Winter 2014 Week 4 Overview – (Anime Power Ranking)

(Shows Covered -Nagi no Asukara, Sekai Seifuku, Nobunagun, Gin no Saji, Kill la Kill, The Pilot’s Love Song, Log Horizon, ‘Inari, Konkon, Koi Iroha’, Nisekoi,  Tonari no Seki-kun, Tokyo Ravens, Noragami, Buddy Complex, and Pupa)

This week I actually wrote as close as you’ll get to editorials on several episodes, so just head to the main post to see my thoughts on the shows that interest you, and how they stacked up this past week.

Anime Power Ranking is no longer held, so here 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. Since I missed the post on Saturday, and all the shows from last Thursday to yesterday are in one post, there’s no relative placement this time around.

1) Nagi no Asukara Episode 16 

Nagi no Asukara Episode 16 overview anime NagiAsu Nagi-Asu: A Lull in the Sea

About ten weeks ago we often had “weak episodes” for Nagi no Asukara, episodes where not much happened. Back then I wasn’t at all surprised, and noted the role of these episodes is to act as a “breather”, to give us time between the hits, and to make us care for the characters. Dramas need us to care for the characters and what happens to them if we are to feel when they do.

This episode was very much such an episode. Hikari’s back, and everyone was hurting, so this episode was such a breather to let us adjust a bit to the new situation, alongside Hikari. This episode’s take on the theme of change was “The more things change, the more they stay the same,” and we’ve seen the characters replicate their past actions, beliefs, and interactions, which isn’t too surprising, as they’re the same people. What had been slightly disappointing was seeing the same happen on the storytelling level, and that the only form of relationships children can have is in the form of unrequited geometric shapes – never would two kids like one another and have it reciprocated.

But this episode definitely had some changes in its end. Also, it’s a bit weird to think of it as a “relaxation episode” when we’ve had a fight between two best friends which was quite venomous at times, but that fight only served to show us how they hadn’t changed, and what good friends they are, so I guess it works.

2) Sekai Seifuku – Bouryaku no Zvezda / World Conquest – Zvezda’s Plot Episode 3

Sekai Seifuku Bouryaku no Zvezda / World Conquest Zvezda Plot Episode 3 Overview anime Yasu Odin

This episode sure had funny moments, right? I hope you all remembered to actually pay careful heed to its actual messages, though. And a serious message it is, that smokers are inhuman and soulless beings that should be wiped off of the face of the earth.

Erm, yeah, sorry, I got lost for a moment there. Yes, the message is that we demonize those that disagree with us, and that resorting to violence is much easier than talking to the other side, as that requires treating them as people. There’s a reason centuries back tribes and religions’ word for “Human” was the same as the word they used to describe their group, and everyone else was “non-human”, and thus you could kill them. The painting of the other side as “The Other” is something that happens all the time in military training, or in political speech. One should pay attention.

Other thematic threads tied to this whole episode had been how we will not relinquish what we use to identify ourselves, even if it’s something petty, and how people group together around these petty things that turn them into a group. It seems ridiculous to die for the right to smoke, right? But at what point will you stop giving up rights because it’s better to risk death than fight for them? The partisan smokers were more than a bit similar to those who escaped persecution by the Inquisition or the Nazis, and it’s probably on purpose.

Oh yeah, before we move on, you know which other show had a truly ridiculous seeming third episode that actually dealt with serious issues? Gatchaman Crowds, where the third episode had the “spoiled milk” episode going on. You can see my notes for that episode here. And so, the similarities between these two theme-heavy shows continues.

3) Nobunagun Episode 4

Nobunagun Episode 4 overview anime - Ogura Sio with Oda Nobunaga eyes

And we’re back to the action, and to crazy Oda Nobunaga. Man, the old, dead man steals the show every time he’s on screen. I want to laugh maniacally alongside him. It’s not that he’s random, but that he’s the bringer of change and carnage. It’s not that he’s arbitrary, but he’s very deliberate, but that the lines he walks seem so strange.

