Looking back at the Fall 2010 anime season
Since I wrote about my first reactions, I feel like writing a retrospective of the season. I wound up regularly watching five fall shows this season, and this time around this list is definitely in order:
- Star Driver: if pressed, I would have to summarize this as an
Utena-oid magical girls show except with giant robots and boys
(mostly). It's the clear standout of the season for me, partly
because it is so novel and unusual instead of being yet another
retread. I like seeing anime try something new, especially when
they can carry it off and be interesting. I have no idea where
it's going to go, but the journey so far has been very enjoyable
(over the top crazyness and all).
Like all magical girls shows, it is only nominally about giant robots beating each other up; it's really about all of the people involved on all sides of the action and what drives them to do what they do. The giant robot fights sure are scenic, though, and I would much rather have the giant robot activation sequence than your typical henshin deck.
(It is not as good as Utena, but then few things are.)
- Panty & Stocking: as I suspected, this did wind up changing its
approach; it moved from crazy monsters to parodying movies and cliched
settings, and eventually made somewhat sarcastic gestures at having
a plot in order to have an appropriate feeling ending. (The ending
didn't make sense, but then if you're looking for solid logic you're
really watching the wrong show.)
I am not sure if this is good but I found it interesting, if only to watch GAINAX play around with all sorts of themese and techniques for various segments. If you have less interest in wild experiments, this is probably not the anime for you. (I do think that the wild experiments were reasonably successful, but other people may well have less patience with them. Or with the characters, who are not all that attractive if you take them seriously.)
- Otome Youkai Zakuro: in the end, this was a competent and entertaining
tour through its expected cliches, but it
never rose above its mere competence. It was an
enjoyable way to pass the time, but I agree with Aroduc;
no one is going to really remember this in six months.
- A Certain Magical Index II: this remains just like the first season.
At this point it is very much an acquired taste, and yes, people still
talk too much and are various kinds of idiots or too clever or both.
- Hyakka Ryouran Samurai Girls: as I expected, I did not get the 'less
fanservice' that I was hoping for. This never rose to whatever initial
potential I saw in the first episode but remained watchable if you
didn't take it too seriously; however, it was definitely a second-rate
(As an aside, the only way I can reconcile the Princess Sen of the first episode with the Princess Sen of later episodes is to assume that the Hanzo/Sen scenes in the first episode were not reality but instead Hanzo's fevered dreams of what she would like them to be.)
I also saw all of Seitokai Yakuindomo, which is not a fall season show; if I included it in this list, it would earn second place behind Star Driver.
Also seen that I feel like noting:
- The World God Only Knows: already discussed,
dropped at the third episode.
- I watched an episode of Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru after all,
due to an enthusiastic review from Dave Baranyi on rec.arts.anime.misc,
but it failed to really grab me. I have the second episode and sort
of want to watch it sometime, but.
(I find Dave Baranyi's opinions at least worth paying attention to and checking out, even if I don't always agree with them. For example, he recommended Cross Game, which turned out to be the best anime of Spring 2009 and which I completely passed on initially.)
- I am theoretically watching Hakuouki Shinsengumi Kitan's second season, but since this is going very slowly it clearly doesn't rank very high.
(It doesn't rank so low that I consider HSK abandoned. It's not bad, it's just not very compelling.)
Some reactions to Seitokai Yakuindomo
I wound up watching SYD because Author did and liked it. I liked it a fair bit; it was not deep, but the jokes reliably made me smile and even laugh, and they were (mostly) a style of humour that I enjoy.
As characters themselves note in episode 3, the humour generally really does need the straight man (usually Takatoshi, although Hagimura sometimes fills this role). I'm not going to try to figure out just why, but without the straight man many of the episode 3 jokes just feel flat.
One thing I liked is that SYD is willing to be subtle. There are several jokes (and in fact a long-running series of little ones) that you have to be paying attention in order to understand. If you didn't pay attention to one of Aria's absurd offhand comments in an early episode, for example, one of the amusing bits in the third episode is just opaque.
The 4-koma base of the show was very distinct here. However, it somehow worked for SYD when before it totally didn't work for me in Lucky Star (I bounced off LS because I could practically see the strip boundaries). My best idea of why is that it's because usually any particular joke was over quickly and SYD moved on rapidly; extended sequences were rare, so if one joke didn't really hook me things would soon change.
(It's also quite possible that I liked the style of humour better than what I remember as Lucky Star's less punchline-oriented jokes.)
Finally, it should be noted that SYD is not all sex related jokes (although these do dominate); the girls hold forth rather frankly on a fair range of things that generally aren't discussed in 'polite' society or mixed company.
Liked: definitely. I laughed a lot.
Rewatch: maybe. I'm not sure how funny it would be on a repeat viewing. As with Author, I can imagine (re)watching this at an anime club (although it would take the right audience; with the wrong audience, this is the sort of subject material that could go horribly wrong).
(Sadly, I believe that all of the Toronto anime clubs are defunct.)
Still, I can hardly credit the notion that borders of 4koma strips were any less noticeable in Seitokai Yakuindomo [than in Lucky Star].
Oops, I was unclear. The 4-koma boundaries were, if anything, more clearly visible in SYD than in Lucky Star (Author outlines a typical example in his entry); however, SYD worked for me anyways. I don't entirely understand why, but it surprised me; when I started watching SYD and realized not just what it was based on but how little effort it made to disguise it, I expected to bounce off of SYD even more strongly than I had bounced off the milder 4-koma based Lucky Star.
(That I bounced off Lucky Star is something that I regret. It's clearly a good show, it's just that I seem to not be able to watch it. Maybe someday I'll have a chance to try again.)
My reaction to The World God Only Knows
Prompted by Author's entry:
A story like TWGOK generally lives or dies based on how interesting you find the character of the week (or couple of weeks) whose story is being explored, and so my initial interest was because the first girl that Keima had to deal with had an interesting story. The second character looked promising, but I dropped the show shortly into the third episode when I wound up feeling that she was an unsympathetic idiot and I didn't care what her story was or what happened to her.
(The bigger story of TWGOK concerns Keima and Elsie, but you have to get through the girl of the week before you get to it. This is much like magical girls shows with their monster of the week and slow character development for the protagonists, just with more angst. If I had thought of this analogy ahead of time, I might have realized that I was never going to stay with TWGOK; constantly wallowing in someone's angst is fundamentally actively disinteresting to me.)