Mid-season of the anime season of Summer 2014 is upon us, so time to round up how I feel about the shows I’m current on, or decided to put on hold. A round-up telling you what I think is worthy of your time, or not, and where it’s at.
Tiers are in-order of enjoyment/evaluation. Within each tier the order is alphabetical.
Barakamon is a light show. It makes me chuckle. It has good actors, and good chemistry between the actors and characters. There’s nothing “special” about it, except for Naru’s character, perhaps. A child, a bundle of energy, who is actually voiced by a young girl and brings to the series an infectious amount of energy.
Handa, the main character would be “the straight man,” he is the adult, except much of the setup originates from how immature he is, and he has his own sort of awkward charm. The show definitely has morals and “folksy wisdom” it tries to impart, but it never feels preachy. The best way to end a week, or to start one.
Episodes Watched: 6/12.
Current Rating: A. Funny, heart-warming, cute. Feels good. Highly recommended.
Zankyou no Terror / Terror in Resonance:
This series is a pretty standard thriller show, except that it seems a perfect place to take a step back and break down what makes such shows work, the two sides, the game that they play of riddles, but where the riddles aren’t what truly matter, and the inescapable bond and similarity between detective and criminals. It’s also, naturally, the story at the basis of Batman and Joker’s relationship.
The camera-work on display in this show is amazing, with the illusion and direction of there being an actual camera. The story is slightly less interesting, but that is always true for thrillers, it is the excitement itself that matters. The show keeps referencing a Greek tragedy, which hints at how this will all turn out in the end, and Lisa is almost obviously the thematic mirror to everything else that’s going on.
But when a show is so competently handled, and when the writing in the latest episode is so elegant, you just appreciate it. It’s the Ping Pong: the Animation of this season – a basic story, broken down and handled with great gusto.
Episodes Watched: 5/11.
Current Rating: A. Extremely well-handled.
This show brings to my mind a Greek Tragedy early on. It’s easy to see how people are motivated by their conflicts, by their ideals, and by their pasts. Everyone is set to move and clash, and now remains the question – will they keep on moving on their precharted course until all ends in ruin, or as I suspect, will it take the more Hollywood turn to the heroic, with the main characters growing and changing out of their old habits, to save themselves, and the world?
The early episodes in the show wasted some time, with spending too much time on something that could’ve been covered in less. The later episodes still hadn’t really sold me on the characters, even as I can understand their narratives roles, and I think in quite a few places, the best way to describe the show’s narrative structure and plot is “inelegant” – in how it introduces situations, how it handles the characters, and how much time is spent on anything.
It’s still more than competently handled overall, and I’m still curious to see where they’ll go from here, what thematic threads they’d choose to emphasize, and what the place where characters would end will say of their journey and starting point. It’s a solid show, but it’s not without flaws.
Episodes Watched: 6/12(24 split-cour)
Current Rating: A– to B+. Where are we going? Good stuff, but there are some flawed.
Sword Art Online II:
Watching this series, also because of how much attention it’s receiving online, is a weird experience, but that’s not the main reason. The main reason is that I’ve read the Light Novels, and I liked them. I always find watching an adaptation where I remember the original material well enough to be an interesting experience, as I’m watching myself watching it, trying to decide whether I’m cutting it slack and filling the holes with what doesn’t appear on screen, or if I’m overly critical of it because I can see the flaws, again, while also being critical of any changes the adaptation makes.
In the end, putting aside all of that, this season is pretty strong. We have actual characters, we’re building them up, we’re giving them emotional-depth and traumas to overcome. I liked this stuff in the light novels, and I’m still liking it here. The action isn’t the best, but considering it’s usually even worse in text format, I’m fine. Music and backgrounds are both great.
Episodes Watched: 6/24.
Current Rating: ? I enjoy it. I will let that stand on its own.
The shounen battler impresses me less. The censoring impresses me not at all, which is unfortunate, but can’t really blame people. I like the horror vibes, of trying to find one’s room in the world, of trying to come to terms with what one is, with what one is becoming. How the first episode almost seemed like a metaphor for one’s sexual awakening was too perfect, considering how close it already hues to horror sensibilities.
Sadly, as episodes go by, it seems we’re going to focus less on the inward struggle, and more on the outside world-building, and the fights, and other characters. It might become good on its own terms, focusing on these things, and it might not have been the best thus far because it didn’t have much time to handle these things, and the “villains” seem pretty B-movie caricaturish, but thus far, that was the weaker side of the series.
