Anime Retrospective: Winter 2013-2014

Time to stop hiding my power level.

Unusually enough, I watched a good portion of the anime series that aired in this season, so I figured I’d write down my impressions of them. A few of the shows I listed as ‘Finished’ aren’t actually finished yet, but I doubt the final episodes are going to change my opinion.

Still Airing

Nobunaga the Fool

I’ve been watching this with a few friends hoping for regular doses of Shouji Kawamori’s insanity, as exemplified in such quality productions as Aquarion and Basquash. It’s been giving us our fix, but unfortunately cut with a heavy dose of boring Sengoku clan politics during the early part of the series; maybe they’re capable of being appreciated by someone more into the Sengoku period, but I rather doubt it. Even Oda Nobuna no Yabou made politics more interesting, and that’s not high praise for Nobuna. Luckily, now that Julius Caesar has cast the die and Jeanne Kaguya D’Arc has her own mecha, the series seems to be headed in a more entertaining direction.

It’s slightly reminiscent of Escaflowne (also created by Kawamori) with fewer 90s shoujo cliches and more pure insanity. Sadly, this may not be enough to fix the Escaflowne template.

Finished

Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! Ren

I would have dropped this at around episode 4 but I was forced to finish it by IRC friends. Screw you guys.

Chuu2Koi is basically emotional torture for the characters and the viewers alike. Yuuta and Rikka are living together but it takes entire episodes of mental preparation after a six month timeskip for them to hold hands or kiss each other on the cheek, because someone on the production staff thinks people enjoy those episodes going to waste as the characters try to summon the willpower to express affection towards each other. Shinka is an ordinary girl who has her every attempt to live a normal life sabotaged by Sanae, and when the two finally reconcile it’s thrown away for the sake of a cheap joke that made me feel so fremdschämen for them both that it was physically painful. Kumin shouldn’t exist.

And Sophia. Oh boy (or perhaps oh girl.) Barring the fact that your voice actress also shouldn’t exist, you’re almost an actual character; what are you doing in this disaster of the show? And why did you step aside, then cry about it afterwards, in favor of the girl who took six freaking months to hold Yuuta’s hand? Go invent a chuu2 time machine and invade Hyouka or something. It’s a less hostile environment for actual characters than Chuu2Koi is, though you might get bored. If you imprison the vapid moeblob that is Chitanda in a specimen jar and seamlessly replace her I’m sure it will already be less boring though.

D-Frag!

Wow, real voice actors. I had almost forgotten those existed.

For that reason alone I have to assert that D-Frag! is a competent adaptation. However, ‘competent’ is pretty much the highest praise one can give it. It skips every second joke from the manga at times and omits some pretty important chapters completely. My pet theory is that it was in a rush to give Takao, Funabori, Noe and Tama as much screentime as possible in case one of them had the makings of a Saimoe winner. As a consequence, other characters like Sakura… basically had every moment that made them be actual characters glossed over. Not cool.

The contents of the show itself are hit and miss; either you’ll enjoy its style of manzai humor or you won’t. However, if you do like D-Frag, I’d strongly recommend reading the manga as well.

ImoCho

This show is trash, and it knows it. Sometimes it makes you laugh with how dumb it is, sometimes it makes you facepalm when Mitsuki has an orgasm from having the Heimlich maneuver performed upon her. Sometimes it hints at having actual care and emotion put into its character writing, then in the next scene those characters start groping each other or moaning in sexual ecstasy from having fish nibble their toes.

I don’t really know what to make of it now that it’s over, except that it was amusing enough (if you know what I mean) that watching it wasn’t a waste of time. I’m sure you already know whether you do or don’t want to watch it. So just trust your instincts.

Oh, and the NyaaTorrents comments for HorribleSubs’ 720p releases are probably funnier than the show itself.

Log Horizon

On the whole, this series probably derives the bulk of its merit from serving as a blunt instrument to beat SAO apologists with. It has a fairly interesting and in-depth setting where the ‘fantasy MMORPG’ premise is more than just window dressing, a cast that isn’t offensively cliche with a couple of genuinely decent characters… and fails to use either of them to their full potential.

Log Horizon’s weakness is its central plot, which tends to focus on the least compelling characters (the kids; it is a kids’ show, to be fair, but I assume the original novels weren’t written for a preteen audience), is sluggish at delivering anything other than lighthearted interaction between those characters, and drives the plot with far-fetched developments when it does progress (over 30,000 people and no one else thought to try the things Nyanta and Shiroe did? Or discovered their secrets before their plans came to fruition?)

That said, it’s quite clearly the best MMORPG anime yet unless one counts Dennou Coil, and I’ll probably watch season two. In the meantime, my ability to successfully taunt SAO fans shall be much enhanced, and for me that makes the series worthwhile.

