Mid-season of the anime season of Winter 2015 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. I also happened to appear on a podcast discussing these shows with Flawfinder and others, which you can check out here.
Tiers are in-order of enjoyment/evaluation. Within each tier the order is alphabetical. Also, each show will get a couple of words about how the past week’s episode had been, because I’d rather jot these down.
Death Parade is a show where I don’t know what to expect from each episode, except for it to be both entertaining and quite good. We see humanity, and we see humanity pushed to the limit. Then we see said humanity judged by someone with next to no understanding of what it is he observes, which the show is aware of. We see judgments, and sometimes we do not. We see slices of lives, of the people judged, and of the judges. What is the true focus of the show? To show us slices of humanity? To show us the judgment, and make us think what decisions we would have made in their place? To try and understand the inhuman and quite child-like Decim behind his cold facade?
The show is half-episodic, in a manner reminiscent of Mushishi and Shigofumi, so each episode may not have the same goals as the others, and some episodes exist mostly to have us reconsider our thoughts from prior episodes. And it’s all very much worth your time.
Episodes Watched: 6/12.
Current Rating: A. Every episode had been good, and many of them had been good in different ways. Highly recommended.
Last Week – Episode 6: Ginti’s bar. Ginti makes a mockery of the judgment, and we don’t even see how it turns out in the end. Ginti also acts in a manner that could only be described as hypocritical, not caring for others’ names but making a point out of them not calling his(?) cat by its name. This episode was very much about the arbitrary nature of the game, and how over the top lives can be, and how fun.
Durarara!!x2 Shou (Second Season Part 2):
“More of the same” is often used as a pejorative, when something’s been tired the second time we’ve come across it, and we can hardly recall the 20th. But sometimes, “more of the same” is exactly what one wishes for, and that is the case for me with Durarara!!. I absolutely loved Durarara!!’s first half to bits, with how much it’s been about the feeling of a big and breathing world that welcomes you, that makes you a part of an ever-changing tapestry. Durarara!! returns with even more characters, each unique in their own way, without them feeling either out of place with the rest of the cast, or feeling like one-dimensional caricatures.
Durarara!! is a master-class in presenting multiple interwoven storylines. I often feel after an episode as if I watched three, not that anything was rushed, but rather, that so much went on, and yet each bit feels as if it received the time it deserved.
Episodes Watched: 6/12-13 (tri-cour, so 36-39 episodes in total)
Current Rating: A+. If you’ve watched Durarara!! and liked it (how could you not?), then watch this. If you haven’t watched Durarara!!, then I strongly suggest you do.
You can read all of my post-episode gushing on the show here.
Last Week – Episode 6: Not the episode I expected, to be honest. After the way episode 5 ended, I expected this episode to be quite high on action, but instead we kept setting the situation up, introducing even more characters. But this being Durarara!!, it was quite fine. Here are my lengthier thoughts on this episode.
It’s very much a question of tone. One could see this as the post-Welcome to the N.H.K. show, of what happens when you actually graduate and enter, or try to enter, the working adult life. It could even be seen as a depressing show, showing you how if you rise to the task and work hard, you mostly get saddled with extra work, and how you’ll have co-workers who will coast through life, dumping even more work on your lap, or actively try to subvert your efforts. In that sense, Shirobako is a no-nonsense shows that faces you with many of the characters and situations you will face in your adult life, likely as not.
But the characters rise up to the challenge, the art style is crisp, and the overall attitude is one of “We can do it!” – It’s not always easy to watch, it’s not always “fun”, but this show, which straddles the line between “actual slice of life” and drama (and is mostly a drama), is one of the most consistent shows I’ve watched in a long while. Highly recommended if you liked Hanasaku Iroha, or try that one if you like this.
Episodes Watched: 18/24.
Current Rating: A. P.A. Works deliver a drama that reminds me a lot of Hanasaku Iroha, and is as good. That’s high praise. Also quite realistic in its lessons.
