Spring 2014 First Impressions – (Week 1 Anime Power Ranking)

I ran out of energy and desire to cover the final weeks of the Winter 2014 season (I’m so glad it’s over). But we’ve got a new season, so it’s time to see how the first episodes fared! The episodes are those I’ve watched from Wednesday to Wednesday, and are listed in the order of my enjoyment of them.

Each episode’s title links to my full episodic notes for the episode in question, in case you’d like my in-depth reactions.

(Shows Covered, in alphabetical order: Akuma no Riddle, Black Bullet, Brynhildr no Gokukoku (Brynhildr in the Darkness), Captain Earth, Fairy Tail (2014), Isshuukan Friends (One Week Friends), JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders, Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei (The Irregular at Magic High School), Mushishi S2, Nagi no Asukara, Nisekoi, “No Game, No Life”, and Selector Infected WIXOSS.)

Note, Originally Selector Infected WIXOSS and Nagi no Asukara had been placed just above Akuma no Riddle. Then I decided to embrace fun and bumped them down for the faults I enumerate in my write-ups, basically for being muddled and not brave enough.

1) Captain Earth episode 1

Captain Earth episode 1 anime overview

From APR – This show was fun. I actually wanted to watch episode 2 immediately after! While people say it reminds them of Star Driver, not having seen that I thought of Eureka 7. It’s fun seeing a mecha show by people other than Sunrise who had really been off their game lately. This show was very shiny, and we not only got hammered with an extra-heavy dose of “mystical prophecy / portentous memories/dreams”, but we actually got to see the origin, and see the truth behind them. Father being a “Captain” is something many shows would’ve dragged to reveal in who knows how many episodes, but we’ve got it all in the first episode.

This show was gorgeous, it was well-directed, well-acted, and it was interesting. The need for everything to have secrets/symbolism and psychology (really, Freud?) consistent in Bones’ anime is a bit tiring, but guess that’s what post-NGE mecha are about. Still, an extremely strong showing.

2) Mushishi S2 episode 1

A small show, full of small moments, and yet so very good. Mushishi isn’t “exciting”. We might be excited it comes, but the content isn’t outrageous. This episode exemplified these things, as the so-called protagonist wasn’t Ginko, and while he often is a passerby, he was even more so here. It was also nice to see a bit more of the daily rituals and lives of “plain Mushishi”. It truly does feel as if this show never left, eh? I’m glad for its return.

No notes. I watch this show to relax. Screw the world :)

3) Isshuukan Friends / One Week Friends episode 1

Isshuukan Friends Episode 1 / One Week Friends episode 1 anime overview - Fujimiya Kaori and Hase Yuuki

Oh my. For those who don’t know, I often watch anime in order to feel, and not just feel, but feel sadness. This show was charming. This show was small. This show with its small nuances, and muted pastel colours, and the small relationship charmed me completely. The boy who has to make the decision to be someone’s friend each and every time anew actually shows us something many of us forget – relationships aren’t “just there”, you maintain them. Each time you reach out you make a conscious decision of calling upon and reaffirming the relationship.

This stuff is heartwarming and heartbreaking and I teared up a couple of times in the first episode. Unless this show pulls a Kotoura-san mood-shift, there’s no way I’m not fully on-board for the full run.

4) Akuma no Riddle episode 1

I originally didn’t plan to pick this up. This show is sort of “trash”, but it’s really fun trash. It reminds me of Deadman Wonderland (which I’ve liked) and Danganronpa (which I hated). It actually had solid voice acting, and aside from the too caricature people (crazy girl and dice-sensei), I liked the vibe alright. Give me fun action, not a lot to ask for, right?

5) Nisekoi episode 13

Nisekoi Episode 13 anime overview -  Kirisaki Chitoge

All you haters are gonna burn! I don’t care! Ahem. This episode was slightly weird for me. Onodera and Chitoge are supposed to be equal runner-ups, right? My personal taste leans in the direction of Onodera over Chitoge. But, the show clearly seems to be in love with Chitoge. The show has Raku and Chitoge actually get to be natural around one another, and it lingers on her small moments of being adorable. And yet, we’re going to get another girl next episode.