This show is unapologetic fun. It actually picked a very fitting plot-scenario for its craziness, which revolves around escalation. The opponents learn and adapt, so whatever we’ve done before to win the fight cannot be used again, and our characters never know how the situation will escalate, and what will be demanded of them each time they sortie. This is a good way to keep things fresh. But, unlike other shounens who often pull things out of thin air, this show keeps taking things that had been introduced in the past and building on them in new ways, and turns weaknesses into strengths. We’ve had the kickback from the Nobunagun suppressed via a gravitational field in the first episode, and this time we used the kickback to navigate mid-air so our melee specialist could kick ass.

No, it doesn’t make real world sense, but this show is all about having fun. It revels in it, just like its version of Oda Nobunaga. And I’m right there with them.

4) Gin no Saji / Silver Spoon 2nd season Episode 3

Gin no Saji / Silver Spoon 2nd season episode 3 anime overview

The character arc in this episode had been extremelytelegraphed – Hachiken must learn to let go, he must learn that his success is also dependent on others, that they must be given credit, and that he must trust them. Now, you might say that it’s horrible for a show to be so heavy-handed with its character arc, right? Well, most shows aren’t innovative, merely executed better or worse, and yeah, being so blunt about the intended “lesson” might be a bit lazy.

BUT! Hachiken is sort of a dunce, and it fits his character perfectly to miss these things, we even saw a flashback to how he used to solve issues – by turning inward and studying harder. This is what led to him being in the place he is now. And in general, this show isn’t so much about delivering to us “exciting character growth”, but more about delivering believable characters, and character growth that even if it’s cliched, seems to fit the characters perfectly. It’s how one might recount their past, and they’ll retell it in a manner along the lines of these stories.

5) Kill la Kill Episode 15

Kill la Kill Episode 15 anime overview

I think the biggest problem with this episode is that it promised us so much. The build-up was for an epic battle, and we’ve even been told we’re going to get new OP/ED that couldn’t be shared before next week because they’ll reveal Stuff™, and while this fight was nice, especially in the sense that Ryuuko for the first time managed to fight Satsuki to a stand-still, and the action was actually almostentirely animated (Wow! :P), but it wasn’t really epic – at least, not more epic than before. I remember after Ryuuko fought Satsuki in episode 3 and I was amazed by the pace it seemed to imply! Well, we’ve fought her at week 3, so why is it so special now? Well, it’s not really.

Also, note this observation, when a shounen hero fights someone long and hard and we’re supposed to be ecstatic they fought to a standstill, it usually means they were fighting their mentor, and proved themselves as an adult, finally. Well, this seems to have been what this episode had truly been about – Ryuuko is finallyfit material for a shounen protagonist, and Satsuki finally has to concede she has some point, some spine, even if for once, Satsuki is acting a bit like a sore loser. Finally, the whole “Satsuki as a mentor” point brings me to the thought I’ve been having recently, which isn’t merely that they’re “allies”, but that this is in fact Satsuki’s story, that she is the protagonist of the plot. By the by, it’s easy to have the protagonist of a show and of the plot be different people. Just imagine playing an RPG where you’re some rebel in the Star Wars universe – you’re the protagonist of this story, but not “of the world”. I still think Satsuki is the most interesting character by far thus far, except perhaps her mother.

Which brings me to my next point – Satsuki keeps contradicting herself, and her philosophy seems completely incoherent. One answer I have to this is all the allusions to 1984 – This is Doublethink, the ability to hold two contradictory thoughts in mind simultaneously, while also putting out of mind this fact. Or another usage of the term in the book, when the same term is used to attack another for their stance and being self-contradictory, while congratulating allies on their stance and staunch defense of your values. But the comparison with Sekai Seifuku, as both spoke about “Fear as a motivator” made me realize something – Satsuki doesn’t use fear as a motivator to action, but as a motivator to inaction. Anarchists want to create change, whereas dictators such as Satsuki wish to use fear to keep things as they are. But true to double-speech, Satsuki also despises those cowed by fear, for they are merely pigs in human clothings.

