but a different show set in its world. An enjoyable school comedy with violence – and with Hayami Saori and Yuuki Aoi in leading roles

Ping Pong
Here are shows I have been able to keep up with so far, but which I might end up letting slide:
  • Akuma no Riddle – Vicious but effective. I don't like spending time with killers, but a fraught situation and the two main characters partly make up for a class full of beautiful but nasty school-girl assassins. Kanemoto Hisako is great as sweet Haru, their apparent target.
  • Black Bullet – Entertaining adventure with a delicious villain played by Koyama Rikiya and a throng of exploited lolis with superpowers. Hard to resist.
  • Blade and Soul Might this be more than just a new Queen's Blade-style boobs and fighting anime? It seems more like a decent fantasy adventure, with added  mammaries. Takao Yuki is good as the main protagonist. Yuuki Aoi is brilliant as the evil queen.
  • Hitsugi no Chaika – Ditzy goth-loli with a gun, and a lazy hero who is always being badgered by his beautiful sister. But the siblings have great fighting skills in this steam-punk mediaeval fantasy world, and the loli is more than she seems.
  • Escha + Logy no Atelier: Tasogare no Sora no Renkinjutsushi ("Escha + Logy's Workshop: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky.") Pretty and healing. An alchemical fantasy with deep friendship and hints of romance that may remain just hints. Zero tension in ep1; just how I like it. But episode two didn’t sustain my interest, despite two good new characters.
  • Haikyuu!! – A classic sports anime. Vivid characters and a clear story. Too much shouting for my taste, but good so far.
  • Insufficient Direction – The life of an otaku director and his mangaka wife. Based on the marriage of Anno Hideaki (Evangelion) and Anno Moyoco (Sugar Sugar Rune, Hataraki Man). Funny first episode. Three-minute episodes.
  • Kin-iro no Chord: Blue Sky – Like an old friend, a new Kin-iro no Corda reverse harem appears, with the same seiyuu (Takagi Reiko) playing a new lead girl. She and her ikemen osananajimi are all violin students, and will now work together to win an inter-school chamber music competition.
  • Nanana's Buried Treasure – Our hero seems to take it amazingly well when he discovers a pretty ghost in his cheap rented room. They and his friends set out to collect the treasures she hid during her life, with the idea that they may be able to find her murderer. Moderately entertaining.
  • Selector Infected Wixoss – Our heroine tries out the card game that is all the rage among girls at school, and slips into a separate space, where she becomes enthralled with battles using violent little pixy avatars. And so do we.

No Game, No Life
And here are shows I probably won’t continue watching:
  • Baby Steps – Slow in the classic sports anime way, gearing up for a run of at least two seasons. Not my thing, but excellent pedagogy.
  • Captain Earth – I couldn’t get through more than 3-4 minutes of each of the first two episodes. I guess shounen humour is not for me.
  • Fuuun Ishin Dai Shougun – More shounen humour. Once again, not for me.
  • Kanojo ga Flag o Oraretara – An interesting premise, and pretty well done,  but ends up being just another average harem comedy. At least the main character is not a nervous wuss.
  • Kamigami no Asobi – Reverse harem with a bevy of god-like, well, gods. Nicely drawn, and with the normal stellar male cast (starting with Irino Miyu) to accompany the godly Hayami Saori, who plays the only human in the story. Zeus has brought gods of various cultures together in a heavenly school to learn how to love humans, of which our heroine is their example.
  • JoJo no Kimyou na Bouken: Stardust Crusaders – Excellent show that I don’t enjoy. This and Love Live may be the most popular of all the new shows, in Japan.
  • Lady Jewelpet – More of the sweet young-shoujo series that promotes Sanrio toys and has been running for five years.
  • Love Live! 2 – My interest in season one waned, but I still think of it as a good show. Maybe Ive just seen enough of this. Excellent character design and animation by Nishida Asako (Simoun), and another terrific OP. But the music can’t stand up to idol groups like my favorites Nogizaka46, Fairies, and 9Nine.
  • Mahou Shoujo Taisen – Couldn’t get into it. Maybe it's the four-minute episodes. And maybe it's just that I don't like pushy talking birds.
  • Mangaka-san to Assistant-san to – The manga is slightly amusing. The anime has its moments, but is mostly boring and childish. Talks ecchi but isn't. A waste of Hayami Saori's talents.