I don’t really get it. “A couple is forced to pretend to be a couple by their mobster parents and slowly grow to like one another after their initial mutual disgust” is a perfect RomCom setup, why do we need for it to be a harem? A harem of this sort is the hallmark of an author trying to fit multiple girls and stories into one story. The harem is about being unable to decide between the girls, but it also shows the author is unable to choose which story they want to tell…

6) JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders episode 1

I like JoJo, but I’ll be honest, this episode was kind of boring. It had some of the ostentatious “too big for life” JoJo mannerisms, but we’re still not invested in the characters, and we don’t have enough cockiness (JoJo 2) or ideals (JoJo 1). Seems JoJo 3 will have plenty of attitude, but we’re not there just yet. Dio is by far the best antagonist this show has had, so I’m glad for his return, even if he won’t have his old pal Jonathan to bounce off of.

7) Nagi no Asukara episode 26 (finale)

Nagi no Asukara / NagiAsu: A Lull in the Sea Episode 26 overview anime

NagiAsu exploring what “romance” is and how love and pain interact just covered it from all possible angles, via a couple of characters, and it didn’t feel coherent, so the final message fell flat. It did end with a bunch of neat and heart-warming moments, but the road had been so long and muddled that it feels unearned.

I ended up giving it 7/10, but it was terribly uneven, and it’s almost funny to see how I thought it’d focus on social and cultural clashes.

8) Brynhildr no Gokukoku / Brynhildr in the Darkness episode 1

Brynhildr in the Darkness Episode 1 / Gokukoku no Brynhildr Episode 1 anime overview - Kuroha Neko

This was a solid episode. We have the usual Hero’s Journey where things begin in normalcy, and are quickly disturbed, as the protagonist is thrust into a world not their own. As is usually the case, we don’t get told what exactly is going on, and more is hinted than actually revealed. Seeing Kuroha’s flashback however, we did get some more content than is usually the case – Kuroha is somewhat of a cipher, but not entirely, and we even see her easily flustered.

Some of the ridiculous moments had been very manga-esque, which relies on visual gags that break the mood at times, and some of the fan-service/male-gaze had been quite overt – it’d be less of an issue (meaning I’m used to it) if it didn’t totally break the bleak and dark atmosphere this show is going for. The instrumental OP is quite something. I actually have some hopes for this.

9) Selector Infected WIXOSS episode 1

Selector Infected WIXOSS episode 1 overview - Kurebayashi Yuzuki

This show was very interesting. Aside from many Madoka callbacks, it also made me think of Neon Genesis Evangelion. I’m definitely intrigued. However, the show had some awful consumerist messages about how “things” can make your wishes come true, by changing you to be able to fulfill your wishes – almost good, since in the end it’s you fulfilling your wishes, and “earning” it by your hard work. But then they said how you can’t do it and are essentially given it. Even the interaction between the two characters – they pulled out what could’ve been a great punch and source of future strife.

Mari Okada in these two shows (NagiAsu and WIXOSS) had shown muddled messages and unwillingness to fully commit, and you can’t get either NGE or Madoka without going all the way, from minute 1.

10) Black Bullet episode 1

Black Bullet Episode 1 anime notes - GRIMDARK

This is the first show where things get decidedly “meh”, on my weekly round-up. I seem to have expected this show to be what I expected of Mahou Sensou and the upcoming Rail Wars! but after looking at the previews again, realized this is all about being a fun action romp. This show was sort of crazy. Trashy fun, but not as fun as Akuma no Riddle, not as celebratory of its trashiness, with trying to be serious while characters kept pushing their boobs, or the 10-years old girl got covered in viscous white fluid and declared the 17 year old is her fiancee.

Even so, the show was at times adorable, and the loli didn’t feel as much like fanservice as she did of a young chick who imprinted herself on her only “family”. The show went for “brutal” but it mostly came off as ridiculously farcical or ironic. It was colourful and stylish, and it still has some room to go.

11) Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei / The Irregular at Magic High School episode 1

Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei Episode 1 / The Irregular at Magic High School episode 1 overview anime - Shiba Miyuki

For those who don’t know, I’ve read all the LNs for this series, and wrote about the first 11 and some adaptation predictions here (expect lite-spoilers, but mostly focused on themes and writing-style). This adaptation was sort of weird for me in the sense that they upped the comedy and gag-comedy count quite a bit, as well as emphasized the whole “Bro-con” sister quite a bit more than it’s already emphasized in the books.

Aside from Yakumo (the ninja tutor) being made completely ridiculous, I actually think that was the right call, because the books’ greatest sin isn’t on a story-level, but on a story-telling level, where they tell rather than show you. Remove all the “telling” and you’re left with very little characterization, and people who are unable to piece together what the characters and their interactions should convey, so obviously by stressing these things, they got to help pass along the right feeling.

