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.)
13: Aku no Hana (Evil Flower)
I mean, I get that our protagonist is supposed to be an ugly character, but…
I like how his gum line just sort of stops in the middle of his mouth.
A boy reads books and is alienated from his classmates. The rotoscoping is as bad as everybody says it is. In case you only read this blog out of all the wonderful anime blogs on the internet, I’ll fill you in: everybody says the rotoscoping is real bad. The stills above, as bad as they look, don’t actually do justice to how bad the rotoscoping is, because the real problem with the rotoscoping is the jerky, flickering motions. I don’t know the details of how rotoscoping works except that it’s basically tracing over photographs, but it looks to me like between shots their models shifted in their seats slightly, and the framerate was too low to make it look natural, so it gave the impression of the characters vibrating in their chairs. This is incredibly distracting in what should be a simple talking heads shot. And there were a lot of those, because this anime seems to be dragging its feet on having any actual plot. All that happens in the first episode is that we are introduced to the three main characters and learn some basic facts about them, in between long shots of nothing where they seem to be trying to show off their animation and I really don’t want to spend this entire review just talking abut the animation quality but it’s really hard to think about anything else. It’s not animation that you should want to show off, ok? It’s animation that should make you scrap the show and reanimate it and maybe it can air in 2014 so you don’t embarass yourself and drag the manga’s reputation through the mud. Really the only thing worthwhile in this episode was the ED, which was legitimately really creepy and cool. But you can’t watch a show just for the ED. I’m not sure you can watch a show that looks like this for any reason.
12: Date A Live
“Gibberish” means “plan”.
Because there’s no point!
A boy must seduce a girl in order to get her to stop causing destructive “spacequakes”. This show is pretty damn badly paced. The first part of the episode, where the male lead hangs out with his panty-flashing imouto, was entirely pointless. It didn’t even serve to establish the imouto’s character, since later we discovered that her lovey-dovey attitude was all an act and she was really a sadistic commander of a secret army dedicated to protecting society against the… I can’t even keep typing this. It’s so stupid. But at least they gave the imouto a personality, which is more than I can say for any of the other characters they introduced. I know, it’s the first episode, they might flesh the characters out later, but then why even bother introducing them if a name and a hair color and maybe a broad stereotype is all you’re going to give them? Why not cut out the meaningless interaction with the silver-haired genius girl, for example, so that you could spend more time on the actual main love interest girl that he’s supposed to be seducing? We learned nothing about her personality at all this episode except that she doesn’t like being murdered. Hardly anyone does! That’s not a distinctive character trait! The combat scene was decently produced, but I couldn’t make myself care about the outcome. Decently pulse-pounding action, but it’s a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
11: Dansai Bunri no Crime Edge (Crime Edge, Which Slices Apart)
uguu is actually getting to be a pretty dated reference by now, isn’t it
A boy with cursed scissors pairs up with a girl with cursed hair, and cuts her hair, with dire consequences. What good does it do you to have a story about boy-with-irresistible-scissors meets girl-with-unmoveable-hair if the haircut happens in the first episode? The haircut anime I wanted to watch has already ended. Now it seems as though they’ll be moving into a death match thriller anime where descendents of famous murders go at each other with the murder weapons of their ancestors. In principle, that might not be so bad, Mirai Nikki was a death match thriller and it was a lot of fun, right? But I sort of doubt that the plotting in this show will be able to live up to even the somewhat sketchy standard of Mirai Nikki. In the first episode, the male lead met a girl with hair that was cursed never to be cut. He also met some descendents of murderers who were abusing the girl. Then he learned that he was a descendent of a murderer too! From this he somehow magically concluded that the scissors he inherited from that murderer would be capable of cutting her hair? Characters coming to correct conclusions with insufficient evidence based on leaps of logic is poison to a plot. Characters need to have good reasons for the things they believe. There were some things to like in this show, the girl was kind of adorable (at least the long-haired version, which we’ll never see again, oops), but you can’t have a thriller without a plot and you can’t have a haircut show without hair.
