suntzuanime

A thoughtful response to current anime.

Threshing Summer 2014

From Wikipedia: “Threshing is the process of loosening the edible part of cereal grain (or other crop) from the scaly, inedible chaff that surrounds it. It is the step in grain preparation after harvesting and before winnowing, which separates the loosened chaff from the grain.” You can’t winnow the wheat from the chaff based on just one episode, or you risk missing out on shows like Tatami Galaxy and Shiki. But you can at least get some idea. Below are some ideas, sorted in increasing order of how much potential the shows seem to have based on their first episodes. (I have done my best to translate show titles to English, but some of them just seem like random strings of syllables.)

14: Seirei Tsukai no Blade Dance (Blade Dance of the Spirit-Users)

Accidentally walking in on a girl bathing is an unforgivable plot device.

Accidentally walking in on a girl bathing is an unforgivable plot device.

Taste my balls!

Taste my balls!

She might eat him.

She might eat him.

The world’s only male spirit-user ends up in an all-girl’s school for spirit-users. This show is a bad copy of fighting fantasy fanservice shows that weren’t all that great in the first place. Roughly half the runtime of the first episode was spent with either the male lead accidentally infringing on a maiden’s purity or else a maiden calling the male lead a pervert and trying to kill him. They crammed so much of that into the episode that it even bled over into parts that should have been dramatic. Like when the female lead went to try to bind a powerful spirit, and it tried to kill her to avoid being bound, the characters couldn’t even stop bickering with each other long enough to fight back, it was just like, the guy grabs the girl to pull her out of the way of a sword thrust and she shouts “why are you grabbing me, pervert?” and it makes the action scenes really hard to take seriously. The show went for some low comedy by having the girls at school humiliate him and treat him like just another spirit for them to enslave, but that’s mostly the same stuff we got in Zero no Tsukaima only in this show it’s not as well-executed. There are hints at a larger plot involving a prophecy or a conspiracy or something, but there are always hints like that in a show like this, and they never turn out to be worth a damn if the show isn’t good without them, which this show isn’t, it really isn’t at all.

13: Rail Wars

How much is that in football fields, help me out here.

How much is that in football fields, help me out here.

Huh Wow Really That Is Fascinating Please Tell Me More

Huh Wow Really That Is Fascinating Please Tell Me More

Despite the show's title, he did not proceed to rail her.

Despite the show’s title, he did not proceed to rail her.

Trainee train security officers have train-related escapades. Trains. I guess there are some people who really like trains, who spend thousands of dollars buying train-driving-simulator videogames with all the special DLC trains. Those people would probably like this show! Out of the three main points of dramatic conflict in the first episode, two of them were resolved by the protagonist remembering train-related minutiae. That’s great, if you find the finer points of steam engines and train timetables fascinating,  but I don’t. The third dramatic conflict was the stereotypical lame “guy accidentally grabs girl’s breast, man-hating harpy flips out and calls him a pervert” plotline, so there really isn’t much here for the train non-enthusiast. But if you want to watch trains go clickety-clack down the track and while anime characters who care almost as much about trains as you do talk about trains, go for it.

12: Hanayamata

If it helps, you're way younger than average.

If it helps, you’re way younger than average.

She sounds like she should be piloting a Gundam.

She sounds like she should be piloting a Gundam.

In America, this is just a normal way of saying "hello".

In America, this is just a normal way of saying “hello”.

A transfer middle-school student from America is really into traditional Japanese dance and pressures a wishy-washy girl into joining her dance club. I like the pastel pallete here with the cherry blossoms in full bloom, and the elegant dancing and the character designs fit in well with that. But when the characters open their mouths, it gets a lot harder to like them. The American girl is annoying and wacky and doesn’t have a good sense of boundaries (as expected from an American!). The Japan-native protagonist girl is annoying in her own way, because all she can talk about is how worthless and unspecial she is and how she’ll never amount to anything and doesn’t want to stand out (as expected from a Japanese?). In real life, people like this are at least quiet and withdrawn, so they’re easier to get along with than the wacky-annoying types, but since she’s the viewpoint character, we the audience get the self-loathing in full force repeated over and over again in inner monologue. The plot also doesn’t move very fast – the whole first episode was taken up by the American girl saying “dance with me” over and over, and the Japanese girl saying “no” over and over except for when she said “yes” at the end of the episode, in what I guess counts as the episode’s climax. The art is pretty, but I wish the artists were working with better writing than this.

11: Glasslip

Not even being subtle about tempting fate.

Not even being subtle about tempting fate.

What could *possibly* be more interesting than chickens?

What could *possibly* be more interesting than chickens?

In episode 2, they discover that bears really do shit in the woods.

In episode 2, they discover that bears really do shit in the woods.

Some friends are going to graduate high school. A slow, boring first episode. It sort of has the feeling of a slow and boring high-school summer vacation, so I’ll give them credit for capturing an emotion, but it’s not an emotion I especially want my anime to provide for me. Most of the “drama” in the episode revolved around taking care of the school chickens, but in the end nothing was resolved and everybody agreed that dealing with the chickens was pretty pointless. Again, you could argue that the chickens are a metaphor for high-schoolers, they don’t know what they hell they’re doing and dealing with them always makes you feel kind of ridiculous, but again, just because it’s a metaphor doesn’t make it enjoyable TV. Presumably the show is going to eventually go somewhere, the show is called “Glasslip” so presumably we’ll eventually get more than a couple throwaway frames of glassblowing, but from the first episode it’s hard to expect it to go anywhere very good. Even the art was disappointingly uneven – some of the character designs are pretty nice, but their reach obviously exceeded their grasp on the animation, leading to lavish scenes interspersed with obvious costcutting techniques. Late in the episode there was a dramatic freeze-frame manga shot used in an undramatic and utterly unfitting scene, presumably to save them the expense of animating it because they’d run out of budget halfway through the episode because they spent too much drawing pretty fireworks earlier. Not a good look.

10: Jinsei

True wisdom lies not in creating ever-more-powerful weapons of war, but rather in avoiding such pointless wars in the first place.

True wisdom lies not in creating ever-more-powerful weapons of war, but rather in avoiding such pointless wars in the first place.

What, you mean you can't?

What, you mean you can’t?

Wow, the Copenhagen Interpretation? Fucking dropped.

Wow, the Copenhagen Interpretation? Fucking dropped.

A boy edits his highschool newspaper’s life advice column, whose writers are three girls with clashing personalities. I’m a fan of this new developing genre “one boy in a club full of girls”, but I don’t think Jinsei is a very good entry in it. The key to the genre is the torment that the girls inflict on the guy, which might be lighthearted like in GJ-bu, or actually kind of meanspirited like in Seitokai no Ichizon. In this show, the girls seem too busy bickering amongst each other to put up a united front against the guy. Without the torment, it becomes essentially  just another harem show. In fact, my impression of the guy is that he’s even more passive than your average harem lead. This may be sensible from his perspective: if he took a more active role in their spats (I’d take an active role in her spats if you know what I mean), they’d rip him to shreds. But them ripping him to shreds would be more interesting to watch and funnier than having him just sit back and observe. And this show needs some help being funny. A lot of the time in the first episode they didn’t even seem to be trying to make jokes, it was like they were actually trying to explore issues and give life advice. Which is a funny joke, but not one I’ll give them credit for.

9: Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun (Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun)

What if he thinks you overthink things?!

What if he thinks you overthink things?!

The Anthropic Principle suggests the answer is yes.

The Anthropic Principle suggests the answer is yes.

If love can bloom on the battlefield, surely it can bloom on a tandem bicycle.

If love can bloom on the battlefield, surely it can bloom on a tandem bicycle.

A highschool boy who draws girls’ manga misinterprets the love confession of a girl in his same class, and she becomes his assistant. This show is ruined by its slow pacing. There were some decent jokes in the first episode – better manga-author jokes than last season’s Mangaka-san to Assistant-san to, especially the scene where the manga morality codes forbid a girl to ride on the back of a boy’s bike, and they brainstorm ways to get the same effect without running afoul of the law. But what Mangaka-san had that this show lacks is delivery. Mangaka-san would leap from one uninspired joke to the next fast enough that you might be surprised into a brief chuckle despite yourself. In this show, you have a laborious setup, a gag, and then a laborious joke-conclusion-period (“tsukomi”), which means that by the time the punchline comes, you’re already kind sick of the whole thing, and you won’t give the joke the laugh it deserves on paper. The sight gags in the show work pretty well, the animation is pretty reasonably done even if I don’t think much of the character designs. I don’t suppose the romance is going to go much of anywhere, which wouldn’t be a problem if there were enough comedy to support the show, but there isn’t, so it is.

8: Aldnoah Zero

Darn those Martian jerk bastards to heck!

Darn those Martian jerk bastards to heck!

You can't smudge enough dirt on those mechs to hide the shame of the CGI.

You can’t smudge enough dirt on those mechs to hide the shame of the CGI.

The same thing that happened to every generation since Egyptian kids were told that hauling stones to help build the Great Pyramid would look good on their college applications.

The same thing that happened to every generation since Egyptian kids were told that hauling stones to help build the Great Pyramid would look good on their college applications.

The fifteen years of uneasy peace between Earth and Mars are at an end, and they must now fight each other with robots again. I’m trying very hard not to get suckered into another weakass mecha show just because Urobochi’s name is connected to it, after the disappointment that was Suisei no Gargantia. If you ignore the Madoka and Fate/Zero connection, the first episode was pretty forgettable. There was a lot of infodumping about the history of Earth and Mars, and it wasn’t handled very well. If you’ve gotta give me a history lesson, just cut the crap and straight-up give me a history lesson. Shin Sekai Yori did it and it worked. What doesn’t work is to have your characters casually tell each other the relevant bits of history, interspersed throughout an episode, because A) it makes for unrealistic dialogue (how often do you find yourself discussing the geopolitical context of the War on Terror in an average day?) and B) it’s an inefficient way of providing information. The history lesson format evolved to compress and distribute historical information; if they had sucked it up and done a documentary-style opening for the episode, we could have gotten the necessary context out of the way in the first 5 minutes, rather than sitting through 15 boring minutes of people talking alternatively about having eggs for breakfast and the history of Earth-Mars relations. The show looks nice, and the action scene we got as a reward for sitting through the boring crap was appropriately exciting, but the low-quality infodumping makes me worry about the quality of the show’s writing going forward, and knowing that Urobochi is involved does not comfort me like it once would have.

7: Akame ga Kill (Cut by Akame/Killed by Akame [pun])

It's good for young people to dream big.

It’s good for young people to dream big.

#NotAllWomen

#NotAllWomen

Nonbasic lands are Mountains.

Nonbasic lands are Mountains.

A brave adventurer heads off to the Big City to seek his fortune but it turns out the Big City is full of decadence and horror and he ends up working with a gang of assassins. There’s not much not to dislike about this show – it seems like a pretty standard adventure story, the purehearted lad taking a stand to overthrow the evil minister that corrupted the king. Maybe with a bit more darkness and gore than the standard story of that type. The main character is likeable, if a bit naive, and while we haven’t really been properly introduced to the members of Night Raid yet, many of them are girls with swords who cut things. On the other hand, there’s not much to like about the show either. It’s a pretty standard adventure story, and it shows no signs of ambition to rise above the stock tropes of its genre, except maybe by adding a bit more blood. None of the characters are offensive, but none of them are interesting. The dialogue and plot move along at a decent clip, but their movements are too predictable. They set up the horror and decadence of the capital as a big reveal at the end of the first episode, but they sort of spoiled it by telling us about it at the beginning of the episode. The animation looks nice, that’s about all I can say. Good craftsmanship, but I don’t see any real artistic value here.

6: Ao Haru Ride (Blue Spring Ride)

#NotAllBoys

#NotAllBoys

She better not let her girlfriends catch her with a stuffed bear that cute.

She better not let her girlfriends catch her with a stuffed bear that cute.

I prefer to think of myself as "a good value".

I prefer to think of myself as “a good value”.

A high-school girl is reunited with her middle-school crush who moved away after a misunderstanding. But things have changed between them. The premise here is just a standard romance story, with decent enough writing and art, but the interesting thing is the female lead. She’s cute, but in fact she’s too cute and it makes the other girls get jealous and be mean to her, so she deliberately sabotages her own cuteness, keeping her head down to avoid Tall Poppy Syndrome and get along with her friends. It’s an interesting and somewhat horrifying dynamic, and it will be interesting to see how she revises her image now that there’s a boy around that gives her the doki-dokis that she might actually want to attract, how far she’s willing to push her luck. The male lead, unfortunately, doesn’t seem to have anything so interesting going on. He’s just that cool-and-uncaring alternating-cruel-and-kind bishounen stereotype that’s basically the shoujo equivalent of a moe-blob. Hopefully they’ll develop him more in later episodes. In a romance it’s ideal for both characters to be interesting, but if only one can be, it shouldn’t be the protagonist.

5: Majimoji Rurumo ([pun on “magic” and the onomatapoeia for behaving shyly] Rurumo)

They're not just any panties! They have little pictures of apples on them!

They’re not just any panties! They have little pictures of apples on them!

Fitting that a witch would hang out with a monster of legend.

Fitting that a witch would hang out with a monster of legend.

Did it hurt? You know, when you fell from heaven?

Did it hurt? You know, when you fell from heaven?

A highschool boy summons a witch and the two are bound by a contract that trades her magic power for his life force. The female lead in this show is adorable, a shy witch with a pointy hat bigger than she is, who screws things up sometimes but will stoically accept the consequences, even if it means a century in hell-prison. The male lead lead is not as likable. OK, sure, they never are in this sort of sudden-girlfriend-appearance show, but the male lead’s basically just a wacky pervert archetype, without the self-awareness of the guy from Sora no Otoshimono, or the clever rascality of the guy from Henneko, or really any attempt at depth of personality. The comedy in the first episode was on the low end of acceptable, as well. Some of it was solid, like the extended sequence where the male lead learns the female lead isn’t wearing panties and contrives a series of increasingly farcical excuses to look up her skirt, but many of the jokes were just the male lead being loud and lewd without any additional humorous content. The humor might improve as the characters grow more developed and the show can start playing off their characteristics instead of cheap bawdiness. I’m just a little worried that they might not bother developing the male lead at all. I don’t want to watch 12 episodes of him yelling about panties.

4: Tokyo Ghoul

I'll take a hamburger... and eat it!

I’ll take a hamburger… and eat it!

Sono me, dare no me?

Sono me, dare no me?

I'm hoping it's "scraps".

I’m hoping it’s “scraps”.

A highschool boy is attacked by a man-eating ghoul. After surviving the attack, he discovers that he’s becoming a ghoul himself. This show strikes a balance between horror as gore and horror as existential crisis. The gore is decently-enough animated but not really intellectually stimulating; ghouls just rip the poor undefended humans apart with their teeth or tentacles or whatever, or super-ghouls do the same to ordinary ghouls. There wasn’t anything resembling a proper fight scene with back-and-forth tension in the first episode, although maybe that will change in the future. What the first episode did do well was the more psychological horror, as the protagonist felt himself changing inexorably into a ghoul. The first five or so minutes of the episode were devoted to the protagonist just being an ordinary boy enjoying his youth, and that gave depth to his transformation – you could see what is life was, and what it became, and the gap between them. It also set up the character of his best friend, and the parts where his friend tried to get in touch with him after his transformation and he had to avoid him while shaking in horror and ravenous hunger were properly heartbreaking. If the protagonist gets over the whole “eating people” issue and the show turns into super-ghouls battling with magic powers, I’ll be  really disappointed after this emotionally affecting start.

3: Zankyou no Terror (Echoing Terror)

His face lights up at the thought of poison gas.

His face lights up at the thought of poison gas.

This is just good advice in general.

This is just good advice in general.

Frickin' millennials can't even enjoy blowing up a building without posting it on Instagram.

Frickin’ millennials can’t even enjoy blowing up a building without posting it on Instagram.