Last Week – Episode 18: Continuing the trend, things seem to go well, until more minor catastrophes arise. No, it’s never outside of someone’s control, which is the point, it’s always someone who can’t handle the stress, and flakes out. This is what Shirobako is about most weeks, but it still feels fresh, just as each minor catastrophe in our own lives feels entirely separate from prior ones. The signs were on the wall, here, especially with a studio called “Titanic”, but you try to not notice them, you hope against hope things will turn out well, and then you try to muster through when they don’t.
Assassination Classroom / Ansatsu Kyoushitsu:
This show is a weaker Great Teacher Onizuka (GTO). What was the entire backstory in GTO is reduced to a single episode here. The show’s not very funny, and it’s not at all clever, as it hits you over the head with how a bunch of looked down-on kids find solace from their teacher, an alien who threatens to destroy Earth if they do not assassinate him, and the mutual comfort and understanding betweeen two groups of outsiders. This show is as subtle as a brick to the head, which is to be expected with Seiji Kishi as the director (DanganRonpa, Hamatora, Angel Beats!), but I still find it amusing enough, entertaining enough, and with enough heart to not have dropped it yet.
Episodes Watched: 5/22.
Current Rating: B-. It’s the weakest show in this group, and I should be watching other stuff instead, but I enjoy it enough, and sometimes that’s what matters.
Last Week – Episode 5: The kids are really killers, and the show reminds us of it once more, that you can’t raise kids as killers without it somehow affecting their personalities. The Dean of the school stands for the “Order and Logic” of using scapegoats, and conflict is a-brewing.
Junketsu no Maria / Maria the Virgin Witch:
A show to complement Maoyu Maou Yuusha, one of the shows I was most fond of from the past few years. There are those who make their living off of war, and when you help one group, you happen to harm another. Even if you were to stop a pack of marauding mercenaries, you either unleash them on another part of the country, or you force those you saved to become their killers. Maria is a show focusing on this question on one hand, and a small cast of characters on the other. No one is a villain, and no one is a saint. Everyone’s just trying to help the world as best as they can, while fighting their own insecurities. The art is often off-character, but the voice acting is solid.
Episodes Watched: 6/?.
Current Rating: B. Worth a watch, though I’m not entirely sure what it is we’re getting, or where it’s going, exactly.
Last Week – Episode 6: Truth can be used as a weapon, and as Maria’s secrets become known to others, they may get used against her. This episode also put on center stage the fact this isn’t just a fight about ideals as goals, but ideals as means. Maria wishes for peace, and she could attain peace by agreeing to what should be one last large-scale slaughter, but peace isn’t a goal, peace is the means so people will no longer get hurt. Having people get hurt in order to obtain the ideal of “people should not get hurt” sits wrong with Maria, even as the stakes are affirmed once more, by Michael’s visitation. Episode 5 didn’t have much to discuss, except that everyone has a dream, and people’s dreams collide – which is why Heaven doesn’t intervene, how do you act when two people make contradictory requests of you?
Log Horizon 2nd Season:
Log Horizon’s pacing was never the greatest, not even in the first handful episodes of the first season. Some episodes are just there for us to spend time with the characters, while nothing happens, not even further progression of their relationships. Some episodes, we touch on how the “wage gap” in Akihabara might yet break down the social cohesion keeping everything working together, and the characters aren’t sure how to solve it, with socialism versus libertarian discussions being espoused by various characters. And some episodes, we progress with the plot, introducing the various ways the author thought of how a game-world turned real would behave.
And that mix is what Log Horizon is. The focus is usually on the characters, the pacing often leaves quite a bit to be desired, but if you’ve made it thus far, you know what you’re in for. The good episodes are very much worth the price of entry, and the cast is likeable enough that there are worse things to spend time on than spending it with them.
Episodes Watched: 19/25.
Current Rating: B-. This show is the definition of “s(t)olid”, with some brighter moments, but often held down by its stolid pacing.
