Another week! Most of the weak shows actually improved, some even did so dramatically! Also covering first impressions for the following shows: Ping Pong, Hitsugi no Chaika (Chaika the Coffin Princess), Mekakucity Actors, and Knights of Sidonia (Sidonia no Kishi).
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 are listed in the order of my enjoyment of the relevant episodes, not the show as a whole. Some shows are listed higher than others though I consider them worse, because I’ve enjoyed this week’s episode more.
From APR – Last week’s Mushishi was “Mushishi good”, which means it was very good, and small, that it didn’t scream its existence to the world. This episode though had been great even by Mushishi standards. We’ve had a case where the Mushishi situation reflects the situation of the humans, /twice over/. We had small sad moments, we had moments that had been down to earth, and moments where the supernatural had been allowed to shine in all of its glory. I have the feeling most of the voice actors in Mushishi aren’t professional full-time actors, and if anything, it makes things feel so much more real. May every episode be like this.
2) Isshuukan Friends / One Week Friends episode 2
First episode was good, second episode was even better. I got so emotional. Everything was so sweet. The direction was quite solid as well, as it was clear that something was happening, and that Fujimiya had been keeping up a brave face for Hase. And although it was constantly shown, it was done subtly. And the emotions, they swelled up within me. This show, if it keeps delivering as it does, will likely never leave my weekly top 3, alongside Mushishi.
3) Ping Pong the Animation episode 1
From APR – This show mastered the basics. That’s high praise. Convoluted plots? Elaborate characterization attempts? This is an adaptation of a sports anime, so all of that would feel pretty weird. Moreover, it’s not about “originality” as much as it is about execution. The pacing works, the characters work, and you can tell this is well-directed. Things are progressing according to schedule, and I can more or less tell where this show’s plot would go, but again, we’re not here for the plot. We’re here to see a story told well, and this gives every indication that it’ll be one.
This show at times feels as if someone mixed Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill, and Kill la Kill, and that’s quite an interesting mix.
4) JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders episode 2
ORAORAORAORAORAORA! This episode felt so much more like JoJo. Last one was sorta slow and exposition-heavy, but here we had the over the top violence, the ridiculous lines that seem so self-serious, the poses, the kid who is a fighter for justice when it all comes down to it and who cares for his dear mother, and of course the “ORAORAORA!”, heh.
So much better than the first episode! Farcical and theatrical “villain” is still that sort of person, but it’s used for gallows humor. Lighthearted moments continue to be lighthearted and sweet, but are transformed into a moment of sadness and helplessness, and then an emotional tale as she runs away.
The theme right now is the same as it was for Shingeki no Kyojin, and which my write-up for that show focused on – “What does it mean to be human? Who are the real monsters?” The so-called humans are acting like monsters to their own kin, out of looking out for themselves and venting on the “monsters” who protect them, because they despise feeling helpless.
And humanity? It not only has to rely on monsters they’d been cursed with in order to do their bidding (and refers to them at tools at best, rabid vermin at worst), it turns out our villain is a product of humanity stripping humanity away from humans in order to save itself. It was well-told, and well-delivered, and Enju continues to be a real charmer.
6) Hitsugi no Chaika / Chaika the Coffin Princess episodes 1-2
Watched episode 1-2. The world is interesting, and the post-war conflict reminds me of Pumpkin Scissors, which I was very fond of. The whole aspect of, “A war had ended, the hero returns home but it’s too small for him, and he can’t find his place” is something not enough stories deal with, I really like that aspect of Joe Abercrombie’s The First Law trilogy, for instance.
The characters not only don’t have a lot going for them, they seem designed to be pretty flat. The author is solid with his characterization, so there’s hope it’s intentional and will work out. Fighting choreography is great, world is interesting, and plot seems pretty usual for this sort of stuff. Seems like a fun little series, competently made.
Not a lot happened, or did it? Things got intense, and we learned more of Haru’s past, or did we? The information is given to us by untrustworthy characters. Heck, one killer is a trustworthy narrator, except when she describes her feelings, and everyone else, including the “innocent Haru” aren’t trustworthy.