Two high school boys are terrorists. A bullied girl in their class gets caught up in their terror plots. This show wants us to accept these terrorists as protagonists. There have been shows that have tried that gambit before, but in the case of Excel Saga and Sekai Seifuku it was played for laughs, and in Code Geass they were righteously resisting the Brittanian occupation forces. In this show they are actually blowing up actual buildings owned by the actual presumably-legitimate government of Japan. There have been some hints at something in their background that might justify this, but until we know what it is, we’re being asked to take the viewpoint of people just randomly blowing up buildings and not going to a huge effort not to hurt civillians either. It helps that they’re personally likable. The banter between the playful terrorist and the cold, serious terrorist is adorable, and they rescued a girl from being bullied, which on your karma scorecard has to cancel out at least a few indiscriminate bombings. The art is good, the dramatic scenes are full of tension, and the snowmobile chase at the beginning of the episode was exciting even if it hasn’t yet been properly explained. I’ll be watching and waiting for an explanation; I hope it’s a good one.

2: Sabagebu (Survival Game Club)

Playing with toys is fun!

Playing with toys is fun!

Playing with toys is fun!

Playing with toys is fun!

This show really doesn't have the animation level necessary to make fanservice worthwhile, I'm afraid.

This show really doesn’t have the animation level necessary to make fanservice worthwhile, I’m afraid.

A girl transfers to a new highschool and gets shanghai’d into the club for shooting pellet guns at each other. The premise of this show is more or less identical to last year’s C3-bu. C3-bu started out light and fun, but eventually got bogged down in drama, turning from a funny show about girls with fake guns into just yet another sports anime. I don’t think that this show will go down that path. It’s got a lot more aggressive wackiness, including a Hayate-no-Gotoku style postmodern narrator making snarky remarks about the goings-on. And the show couldn’t really support a turn for the serious – the only genre that can survive art and animation this bad is comedy. They have to fill their gunbattles with gags about shooting each other’s tits off, because they aren’t animating the action well enough for it to be exciting on its own. Fortunately, this is a comedy, and it’s got funny characters, good jokes, and solid pacing, and so long as it stays that way, the neglect to the animation budget isn’t a dealbreaker. The main character is especially likeable. Rather than being a hapless sufferer of the schemes of the other members of the Survival Games club, she fights and schemes right back, and that’s much more interesting to watch. It’s also a much richer source of jokes, since the jokes don’t all have to be at her expense. It is a pity that her pink hair is being wasted on animation this bad, though.

1: Barakamon

Hot-blooded fighting anime Barakamon

Hot-blooded fighting anime Barakamon.

The people of this village are very wise.

The people of this village are very wise.

The people of this village are very wise.

The people of this village are very wise.

An up-and-coming calligrapher gets mad and punches out a respected elder, and has to retreat to an obscure island full of simple folk while he waits for the heat to die down. Sort of like a cross between Non Non Biyori and Nodame Cantabile, I guess, with the countryside playing the role of Nodame in taming the tempestuous heart of the uptight artiste.  Watching a high-flying city-boy’s pride get punctured by simple rural folk wisdom is a classic source of comedy, and one I was disappointed we didn’t see much of in Non Non Biyori because the girl from the city acclimated too fast. This show doesn’t have as much gorgeous scenery as Non Non Biyori, but the main character’s interactions with the villagers and especially the annoying village children show a fair bit of depth to the characters, which is something Non Non Biyori really lacked. I found it easy to like every character they introduced in the first episode, and I look forward to watching Handa’s redemption guided by the friendly open-hearted people of the village.

 

So this season looks pretty good! Especially considering that it’s a summer season, although I’m starting to doubt that those old stereotypes about all the good anime airing in the spring or fall hold true anymore. There’s fully four shows this season I’m actually excited to watch, and as many as five more that could conceivably turn out decent.  Better than we’ve seen in a long time.

Threshing Spring 2014

From Wikipedia: “Threshing is the process of loosening the edible part of cereal grain (or other crop) from the scaly, inedible chaff that surrounds it. It is the step in grain preparation after harvesting and before winnowing, which separates the loosened chaff from the grain.” You can’t winnow the wheat from the chaff based on just one episode, or you risk missing out on shows like Tatami Galaxy and Shiki. But you can at least get some idea. Below are some ideas, sorted in increasing order of how much potential the shows seem to have based on their first episodes. (Translations of show titles are my own amateur efforts and may be wildly inaccurate or actionable libel.)

14: Isshuukan Friends (One Week Friends)

Same.

Same.

Same!

Same!

Same!!

Same!!

A boy wants to make friends with a girl who forgets everything about the people she’s close to every Monday. This show was sooooooo boring, oh my god. That one sentence premise blurb pretty much sums up the entirety of what happened in episode one, in detail. The pacing is terribly slow, like they decided to adapt a 4koma comic into a 13-episode series and the first episode covers about 33% of the first panel. The show also looks like crap. The character designs are generic, most of the scenes are talking heads with little in the way of changing facial expressions, and some of the scenes are shot through the back of the characters’ heads to cheat their way out of providing even that small amount of animation. I’d feel worse about disregarding the show if the premise sounded new and exciting, but it’s been done before (cf. ef: A Tale of Memories, and that was Shaft animating it, not this Brains Base nonsense.) I’ve been hearing buzz on the internet, people like this show, and it perplexes me. I can’t see anything to like.

 

13: Black Bullet

It makes perfect sense if you realize you're not actually his fiancee and he thinks your affections creepy.

It makes perfect sense if you realize you’re not actually his fiancee and he finds your affections creepy.

It's only a model.

It’s only a model.

What is the point of living in post-apocalypse Tokyo if you still have to wear pants?

What is the point of living in post-apocalypse Tokyo if you still have to wear pants?

An evil virus is turning people into monsters, and special girls who have taken on some of the virus’s powers are humanity’s only hope of defending against it. A very standard Capitalized Noun Phrase action show, not done very well. The animation quality is decent, but the writing is bad, even for this sort of show. Shows in the Capitalized Noun Phrase genre always have a lot of exposition to get out of the way early on about what each Noun Phrase means, but if there’s a decent writer involved, the exposition can be done a lot more naturally than one cop turning to another and saying “gosh, these Cursed Children that work as Initiators sure are our only hope of fighting the evil Gastrea monsters, aren’t they”. The one thing that distinguishes this show from the other shows in the same genre are the romantic comedy hijinks it interjects into the Initiator/Promoter relationship, and since the Initiator is the product of an alien encounter that happened ten years ago and therefore only ten years old, this is kind of uncomfortable. The joke is “haha, she is a child but she is behaving sexually aggressively towards the male lead”, but that’s not really a funny joke. There were some plot holes, like if they know what sort of bullets hurt the alien monsters why can’t they give those bullets to the military instead of relying on low-paid children as independent contractors, but honestly I was not able to get involved enough in the setting to even care about the illogicality of it all.

 

12: Hitsugi no Chaika (Chaika of the Coffin)

He's a poor thief and a poor bandit, so he's ended up poor. Poor him.

He’s a poor thief and a poor bandit, so he’s ended up poor. Poor him.

If you ensorcel guns, only sorcerers will have guns.

If you ensorcel guns, only sorcerers will have guns.

I really hope he turns out to be the good guy, I like his beard.

I really hope he turns out to be the good guy, I like his beard.

A mysterious girl with a magic anti-materiel rifle hires a pair of martial artist siblings to steal something for some reason. I can’t put together a coherent explanation of why the people in this show were doing the things they were doing. There seem to be at least three factions, none of which get along with the others, and all of which are shrouded in enough mystery that it’s impossible to tell them apart. That’s unfortunately not unusual for this sort of show – in the absence of any other reason to keep watching, they throw a bunch of unanswered questions at you and hope you’ll tune in to be fed the answers. It’s a nasty trick, the Upworthy Headline of anime writing, and we shouldn’t support it. As far as other reasons to keep watching the show, the fight scenes were pretty decent, if you didn’t mind that you didn’t know why they were happening. The battle against the unicorn was nice and dynamic, they properly set it up as a tough enemy by letting the male lead struggle with it for a while before the female lead utterly owned it with her magic gun.  I was able to get hype during the battle scenes. But outside of combat, the female lead is really annoying. They’re playing up her mysterious background by not letting her speak in complete sentences, because she’s foreign or undead or braindamaged or cursed to be as aggravating as possible to those around her or something. It’s hard enough to follow conversations about the plot in a show that wants to keep its premise a secret as long as possible, we really don’t need a character who treats sentence structure like a game of horseshoes adding to the difficulty. Dialogue, obscurantist! Show, sucks!

 

11: Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu ka? (Would You Like To Order A Rabbit? (pun))

You have to order them, dummy.

You have to order them, dummy.

Teenage high school ninja girl!

Teenage high school ninja girl!

She's the only one.

She’s the only one.

A girl is a live-in worker at a cafe to pay for school. I’m basically in favor of moe slice-of-life comedies, but recent entries in the genre have tended to go pretty light on the “comedy” and tried to make up for it by doubling down on “moe”. This doesn’t work. The reason the slice-of-life moe comedy works is that all the parts complement one another. The slice-of-life plot helps flesh out the characters’ personalities, which helps you understand their moe characteristics, as well as providing fodder for jokes. The moe characters make the slice-of-life and the jokes super cute just by being present during them. And the comedy gives your brain something to do while your heart basks in the warmth and healing energy of the moe slice-of-life. That’s crucial: neither moe nor slice-of-life can coexist with any real dramatic conflict or heartpounding action, so comedy is the only option to keep things from getting boring. And this show was pretty boring – the best bit was the latte art scene, which did have a couple actual jokes, but even that was padded out with the characters just being cute at each other. It took a scene over two minutes long to get those two jokes out. Moe slice-of-life doesn’t have to have quite the pace a straight comedy would, but a joke-per-minute ratio of less than one is not great. And this was their best scene! Other scenes had “jokes” like “a fat rabbit that talks in a man’s voice”, which was unfunny when Tamako Market did it with a fat bird and now is unfunny and unoriginal. The characters are fine; they’re adorable, if a bit generic. (Would you be able to tell the difference if one of them was swapped out for a Kiniro Mosaic character?) But they’re just not funny enough.

 

10: Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei (Mahouka High School’s Weak Student)

How is it even possible to misunderstand that?

How is it even possible to misunderstand that?

The transparent wrap-thing in the uniform really enhances the visuals of the spellcasting.

The transparent wrap-thing in the uniform really enhances the visuals of the spellcasting.

Have you considered magic academia?

Have you considered magic academia?

In the future, magic has been discovered and is studied in school. The protagonist and his sister go to a school for elite magicians. This show went out of its way to inform us that despite the protagonist’s adoring imouto being in the same grade as him, they are not twins, she’s just 11 months younger than him. It was a whole big scene that seemed to serve no narrative purpose but to break my heart. Honestly it was hard for me to tell what the purpose of most of the scenes in this episode was. They’ve got several things going on at once here: they’ve got a bland male lead surrounded by a bunch of cute girls one of whom is his sister, so they might be going for a school life harem kinda thing. But they’ve also got a school divided into “Blooms” who are really good at magic and “Weeds” who are merely good at magic, and they could be going for a serious drama about how bullying is wrong. And then there was an interlude at a martial arts dojo showing how badass the protagonist is at punching people, which would be a pointless digression unless this is going to turn into an action anime. They’re trying to have more cakes than they can possibly eat. The various unrelated parts of the show aren’t poorly done or anything – the haremettes are appropriately cute, the magical battle special effects are appropriately sparkly, and the bullying storyline is… ok the bullying storyline is kinda dumb. They’re trying to go for a moral of “it’s not right to discriminate against people just because they’re not good at casting magic”, and while I appreciate this moral (I myself am somewhat lacking in wizardry), they’re promoting the moral by having the protagonist be a master martial artist and a brilliant magical analyst and a hunk who all the ladies want and a blazingly fast typist. The proper moral is “intrinsic human worth does not depend on a person’s skills”, not “if someone is bad at one thing, they’re probably amazing at everything else”.

 

9: Gokukoku no Brynhildr (Pitch Black Brynhildr)

jiiiiiiiii~

jiiiiiiiii~

Show's not afraid to ask the tough questions.

Show’s not afraid to ask the tough questions.

Not if they know what's good for them they don't. *shakes fist*

Not if they know what’s good for them they don’t. *shakes fist*

A magic-using girl can predict the future and uses magic to rescue people who are going to die. Most of this episode was the female lead staring at people intensely, and the male lead sexually harassing her. At the end of the episode, it was revealed to the male lead that the reason the female lead was so creepy is that she’s a witch who’s hopped up on drugs and cyborg implants and the ability to tell the future. So presumably, we’re going to see that character dynamic change in future episodes. We also got the “reveal” that the female lead was actually not the male lead’s dead childhood friend like she claimed not to be, but the only reason we got this “reveal” is so that we can get the opposite reveal later on and pretend to be shocked. Not many conclusions we can draw about the plot from the first episode, but it did reveal that the male lead is too much of a dumbass to stay put when a creepy girl tells him to stay put or he’ll die, so he’s kind of a loser nerd? And the pacing, animation, dialogue, all of this was nothing special, bad or good.  There’s really nothing much to say, the show didn’t make much of an impression at all. If someone tells me it picks up later, I might believe them, but for now, the show has wasted its first impression and will not get a second one.

 

8: Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii (Even So, The World Is Beautiful)

You should probably grind out a few more levels tormenting rats before you tackle a princess.

You should probably grind out a few more levels tormenting rats before you tackle a princess.

Her self-confident bearing is very empressive.

Her self-confident bearing is very empressive.

The thing about your destiny is, it comes whether you call it or not.

The thing about your destiny is, it comes whether you call it or not.

A princess from a small backwater country gets shipped off to marry the conquering Sun King, but becomes embroiled in intrigue. This show is naive. This show is overly optimistic about how beautiful the world is. In the world of this show, most people are good and radiate light, and it’s just a few shadowy figures who scheme and plot, along with some greedy dunces who allow themselves to be used as pawns, that are the sources of darkness. This kind of thinking causes problems in the real world, when every soul has light mixed with darkness inside it. And even the darkness in this show is not very impressive – yes, some courtiers were plotting to kill the princess, but through implausible coincidence she avoided assassination, because the beautiful world won’t allow bad things to happen to good people. A kidnapping could be laughed off, because of course the villains couldn’t possibly overpower the good-hearted people. Just gotta knock the kidnappers around a little and teach them the error of their ways, and soon they’ll be chauffeuring you around. I mean, it’s true that the positive-thinking nature of the characters is sort of charming in its own way, and on a technical level this show is well done. The character designs are appealing, the backgrounds are gorgeous. The show is beautiful, but even so. I don’t think I can put up with its simplistic view of morality.

 

7: No Game, No Life

Interestingness is literally just the inverse of probability.

Interestingness is literally just the inverse of probability.

A pastel-colored fairyland where you can game forever and ever.

A pastel-colored fairyland where you can game forever and ever.

Yowza! Full indeed! Oh, you're talking about your poker hand.

Yowza! Full indeed! Oh, you’re talking about your poker hand.

A game-addicted NEET brother and sister pair are transported into a fantasy world where all competition takes the form of games. The problem with the premise of this show is that being good at twitchy MMOs is not the same as being good at strategic games like chess, and certainly not the same as being good at cheating in poker. If the male lead is a hikkikomori NEET, where did he learn how to read someone’s tells by looking in their eyes? Who was he practicing his card-manipulation tricks against? “Games” are not a single skill, memorizing the Scrabble words that have “q” in them will not help you get sick noscope headshots. The main thing that struck me in this episode was the upbeat attitude of the protagonists about being uprooted from the world they knew. They were just like “to heck with it, the real world sucked anyway, time to clown on some fantasy ladies with big tits and poor judgment”, which is more fun than the moping these sort of transplant fantasy protagonists usually get up to. Possibly at some point the fantasy will stop being so fantastic? I dunno, the god the world is ruled by seems pretty chill, his tenth commandment is “let’s all have fun playing together” that’s how chill he is. You should never trust a god, I know, I know. But for now, things seem pretty light and carefree, and that’s enjoyable. The artstyle is kind of ugly, the animation is pretty low-budget, and the pacing is a little rushed (they didn’t even bother to explain how they cheated at poker, they were just like, oh yeah, I win). This show isn’t well-executed, but it might turn out to be kind of charming anyway on account of the fun protagonists.

 

6: Kanojo ga Flag wo Oraretara (If She Trips A Flag)

You're cheating by inspecting their flags, though.

You’re cheating by inspecting their flags, though.

Foreigners just don't get how important and valuable Japan's lexicalized social hierarchy is.

Foreigners just don’t get how important and valuable Japan’s lexicalized social hierarchy is.