Anonymous said...

thanks for the reference to Anidb, I'm embarrassed to say that I actually did not know about it haha.

Do you mind telling me what separates Flag ga oretara/dragonar and Black bullet/Mahouka (respectively) for you to favor one set over the other? For me at least, I have a hard time letting go of shows once I start them, and with those shows specifically, I haven't been able to differentiate from them too much.

Highway said...

My favorites so far are Soredemo Sekai, Kawaisou, and Soul Eater Not!. I'm watching just about everything in your list, tho, and enjoying most of it. I do have some quibbles with things: Dragonar threatens to remind me why I only watched one series of Zero no Tsukaima, Sidonia presents me with a dilemma of the atrocious character animation and design versus the interesting setup, and Mekakucity Actors may be too much of a clone of Monogatari (2nd episode was better, but still...).

Some of the ones you're passing on I really like. Kamigami no Asobi I like so much better than Kiniro no Chorda, with a MC who is actually trying to be an actualizing force in her own life, rather than a bland pinball that just bounces off moody characters. And Kanojo ga Flag is crazy fun, especially with the trap played by Kana Hanezawa (this is the season of the HanaKana trap...).

hashi said...

@anonymous -- So glad to be able to introduce you to anidb. I wondered if many people knew about it, since I never see it mentioned. I'm only now really learning all its virtues myself. I use it every season as my first source for new shows, since it has good "calendar" pages for shows starting in any given month.

I probably can't differentiate those shows logically so much as it's just that I have a natural personal reaction to them. I am still watching all four. I'd say I find Flag less serious than Bullet, without as much actual feeling and/or danger, and with humour I don't find quite funny enough. Dragonar is more comedy than Mahouka, and I find the Mahouka characters more intense and the Dragonar humour hit and miss.

I find that shows naturally fall away as I just don't find time to watch them -- and some shows fall away more easily than others.

@Highway -- I don't mind the 3DCG in Sidonia. I find the slight unexpressiveness gives a nice "alien" sort of feeling. And I don't mind seeing more Shinbou. It may look like Monogatari, but I think that's just Shinbou's current idiom. He's an artist, and that's his style.

The humour in Flag is sometimes funny, but doesn't amuse me quite enough to make the show a must-watch. I've only just started seriously watching Kamigami, so perhaps I will keep going with it, too. I am a huge fan of Hayami Saori. I'm working on a characters/seiyuus page for that show right now.

Highway said...

I haven't seen the second episode of Sidonia, but in the first episode I liked everything except the characters (and I really loved Arpeggio of Blue Steel, it's not the idea of 3DCG that bothers me). The times when they'd stop talking with their mouths hanging open, that stupid blue circle over the MC's eye right after he got punched (which went away later), the super stiff movements of most of the background characters. It was just done really poorly.

I find I get tired quickly of Shinbou, but I may be in a big minority. It just feels like laziness when he can't come up with different things to show (the tower of horns, the city with power lines, the exact same scene compositions).

Yes, I'm totally a Saori Hayami fan as well (as you might remember), and I think they're actually using her in Kamigami no Asobi (unlike Mamiko Noto in Arcana Famiglia, who was apparently high priced talent to just say "uh" and "un" and "ah" and "oh" a lot). I also love her Anya in Soul Eater Not!

Khrno said...

Nice write-up Hashi. Just a question, so you don't like Fairy Tail at all? Since it seems you didn't even started watching now.