And though we’ve had some monologues and internal notes, and a bit of infodumping, it’s so much less than in the books. They actually managed to cover a hefty chunk of the first book. All in all, ye olde exposition piece, but soon we’ll get to some great action sequences. I’m here for a solid popcorn show, honestly.

My write-up for the first episode actually has a mini-editorial, and I plan to do them every so often when the show gets to an idea or theme I found interesting in the books. Next time might not be for about 12 more episodes or so, though.

12) No Game, No Life episode 1

No Game, No Life episode 1 anime overview

I came to this expecting trashy light fun, and that’s more or less what I got. It is all sorts of ridiculous and arbitrary, and the narrators say things I agree with on the nature of the world and why they withdrew from it, then reach all the wrong conclusions, and so does the narrator. But seeing the narrator is a Child-God, I guess we can put him under “untrustworthy narrator” as well.

Similar in some ways to Black Bullet, while there the fan-service felt more innocuous or ye olde “must fill my anime trope shit”, here it’s pushed in our face somewhat more. The thing I disliked the most is how the games, how the fights for supremacy we came here for are completely skipped over – “They cheat? So will I” and then our side wins. I get that the first episode needed to cover a lot of ground, but this show better actually show some depth and intricacies to its fun next episode.

13) Fairy Tail episode 1

I actually knew going in that this would be “bad”. This episode was a complete exposition/time-gap, but it was that way in the manga. I’ve read up to the end of the current arc, and either next episode or the one after it’d turn into nothing but action. Yes! I’m not a fan of the new character designs, even if they’re truer to the manga. Triangle-body Erza and that weird form of Gajeel… do not want.

Nagi no Asukara / NagiAsu: A Lull in the Sea Episode 26 overview anime

A sense of calm before the storm.

Spring Week 1 Summary: Oh shit. Usually around the first week I already have a couple of shows I can’t wait to drop, and a couple more just on the edge of it. Not only is this not the case here, but Akuma no Riddle isn’t a show I originally planned to watch. Furthermore, I am grabbing the first episodes of most shows and then as time permits I watch one if I’m bored and have 20 minutes to burn. The only thing that is going to save me this season is that aside from taking notes for the first episode of basically all shows, I plan to drop taking notes for almost all shows. Yes, I keep saying it, to keep reminding myself, and to not let this decision fade away, which would be Very Bad™.

Current contenders for full episodic notes – Selector Infected WIXOSS. Maybe Brynhildr, but waffling on that. Captain Earth could get it, but honestly, I just want to marathon that show, to just blast through it. Maybe I’ll do it with Star Driver which I just grabbed.

The only shows somewhat on the chopping block after the first week are No Game, No Life, and Black Bullet, but both have at least one more episode to show me what they’ve got.

Still unwatched/considering:

The World is Still Beautiful episode 1 – That’s #1 on the “This is surprisingly good!” from the shows I didn’t pick up.

The Pilot’s Love Song / Toaru Hikuushi e no Koiuta episode 13 (finale) – Man, this feels like such a drag. Episode 12 was the (bad) ending to the show, that there’s another episode just makes it even worse.

Pupipo! episodes 14-15 – Just need to find those 10 minutes. Guess I should do it instead of/before checking out Spring 2014 shows I didn’t check yet :D

Gatchaman Crowds episode 13 – I want to be alert for this. This show deserves it, oh yes.

And the following unaired shows:

  • Ping-Pong the Animation
  • Sidonia no Kishi / Knights of Sidonia
  • Mekaku City Actors
  • M3: Sono Kuroki Hagane
  • Break Blade – It’s out, but there are no subtitles.

So, what did you guys watch this week? What stood out as great, and what stood out as terrible? Anything in my listing you disagree with?

14 comments on “Spring 2014 First Impressions – (Week 1 Anime Power Ranking)

  1. ChazzU says:

    MAL list to see what I watched: http://myanimelist.net/animelist/ChazzU&show=0&order=4

    Haikyuu!! is probably tied for best opening episode of the season. Tied with Ishuukan Friends of course. Both were charming and filled with small tidbits of slice of life aspects that weren’t sad but still touching. The moments you could image walking in yourself. Both with great sound and animation and while I don’t expect Haikyuu to maintain this level of greatness seeing it is a sport show, I have high hopes for Ishuukan Friends doing so.

    For the rest I’m actually not too convinced.