The most rewarding part of conquest is watching your flag fly.

The most rewarding part of conquest is watching your flag fly.

A boy has the ability to sense destiny-changing events in the form of friendship/romance/death/etc. “flags” that appear on people’s heads. This show seemed a little incoherent. Maybe it was just that there was a lot of setting-up of their premise they had to do in the first episode, but there was a lot of nonsense they threw in that had nothing to do with the premise. So not only does he have his magical “flag sight”, but he’s also friends with a mystery-solving European princess, and he lives in an abandoned building, and he romances a squeaky-voiced girl who can’t take a hint that he just wants to be left alone, and he wants to be left alone because he’s under a mysterious curse that dooms all those around him. The pacing is just way too rushed, too many things we’re being asked to handle at once instead of them being introduced over the course of multiple episodes. And I don’t care much for the character designs, which look overly soft and glossy and doll-like, even moreso than average anime character designs. The possible saving grace for this show is that by the end of the episode everything was sort of starting to come together and I was getting a The World God Only Knows vibe , what with the dating-sim terminology and the guy casually meddling with girls’ destinies for a good cause. TWGOK had similar problems with a rushed first episode but it settled down and ended up being really good, so maybe there’s hope for this show.

5: Mekaku City Actors

This AI's gone rogue, time to pull the plug.

This AI’s gone rogue, time to pull the plug.

Look at those elaborate backgrounds. I'm surprised my video card could handle such complexity.

Look at those elaborate backgrounds. I’m surprised my video card could handle such complexity.

You say things like that, you're gonna trip his death flag.

You say things like that, you’re gonna trip his death flag.

A hikkikomori NEET and his AI buddy venture into the outside world and are punished for their hubris. Ok, first things first, gotta get it out of the way. “More like Mekaku SHITTY Actors, amirite?” Haha. Second things second, if you have an AI servant that can recognize speech, why do you even NEED to go out and buy a replacement keyboard? Employ the ancient lost technology of having a secretary take dictation! OK, now that those two issues are out of the way, this show was kinda disappointing for a Shaft fanboy like me. The character designs are stylish, and the AI girl was cute, as you’d expect an AI girl to be. But Shaft’s animation direction is usually pretty on point and visually interesting, while this episode just felt flat and lifeless. The most striking example was in the scenes with the terrorists; the hostages just sort of sat there flat against the background, there was no sense of fear or the emotional weight of the situation presented in the animation. And when the mysterious people helped the protagonist escape, there was no sense of action or tension, or anything in those scenes. They were portrayed as flatly as when he first walked into the department store.  He’s risking his life defying terrorists with deadly weapons, it should have been exciting, and it wasn’t. It’s hard to tell whether the story is going to be worth a damn here. The show spent the first half of the episode with the protagonist and his pet AI making light banter, which is great, banter’s wonderful, except then the show spent the second half with mysterious people showing up and using weird magic for inscrutable reasons. I would have liked to had a little extra time in the episode for them to explain who they were and what they were doing, so I didn’t have to worry that this crypticity was going to be a habit with this show.

4: Mangaka-san to Assistant-san to (Of The Manga Artist and His Assistant)

Men have dreams that women will never be able to understand.

Men have dreams that women will never be able to understand.

Don't look at me like that! I'm an *artist*.

Don’t look at me like that! I’m an *artist*.

Kinda hypocritical coming from the woman profiting off his shamelessly perverted drawings.

Kinda hypocritical coming from the woman profiting off his shamelessly perverted drawings.

The author of a fanservice-laden manga series sexually harasses his colleagues, but in a comedic way. This show has a nice fast pace to it, and some of the jokes are pretty funny – the ones that puncture the artistic pretensions of the fanservice-manga industry, like when the protagonist goes shopping for women’s underwear to use as references, and they’re worried he’ll be mistaken for a pervert, and then they realize that’s not really a mistake. That’s about half the jokes. The other half, though, are the protagonist sexually harassing women and getting beaten up for it. Which was never a funny premise for a joke, and even if it had been once would not still be after decades of weakly-written “comedy” anime using it as a crutch. The show has half-length episodes, which helps it avoid wearing out its welcome, and the character designs look nice, even if the animation is not highly-budgeted. We’ll see if they branch further into character-driven comedy later or if they stick with these cheap gags.

3: Ryuugajou Nanana no Maizoukin (The Buried Treasure of Ryuugajou Nanana)

Monster-in-a-box!

Monster-in-a-box!

Man, how do I get someone to murder me under mysterious circumstances?

Man, how do I get someone to murder me under mysterious circumstances?

She's got a good head on her shoulders. You should marry her and keep her provided with alcohol.

She’s got a good head on her shoulders. You should marry her and keep her provided with alcohol.

A boy moves into a cheap apartment, only to find that it’s haunted by the ghost of a girl who was murdered under mysterious circumstances. The ghost girl is cute. I’d be totally up for a sudden girlfriend appearance slice of life comedy with her as the sudden girlfriend. Unfortunately I’m not sure that’s what’s being offered here. If it was just that she’d been murdered and they had to find her killer, that’d be one thing, but there’s talk of buried treasure and political intrigues and youth rights seasteading and all sorts of complicated plot-related stuff that makes it seem like he’s not going to get too many chances to hang out in his room eating pudding and playing videogames with a ghost. The apartment manager lady seemed like a fun drunk hedonist chick, why did she have to turn out to be involved in all this conspiratorial nonsense? But the pacing was solid, the animation was gorgeous, and none of the characters was particularly annoying. If he wants to go hunting for buried magical artifacts to overthrow his tyranical father instead of hanging out with a cool ghost chick,  it might still turn out ok.

2: Akuma no Riddle (The Devil’s Riddle)

You only have fanservice shower scenes because you're meant to have fanservice shower scenes.

You only have fanservice shower scenes because you’re meant to have fanservice shower scenes.

Pink haired chick detected!

Pink haired chick detected!

Yeah, after all, he's not the target.

Yeah, after all, he’s not the target.

At a special school for assassins, twelve assassins are in a class with one ordinary civilian, and they all compete to be the first to murder her. The premise here is kinda nonsense. I doubt this is a cost-effective way to train assassins, and I’m not sure why someone hasn’t just stuck a knife in the ordinary girl’s neck already, given how defenseless she’s been acting. Maybe she’s got super assassination survival powers like Yasuna from Kill Me Baby? Come to think of it, the protagonist assassin is reminscent of Sonya, with her no-nonsense taciturn nature; I hope someone turns out to be Agiri. They didn’t give all twelve assassins proper introductions in the first episode (wise, it would have been rushed), but the ones that were introduced had character designs and personalities wacky enough to match the premise. Combining that with a decent-sized but not overwhelming dollop of fanservice shower scenes and skirt-flipping, and it looks like they’re shooting for the same semi-trashy action genre that Mirai Nikki fell into. I don’t have my hopes quite at Mirai Nikki levels, but the protagonist is quietly cute, the episode’s pacing was solid, and it can be fun to watch wacky characters bounce off each other sometimes. I am a little concerned about the availability of decent subs, the SSS subs had serious translation issues and the Watakushi subs had problems with their editing. Hopefully a real sub group picks this up. It seemed like maybe there was something going on with the protagonist’s patron I didn’t quite understand. He was making grand conspiratorial pronouncements and sending the protagonist weird riddle texts on her phone, and I wasn’t sure if the show was just being pointlessly obscure or if it was a translation problem.

1: Bokura wa Minna Kawaisou (We’re All Pitiful/We’re All At the Kawai Apartments (pun))

She sees the best in everyone.

She sees the best in everyone.

Realistically, how much leverage is she even going to be able to get, holding it at that angle?

Realistically, how much leverage is she even going to be able to get, holding it at that angle?

Don't get all private because your cocky is still unused.

Don’t get all private because your cocky is still unused.

A high school boy moves into an apartment full of outrageous characters who drive him up the wall, but he stays because he has a huge crush on a girl from his high school who lives there. This is a classic anime premise, dating back at least as far as the 1980’s with Maison Ikkoku, and probably most famously done in Love Hina. They’re not scoring many points for originality here, but a classic scenario can be enjoyable if it’s executed well, and the first episode of Kawaisou was. The comedic timing was sharp, the animation supported the comedy with low-key sight gags, and the the outrageous characters were not so unpleasant that they spoiled the fun. The protagonist’s crush is a little plainer than I would have expected – she’s got a boyish haircut and a flat chest and a reserved personality, she’s not eyecatching like Otonashi Kyoko or Narusegawa Naru. He said he wanted an intelligent girlfriend, and she’s been spotted reading on multiple occasions, so there’s that. I guess basic literacy is more of a feat in Japan, where you have to learn all those danged kanji. Anyway, I can’t say I share the protagonist’s tastes, but for comedic purposes, she seems like she’ll make a decent straight-man. Her reserved personality makes it a little harder for the show to rely on unfunny “oops I did something that upset the tsundere and now she’s responding with exaggerated force” gags, so that’s nice.

So all in all this looks like a pretty weak season.  Kawaisou is gonna work out, and maybe Akuma no Riddle and Nanana too, but beyond that are longshots and hoping. Recently Spring seasons haven’t seemed any better than Winter seasons, maybe studios are getting better about spreading their hits out so they’re not competing so harshly with each other.

 

Threshing Winter 2014

From Wikipedia: “Threshing is the process of loosening the edible part of cereal grain (or other crop) from the scaly, inedible chaff that surrounds it. It is the step in grain preparation after harvesting and before winnowing, which separates the loosened chaff from the grain.” You can’t winnow the wheat from the chaff based on just one episode, or you risk missing out on shows like Tatami Galaxy and Shiki. But you can at least get some idea. Below are some ideas, sorted in increasing order of how much potential the show seems to have based on the first episode. (Translations of show titles are my own amateur efforts and may be wildly inaccurate.)

12: Mahou Sensou (Magic Wars)

Check out the proportions on her left arm and the fingers on her left hand.

Check out the proportions on her left arm and the fingers on her left hand.

Check out his emotions on the world he thought he knew being pulled out from under him.

Check out his emotions at the world he thought he knew being pulled out from under him.

Check out her breasts. ಠ_ಠ

Check out her breasts. ಠ_ಠ

Some ordinary high school students get mixed up in a battle among magicians and end up accidentally getting magical powers. As far as the plot of the show goes it’s not so bad, the female lead’s brother has been brainwashed by an Evil Organization whose Name is Capitalized, and of course that’s a valid reason to want to fight them. The male lead got his magic powers as a side effect of the female lead getting violent when he accidentally brushed his lips against hers, which is kinda awful, but whatever, I’ve seen worse.  We didn’t get much characterization on the characters, except that the female lead likes her brother and does not like being touched by males that are not her brother, but it’s conceivable that more characterization will come in later episodes once they’re done setting the storyline up. The magic system has a couple of interesting rules about how you can’t use hostile magic directly on other magicians while in the Prime Material Plane, which seems like it could possibly lead to some cool fights with an emphasis on buffs and environmental effects, and it could make for some variety when they head to the Elemental Plane of Smoking Ruins and are finally allowed to unload on each other. But oh my god, those faces! I haven’t seen animation this bad since before KyoAni ushered in the Modern Era of anime in 2006. I would never be able to take this show seriously when characters’ faces migrate several centimeters on their heads between shots. Even the opening theme animation looks like crap, and if you’re gonna spend your animation budget on something, you’d think you would spend it on the minute and a half of animation that’s going to play in every episode.  I like to think I care more about the story and the characters and the writing than mere visual attractiveness, but when a show’s this butt-ugly I have to make an exception. Aku no Hana was better than this. At least you could defend Aku no Hana’s animation as a stylistic choice, however misguided. Mahou Sensou is trying and failing to look like a regular show.

11: Noragami (Stray God)

That's actually still pretty pathetic compared to the Christian god.

That’s actually still pretty pathetic compared to the Christian god.

oh hi I upgraded your RAM

oh hi I upgraded your RAM

Just because the vengeful spirits of the dead are hunting you is no reason to throw a fit.

Just because the vengeful spirits of the dead are hunting you is no reason to throw a fit.

A down-on-his-luck God meets a girl who turned into a half-spirit in an accident and decides to answer her prayers for help. I’m not sure one interesting thing happened all episode. The premise of a God trying to build up faith by doing odd jobs for believers could have potential as a sort of slice-of-life show, but the writers clearly don’t trust in that potential, because instead they decided to throw in a bunch of restless spirits for the protagonists to fight. So the “stray god” premise was apparently just a thin veneer, and this is yet another supernatural combat show.  And if they’re going to go that route, they need to put something actually interesting in the combat! Most of the fight scenes consisted of the male lead, Yato, running away because he didn’t have a weapon, which gets old fast. Noragami’s characters kinda suck too. They tried to make Yato a cool slacker type like Staz from Blood Lad, but they didn’t really understand the concept, so instead he just flickers rapidly between a cool sexy bishounen character and a cowardly worthless loser character. And Hiyori, the female lead, is a stereotypical silly highschool girl who spent most of the episode being confused so that Yato could explain things to her.  Neither was really likable at all. I can definitely understand why Yato’s Sacred Weapon decided she wanted out of the relationship.

10: Super Sonico

It might help if you stopped wearing headphones during the lectures though.

It might help if you stopped wearing headphones during the lectures, though.

They really are good butt.

They really are good butt.

That's... *not* what she said?!?!?

That’s… *not* what she said?!?!?

A girl works hard to juggle college, a job as a model, a job as a waitress, and playing in a band. Super Sonico is super cute.  She has pink hair, and she tries hard, I knew that much going into this episode. They didn’t really present much else, though. The extent to which this show is pointless fluff actually sort of impresses me. A summary of the plot: Sonico is late for school, but since it’s college nobody even cares. Her friends want to go eat macarons with her afterwards, but oh no she can’t because she has to go to her job as a model.  She’s sexually harassed by a sleazy guy at her modeling job, but her manager steps in to save her so she doesn’t have to, like, stand up for herself or anything. Then she goes to wait tables at her grandma’s bar where the customers tease her, but her grandma steps in to save her so she doesn’t have to, like, stand up for herself or anything.  I don’t think they even had a pretense of any sort of plot conflict for the part of the episode where she met up with her band. Maybe this was just an introductory episode and the plot will get more interesting later, but I think more likely it’s the result of trying to make an anime about a company’s mascot character that was designed with special attention to her visual appeal and no attention at all given to things like “personality”. So she has the personality quirk of always wearing her headphones everywhere, and besides that, she’s as bland as possible. The show’s not actively unpleasant to watch: Sonico is easy on the eyes, and the plot-such-as-it-is moves along fast enough that it doesn’t get all that boring.  It’s just a totally pointless waste of time that could better be spent on something with actual substance.

9: Mikakunin de Shinkoukei (Unidentified and Progressing)

They say arranged marriages are actually happier than "love" marriages.

They say arranged marriages are actually happier than “love” marriages.

You respect her boundaries and her personal space. Please. I am begging you.

You respect her boundaries and her personal space. Please. I am begging you.

jiiiiiiiiiiiiii~

jiiiiiiiiiiiiii~

A girl turns 16 only to discover that she is engaged to a bumpkin from out in the country who has come with his little sister to live with her. This show doesn’t have nearly enough jokes in it to be a comedy, and the premise is too absurd for it to work as straight romance. I think the problem is that the writers think a lot of things are jokes which are not, such as the female lead Kobeni’s older sister Benio being a sexually aggressive lesbian pedophile. This is the same issue that Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai had with Sena and Kobato, and it’s just as unpleasant here. Public Service Announcement here: someone marrying into your family does not give you license to molest his little sister!  And Kobeni telling poor little Mashiro to just try to put up with Benio’s predatory behavior the same way she did when she was younger was super creepy and sort of made me not feel like laughing at anything. It’s a pity, because I actually like the male lead, Hakuya.  He’s got a deadpan, understated comedic delivery that works, and the culture clash between country folk and city folk is an old but rich vein of comedy. And Mashiro trying to be mature and adult all the time to show off for her in-laws is pretty cute too. The Mitsumine family deserves better than the Yonomori family.  I guess that’s the result of the constrained romantic options that people in sparsely populated rural areas have, that Hakuya had to settle for whatever he could get, even a family of child molesters and spousal abusers.

8: D-Frag

You would think the club advisor at least would know not to set the school on fire.

You would think the club advisor at least would know not to set the school on fire.