Finally, the theme of Ryuuko gaining power by cutting the phallic symbol, and Satsuki being defeated by being splattered with virginal blood were easy to find, or create, as the case might be. Next episode seems like it’d be big on revelations and information. While the action wasn’t epic, trying to make sense of the themes that seem like a real fucking mess right now can be fun, just see how much fun I’ve had with “Clothing is Original Sin“, writing 700 words about less than 2 minutes. I hope this show “finds its way”, I really do.

6) The Pilot’s Love Song / Toaru Hikuushi e no Koiuta Episode 4

The Pilot's Love Song / Toaru Hikuushi e no Koiuta Episode 4 overview anime

I’m honestly not too sure what to think of this show. They had the cadets bond by Ariel spending the night with the other guys, worrying about Claire and Karl. I expected bonding under siege, or during training, but this also works. Claire and Karl also grew closer during their time together, even though we’ve barely saw them get shared screen time. You know what this is? This is a very efficient story, thus far. We’re getting the romance and the whole bonding thing done quite quickly, where other shows would likely spend much more time on it.

So, why are we doing it like this, spending so little time, as little as possibly, as efficiently as possibly? Well, other shows make that their core, but this story, like books (say, Scalzi’s Old Man’s War) know that this is merely setup, and the setup here is for drama. The real core of this episode, both in its emotional focus and in regards to time spent had once more been about Karl’s past. We grow to understand Karl, we grow to understand his hatred for the one he blames for all that had happened to him, and then we find out she’s the girl he loves.

It’s a drama show, purportedly, not a school romance, or an army bonding tale. It’s a drama show, so all this scaffolding is deemed necessary so we could move to the hits, which are sure to begin raining down upon us quite soon. And even if the hits don’t come, it still works – because that’s what Hitchcock had told us, why we sometimes see things from the point of view of the criminal, or are told quite early that they mean harm to our protagonists – because then the sense of dread hovers above the show like the sword of Damocles, and drama and tension exist not only within the show by what is known, but by what we, the audience, know and keep expecting to happen.

Oh yeah, the OST is really good and fitting.

7) Log Horizon Episode 17

Log Horizon episode 17 anime overview - Crusty and Princess Lenessia

We’ve dealt with several topics this time – How people tend to become aggressive in order to hide their weakness, rather than act out of strength, and how some people even turn the weakness they’re used to relying on, used to having motivate them into a weapon (Nietzsche would be so proud!). We also had the truth of representative democracy shown to us, and in this case it’s easier to note because they’re not even elected officials in the same way, nor do they have mandate to command anyone – people do as they please, so you have to ask for their help, you have to convince them. And that means you have to speak with them, as equals, and show them respect, and trust, because you need them to trust you back, and choose to help you.

We also had the small part with the kids, harping on the message that you choose to do something because you believe in it, because you think it’s important, and if that’s why you do something, then you should be attempting to do it even if you might fail. This ties into last episode’s moral message – You do it because it’s right, and that’s all there is to it.

Finally, the last couple of episodes had been solid stuff, much better than the meandering content the show had given us for a while after the first few episodes, but they’re still a noticeable step down from episodes 14-15, which really felt great. Well, 16 was still almost great, but a step down from 14-15, and this episode had been a step down from that. Still good, don’t get me wrong, just wanted to note it.

8) Inari, Konkon, Koi Iroha Episode 3

Inari, Konkon, Koi Iroha episode 3 anime overview

This show is progressing really quickly. We keep seeing complications to the powers, rather than seeing them just wielded for a bit first, and so we never really let things settle into some sort of calm life, but we’re still introducing new conflicts at every turn. I guess once all the main conflicts and love interests will be present, the show will be able to spend time exploring how the characters deal with them, and their feelings. Heck, for a show that I thought would be a RomCom about Inari’s crush, we’ve had one episode out of three devoted for that, another introducing a potential romance between Uka-sama, the goddess, and Inari’s chuuni (delusion of grandeur sufferer) older brother, and a bunch of time introducing the celestial situation.

