Winter 2014 Anime Mid-Season Impressions

So, another season of anime reached its half-point and it’s time to watch my mid-season impressions, where I talk a bit of the show and rate it. Shows will be listed in order of my enjoyment of them. I’d summarize my thoughts on this season as “Shows just good enough to not drop, and Fall 2013 carry-overs”. There’s a lot of half-assed plot-progression, a lot of tired shows this season. There’s action, and there’s comedy, and there’s next to nothing else. It’s as if everyone is keeping their energies for Spring. Fall 2013 shows carrying over had more or less been saving this season, honestly.

I’ve decided to only cover shows I’ve watched at least 5 episodes of (with two exceptions), as I’ve given a whirl to plenty of shows I then dropped. This is aimed at helping people pick up shows, so continuing shows from Fall 2013 aren’t included, but for the record? Kill la Kill, Nagi no Asukara, and Log Horizon are all making very strong showings, and I’m a few episodes behind on Samurai Flamenco.

Shows covered, in Alphabetical order: Buddy Complex, Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! Ren, Gin no Saji S2, ‘Inari, Konkon, Koi Iroha’, Nisekoi, Nobunagun, Noragami, Pilot’s Love Song, Pupa, Pupipo!, and Sekai Seifuku Bouryaku no Zvezda.

Got Me Hooked:

Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! Ren / Chuunibyou 2nd Season

Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! Ren / Chuu2koi Ren anime mid-season overview

Rikka, afraid of being left behind.

First of all, this show had been somewhat disappointing. I’ve hoped we’ll get a couple already in a relationship, but 8 months later Rikka and Yuuta had their first kiss, on the cheek. Well, the show is still endearing, and I really like the cast. We’ve had a couple of filler episodes, but it’s indeed better to shove them early so they won’t get in the way of the actual plot later on. Romantic advances? Facing your own self? One can only hope. Nibutani does serve to showcase how Rikka is accepted by others, for being herself, whereas Nibutani’s attempt to not show her true nature only backfire.

Episodes Watched: 6/?

Current Grade: A. One of the fillers bored me, but the other had me laughing and smiling.

Write-up Status: Short notes, longer thoughts now and then, moving to just watching and enjoying it.

Gin no Saji / Silver Spoon 2nd Season

Gin no Saji S2 / Silver Spoon 2nd Season anime mid-season overview

It’s like you’ve never left. Welcome back, Gin no Saji.

This isn’t the 2nd season, it’s the 2nd half of a 2-cour show that had been randomly split in its midst.

Same people, same humor, and Hachiken is still a dork whom we enjoy watching. He’s just so personable.

It’s a slice of life with comedic elements, with zero pandering or nonsense.

Episodes Watched: 4/11. I’m 2 episodes behind, which should be fixed soon. Current Grade: A.  I really enjoy this show.

Write-up Status: Short post-episode notes. Trying to catch up as well.

Sekai Seifuku Bouryaku no Zvezda / World Conquest Zvezda Plot

Sekai Seifuku Bouryaku no Zvezda / World Conquest Zvezda Plot anime mid-season overview

As serious as a heart-attack you experience from laughing too much.

Is this the most enjoyable new show from Winter 2014 show I’m watching? Nope, not really. Is it the best? It might be. Is it the smartest show from this season I’m watching? Hell yeah.

The show this reminds me the most of is Gatchaman Crowds, which received the 3rd spot on my “Top shows of 2013” list. It’s very theme-heavy. Whereas Gatchaman Crowds has some sort of plot that drives things along, this show is very episodic. And yet, while it has very deep comedic roots, this show is also very “straight” in how it plays things. Someone eats something so spicy they blow out of the house? Someone might come across them and be alarmed at them not feeling well, and it’s not played for jokes. Something hilarious ends one episode and the next episode begins as if nothing truly changed, in a regular cartoon comic logic? Well, someone will make a reference to last episode and the world had changed as a result.

The show’s third episode is especially similar to Gatchaman Crowds’ 3rd episode, where a serious theme is explored by dealing with a mundane issue, in this case the theme is demonizing the other, of turning the other into a non-human in order to justify whatever is done to them. And there’s the returning theme of family, warmth, choosing your allies, choosing your family, and the ability to replace others.

Where is this show going? I’m not sure. But I’m enjoying it, even when for moments it’s akin to a RomCom or Sentai parody/straight show.

Episodes Watched: 6/13 – Only 13! I do wonder how they’ll resolve everything, I suspect we’re going to progress to a less episodic content from now on.

