Winter 2013 was kind of a weak season for anime, but that’s to be expected. Winter and Summer are supposed to be the weak seasons, and all the good shows are supposed to start in Spring or Fall. Looking over the lineup for Spring, though, it doesn’t look like much of an improvement over Winter at all. And this time we don’t have Shin Sekai Yori continuing from the previous season to pick up the slack. Here are my thoughts on the pitiful crop of shows that are going to be airing this season. Title translations are mine, except when they’re correct, in which case I probably just copied the official translation.
Date A Live: Mecha action plus sudden girlfriend appearance, the same formula that Full Metal Panic used. FMP is over ten years old at this point, so it counts as “old-school”, right? There was definitely an old-school sensibility to a lot of the scenes in the promos for this show. There was a pantyshot in one of the promos, and rather than being exasperated at the pandering, or naively appreciating the pandering, I was struck with nostalgia for an age where animation studios put random pantyshots in every show just because they could, and there was none of this coy modern nonsense about beams of light obscuring things to force you to buy the blu-rays because blu-rays hadn’t been invented yet. It was that sort of pantyshot. I’m not sure that’s enough to keep me interested in a whole show, though. FMP was interesting, to the extent that it was interesting, because of its fish-out-of-water male lead. Date A Live seems like it will be playing up the horrible destructive power of the female lead instead, and the male lead is going to be yet another spineless harem protagonist. It might be worth a shot, though, I kinda liked the action scenes in the promos. They had missiles and people at computers and swordfighting and an exciting soundtrack.
Red Data Girl: A girl who just wants to be a normal girl and date boys but she has mysterious supernatural powers and is bound up in some dark family secret stretching back centuries or whatever. The Red Data Book, huh? Maybe her family’s dark secret is that they’re Communists. It sort of looks like gratuitous wish fulfillment, right – everybody wants to suddenly go to a new school and change their hairstyle and discover that they’re really important. Probably it will be your ordinary modern-day supernatural mystery nonsense where nothing is ever explained and the supernatural powers are whatever is convenient for the plot at the moment, but I can check it out I guess. The animation in the promos looked pretty good and I like the character designs.
Karneval: A show about battlin’ bishounen and a “powerful defense organization” called “Circus”, and I’m not sure I can take either one of those seriously. Pretty boys should be delicate flowers like in Ouran High Host Club, they should leave the actual fighting in outrageous costumes to the magical girls. One of the promos had a fight scene on a train that reminded me of Baccano, and Baccano was pretty amazing, but I don’t think it was the train that made it good. Probably gonna pass on this.
Yahari Ore no Seishuun Rabu Kome wa Machigatteiru (Yeah, There’s Something Wrong With My Youth Romantic Comedy): Looks like another generic harem light novel adaptation complete with long-ass “ironic” title. The only thing that struck me from watching previews was that the characters all seemed to have “realistic” hair color, which you wouldn’t expect from a silly LN adaptation, but apart from that the character designs looked pretty crap. Is this going to be the first generic harem LN adaptation that looks so bad I won’t bother giving it a watch?
Joujuu Senjin!! Mushibugyou (Constant Battle!! Insect Magistrate): Looks old-school, and not in a good way. It looks just like the loud, poorly animated action trash that was some of the first stuff to get brought over and translated for an English-speaking audience and that colored wider public perception in the US of what anime was about for a long time. (See, for example the Homestar Runner anime parody. That’s what the author thinks anime is, because of shows like this.) Shouting and speedlines are not enough to make an anime good, so I’ll avoid this one.
Photo Kano (Photo Girl): A story about a guy who builds a harem of girls by taking their photos? …? There isn’t really a lot for me to go on, here, so I’ll just say that I worry that they might focus too much on the minutiae of photography, like compositions and lens refraction incidence angles and accidentally putting your thumb over the viewfinder. Photography is boring, and anyway the iPhone and Instagram have pretty much killed it, the same way blogs like this one have killed Serious Anime Journalism.
Devil Survivor 2 The Animation: Adaptation of Devil Survivor 2 The Videogame. Have videogame adaptations other than visual novels ever been any good? I guess the Persona 4 adaptation was supposed to have been pretty good, and it was directed by the same guy that’s doing this. I didn’t watch the Persona 4 adaptation because I’d already played Persona 4, but I didn’t make it very far into Devil Survivor 2, so maybe I should watch this. On the other hand the reason I didn’t make it very far into Devil Survivor 2 was that the plot wasn’t really gripping me. I wish they were adapting the original Devil Survivor instead, it had a cool plot that I’d be happy to experience again in the form of an anime. Well, maybe I’ll watch this, just to see if the story is a more natural fit for an anime than an RPG. One of my complaints with the game is that I felt railroaded, and that’s naturally not a problem in an anime.