    No Game No Life is the ultimate wish-fulfilling anime being a cross between Log Horizon and One Outs while adding the playboy status of Kirito from SAO. It’s pandering, as seen by the addition of the loli-sister and her relationship with her brother filled with sexual implications. The preview for episode 2 seemed to simply be more pandering but I can’t put it away, I think I’ve already decided to see the entire thing if only to see how it tries to one-up itself every week.

    Gokukoku no Brynhildr … It needs more episodes in order to get a full opinion out of me. What I did like was the classroom scene. It was painful to watch, kind of filled with cringe but it simply fit given the context surrounding everything. I’m less interested in the overal storyline and more in the relationship about to develop between both MC’s and how Ryouta will obviously come to stand to face with his past.

    Black Bullet and Akuma no Riddle both fall into one category: popcorn material. Anything Black Bullet was trying to accomplish was thrown away by the misplaced humor and bad writing (ie How about we explain things you should have long learned about during your training so the viewer will be able to follow.).

    As for Akuma no Riddle. It isn’t bad, don’t get me wrong but it’s a battle royale including yuri. It’s really asking not to be taken seriously and while twists are bound to happen (change-up in victim seems likely) it’s only purpose is to see explosions and knife-throwing while the asocial chick falls in love with the overly cheerful one.

    WIXOSS as the last show I’d like to say something about. I have no fucking clue what is happening. It has incest but in a non-disturbing way. I can already guess your surprised expression but I actually think that it might be one of the better parts of the show, because it sure as hell isn’t the cardgame itself which has no explanation whatsoever. I agree that it has a madoka-touch to it and I also agree that I don’t see it following in its footsteps but I can’t say that I link it to NGE.

    Overall the spring season doesn’t seem to bad, and might even turn out great as I still have to watch The World Is Still Beautiful, Ping Pong, Sidonia no Kishi and Mekaku City Actors.

    • Guy says:

      You gave Isshuukan Friends 1/10. You might have to turn in your heart. Wait, that score means you already did ;-) Wait, you say Isshuukan is great, so why does it have a score of 1?

      I like battle royale shows, quite a bit. I hope Akuma no Riddle is more Deadman Wonderland than Danganronpa, though the setting is very reminiscent of Danganronpa. I just couldn’t care for how stupid it’s been.

      Yes, The World is Still Beautiful is next on my “Shows I didn’t plan to pick up but will try one episode of cause people are saying good things,” it’s not like I’m at 20 shows already…

      • ChazzU says:

        Hehe, I feel you. I’m “only” at 17 though.

        And I simply wanted to have my shows organized. I normally don’t rate airing shows, so I used the scoring system in combination with the tag system to create a calender schedule to see on what day what show comes out for me (Which differs from what I get when using http://www.animecalender.net for example).

        On battle royale shows … they’ve always been able to entertain me, even outside of anime. But when they don’t diverge from being battle royale they are rarely anything more than popcorn show. Which is still fine, I love having popcorn shows, but they aren’t as touching as I hope Isshuukan Friends will be or as beautiful as Nago no Asukara was.

        And the fact that it’s only girls is really not helping the show to come out of the popcorn section. A female MC is nothing wrong, and neither is an all-female cast but it’s undeniably used just to attract more male viewers. But hey, episode 2 was still amusing so I can’t complain too much. ;)

  2. rikuo06 says:

    As an advocate of No Game No Life, I suggest sticking through at least the end of the first volume. From what they covered in the first episode, I estimate that the show will cover one volume per four episodes, for a total of three volumes in its 12-episode run. I fear this might be on the slow side, leaving a few episodes without the tension of a game that actually challenges the gamer siblings. (I’m guessing the studio is pacing it this way in hopes that a possible second season will have enough source material to be produced in the near future. The 6th volume comes out in two weeks.) Episode 2 will feature a simple game of Rock, Paper, Scissors. Episodes 3 and/or 4 will feature a ridiculous game of chess that is not actually chess.

    Expect a transition from trashy light fun to trashy over-the-top fun. If you felt the fan-service in this first episode was in-your-face, future episodes may be a bit overwhelming. This is not a series where the ecchi is sneaked in for only a few moments here and there. The next episode has deliberate (not accidental) groping, as seen in the short episode preview, along with something that some viewers may find far more problematic (the redhead is forced to be the target of humiliation throughout the series). With two antisocial gaming prodigies let loose in a world where the rules and their abilities allow them to easily take advantage of others, the consequences are perhaps not surprising.

    • Guy says:

      The fan-service was in our face, but I’m fine with it, because it didn’t feel to stop or detract from the story, not that there was much of it.

