suntzuanime

A thoughtful response to current anime.

Category Archives: Hataraku Maou-Sama

Reasons “Hataraku Maou-sama” Is Objectively Good

By request.

Pacing

Pacing is a little hard to define and screenshot to post on your anime blog as evidence of why “Haraku Maou-sama” is objectively good, but it’s perhaps the most crucial element that determines the quality of a show like this. A show can be thought of as a collection of interesting bits, things which advance the plot, develop a character, introduce an idea, make you laugh make you cry, and so on.  (This may not apply to slice-of-life shows, whose selling point is how uninteresting they are.) After each interesting bit happens, it takes you time to process what’s going on with the plot, or dry your tears, or whatever.  If the next interesting bit happens before you finish, you won’t be able to keep up, and you’ll find the show bewildering.  If the next interesting bit hasn’t started yet by the time you’re done, your mind will wander, and you’ll find the show boring.  There’s a narrow window that the show has to hit for maximum enjoyment.  In practice most shows err on the side of slow pacing, because interesting bits are hard to come up with. (Consider shows like Dragonball Z, which when they run out of content from the manga resort to shots of people yelling to charge up their spirit for minutes on end.) Because of this, as a general rule, the faster a show is paced, the better it is.  And Hataraku Maou-sama goes pretty fast.  In three episodes we’ve seen the demonic forces win, the demonic forces lose, the demons flee to Japan, the demons adjust to life in Japan, several face-offs between the demons and the hero, a mysterious new threat has appeared a few times to upset the gameboard, workplace comedy, romantic comedy, wacky roommate comedy, a pun that was a thinly-veiled excuse for fanservice, and more.  It’s hard to be bored watching this show.

Yusa Emi, The Hero

Definitely *chaotic* good.

Definitely *chaotic* good.

Red hair is a pretty low-tier haircolor, in my opinion. But that’s just subjective opinion; objectively, Emi is amazing. It is tempting to write “tsundere is the objectively best moe archetype” and carry the argument from there, but that would be doing a disservice to Emi and all characters like her.  Tsundere isn’t the best moe archetype.  It’s not even a single archetype.  Tsundere characters like Emi are nothing like  tsunderes like Louise from Zero no Tsukaima.  The only thing they have in common is that sometimes they are mean to the male lead (tsun) and other times they are nice (dere). But Louise’s tsun comes from her weakness – she is embarrassed when her lack of magical ability is pointed out, or when she fails to control her servant and he does something inappropriate, or whatever.  To hide her weakness and protect herself, she lashes out.  And then her dere becomes a surrender, she has given up on defending herself and will rely on the male lead to protect her instead.  On the other hand, tsunderes like Emi (or, say, Hinagiku from Hayate no Gotoku) are tsun because of their strength.  Emi holds herself to a high standard, and she demands that of others, too. She is tsun towards the male lead because he’s failing in his role as the demon king that is supposed to oppose her role as the hero.  She looks down on Maou’s part-time job flipping burgers, holding her call-center job in higher esteem. And then her dere comes from when she fails to live up to her own role, by e.g. losing her wallet and needing to crash on the demon lord’s couch, and has to admit that sometimes people make mistakes and That’s Okay. In both cases, the dere comes from weakening the character, but in Emi’s case she was too strong to begin with, and her weakening only brings her down to the level of a functioning human being. Strong tsunderes are unique among moe archetypes in being functioning human beings, and so they are objectively the best.

Sasaki Chiho, The Coworker

At least he's got one fan.

I like her character design better after her haircut, but that’s just subjective.

Chi-chan fits the role of the “head-over-heels kouhai girl”, which is less a moe archetype and more of a stock love triangle character.  But the trick is, this isn’t a stock love triangle!  She’s gotten mixed in with something over her head (as though dating an older man from work and hiding it from her parents weren’t over her head enough already, but).  She thinks she’s in a love triangle with Emi, when really Emi is just here to foil Maou’s schemes as befits a hero, except really really she is in fact in a love triangle with the hero Emi but she doesn’t understand any of the important subtleties at play.  This leads to some gloriously complex interplay between the two of them.  The important thing for the ensuing farcical comedy of misunderstandings is that Emi has a good reason for wanting to conceal the actual truth of her relationship to Maou.  Everyone would think she was crazy, and/or take her into custody for making threats against Maou’s life.  And so Emi isn’t able to successfully warn Chi-chan away from this sketchy gentleman she really shouldn’t be romantically involved with for any number of reasons, and she just gets further wrapped up in the plot.  It seems like the mysterious third-party might have something to do with her as well, since at the very least she’s been getting his mail. That plotline has yet to develop, though.

The Two Demon Buddies, Ashiya Shirou and Maou Sadao

His satisfaction must be conquered.

His satisfaction must be conquered.

That is an objectively high-quality smirk, we could get out a protractor and measure the angles.

That is an objectively high-quality smirk, we could get out a protractor and measure the angles.

These two have sort of a weird domestic situation, where Ashiya takes on the housewife role and cooks/cleans/manages finances, while Maou earns a paycheck and then blows it all chasing after pretty women while Ashiya cries.  I guess Ashiya was supposed to be doing research into getting Maou his powers back while Maou was at work, but now he’s got his powers back via a bolt from the blue, so I guess all of Ashiya’s work was for nothing.  At least he made tasty food so Maou didn’t have to subsist on burgers and fries.  The two of them do some decent domestic comedy bits together, but I don’t know that they’re objectively all that good as characters.  But they’re not objectively boring, like many male leads are, so let’s count our blessings.

The Setting

hataraku4

hataraku5

 

A common trope in terrible fantasy stories that I hate and that, worse, are objectively bad, is that of a protagonist from our world that travels to a fantasy realm and must adapt and eventually become powerful and respected for their heroism.  This show turns that trope on its head, by having the fantasy world brought to us, and by having the protagonist end up in a very low-status role.  This allows storylines and jokes that play off things that we are familiar with, like burgers, and the crushing burden of paying rent as a part-time minimum wage worker, but also fantastic elements like a voice that speaks between worlds and grandiose schemes about the conquest of Ente Isla. This setup gives the writers a wide range of freedom. And while freedom includes the freedom to make a terrible show, and there certainly have been plenty of terrible shows that tried to mix the mythic with the mundane, it also includes the freedom to make an objectively pretty good show.  It seems like the writers here are doing that.  Here’s hoping they finish out the rest of the season this strong.

Advertisements

Threshing Spring 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.)

13: Aku no Hana (Evil Flower)

I mean, I get that our protagonist is supposed to be an ugly character, but...

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.

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".

“Gibberish” means “plan”.

Because there's no point!

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)

uguuuuu~

uguuuuu~

uguu is actually getting to be a pretty dated reference by now, isn't it

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.

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.

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 watch you any more.

Don't worry, I won't bother 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!

Meet the mecha!

Sure, but if you do the impossible in episode 1, where are you supposed to go from there?

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)

yuriyurarararayuruyuri daijiken

yuriyurarararayuruyuri daijiken

Oh my god I hate kanji SO MUCH.

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.

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.

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!

She wields the legendary Crime Edge!

rdg2

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!"

All the guys in the background are shocked, thinking “What? Big ones are way better!”

She thinks big ones are better too.

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)

Thanks Obama.

Thanks Obama.

That's no giant, that's a troll!

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.

The dark lord Satan, conqueror of kingdoms, cooker of fries.

At least he's got one fan.

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)

Yay progress!

Yay progress!

Look at these savages, I bet they don't have hardly any Edenic light to speak of.

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.

Spring Anime Season 2013 – Three More Months Of Winter

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.