Summer 2014 Anime Season Week 3 (Anime Power Ranking)

Another week. This time I also give my interim scores for the series I’m watching, as we’ve reached a quarter of the season through.

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

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 3:

Barakamon anime episode 3 overview

When this is literally the first thing you open an episode with, how can you follow it up? Well, judging by the episode’s screenshot album, you can, with much panache.

This episode was mostly a series of skits, tied together and showcasing the group of weirdos that makes up this series. Thankfully, I found it pretty amusing, and even when I didn’t laugh due to it being funny per se, I smiled due to it being charming and warm.

The show focuses on the relationship between people, and obviously gave Handa another life-lesson in the end. It’s just that sort of show, where you either laugh or chuckle at the humor, and then either smile or groan at the morals being told. Though they’re not trying to be subtle with them and the “Folksy Wisdom”, it never feels overbearing.

Current Rating: A. A perfect way to end Saturday’s night anime.

2) Zankyou no Terror / Terror in Resonance episode 2:

Zankyou no Terror anime episode 2 overview

The thriller continues! I think that’s a very apt description, because they’re ticking boxes off of the “How to do a thriller 101” manual – set up our protagonists as “super intelligent”, up the ante on the part of the police, giving a riddle and then revealing there’s a riddle within the riddle which only one person was smart enough to realize, and then having said person as “The Opposition”, which any real riddler needs to show us their worth.

This episode did raise the question of Oedipus Rex, and how it is tied to themes. I think the themes are those of “one’s past comes back to bite them” as well as “trying to control the children, until they rise up” – Facility children that you try to control and experiment on lest they become a danger, and that makes them a danger.

Some of the moments with the riddle broke credulity, and weren’t really needed. But the way the show handles itself is almost a mirror of the characters – so sure of themselves and their plan that you can’t help but follow along, though it does feel somewhat like a game. A very promising start.

Current Rating: A. Most of what we’ve seen thus far is the direction things are going, and the direction of the show, a quality that can’t be faked.

3) Aldnoah.Zero episode 3:

Aldnoah.Zero anime episode 3 overview

This episode was fun. We did spend a bit too much time on the plan, with the kids acting as if it’s all one big game, but that tied nicely into the first episode’s message, on how humanity is playing around and filled the kids’ heads with the illusion of winning. Also tying into the first episode is the reversal of the Lieutenant’s position – from one without hope he had to not only hope, but convince others to hope, to rescue his charges.

But with us only 3 episodes in, will these issues continue to be the main themes, or will we get new themes? Or will we just have an action story, one with a message of hope and understanding, and how different people can still relate? With a writer-change, I don’t really know. I do know this show has really good production values, and at this point all three of our main-characters took action and showed their agency. Now it remains to be seen how they’ll change the world.

Current Rating: A- or B+. The direction it will take still remains to be seen.

4) Sword Art Online II episode 3:

Sword Art Online II anime episode 3 overview

I didn’t write a long write-up for this episode. It’s not because I didn’t have what to say, but because I had a lot to say, and most of it was influenced by knowing the story. The foreshadowing, and the setting up of the story here are good. I like Sinon, and I liked the dramatical nature of her backstory.

Was a bit of it oversold? Perhaps, but as I said in my write-up for the first season, it’s the same story as that season’s episode 3 all over again – it’s a bit over the top, in order to make you care for the characters, so you’d be invested in what happens to them later. Seeing it after you already care for the characters enhances it even more.

I thought to myself, “Would people who dislike this, come back later and then enjoy this episode upon rewatching it, and the first episode with all of its foreshadowing?” – The answer is “Of course not.” People who like it will come back to it and their enjoyment will be enhanced, and those who dislike it will have their lack of enjoyment enhanced. The way we choose to look at the work will affect what we get out of it. Come with negativity, and it’ll increase. Likewise for a positive mindset.

Me? I like how we’re getting an actual character, and spend time on constructing her so we could understand what she goes through in the future.

