Mid-season of the anime season of Spring 2014 is upon us, so time to round up how I feel about the shows I’m current on. Due to the length of the list, I split it in half. The first part will include all the action shows, while the 2nd part, tomorrow, will cover the rest of them.
Shows are listed in order of enjoyment. Numbers are order on the list, and in parenthesis the order in the joint list, comprised of 13 shows.
1 (4) Black Bullet
I like shounen shows. I like popcorn shows. Give me some good action, with hot-headed characters, fights fueled by ideals, and some kicking music to go with, and I’m happy. Black Bullet does a lot of that.
Black Bullet is a bit of a mess when it comes to tone, it can’t decide whether it wants to be Melodramatic GrimDark angst-ridden, or whether it wants to be a “I just wanna fight!” battle-shounen with some thriller-politics thrown in, or a gag-infested joke of a show, or a moe slice of life show. This pastiche of genres isn’t the issue, the issue is the tone, as noted above. It’s hard to take the situation, or characters, or the drama seriously when we keep having boob-jokes, or “cartoon-logic” where excess violence is used for comedic reasons, and then we’re supposed to take the characters seriously as they apply the same violence towards their enemies.
That’s why the show is something of a mess. And yet, it mostly works. Kisara and Miori’s awful RomCom hijinks aside, the characters are likable, and the light parts of the show when they don’t devolve to gags or farcical show us what we are fighting for. The show could use a bit of a hand when it comes to story-telling, as it devolves a bit much to presenting the girls as “samey”, info-dump on us, or make it a bit hard to take the opposition seriously, as people and characters, but hey – we’re here for popcorn,and the show truly does deliver when the action happens.
Episodes Watched: 6/13
Current Rating: B. If you like popcorn shows, this is a slightly above-average one. If you dislike its hijinks, you might rate it lower (but honestly, it seems par the course for Post-Index shows), and if you like the hijinks, you might rate it higher.
2 (5) No Game, No Life
This show is stupid. This show is trashy. But this show not only knows that, but it revels in it. No, accepting and owning up to being stupid doesn’t excuse everything, but it can take you a long way – just look at what we call “B-movies”, or even JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. I came to this show hoping for light fun, and if possible a side-dish of “plans within plans!” of the sort Code Geass, Death Note, and other cackling “supergenius” MCs had given us.
Well, the master plans, the hidden information, all that? It’s there, alright, even if it’s taking more time to appear, is simpler, and in general less intelligent than other such shows. Writing such stuff can be hard. To make something seem effortless actually takes quite some work. The delivery on the main character’s part is solid. The “incest” and fan-service had been quite extreme in quite a few places, even making it seem like a fan-service show at times(meaning in the sexual way – that it’s a show aimed at pleasing the fans with all the references to other shows, and the whole thematic undercurrent it has is obvious), and yet, it doesn’t feel tired as a result, as the characters play along.
It’s a trashy show, but it’s fun. The speeches, the conflicts, everything is presented as larger than life, so you don’t care if it’s actually a story about petty people who just want to feel secure while controlling the world, who have simple desires and needs, and who can’t stop cracking JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure jokes and references. It’s not a great show, and it’s probably not even a good show. But it knows what it wants to be, and it knows what it wants to do, and it wants to be fun, and it works. I don’t think I’ll be up for rewatching it. It does have some depth added to the characters now and then, or when they even feel human, but often it feels almost tacked on, or that it’s a good moment which the characters hadn’t earned, such as when our mortified of crowds hikikomori gives a rousing speech.
Episodes Watched: 6/12
Current Grade: B? B-? It’s enjoyable, and that’s all we ask of it to be. If you can’t “shut down your brain”, or you don’t find “dumb fun” to be fun, then it’s a skip.
3 (6) JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders (2nd season)
JoJo is slowly ramping up. Adding crazy poses, predictions, cool one-liners, super-crazy poses, fights for “honour” with ridiculous ideals backing them up, dark comedy, funny moments, and oh yes, more poses.
I am liking this less than I’ve liked Phantom Blood (season 1 part 1) but less than Battle Tendency (season 1 part 2). It’s the first time we truly have a harem, rather than 2-3 characters to focus on at a time. Speedwagon and Stroheim’s “I must narrate everything!” spirit seems to have found a solid home within young Abdul.
I am slowly growing fonder of Jotaro, but thus far he seems to be the least of a “character” out of the JoJos we’ve known. I think a part of it might be that due to having more characters, he’s getting less time to himself, or that some of the classic JoJo antics are now handed to other characters (Joseph still has his playful nature, Abdul with the predictions, Jean-Paul as pose-master extraordinaire, etc), but it might also be that he hadn’t been pushed hard enough yet. It’s actually interesting, how with all the crazy fights we’ve already had, it feels as if we’ve gained much less insight to Jotaro’s knowledge, and more into that of the supporting characters.
I also can’t help but feel this show is much better when you can watch at least 3 shows at a time, and immerse yourself in the JoJo-sphere. I’m liking it, but it’s taking its time to get going, though it’s still much more to my taste than how the first season had begun.
Episodes Watched: 6/24
Current Rating: B to B+. It’s picking up steam.
4 (8) Hitsugi no Chaika / Chaika the Coffin Princess
My opinion on this show hadn’t changed much as I watched it. This show isn’t about uproarious fun as No Game, No Life, or about action as say, Black Bullet, and it doesn’t have much to make it stand apart, but I like it just fine.
It reminds me somewhat of Claymore, in the sense that it’s hard to pick anything about Claymore that is “great”, but many people still end up liking it a lot – not as one of the best shows, but as one that clings to a warm-spot in their hearts, and that’s good enough.
