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 covered action shows. This part covers all the rest of the shows.
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. The first three shows in this section are my favourite three shows of the season, and they’re all at basically the same spot. They’re all winners.
1 (1) Ping Pong the Animation
This show isn’t all that interested in telling us a story we hadn’t heard before. That’s fine, because there aren’t many such stories. This series is interesting in not merely a well-constructed story, but also in one that is well-told. The acting is solid, and the characters are believable. You can understand what is at stake when every conflict is had, or what its purpose is – such as when they use a conflict in the first episode for a third character to look at it and explain to us what is really going on, which in retrospect shows that the “stake-free conflict”, due to how it’s the same conflict that had been ongoing for a while is merely a character’s never-ending capitulation.
The action and presentation are over-the-top, they have flourishes that make me think of Quentin Tarantino’s films, such as Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill, but the characters are also all down to earth. We get natural imagery, we get poetry, and it all surrounds the simple conflicts – of being better than everyone else, of knowing what you wish to be, of losing friends, of gaining mentors. It’s very much a samurai show, and if you tear down the story structure, you can find it in samurai manga. And it’s good. It’s enjoyable to watch, not for some overarching plot, but just because it’s really well-done.
Episodes Watched: 5/11.
Current Rating: A+. I find it hard to explain exactly why this show is worth watching, but it is.
2 (2) Isshuukan Friends / One Week Friends
In case you don’t know, one of the big things I watch anime for, or one of the things that make me happy as I watch anime is when the show makes me emotional, when tears well up in my eyes. Melodrama can work against it at times, but it means I’m a huge sucker for drama, and things that are often emotionally manipulative. I want to feel.
One Week Friends isn’t a big show. It’s not filled with big gestures and dramatic speeches. The premise isn’t the point, the premise is to get the ball rolling. The point is exactly what the title tells you it’s about – it’s about friendship. And being about friendship means it’s about misunderstandings, and trust, and fighting with people whom you like, and voicing your opinions. The characters are believeable, the characters are earnest. You only get what you want by going for it, or someone else going for it, but then you have to rely on there being someone else who interests align with your own.
This show doesn’t amount to much when you describe it, but it is a joy to watch, with a pleasant character, and solidly delivered drama, with no melodrama. It’s cute and sweet, and it’s bitter. And my eyes often are on the verge of shedding tears.
Episodes Watched: 6/12.
Current Rating: A. Very good show, and especially good for me. The focus isn’t on “plot”, but on character-interaction.
3 (3) Mushishi
I actually don’t have a lot to say about Mushishi. It’s interesting, as always. Some episodes had given us Ginko as not even an observer, but just someone passing through someone else’s story, with him shedding light on the matter and disappearing. Other episodes had been rare that in them Ginko is not only an observer, or a ‘doctor’, but someone who affects others’ actions, who takes a moral stand – and not just out of concern for people’s health, but because he thinks something isn’t right.
Some stories had been very overt in how the human condition, the emotional core, is reflected in the Mushishi “affliction” while others had been a bit more subtle in it, and had been more concerned with the humans taking action, to change their situation – the Mushishi usually aren’t there to create situations for humans to react to, but to mirror and force them to reflect on how their situation already is.
And as always, the stories are small, and heartfelt, and good. This is a great little show, and I’m glad we have it. You should watch it.
Episodes Watched: 6/12. Split-cour rumored.
Current Grade: A. I can never give Mushishi A+, because what it does is so quiet.
4 (7) Nisekoi
It’s funny how what pleased us in the past can then frustrate us, eh? I came into this show knowing it’s going to be a bog-standard RomCom, where no progress is permitted, and where characters get cold feet or something always happens in the last possible moment. I came into this show knowing I’m here for the sweet interactions where nothing actually happens.
And for most of its run, I’ve been pleased with that. Except, at some point, I wanted to grab some characters and shake them. I mean, I’m fine if a character is always pussy-footing around, but when the character keeps saying “I want X, X is the one for me” but keeps interspersing it with “I wonder which girl I’ve made the promise to in the past!” then I get frustrated. Either you love Onodera, or you’re going to be with “The Promised Girl”, stop saying one and then wondering the other. Yes, I guess it’s a way to keep the harem-show going, without having our MC go for any of the girls, but…
But see? Most harem shows work by convincing us the guy is interested in more than one girl, and it actually works in Nisekoi as well in quite a few bits, so why not just have the character admit to not knowing who he likes, rather than him constantly profess his love (internally) and then act as if he hadn’t? And then the show adds insult to injury by having characters act, and then not only do they not have the other side ignore it, but they have no one notice, so as to erase any meaning to the action that had occurred – but it’s worse than it never taking place to begin with, because we can tell the show isn’t brave enough to go anywhere.