10: Devil Survivor 2 the Animation
This whole anime is a joke.
It’s kind of cool how the big nasty monster of the week looks like an ice cream cone.
Demons invade Earth but you can control them with a smartphone app and fight back. Watching this made me remember some more of the reasons why I quit playing Devil Survivor 2 the Game. I’d forgotten all about that stupid bunny girl, for example, and the whole “website that shows the gruesome deaths of your friends is the new hot meme among teens” nonsense premise. As far as I could tell that website was completely extraneous to the plot, too. Instead the plot was driven by an ultra-cliche shadowy organization with mysterious origins and goals. The production quality and pacing on the show was really solid, and I liked the fight scenes, although maybe not as much as the strategic RPG action of the game. The team working on this show definitely has chops. I just wish they’d apply those chops to a less ridiculous game.
9: Ore no Imouto ga Konnani Kawaii Wake ga Nai 2 (There’s No Way My Little Sister Can Be This Cute 2)
Don’t worry, I won’t watch you any more.
Don’t worry, I won’t bother you any more.
The second season of OreImo. I was watching this and I just felt nothing. Last season I usually felt annoyed when Kirino was on the screen and happy when Kuroneko was on the screen and then I laughed at some of the jokes and the ups and downs averaged out to something basically watchable, but this time around, it was just a flatline. Some of that might be due to the fact that this was a glorified recap episode designed to make sure that even if you (like me) did not watch the OVAs you still had some idea of what was going on. Apparently thanks to the events of the OVAs, Kuroneko and Kousaka are an item now and they’re in a club that makes anime porno games. These seem like developments I should strongly endorse, but I just sort of ended up staring blankly. Sometime in the past two and a half years I have lost the ability to care about the plausibility of observed sister cuteness levels.
8: Majestic Prince
Meet the mecha!
Sure, but if you do the impossible in episode 1, where are you supposed to go from there?
Four trainee mecha pilots that don’t get along are thrust into battle against the alien menace. This episode ended up a lot more heroic and less angsty than I was expecting. I mean, it’s the first episode, there’s plenty of time for the scarred visored director guy to pull an Incubator, but basically five dorky misfits got in cool mecha and heroically kicked alien ass. I guess I’m ok with that. But I am worried about power-level issues, because if the heroes are already able to face down a whole alien fleet with little in the way of tactics or teamwork in the first episode, what’s going to be able to challenge them once they’ve had a chance to level up and learn valuable lessons vis-a-vis friendship? I guess the usual way these things go is that the aliens will build their own Gundams using like stolen technology or something to give the good guys a decent fight. The mecha combat scenes were pretty, but they suffered from some of the same problems that the new Star Wars films had of having too many CGI spaceships on screen at once in order to show off how advanced their CGI technology was and ending up making the composition cluttered and hard to understand. I sort of prefered the simpler aesthetic of the non-mecha scenes, it has an old-school action hero aesthetic about it. All in all, I think that the biggest problem with the show is that while the team of dorky misfits was reasonably likable, there doesn’t seem to be anything particularly special about this show. It doesn’t have a unique selling point, it’s just teens in robot suits beating up aliens. There’s already plenty of shows like that.
7: Yuyushiki (Yuyu-style)
Oh my god I hate kanji SO MUCH.
Three girls hang out. The beginning of this episode was downright unwatchable. The “jokes” towards the beginning all seemed to involve two hooligans being mean to their more upstanding blonde friend. Hey, anime hooligans, this is a public service announcement. If someone asks you not to poke them in the ribs, do not poke them in the ribs! It is important to respect people’s individual preferences on this issue! There were also some puns scattered in there, and it’s tough to judge the quality of puns as a non-native speaker, but based on theoretical analysis I doubt they were good. The latter part of the show, once they got into the Data Processing Club room, though, was better. There was something warm and real about their dicking around on the computer, how they were looking up facts about the Sun and comparing their results from internet quizzes and stuff. It still wasn’t more than mildly amusing, but as a slice-of-life show, it worked pretty well. I dunno how much going forward this show is going to be soft-and-fluffy slice of life stuff though, as opposed to hooliganism and bad puns and barely-veiled yuri.