Current Score: I’ll skip it for this show, since I know where it’s going, and I think the adaptation is doing a good job thus far, but I can’t truly separate the series from the LNs.

5) Tokyo Ghoul episode 3:

Tokyo Ghoul anime episode 3 overview

It’s a crazy world we live in. With “Detectives” who torture and mutilate the non-humans, non-humans who try their hardest to pass as humans, even going to school and eating food which makes them sick, and “Jasons”, flamboyant and greater than life monstrosities who revel in their lack of humanity as they go around.

And amidst it all we have our poor half-human, half-ghoul, a one of his kind, an unwitting bridge between worlds, and someone who’s completely clueless about the new world he’s part of. It’s an effective way of teaching us of the world, rather than throwing us into the shoes of someone who already understands it all, where exposition feels more unnatural.

And how does poor Kaneki Ken make himself comfortable? He treats the ghouls who wish to be human as if they were, and replicates his human existence. But such a fragile mindset will surely not be able to last long, and Ken will be forced to keep facing the fact that he is no longer human.

Current Score: B+. A solid horror-action mix, thus far.

6) JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders episode 16:

JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders anime episode 3 overview

I really liked this episode, where Jotaro is constantly mocked and has to demean himself to save his grandfather, and we can see how he constantly almost snaps, and smacks his assailant, which would also kill Joseph.

Why do I like it so much? Because the over-the-top domineering villain is so JoJo, and we’re finally getting to see some of Jotaro’s personality. Jonathan was selfless. Joseph was playful. Jotaro has rage and a sense of indignation within him.

7) Akame ga Kill! episode 3:

Akame ga Kill! anime episode 3 overview

We’ve began with a fight that shows “No mercy”, and moved onto an episode that’s mostly manga gags, and getting to know that underneath their silly exterior, our new comrades have a sordid history, and a thirst for power. Noble motives, but in the end, they want power, and might just end up as the ones they are trying to replace – “I will make sure no one steps down on me ever again.” – The distance between that and actually abusing your power once you obtain it isn’t that great.

It feels like the early paces of a shounen manga, with the humor being cranked up. It’s light entertainment. The villains are as ridiculous as they get though.

Current Grade: B. It’s popcorn entertainment. Don’t expect more.

8) Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun / The Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun episodes 1-3:

Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun anime episode 3 overview

I’ve had a headache and some free-time, so rather than watch my heady backlog shows, I decided to go for something light. I am also moving some shows off to the “on-hold” or “dropped” list, so figured I might see if there’s something solid to replace it with, and checked Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun.

I’m sorry Nozaki-kun, you’re not as funny as you think you are. It’s a weird mixture of physical gags, and a slower build-up, which reminds me of older comedy skits, where something is repeated enough times so it’ll be funnier or more ridiculous each time, but in the end it’s just a simple gag, “Look at them ride on a two-seater bicycle, isn’t ithilarious?!” – No, it’s not.

It’s well-acted, and Sakura Chiyo’s design (the female main character) is pleasant to look at, but these are not terribly funny physical gags and slapstick humor that I didn’t find funny the first half-dozen times I’ve come across them. The real problem aside from not finding it terribly funny is that I don’t actually care for the characters and story, and I don’t care for skits-comedy filled with slapstick and physical gag humor that much. I think since it’s a “parody of shoujo romances”, having an actual romance sub-plot would’ve done much to keep me interested.

Current Score: C+. It does what it says on the cover. If you look for another show of the sort you’ve watched many times before and know you like it, go for it. Otherwise, you won’t find anything new here.

9) Fate/kaleid liner Prisma☆Illya 2wei! episode 3:

Fate/kaleid liner Prisma☆Illya 2wei! anime episode 3 overview

The silliness continues! Ilya versus her clone, fighting over the affectations of her “onii-san”! Man. The fan-service here. More kisses, moe-faces, self-inflicted harm… also, for Fate/Stay Night fans, there’s the wink in how “Archer” is trying to get it on with Emiya Shirou. “Incest”? Ho ho ho…

It was kooky, and it was silly, and it wasn’t much more. It’s enjoyable, but it’s a fan-service moe slice of life semi-comedy, right now. We did get a reminder that Miyu’s backstory is a painful one.