Last Week – Episode 19: Where did Nureha disappear off to? I expected Tohya to face off against her, but instead he’s facing off against people who wish to die, while Minori spoke to someone who just might be a deity in this world. A lot sure happened this episode, with a focus on how things could go if this were Sword Art Online and one couldn’t die – a death cult arises, which tries to return to the other world via the only way they can, the memories as they die. We have a Person of the Land even remark on how immortals can’t understand their own struggles, and this is all contrasted with William Massachusetts’s take, on how to some this world is merely a digression from the real one. We’re cooking with gasoline, and it came out of left field, honestly.
Parasyte: The Maxim / Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakuritsu:
Parasyte is a series exploring Shinichi’s descent to horror, him dealing with an impossible situation, and how his psyche is strained and sometimes broken. Sadly, over the last segment, the show seems to have fallen onto one of the biggest issues anime series can run into, which usually arise around episodes 13-19, the issue where they have too many episodes for the story they wish to portray. Unlike many others, I’m not actually opposed to the pacing of the tale, as we explore how Shinichi truly loses control, step by step, but you do feel as if some episodes are just sort of… there, and you could describe the events and even mannerisms in that handful of characters in a couple of sentences. In some ways, you can feel this show is made by the people responsible for Hunter x Hunter (2011), and would probably hold up better when marathoned.
Overall, it’s another psychology-horror show with super-heroics of the Batman and Spiderman sort peppered on top, done quite competently, if not extraordinarily.
Episodes Watched: 18/24.
Current Rating: B-.
Last Week – Episode 18: This episode epitomized how this show suffers from its episodic format (where I mean it’s released as distinct episodes, not that each episode stands on its own). The mid-section of the episode concluded Tamiya Ryoko’s arc, and we’ve had the ED play. This segment obviously needed to be at the end of an episode. But they wanted episode 17 to end on a cliff-hanger, and episode 18 to end on another, so rather than actually have two episodes that tell a complete episode each, we’ve been given two episodes that each tell two halves of two different stories. At least it feels progress is now once more upon us. The content in episode 18 was all good, mind, but the way it’s been handled wasn’t.
Try Harder Please:
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders: Cairo Arc:
This show being in this section isn’t necessarily because of how bad the show is, but because “Please try harder” is exactly what I wish to say to the show. Some episodes, especially the Oingo Boingo one, and to a lesser degree the first Anubis episode had been quite enjoyable, but others had been “more of the same of what I found incredibly dull in the first half of Stardust Crusaders,” namely unexciting “battle of the week” against enemy Stand users. There needs to be more levity, or more “awesome cool shit” happening, but JoJo seems too content too much of the time just being “JoJo”. It often feels as if Stardust Crusaders isn’t JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, but a show aping JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. Overall, it’s still better than the first half, but it’s not as a whole, but because of episodes that are better on their own.
Episodes Watched: 6/? (30/? if you count as 2nd part).
Current Rating: C++/B–. Uneven.
Last Week – Episode 6/30: We meet Mariah. The going-ons had been entertaining enough, and we had Polnareff’s usual shtick, with which I identify strongly, that of wanting clean toilets, mirrored by Joseph. The best part about this episode is we have silly old-man Joseph at the focus, without Polnareff, Kakyoin, and the other, lesser clowns :P
Tokyo Ghoul √A (Root A, Second Season):
Terrible art, focusing on minor characters rather than on the main character, why he’s done what he’s done, or even how it affects his old friends, or how everything will proceed once he meets up with them again, or when we learn what he’s going for. It’s as if season one ended, and rather than continue the story we’re actually getting a huge “Non-filler but focusing on anything but progress, or true character development” arc. It’s a master class in how to not do things, and the production being so pitiful doesn’t help it at all. In some ways it reminds me of the worst parts of Bleach, especially superficially on the plot level, with how people observe and remark from afar. There’s very little to recommend here.
Episodes Watched: 6/12.
Current Rating: D+. It has some moments I like. Few and far between.
