Mid-season of the anime season of Spring 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. This season I decided to pick up less shows than usual, and hold off what I expected will be “averagish”, so let’s see how it panned out.
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.
OreGairu Season 2 (SNAFU Too!):
If you keep at things for long enough, things will boil over and drama will ensue. The light atmospheric comedy of the first season is rarely seen, and instead Hikigaya Hachiman is brought to task over the way he “solves” things. It’s as if the finale to the Cultural Festival arc was stretched into an entire season. Yes, Hachiman is still allowed to perform his “cool martyr” act, and people who really want to can still believe it’s everyone around him who sucks, but the show, and Hachiman know it’s he who suffers. A very sharp take on human interaction and loneliness. If you liked the first season for “cool Hachiman” and the more standard RomCom antics, you might be disappointed, but otherwise? Pretty great.
Episodes Watched: 6/13.
Current Rating: A+. All but one episode were at least as strong as the strongest episode in the first season. It’s amazing they’ve managed to keep it up thus far.
Last Week – Episode 6: Well, the weakest episode of the season, and the one most similar to the first season, both in terms of relying on comedy and in how much it reminded one of the Cultural Festival Arc’s beginning. And yes, it was very funny. The content was quite “cloying”, which leaked to make the episode feel slow and unfocused as well. Guess sometimes you need setup episodes. Full write-up.
Kekkai Sensen (Blood Blockade Battlefront):
Each episode stands on its own, which is a bit bemusing since each episode ends in a manner that makes you feel as if it contains so much more, and as if we just touched on what will be a big arc to come, only for it to fade away into nothingness. It does help give the feeling that Hellsalem’s Lot is a busy place, full of risks and dangers, but it also leaves things a bit lacking. The 5th episode helped me pinpoint it, it’s as if there aren’t any stakes, any real consequences to whatever happens, including people’s deaths. Almost like watching a Marvel Universe film.
But the ride is enjoyable. Beautiful shots, well-directed sequences. It’s very enjoyable, but it lacks the something extra to make it special, especially as it gives us the same content every week. Leonardo and White’s relationship is at least giving the show some emotional weight, alongside continuation. Thus far, it feels more like episodes in the first half of older 24-episode shows, but does it have the episode count to actually rise above being a collection of enjoyable vignettes that might not leave any deeper mark?
Episodes Watched: 5/12 (yes, an episode behind)
Current Rating: B+. It’s beautiful, and it’s well-handled. It’s fun, and sometimes funny. But it also lacks that something extra to make it more than a fleeting memory of a brilliant director showing us how well she can spin entertainment. Also, when every episode is so similar to the last, it’s hard to appreciate any high moments.
Knights of Sidonia Season 2 (Sidonia no Kishi: Daikyuu Wakusei Seneki / Knights of Sidonia: Battle for Planet Nine):
I’m not caught up on this fully, but this season is really starting with a bang, and things just keep on happening, from a military coup by a “good guy”, an old nemesis coming back and working with the heroes, as well as an attempt to finally wipe out humanity’s old enemy, one that had destroyed forces much greater than what humanity can bring to bear right now. An all or nothing gambit.
Yes, the focus above is very much on “plot”, but Sidonia, at its core, is a plot-driven shounen, and when the plot keeps going at this pace, not with cliffhangers, but with changes that bring about extra action and open episodes rather than close them, you gotta appreciate it. Of course, being a shounen, we’re also getting all the girls going after Tanikaze, be they girls, hermaphrodites, clones, or 60 ft tall half-human monsters. We also get to see Tanikaze walk in on girls changing and everyone blushing. I guess you can’t get it all in anime.
Episodes Watched: 3/12 (2 episodes behind).
Current Rating: B. Sidonia is back with a bang, and although there are quite a bit of “Animeisms” (that feel weird at times with the full CGI), it’s still an engaging ride to watch.
Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma:
A standard shounen, full with poses, a protagonist that’s looked down upon and strives to prove his worth. The protagonist, Yukihira Soma, is actually ridiculously strong, and him smacking about everyone else comes off as almost a foregone conclusion thus far, which makes this show feel more like a light novel adaptation rather than a manga one, and which removes any semblance of weight from the plot, especially since there’s little in the stakes or characters to have you feel invested.