Current Score: B-. It’s enjoyable, but right now it’s empty calories. Can’t wait for some of Miyu’s backstory and more action to appear.

10) Shirogane no Ishi: Argevollen / Silver Will Argevollen episode 3:

Shirogane no Ishi: Argevollen anime episode 3 overview

This was another solid episode, where nearly nothing happened. Showing us the “opponent” who enjoys “interesting fights”, once more our main character risks himself and his super-mecha to help others, and his supposedly cold and calculating commanding officer steps in at the last moment to save him.

There’ll be a small time-skip next episode, but it seems up to episode 6 is going to be mostly exposition. This show is giving us a nice version of a story we’ve seen before. I think I might marathon it as it ends, or watch an episode here and there, but watching it weekly? I don’t feel any real impetus to do so.

Current Rating: C. A solid but uninspired take on a story we’ve seen before. Probably better to marathon after it ends.

11) Sailor Moon Crystal episode 2:

Sailor Moon Crystal anime episode 2 overview - Brainwashing program

Monster of the week, and friend-gathering of the week continues. There’s really not much to say. Low production values plague this series as well. The whole way “new enemies, new allies” is handled reminds me of Power Rangers quite a bit. It’s a children’s show, through and through. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but right now, that’s all it is. It’s also a bit hard to take “brainwashing programs”, even in a world with magic.

We probably have at least 4-5 more episodes until we have everyone together and can “progress”, right now though we get a healthy dose of “The power of friendship!” and “it takes all kinds, you know?” – I’m far from impressed. I might keep watching weekly, or I might wait for there to be a few more episodes to watch in one go, which would take a while, considering a new episode airs once every two weeks.

Current Rating: C or C-. It might go places, but that’s where it is right now.

12) Tokyo ESP episode 2:

Tokyo ESP anime episode 2 overview

I find this show fascinating. This isn’t a live-action film where you can tell someone’s pulling their punches, so how could it be that a show with a flying drop-kick, speed-lines, and a full-on move title-drop feels so weightless, so unimportant? And yet, that’s exactly where we’re at.

The characters don’t grab me, the sound-direction feels lacking. Yes, Rinka is telling us how she didn’t believe in miracles, and following the flying penguin indeed showed her pragmatic sense, but the show itself is bad at selling us anything as magical, extraordinary, or even just plain old interesting. I can see there are things going on in the plot, but the show itself doesn’t make me want to care.

The only reason I might watch another episode is because it comes out on Friday. But I am just so not looking forward to more of it. Bad or mediocre direction is something you can’t just get over, even if the plot or characters somehow do something you care for.

Current Rating: D.

*) Avatar: The Legend of Korra Season 3 Episode 6-7

Seems the series is moving to digital only, as it didn’t draw in the expected or hoped for rating numbers. This is very much Avatar, even as the plot progresses, we take detours to explore not just the world, but our characters’ lives. More time with Lin and her sister, and Tenzin and Bumi. Hijinks and more serious bonding moments.


Summary:

An ok week. With Glasslip most likely dropped, I noticed there are a few shows I don’t really care much to find out what’s happening next. Sailor Moon: Crystal might be a drop or on-hold till a few more episodes are out, Argevollen is likely put on hold until the series is done, and Tokyo ESP should probably be dropped – I really find myself not caring at all about what happens there. Well, with all my newfound free time, I’ve been playing more video games and marathoning some shoujo romances, so it’s all good!

Though I don’t stand for the “Three Episode Rule”, what exceeded your expectations, and what ended up dropped?

15 comments on “Summer 2014 Anime Season Week 3 (Anime Power Ranking)

  1. Artemis says:

    Likewise, I don’t care for the three episode rule. If I like something or think it has a lot of potential then I’ll keep watching, if I hate something then I’ll drop it, and if I can’t decide, I’ll keep going for however long it takes me to either figure it out or get sick of it. It’s generally as simple as that for me.