And open graves.

And open graves.

Doesn't that actually make you the one rebelling against the social order?

Doesn’t that actually make *you* the one rebelling against the social order?

A delinquent is press-ganged into joining the Game Development Club so that it doesn’t get disbanded. At first this looked like a comedy in the vein of GJ-bu or Seitokai no Ichizon, but it turned out to have a very different feel. It has the club consisting of four girls ganging up on a single guy, but there are two elements that don’t fit with the model. First, in GJ-bu and Seitokai, while the girls did sometimes pick on the guy and the guy did sometimes complain about it, it was always in good fun, and nobody was really upset about the arrangement. Here, the girls literally had to torture Kenji into joining the club.  This makes any teasing they do later seem less like friendly ribbing and more like bullying. Second, in GJ-bu and Seitokai, the club was for all intents and purposes the whole world. Almost all scenes were set inside the clubroom, and those that weren’t were still focused solely on interactions among club members.  Here, we have lots of outside stuff going on, like Kenji’s delinquent ambitions to rule the school, and the battle over the student council presidency between Kenji’s square friend Ataru and the Game Dev Club girl Chitose. I think the lack of focus hurts the show a little, it’s way too many characters to keep track of.  The comedy seems funny enough, there was a nice running gag throughout the episode about the various elemental powers that each of the Game Dev Club girls embodied. There was maybe a bit too much “exaggerated reaction to minor absurdity” instead of jokes, though. The girls are cute enough, but I don’t like the guys, they shout too much. This show might turn out to be good if they bring it in to the reliable GJ-bu formula and stop asking me to care about Kenji’s loser friends, but the odds don’t seem great.

7: Chuunibyou Demo Koi ga Shitai 2 (Even Though I’m Chuunibyou I Want To Fall in Love 2)

Punk is dead.

Punk is dead.

Even Though I'm Chuunibyou, I Want To Be Terrifyingly Clingy

Even Though I’m Chuunibyou, I Want To Be Terrifyingly Clingy

Then why was Harry Potter set in Britain?

Then why was Harry Potter set in Britain?

Second season of Chuu2Koi. From an artistic perspective, they were probably correct to shake up the old formula that they had in place from the previous season.  The first season was about characters who were reinventing themselves, so you can’t have a second season without characters reinventing themselves again.  But I liked Nibutani better as a poser popular girl than a poser prim-and-proper girl, and the less that is said about the puns Kumin has taken it on herself to pollute the world with the better. And Yuuta and Rikka are now theoretically romantically involved and even living together, but that just intensifies the weird dynamic where Yuuta plays “Mom” to Rikka’s worthless ass. His excuse for them living together despite the appearance of unchastity is that he’d be worried about whether she’d be able to live alone. I guess we tried last season to make Rikka grow up and eventually we decided that it was a bad idea and she should be allowed to stay childish as long as she’s cute.  The only character who hasn’t seemed to have changed much is Dekomori, and she’s the only one whose presence in this episode I really enjoyed.  So maybe the show would have been better off remaining in continuity-free stasis.

6: Wizard Barristers: Benmashi Cecil (Wizard Barristers: Mage-lawyer Cecil)

I've seen lovelier. Her hair's not even pink.

I’ve seen lovelier. Her hair’s not even pink.

That seems like the sort of loophole you could drive a truck through.

That seems like the sort of loophole you could drive a truck through.

Every lawyer needs their own battle mech, right?

Every lawyer needs their own battle mech, right?

A young prodigy wizard girl becomes a wizard defense lawyer and defends wizards accused of committing wizard crimes. This show has a serious identity crisis. Sometimes it seems to want to be a cool legal drama about heroic lawyers sticking up for the rights of society’s most vulnerable members. The protagonist Cecil showed up some cops by refusing to consent to a search of her belongings, passionately resolved to get her client acquitted, and had Dramatic Backstory about how her mom is locked in prison for presumably something she didn’t do. (I’ll gain lots of respect for this show’s writing if it turns out she really did it, and not for any particularly extenuating reason either. Criminals Who Really Did It are people deserving of love too, after all.) But on the other hand, Cecil also summoned a golem made out of scrap metal and bad CGI, got sidetracked on her way to the office by a daring daylight magical bank robbery, and, though she had nothing to do with it, the opening scene of the episode was a magical shootout. I get that defense lawyers are not the easiest heroes to cheer for, because they can never achieve justice for the original crime, the best they can do is prevent a second injustice when an innocent person is punished for it. (The only reason Phoenix Wright achieves Justice For All is because the real criminals are stupid enough to testify in court.) But I’m interested in the legal drama, that’s what this show has to offer that’s unique. I’m not interested in the supernatural combat, at least not until they find some better CGI.

5: Witch Craft Works

That rabbit has swag.

That rabbit has swag.

The best part of being a witch is being able to summon cherry blossom petals to make your romantic advances more enticing.

The best part of being a witch is being able to summon cherry blossom petals to make your romantic advances more enticing.

Meet the harem.

Meet the harem.

An ordinary schoolboy finds himself the subject of intense attention from various rival witches.  Sort of a standard Sudden Girlfriend Appearance plotline, but it’s a little less gratuitous wish-fulfilment than those sorts of shows usually are because the female lead Kagari treats the male lead Takamiya more like a MacGuffin than a human being with thoughts and feelings. It sort of feels like a feminist “oh well how would you like it if you were objectified” deal, especially since Kagari literally calls Takamiya her “princess”. I’m interested to see how that dynamic evolves now that a bunch of new witches showed up at the end of the episode – will Takamiya be wooed away by one of the other witches who promises to respect his agency and gender identity and then we all learn an important lesson about respect? Probably we will just see more magical battles. But the magical battles in this episode were actually pretty decent! The “evil” witch they were fighting had an army of CGI robot bunnies, but somehow, and I don’t really understand it myself, they didn’t look awful.  The fight scenes were totally competently done, and there was some creativity involved in e.g. dropping a house on your enemies before they set you on fire. This show seems like the sort of show that really should be bad, but it’s been done well so far, so I’ll hold out hope.

4: Nisekoi (Fake Love)

She's a walking argument for a reinstatement of the Sakoku laws.

She’s a walking advertisement for reinstating the Sakoku laws.

On that day, humanity received a grim reminder.

On that day, humanity received a grim reminder.

Gesture is a universal language.

Gesture is a universal language.

The son and daughter of rival gangs have to pretend to be dating to quell a gang war despite not getting along with one another. Shaft’s expressive visual style, as much as I love it, seems wasted on this simple love-triangle romance. It makes more sense in supernatural shows like Sasami-san@Ganbaranai or Foomonogatari, where there’s weird stuff actually going on in the world of the show and the weird visuals can complement that. In Nisekoi, the weird visuals end up in otherwise down-to-earth scenes, absurd stuff like glitter shooting out of the mouths of the two quarreling lovebirds as they quarrel. I’m not sure why Shaft’s style worked in Hidamari Sketch, which was also extremely low-key in its goings-on, but it doesn’t work here. Visuals aside, the storyline is pretty simple but it’s moving at a fast pace, so the simplicity doesn’t make it boring. The female lead, Kirisaki, is kinda cute and tsundere, though it always bugs me when tsunderes engage in physical abuse instead of just verbal abuse. Ichijou is right when he refers to her as a “barbarian girl”. The bad blood is mutual between the two of them, but it seems to me he has a much better reason for disliking her than she has for disliking him. The male lead, Ichijou, is more interesting than male leads in male-oriented romances often are: he has a tension about not wanting to be associated with his yakuza family, and he gives as good as he gets in the bickering with Kirisaki. (Of course, he doesn’t give as good as he gets when she starts getting violent. Perhaps because he’s a civilized Japanese and not a rambunctious foreigner?) The childhood friend character, Onodera, really does nothing for me, though. It’s not unusual for childhood friend characters to be sort of bland, but she really seems to have no substance at all, and even her character design is just sort of vaguely female. I dunno that I could pick her out of a croud of background characters except that she’s voiced by HanaKana. They weren’t able to show much of the mechanics of the titular fake love in this episode, they had to spend most of their time just setting it up, so I’ll be interested to see if they can do a good job with the wacky love-triangle implications of that. Hopefully it doesn’t just fall by the wayside like a similar setup did in OreShura.

3: Toaru Hikuushi e no Koiuta

You're gonna put yourself out of a job that way.

You’re gonna put yourself out of a job that way.

Just an airshow for now, but imagine what they could do in a fight!

Just an airshow for now, but imagine what they could do in a fight!

The fact that she didn't punch him after this scene makes her the best female character of the season.

The fact that she didn’t punch him after this scene makes her the best female character of the season.

A young pilot goes to piloting academy and falls in love with a noble girl who is also a pilot. I was expecting more cool aerial combat from this show, maybe I focused too much on the “pilot” in the title and too little on the “love song”. It’s possible we’ll get more sick battles later in the show, the episode ended with an ominous “we did not yet realize how cruel the world can be”, but there are lots of ways for the world to be cruel that do not involve awesome death-defying dogfights.  Maybe the pilot he was singing a love song to has cancer or something? They did seem to imply she was sick. Anyway, the first episode of Toaru Hikuushi was not what I expected, but it was fairly cool for what it was. We only got a few shots of the airplanes flying around, but they were nice and detailed, and the studio was very sparing with its CG, which was refreshing in this day and age. Some of the best scenes took place on the ground, though. I’m not sure the bit where the two lovebirds bicycled through a cloud was meteorologically sound, but it sure made for a striking visual. It’s hard to say exactly where the plot is headed.  For now it seems like a school life story with an emphasis on romantic encounters with a side-order of class anxiety, but there were allusions made to a quest for the End of the Sky, so there’s going to be something for them to do once they graduate. The show is off to a slow start, but it looks gorgeous, so if they can put an interesting plot or characters behind those images it will be great.

2: Nobunagun

Gungirl.

Gungirl.

Rip and tear.

Rip and tear.

Gungirl got an upgrade.

Gungirl got an upgrade.

A girl caught in the middle of an alien attack turns out to be the reincarnation of Oda Nobunaga, able to summon a magical machine-gun in place of her right arm. This show is just crazy enough to be cool, I think. It helps that the main character has a lot of character – half the episode was spent with her just wandering around Taiwan being dorky, feeling sad and lonely but also being happy about being alone because dealing with other people always goes wrong so it’s just easier to be by yourself and think about military hardware a lot. So when the aliens attacked, it was easy to emphasize wit her and care about her and root for her to win and shout “hell yeah” when her arm turned into a gun. The artstyle is kinda cartoony and low-budget, but it knows its limitations so that’s fine.  The exaggeratedly wacky artstyle matches well with the exaggeratedly wacky premise.   And hey, the “reincarnated warriors from history” theme has been cool before, in Fate/Stay Night. I’m eager to find out what special attacks Gandhi can use. I’m expecting cheap, turn-off-your-brain fun from this show, but cheap fun can still be a lot of fun if it’s done well.

1: Sekai Seifuku – Bouryaku no Zvezda (World Conquest – The Schemes of Zvezda) 

What is it with all the violent anime women this season, anyhow?

What is it with all the violent anime women this season, anyhow?

That only works in China.

That only works in China.

Actually they're pretty useful if some jackass decides she wants to conquer the world.

Actually they’re pretty useful if some jackass decides she wants to conquer the world.

A runaway schoolboy gets caught up in a  wacky secret society run by a young girl that aims for world conquest.  This show surprised me.  I never really understood what was going on, but it kept me engrossed from start to finish by keeping its protagonist, Asuta, on the run rather than stopping to think about how nothing really made sense. The characters seem to have potential: the female lead, Kate, is absolutely adorable in how she juxtaposes high-flying ideological conquest talk with her childish nature, and while we haven’t gotten to hear much from the other members of the secret society Zvezda, at least their character designs are interesting-looking. Personally my favorite is the fat general with the death’s head mask – he really looks like he belongs in a paramilitary organization, unlike some of the others who are more appropriately dressed for a nightclub. There are a lot of unanswered questions about the setting – why was everyone treating martial law in Japan like a totally normal thing? Why is a nine-year-old girl trying to conquer the world? What is the nature of the powers that Zvezda used to resist the coercive force of the State? I don’t have faith that those questions will necessarily be answered.  The obvious way for this show to go wrong is to take the Penguindrum path and keep spinning out absurdities that sound cool without worrying about weaving them into a coherent hole, and winding up 10 episodes down the line with a giant tangled pile of plot thread that’s impossible to take seriously. But that’s not a guarantee, and this is the only show this season that really seems to have the potential to rise to greatness.

So there are several shows here that seem like they could go places, even if none of them have really blown me away yet.  Not such a bad haul for a winter season. I’ll probably watch 2Chuu2Koi and everything above it, or at least try to. I’ll probably have to drop a couple, because I’m still watching Golden Time as well. I’m glad I decided to widen my search after all this season’s shows seemed terrible – I would have overlooked Sekai Seifuku, Nobunagun, and Witch Craft Works otherwise.  But it did make this post a little late, so, please forgive me.

Winter Anime Season 2014 – 140 Characters and Nothing’s On

The new winter season has already started and I have hardly even looked at what’s airing. I have been neglecting anime in favor of posting about anime on Twitter.  But if I wanted to post about anime, that is what this blog is for! What’s so great about Twitter, anyway? I can write 140 character snippets just as easily on a blog. So with that in mind, I am going to “livetweet” watching the promos for the new season’s anime.  This is done without watching any actual episodes, so feel free to laugh at how wrong I am!  If you want a handy reference, moetron.com has compiled one here.  Title translations are my own amateur efforts but do not count toward the 140 character limit.

Saikin Imouto no Yousu ga Chotto Okashiin daga (My Little Sister Has Been Acting Kinda Weird Lately): Lewder than your average sisterfucker anime and that’s saying something. I bet the sexual harassment fairy makes this unwatchable.

Witch Craft Works: The academy for “witches” looks exactly like any other Japanese highschool and none of the “witches” cast any spells that I could see.

Space Dandy: Too slick for its own good. This is premiering (has premiered) in America, which means it’s probably ruined by filthy Western influences.

Noragami (Stray God): Chuunibyou but cool and I like the art. Trickster gods are the coolest gods, I hope somebody ends up killed by a sprig of mistletoe.

Buddy Complex: Looks exactly like every indistinguishable Gundam nonsense anime ever.

Nobunaga the Fool: I am not as “into” Nobunaga as the Japanese are. This time they put him in a mecha show, and, well, I mean, sure?

Super Sonico: Her hair is the right shade of pink and she tries hard. Perhaps that will be enough.

Nobunagun: I am not as “into” Nobunaga as the Japanese are. This time they put him in an anthropomorphic guns show, and, well, I mean, sure?

Toaru Hikuushi e no Koiuta (Love Song to a Certain Pilot): Dogfighting in WW1 fighter planes is cool as heck. I hope it’s good like the original Last Exile and not bad like the sequel.

D-Frag: Girls being wacky is great, and even better if one of them has pink hair. Leery of comedies that don’t put jokes in their promos though.

Hamatora: Same story that’s been told a million times, but this time the superpowers are called “Minimum”. At least it looks pretty.

Chuunibyou Demo Koi ga Shitai 2 (Even Though I’m Chuunibyou I Want to Fall in Love 2): I liked it fine the first time, and maybe they’re done with the dumb drama now?

Pupa: Is it actually coming out this time? I guess my opinion hasn’t changed since when it was supposed to be a Fall show.

Mahou Sensou (Magic Wars): Female lead looks like Shakugan no Shana and I’m guessing that’s not a coincidence. She’s got a gun instead of a sword though.

Sakura Trick (Cherry Blossom Trick): I like the character designs but they’re probably going to be wasted on low budget yuri nonsense.

Houzuki no Reitetsu (Houzuki is Levelheaded): Might be too Japanese for me to get the jokes. I guess loud wackiness is a universal language, but it’s not a very funny one.

Mikakunin de Shinkoukei (Unidentified and Progressing): I liked the energy in the promos. I didn’t like the younger sister, but there seemed to be lots of other characters that I could like.

Nourin (Agriculture and Forestry): I do not really find farming all that interesting. You can intersperse it with fanservice, but I doubt that will be enough.

Wake Up, Girls: Just a generic idol show, but they still got a reference to the Sengoku Jidai in there. If Nobunaga starts singing pop songs I’ll die.