Ginga Kikoutai Majestic Prince (Galactic Armored Squadron Majestic Prince): I don’t like the artstyle on the characters very much, but the mecha combat scenes in the promos look decent enough. Lotta flashy things and fast flying and missiles that go WHIZZZZ and then KABOOOOM. The premise, where the heroes are children genetically engineered to fight and die in the wars of the adults, sounds like just the right flavor of existential despair to spice up a mecha show and keep it interesting. They might end up ignoring the premise, and that would make me sad, but I’ll give it a look.
Yuyushiki (Yuyu-style): Looks like a completely standard four-girl slice-of-life comedy, with the only variation being that there are only three girls. I’m guessing there’s a reason that most four-girl slice-of-life comedies have four girls, but it’s worth a look anyway. By the way, the name seems to come from the fact that all the girls’ names start with Yu, but in that case shouldn’t it be Yuyuyushiki? Or maybe one of the girls is a third wheel to the titular Yuyu pairing’s yuri paradise? But then you’d have the “yu” from “yuri”. It’s a puzzle. Note that, by having three girls instead of four, fully one third of the main cast is able to have pink hair.
Ore no Imouto ga Konnani Kawaii Wake ga Nai 2 (There’s No Way My Little Sister Can Be This Cute 2): I liked the original OreImo fine, but it’s not like I have been chomping at the bit for more Kirino, you know? I don’t really regret the time that I spent on the original, but the problem with sequels like this is that they rarely get better and they often get worse. So if my upside is limited to a show as good as the first season of OreImo and my downside is theoretically unlimited, the smart money says don’t make that trade. On the other hand, this seems to be the only incest-themed show coming out this season (what??? how could this happen, Japan?) and I’ve gotten kind of used to having a sister-screwing show in my weekly rotation, even if Sasami-san didn’t really pan out. And if the show turns out to be as bad as, say, the second season of Haganai, I can always bail.
Shingeki no Kyojin (The Invading Giants): Apparently this is a world where giants show up and wreck your shit sometimes so you gotta grab a sword and kill them. Wasn’t that the plot to Jack the Giant Slayer? Is this gonna be another Kimba the White Lion situation? This looks a little too action-y for my tastes, there was a shounen shouting and swinging his sword but I really like the skinless muscle aesthetic that the giant has (very “metal”), and I’ve heard a lot of good things about the manga it’s based on and honestly I’m just happy to have something based on a manga instead of a light novel.
Hataraku Maou-sama (Working Demon King): A show about an otherworldly Demon King who is forced to struggle to survive in the hyper-hell that is modern capitalist society sounds like ripe ground for cutting satire, but judging from the number of moe-type girls in the promo video, it’s not likely to be that sort of show. Looks like yet another trashy harem light novel adaptation. These harem light novels bring in a far-out premise to try to differentiate themselves from the crowd of other trashy harem novels, but then once they’ve pulled in a customer the work of the premise is done, and it’s easier just to write the same standard harem plotlines that every other light novel uses except this time instead of being chuunibyou the male lead actually is a Demon King from another world. This is by the same studio that did Steins;Gate, though, and Steins;Gate was amazing.
Kakumeiki Valvrave (Valvrave the Liberator): Sunrise mecha show. Sorry, but I can’t endorse the mecha designs on this one. Those glowing neon green fringes they have are the exact same shade of neon green as the translucent plastic that cheap plastic toys use when they want to make something look cool and glowy and sci-fi. Presumably this is not an accident – presumably the glowing green neon fringes are that color because that is the color of the translucent plastic on the cheap plastic toys they intend to sell as merchandise for the series. I have nothing against merchandising, and I’m not going to pretend that every mecha show isn’t always merchandised to hell and back anyway, but the association of that color in my mind with toys and only toys is too strong for me to be able to take the series at all seriously. Is electric blue plastic really that much more expensive?
Hayate no Gotoku Cuties: Ugh. The Hayate no Gotoku manga series is one of my very favorites, and I always eagerly anticipate the next volume’s translation. The first two seasons of the anime adaptation weren’t quite as good, but they were decent enough. But then there was “Hayate no Gotoku: Can’t Take My Eyes Off You”, which started out fun but got horribly bogged down in some overly complex fairy-tale about a ring or a sword and there was an evil dryad and an evil tengu and the plotting started to remind me more of bad fanfic than anything else. It did a lot to kill my enthusiasm for the franchise. Based on the name and promos, it looks like this series is going to be focused on harem antics, which is probably better at least than trying to have a serious dramatic plot. But Hayate isn’t a harem romance any more than it’s a drama thriller. It’s supposed to be a light action comedy. It’s a shame that it’s lost its way. But apparently the fifth episode is about Hinagiku, and I can’t get enough Hinagiku, so I guess I’ll watch it for at least that long.