I like what is there, and can’t wait for the fireworks to erupt in earnest.
This episode was better than the first. Not as much improvement as Black Bullet had displayed, but that’s life. Also, this show is still worse than many shows appearing below it, just that this episode was fun.
Ok, this episode was pretty dumb, and the characters are pretty dumb, but in the end I ended up liking them, and although it’s arbitrary and ridiculous how the Rock, Paper, Scissors got resolved, also in part due to me expecting him to pull the trick out of The Princess Bride and come up with an alternate solution, it’s possible he pulled a trick on me as well.
Anyway, it was arbitrary and ridiculous, it was flashy and stupid, with a hefty amount of fan-service, but that’s exactly what I expected from this show. It’s unabashedly otaku-facing, even throwing in a WRYYYYYY! but that’s got some charm on its own.
9) Sidonia no Kishi / Knights of Sidonia episode 1
It reminded me so much of Texhnolyze. The gritty and sooty atmosphere, all the pipes, the expressionless characters, the broken bones, the slow and very deliberate pacing and tone.
Transhumanity, aliens, casts, abuse of power. The CGI was nice for the mechs but absolutely horrible for expressions, unless lack of facial expressions is actually a goal, that characters aren’t as proficient at displaying emotions via body language.
Story thus far is your regular “Boy is fated to save everyone and has a unique mech” sort of stuff, alongside with humanity being besieged. But the direction seemed to know what it was doing, and the setting seemed interesting enough.
This was a solid premier, it’s relatively low in the order because it did nothing that was fun, and most shows higher than it did.
10) Mekakucity Actors episode 1
From APR – Shinbo being Shinbo? This was the most self-indulgent show I’ve seen in a long while. The Araragi hair and room, the backdrops, the colours. Everything screamed Shinbo. But that doesn’t actually speak of the show itself, does it? Frankly, I have no idea where this is going. I’m curious. If it didn’t suspect it’d cause brain meltdown, I’d suggest simple watching this show in one go when it’s done. Convoluted plot, weird characters. The thing about Shaft is how they can have so much dialogue, with so little happen. I can tell you that while I could appreciate this show on a craft-level, I couldn’t enjoy the return of “Clippy”. It was grating. I wasn’t annoyed by her, but it was tiring, and not enjoyable. I laughed a few times, but there’s a limit to self-indulgence where it felt it was more important to give Ene screen-time than actually do things with the show.
This show was very uneven. In some ways it was very promising, and in others it was terrible. That adds up to slightly less than average as a whole.
Last episode we had “Mr. Goodfellow”, so this week we had the other half, “Puck”. So we have not just Freud, but also Shakespeare. BONES continue to sometimes try and imitate Neon Genesis Evangelion, in terms of how all mecha shows must be riddled with as much symbolism as possible. Here, “Puck Goodfellow” seem to be two halves of a master plan by someone behind the scenes, someone who is trying to bring about the end and rebirth of humanity, while also trying to buy time for humanity so his plan could be set in motion. Yes, the similarity to the cabal and Gendo Ikari in NGE and the old man in RahXephon is both there.
Wait, I didn’t actually talk of the show itself. What is in the above paragraph isn’t actually condemnation, it’s just pointing out some similarities. I didn’t really care for this episode. The talk above might be important later on, but such crypto-nonsense, while interesting (I actually like this sort of stuff) still butchers the pacing. They give it to you from now so things will make sense later, but pacing-wise there’s no real good way to give it to you.
Furthermore, Daichi just… didn’t make sense. He kept ignoring the adults, he acted like one would expect from a 5 year old, not a teenager. It was actually bizarre and I had trouble with following characters as it happened. The possessive bureaucrat was smarmy, and felt a bit overcooked. I can see the sabotage promised in next week’s preview, but still a bit much.
Anyway, I like such shows, but I really think they need to be marathoned. Even my rewatch of Eureka 7 is put on hold because I want to marathon it, rather than watch it piecemeal. I’m heavily considering putting the show on hold and marathoning it when it’s done. Cause I like it, not cause I dislike it. This episode is rated low, but the show as a whole would still place higher than quite a few shows higher than it in this update.