Nisekoi (Fake Love): It’s Shaft so I have to watch it, but the animation looks like crap and the plot sounds like West Side Story without the cool songs.

Sekai Seifuku ~Bouryaku no Zvezda~ (World Conquest ~Zvezda the Trickster~): Not enough information has been revealed to draw a conclusion, from which I draw the conclusion that they have nothing worth showing off.

Wizard Barristers: Benmashi Cecil (Wizard Barristers: Mage-lawyer Cecil): Way too much automatic gunfire in the promos. Wizard lawyers should fight by shouting “Arcane objection!” and “Magical take that!”.

Inari, Kon-Kon, Koi Iroha (Inari, Fox Noise, The Basics of Love [TL Note: English is impoverished and does not have a standard thing that a fox says, but in Japanese, it’s “kon-kon”]): A worse Red Data Girl, and Red Data Girl wasn’t good. When will girls learn to solve their own problems instead of praying to God?

So I’m excited to watch Noragami, Toaru Hikuushi e no Koiuta, Pupa, and Mikakunin de Shinkoukei, and I’ll probably also check out Super Sonico, D-Frag, Mahou Sensou, 2Chuu2Koi, Nisekoi, and Wizard Barristers. Maybe a couple of the others if I hear good hype about them, but there’s probably 3-4 worthwhile shows lurking in that list, plus Golden Time continuing from last season, so  I probably won’t be too hard up for stuff to watch. Expect a threshing post about those shows in about a week and a half.

Bias in the Anime Music Tournament

The Anime Blog Anime Music Tournament to crown the best anime song of all time has been going on for a while over at http://animusictourney.wordpress.com/ and we’ve reached the Sweet Sixteen. (You should all check it out, and vote for the songs I like.) Over the course of the tournament, there has been grumbling in the comments to the effect of “people only voted for <song I didn’t like> over <song I like> because of nostalgia [or recency bias, or because they liked the show, or whatever]”.  Sometimes this made sense to me, such as when “Connect” beat “Grey Wednesday”, which I can only attribute to people voting for Madoka Magica over Penguindrum rather than on the merits of the songs themselves.  But it’s easy to fool yourself into thinking the songs you like lost because of bias while the songs you didn’t like lost because they just plain weren’t good songs.  So I decided to sit down with the data and get some hard numbers.

There were three possible sources of bias I decided to examine: voting for the more recent song, voting for the song that came from a better show, or voting for a song you were familiar with over one you weren’t familiar with.  Out of the 240 matches that have been completed in the Animusic Tourney so far:

*In 119 matches the newer song won, while in 119 matches the older song won. (In two matches there was no age difference.)
*In 135 matches the song whose show was rated higher on myanimelist.net won, while in 101 matches the lower-rated show’s song won. (In four matches they were rated the same.)
*In 132 matches the song whose show had more viewers on MAL won, while in 107 matches the song whose show had fewer viewers won. (In one match they had the same number. This was the “Kimi no Shiranai Monogatari” vs. “Staple Stable” matchup.)

So clearly there’s no question of this data showing any recency or nostalgia bias.  Forget no statistically significant difference, there’s no difference at all.  As far as the other two criteria are concerned it seems clear that people are to at least some extent voting for shows instead of songs.  We would only have a 3% chance of seeing results this extreme if the show’s rating were entirely unconnected to the song’s performance in the tournament.  The impact of familiarity is less clear. We would have a 12% chance of seeing results this extreme by pure chance, and to some extent familiarity is probably “piggybacking” off show quality, because people are more likely to watch a show if they hear it’s good.

Just because there is an effect doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s an evil bias at work.  There could legitimately be a connection between the quality of a show and the quality of the show’s music.  For example, one of the things that makes a show good is if it has good songs.  Would Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu have been as beloved without its incredible concert scene?  (The recent concert scene in White Album was unimpressive in part because its songs weren’t as amazing as “God Knows”.)  It’s nice at least to have some hard numbers to think about though.  And hopefully this will get people to stop whining about “recency bias” and “nostalgia bias”.

EDIT: Based on the comments I decided to test a few more hypotheses.  First, there was some indication that there could be a generation gap. I set the cutoff between the old and the new at 2006, since that was when HD anime started airing – it makes a pretty good break between “old” and “new” anime.  There were 53 cases of an “old” anime beating a “new” anime, and 60 cases of the reverse.  This suggests a possible bias toward the newer generation of anime, but a result like that could show up 57% of the time due to pure chance, so it’s hard to draw conclusions.

Second, there was a suggestion to look at only songs that were a certain distance apart in time, because a song from fall of 2005 beating a song from spring of 2006 doesn’t tell you much about nostalgia bias.  This makes sense to me.  Limiting the comparison to songs with at least 3 years difference has the newer song winning 85 matches compared to the older song winning 76 matches.  This is a bit in favor of the newer song, but again, the odds of such a result happening by pure chance are 42% so who knows.

Data is here if you want to play with it yourself. I corrected a couple errors but they don’t materially change the conclusions.

Threshing Fall 2013

From Wikipedia: “Threshing is the process of loosening the edible part of cereal grain (or other crop) from the scaly, inedible chaff that surrounds it. It is the step in grain preparation after harvesting and before winnowing, which separates the loosened chaff from the grain.” You can’t winnow the wheat from the chaff based on just one episode, or you risk missing out on shows like Tatami Galaxy and Shiki. But you can at least get some idea. Below are some ideas, sorted in increasing order of how much potential the show seems to have based on the first episode. (Translations of show titles are my own amateur efforts and may be wildly inaccurate.)

12: Coppelion

If I can see the point where your torso bifurcates and becomes legs, your skirt is too short.

If I can see the point where your torso bifurcates and becomes legs, your skirt is too short.

That's every day - see e.g. Heroclitus.

That’s great. It starts with an earthquake, birds and snakes, an aeroplane, etc.

oh god psuedodogs

oh god psuedodogs

Three girls genetically-engineered to resist radiation explore a Tokyo that has been destroyed by radiation looking for survivors.
So boring oh my goodness. Maybe long drawn-out scenes of walking around the scenery of a ruined Tokyo are more poignant to people who have actually been there when it was less ruined, but I suspect the walky-bits were mostly just an excuse to pad the runtime. They clearly do not have much in the way of ideas here, or characters. They have the sinister boss guy, the quiet one, the boisterous one, and the responsible leader, but those character traits are mostly just for show. Everybody mostly does the same thing, which is gaze out on the ruins of Tokyo and lament. The show shoots for some sort of philosophical aspect, but it amounts to having the girls loudly complain about how horrible it is to be a genetically-engineered doll, as though it’s any better to be a random genetic accident. At one point the sinister boss guy is being particularly sinister and denies a dying man medical supplies that could prolong his life just because they’re in limited supply and they could prolong someone else’s life a lot more, the responsible leader girl points a gun at him, and I thought to myself “aha, now something is going to happen” but then they just moved to the next scene of wandering through ruined Tokyo and pretended it just never happened? Apart from that the only real conflict in the show was that the girl designated as the boisterous one was whining about having to walk. Oh, and they shot a wolf, I guess. Anyway this show is really half-baked and the basic ingredients of a compelling narrative are just not there.

11: Unbreakable Machine Doll

The "are you sexually frustrated" face.

The “are you sexually frustrated” face.

October is Fat-Shaming Awareness Month.

October is Fat-Shaming Awareness Month.

Oh, is that where the awful CGI dragon came from.

Oh, is that where the awful CGI dragon came from.

An artificer and his golem servant travel to a boarding school in search of revenge.
I really wanted to like this show. To my mind, there is nothing more beautiful than the romance between an artificer and his golem servant. But everything about the show is just bad. The art is poorly drawn, and to cover it up they’ve cranked up the bloom so high that it’s painful to look at. The plot is full of Capitalized Words, there are Puppeteers who study Machinart try to become Rounds so they can be invited to the Evening Party and have a chance to become the Wiseman. And the exposition of the plot is delivered artlessly – half the episode was people standing around telling other people things everyone already knew for the benefit of the audience and yet even after all that I have little idea what’s going on. The character interactions aren’t interesting: the artificer is a bland brooding revenge-obsessed guy who is unmoved by the romantic overtures of his golem, and the golem is a bland artificer-obsessed girl who is unmoved by the artificer’s rejection of her overtures. So it’s a stalemate, which makes for really boring flirting. Lastly, the action scenes were perfunctory, confusing, and full of awful CG. I’ve tried hard, but there’s nothing to like here.

10: Outbreak Company

90/1000, would not be waited upon.

90/1000, would not be waited upon.

It's pronounced ℳℴℯ❤, sir.

It’s pronounced ℳℴℯ❤, sir.

Shouldn't this little girl have a regency council or something?

Shouldn’t this little girl have a regency council or something?

An otaku is kidnapped to a parallel fantasy world to act as Japan’s ambassador there.
Seems like gratuitous wish-fulfillment trash. There weren’t many things in the show recognizable as attempted jokes, and the things that were were mostly just playing on the main character’s otakudom in really lazy ways. For example, the empress of the fantasy kingdom is young and flatchested so he freaks out like a gross otaku about how great little girls are. Or he has a half-elf maid working at the embassy so he freaks out like a gross otaku about how awesome it is to have a half-elf maid serving you. It was kinda uncomfortable and it offended my liberal sensibilities. It made me wish for a different show, where the post of Anime Ambassador was just a ploy to spread populist democratic ideals and undermine the monarchy to promote Freedom. A show where teaching the maid to read would be a subversive act to raise the consciousness of the lower classes, rather than just trying to get in her skirt. A show where the empress being clearly unfit to rule due to her age would be an argument for the stabilizing value of elected leadership. Presumably at some point there will be a plot to the show beyond the ambassador being gross to people, but I doubt it will be any good.

9: Log Horizon

Games are fun because they provide optimal challenge and progression with minimal frustration.

Games are fun because they provide optimal challenge and progression with minimal frustration.

Physical comedy in a virtual world.

Physical comedy in a virtual world.

+5 shiny glasses of tactics.

+5 shiny glasses of tactics.

Players of an MMO suddenly find themselves in the world of that MMO.
There’s not a lot going on in this show. It’s not really bad or anything, it just doesn’t have anything special about its plot, or its characters, or its jokes, or its ideas, or its setting. You have a wizard who’s sort of a neurotic nerd, a fighter who’s sort of a lovable oaf, and a ninja who’s sort of obsessive about feudal loyalty. You could watch those characters bump up against the generic fantasy world and talk about how playing a game through a screen is different in many ways from actually living in the world the game depicts for half an hour, and then it would be half an hour later. There aren’t any real jokes, but there’s stuff on the order of “loveable oaf says something mildly crude, woman knees him in the face” that could stand in for jokes if you were being charitable. This is a show that I wouldn’t mind watching, if I had some reason to, but the show itself gives me exactly zero reasons.

8: Yuusha ni Narenakatta Ore wa Shibushibu Shuushoku wo Ketsui Shimashita (I Didn’t Become A Hero, So As Much As I Hated It I Had To Get A Job)

The cameraman has his priorities straight.

The cameraman has his priorities straight.

This is why I usually use the self-checkout.

This is why I usually use the self-checkout.

At least make it shaped like a wand or something.

At least make it shaped like a wand or something.

A failed hero works at a magic shop that hires the daughter of the defeated Demon Lord.
This doesn’t really seem much like Hataraku Maou-sama. In Hataraku Maou-sama the Demon Lord was an impressive character despite his unfamiliarity with the modern world. He burned with an inner greatness, a demonic ambition that would always shine through even as he was serving people burgers and fries. There was something noble in the way he adapted to his changed circumstances by earning money and living frugally. This Demon Princess is not noble. She’s a typical helpless alien girlfriend, only a couple notches more capable of taking care of herself than Chii from Chobits. Yes, she makes cackling chuunibyou declarations about how she’ll devour your soul, but that’s actually a sign of helplessness too. She just doesn’t know any other way to talk. And even though though Maou-sama was set in the real world, it actually had more fantastic elements than this show seems to. This show comes from the school of fantasy where you take modern technology, replace the word “electricity” with “magic”, and there’s your setting. From what I can remember of my engineering courses electricity is in fact magic, but it’s still lazy world-building, and strips the show of any chance at an actually interesting aesthetic. There were a few decent jokes over the course of the first episode, but they got kinda lost among all the random pantyshot pandering.

7: Aoki Hagane no Arpeggio (Arpeggio of Blue Steel)

Hexagons are the future.

Hexagons are the future.

A very carefully chosen preposition.

A very carefully chosen preposition.

You can't even inspect their source code!

You can’t even inspect their source code!

In a future where the world’s seas are patrolled by an unfriendly AI fleet, one AI submarine goes rogue and serves a human mercenary captain.
The CGI in this show actually looks quite good. The clashes between hightech battleships firing lasers and “corrosion missiles” at each other are everything one could hope for, lots of super-detailed technology and flashy hexagon lightshows. Unfortunately, the CGI looks so good they figured they could use it not just for the ships, but for the humanoid characters as well. It sort of works, and having everything done in CGI is nice in that it keeps the CGI on the vehicles from standing out and looking out of place. But it sort of doesn’t work, because even good CGI is no match for a human animator (take that, you AI scum!) and the CGI versions of the characters end up looking a little derpy. So how nice the show looks entirely depends on how much it shows ships fighting, rather than people talking to each other. Unfortunately, while they did set up some future plot elements that would make ships fight, they also have an adolescent protagonist grappling with undirected adolescent rage that he’s probably going to want to talk about eventually, and they have a ship AI girl who is going to learn about what it means to be human and how true love can overcome programming. And even if they didn’t look like crap I still really wouldn’t be interested in watching those conversations. AI doesn’t work that way, guys!

6: Golden Time

Haha, yanderes. Will they ever learn?

Haha, yanderes. Will they ever learn?

Looks like we found out where Adult Mikuru went to college.

Looks like we found out where Adult Mikuru went to college.

It's only impressive because the animators don't usually bother with lips at all.

It’s only impressive because the animators don’t usually bother with lips at all.

A guy goes to college.
We didn’t even get introduced to the premise in the first episode, they’re really slow-rolling their melodrama here. I guess the time constraints of visual novels are a little different from the constraints of anime, which is why Kimi ga Nozomu Eien was just an ordinary high school romance for its first couple episodes. But the consequence of that is that the first episode might not be very representative of the whole and ruin my whole “threshing the fall season” gimmick. The episode was a fairly faithful depiction of the first few days of orientation as you’re entering college and the administrators try to justify their salaries by telling you things you don’t care about, but a faithful depiction of a boring process is not actually what I want in my anime. The male lead met some girls, and at least the blonde yandere is cute. I can foresee some interesting drama arising based on the protagonist chasing another man’s yandere, but if they’re planning to give equal time to the other girls that don’t seem as interesting (one of them has as her trait that she wears lipstick), I dunno about this show. One episode just wasn’t enough to properly judge, I think.

5: Kyoukai no Kanata

In glasses, I love girls in shorts.

In glasses, I love girls in shorts.

You shouldn't encourage her.

You shouldn’t encourage her.

Finally, a relatable protagonist!

Finally, a relatable protagonist!

An immortal half-demon boy and a cursed warrior girl fight demons and act emo.
My usual criticism of Kyoto Animation shows is that they look pretty but are soulless. Kyoukai no Kanata is pretty, but I think there might be a little soul there too. The female lead is cute; she looks good in glasses, she’s clumsy and insecure and generally ℳℴℯ❤, but when it comes time to fight she can form a magical sword out of her own blood and bust out some sick moves. The contrast there is appealing, “gap moe” I think it’s called? I didn’t like the childhood friend character in the literary club – her dialogue with the male lead was flatter than her chest. The writer was going for the sense of easy banter between old friends, but he didn’t hit the right notes and it ended up sounding like they were both trying too hard to pretend they were friends and could still banter with each other because they didn’t either of them want to admit that their friendship had grown into a hollow shell of a lie. Which, if that’s what they were going for, it was spot on, but I think the writing was just bad. There wasn’t a ton of fighting action in the first episode, but what we got looked good, as I would expect from KyoAni.  I have to admit that I have very little interest in the female lead’s subplot of “oh no my clan is considered cursed because we manipulate blood instead of something wholesome like stock prices and now everyone is discriminating against me”.  Combining that with the male lead’s subplot of “golly I wish I could die but oh no, shucks, I’m immortal”, things may get too whiny for me to handle.  We’ll see. So long as they can avoid an emo overload I think their characters work well together.