Personally I think it's a decent enough series and I've liked most of its story arcs so far, but the main reason why this was my most anticipated anime this season, was because of the return of Aya Hirano on a big role.

I did try to watch Lady Jewelpet, but just as with all previews series, I couldn't even get halfway through the first episode.

Anonymous said...

I am very surprised that you did not appreciate the first season of Mushishi. You often describe Shinkai's films as being zen-like. Personally, if I have to name another anime that has a zen-like quality, it is Mushishi (its content is, of course, vastly different from Shinkai's works).

hashi said...

@Khrno -- I watched a couple of eps of the first fairy Tail, but they did so little for me that I have found it hard to go back, even for Aaya. I'm not saying it was "bad," just that it missed my strike zone entirely. I should take another look.

@anonymous -- I know this sounds weird, but I thought of Mushishi1 as paint-by-numbers, kind of mechanically presenting second-rate versions of monster-focused short stories. I didn't get the special aspects of the mushi at all, and it didn't touch me emotionally the way these first three episodes have.

For me, Shinkai is a totally different animal, not drawing pretty pictures of the external aspects of things, or giving us a nice wabisabi-esque mood, but somehow embodying reality on screen -- if that makes any sense. From this new Mushishi I am finally getting some lovely moments, but nothing like the flashes of reality that Shinkai can sometimes give me.

@Highway -- I don't think you're in a minority in the West. I read a lot of comments from otherwise good critics who just see laziness, boredom, and repetition. Shinbou seems to be a fairly inefficient manager who has to find many ways to save money and time, or else he will not be able to complete episodes on time. So he has evolved a style involving long shots, long-held shots, and reuse of imagery. To me, however, these have become like a palette of beautiful colours that he uses to paint great anime. For me, seeing these things again and again gives me a good feeling, a feeling of strangeness and familiarity combined that makes me smile. Anyway, there's no debating taste. We each have our own instinctive reactions to things.

Jeremia said...

This spring I'm watching 20 titles, it's been a real while since I last did so many, yet I don't think any of those 20 will become later known to be a masterpiece, with the possible exception of MekakuCity Actors, yet it's still to early to say.
About the repetetiveness of Shinbo-daisensei's works, I lately find them to become a new genre, or rather, a new form, but not in the anime meaning, but in poetry meaning- using elaborate, preset concepts to create a new work.

One thing I'd like to point out- Asumi Kana. Her voice really resonates this spring, both in quality and quantity of her roles, she's getting more simmilar to other seiyuu from Kyuushuu, like Tamura Yukari, Nonaka Ai and Nakahara Mai- delivering a very cute voice with just a hint of 'lyrical insanity'

Anonymous said...

Just stopping by to say that I'm soooo glad that you're enjoying Mushishi. I remember seeing your comment on it in the preview for this season and it made me so sad, haha.

Spellfire said...

No Game, No Life is now the most epic anime I've ever seen.

Wong Max said...

For me, I had watched 2 anime for Spring.

First, Akuma no Riddle. At first glance, I thought it might be another "Phi Brain" anime but no. It is gives of more of a murder-ish, dark feel. Well, the story follows a transfer student, whom I thought was a dude at first as with the blue hair and not so obvious mound on the chest, who transferred to a private girls school where 11 other assassins, other than herself, are targeting one girl in the class. You don't see much male characters here and halfway through watching the first episode I thought it might turn Yuri. The anime is okay for now(since I learned from past mistakes) but I won't follow it as it doesn't interest me that much. Though, if it gains some popularity then I might marathon it once it's nearing its end.

Next is Black Bullet. They provide a brief backstory at the beginning of the main protagonist, Satomi Rentarou, followed by a nice opening song by Fripside. They then introduced the antagonist of the show in quite a fashionable way(Blood and all). But what reeled me in was when they introduce Aihara Enju. Ah, kawaii! A loli appeared! Plus, she has insane strength and a very interesting history. Oh, just so we’re clear, I am not a lolicon… I think.