Summer 2014 Anime First Impressions – Part 2 (Anime Power Ranking)

The new season continues! Two more first episodes happened, one which was promising, and one which wasn’t. Some shows meandered in their second episode, and not a lot looked up. Let’s run them down.

First impressions for Zankyou no Terror (Terror in Resonance), and Tokyo ESP. Weekly impressions for Akame ga Kill!, Aldnoah.Zero, Barakamon, Fate/Kaleid Liner Prisma Illya, Glasslip, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, Shirogane no Ishi Argevollen (Silver Will Argevollen), Sword Art Online II, and Tokyo Ghoul.

The list is organized by how much I’ve enjoyed each episode, and the link in the title is to a more thorough write-up on the episode. For first impressions it means mostly more about production and presentation, but also about themes.

1) Barakamon Episode 2

Barakamon anime episode 2 overview

Screenshot album, overflowing with reaction faces.

This got the #1 spot. Was this the best thing I’ve watched this week? Probably not. It was the most fun I’ve had with an episode this week though. I chuckled and giggled and smiled my way through the episode. Poor Handa has it rough, with how everyone trying to help him just stressing him out more.

I said so in the first episode, but the moral lessons of this show aren’t at all subtle, though one can still relate to them, how many of us might say “I’ve tried my best” and give up, while there are those out there who give something their all and always strive to get better. It added to the human aspect of the show. Still not doing anything special, except making me enjoy it completely without need for anything more. The perfect way to cap one’s week.

2) Zankyou no Terror Episode 1

Zankyou no Terror / Terror of Resonance anime episode 1 overview - Nine declaims

This was a tight thriller opening. The soundtrack was great, the character designs and backgrounds were lush and sharp. The truly outstanding aspect of the show thus far is the visual direction, how we actually have a “cameraman” running down the stairs in front of a girl, with motion blur and everything, the angles of following someone on a bike, or the nice shot of a cell-phone taking a shot of a falling skyscraper.

The plot thus far is ye olde “special kids escape facility, now take vengeance on rotten society” alongside “two boys rescue a bullied girl who reminds them of themselves.” But hey, if we get a tight thriller, it’ll all be good, and thus far, this seems to be it.

3) Akame ga Kill! episode 2

Akame ga Kill! anime episode 2 overview - Tatsumi is hopelessly naive

Another silly episode full of light-hearted shounen moments. Seriously, this reminds me so much of the earlier Fullmetal Alchemist novels, and other light-hearted shounen shows. Silly people, silly faces, silly situations and misunderstandings.

And then we’ve had “GrimDark” and “Themes”. “An assassin of justice”, Tatsumi wanted to be. At least the others laughed him out of the room. They kill because it’s their job, and what they’re doing isn’t glamorous. They’re ready to die. What they’re doing is killing people, and you need to own up to it. The action still looked good, though I found it more than a tad amusing when Tatsumi spoke of how the corrupted “takes power” we’ve been given a shot of him taking their hands away, so they could take no longer.

The whole serious vibe of the show is a bit all over the place, but at least our “glorified killing” situation is mostly ridiculed by the current assassins, and most of what we get are light-hearted gags and training segments, which I enjoy.

4) Sword Art Online II Episode 2

Sword Art Online II  anime episode 2 overview - Sinon's bravery

This episode was pretty. This episode also had Yuki Kajiura at the top of her game, giving us music straight out of Kara no Kyoukai (The Garden of Sinners), that also had pretty great music. Character designs were still great, though all the focus on Sinon’s assets yet again was annoying, even when (or was it perhaps enhanced by?) it was delivered as in-fiction “Male Gaze”.

The themes given to us are about how one needs to take the in-game seriously, how one’s strength inside a game is “real strength”. All is a bit ridiculous, and perhaps over the top, but to be at the top of a virtual game is just as hard as to be at the top of a real-life discipline, and often takes equal dedication. Moreover, that’s what the characters believe, which will shape their actions.

