Anime Retrospective: Winter 2014-2015

The laziest one yet!

This is actually the strongest season of anime for me in some time, with an unprecedented three shows that I consistently looked forward to each week. I don’t know why I struggled so much to write anything about it. But I guess it means I won’t waste much of your time.

Aldnoah.Zero

Dude, Takayama, you’re going about this pretending to be Urobuchi thing all wrong. He’s called the Urobutcher because he kills characters, not because he butchers their personalities until they’re unrecognizable.

Not that a story in which anyone’s motivations made sense would have made Aldnoah S2 particularly better, seeing as it barely had defined (let alone likeable) characters in the first place. As it stands, it’s bad enough to be funny sometimes so I guess that’s an improvement over the first season.

Cross Ange

Let’s get this out of the way. From the end of the first episode onward, where Ange gets fisted in women’s prison and the camera lingers lovingly on her violated form as the ending song plays, Cross Ange is not a show that could be described as “tasteful” in any way. The sexual acts tend to be consensual slightly more often than not, but that’s all it is, a tendency.

If you’re able to ignore that, though, Cross Ange is hilarious in a way that transcends my usual penchant for shows that are so bad they’re good. Maybe an apt description would be “so deep in the gutter it looped around and became over the top.” Cross Ange’s characters are (in large part) such horrible people you stop being appalled by their actions and wait with bated breath to see what they’ll do next. Its plot is so nonsensical that at times you stop trying to wrap your head around the twists and just surf atop them like waves, enjoying the ride.

Add to that mix animation that’s pretty good most of the time (though it has its low points during the second half of the series,) terrific voice work for every character, and a great soundtrack composed and performed by diva Akiko Shikata, and Cross Ange is not to be missed if you’re not the type of person who gets offended by fiction easily.

Log Horizon

DEEN.

Do I really need to write anything more than that this time?

I’m finally prepared to say Log Horizon isn’t worth watching. By the end of its run, the rare moments in which it presented interesting ideas or managed to execute a scene decently were like taking a less mushy bite than usual out of a rotten apple; the fact that one piece tasted okay doesn’t change the fact that you’re sick to your stomach from trying to digest the whole thing. It’s not SAO, but that just means it’s not nearly terrible enough to be amusing. If you’re interested in the premise, read the novels or something.

Kantai Collection

Pretty much everyone regardless of nationality loathes this show already for a variety of obvious and mostly-valid reasons. So in lieu of restating them let me laugh at those who actually expected it to contain, at any point, dark and dramatic depictions of the horrors of war and the loss of innocence. Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha

Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata

SaeKano is a story about reinvention. Characters that at first appear to be tired cliches gradually reveal themselves to be the kind of well-rounded, human individuals other stories wish they had. A plot that at first seems generic demonstrates that a story isn’t made or broken by the originality of its premise. Such is the power of a writer like Fumiaki Maruto, best known for his work on the visual novel White Album 2.

But while WA2 is a relationship drama that can be painful to watch if you can’t tolerate the characters’ social failings, or just might not be to your taste, SaeKano is far more approachable if you can look past its initial veneer of cliche and appreciate it for either its wit or its many poignant moments. Give it a chance to prove itself if you haven’t already.

Shirobako

On one hand, Shirobako never returned to its low points early in the first half, in which it focused on character drama that was hard to empathize with at the time (pretty much all the characters are lovable at this point, even the ones that seemed annoying at first.) On the other hand, the non-character drama in the second half is pretty unrealistic. To the best of my knowledge, the only control a manga author really has over an anime adaptation is politely requesting “p-please be gentle” of the production committee as they lube up.

Also, are anime episodes really delivered to the TV stations on physical tapes in this day and age? I suppose Japan never figured out a way to send them via fax.

But nonetheless, it makes for a good story, and Shirobako is still well worth your time even if it’s not a hundred percent accurate in its depiction of the industry.

Yoru no Yatterman

This show’s appetizer seemed promising: a subversion of the usual eternal heroes versus ancient villains cliche that was mildly interesting enough to overlook the unappetizing glaze of melodrama it was prominently coated in. Too bad the main dish was episodic slapstick comedy, then the dessert finally established the plot several courses too late while casually transforming the premise of the series into the very cliche it seemed to subvert.

Leopard and Alouette are almost ludicrously cute enough to make me like the show despite that, but if cute girls were enough to satisfy me… well, I’d watch a lot more anime.

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