The characters are designed to be flat, for the most part, so it seems our “antagonists” in this morally-grey world will have to fill out our interest, and hopefully some of the main characters will grow and change, as the series keeps going.
Good action scenes, cute reaction faces – even if this show doesn’t do much, and nothing that is out of the ordinary, it’s still enjoyable.
Episodes Watched: 6/12 – Split-cour announced, so 6/24?
Current Rating: B-. Enjoyable, but not great.
5 (9) Sidonia no Kishi / Knights of Sidonia
At its core, this is a standard mecha-show. Mysterious boy comes out of nowhere, grabs his destiny by the throat, and while disobeying orders and having girls fall for him, saves humanity from scary and so-alien-they-might-be-human aliens. What sets this show apart on the structural level is its setting. We have a sci-fi setting that works, that breathes. There are all those small touches that show us how the setting evolved before we met it, and how it grew organically into the way it has now, which makes sense.
The acting is solid, and the wide-eyed wonder of the main character is something we can share in, as we explore this world that is so similar to our own, but with some small changes. While the setting is sci-fi, it’s not a sci-fi story thus far, at least in the manner where we explore how a change in our world can alter our society, or what it reveals of the nature of society we already have. I feel it might end up trying to say something about the nature of humanity, but thus far it’s a solid story, with solid acting, but with nothing that we hadn’t seen already, except for the setting.
Episodes Watched: 5/12
Current Rating: B. The textbook example of “dependable value”, and the CGI doesn’t bother me much. I can’t get excited for this show though. I feel I’ve done it before, and it isn’t really giving me anything new.
6 (10) Akuma no Riddle / Riddle Story of Devil
I originally hadn’t planned to watch this show, and then I had some free time on my hands, so I did. It’s your “Death Game” show of the season, and these shows often go over the top, or have caricatured characters, and especially villains – with “sharp teeth” and all, and the same holds for this show.
We still hadn’t seen our MC truly tear everyone apart, and the action, while nice, isn’t something we have enough of.
There’s no real plot, and whatever mysteries lurk in the background had only been hinted at thus far. The show mostly concerns itself with an “Assassin of the Week” format, and it tries to show us what different motivations one can have for becoming an assassin and joining a death-game of their own volition. They usually don’t make us care for the characters they show, and even if they had – removing the characters just as you grow to care for them, leaving you each week with a bunch of characters you don’t care for isn’t the best decision.
Episodes watched: 6/13.
Current Rating: C+. Nothing bad, can be an enjoyable way to pass the time, but nothing special either, as of yet.
7 (11) Fairy Tail (2014)
So, let’s begin by saying that Fairy Tail is my favourite long-running shounen series (No, hadn’t watched Hunter x Hunter yet :P), I’ve also read the manga to the conclusion of The Games arc, which we’re currently at.
And even though I knew the beginning would be week, I managed to forget the segment we’ve spent the last couple of episodes with, which is also… not the best.
Thing is, the production values of the show seems to have dropped majorly. I was never fond of the decision to switch to a style closer to the original manga, as I quite liked the smoother anime character-styles.
But even that’s not the real issue – we’ve got bland episodes, for a few episodes more (it happens in long-running shounens, I know), which are compounded with endless “Screen-drag”, half-drawn faces, and in general a production that seems to be trying to find its footing again.
Man, I hope they manage to reorient themselves, especially when we get to the fun parts of the games, and to material I hadn’t read yet.
Episodes Watched: 6/Infinity + 1.
Current Grade: C? Well, I’m sticking with it!
8 (13) Mahouka Koukou no Retteousei / The Irregular at Magic High School
First, I’ve read up to novel 12 of the series. I didn’t hate it, but I also hadn’t been super-impressed by the books. I came to the show for cool action scenes, hoping that good acting will flesh out the characters and help me form an emotional connection to them, and hoping they’d cut away Tatsuya’s internal monologues to help the pace of the novels, which is a tad ponderous with internal monologues bracketing every single action.
I also knew that the first arc is the worst, and actually quite a slog. My thoughts on the adaptation as an adaptation are mixed, but I’ll probably give them more room after the first arc will (hopefully!) end this weekend, and we’ll get to the much better 2nd arc.
Sadly, this show is focusing on its plot, and on its social subtext, which I find… highly problematic, to put it mildly, at the cost of its huge cast. We’re left with a pretty bland and unsympathetic main character, his one-note “BroCon” sister, and a group of hanger-ons which barely get any time to appear beyond saying “Tatsuya, you are amazing!” – I think the adaptation should’ve given the plot less time, and focused on the characters.
There’s this never-ending Visual Novel/elevator-style music I really hate during this show. The designs and animation are crisp. The combat animation and music really get me going, but they usually bracket 10 seconds of action with minutes of talking. I really hope they stop that next arc, and let the action actually, I dunno, happen?
Episodes Watched: 6/26
Current Rating: 5/10 D. I’m not an objective judge, but the characters are bland, the plot is stupid, and there’s next to no action. It’ll probably improve from here on-out, but this arc was pretty mediocre. Tomatsu Haruka’s portrayal of Mibu Sayaka had been a point of light in the show.
Relevant Shows put on hold/dropped: Gokukoku no Brynhildr (Brynhildr in the Darkness), M3: That Dark Metal (<3: Sono Kuroko Hagane), and Captain Earth.
Summary: A lot of action shows, and many of them decent! A good season for popcorn!
Any action shows you’re especially enjoying, or failing to enjoy, this season?