Current Grade: A.

Write-up Status: This might be the show to break my note-taking back. The write-ups are here, and while with shows such as Gatchaman I really felt I got the shows, I’m not sure the same is true here, especially when I can’t tell what’s symbolic and what’s literal. But I try! I try valiantly to explain, suggest, or even create explanations to all symbolic elements, and I touch upon all themes. Come see me struggle :3

Doing Good:

Pupipo!

Pupipo! anime mid-season overview

Unexpected feels.

This is a short, but I’m enjoying it a lot. It made me smile, and it made me tear up.

The story actually has me go “Nooo!” when an episode ends… sometimes an episode feels like the perfect pre-OP 3 mins, or the perfect pre-ED 3 mins to leave us a cliff-hanger for next week.

It actually has a story, and it actually builds up. I’d have happily watched 10 minutes of this a week, at least.

Episodes Watched: 8/15

Current Grade: A-

Write-up Status: It’s a short, not really.

Inari, Konkon, Koi Iroha

Inari, Konkon, Koi Iroha anime mid-season overview

Heart-warming, and with beautiful mid-episode cards.

This show moves so fast. The supernatural aspect reminded me of HenNeko initially, where it’s only there to force the characters to face their true nature and issues, force them to admit what they want, rather than a way to avoid these things.

But you know how usually shows take time, introducing the situation, seeing how things gradually get messier, etc? Not so for this show, we cut all of those manga chapters out, and it’s all plot progression, all the time.

The characters here are lovely, the music is good, I like the art style… the only thing is, is this a “feel-good” show (such as Gingitsune, not the moe variety), is this a comedy? Things are currently progressing so quickly it’s more of a comedy that also has romance in it rather than a Romantic Comedy.

But I like it, it’s making me smile, even if there’s no stand out feature for this show.

Episodes Watched: 5/10.

Current Grade: B+. I like it, it’s solid, it’s making me smile.

Write-up Status: Mostly many small short notes. I feel I talk about the obvious here. I do have fun taking multiple screenshots of Uka-samaloveliest deity this season.

Nisekoi

Nisekoi anime mid-season overview

Things go as well as you’d expect. Those are their fathers.

This show is not just the quintessential, but a very cliched RomCom, thus far. In case you’re wondering, I’m not actually saying that as if it’s a bad thing. We often watch shows because they can surprise us, or put a nice spin on things, right? This show doesn’t go for any of these things, it’s comfort food, which is a perfectly RomCom thing to be.

If you’ve watched several RomCom movies/shows in the past, especially of the anime variety, you could probably tell how every so-called conflict is going to turn out, how each development will pan out. But you know what? We rewatch shows, we re-read books, we watch adaptations to material we’ve already consumed, so it’s all about execution. This is fun, and it’s making me smile. The production values are good, and the actors are doing a good job.

This show is about the opposite of “special” or “stand-out”, but if you love RomComs, and you want something that is “more of the same”, then you could do quite worse than Nisekoi. If you hadn’t watched RomComs though, watching Nisekoi is like being handed a blueprint to many of the plot developments in other such shows.

Episodes Watched: 6/?. Rumours abound it’s a 2-cour.

Current Grade: B.

Write-up Status: Surprisingly, real in-depth notes up to episode 4 (don’t ask me how :o), mini-notes only for episodes 5-6. Trying to stop taking notes for this show and just watching it to enjoy it. Notes can be found here.

Try Harder Please:

Nobunagun

Nobunagun anime mid-season overview

Oda Nobunaga as a bloodthirsty maniac. When he’s around the show’s good, when he’s not, it’s not.

This show early on was my wildest surprise, from 0.5/3 “Hype points” to blowing me out of the water. This show knows what crazy fun is. This show revels in madness, in everything being over the top.

This show lives and dies by the screentime of Ogura Sio in combat, and of seeing her inner Oda Nobunaga. The plot itself is terribly mundane, and even has an in-built excuse taken straight from Pacific Rim to why each time the characters have to improvise and learn new tricks.

The combat writing is actually neat, how they keep building on old techniques in new ways. Sadly though, the last couple of episodes had been combat-lite, or even had 0 Ogura Sio in them, which had made the show suffer quite a bit.

I actually like the colours and visuals in this show, but the costume design is terrible.

Episodes Watched: 6/13.

Current Grade: Began at A+, currently at B-, hopefully today’s episode picks it back up.