This show is cute, and the characters are cute, and pleasant to watch. I want to see where they go with this, and when they finally begin slowing down and let things actually happen, emotionally. Though Inari had already learnt the biggest lesson, that even if she changes into other people, she still remains the same person inside, and her problems don’t get solved. Where do you go from here?

9) Nisekoi Episode 3

Nisekoi episode 3 overview anime

It’s a bog-standard RomCom. I like RomComs, so I’m enjoying this, what exactly are you expecting me to say? If you check my notes for this episode, I share some thoughts I’ve had for a long while about confessing as young people, and how your friends or family pushing their nose into your love life can have you saying “No, there’s nothing going on,” which can have the other side get hurt, or even you cooling things off, which is often a source of conflict in RomComs, and reaches the opposite effect than those people in school might be going for – but when it’s always half-mocking, it’s hard to treat it otherwise.

Anyway, we have our two haters-lovers show us they’re actually more similar than we’ve thought, and we see Raku’s nature is to care about everyone else, so even though he purports not to care for Chitose, he finds himself feeling moved by her sadness and more involved with her issues than his own. Bog standard RomCom, I’ve said it already.

10) Tokyo Ravens Episode 16

Tokyo Ravens episode 16 overview anime

Things are going down! The action is solid, more than it is exciting or pretty to watch, it’s just nice seeing the badasses of the magical world duking it out, and how victory is yet again a result of cunning and schemes rather than just throwing out sheer strength. It’s a nice show, and we’re really beginning to see all the intricate plots, and all the various factions and sub-factions. The more we see, the more we realize we don’t know.

11) Noragami Episode 4

Noragami episode 4 overview anime - Yato and Kofuku

I dunno, I’m not really feeling this anime. I assume around episode 5-6 the real plot would start, and this episode really gave a sense of it. By the by, that’s the big difference between LN based anime, and manga/book based anime. After 4-6 episodes the first LN’s material runs out, and so do fresh ideas, quite often, leading to a marked decline in originality and resorting to tropes. Books and manga though often take the first half (for books it’s a half, for manga it’s just the first volume or two) as setup, and then you begin getting the content that all the setup was building to. That’s another reason I prefer the 5-6 episode “rule” over the 3 episode one – you can see the shows either hitting their stride, or beginning to fall flat which is likely to continue.

We keep introducing characters, we keep dropping hints that things are “worrying”, but we don’t have a real plot anywhere yet, and we don’t really do anything story wise. We learn very, very little of the world, last episode we learnt a tiny detail on Yato’s personality, and for the most part the characters don’t really change, or show us more of themselves – we just introduce new characters, and most situations are resolved the same way.

I’ll probably give it 2 more episodes, and hope we get a plot, or I’ll just put it on hold. That is, unless I decide to put numerous shows on hold just to clear my schedule. This show isn’t working nearly hard enough, even if the acting is solid and the art is great.

12) Buddy Complex Episode 4

Buddy Complex episode 4 overview anime

Check-boxes ticked: Our protagonist found his reason to fight, which is unsurprisingly that others need him; we’ve had our moment of seeing you have no place in the world so joining the fighting force; being forgiven for putting others at risk because they’d have died anyway, and an ally who doesn’t trust you being forced to trust you as you come to his aid to protect what matters to him. This is a super-standard show, with neat mecha fights and good voice actors. There’s really not much more to say here. Yes, we now see Dio has trouble at home, and he’s from a privileged family (the poor boy!), but again, nothing here is really trying to be anything more than formulaic. Great if you like the formula or are new to anime, but it’s a tad too bog-standard for me.

Basically the show to watch when you’ve ran out of other mecha shows to watch but want another. It’s the popcorn version of mecha shows.

Missing: Still busy, so I still hadn’t watched Samurai Flamenco episode 13 and up and Space Dandy episode 2 and up. I hope to catch up next week. Pupipo! episode 6 and Tonari no Seki-kun episode 4 will get grouped with the following episodes next week.