4: Walkure Romanze

Did she dye her horse's tail to match her hair?

Did she dye her horse’s tail to match her hair?

Maid!

Maid!

The show is a little bit trashy.

The show is a little bit trashy.

Everybody wants to win the jousting tournament at a school for knights.
I’m not sure if the people making this show realize that it’s not supposed to be taken seriously. On the one hand, half the plot of the first episode was driven by a Sexual Assault Horse that ran around campus biting the female students’ clothes off them. On the other hand the art and animation obviously had a huge amount of effort put into them. Intricately detailed armor, varied character designs, and absolutely gorgeous backgrounds of medieval German town and countryside made the show a pleasure to watch. There was a little CGI in the actual jousting scenes themselves, but it was well done and not obnoxious. I would hardly blame the animators for phoning it in when tasked with animating an adaptation of a ridiculous porno game, but instead they put in a virtuoso performance. The plot seems pretty dumb – something about how the protagonist used to be a knight, but he decided to be a squire instead because of some Mysterious Traumatic Past. (Maybe he was sexually assaulted by a horse.) But the characters seem like they’ll be fun. They’re at an academy for German aristocracy, so basically every other character is a drill-hair ojou-sama, and they do a good job of hamming it up. And the female lead has pink hair! I’m embarrassed to admit to how much I’m looking forward to more episodes of this show.

3: Samurai Flamenco

Is that magazine really named "Men's 69"

Is that magazine really named “Men’s 69″

Or he could have become an arms dealer to bring about world peace.

Or he could have become an arms dealer to bring about world peace.

Yeah well your outfit looks dumb.

Yeah well your outfit looks dumb.

A guy decides he wants to become a superhero, and meets a police officer who humors him.
The superhero Samurai Flamenco’s goal seems to be to build a better society through community-oriented vigilantism. Toward that end he’s taken it upon himself to step in and prevent people from committing minor misdemeanors, similar to the “broken windows” theory of policing. His first act as a hero is to accost a jaywalker. To some extent this is silly: even if Japan doesn’t have the scale of open gang warfare we see in the US, still things like the Yakuza are a bigger deal than people smoking within fifteen feet of a restaurant’s entrance. But on the other hand, to hell with people who use urban anonymity and the bystander effect to get away with being sociopaths to the people around them  in a million little ways! They should have to face justice, those of us who behave honestly and properly shouldn’t have lose out in everything. I think this is the reason why lots of people sympathized with the goals of Yagami Light in Death Note – nobody wants to feel like a chump while others get away with breaking the rules. And Samurai Flamenco has the luxury of more modulated responses to minor transgressions than just murder all the time. So it’s a nice fantasy. We haven’t seen any real action yet, and I don’t know if this is the sort of show that’s going to have action. It might all just be civic involvement and strongly-worded reprimands. But the characters are fun. They sort of seem like ripoffs of the Tiger and Bunny from Tiger and Bunny, but I liked Tiger and Bunny from Tiger and Bunny.  I just sort of hope it doesn’t get any gayer than Tiger and Bunny did. The show opened with Samurai Flamenco naked for what seemed like flimsy reasons, it’s kinda worrisome.

2: White Album 2

Having fun is serious business.

Having fun is serious business.

Everyone's unconquerable right up to the point that they're conquered.

Everyone’s unconquerable right up to the point that they’re conquered.

Such a powerful conversationalist...!

Such a powerful conversationalist…!

The light music club breaks up right before the school festival and now the backup guitarist has to recruit new members.
It’s a nice-looking show! Not really pushing the envelope visually but what they have attempted they have definitely succeeded at. The connection this show has to the previous White Album seems to be tothe extent that the light music club in this one is going to cover the songs of the idol in the last one, so in other words, nothing. It doesn’t seem as deep and contemplative as the previous White Album, but it goes further than anything else this season so it’s hard for me to complain. What really strikes me about this show is the depth of the characters. When the protagonist is flirting with the popular girl, they don’t end up just resorting to the cliches every anime uses when a protagonist flirts with a popular girl. They exchange original, subtle, believable dialogue, with some actual back and forth and parry and counterthrust in their mutual language game. And this makes it more plausible that a romance could have begun to bud with that conversation.  A lot of this episode was just setting up the situation that presumably they will flesh out over the course of the season, so it didn’t really knock me off my feet, but I expect great things. Even if it doesn’t quite live up to the original White Album it could still be an excellent show.

1:Non Non Biyori (Non Non Nice Day Outside)

Tokyo is amazing.

Tokyo is amazing.

It's because she's such a small target to try to hit.

It’s because she’s such a small target to try to hit.

I bet if you lived out there for a while you'd get sick of all the green.

I bet if you lived out there for a while you’d get homesick for billboards.

An elementary school girl’s family moves from Tokyo to the country and she must adjust.
I think the title is supposed to evoke the Japanese word “nonbiri”, meaning “taking it easy”, because this was the most relaxing anime I’ve ever seen. I like slice of life anime, but usually only when they have some notions of plot or conflict included; the full-on “iyashikei” healing-type anime just leave me bored. I think the key difference that Non Non Biyori brings to the table is its pastoral setting. It presents an idealized view of country life, where everybody knows each other and has to get along because there are only like five kids in a fifty mile radius, and where you can hang out and relax because buses only come every two hours but that’s ok because they’d just take you to a school where you would work through problems in a workbook on your own anyway and now that I’m describing this it sounds sort of awful? Maybe I was just taken in by the gorgeously-drawn scenery of forested hills, I’m sure I don’t actually want to abandon city life and go become a farmer. I bet they get shitty internet speeds out there. But whether or not the ideal is worth pursuing in reality, this show’s depiction of it has melted my stony heart. There were some jokes in the episode, gentle jokes like a warm breeze rustling the grass, but they were fun. The main running gag of the episode was the kids trying to convince the youngest that they didn’t actually live out in the country, and children naively believing the lies their elders tell them is always funny. All-in-all this seems like a good anime for a modern urbanized fellow like me who suspects that the grass might literally be greener out in the country.

 

This season looks terrible.  The only show whose first episode I actually really enjoyed instead of thinking “well, it has potential” was Non Non Biyori. When a fanservice show like Walkure Romanze comes in at #4, you know that’s a bad sign.  This coming after such a high-powered summer season makes me wonder if the tradition of putting the heavy-hitter shows in spring and fall has come to an end.  It never really made sense to me anyway, you figure you’d want to spread them out as much as possible to avoid competition, right?  Or maybe they really think all this CGI shit is putting their best foot forward.  Who knows.  All I know is, it’s looking like I have more time to work through my anime backlog this season.

Fall Anime Season 2013 – The Fall of Anime

This isn’t much of a preview, since the season actually started a few days ago, but I was writing this up before I got distracted by videogames (EU4 is addictive) and schoolwork (if anyone asks I was doing schoolwork not playing twice as many videogames). So I figured, I might as well post it, I make few enough posts as it is. Here are my thoughts on the still-largely-upcoming fall anime season. The lineup is here, and I have done my best to translate any titles that are in Japanese. A lot of them seem to be in Italian, though, for some reason.

Coppelion:
A stylish girls-with-guns action show set in a future where the Tokyo Metropolitan Area has turned into The Zone from S.T.A.L.K.E.R., I guess. It kinda has an old school feel for the visuals, right down to the CGI on the spider robo-mecha thing with its glowing red laser-penis. Should be interesting to see what sort of commentary they try to make about the whole Fukushima thing, but the politics will likely end up some unpleasant combination of heavy-handed and simple-minded. Maybe it’s better if it’s just there as a setting for girls to have fun blowing things up in.  Blowing things up is fun.

Kyoukai no Kanata (Past the Border):
I remember when I used to get exceted for new Kyoto Animation shows, but now I just say “ugh, another overproduced boring school life story”. The female character designs are ripped straight from Hyouka, the male character designs are ripped straight from Free, and I bet if there’s a fat parrot character it will look a lot like the one from Tamako Market. The one possible saving grace for this show is the supernatural action elements. Kyoto Animation animates with consistently high production values, and while that’s sort of a waste for a show about a club for lazy people to eat cake in, it improves a hot-blooded battle sequence immensely. Maybe a few action scenes will be just what they need to free themselves from their moe addiction and recover the spirit they had when they were making Full Metal Panic: The Second Raid, the spirit that produced Haruhi and which thely lost when they made K-On.

Kyousougiga (TL Note: I Have No Earthly Idea What This Means):
Hard to tell on this one, but it looks like one of those psychedelically wacky shows like Kaiba that people keep recommending to me not realizing that I am a straight-laced upstanding citizen who does not use illegal consciousness-altering substances. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course, but we have different tastes, and that difference extends to our differing interest levels in an anime about chasing a rabbit through a mirror to a world where things are strange for no reason and nobody even remembers the poems he was parodying anymore.  Off with its head!

Nagi no Asu Kara (From the Day After The Lull):
Getting a real Suisei no Gargantia feel from this show. Not interested in another water-themed, conflict-light show about getting along, making friends, promoting intercultural understanding, and other shit like that. The female lead looks too sweet to be interesting, and the male lead looks too spineless to do anything about it other than blush and try to hide his feelings for her. And there’s not even a giant robot to make wisecracks.

Outbreak Company:
Probably pandering trash, but the premise of an otaku who ends up in a fantasy world is the sort of thing it should be possible to do well. The character designs look like, well, pandering trash, but they’re pretty well done for that sort of thing. And hey, Zero no Tsukaima was decent enough for a while before it turned bad, right? The key is going to be having jokes about the interaction between the main character’s otakudom and the realities of a fantasy kingdom. If the studio takes the easy way out they’ll just have the jokes be the bare fact that the main character is an otaku in a fantasy kingdom. Or worse, the joke will be that he’s an otaku and the fantasy kingdom will just be a pretty backdrop.

Kill la Kill:
Not much information, but everything I see I don’t like. It’s by the people who did Gurren Lagann, which I did not like nearly as much as the anime blogging community in general. The art style is ugly. Ugly in a stylish way, I guess, ugly in a way that will get the anime blogging community talking about how “artistic” it is, but still ugly. It’s about two schoolgirls who fight with swords and I guess one of them has a school uniform that is alive and talks to people? That doesn’t seem like a compelling plot to me. And the name of the show is “Kill la Kill”. I don’t actually know Italian but I suspect it’s ungrammatical. (Maybe they were going for “Killer Kill?”) I’m filing this one away as “hipster nonsense” and preparing to endure the scorn of my peers who rave about how it changed anime forever.

Golden Time:
A school romantic comedy being set in college is nice because it can be a little less naive than one set in high school. Amnesia as a plot device is kinda lame, evoking horrible daytime soap operas, but if it’s just used as the premise it evokes The Bourne Identity instead. And I am kinda taken with the golden-haired girl who blows rose-petals in the promo video. She seems like the kind of woman who could interestingly toy with a man’s heart. One of the other girls had pink hair, but it was an orangey peach-pink instead of real pink.  Close, but no cigar, there.

Strike the Blood:
The name is ridiculous. The premise could be cool if the girl in charge of maybe hunting down and killing the world’s most powerful vampire took an adversarial role towards him and was constantly having to bop him over the head with a paper fan when he started drinking some innocent civilian’s blood, but that’s not at all what the promos looked like. Instead, he’s going to be a dark tormented soul, and she’s going to be the only one who ~*understands*~ him, and look, I just gotta say, vampires are inhuman monsters that should be staked through the heart and left out in the sun to perish, ok? You don’t team up with them to do badass supernatural battles, you strike their blood until nothing remains but dust.  The Twilight series will be the ruin of humanity, I swear.

Yuusha ni Narenakatta Ore wa Shibushibu Shuushoku wo Ketsui Shimashita (I Didn’t Become A Hero, So As Much As I Hated It I Had To Get A Job):
I guess this is an anime based off a copycat light novel series that got published after Hataraku Maou-sama’s success? It seems like a similar premise, a hero and a demon lord working together at a low-status job, only in this case the hero is the guy and the demon lord the girl, and they live in a fantasy realm instead of being transported to ours. But really, Hataraku Maou-sama was a good show not because of the premise but because of the execution, and the execution here looks weak. The animation looks low-quality, the characters’ facial expressions seem excessively “wacky”, and they didn’t put any jokes in the promo clips which is a bad sign for an ostensible comedy. I’ll probably check it out anyway, but mostly so I can talk about how much better Hataraku Maou-sama was.

Log Horizon:
“Fantasy MMO world that suddenly becomes real life” is a lame setting. Like, if you want to set your anime in a fantasy world, why not just set it in a fantasy world? Why add needless indirection by making it an MMO? Do kids these days have such stunted imaginations that they can’t comprehend a world of magic and adventure except by reference to World of Warcraft? At least the show seems like it’s going to take a comedic approach. You pretty much would have to, with a premise this silly; if you took it seriously it would be a disaster. If this show ends up more Tower of Druaga than Sword Art Online, it might be worthwhile. Tower of Druaga never stooped to justifying its use of videogame tropes in the narrative, though, and that might have made all the difference.

White Album 2:
This is not the second season of the White Album anime, because that already happened. Rather, it’s an adaptation of the sequel to the game on which the first White Album anime was based. And it doesn’t seem like much of a sequel – from what I can tell, it’s a completely unrelated game by the same company that got labeled as a sequel to try to exploit the value of the brand. But hey, the brand has a lot of value in my book. The original White Album anime was engaging and moving and left me wanting more. This show doesn’t seem like it will be “more” in any real sense, but if it’s by the same people maybe that’s good enough. And there really aren’t enough anime adaptations of melodramatic porn games these days, so we gotta cherish the ones we get.

Sekai de Ichiban Tsuyoku Naritai (I Want To Be The Strongest In The World):
I couldn’t even stand to watch the promos. A show all about women with large breasts and skimpy outfits groping all over each other and squealing. Haven’t seen a show this not-technically-porn since Queen’s Blade.

Meganebu (Glasses Club):
I guess glasses fetish is a thing for girls too, huh. Come to think of it, I should have known that, it came up in Ouran High Host Club.  Have fun, ladies.

Walkure Romanze:
Chivalry is cool as heck! Yeah! Knights, and jousting, and if the knights happen to be chicks with pink hair and moderately-sized breasts, so much the better! I dunno that we can expect the Japanese to do any better a job accurately depicting chivalry than westerners tend to do depicting bushido, but the aesthetic is cool at least. The animation quality looked a little off, though, and I think this is an adaptation of a porny porn game, so I’ll try not to raise my hopes too high.  The armor mostly looks nice, but if there’s going to be a lot of jousting going on in this show, I don’t know that I can suspend my disbelief on the practicality of breastplates with the tits jutting out. It seems like that would be a huge liability vis-a-vis your ability to win tournaments. You are trying to avoid a solid hit that knocks you off your horse, in that context cleavage basically becomes a trap for a lance-point that funnels the entire force of the blow into your center of mass.  Exactly what you do not want.

Gingitsune (Silver Fox):
I’m wary of shows that involve too much Japanese mythology, because there are always so many cultural references I don’t get and I end up feeling lost. And apart from that it seems likely to be a slow-paced, barely animated slice of life anime for people who wish their imaginary friends were real and giant magical foxes. Bleh.

Unbreakable Machine Doll:
Robot girlfriends are cool as heck! And it seems like the protagonist here has earned the right to have one by building one, instead of just finding one laying around like in Chobits or receiving some as gifts like in Busou Shinki. The combat tournament elements are something of a concern; Busou Shinki got dragged down by its action sequences, and there was a really awful-looking CGI dragon in the promo videos. But they were playing up the romantic-comedy aspects most of the time in the promos, so I’m hoping the tournament is mostly just premise and we get lots of fun flirting between an unbreakable machine doll and an ambitious artificer.

Non Non Biyori (Non Non Nice Day Outside):
The promos for this are incredibly boring – two minutes worth of looking at drawings of countryside. I actually think they’re being ironic here, it sort of reminds me of the Lucky★Star promo that was just a closeup of Konata’s face staring at the viewer and making a buzzing noise, but it leaves me in a bind because it doesn’t really give me much basis to evaluate the show. Kyoto Animation could get away with it because they’d just done Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu, but what has Silver Link done recently? Oh, I guess they did Watamote. Fair enough, then. From what I hear, the manga has jokes in it, so that’s probably a good sign?