6: Hayate Cuties
Not now, I have to write an anime blog post.
I’m gonna print this out and hang it on my wall to motivate me.
The fourth season of Hayate no Gotoku. Call me a sucker, because I’m signed up for more Hayate. Even though I haven’t been able to follow the changes in the setting for some time now (why is everyone living together in a single apartment with Hayate as everyone’s butler?). Even though I watched the abominable Can’t Take My Eyes Off You series to the end and regretted it more and more with each passing episode. Even though the first half of this episode didn’t really have much in the way of jokes or anything enjoyable. Even though there are a bunch of new characters that I can’t stand, like A-chan (as if Hayate didn’t have enough little girls in his harem) and Ruka (what the *hell* does some random singer have to do with *anything*?). But I see Hayate going through hell ten times over with a smile to meet the expectations of his ojou-sama, and I see Hinagiku quietly doing her best every day to meet the expectations she has for herself, and I just have to accept that I really like the core show, and I’m willing to put up with all sorts of bullshit being layered on top of that core so long as it’s Hayate no Gotoku underneath. I’m not sure if this is a touching moral about forgiveness or if it’s just Stockholm Syndrome.
5: Red Data Girl
She wields the legendary Crime Edge!
Somebody should have protected her from those nerdy-ass glasses, yikes.
A young girl is the goddess of a mountain shrine but dislikes how much she is sheltered because of this. This show sort of reminds me of last season’s stinker Amnesia. It has a girl who doesn’t really understand what is going on and is terrified who is getting pushed around by a bunch of hot but sinister guys. The difference is that the girl here is willing to push back. She cuts her hair without asking for permission! She uses her weird magic powers to yell at her dad for not coming to the parent/teacher conferences! She refuses to move to Tokyo because Tokyo is weird and terrifying! She has some semblance of agency despite her general lack of control over or understanding of her own life. And that makes her much more interesting to watch than a girl who just goes with the flow. The animation and character designs and pacing were all pretty good too. We’ll have to see about the plot. It wasn’t so bad in this episode, but Izumiko’s uncontrolled godly powers over technology could easily become a deus ex machina, haha, and that would make things boring to watch.
4: Hentai Ouji to Warawanai Neko (The Perverted Prince and the Unsmiling Cat)
All the guys in the background are shocked, thinking “What? Big ones are way better!”
She thinks big ones are better too.
A cat statue will grant people’s wishes by taking things from people that they no longer want and giving them to people who want them, but be careful what you wish for. Light novel harem trash with a supernatural twist, oh boy, right? But the supernatural twist involves the everyday hypocrisies of interpersonal interaction, a guy who has suddenly had them stripped from him and a girl who has suddenly had them thrust upon her, and I can’t get enough of that stuff. (Also, I think expressionless girls are cute.) Last season’s Kotoura-san let me down by not exploring similar hypocrisy themes, and it’s possible, even likely, that Henneko will too. But Henneko has a lot more real comedy to it than Kotoura-san did. The titular Hentai Ouji is funny and varied in the ways he lets his true perverted thoughts escape inappropriately into the world, rather than the joke being “haha he’s thinking about boobies” over and and over again. And so far there’s no melodrama to get in the way of the jokes, either. I’m cautiously optimistic.
3: Shingeki no Kyojin (The Invading Giants)
That’s no giant, that’s a troll!