Then again, shlocky B-movie battle-shounen is sort of what I signed up for, if it goes down to that level, I’m out of nothing. It did show it can do slightly better though.
Episodes Watched: 6/12.
Current Rating: B to B-. Seems to be on somewhat of a downward trend.
Akame ga Kill!:
I like Akame ga Kill! because I don’t take it seriously. I like it for its silly manga-level gags. I like it because when someone within the show speaks of how great power is, everyone else reminds him that they’re essentially villains and to stop idolizing the power they hold. I like some of the action-shots here.
I don’t like that the show sometimes takes itself seriously, and then it falls on its face. Its ideas on morality, and its presentation of its villains make it hard to take it seriously. It also takes itself seriously because while it often mocks its ideas on morality, there are also scenes where it does propose them more seriously, though they’re just as terribly wrought.
It’s a popcorn shounen battler with an extreme case of GrimDark and Gritty and Mature – and it’s just as mature as all such shows, which is not at all. I avoid reading discussions on this show online, as many of them are filled with people who idolize what the show says not to, and idolize it even more when it presents these loathsome ideals seriously. It also doesn’t know how to create villains beyond those that internet “fans” will go, “It was so awesome when he killed that b****!” – Seriously.
Also, its emotional scenes? I know it’s not earned, but some of them still move it. Take it as you will.
Episodes Watched: 6/24
Current Rating: B-. Enjoyable, only as you don’t take it seriously. Take it seriously and it falls on its face.
Fate/Kaleid Liner Prisma☆Illya 2wei! (S2):
This show would’ve ended on “Try Harder” except it gives you what it says on the cover, for the most part. The early episodes hammer extra heavily on the “moe slice of life” and the comedy that isn’t much of a comedy. Also, you thought the first season was over the top with its fanservice? The second season is considerably more explicit, with scenes aimed at exciting the watchers. Well, I find it slightly less creepy than staring two minutes at a female character’s breasts as she talks, I guess.
There’d been hints dropped on the backstory, and it seems to tie in well to the themes of magical girls in general, especially the latest episode. But action had been light, and everything else had been plentiful. The show seems to be dragging its legs some.
Episodes Watched: 5/?
Current Rating: B- to C++. Hopefully the fights will begin appearing post-haste.
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders:
This season of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is a bit weird. Our “villains” are handled in a “monster of the week” sort of way, so there’s no real competition, or flexing of one’s ideals and poses, as they’re… disposable. This weakness carried over to the “allies”, as we don’t really know them as more than one-bit comic stand-ins yet, and we most of all had barely gotten a glimpse at this era’s JoJo’s personality, and what makes him tick.
On the other hand, the horror element of this show is proudly on display, with dismemberment, oppressive atmosphere, and callbacks to scenes such as being afraid of the mist, the shower scene in Psycho, and knowing The Big Bad is right beyond the doorway are everywhere. I like the atmosphere, but the rest of it gotta shape up.
Episodes Watched: 19/25(/50 with the other half)
Current Rating: B-. I like quite a few moments, but they’re not adding up just yet.
I often complain about anime comedies that rely on physical gags, references to other shows, and “Non-humor” in general. It’s not because I find them necessarily unfunny, but because I find it unfortunate when that’s lauded as the height of comedy, and thus I get less of what I think is “better comedy”, which might not even be all about “funny”. Sabagebu is a show that revolves around an unapologetic use of physical gags, and nothing else. It’s not even that over-the-top, as much as it’s one physical gag following another.
I actually find myself giggling quite often. It’s not great, but it’s refreshingly devoid of “non-humor” or boring moments, with one ridiculous moment following another. Very physical humor.
Episodes Watched: 3/?. I’ll likely keep watching at my own pace.
Current Rating: B. A physical-gag only show.
Shirogane no Ishi: Argevollen / Argevollen the Silver Will
I actually don’t dislike this show. It started off as a pretty bog-standard mecha show, complete with a hero who feels the need to prove himself, people on both sides that aren’t in the wrong, and thus a morally grey atmosphere. If you’ve watched Gundam and all of the clones that came out by Sunrise, and want another, then you couldn’t go wrong with this show. But there’s nothing to really recommend it over all these shows.