Aoi Hagane no Arpeggio (Arpeggio of Blue Steel):
A very pretty show, lots of lovingly-detailed battleships firing lasers at each other, if that’s the sort of thing you’re into. Ever since the disappointment that was Tide-Line Blue, I’ve wanted to watch an actual good show about the crew of a super-powerful submarine changing the course of history. This could be that show! The one thing I’m worried about is the girl that’s the personification of the sub. The “mystical artifact that grants you your powers is also a girl you have to romance” plot element almost never goes well. The only show I can think of that was any good with it was Code Geass, and I think Code Geass was the worse for it.

Tokyo Ravens:
I like the character designs, but a supernatural combat anime is going to live or die on the basis of its fight scenes, and the ones in the promos were just appalling. The CGI looks really, really bad. Whatever happened to the good old days when, if you wanted to have your characters fight a monster, you would draw and animate a monster? The monster was bad, but it was nothing compared to the hyper-detailed Jeep model somebody put a lot of effort into. I’m sure the Jeep looks great in a vacuum, but the anime style is all about glossing over the fine details and using stylized representations to evoke recognition. Throwing a photographically-detailed car model in there is jarringly out-of-place. I promise not to laugh at how bad your drawing of a Jeep is, ok? I am on your side here, anything is better than these mountains of CGI.

BlazBlue Alter Memory:
I’m not sure it’s physically possible for a fighting game adaptation anime to be any good. People don’t usually play fighting games for the story, you know? I couldn’t get a good look at the promo video because it kept flashing obnoxiously, like a strobe light, and I decided I did not need much more reason than that to reject this show.

Ore no Nounai Sentakushi ga, Gakuen Love Come o Zenryoku de Jama Shiteiru (The Multiple Choice Questions In My Head Are Going All-Out To Interfere With My School Life Romantic Comedy):
Basically it’s “Would You Rather: The Anime”, I guess. A cheap premise, generic looking character designs, an adaptation of an interminably-titled trash light novel, or all of the above? I only need one choice: the choice not to watch this show.

Samurai Flamenco:
Not much promo material for this. It’s a Japanese superhero show that’s airing on Noitamina, so that’s something. Noitamina is no guarantee of quality, but in theory it means they’re at least trying. And it’ll be fun to see the American genre of superheros through a Japanese lens. Tiger and Bunny, even though it wasn’t all that good, was charming for this reason, and Samurai Flamenco will probably at least be charming as well.

Galilei Donna:
The descendants of Galileo Galilei, the famous astronomer, have magical powers. OK. The descendants of Galileo Galilei, despite living in Tuscany, all have Japanese names. Great. They are being pursued by an evil organization that wants to institute “Galileo Tezoro”, which Google Translate is not giving me any help in deciphering. You know what? Good luck with that.

Pupa:
I guess there is some uncertainty as to whether or not this is actually going to air, since the season is already started and there are still no details or real promos, but what the heck. If it were going to air it seems like the sort of thing that would be worth watching, oppressive psychological horror where the people you love become terrifying monsters.

So altogether, the only shows I’m really looking forward to this season are White Album 2, Unbreakable Machine Doll, and I guess Pupa if it airs.  This season looks pretty weak.  I also plan to check out Coppelion, Kyoukai no Kanata, Outbreak Company, Golden Time, Yuusha ni Narenakatta etc., Log Horizon, Walkure Romanze,  Non Non Biyori, Aoi Hagane no Arpeggio, and Samurai Flamenco.   That’s twelve shows in total, but I’ve had to lower my standards pretty far to get that many.  I’ll consider myself lucky if four of them turn out watchable.

Some of the shows on the list have subs out already, so I’m off to go watch them.  I plan to have a threshing post up in about a week and a half and we can see just how bad things are.

Threshing Summer 2013

From Wikipedia: “Threshing is the process of loosening the edible part of cereal grain (or other crop) from the scaly, inedible chaff that surrounds it. It is the step in grain preparation after harvesting and before winnowing, which separates the loosened chaff from the grain.” You can’t winnow the wheat from the chaff based on just one episode, or you risk missing out on shows like Tatami Galaxy and Shiki. But you can at least get some idea. Below are some ideas, sorted in increasing order of how much potential the show seems to have based on the first episode. (Translations of show titles are my own amateur efforts and may be wildly inaccurate.)

15: Kitakubu Katsudou Kiroku (Log of the Activities of the Go Home Club)

gohome

gohome2

 

Five girls in a club for having fun. This might be the worst “club about nothing” show I’ve ever seen. The “comedy” writing slavishly followed the Japanese “boke-tsukomi” template, which is basically where one character says something stupid and then another character yells “that’s stupid!”. It can work as a skeleton for comedy, if you dress it up cleverly and subtly, but there was no subtlety here.  Every third line or so was the protagonist shouting about how the implausible scenario outlined in the previous two lines was implausible. Even if I wanted to laugh at some comical absurdity the show presented, I would be interrupted by her shouting about how absurd it was before I could properly collect my mirth. Used like this, the “tsukomi” is basically the Japanese version of Big Bang Theory’s laughtrack, covering up for really bad jokes and killing the slightly less bad ones. The animation wasn’t very pleasant to look at either.  They were cracking jokes about their low budget, but the show looked bad enough that they were just kicking themselves while they were down.  Would have been better not to draw attention to it. Go home, Go Home Club.

14: Genei wo Kakeru Taiyou (The Sun That Pierces Illusions)

genei

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A girl who tells the future with Tarot cards is attacked by horrifying monsters. At the end of episode one, I have no idea what’s going on in this show, and I haven’t been introduced to any real characters except the main girl, who is an utterly standard happy friendly girl who tries her best. The fight scenes against the monsters had nothing interesting going on in them, just the girl getting strangled until it was time for magic to magically save her. The show does seem willing to go dark, but going dark isn’t enough if you don’t have interesting characters or an interesting plot or interesting fight scenes or interesting commentary on political philosophy or even decent character designs. There’s an outside chance that this could turn out to be the next Higurashi, but if it is I’ll have to rely on someone else to tell me.

13: Makai Ouji: Devils and Realist (Prince of Hell: Devils and Realist)

makai

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A young materialist noble discovers he is the Heir of Solomon and is dragged into a battle among the devils of Hell. The best thing I can say about this show is that there’s nothing really offensively bad about it. The jokes about how the protagonist doesn’t believe in the supernatural are obvious and unfunny, but they aren’t painful. The characters aren’t unlikable, they’re just uninteresting. The character designs are standard pretty-boy bishounen with various hair colors, but they’re not ugly. The fight scenes were undistinguished magical laser tag, but they were short enough I didn’t have time to get bored with the flashing lights. I’m not remotely interested in the “Hell politics to replace Lucifer” plotline they were setting up, but I could probably manage to listen politely while a fan of the show described it to me. (Or at least as politely as I do anything.) There’s nothing I like about Makai Ouji, but I feel absolutely no urge to track down the show’s creators and exact revenge for what they put me through, and some days that’s all I can ask.

12: Inu to Hasami wo Tsukaiyou (Let’s Use a Dog and Scissors)

inu

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An avid reader is killed and comes back to life as a dog and is adopted by his favorite author who can hear his thoughts. There is too much going on in the premise of this show, and none of it’s related to anything else.  The male lead is crazily obsessed with books AND he gets murdered and comes back to life AND he’s a human in a dog’s body. The female lead is a wealthy authoress AND she can read the male lead’s mind AND she behaves violently with scissors on little-to-no provocation. A good premise for a story has one or two unusual background facts that the story can develop out of while remaining otherwise relatively grounded. Dog Scissors has six mutually independent unusual facts.  It’s a mess. And it leaves the characters nothing but caricatures.  Leaving the premise aside, the art’s not bad but the comedic writing is fairly weak. There were a few jokes I smiled at, but far too many “jokes” were just the female lead being violent toward the male lead for no reason and the male lead reacting with fear, or else the male lead commenting on the female lead’s smallish breasts and the female lead reacting with anger. They went out of their way to put the female lead in a position where her breasts would be exposed just so the male lead could comment on them and make her angry, so that they could make the same lame joke over and over. As for the plot, it might be interesting to watch him try to track down his killer as a dog, but I sort of doubt any sort of  mystery plot springing from a premise this nutso can turn out well.

11: Danganronpa Kibou no Gakuen to Zetsubou no Koukousei (Shotgun Argument Academy of Hope and Students of Despair)

danganronpa

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Fifteen talented youths are imprisoned in a high-school and must kill each other if they wish to leave. This is no Mirai Nikki. The whole thing just seemed empty to me, artificial. The stupid bear thing that’s leading the survival game doesn’t make for a compelling villain, because it seems to have no motive or purpose other than to be a dick.  (The “cute but evil” aesthetic is pretty played out anyway.) The survival game participants are all flat one-note characters who have bizarre character designs but utterly conventional personalities. And the rules of the survival game itself are too simple to be interesting. Maybe they just did a bad job of pacing the introduction, maybe the characters and rules will get more fleshed out later – but even so, if they blew the pacing this badly in the first episode, it doesn’t bode well for the rest of the series.  My understanding is that this is to be a single-season show, and even with twice as many episodes and 20% fewer survival game participants to kill, Mirai Nikki often ended up feeling rushed. Maybe it would be better to play the original VN instead.

10: Fate Kaleid Liner Prisma Ilya

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A Fate/Stay Night imaginary story where Rin and Ilya are recast as magical girls. This is no Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. Seems like it’s going to be an “affectionate parody” of the magical girl genre, which means it’s basically a magical girl show that doesn’t want to take responsibility for being a magical girl show. And it’s focused on Ilya, who was never my favorite F/SN character and in this incarnation has been stripped of the yandere tendencies that were the only interesting thing about her. (She’s also been stripped of her clothes for longer than seems strictly necessary for legitimate storytelling purposes.) Tohsaka Rin is there as a secondary character, and she’s amazing of course, but the new characters, the magic wands and the curly-haired blonde girl, they have nothing going for them either.  No matter how fondly I recall the Unlimited Blade Works route, Rin isn’t enough to get me to watch a show that’s otherwise this bad.

9: Kiniro Mosaic (Golden Mosaic)

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A British highschool girl (blonde) comes to live in Japan. I can’t say I thought much of the first part of this episode. It went way too heavy on the sugary-sweet little girls becoming ~*best friends*~. I knew going in that this would be a cutesy show, but I was insufficiently prepared and the “Hello!” “Konnichiwa!” scene left me gagging. It didn’t help that the supposed British natives spoke their English with a thick Japanese accent.  The main British girl, Alice, is probably going to be speaking most of her lines in Japanese from now on, so I will grudging accept casting a native Japanese speaker in that role.  But at least they should have gotten a Brit to play her mother! That said, once we left the flashback in Britain and returned to present-day Japan, things started looking better. There were jokes, there were more than two characters, there was even the barest hint of some friendly conflict.  Unfortunately that was only the last few minutes of the episode, so it’s hard to judge the quality of the show going forward.

8: The World God Only Knows Goddesses Chapter

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Season three of TWGOK. I really want to give TWGOK the benefit of the doubt here, because we’ve had some good times together, but there wasn’t much to like in this episode at all. TWGOK’s premise is a really great one, it lets you string a bunch of romances together and still give them all satisfying conclusions.  So why are they throwing that all away to give us some joke of a supernatural plot involving a war between heaven and hell? What I want out of TWGOK is primarily jokes and secondarily romance.  If they’re going to be transitioning to supernatural combat instead, that’s a different show from the first two seasons, and it’s not a show in a genre I like very much.

7: Servant x Service

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Three newly-hired civil servants deal with the realities of working in the bureaucracy. This was a pleasant episode. All three main characters are interesting and likable, and the setting is fresh. I feel like for a comedy it really isn’t very funny, though. Some of the slacker dude’s antics were appropriately comic, but a lot of the time it just seemed like an infomercial for the Japanese bureaucracy. If they’re going to have a moral at the end of every episode where they hug and learn the importance of properly filling out paperwork I’m out. The animation is no great shakes either, although the character designs feature young women in business suits and I at least approve of that.

6: Blood Lad

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A schoolgirl ends up in the Demon World and is killed, but a powerful vampire who is obsessed with Japanese pop culture promises to bring her back to life. I’m impressed with the quality of the pop culture references dropped in this show.  Far too often writers think it’s funny just to mention a thing from pop culture (I’m looking at you, Hayate no Gotoku), but Blood Lad actually makes jokes from them. Unfortunately there were also quite a few jokes in this episode of the form “look at how wacky the Demon World is, isn’t the Demon World wacky?” but apparently the characters are headed to the real world next episode so hopefully that should all shake out.  And the male and female leads are both likable. Well, the male lead is likable and the female lead has large breasts, which is the next best thing, right?

5: Kamisama no Inai Nichiyoubi (Sunday Without God)

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In a world where people don’t die when they are killed, only special “gravekeepers” can lay the dead to rest. A 12-year-old girl follows in her mother’s footsteps as gravekeeper, unless maybe she doesn’t, it’s not entirely clear. There were a lot of problems with this first episode. The mysteries of the  gravekeepers, for example, were not really clarified.  They spent the first half of the episode telling us how everything worked and then in the second half a silverhaired gunslinger shows up and says “no, that’s all wrong lol”. Then there was the jarring tone-shift from childishly cute banter to Humbert’s mass what-would-be-murder-if-people-could-die. And the art is nothing special, the backgrounds are orange and the character designs are generic. But even so, I find myself drawn to continue watching No God Sunday. I don’t usually get taken in by anime that introduce “mysteries”, but I find myself actually wanting to know what the deal is with Ai’s past. She’s generic, but somehow she’s likable.  She’s suffered a great tragedy and had her whole identity torn to pieces by a mysterious stranger, and I want to know what happens next.  That’s what it comes down to.

4: Tokurei Sochi Dantai Stella Jo-Gakuin Koutou-ka C3-bu (Special Programs Organization Stella Women’s Academy Special Course C3 Club)

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A shy girl enters highschool and joins the Airsoft Gunsport Club “C3-bu”. This could turn out pretty well! Swords are better than guns, but guns are still pretty good, and even the introductory battle they had in this episode was fairly interesting. Presumably once we’re all familiar with the premise they’ll bring out harder-core survival game triple-bluffs. As I feared, the girls don’t actually look all that great in miniskirts – the school uniform designs for Stella Jogakuin are boring and the skirts are plain grey pleated nonsense. The safety goggles look great though. They’re all different colors and they make the girls look like a badass superhero team.  I remember Mouretsu Pirates had a scene with a schoolgirl with safety goggles and a gun too, and that stuck in my memory despite the general forgetability of the series. We haven’t seen enough of the girls’ personalities off the battlefield to judge them accurately, but what we’ve seen looks good. I especially like the blond-haired girl and the long brown-haired girl, who are both sort of unhinged over airsoft gunsport but in totally different directions.  And at the end of the day, I find “cute girls doing cute things” shows more palatable when the cute things are things like cutely handling a replica machine gun.

3: Love Lab

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An inexperienced middle-school girl is taught the ways of love by an equally-inexperienced middle-school girl. To begin with I wasn’t even going to watch this because it sounded like a schoolgirl lesbians show in the vein of Yuru Yuri, but it got hyped online so I picked it up and I’m glad I did. Love Lab reminds me more of B Gata H Kei than Yuru Yuri, with a stylish girl faking romantic experience and lots of jokes at the expense of people trying to pretend they know it all. I felt like I should have liked B Gata H Kei, but the pacing was off or the jokes weren’t funny enough or something just wasn’t right. I think Love Lab can do better, because Maki and Riko can play off each other for comedy, rather than Yamada having to carry the show on her own by talking to herself. And if we’re really lucky, no boys will show up and ruin our romantic-inexperience comedy by injecting actual romantic experience.  Then again, what sort of Love Lab is it if you don’t do any experiments that could cause explosions?