Write-up Status: Madness! I actually wrote pretty long write-ups for this show, last couple of episodes aside, I just had so much fun in the first two episodes, cackling and laughing, with my eyes shining like lanterns. Try the first two write-ups in particular.

The Pilot’s Love Song / Toaru Hikuushi e no Koiuta

The Pilot's Love Song / Toaru Hikuushi e no Koiuta anime mid-season overview

Flashback, strife, drama. The one screenshot to capture what this show will hopefully deliver on.

This show is interesting. This show feels like a “buddy show”, a “romance show”, and a “training camp/school show” – You have people who don’t get along, yet in the heat of battle/training they get to become friends! A couple comes together, and school hijinks are everywhere.

But if the show had only been those things, I doubt we’d be as excited about this show, prematurely excited even. You see, this show is a drama. It has an interesting world about which we and most of the characters know far too little, and we have an interesting social situation.

But what really gets us excited is that this show is billed as a drama. All the light stuff? It’s there to build us up to moments of intense anguish, it feels like. Much of the story thus far is actually told via flashbacks, and those flashbacks hit home.

In the end, it is a bit too slow right now, and they do waste some of their time, but it’ll all be judged by how the drama pans out. Backgrounds are beautiful in this show, but the people often look as if they hadn’t been fully drawn, or the artists forgot some animation lessons.

Episodes Watched: 6/12

Current Grade: B to B+, much of it is future-hopes.

Write-up Status: Middling length write-ups, see here.

Noragami

Noragami anime mid-season overview

The otherworld intrudes. A very pretty show.

My thoughts on the show before it aired were – “Popcorn show fused with mystery, might be interesting!” There hadn’t really been enough action to warrant it being a popcorn show, and how slowly the plot progressed made me also feel down on the whole mystery angle, or consider it a very good show.

But then, back in episode 6 it hit me, there isn’t some “big story” coming up. This isn’t the setup, the first half of the season, where we meet the characters, and then the second part is the actual meat. No, meeting the characters, learning their back story, understanding their pain? That is the story, that is what this show is interested in telling us, and you have to decide whether you care for it or not. I feel if there’s a second season it’d have a more interesting/exciting story, but the anime might only be here to sell manga volumes, so don’t count on it.

I do wish we had a bit more action in this show, because this show is just drop-dead gorgeous, from a technical stand-point, and the great cast puts in good performances everywhere.

Episodes Watched: 7/12

Current Grade: B.

Write-up Status: Mid-length write-ups, moving to less notes every episode. Often trying to deal with the subtle theme of borders and boundaries, but it doesn’t feel the show is putting too much weight on it just yet either, but it might be building up.

Buddy Complex

Buddy Complex anime Mid-season overview

Bad art, old lines.

You’ve watched every single mecha show out there, you want more of the same. Welcome to Buddy Complex, as it’d give you what you are looking for, and nothing else. Thing is, even if you’ve only watched 3-4 mecha shows, if at least a couple had been by Sunrise, then you know everything that will happen in this show. Frenemies who must get to trust one another, morally ambiguous sides, focus on the “enemies” as well who are quite human, weird and colour-coded uniforms…

The CG battles are good, the music is great, the acting is solid. The hand-drawn art looks almost misshapen, and the faces suffer quite a bit, as if it’s molten wax.

This isn’t a “bad” show, to be bad the show would need to take any risks or try to do anything that isn’t utterly generic. It doesn’t. It’s a show that’s mediocre in almost every single way that counts. You could watch it to see what “mecha shows” are like, but better watch one of the show this retreads, rather.

Episodes Watched: 5/13. Indefinite hold, likely dropped.

Current Grade: C+. Take it or leave it, I say meh.

Write-up Status: Mostly mini-notes territory.

Just Bad:

Pupa

Pupa anime Mid-season overview

Barney the overly censored monster. Blimey.

This show is terrible. We all knew it was going to be bad, but we were curious. I kept saying, “It’s terrible, but it’s only 3 minutes long every week, so why not?” Well, I have better things to do with my 3 minutes a week than watch Pupa. Terrible direction, hammering us over the head with symbolism, censorship where 90% of the screen is black, so many holes you can’t even find a plot, or real characters. The best thing about the show is that were I to try and come up with ridiculous “Little Sister” lines, this show outdoes anything I could ever come up with. Absolute trash. Its OP/ED are fine, I guess. Always end on a positive note, right? :P

So, what are you watching and enjoying this season? What had been an unexpected surprise? What do you think of this season as a whole?