Summary: Shows 1-4 had been good to great this week, 5-9 haad been above average to almost good (Nisekoi just squeaked into “Above Average”), with shows 10-12 being the dictionary definition of “Average”.
I’ll be honest, I actually enjoy most of the shows on the average level, and Nisekoi which just edged its way to Average+, it’s just an issue of time. I enjoy them, but I could be watching shows I’ll enjoy more, from my backlog, right? As always, it’s an issue of time, and me not being the best at managing it. It feels sort of terrible to watch 15-16 episodes a week and when the week’s done to only say 5 were great. No, the rest aren’t terrible, but if you only watch 10 shows and 5 are great, it just feels better.

Ok, all shows, Nisekoi and downward have lost their write-up privileges. Post episode notes only, 2-3 screenshots top, until they prove themselves or are dropped. Buddy Complex is just mindless fun, so is Tokyo Ravens, but do I have time for mindless fun, not as good as Nobunagun’s? Not sure.

Elimination Results: Against my better judgement, nothing this week, but everything at spot 9 and below risks being put on hold.

Past Casaulties – this is where we honour shows eliminated in past weeks: Week 1: Mahou Sensou (Magical Warfare), Nobunaga the Fool, Witch Craft Works. Week 2: Hamatora, D-Frag.

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

Tonari no Seki-kun Episode 3

This episode had been the quintesential Tonari no Seki-kun, and why this series is something I’m fine with, but doesn’t excite me. We have a small concept, which Seki-kun then pushes to an extreme. It was a bit tedious and boring for me this episode, because no matter how you try to polish it, it’s just the act of cleaning a table (see what I did there?). This is why I can never marathon such shows. But as 7 minutes a week, I’m fine with it. It’s a nice distraction when you need one.

Pupa Episode 3

Let’s be honest, this show is shit. This episode was in some ways better, as it tried to actually have some symbolism, but the way it just hammered us all over the head with it and the shoddy production values just made it feel even more ridiculous. How did we get from last episode to this episode? No one knows, and it’s a bit bizarre even. We did finally get some gore and chewing this episode though, so it wasn’t all bad. But this show is one of the worst shows I’ve seen in a long while, there’s no beating around the bush.

Tune in next week, to see which other shows get the axe. Still a few too many for comfort! I’ll also stop writing notes or move to post-episode notes only for a few shows, which should regain some time. And I said the same thing last week :-/

3 comments on “Winter 2014 Week 4 Overview – (Anime Power Ranking)

  1. Alex says:

    I was getting pretty frustrated during the last ToAru episode, when Ari and Karl were talking with their respective audience about their pasts. I would have thought they would have some kind of backstory or at least attempt to keep Karl’s identity a secret, but no, “a boy turned up to live with us after the wind rebellion”, “he was angry at the play”. And Karl’s name is the same as the prince’s. How dense did they think the people they are talking to are? It doesn’t take much to put two and two together.

    Anyway, I’ve ended up dropping a whole bunch of this season’s shows, the ones left are Space Dandy, Sekai Seifuku, Noragami and a couple of shorts. Noragami will provably be dropped next week. Not that I particularly dislike most of them, but I thought now would be a good time to try and work at my backlog.

    Very thorough write-up as usual :-)

    • Guy says:

      Karl is called “Kal-El” in the present, and since he’d been adopted. People don’t know they have the same age. Him getting mad at the play was also a private memory of Ariel’s, I think, and not something they shared. She just shared how he came to live with them. And well, it did bond them as well.

      Noragami is picking up, at l(e)ast. Which ones did you drop? And what about fall shows?

      • Alex says:

        Okay. Tbh I can hardly remember now lol.

        I’ve dropped Chuunibyou, Hoozuki, Nobunaga x2, Noragami (maybe, I like it more than the rest), Pupa, and ToAru. What I’ve got left is Silver Spoon, Sekai Seifuku, Seki-kun and Space Dandy. Clearly S is the best letter. I think what I’ll do is pick up a couple of series at the end of the season, after seeing what people say is good.

        Leftover shows I’m watching are KLK, Samumenco, Ace of Diamond and NagiAsu. Glad I stuck with NagiAsu now :-)

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