Suisei no Gargantia (Aquatic Gargantia): This show has a world covered in water and a young man who is very serious and military but has fallen in with a bunch of civilian types who are not so serious or military. In very broad strokes, this reminds me of Tide-Line Blue, a show I very much wanted to like. Tide-Line Blue had fun characters and an interesting setting, but it was basically ruined by a wacky animal comic relief character in the form of an ostrich that got into the submarine by mistake and followed the characters everywhere doing silly animal things. So I’m a little concerned about the appearance in the promos of a character’s pet squirrel sidekick, it makes me think history might repeat itself. But this show was written by the same guy as Madoka and Fate/Zero and Psycho-Pass, so maybe not. Psycho-Pass didn’t live up to its potential, but its main issue was taking itself too seriously, so maybe I can trust Urobuchi not to go overboard with the friggin’ squirrel.
Hentai Ouji to Warawanai Neko (The Perverted Prince and the Unsmiling Cat): Looks like another trashy harem light novel adaptation! Hooray. I guess the unique selling point here is that the female lead is a kuudere? That’s actually kinda nice, usually the kuudere characters are like second-tier haremettes that get maybe one episode focused on them and then fade into the background. I mean, I understand fading into the background is sort of a kuudere’s job description, they can’t exactly demand attention. But they deserve more love than they usually get. On the other hand, “perverted” is an overdone personality type for a male lead. I don’t expect much from harem leads in general, but honestly I think I’d rather have a spineless harem lead with no personality at all than one whose personality is centered around hooting and hollering every time he spots a bit of exposed flesh.
Arata Kangatari: Kangatari is not a word I know or can find in a dictionary, it reminds me of the weird portmanteaus used for the Bakemonogatari series. Arata is the name of the dude who traveled to a parallel dimension and now has to dress like a chick and deal with a rebellion and wield magical powers? I really prefer my fantasy stories not to have modern teenagers who fell through time-portals as their heroes. It’s an attempt to ground the story in something real, I guess, but it just ends up making the unreality of the whole thing stand out. Setting is the most important element of fantasy, and forcing a connection to the modern world can only serve to water down the setting.
Dansai Bunri no Crime Edge (Crime Edge, Which Slices Apart): He cuts good hair because he has sharp scissors! There are way too many Capitalized Noun Phrases in this show’s blurb for me to be happy about it, but I’ll watch anything with a premise as wacky as “girl whose hair cannot be cut except via Wish or similarly powerful magic meets boy wielding artifact scissors”. I’m not too sure about the “murder game” part, but I’m willing to keep an open mind. Hopefully at some point the girl’s uncuttable hair becomes the solution to a crisis. Maybe it’ll be a formulaic show where her invincible hair gets used in a new way in the resolution of ever week’s episode. The first week she can just deflect bullets with it, maybe next Rapunzel it down to the male lead who’s hanging off a cliff. When the heroes need to power up in the midway point, she can string a strand taut between two pegs and have an ultrasharp unbreakable sword! That would own, now I’m going to be hugely disappointed by how the show actually turns out.
Aku no Hana (Evil Flower): Not at all sure what to think of this. The blurb makes it sound like some school life drama, but the promo video makes it seem like dark psychological/supernatural horror. Is the girl he doesn’t like that forces him to make a contract with her Satan? And the contract is to sell his soul in exchange for not being outed as a pervert? That makes no sense. I dunno, I’m interested in the show I see in the promo. I’m less interested in the show I read about in the blurb. I don’t see how they can be reconciled. I suspect one of the two is a misrepresentation. I hope it’s the blurb.
So now that I’ve gone through all the new shows airing in Spring, I have not managed to find even one that I’m really excited about. The ones that seem like they have the best shot at going somewhere are Yuyushiki, Shingeki no Kyojin, and Aku no Hana. I’ll also check out Date a Live, Red Data Girl, Devil Survivor 2 The Animation, Ginga Kikoutai Majestic Prince, OreImo 2, Hataraku Maou-sama, Hayate Cuties, Suisei no Gargantia, Hentai Ouji to Warawanai Neko, and Dansai Bunri no Crime Edge. That’s thirteen shows in total, but I’ve included a lot of pretty marginal stuff here simply because I expect the yield rate to be so low. I’ll be happy if even a quarter of these shows turn out to be any good.
I’ll report back in a couple weeks once everything’s started airing with a threshing post containing my initial thoughts on the shows. If everything turns out terrible, I guess I can always work on my backlog. Or, I dunno, take up knitting.