Noragami

Consistently solid production, a charming cast of characters, an intriguing modern-fantasy setting I’d love to have known more about, and a clever (if sometimes overbearing) sense of humor gave Noragami the makings of a great series, which it promptly wasted on one of the most dreary plot arcs I’ve seen in anime in some time. I’m not even sure it was directly Yukine (the focal character)’s fault, just a perfect storm of factors conspiring to let the series avoid revealing anything or moving the plot forward for as long as possible, while making every character involved intensely aggravating as they became obviously complicit in this crime against pacing.

And the second plot arc isn’t that much of an improvement — “amnesia” is likely the only thing you need to know about it. I’d like to recommend this show, but unless you love watching Hiyori being cute and/or Yato being a stooge enough to overlook that there might as well not be a story besides that, it isn’t really worth the time.

Saki: Zenkoku-hen

Well, at least it’s better than Achiga.

I was going to write more than that but I don’t know if there’s much of a point, you all know whether or not you like Saki by now. So if you do just join me in complaining about how the best teams always lose.

RIP Miyamori. You will be missed.

Stalled / In Progress

Mikakunin de Shinkoukei

Since writing the first draft of this post, I’ve watched up to episode seven of this. It’s a slice of life show (that pretends to be a romcom, but the central relationship feels far too devoid of chemistry to succeed at that) which seems like it would be dreadfully boring if you don’t like slice of life and sometimes borders upon it even if you do, though I have seen plenty worse. Mikakunin does manage to have a certain charm, thanks to characters that are for the most part naturally likeable and occasional amusing moments, but past a certain point (which the series hovers infinitesimally shy of) all the charm in the world can’t make up for how infrequently anything of interest ever happens in shows like these.

Someone on Reddit made the insightful observation that Benio’s a one-dimensional character who rapidly becomes annoying in excess, yet the show would have nothing at all happening if she weren’t around. Such things do not make a good foundation for an anime.

That said, best ending animation of the season, and the opening is a strong contender too.

Sekai Seifuku: Bouryaku no Zvezda

I and everyone else I know dropped this after the episode where smokers were revealed to not have souls, and none of us have felt like seeing if it went back to the quality of the first two episodes after that trainwreck. (Actually one person did and says it did get better but I still haven’t felt like catching up.)

Not that I smoke or like smokers but keep your ham-fisted polemics out of my anime please.

Dropped

Nobunagun

The concept seemed potentially amusing but the execution resulted in worse animation than parts of Musashi Gundoh. Dropped after the first episode.

Mahou Sensou

Combine the most uninspired light novel plot you can conceive of with production values on par with Nobunagun’s and this is what you get. If you look around you can find an interview with the original writer where he admits the premise of the novels was suggested by his editor and thinks they ought to have chosen something better to make an anime out of. That pretty much says it all.

Sakura Trick

Once you’ve seen this show’s opening animation once, you’ve seen all it has to offer. Spontaneous and unnecessarily long sequences of the main heroines kissing and fantasizing about each other, tepid song and dance sequences in reluctant imitation of other slice-of-life shows, and visual images apparently meant to be amusing but so lacking in wit that they almost meet the definition of anti-humor are the full extent of what you can expect from Sakura Trick.

In a way, the series is impressive in that it knows exactly what it wants to do and does it fearlessly and unapologetically, like an exploitation film. The problem is that it’s been outdone in artistry, pathos, wit, and everything except perhaps sheer luridness by countless forerunners in the yuri genre such as Revolutionary Girl Utena and Strawberry Panic. Sakura Trick is no Shaft or Superfly, but simply a latter-day Cornbread, Earl and Me of interest to nobody but those so enthralled by the genre that they’re unable to judge the objective quality of any show within it.

I sure wrote a lot about a show I think is trash. Probably because I like yuri anime and am sad to see it has fallen this far. Also, everyone talks about how Sakura Trick has ‘saved anime’ and I’m not sure they’re joking. As far as I’m concerned, Sakura Trick is saving anime the same way King Leopold II saved the Congo.

Tokyo Ravens

I dropped this back at episode 12 or so, technically before the season I’m talking about started. At the time it had steadily declining production values, a plot that revolved around minor characters whose names I didn’t know mumbling about nonsense for a third of each episode, and not a single intelligent or likeable character except Kon. I heard one of the main heroines died so maybe the show has improved since.

Late to the Party

Hyouka

Like a lot of these shows, I was watching this with other people. I’m not sure if we actually dropped it but it’s been like a month since we watched episode 8. In the meanwhile one of those people found the time to marathon the entirety of Gundam Build Fighters. If you have not watched Hyouka and have thought about doing so I can unreservedly recommend that you watch Gundam Build Fighters instead. I haven’t seen Gundam Build Fighters and have no interest in it but nothing can possibly be as boring as Hyouka.

Yahari Ore no Seishun Lovecome wa Machigatteiru

There’s nothing wrong with this show in terms of concept or production, but most of the time it feels like the central characters are philosophical manifestos and not people, and the plot is a Socratic dialogue and not a series of events. Midway through the series I came to find it intolerably dreary and stopped watching.

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