10 comments on “Winter 2014 Anime Mid-Season Impressions

  1. Artemis says:

    I’m actually quite relieved that Noragami didn’t turn out to be the action-laden show everyone was probably expecting. Not that I dislike a good battle scene, but I admit I tend to prefer the more introspective and character-driven titles these days. (I do get why fans are disappointed though – it was labelled as an action series but clearly isn’t interested in going down that road.) Action or no however, Noragami really is gorgeous, as you point out here. I dig the sleek character designs and fluid animation. Rocking soundtrack, too – I utterly adore that OP. I think it would be fair to say that Noragami has more style than substance, but when the style is this appealing, I find I just can’t bring myself to care all that much about the latter.

    • Guy says:

      If you check my pre-season thoughts on Noragami, one of the reasons I was excited for it was exactly because people said it’d be deeper than just another silly shounen, with some mysteries and serious behaviour.

      My entry above about Noragami is that it’s lacking in all these areas, and it doesn’t have the excitement of a silly shounen to keep me watching “just for fun”. It’s not fun enough, and the story is taking its sweet time going anywhere or doing anything. It honestly feels as if this whole series is but a manga-ad or an ad for a second season, and could’ve been resolved in 6-7 episodes.

      And yes, Noragami is gorgeous. Quite a few shounens I’d have liked to have its production qualities, heh. I like gorgeous stuff, it’s part of the visceral enjoyment, but I need the show to be more “fun” to go along with it. I dropped Hyakka Ryouran which was also gorgeous around the same point.

      • Artemis says:

        It’s fun enough for me – I’d say that currently, Noragami is riding second place just behind Gin no Saji for my winter favourites. The comedy works for me, the action (when it’s there) has just the right amount of tension, and in general I just find it an engaging show. I can’t really comment on what it feels like in relation to the manga though, as I’ve never read it. I also never ended up watching anything of Hyakka Ryouran, so can’t comment on that either I’m afraid.

        • Guy says:

          I hadn’t read Noragami’s manga either, speaking just based on the pre-season chatter.

          Hyakka Ryouran – Super beautiful, super vapid :3

  2. ChazzU says:

    I hope we get more out of Noragami than simple action. Everyone’s complaining about Yukine being an annoying and despicable brat but I think he could be this season’s best character if he moves out of the “mysterious because of lack of information” zone and if they expand on his story in a way that could help him make progress.
    Then again, I do enjoy the action scenes in Noragami quite a lot so I hope they will keep enough of them in. Just the awkwardly timed comedy scenes that ruin the pacing should be scrapped. I like the comedy, it’s actually funny sometimes but it seems to be used when the author wanted a break because he didn’t think he could go through with the story any further right at that moment.

    And I think that Nisekoi is 11 episodes. MAL screwed up some days ago I believe as it showed 11 episodes instead of the “-” symbol. Then again, I have no clue if that was a mess-up or spilled information.

    • Guy says:

      Nisekoi, as I was sure was confirmed before, was confirmed today as a 2-cour show :)

      I’ll edit this reply when I get back from school about Noragami, as well as reply to Artemis.

      • ChazzU says:

        “Nisekoi, as I was sure was confirmed before, was confirmed today as a 2-cour show”

        Aha, looks like someone at MAL messed up then. Hoeray I guess. Nisekoi might be incredibly generic as there are no interesting characters, there is no complex storyline or nothing extra to it at all really, but I enjoy it (for God knows why). So it must be doing something right.

    • Guy says:

      We enjoy RomComs for being predictable, and dependable. They’re emotional pick-me-ups, which are quite often judged on “How often do they make us smile in a silly fuzzy way?” – Anything else is almost extraneous. Or rather, an unexpected treat when it happens, at least when you go into RomComs knowing this is how it’ll go, which is usually(?) the case.

  3. Peewee says:

    You’ve got to give Witch Craft Works another shot.
    Excluding the Sonico Figma promotion it’s currently sitting at number three for preorders in Japan, just behind Chuuni 2 and Seitokai Yakuindomo, and there’s a good reason for that.

    Unfortunately most western viewers saw the first episode and said “Pathetic MC, boring Mary Sue heroine, possible harem, seen this a billion times, no thank you”. Of course none of that’s actually true, but it would be spoilers to explain why.
    Another problem is the setup doesn’t end and the story kick off until episode four, and seeing as the three episode rule is now gospel in the west, well…

    But that doesn’t change the fact that Witch Craft Works is the most entertaining show of the winter season. Best? maybe not, but funnest? definitely.

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