Humanity hides in walled cities from the giants that ravage the countryside, but the walls can’t hold forever. The setting seems absolutely great. A heroic fantasy story of humanity fighting for survival against terrifying monsters that we can’t hope to defeat through strength of arms alone. And it looks really nice too. The giants especially are great monster designs, their skinless flesh evokes horror without looking like it’s trying too hard to evoke horror. They are grotesqueries that don’t look like some juvenile concept artist’s conception of what a grotesquery should be. So I have high hopes for this show, even if the first episode was, plotwise, a little unsophisticated. Oh, yeah, the protagonist and his buddies are yelling about how the giants must be destroyed and the walls that have stood for a hundred years won’t protect the village forever, and everybody laughs at these silly children and don’t take them seriously, and then the walls are destroyed and the giants rampage through and destroy everything they care about. Looks like the kids were right after all, who would have guessed? Sure, it introduces the characters and concepts and themes all appropriately, but it’s a pretty lazy way to do those things. Philosophically speaking I’m a little uncomfortable with heroes that were totally right but nobody was willing to listen because everyone else is stupid and evil. Usually when nobody is willing to listen it’s because you’re wrong, and even when it’s not, you’re usually doing a bad job of communicating. Placing the blame on society is a cheap fantasy that shouldn’t be indulged in.
2: Hataraku Maou-sama (Working Demon King)
The dark lord Satan, conqueror of kingdoms, cooker of fries.
At least he’s got one fan.
The demon king and his loyal retainer are cast through a dimensional portal to modern Japan and must adapt. This show reminds me of nothing so much as the early volumes of the Excel Saga manga, where Excel and Hyatt had to struggle to earn money to eat while also planning the conquest of the city in the name of Lord Il Palazzo. The newer volumes have kind of gone off the rails, and the anime version was off the rails from the start, but I love the first ten or so volumes to death. The dynamic isn’t quite as pure here (the dark lord Satan is only struggling for his own aggrandizement rather than out of absolute loyalty to Il Palazzo), but the contrast between his grand goals and his low socio-economic position is still delicious. The only thing to be worried about is whether or not this show going to end up turning into yet another trashy harem light novel adaptation. We time-skipped over most of the work the demons had to do learning to fit in in modern Japan, which would have been a good place to sit and make jokes for at least a couple of episodes if they mostly cared about making jokes. But by skipping ahead, they get to skip right to where Satan already has a cute female co-worker, a hot female boss, and a girl passing by that he can lend his umbrella to. We might not have ten volumes before this one goes off the rails.
1: Suisei no Gargantia (Aquatic Gargantia)
Look at these savages, I bet they don’t have hardly any Edenic light to speak of.
A futuristic mecha pilot is cast through a dimensional portal to the mythical lost planet of “Earth” and must adapt. The show obviously isn’t done even setting up the premise yet, so it’s a little hard to judge it, but so far it’s pretty solid. The opening battle scene was maybe longer than it needed to be for the amount of story implications it actually had, but I actually didn’t even mind, because the animation was frickin’ gorgeous. The scenes after the battle was over were well-animated too, but less in your face with starfields and spaceships and bullet hell. Instead we got a great sequence about a pilot stranded in unknown territory with only his AI partner to help him. I liked the sort of Wooster-and-Jeeves interplay between the two of them when he decided to kidnap a native girl for use as a hostage and his AI was like “that is an… interesting choice you have made”. Snarky but matter-of-fact AIs should feature in every sci-fi show, in my opinion. There’s a lot of stuff that could still go wrong with this show – we’ve hardly seen any characterization from the Earthlings, for example, and I’m not even sure what genre the show is yet. But everything the show’s offered so far has been really good, so let’s have hope.
Well, this season doesn’t look quite as bad as I feared during the preview. It’s not great, though, considering that this is a spring season and supposed to be strong. There are eight shows here I could imagine myself watching, but there aren’t really any that seem like slam dunks. Even Gargantia and Hataraku Maou-sama have obvious paths by which they could go wrong, turning into a generic mecha series and a generic harem series respectively. We’ll have to wait and see.