“Shipping Wars” often are about the fans saying who they like, as opposed to who the character is best suited for. I am beginning to think Nisekoi isn’t ending because the author can’t pick a girl, or even a story. He wants to have the “We’re forced to pretend to be a couple!” story, but also the “I love this girl but I’m too shy to say it!” and the “Childhood friends become lovers!” story.
The Marika episodes annoyed me. She rubbed me the wrong way. Even if I liked how she actually knew what she wanted and was going for it, but then… the moment it looked as if she might get what she wanted, she ran away from it. Way to go, RomComs :P
The last couple of episodes had been enjoyable, aside from half an episode of extremely gratuitous fan-service, but had suffered from a lack of actual animation. Is this Shaft moving resources to the upcoming Hanamonogatari?
Episodes Watched: 18/20.
Current Grade: B-. I am still enjoying it a bunch, overall, though I’m getting a bit frustrated, over having receiving what I asked for ;-)
5 (12) Mekakucity Actors
I’ve watched a couple of songs, and that is the sum of my familiarity with the series. Thankfully, adapted material lives or dies on its own, so I’m fine with discussing what I had seen.
This series is a bit of a mess. I actually liked two episodes, which had been episodes 3 and 5. These two episodes share several things, including in what the other episodes have and they lack:
First, we have several characters, rather than constantly only having one or two characters on screen. This makes the banter feel more honest, more natural, rather than characters who are speaking only to fill-up air-time. In episodes 1,2, and 4 we have several characters who chatter incessantly, yet you don’t feel you’ve truly learnt much. When you have multiple characters, each sentence teaches you more of the characters and the social situation, including in what is not said and the reactions one can observe.
Second, as a result of having more characters, and having characters coming together, it feels as if the plot is finally advancing. Because honestly? 5 episodes in and we’ve barely seen the glimpse of any plot. Yes, we’ve seen some themes, and we’ve seen some behind-the-scenes connections and mystery, but that doesn’t actually add up to a plot, with things happening. And as noted above, the series didn’t truly sell us on characters or interactions yet either.
People often discuss the “SHAFT being SHAFT” aspect of the show, and all the distinct imagery and visual flair Shinbo is known for, and also how the characters chattering without end reminds them of Monogatari – and well, some of the characters “issues” also remind people of Monogatari (especially when you consider the 2nd episode is titled “Kisaragi Attention”).
I think all these things in the show draw attention to themselves, and I fault them, but not for being there, in themselves. Yes, the show feels “self-indulgent”, and it feels as if Shinbo is just up to his old tricks rather than actually making the show work, but to me the manner in which it is self indulgent, and what all the “SHAFTisms” try to hide is actually what it draws attention to – they’re playing for time. They have enough content for a 12 minute episode, but they need to stretch it for 20 minutes. So, what do they do? They add chatter that doesn’t add up, they add still-shots and extra-slow movements to pad the timing, and the show as a whole is left much weaker for it.
I genuinely feel that had they compressed the first two episodes into one episode, and the 4th into another half episode, this show would’ve felt much better. I don’t know much of the show’s plot thus far, and I don’t really care for its characters. Nor does it make me care, by adding stuff that actively detracts from my experience.
Episodes Watched: 5/12
Current Grade: C-. This show is guilty of the worst thing I can think of – it knowingly is wasting my time with filler. Amazing when a 4 minute song is so much better at telling a story than a 20 minute episode.
Relevant Shows put on hold/dropped: Selector Infected WIXOSS.
Any non-action shows you’re especially enjoying, or failing to enjoy, this season?
As surprising as it may sound, not only am I enjoying WIXOSS(warning: minor meta spoilers ahead), I actually think it’s a decent show. It was quite weak in the beginning, and the story is not the greatest or most original, but the character interactions are really, really fun to watch at times. It’s lacking in many aspects, but it very much feels like a show written by Mari Okada when it comes to the characters. (note: bold statement incoming). Gen Urobuchi has shown time and time again how “cruel” he can be when he kills off characters, but in WIXOSS, Mari Okada shows that sometimes it may be even more cruel to let all characters live.
So yeah, it’s actually worth checking out, at least up until the end of episode 7.
While I mostly agree… the main character’s angst and inner turmoil is dragging out for way too long. My biggest pet peeve is indecisive main characters… and so far we have yet to see any decisive action as the MC is just dragged along with the flow.
Yeah, I agree with that. Something needs to change soon, otherwise it’ll all just become stale.
Well, I’m keeping an ear to it, but I’m still hearing mixed results. I think at this point the best thing is to ask people who pick it up after it ends and marathon it what they think of it, since it also affects viewership.
My trust in Okada isn’t what it used to be either.
Yeah, that’s probably a wise choice. In my opinion, it’s gotten even better since my original comment here, but there’s no guarantee that it can keep that up until the very end. Luckily, there are only a few episodes left of the first cour, so it’s not like you’ll have to wait forever.
I plan to wait until it’s all done, once we know it’s a 2 or split-cour.