One thing not covered in the episode, which ties to the above and also to why “The Icy Sniper” was the episode’s title – the size of the reticle relies on one’s real-life heartrate. You lose your nerves? You can’t shoot well. This is VR, it feels real to run into gunfire, but to Sinon it’s required, and to a degree explains why one needs “real strength” to smile while being shot at, and still shoot at one’s enemies.

5) Tokyo Ghoul Episode 2

Tokyo Ghoul anime episode 2 overview - Kaneki Ken and Nagachika Hideyoshi

Coming to grips with losing sight of humanity is hard. The action was at times hilarious in how over-the-top it was, and how hard it tried to be weighty. It was solid, and then the monster within came out and won. It makes thematic sense though, as Ken has Rise within him, but also her insatiable hunger, and her powers. He has her to curse, and her to thank.

“Hide is my friend, so I must eat him!” really reminded me of Claymore. I did like the friend-bit though, how he’s still tied to his old world, while getting connections to the new world, how he can’t escape his fast, even as he can’t embrace his future.
More to the point, I spoke of last episode as being a “Werewolf story”, as in how it’s about sexuality and losing sight of yourself, and then this week we were told that it’s not that Ken is neither human nor ghoul, but that he is both.

Werewolves are about liminality, about crossing the boundaries between human and animal, and so is Ken. This truly is a new werewolf story.

6) Fate/kaleid liner Prisma☆Illya 2wei! episode 2

Fate/kaleid liner Prisma☆Illya 2wei! anime episode 2 overview - Ilya knows it's creepy

So, last week I wrote a piece on how Prisma Illya isn’t a parody show, but a fan-service show, which is all too relevant this week, even more than last week. Last week we’ve had the light slice-of-life “service”, and this episode we’ve had some action, and a whole lot of tongue action. It didn’t look sexy, and the whole sexual assault bit didn’t help either.

In terms of plot, there’s not much to cover. The episode had good movement, and really good direction of its movement, but all people will remember of this episode is the fan-service. It might be more “overt” than what we’ve had in the first season, but I personally find it less of an issue than having a couple of minutes of a character talking and only focusing on their breasts and crotch. Here it was something we had and did away with, while clear on what it is, rather than focusing “on the wrong thing” when characters actually matter.

So why is this #6? The gag humor was still good, with all the misfortune befalling Ilya, it was still a pleasure to watch, and showed real skills from the director.

7) Aldnoah.Zero Episode 2

Aldnoah.Zero anime episode 2 overview - Trillram is a caricature

This was a solid 10 minute episode! …that unfortunately ran for 20.

This episode did the one thing I dislike above all else – it wasted my time. Humanity can’t stand a chance against the Martians, ok, we could get that in 2 minutes, but hey, 10 minutes! Trillram is a caricature villain who likes being sadistic and cackling, I think most of us understood it within 20 seconds of seeing it, so why did he get about 5 minutes to run around?

It’s as if Urobutchi is making sure each of his episodes is about something. The first was about how we need hope, but humanity fed itself lies to fuel said hope. Second episode was to drive home how powerless humanity is, so we’ll see how a human can do better, or see how bridging the gap is the answer? Meh. We had enough “plot-content”, including our princess being alive (obviously), how there are hate-mongers who dream of fear and glory on both sides, and how our protagonist finally had a close and personal death to shock him into action.

Yet it still felt immaterial. Instead of the time spent on “Subjugation Porn”, they could’ve done more with it, though I liked the small touch of our Earthling MC (Inaho) nodding goodbye at his sister who’s about to go and die. But still, not good enough.

8) JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders episode 15

JoJo's Bizarre Adventureanime  Episode 15 overview - Polnareff's horror

Polnareff will never be able to go into public toilets again! I like how slowly we’re getting to see Jotaro’s personality. Not brash and loud, but he still lays traps. The horror atmosphere did continue with Polnareff, hearing the monsters beyond the door approach and then silence. And then we went into horrible B-movie “your tongue will lick the dirty toilet!” moments that had me chuckling throughout.

Return of the cackling villains, the seemingly overpowering enemies, and the ridiculous solutions. I liked this episode. It wasn’t great, but it was solid entertainment.