Then again, all these shows start the same, so divergence takes some time to appear, at least on the plot-level. I’ll likely check this show out when it finishes airing, but otherwise, in terms of how capable the show appears to be? It doesn’t seem like it’d be anything new, or exceptionally well-delivered.
Episodes Watched: 3/24.
Current Rating: C++.
Try Harder Please:
Fairy Tail 2014:
Ah, Fairy Tail, how you have fallen. Sometimes there are exciting episodes, but lack of animation make what is there slightly less exciting, and the direction keeps skipping between scenes, so we can’t get fully invested in any of them. The combination is especially unfortunate, as when we do reach the “final portion” of any fight, it gets resolved in about 2 seconds with a final strike, without any real tension that the scene-skipping kills. Unfortunate.
Episodes Watched: 14/Infinity.
Current Rating: C.
Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun / The Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun:
This show is very clever. It’s much more of a comedy, a “proper” comedy, than most shows. It doesn’t rely on physical gags alone, but creates comedy that stems from the situation, from the premise (ostensibly parodying shoujo tropes, more like showing you how things would turn out if you put too much faith in them, though all too quickly it becomes about creating it), and from the specific characters’ personalities.
Where does it fail for me? Well, I just don’t really find it funny. Seeing two people ride on a two-seater bicycle to see how romantic it is, only to realize how it’s not very romantic isn’t very funny, though it does remind me of Monty Python skits in nature. The “problem” I find myself identifying is the pacing. The duration during which they build up each skit, and each punchline is just too long. And the time between one punchline to the next is too long.
It’d work out fine if I cared for the characters and relationships, but there’s really nothing there. There’s a comedy show that would be much stronger if it removed about 25% of each episode’s length. It’s been recommended to me to read the manga itself. That’ll likely help, though I’m not a huge fan of 4koma anyway.
Episodes Watched: 6/12
Current Rating: B–. It being here rather than “Average” is if anything a sign that it could’ve been so much better than it is, in my opinion.
Sailor Moon Crystal:
An episodic show aimed at kids. It didn’t grab me, not with its acting, characters, story, or production-values. Yes, right now the show is busy introducing a “Monster and Friend/Power-up of the week!”, which is made even less tolerable by the bi-weekly release schedule.
There’s nothing wrong here per se, there’s just nothing that actually interests me and makes me want to keep watching. I suspect there’ll be more here, some morals, once the whole group gathers together, but it’s going to be a couple of months before we get to that point. Likely to try this show once a few more episodes come out, or when the run ends completely.
Episodes Watched: 2/24.
Current Rating: C-.
After the first episode I wasn’t sure if this show is terribly great, or amazingly terrible. The second episode poured a whole bunch of supernatural drama on top of everything. Characters skip introductions, and build-up. You could argue that starting just before people change will allow them to get somewhere, but when you rush through enough content for a full season in under two episodes, and characters come off as actors just reciting their lines rather than actual people, you can’t wait for it to end.
It’s like a car-wreck of writing and pacing, and I found myself groaning and waiting for an episode to end just as I marvelled at each new element or scene they just dumped on my head while it kept on running. The best parts of the show are the generic ones, with some comedy and a cute main character, but hardly enough.
Episodes Watched: 2/13
Current Rating: F. Watch robots enact human behaviour, as someone I know said.
This show had all the right elements – action scenes with superpowers, in-media res, an introduction to the supernatural, and some comedy. But it all went wrong somewhere. The action had zero impact, and nothing really made me care about what happened on screen. The situation wasn’t a problem with the characters or plot, but that nothing seemed of any consequence, so no changes later on would likely grab me back.
Episodes Watched: 2/12.
Current Rating: D.
Overall thoughts on the season:
I’ve picked considerably less shows this season. I’ve dropped shows quicker. I did end up trying Sabagebu and Nozaki-kun, but still, less shows, less write-ups, and I’m feeling free, whee! It’s so nice to not write. I’m of course somewhat joking, because the freedom is to write, but about different things.
So, what do I think of this season? Overall it’s not really blowing my mind. There are less stand-out shows than some recent seasons, but there are also considerably less shows that I feel are dragging me down with but a few spots of light. This summer is mostly about popcorn, shows that are “just good enough for me to enjoy,” which is better than Winter’s “Shows just good enough for me to not drop.” My mind isn’t blown, but I’m entertained. And with my ample time? I’m catching up on backlog, movies, etc.
Any non-action shows you’re especially enjoying, or failing to enjoy, this season?