Last Week – Episode 6: Talk of being promoted, “I hate you, you’re why my father died.” – “I hate myself, my father wasn’t promoted because he had to take care of me!” – Every attempt at characterization in this episode felt beyond superficial.
Yuri Kuma Arashi / Love Bullet: Yuri Bear Storm:
This show’s on hold because my write-up for the second episode ended up as a 2,990 words-long monstrosity, then I fell behind, and the need to clear roughly 3 hours of my schedule to watch it meant it kept falling back, and as more episodes appeared, this became ever likelier. I think Ikuhara shows benefit from being watched in one go, rather than being drawn out week after week, so watching it after it ends is an idea that I find appealing.
What of the show itself? Its first couple of episodes weren’t very good, not necessarily as anime episodes, but as the first two episodes – they didn’t introduce a plot hook to draw us in, they didn’t introduce characters for us to care about, or even be very interested in. It was a pretty cold affair, all in all, much in love with symbolism. Symbolism I felt I had a good grasp of after the first episode, and felt spelled out in the second episode. Interestingly enough, from what I hear from others, they now tire of the symbolism as it’s impossible to miss it as it keeps getting hammered at them, but the characters are finally being fleshed out properly.
Episodes Watched: 2/12.
Current Rating: B-. Definitely a show that takes its time, the rating is very preliminary.
The Rolling Girls:
A show that started explosively, but like Yuri Kuma Arashi, without actually letting us know either what it’d be about, or anything about its characters. The third episode finally introduced the show proper to us, and it was quite underwhelming, for lack of a better word. It’s hard to judge a show based on merely one episode, but I was just busy with other things, and haven’t returned to the show yet.
Episodes Watched: 3/?.
Current Rating: B-.
Kantai Collection / KanColle:
Perfectly fine “cute girls being cute” shows that just isn’t for me. I was just terribly bored and unentertained. I’m not a masochist, and I don’t get paid for this, so I won’t be watching more.
Episodes Watched: 1/?
Rating: Poi/10. (Ok/10)
Koufuku Graffiti / Gourmet Girl Graffiti:
Better “cute girls being cute” than KanColle, but with even less scenes that I’m not bored in. Coupled with more “I will be a good wife! I will mother my fellow character!” from 8th grader girls. Not for me. Also, how heavy Shaft is pushing the porn-like qualities of the food-gasms doesn’t do anything to endear the show to me. I find it neither cute nor clever, though Shaft often think themselves oh-so-clever.
Episodes Watched: 1/12.
Rating: Fine, for those who like this type of show.
Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata / How to Train the Ordinary Girl to be a Heroine:
Episode 0 was an OVA, a terrible fan-service OVA. Such OVAs often rely on us already liking the cast, which wasn’t present here. Then episode 1 came and continued with the worst indulgences of the OVA, with hammering us over the head with how clever and meta-aware the show is. Except, the show kept poking fun at how unoriginal its premise and characters are, which did not make its cast any more endearing, or its premise any less unoriginal. It was “not terrible”, but when that’s the best I can say of a show, then I can do better things with my time.
Episodes Watched: 1/11 + Episode 0.
Rating: D-. This is bad, and I wasn’t looking for much.
Overall thoughts on the season:
The “Good” and “Average” groups had been grouped together in this season. On the positive side, it means that even the so-called “average” things I’m watching are quite good. On the negative side, it means even the so-called “good” things I’m watching are closer to average than actually standing out.
But I’m not really complaining. Three shows I love and look forward each and every week, and a handful other shows I find myself enjoying almost every week, even if there’s nothing special about them? I’d take it, I’d take it and run. As for the truly terrible shows, I chuckled at the reports from people who watched them, as I knew they’d be terrible and avoided them altogether (Absolute Duo, Testament of New Sister Devil, Fafner, etc.). And yeah, sad Tokyo Ghoul Root A crashed and burned, but it happens.
Today’s question should be obvious: With the anime midseason upon us, how do you feel about this season as a whole?