What there is instead to keep our attention are extravagant food presentations which don’t really make me hungry – it’s not that you feel amazed by the food, but that they oversell it massively, and fan-service, especially in regards to the food’s effect on people. It’s so extreme it feels as if “Show, don’t tell” went so wild it went back to being “tell”. Yes, food-cooking isn’t extreme, but as a result, they made it even more extreme than most shounen super-moves, and there’s only one speed to everything – everything is over the top, meaning nothing stands out.
Episodes Watched: 6/24.
Current Rating: C+. It’s a standard shounen with little to differentiate it, and it tries so hard on what there is that it sometimes backfires.
Last Week – Episode 6: A training episode! A shounen mainstay. But it seems finally the “battles” will start.
Ore Monogatari!! (MY love STORY!!):
This is ye olde shoujo RomCom, complete with misunderstandings on how people just don’t communicate, bubbles of innocence, a slightly less than popular main character and a cipher MC. It’s just that the main character is a super strong and popular with the boys dude, and the love interest is a cute girl. But once you peel that, you’re left with a truly adorable Romantic Comedy that is slightly funnier than average, with a best friend who often steals the show (as is often the case, because the main characters aren’t allowed to progress much), but which also feels padded in the extreme.
The main love interest being a non-character is even more of an eyesore in this show, because she doesn’t really drive anything to happen. Likewise, Takeo, for being 6 episodes in, is still very “flat” in his depiction as beyond “Nice and Positive Guy”. And with two of the three main characters being so one-dimensional, it makes sense that the show relies more and more on (physical) comedy, because you need actual characters for romance.
Episodes Watched: 6/24.
Current Rating: B-. Cute show, but pretty standard as shoujo RomComs go. It’ll make you go “Squee!” at how cute it is, but the actual relationship and “plot” are barely there, thus far.
Try Harder Please:
Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works 2nd Season:
This show’s first season was at its best when it gives us delicious fights and surprisingly, when Shirou and Rin get to have moments where they idle about and get to act out their little RomCom. It was at its worst when it tried to tackle its themes, because its characters and writing could not support it, or when its characters pulled out all the chuuni stops (talking as if they’re great and terrible villains), as epitomized in episode 7 through Caster. Sadly, this season had nary a fight, and a whole lot of Caster’s overwrought lines in every scene she is in.
Furthermore, the writing turned Rin into a one-note tsundere even as every other character deprotagonizes her by talking over her and ignoring her ability to act. The writing also leaned very heavily on empathy for Illya and Caster, without actually building the emotional basis for these scenes, so the entire run up to this part just felt emotionally lacking, or even falling into bathos.
Episodes Watched: 6/13 (18/25 if you count as 2nd part).
Current Rating: C. When you take away your strengths and lean on your weaknesses, it’s not a pretty point. It’s ye olde “shounen show which wanted to be a seinen” situation.
Last Week – Episode 6(18): A lot of posturing between Gilgamesh and Archer, and Saber and Archer. Talk of ideas, and Shinji just being the little shitter that he is. We finally hear of Archer’s backstory, and how he went from his current form to where he ended up. This was narrated almost exclusively by Rin, so it was all tell and very little shown, but it still worked, somewhat, because what we did see was the effect it left on Rin. Not the most subtle way to go about things, but it wasn’t terrible. Of course, we’re left with Shirou “taking responsibility”.
What sort of show does this wish to be? One that explores the themes of morality and mortality of humans in modern society by way of using replaceable parents/workers by analogy of robots? A serious drama about the loss of someone whose time is nearly up and creating memories with them? Or perhaps just a standard comedy with uneven but slightly above comedic timing that deals with workplace/romance situations and hijinks?
Plastic Memories wants to be all these things, to the detriment of each of those. Even if you like how the show handles each of them separately, the show weaves them together in a manner that’s detrimental to each other. Bad comedy breaks apart solid drama, and serious high-stake action comes out of nowhere.
Episodes Watched: 6/13.
Current Rating: C. When this show works, it hits A, but all too often it weaves between B to D.
Last Week – Episode 6: The drama after dealing with the Wanderer. Some touching scenes showing Isla’s past, and her waiting for Tsukasa in the dorm, as well as the subtext of wanting to create memories together. But between the good first few minutes and last few minutes, we’ve had a segment over half the episode long dealing with two girls stalking a boy, entering his shower, etc. What a mess.