9) Shirogane no Ishi: Argevollen / Silver Will Argevollen Episode 2

Shiroganeno Ishi: Argevollen / Silver Will Argevollen anime episode 2 overview - Tokimune is a soldier

This was the second episode of a mecha series about a boy who got a top-of-the-line mecha. As such, it covered what such episodes often cover – “What do we fight for?” – “We’re soldiers, so we fight cause it’s our duty to protect our allies” and the whole “I can’t get this robot to do what I want it to!”

Some more hints at the commander’s personality, and how he’s torn between sacrificing one man to protect the others and not wishing to leave anyone behind. A few more situations where the civilian can’t accept the “military logic”. There’s nothing much to write about, it’s not bad or anything, just something I’ve seen numerous times before with nary a deviation.

10) Tokyo ESP Episode 1

Tokyo ESP anime episode 1 overview -

This episode was interesting, because it had solid action, and dropping us in-media res minus build-up should be fun. Heck, Ga-Rei Zero’s first episode, done by the same people (and in the same universe) did the same and I loved it. Heck, this episode even channeled X-Men to a T, and I liked the X-Men cartoon a lot.

And yet, it just felt heavy, it felt unfun. Action didn’t flow, even if it was pretty to look at, some moments of “GORE!” didn’t convince me to take it more seriously, and the whole shounen “You can do nothing!” versus “I will outpace my bounds!” felt not just unearned, but outright oppressive.

This is more an issue of feel. I’m going to give it one more episode, but damn, for a show that got everything on the checklist right, this was surprisingly unappealing.

11) Glasslip Episode 2

Glasslip anime episode 2 overview - Nagemiya Sachi can't believe it

I’m just going to copy-paste my entire message after writing the episode, I… can’t.

The episode began the same way last one ended, with great and ill-fitting, over-the-top classic piano music, going alongside dire and obtuse pronouncement amidst a group of silly teenagers, and I was reminded of being unable to decide whether the show is really good, or really terrible.

After this episode, my impression of this episode is Kyoukai no Kanata, with a dose of Clannad, Hanasaku Iroha and AnoHana on top. It’s as subtle as a sackful of hammers.

Taking the most over-the-top pieces of “foreshadowing” and “Death flags” from melodramatic dramas, as well as RomComs, we see how everyone has a crush on someone, and none of them are reciprocated. We can see people gearing up to confessions, just so others will make them first, in front of them. Nothing goes well, eh?

And then we have the glass, oh yes, the glass! A way to show friendship, a way to connect the group, and to also rope in the new guy. New guy? Guy who sees into the future! He and Touko are connected by fate! I mean, they both can either hear or see, she with the glass and he with the music, but together they can both see and hear, fragments exist both in music and in glass, right?

Wait, what?! See into the future? It’s this kind of show? Alongside the stammering, the almost reaction-faces, and the new supernatural vibe, it truly feels as if we’re in Kyoukai no Kanata land. The supernatural isn’t there because it’s important, either, it’s there because it’ll create more tension amidst the group. Because it’d force our ditzy heroine to make decisions, and to face the truths of growing up. The future is like a train that comes to run you down.

The show is still very beautiful, but unlike Kyoukai no Kanata, it’s beautiful in still shots. There are almost no actual scenes with real movement in the show, usually a limb or just the lips, it’s as if we’re watching a Visual Novel, which would also explain all the vagaries of time…

Is this good? No, it’s really not. It’s almost unintentionally hilarious how over the top everything here is.

I am still not sure if I can make myself watch the third episode, or if I can stop myself from watching it :o

*) Avatar: The Legend of Korra Season 3 Episode 4-5

This show is taking “the long view”, it is just as interested in exploring its world and denizens as it is in advancing the “plot”. To it it’s all about the people, and the journey. It’s a big world out there. I love how we’re getting two episodes a week, though it means the journey will be over in half the time.


Summary:

 

Light and fun entertainment continues to rule my ratings, and the more “serious” series are either taking their sweet time to get started, or already seem to fall in shambles. I’m having fun, and I’m not taking a lot of notes. Viva la Summer!