12) Brynhildr no Gokukoku / Brynhildr in the Darkness episode 2
Pretty show. It seems a recurring motif for the Elfen Lied author, where women are powerful beyond the ken and control of humans, and must be controlled and degraded, stripped naked, in order to be kept under control.
This episode was more serious, with some horrible moments, but we still had quite a few ridiculous or lighthearted moments, with anything from Kuroha humming a silly song to herself, to not knowing the multiplication tables being presented as the end of the world. Another recurring theme from Elfen Lied is the desire to have a “normal house” in abnormal situations, which is actually a pretty understandable thing to strive for. The main character is still not very sensible, and things don’t entirely add up.
It’s not a bad show, but it suffers from the same woes as Black Bullet did last week, it’s unfocused, and it’s taking time to set up the tone in a lighthearted way before thrusting us over the edge.
13) Selector Infected WIXOSS episode 2
Mari Okada clearly doesn’t play TCGs. “I have a hunch, but I could use this card in my deck to search for uncoloured creatures.” – “Wow, how did you know that? You’re good!” – NO! That’s now how TCGs work. Also, this game is supposed to be an infomercial for the game, but maybe I’m just too old and jaded, and had played too many TCGs, that I see it as an attack on them, where people have to keep buying cards to upgrade their decks, and where you may buy numerous packs when you need just 1 card and end up with a completely useless pack.
Anyway, we have a bully girl, but the bullying is just so ridiculous. That Ruko and Yuzuki gave in to the bully doesn’t make sense to adults perhaps, but it is perfectly sensible for kids in that situation. And still, the whole situation is sort of eh.
I’m not really feeling the show, but I’ll give it some more time to pick up. Thus far the characterization and conflict are all over the place, and most of what are “good” are the easy stuff that have nothing to do with the plot, just the hints of what is to come and the pretty graphics. I did like that bit that felt real on socialization, of how we perpetuate to kids what is considered “normal”, such as “No incest”. But that’s slim pickings thus far.
14) Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei / The Irregular at Magic High School episode 2
Man, 20 minutes, and nothing happened. I wonder how I’d have felt if I hadn’t read the LNs first. I’d probably still be bored. Honestly, I think if I hadn’t read the LNs, I’d have dropped the show about here, unless I had already picked it up when 12 or more episodes are out. I can marathon through “nothing happens” episodes in popcorn shows, but watching them weekly is hard.
Well, nothing happened. More bad characterization, the high school student council introduction, and the shortest anime fight ever in an action show… just know that the first arc is the worst, and the 2nd arc is the best. Most series know well enough that it’s better to grab people at the start and then they can drag things (see Shingeki no Kyojin, Log Horizon, or all the filler-filled shounens). Here, the first stretch is hard, and it seems they’re drawing it out.
Honestly, if they end up having the first 4 books be the entire first season (alongside some book 5 OVAs and book 8 stuff), then people should get fired :P
Also, expect a huge rant from me on some underlying subtext of the show when it comes up, probably around episode 5-6.
This was probably my least favourite episode of Nisekoi in a long while. I was really annoyed with the fake Marika, and she just sapped away all the energies from the screen. I was really glad when she blew up and we found out we’ll be getting the true Marika (I hope). I could tell she was fake and smarmy from the get-go. Yes, it’s not liking the person rather than the character, but it just put a big damper on my fun. Even as a character, she came off as a caricature that was unpleasing to me.
16) Fairy Tail episode 2
More exposition, more talk. Again, I’m not worried, because having read the manga I knew this is coming. Next episode or the one after all the cool things will begin. The new studio is really cutting corners on animation, and things look choppy at times, such as when they “pan the screen”. I hope they pick it up.
Still need to try: Soredemo Sekai wa Utskuushi (Even So, The World is Still Beautiful). I got Hitsugi no Chaika this week, so I guess it works out.