Arslan Senki (The Heroic Legend of Arslan):
A grand fantasy tale. It suffers from some production values dips, but it’s not the big issue. The reason it’s on hold is because while I like this sort of show, very little actually happens week by week, and just getting everyone together and deciding on what you want done is a project that’d take several episodes during which you might be politely bored. I’m a fan of this type of show, but it just doesn’t lend itself well to weekly watching, and is heavily reliant on what happens once things start rolling, so I’ll put it aside, for now.
Episodes Watched: 3/25.
Current Rating: C+.
Assassination Classroom (Ansatsu Kyoushitsu):
I just sort of tired of this show, after episode 13 which was so blunt, even by this show’s standards, and which compressed what could’ve been a meaningful arc into a single episode, and even there, kept shouting at us its messages, and how the abusive teacher was abusive and ended up as a caricature. Eh. I might come back to it, but this show is doing what so many other shows do better.
Episodes Watched: 13/22.
Current Rating: C.
When a work’s author has to tell the audience his show will have a major plot-twist in the 6th episode, you have to wonder. It means the author doesn’t trust his work to be good enough to maintain people’s interest up to that point on its own. Punchline is all over the place, with a lot of energy and a great visual punch, and sometimes it even hints at understanding characters and drama. Sadly, all of this is buried under a lot of “I’m so random! But not really!” or non-joke bullshit.
I often waffle whether this should be marked as “dropped”, because even if this show ends up with a lot of great content, there’s just too much hot shit one has to wade through to get there (and I keep up with what people say of the show, and it appears it didn’t change, up to episode 5). And it just might not be worth it. An analogy would be that this show is all about Samurai Flamenco’s Guillotine Gorilla, but without the preceding episodes that actually make you care about the characters and the situation.
Episodes Watched: 2/11.
Current Rating: D. It has moments where things work, which make all the rest of the drivel even worse, because you know it can work. It just doesn’t want to.
Denpa Kyoshi (Ultimate Otaku Teacher):
Bad voice actors, good voice actors delivering bad work, abominable art and animation, a show that doesn’t actually make use of a dramatic arc it’s been building, unfunny unjokes – and not that many of them. That’s what’s wrong with the show. There’s nothing right with it.
Episodes Watched: 2/?.
Rating: F-. This is as bad as it gets. Avoid.
Overall thoughts on the season:
My goal was to try and avoid the shows that’d end up “Standard” or “average” and use the time on worthier shows from my backlog. How did I do? So-so. Punchline and Plastic Memories were my most speculative picks, and while Plastic Memories has moments of greatness, and Punchline may yet have an amazing second half, neither panned out the best. Neither did Denpa Kyoshi, which was my pick that I knew I shouldn’t make.
I’m overall not very pleased with this season. It’s not just that I’m lacking things that are great, but I’m also lacking things that are very enjoyable. Part of it is that while Kekkai Sensen is very enjoyable, it doesn’t really know how to shift modes to make its high feel any different, and that some of the shows I’m watching, such as Fate/Stay Night and Plastic Memories are just dragging everything down. Even OreGairu, which is good, isn’t terribly enjoyable. Ore Monogatari and Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma both make me smile and laugh, but both ended up being “standard,” and when they try too hard to be unstandard (by extra cuteness and over the top, respectively), it actually makes them lose out on some of what they do.
What’s the solution? Obviously, to make use of this extra time I’ve been afforded (and more would be afforded if I dropped Plastic Memories and Food Wars!, which I probably should) and actually watch my backlog, which is one of the reasons I even did this. But I’ve been busy with schoolwork so it didn’t work out yet. I’ll probably catch up on Sound! Euphonium before the season is over which, judging by what others are saying, would’ve elevated my weekly watching quality by quite a bit.
To sum it up – I tried to only watch above average shows, most shows I picked still ended up being average. This season isn’t terrible, because it’s still making me laugh and smile, and it also has some good action, and even a great drama, but I’ve seen better seasons, and my enjoyment levels from this season feel lacking.
Today’s question should be obvious: With the anime midseason upon us, how do you feel about this season as a whole?