2: Watashi ga Motenai no wa Dou Kangaite mo Omaera ga Warui (Why Don’t You Fuckers Love Me)

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An isolated high school girl tries to improve her social position but has a myriad of personal failings. Generally speaking, I’m not a fan of “cringe” comedy, or awkward comedy. When fictional characters are put in situations where they lose dignity due to their farcical fumblings, I don’t laugh, I just feel bad for them. And Watamote is certainly a member of that genre; the female lead’s fumblings toward popularity could hardly be more farcical. But I’m laughing. My grin started about the time Tomoko started playing boy-touching games on her DS and really never left. I think the issue might be that I see the parts of myself I like least in Tomoko. Usually I don’t feel good about laughing at awkward comedy because “nobody deserves to feel that uncomfortable”, but there’s an implicit “(except me of course)” in there. Tomoko has an unjustified feeling of superiority and scorn towards others, a sense of entitlement that carries through even to the title of the show, and an instinctive response to flinch away from harsh reality. Those particular vices, I know what they feel like from the inside, and so I’m not inclined to forgive them. I know they’re unjustifiable, or I’d be able to justify them in myself. And so I’m happy to see her taken down a few pegs in a cathartic ritual to exorcise my own demons. Uh, anyway, my personal issues aside the show is pretty darn good?  The animation quality is nothing super special but it’s got some creative direction choices going on, and the voice actress for Tomoko is doing a great job in the role. The jokes are funny if you’re a loser nerd and hate yourself and hey, who isn’t and doesn’t?

1: Monogatari Series Second Season

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Apparently the second season of the Monogatari series? I guess Nisemonogatari was just a wet dream. New protagonist, same batshit Shaft style. I was a little skeptical about how well Monogatari starring Hanekawa was going to go given that she was more or less the boringest character in Bakemonogatari and Araragi is my role model, but seeing the world through her eyes really improved my opinion of her. Her problem as a character is that her martyr complex leads to her bottling her concerns inside herself, so you never find out the interesting things about her unless you get a look at her inner monologue. It was also interesting seeing a different side of Senjougahara, although it was a surprisingly similar side of Senjougahara actually, right down to the talking about weighty issues while showing off her naked body. Mayoi, on the other hand, turns out to be super boring without Araragi around to molest her, but I think we’ve seen the last of her for this arc so no worries. Yeah, Shaft is still great, Senjougahara is still great, Monogatari series is still great, A+ #1.

 

All told, that’s an amazing yield for a summer season.  Two shows that look like they’re pretty much guaranteed to go great, and five more that seem worth hoping for.  And then there’s TWGOK, which I have only despair for, but which deserves at least a couple more episodes before I drop it. It’s a pity though that there doesn’t seem much worth watching that’s straight action or drama or anything.  Comedy is great and I love it, but I’m not sure I want six of my seven shows to be just about making jokes all the time.

Summer Anime Season 2013 – The Summer of Boys

Spring is over and Summer has begun! Spring had a few decent shows, Hentai Ouji to Warawanai Neko being the standout, but given that the spring and fall anime seasons are supposed to be when all the A-list anime air, it was a little underwhelming.  The big, hyped up shows like Aku no Hana and Shingeki no Kyojin were huge disappointments.  So let’s take a look at the lineup and see what we have to look forward to being disappointed by this summer! Title translations are my own efforts and may be laughably inaccurate.

Kimi no Iru Machi (The Town You Live In): There were only fifteen seconds of promo video I could find for this show but that was enough to overwhelm me with bland sweetness.  They used to make a lot more of these sort of plain-vanilla love triangle romances where a boy and a girl are forced to live together under one roof, but at some point they decided that all shows like this needed a gimmick.  These days, if a boy and a girl are in a cohabitation love-triangle, it’s because the girl is a god, or the girl is a robot, or the girl is his little sister (a popular choice). And say what you like about the silliness of these gimmicks, but at least they make the shows distinguishable. Even the art style for this show looks like every single early 2000’s romance. If I watched it, I’d probably end up calling out “Da Capo” during the plot’s climax. It would be an awkward situation.

Genei wo Kakeru Taiyou (The Sun That Does Something To Illusions): The meaning of the Japanese verb “kakeru” is crazy underspecified, and it bothers me.  I could never figure out what the girl did to time, either. Anyway, I’d write this show off as magical girl nonsense except that the promos made it look a little more serious and hardcore action-y than I would expect from your typical anime aimed at 8-year-old girls.  It almost looks like an entry in the genre that Madoka would have been in if Madoka had been in a genre.  I don’t want to miss out when “dark gritty magical girls” becomes a thing, but I also want to minimize my time spent watching non-dark, non-gritty magical girls. It’s a quandary.

Servant x Service: This show has like a dozen different promo videos of a woman in her twenties with glasses and professional clothing jumping rope while her breasts bounce up and down.  Servant x Service, you have my attention.   Apparently this is a comedy set in the civil bureaucracy, but not necessarily about the bureaucracy so much as the zany bureaucrats – kinda like Parks and Recreation, if you’ll forgive me referencing Western TV.  I guess Hokkaido is Japan’s equivalent of Indiana?  To the extent that I was able to pay attention to the dialogue during the promo videos the comedic writing seemed solid.  The animation seemed, uh, pretty low budget (they stretched four frames of animation out into twelve promo videos), but the character designs look nice.  One thing that worries me is that it’s by the same author as Working, which I wasn’t a fan of, but thinking back on it one of the big things that bugged me about Working was the character designs, and that doesn’t seem to be a problem here.

Blood Lad: The promo videos for this kinda remind me of Hataraku Maou-sama – the male lead is a supposed “monster” who actually takes a laid-back attitude towards his monstrousness and just wants to hang out in modern Japan, and the female lead is a human girl with huge breasts. (For some reason that seemed like the main aspect of her character the promo videos were trying to promote.) It’s looking like a light-hearted monster-themed comedy, and that could be good or bad depending on how funny the jokes are.

Monogatari Series Second Season (Story Series Second Season): Shaft is a kickass studio, but they need good source material to adapt. It doesn’t seem like they should, given how unique a spin they put on everything they do, but you can look at what happened with Sasami@Ganbaranai or Dance In The Vampire Bund (lol) and see that all the cute animation tricks in the world can’t save a crap story.  So I’m glad to see them going with a known quantity here by adapting more of the Monogatari novels.  Nisemonogatari was, as the saying goes, too genuinely horny to qualify as satire, but Nekomonogatari was great, so I’m excited for this.

Kin-iro Mosaic (Golden Mosaic): This counts as racism, right? They are exoticizing the hell out of that Other. Or does it fall under the “white people” exception?  Either way, this seems like another one of those cute-girls-doing-cute-things shows, and I doubt the fact that one or two of the girls are from the UK is actually going to change very much in the dynamics.  Those shows can sometimes be worth watching, but they need to be solid on the comedy, and I didn’t really see any evidence of that in the promos.  Just a lot of brushing that exotic blonde hair.  Well, GJ-bu has given me an appreciation for hairbrushing, maybe I’ll give it a shot.

Fantasia Doll: This is the magical girl nonsense I’m hoping Genei wo Kakeru Taiyou doesn’t turn out to be.  The blurb says it’s “science fiction” but it’s clear from the promos that we’re not talking Psycho-Pass or anything. More like just plain Pass.

Uchouten Kazoku (Ecstatic Family): Traditional Japanese monsters, tanuki and tengu, and a somewhat traditionalist art-style.  Man, I never feel like I really “get” this sort of show.  In some sense, all anime is made by Japanese people for Japanese people (except Big O), but modern Japan has a lot more in common with the modern USA than traditional Japan has with the traditional USA. (What would that even be, giant blue oxen and apple trees and stuff? Slavery?) If I grew up immersed in the right sort of culture to enjoy this show, I might, but I didn’t, so I doubt I will.

Love Lab: This season’s “schoolgirl lesbians” show.  Last season’s at least had the decency to include a pink-haired chick. I’m not interested regardless, but for the people who are into this sort of thing, doesn’t it sort of kill the enjoyment if the premise is that they are only getting romantic with each other as part of a long-term strategy culminating in romance with boys? I didn’t think a schoolgirl lesbians anime could even afford to acknowledge the existence of the masculine gender.

Gin no Saji: Silver Spoon (Silver Spoon: Silver Spoon): They showed a decapitated chicken in the promo video.  Well, they didn’t actually show it, they mosaic’d it out, but they made me think about decapitated chickens and in general the practice of raising animals only to kill and eat them.  I pay money to get my meat already sliced up so I don’t have to think about things like this!  I’m sort of in the inverse position as the protagonist, having moved to the big city to get away from the rural lifestyle of my parents, so I think I might end up feeling too much empathy with the protagonist to laugh at him like I’m supposed to. It’s a Noitamina show, but it seems like the sort of Noitamina show that gets put on Noitamina because of its implicit stance on important cultural issues rather than because it’s brilliant art.

Inu to Hasami wa Tsukaiyou (I Can Use A Dog And Scissors): This season’s scissors fetish show.  I didn’t realize that was a thing, but Crime Edge and Bakemonogatari… wait a sec, there’s a new season of Bakemonogatari airing this season.  So, in fact, Dog Scissors is this season’s other scissors fetish show.  The scissors fetish understudy, in case Bakemonogatari gets distracted by toothbrushes again.  From the promos, the female lead looks like she might be charming.  She’s almost certainly no Senjougahara, but who is?  I’m worried about the male lead though.  Being trapped in a dog’s body seems like a recipe for easy, lazy jokes that fit in the [HUMOR GOES HERE] slot in the anime’s storyboards but don’t actually make me laugh.  We’ll have to see how it goes, but it’s by Gonzo, so let’s not get our hopes up.

Danganronpa Kibou no Gakuen to Zetsubou no Koukousei (Shotgun Argument Academy of Hope and Students of Despair): There’s a lot of hype about the visual novel this is based on all over the internet, which means going by last seasons results the anime adaptation will probably suck. Shows about survival games can be pretty thrilling (Mirai Nikki), and the whole “trial” aspect reminds me of the game of Mafia (or in some cultures Werewolf), which I find fascinating as a petri dish where deception, politics, and analysis can grow. The show’s character designs are unappealing and I can already tell that little black-and-white bear thing is gonna piss me off, but in the end I have no choice but to watch this, or else I’ll never know what the fuss is about.

Tokurei Sochi Dantai Stella Jo-Gakuin Koutou-ka C3-bu (Special Programs Organization Stella Women’s Academy Special Course C3 Club): Girls with guns. I guess it could end up like a cross between Girls and Panzer and Upotte with all the pointlessly weird nonsense stripped out.  And the pointlessly weird nonsense was a lot of what kept those shows from living up to their potential! I’m worried about the “(‘[girls] who look super good in mini-skirts’)” bit in the blurb, though.  You shouldn’t have to point out that the girls look super good in mini-skirts, that should be assumed.  It’s not something you can use as a selling point, it’s something you need to have down cold before you even show up at the table. Explicitly pointing it out like that just makes me think you’re trying to cover for the fact that your girls only look basically acceptable in mini-skirts, or maybe they don’t look super good in jogging clothes or something. It raises a whole host of issues you don’t want raised.

Brothers Conflict: It’s nice that women get godawful pandering incest harem anime too.  Gender equality and all that.

Genshiken Nidaime (Genshiken Second Generation): This reminds me that I never got around to watching the second season of Genshiken.  And now there’s a whole second generation?  Time really gets away from you, huh.

Watashi ga Motenai no wa Dou Kangaete mo Omaera ga Warui (Why Don’t You Fuckers Love Me): (That was something of a fanciful translation, attempting to maintain the pragmatic spirit of the Japanese if not the exact semantic content. The generally accepted translation in the community is It’s Not My Fault I’m Not Popular.) This is the anime adaptation of the manga which became a big hit on an overseas 2channel-like message board. I tried reading it, but as usual for fan-translations of manga the translation quality was awful.  What little I read of it seemed really appealing though.  It’s like a lonelier Genshiken, or a less suicidal Welcome to the NHK. A sympathetic and lighthearted look at what it means to be a gross otaku no one could ever love in a world ruled by normies. The promo video didn’t display much animation effort, because it was just Not Popular At Her Computer in the middle of the night, but at least that shows they’re taking the right tone. Not Popular Girl getting an anime is great news.

Kitakubu Katsudo Kiroku (Log of the Activities of the Go-Home-Club): The titular “Kitakubu” or “Go-Home-Club” is a Japanese term for students who don’t join any clubs.  It’s the null club, basically.  So instead of a show about a club about nothing, we have a show about a club that is itself nothing.  Will it be any good? Who knows! These sorts of shows you just have to watch, or let someone who writes an anime blog watch for you. Usually they’re boring, but sometimes they’re GJ-bu.

Gatchaman Crowds: Yet another supernatural action anime full of Capitalized Nouns.  The only thing notable about it is that “NOTE” and “MESS” are really dumb names for the mysterious entities, even by the standards of this sort of show.

Free!: More gender equality! The girls can go ahead and enjoy their dripping wet Kyoto Animation moe boys.  I won’t begrudge them that.  I mean it’s not like we were going to get a third season of Haruhi anyway.

Fate/Kaleid Liner Prisma Illya: How does this exist.  Just, how does this even exist?  Who looks at Fate/Stay Night, one of the greatest works of modern world literature, and picks out the character of Ilyasviel von Einzbern, and says, we should do a spin-off about her adventures as a magical girl.  Someone explain to me the thinking behind this.  I mean I guess it’s like a parody of the mahou shoujo genre? Or maybe like a retelling of the events of the Holy Grail War from Ilya’s perspective?  I guess if I think of it in those terms it starts to make sense, sort of like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.  Or maybe like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.  We’ll see.

Makai Ouji: Devils and Realist (Prince of Hell: Devils and Realist): The premise reminds me of the Sudden Girlfriend Appearance genre, except that the demons the protagonist summons seem to be dudes.  I’m getting a sneaking suspicion we might be looking at yet more gender equality. But I am interested in seeing how Hell Politics plays out in anime form, and I do get some cheap kicks out of watching an atheist Choose Logic even when blatantly supernatural things are going on right in front of him (Umineko was great for this). Hmm, at the end of that promo video those dudes are going in for a kiss.  Hmmm.  Hmmmm.

The World God Only Knows Season 3: More TWGOK!  I dunno, season 2 didn’t thrill me as much as the first season did.  Regression towards the mean and all that. Season two was too much caught up in the supernatural aspects of the show and didn’t spend enough time on the down-to-earth everyday capturing of girls’ hearts. From what I’ve heard, Season 3 is going to be covering something called the “Goddesses Arc”.  That doesn’t sound very down-to-earth to me.  Oh dear.

Hyperdimension Neptune: Has there ever been a good RPG anime adaptation?  I guess a lot of people liked the Persona 4 anime.  Anyway, this looks pretty crappy.  Launching your anime about a game parodying the console gaming industry doesn’t make sense when it’s like, three months before the next generation of consoles are released.  Your jokes are going to be instantly out of date. And without timely humor about how much you want to XBone the moe personification of the PS4, Hyperdimension Neptune doesn’t seem to have much to offer.  OK, fanservice outfits with the tits hanging out,  and twin girls named Ram and Rom, that’s something, but I’m pretty confident this is going to turn out to be trash.

Kamisama no Inai Nichiyoubi (Sunday Without God): I’m pretty sure I’ve heard this joke before.  They’re actually all dead, right, and they’re in like Hell or Purgatory or something.  And that’s why they can’t die, they can never leave, or at least not until they’ve repented their sins or given up their attachment to worldly things or whatever.  Spoiler warning.  I dunno, it could be good.  Maybe there’s something deeper to it.  Or maybe it’ll be a jumble of meaningless Christian imagery combined with pro-death propaganda. They could take it a lot of different ways.

So all things considered, I think this season actually might look better than Spring did.  I’m really excited for Servant x Service, Monogatari Series Two, and Unpopular Girl. TWGOK 3 should be at the very least watchable, too.  And then I have Genei wo Kakeru Taiyou, Blood Lad, Kin-iro Mosaic, Dog Scissors, Danganronpa, C3-bu, Kitakubu Katsudo Kiroku ok I just realized that this show’s title has an unfortunate abbreviation, Prism Ilya, and Makai Ouji, any of which could turn out good. So that’s thirteen shows.  I’m guessing I’ll end up picking up five or six, and maybe even blog one or two if we’re lucky.

The first of these shows should be airing soon.  I’ll spend the next couple weeks watching these shows, then put up a threshing post evaluating them.  Watch for it.

Happy International Day Against Homophobia!

[Eveyuu] Hentai Ouji to Warawanai Neko. 04 [Hi10P 1280x720 H264] [832AB226].mkv_snapshot_18.11_[2013.05.12_02.50.23]

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