    Anyhow, I’ve now dropped Tokyo ESP, DRAMAtical Murder, Ao Haru Ride, and Bakumatsu Rock. The latter three titles just bored me, whereas I actively disliked what I saw of Tokyo ESP – definitely not giving that one a third episode. As for exceeding expectations… probably nothing. I expected great things from Zankyou no Terror, which I’m getting, and I also had high hopes for Barakamon, which again is a fantastic series. Everything else seems to be performing about as well as I’d envisioned too.

    • Artemis says:

      Oh, make that five titles I’ve now dropped – forgot to add in Shounen Hollywood, oops.

    • Guy says:

      You did pick up too many shows. I sometimes pick about 10 shows more than I’ll be comfortable watching, which is when I’m especially annoyed by “You didn’t give it enough episodes!” – And if I only picked as many shows as I actually were comfortable watching through, I’d likely not have given these shows a single episode.

      Well, dropping 5 shows out of 21, I think it was? Still means you’re having a lot of fun, which is good to hear. Too much of a good thing is probably better than the alternative, but considering backlogs always exist, I think that is always the problem :)

      • Artemis says:

        Yeah, it’s definitely far more shows that I’d normally pick up and/or am comfortable watching in a single season – though thankfully, all but two, possibly three of them will be 12 episodes or less in length (and one of those is also a short).

  2. Alex says:

    This isn’t meant to be sarcastic or anything, but I’m glad you can continue to enjoy Akame ga Kill. The third episode made me feel reaaaaally uncomfortable. In the first two episodes, I could separate the dumb shounen humour bits (which I enjoyed) and the murder bits (which I found… okay at best) and thought the show was enjoyable overall. But in the third, with necrophilia, the green haired guy basically torturing some girl to death, and the rapey prime minister as well as the whole “glorification of murder” thing, I’m finding it pretty hard to view as a popcorn show, even with its lighter moments :-(

    • Guy says:

      Yeah. I’m treating it as a shlocky shounen battler. Definitely, a lot of it is off-colour and in bad taste, and if you take it seriously, you might get annoyed by it, if you’re sensible. I’m not taking it seriously, but as a half-comedy half-action “B-movie” sort of thing. But a lot of it depends on you, and your mood at the time. Just as I was bothered and angered by Girls und Panzer’s first episode whereas most people saw nothing wrong with it.

      Also, if there’s one thing about Akame ga Kill! that bothers me it’s people who take it seriously, like you guys, but have the opposite reaction, “Oh yes! So keeeeewl! MC sure showed that bitch!” ಠ_ಠ

  3. Personally, the problem I have with Akame ga Kiru is that it’s popcorn entertainment that’s trying to hide its kernels. It’s so painfully obvious that this show and its themes aren’t to be taken seriously but it seems to keep trying to sell to their audience that it has some dark themes hidden within it.

    To me, this seems to be an attempt to separate itself from your run-of-the-mill shounen. However, because of how “cranked up” the manga humour of the show is, any time the show presents us its dark themes, some of which are legitimately intriguing (how absolute power corrupts absolutely, case and point, the prime minister), it simply follows up with a silly boob joke or a cliche manga gag that makes it very difficult to take seriously.

    Now you could argue that I’m over analysing this popcorn entertainment and should simply treat it as such. That might be true, but it pains me to see a story with great potential, especially a story revolving around corruption (I’m a sucker for good shows about corruption), to throw it all away in favour of manga gags, over the top murders and a main cast of characters so seemingly flat that they may as well have been named their character archetype (Mine would be bitchy tsundere #1, Tatsumi would be initially ignorant and innocent, later transforms into merciless killing machine before realizing he’s becoming the very thing he was trying to eliminate MC, etc.).

    I haven’t read the manga so I’m not sure if the anime’s just been poorly adapted of if the source material was the problem itself but to be frank I think this anime is just digging itself into a deeper hole every episode. By the offchance the show actually hits its stride and becomes more serious (Hah!), I’d either not fully appreciate it due to these questionable opening episodes or I’d probably have dropped it by then.