Summary: Well, with this aside from M3 the entirety of season 3 is here. Isshuukan Friends is surprisingly good, WIXOSS is surprisingly meh, and everything else fell more or less as expected. Well, Akuma no Riddle is a lot more fun than I expected as well. This season is strong. Way too strong. I’ve been reducing my note-taking, but I should reduce it even more.
Plenty of shows that are fun, plenty of shows showing interesting worlds, or execution, rather than good characters. If anything, it seems this season’s weakness is focus on either plot, or direction, or world-building, at the exclusion of characters. But still, with so many yummy tastes, there’s more than enough stuff to fit everyone.
Categories 2-3 are on equal footing.
- Great, don’t change: Isshuukan Friends, Mushishi, Ping-Pong (almost in category 3).
- Fine, but need to see where they are going with it: Knights of Sidonia, Captain Earth, Hitsugi no Chaika, Captain Earth.
- Fun is fun, screw you guys: JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, Black Bullet, Akuma no Riddle, No Game No Life.
- Mostly “fine”, but could be dropped due to being unimpressive: Gokukoku no Brynhildr, Selector Infected WIXOSS, which is almost in the next category.
- Bored, waiting for them to pick up, or just a slump: Fairy Tail, Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei, Nisekoi.
- What is this?! Mekakucity Actors. Show me what you’ve got next episode. I feel there’s something there, but don’t waste my time, please.
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?
What was the problem with the comment on searching the deck for creatures? I was never very good at TCGs, but the one magic deck I built and favored the most involved lots of searching for creature cards and some of the rules for doing so were pretty contrived. (also TCGs ARE an awful money sink where you get tons of shit you don’t want. >_>)
You don’t have a hunch that it works that way. TCGs breed rule-lawyers because the cards are very exact in what they permit, and knowing a card allows you to do what it says on the cover doesn’t merit someone exclaiming how “good” you are, unless you’re 5.
It might seem petty, but there’s a reason many other people groaned at this, judging by comments online.
They have already told us that the heroine is awful at the game. Or at least her grandmother is a lot better at it than she is. I did indeed take it as her being treated like a 5 year old. It was the woman selling cards who exclaimed that after all. Her patronizing made plenty of sense to me. I could understand if people were groaning about the patronizing, but that isn’t the complaint I’ve been seeing. People are saying that Mari Okada doesn’t understand how TCGs work. Maybe she doesn’t, but It seems to me like the people who do play them are getting caught up on the TCG and ignoring what is going on in the show itself. Hell we don’t really even know the rules of the game yet. I’m not sure if they will even be explained if our heroine remains as bad at them as I think she probably is.
EDIT: Actually I just pulled the scene up on youtube. I think the patronizing is still somewhat obvious, but listening to what I hear her saying in Japanese I think the whole issue you and others are seeing is likely just a poor translation. She says something about the rune and how because of it she thinks she can search for creatures. I can’t speak Japanese, but the word rune is in English. I do know the word for probably which I hear and is likely what they translated as hunch. She says probably because she is unsure of the rules and not because she is a complete idiot or can’t read. Meaning she is looking at the symbols on the card to guess that she is allowed to use it that way and not the rules written on the card.
For what it’s worth, I personally think Mahouka should have started with the Reminiscence Arc, and then back track from there. Had they done so, Tatsuya and Miyuki’s characterization would have made far more sense to anime only watchers, and as bad as the first arc would have been, at least the themes of the First Arc would have made more sense, in it’s rightful place as a small , petty microcosm of the dystopia that is the world of Mahouka.
You’re never going to please everyone. People are complaining that 1 minute at the start ruined the show. I think for OreImo it made sense to deliver late, here, not so much.
I just think they should’ve blasted through arc 1 as quickly as possible.
I agree that this episode of Black Bullet was far better than the first one – the characters seem so much less annoying that I can see their actual motivation behind their behaviour. Some great action scenes there too; Black Bullet may well turn out to be a fairly mindless action show, but if that’s indeed going to be the main draw then I think it’s handling itself quite well. Like you though, it seems pretty clear that Mushishi and Isshuukan Friends will consistantly earn a place at my top weekly spots unless anything changes significantly.