So what did you watch this week that was surprisingly good, surprisingly bad, or as bad/good as expected?

9 comments on “Summer 2014 Anime First Impressions – Part 2 (Anime Power Ranking)

  1. CelebGarfield says:

    Really nice write-up.
    So, have you dropped Mahouka? As I have heard, It got progressively better as episodes went on.
    I dove into it to check for myself, It did got better, especially ost-wise.
    If you still have some lingering hopes for it, you can maybe give it a try. Would love to see your opinion about it. (Im trying to love this series, but Im struggling, help, how should i approach it)

    • Guy says:

      I’ve read Mahouka up to book 12. I know what is coming, so the desire to find that out doesn’t exist for me. It does get better at book 8, but it never becomes anything more than “Average”. I might watch a few more episodes just for the sake of a final write-up, or I might not, and I might not do that write-up. Who knows.

      I don’t think my opinion of the anime will improve. And I have no “curiosity”, because as said, I already read the source material.

      I dunno why you’re “trying” to love a series. You like what you like. Even if you dislike something “everyone likes” such as Madoka or Cowboy Bebop, why? Why spend effort that is not earned? To justify the time already spent? That makes it even worse, IMO.

      • CelebGarfield says:

        I liked the concept of the show and with putting faith in its execution, as you said, I was looking for my justified time but what you pointed out in your 3rd paragraph was actually really helpful for me changing my whole viewpoint on approaching not just Mahouka, but any show without reading its source. I literally cannot believe myself for having missed such an important factor, the enjoyment. You were right, and thanks for your reply, I dropped it being unsatisfied with it and I will actually start my journey through the LNs. Have a good day.

        • Guy says:

          I’m glad I’ve been able to help along! And yeah, the concept of time management and wasting more time in the hopes of salvaging something is a terrible one indeed.

  2. Artemis says:

    I’m really, really enjoying Barakamon – while I was just a tiny bit on the fence about episode one, the second episode had me completely sold. It’s now second only to Zankyou no Terror on my summer line-up. Meanwhile, Tokyo ESP will probably only get one more episode from me before I decide whether or not to drop it, because its debut had me bored and confused in roughly equal measures. I can’t say that I’m particularly disappointed, because I had no expectations for the series either good or bad, but of all the summer anime I’ve seen, it’s definitely my least favourite so far.

    • ChazzU says:

      Barakemon seems to have taken everyone but the manga readers by surprise, including me. And I’m enjoying it in heaps. I am on the fence about Zankyou no Terror the way you were with Barakemon, although I haven’t seen the second episode yet, because it felt so rushed and jumpy. It didn’t transition smoothly from scene to scene, it was more like an exposition than a story.

      @tundra: You should give Sabageby a try! It’s incredibly silly, so perhaps it’s just not your kind of humor but it had me laughing at times with it’s meta self-awareness through its narrator.

      • Artemis says:

        I don’t know if Barakamon took me by surprise exactly, since I had no idea what to expect to begin with, but I had high hopes for it just going by the synopsis. A fully-fledged adult rather than a student as the main character? Yes please! (Also, the last anime I watched that paired a grown man with a young child was Usagi Drop, and I adored the hell out of that one too.)

      • Guy says:

        We’ll see. I’m alright with sports shows, but “club activity” shows don’t do it for me, and most anime comedies leave me cold. Who knows. I’m more likely to pick it up after it ends anyway. That’s how I prefer watching shows, especially 12 episoders.

    • Guy says:

      Yup, Tokyo ESP is getting one more episode from me. They started in chapter 23 of the manga, and I suspect now we’ll get chapter 1, but… the issue wasn’t the plot. It had all the “right stuff”, it just didn’t feel good to watch, and that’s an issue that is more about direction, so we’ll see if they can somehow fix it.

      And yeah, I expected Barakamon to be good, or at least “enjoyable and hit the right spot”, a spot filled by Gingitsune, Inari Konkon Koi Iroha, and Isshuukan Friends recently, for me. I like a calm and “nice” show once a week, and in a manner that “Moe Slice of Life” shows somehow don’t really give me.

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