    • Excuse my terrible opening analogy I was a bit tired when I wrote this :)

    • Kamille says:

      the adaptation from manga to the show is almost intact. Is still missing a lot of the violence because is censored, the art is slightly lower quality since is nearly impossible to animate manga art while looking exactly the same unless you have a big budget but everything else is pretty much the same.

      The enjoyment of the show is purely based on shock value though. SPOILER No one is save here and there will be a love triangle, a theme that is not wildly used in shonen series. SPOILER

      But seriously, people should give Haikyuu!! a chance if remotely interested in shows like Slam Dunk or Hajime no Ippo.

    • Guy says:

      Hm. Will the show be better if at this point it becomes serious, throwing away the silly gag-times? I am not so sure. The show is never mature. When it’s “mature” it’s a double-heavy dose of scare-quotes “”mature””. The villains are being caricaturish as all hell, they can’t be taken seriously because they have no shred of humanity in them, the ideals are ridiculous.

      Yes, there are people who said how “mature and gritty” shows like Attack on Titan are, the same ones who laud this show for being “mature” and with a “badass MC”. They’ll like it if it goes down that route, but I won’t be able to enjoy it anymore. Thus far most people with tastes even remotely similar to mine who take the show seriously don’t enjoy it. I only enjoy it because I do not take it seriously. When the show takes itself seriously, it’s reprehensible and as incompetent as it gets. Focusing on that aspect would make it terrible, I think.

      Now, you spoke about “potential” and “premise”. Having a premise is easy. Many shows share premises. A premise takes 5 minutes to drum up. That’s meaningless. It’s all what you do with it, and how you do it.

      Also, the show has a large cast, so it makes sense we see them all as tropes. Especially because it’s easier to have “character growth” when your starting point is so low. It’s harder to write fully-nuanced characters, have them undergo change, and remain fully-nuanced.

      • First off,

        Yay, Guy-senpai noticed me :D

        Secondly,

        I would definitely agree on how this show is nothing like Attack on Titan (besides both having an MC with irritatingly high pitched voices). Attack on Titan takes itself and its audience seriously whereas Akame seems to be struggling to find a good mix of shounen comedy and a horror thriller.

        It’s just a shame to see one of the shows I was incredibly hyped for this season, especially with its killer PV, to boil down to a show that relies on manga humour and gags to keep me watching (most of which I personally don’t find very funny) rather than the story it has to tell. Perhaps it was because I loved the premise so much that I inflated my expectations of this show.

        In any case, at least I am grateful that the other 2 anime aboard my personal hype train, Aldnoah Zero and Zankyou no Terroru, met and exceeded my expectations for them.

        I also tried Barakamon because of how highly you spoke of it on your power rankings and I must admit, I am absolutely in love with the series. It does smack you on the head a bit with its morals but in a way that is never overbearing. I’m glad you recommended it.

        Thanks for responding to my poorly written rant, it means a lot. :D

        • Guy says:

          I’m sort of used to non-perfect English when I read comments online by now.

          I’m glad you’re liking Barakamon, and while I too mostly pick shows up by dint of premise in pre-season, you should know that it doesn’t actually mean much, and is opening yourself up to disappointments. Premises are only the vehicle for the actual narrative and characters to progress upon, for the most part. Half the stuff called “Sci-fi” for instance is fantasy, or only has sci-fi as a background, far in the distance. These aren’t books, sadly.

  4. Ranoa says:

    Do you watch Nobunaga Concerto?
    i think this anime exceed my expectation, have good story, good voice acting, good music and good direction too.

    • Guy says:

      Nope. If it’s not on the list, it’s likely I’ve never even picked it up. The show didn’t seem interesting to me and what people said of it didn’t make it sound any better, or more to my taste.

      There are plenty of shows that are good in their genre, or at what they’re trying to do, except those things aren’t what I enjoy.

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