Winter 2014 Anime Season Overview Week 2 – Sunday through Wednesday

(Shows Covered – Nobunagun, Buddy Complex, D-Frag, Chūnibyō Demo Koi ga Shitai! Ren (2nd season), Noragami, Pupipo!, The Pilot’s Love Song,  Tokyo Ravens and Tonari no Seki-kun)

These are the shows I’ve watched this past week and how I order them. Each link leads to my episodic write-up of the relevant show. Now, I have too many shows, so I’m going to be dropping shows each and every week until I’m fine with the amount of shows I have left, so keep reading for summaries of new shows, how the shows stack up against one another, Saturday will have the other half of the week’s crop, and which shows are being dropped this week (2-3 shows, most likely)

1) Nobunagun Episode 2

Nobunagun episode 2 anime

This episode had been so much fun. It was glorious destruction, with a character who is self-assured and cocky, in control even while in the throes of berserker rage, or is she? The visual direction in this episode had once more been top-notch, and even though in this episode the colours are there merely for the spectacle rather than supporting any themes, seeing as it’s a mayhem-oriented episode, all the clashing colours and very distinctive visual design work wonders.

On the story-front, the show is relatively self-aware, as aside from referencing various movies, including Pacific Rim, and making mention of Spiderman’s “With great power comes great responsibility” line, things are pretty standard. Our heroine is emotionally pressured into joining the fight, and similarities to Madoka Magica keep appearing (at least as far as I am concerned). The show also makes use of a very annoying sequence where our heroine pulls the “I couldn’t save you that time, so I’m useless!” but at least the other character makes the logical response.

Is this show special in terms of plot? Hell no. Is it the most over the top show you’ve seen, or the one with the most distinctive flair? Probably not as well, but the way all these elements meet? It’s surely the most fun we’ve had this year, at the very least.

2) Chuunibyou 2nd season Ren Episode 2

Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! Ren / Chuu2koi Ren Episode 2 anime

A large part of my expectation for this show in this season would be to watch a couple that’s actually engaged in a romantic relationship, starring in their own Romantic Comedy anime, rather than the show aborting just as the couple finally hooks up. Just like Nibutani, I was somewhat worried when I’ve heard that after 6 months together they still aren’t even really holding hands.

Now, on one hand this episode reassured me, with Yuuta and Rikka’s agreement that they will do things their way, without caving in to what everyone around them says is right (after watching too many Hollywood romance stories), but like much in the show, the characters rely on their individuality as means of escaping reality, just like the coin allegory used in this episode.

But when it all comes down to it, I just like this show too much, and it’s too funny and/or cute for me to not enjoy completely, even if I’m a bit sad over not having the hoped for romance story.

3) The Pilot’s Love Song / Toaru Hikuushi e no Koiuta Episode 2

The Pilot's Love Song / Toaru Hikuushi e no Koiuta Episode 2 anime

The setting of this world is interesting, aside from the world being quite different from our own, the social situation is also unclear – if nobles had been ousted, then why do they have more rights, why are people deferential to them? What is going on here? We’re thrown into the world, and things will be explained as we go along, or they won’t. And mind you, it’s not necessarily a bad thing, because if things are only explained for the sake of the watcher it often feels awkward, and most people don’t appreciate “infodumps” anyway. Some characters actually raise up issues such as the one I’ve thought of last episode, such as who we’re worried over, and need to defend from. Interesting.

On the plot level, this continues to be a very regular, well-animated, and solidly delivered army training-camp/school story, with a couple of boys who begin hating each other but will slowly grow to trust one another. It’s just a nice way to pass the time and build the characters, in case someone doesn’t truly understand their archetypes, for when the drama begins, for when all is said and done, the difference between this show and all the other shows sharing its basic plot is, that we expect the focus here to be on drama, rather than action. I hope we’re not wrong.

4) Noragami Episode 2

Noragami episode 2 anime

This was a very pretty episode. The backgrounds are gorgeous, the characters are amazingly well-drawn… but nothing really happened. We didn’t learn much of the world, and we didn’t learn much of the characters. What we’re currently doing is still introducing the main cast, and seeing the characters act within the world, getting used to it, as we get used to them by mere fact of seeing them appear before us on the screen.

But when all is said and done, neither did the plot advance much by anything actually happening, nor did we truly get to know what makes the characters tick. It was quite enjoyable, but this episode reminds us that in the end this is a popcorn show, but at least it’s a pretty one. The one thematic thread we did get is about liminality, how our characters exist and muddle the boundaries – between spirits and humans, living and dead, and that to cross the boundaries is an inherently dangerous proposition.

5) Buddy Complex Episode 2

Buddy Complex Episode 2 anime

Much of what I said for the above two shows still holds true. This is a Sunrise show, we got our protagonist thrown into a situation he’s not used to and being forced to fight. Usually we get this in the first episode, but we’ll forgive Sunrise this once ;) The two sides are drawn, along with the opposition once more being based on a European force (Russia to Valvrave’s Germany + Russia), with a weird salute and nationalistic phrases. There are some weird things here, animation and acting wise, but it’s a pretty, well-made popcorn show, which still puts it miles ahead of most like shows.

6) Tokyo Ravens Episode 14

Welp, we’re back into action-land, over the RomCom territory, and we see The Big Bad vanquished (Or is he, for this is too early for that to happen). It’s nice to see some serious power used in the show, and put into context how the “awesome” Natsume is still a nobody in the grand scheme of things. I actually liked this battle quite a bit from a plot-perspective, of the fight itself – the Big Bad kept hammering with overwhelming power, and the one who stood up against him, who specializes in misdirection and being glib, did “lose” when it came to comparing powers, but won by always keeping his mind on what his true goals at each sequence had been, and by keeping them orthogonal to the opponent’s goals which require a brute clash of strength, where he’d been outmatched.

It’s nice to see characters think, now and then.

7) D-Frag Episode 2

D-Frag episode 2 anime

I laughed a bit, but the weakness of the setup is clearly showing, and while all the actors are solid, the characters are meh-worthy. It’s just that the setup doesn’t actually allow for much, and most of the jokes are on a gag-level anyway. It might make it another week, or it might not. I enjoy laughing, but the amount here is borderline, and while I hardly “suffer” watching this show, I actually get a good amount of comedy-time from other shows this season, either shorts or non-dedicated “comedies” with a serious comedic element.

Summary: I’d say episodes 1-2 had been strong, 3-5 had been “ok” with your regular “Start of season” weakness, Tokyo Ravens is between strong and weak (and has me having watched so many episodes going for it), and D-Frag is showing signs of weakness, lagging behind the rest of the pack.

Shorts, which aren’t part of this merciless death-game, but still in order:

Pupipo! Episode 4

Why is this a short? Argh! This is a show I’d happily watch in 10-20 minute breaks, or as a film. There are very interesting things going on here, and each time the episode ends just as we get to the good part ;_;

Tonari no Seki-kun Episode 2

This episode had been more “out there” than the first, but I actually liked it a tad less, more serious, darker – no, not really, it’s all in the character’s mind anyway. Anyway, I’d rather see amusing things than hear the internal dramatization of a story, myself. Unlike the previous episode, I felt “done” after this one, while the first episode made me want to watch another episode immediately.

P.S. I’ve had two tests this week, so hadn’t watched Space Dandy, Hamatora, or “Inari, Konkon, Koi Iroha” yet, they should be up on the Saturday post (which will appear on Sunday).

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