      Telling me to stick with it up to episode 4-5 might be a tall order, it’d need to earn its keep, honestly.

      The biggest thing is how they handle the games, if they keep just winning without showing us how they won or inserting some tension into the games, then screw it, because they have a premise and do nothing with it. I want actual bluffing, actual back-and-forth. I want the sort of game Lelouch and Light play with their opponents.

      Blazing through the show later might work out even if all these things are missing, but not if I have to drum up excitement on a weekly basis to keep on watching.

  3. Artemis says:

    I watched a lot of stuff this week. I also dumped a lot of stuff this week, but I’m keeping a surprising amount of titles on for at least a second episode – whether or not everything I’ve picked up will actually be good remains to be seen, but for the most part, the first episodes were reasonably competent.

    Other than Mushishi though, my favourite show of the season might just end up being Isshuukan Friends – another surprise there, because I hadn’t originally planned on watching it at all and did so mainly on a whim. (I don’t really remember why I was going to give it a miss, but quite possibly because the artwork reminded me a bit of Saikano, which I had some serious issues with). Anyhow, Isshuukan Friends looks like it’s going to be all kinds of adorable, but thankfully not in a sickly-sweet/roll-my-eyes kind of way. I’m also betting that it’s going to have a couple of interesting things to say about the nature of day-to-day social isolation and loneliness in general – a topic which, especially in Japan, is a pretty damn relevant one.

    • Guy says:

      Though I think Captain Earth had the most impressive/”Wow!” first episode out of those listed above, and it truly came out of the gate with engines roaring… yeah, Isshuukan Friends is probably my favourite as well. It fills the spot Inari, Konkon, Koi Iroha sort of did last season, and Gingitsune the season before – but it seems more focused on the mellow sadness. I like such shows.

      I sort of doubt it’d cover the things you pointed out about it, but I guess you could see it in its entirety as a meta-point about it, a sort of meta-Welcome to the NHK – where we could all make friends and tackle the world, if someone were to come and reach out to us.

      • Artemis says:

        I rather hope Isshuukan Friends will be nothing like Inari, Konkon, Koi Iroha or Gingitsune – while I don’t think they were bad shows, they were basically just fluff with nothing particularly much to say. More importantly though, I didn’t really find myself emotionally moved by either of them; it was the equivalent of watching cute cat videos on YouTube for me. I don’t know what sort of series Isshuukan Friends will turn out to be, but I’m hoping it’ll bring a bit more originality and/or intelligence to the table than that. Better yet, I hope it will have more emotional impact, and in that regard I think episode 1 is already showing a lot more promise as far as I’m concerned. But we’ll just have to wait and see.

    • Guy says:

      Well, they fill the same-spot for me. “What makes you “feel”” is probably one of the most personal things. First episode of Gingitsune especially got me emotional.

      It’s just a show that I like. Deeper stuff will be nice, but yeah, I’m not counting on it too much, heh.

      And man, episode 2 of Isshuukan Friends got me even more emotional than the first. Can’t tell if it’ll work for you for the same reasons as stated above,but I hope so.

  4. Benjamin Zabala says:

    Wow. Quite a list. Thanks for sharing this. Now I have more anime to add the great and huge list that I’ve already amassed, with Fairy Tail being the only one I’m currently watching at the moment.

    • Guy says:

      Well, I prefer marathoning shows, and I used to love picking shows up at around week 5, which is funny, cause many shows begin being terrible right around episodes 6-7 :D

      But yeah, this season is pretty great, at least comparing week 1 to previous seasons’.

  5. Cassandra says:

    I watched  Brynhildr in the Darkness and have to agree there is something good there. The OP is just wonderful. Black Bullet. I noticed its flaw myself but will continue in hopes develops into something really worth one’s time.

    No Game No Life can tell is not to be taken too serious. I will probably be fun and mostly silly but I’m totally okay with that seeing as see a lot of dark and often complex driven anime.

    The Irregular at Magic High School was probably one that enjoyed the most. Great animation, music by LiSA was good as expected , and the introductory was the strongest of the anime saw so far for the season.

    • Guy says:

      Well, from those four, it’s hard for me to pick a favourite :)

      Yeah, I came to No Game, No Life, expecting silly fun and vibrant colours, and it seems to be just that. That doesn’t mean I won’t end up disliking it exactly for what I expected it to deliver ;)

      Mahouka… I just hope they get to the next arc as quickly as possible.

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