Looking back at the Spring 2012 anime season
As before, now that the Spring 2012 season is over it's once again time for me to take honest look back to go with my early impressions. This is an especially relevant exercise to me this time around due to the strength of the spring season.
Shows that I actively watched (and finished where applicable):
- Eureka Seven AO: This is the real surprise of the season for me.
The show's excellent execution has compulsively pulled me along
and turned it into my highest priority show to watch.
(With recent plot developments I find myself really regretting that I never got around to watching the original Eureka Seven; I suspect that I'm about to absorb a certain amount of spoilers for it and miss a certain amount of stuff.)
- Lupin III - The Woman Called Mine Fujiko: I predict that this show
is going to be polarizing people for years. It had highs and lows and
I'll agree that it didn't succeed with everything it tried, but it's
still stunning and powerful; its high points were excellent and it hit
them quite frequently. Even most of its low points were still quite
enjoyable for me. I had no problem with the ending and actually quite
liked it; in many ways it's the only answer the show could possibly
have given to the question of 'who is Mine Fujiko?'.
To be clear, I consider this show a significant success overall. Although it was sometimes not as easily entertaining than other shows and it has rough spots, I currently consider it the best show I watched this season.
(I'm being cautious here because this is the sort of show where my initial feelings sometimes change later, once I have some distance from it. If I don't wind up reconsidering things with more time it'll easily be one of my best N shows of 2012.)
- Moretsu Pirates: I basically wrote my summary of this for my
Winter 2012 retrospective. I will echo
a whole lot of other people and say that this is a lightweight SF
adventure story. In the end I think it's overly lightweight and
(I don't think that things need to be grimdark, but ultimately the show never convinced me that Marika was really working for her victories. In the larger picture everything fell into place too easily, although the show managed to make the individual moments dramatic. This really undercut the seriousness of nominally serious situations.)
- Accel World: I'm continuing to enjoy this as what it is, which
is a well executed shonen fighting show. I don't think it's a great
show (and it's clearly not to everyone's taste) but I'm consistently
(I'll admit that I periodically don't watch it for a couple of weeks and then watch several episodes in a burst.)
- Fate/Zero: This is technically well executed and fills in the
background for Fate/Stay Night but in the end it mostly left
me cold. A large part of it is that I wasn't interested in the
characters. Another part is the erratic pacing,
which didn't improve from the problems of the first season.
But when Fate/Zero was pretty it was very pretty. Some of the fights were spectacular.
(The best bits of Fate/Zero were Waver's bits. If FZ had been from Waver's perspective and been focused on his maturation, it would be a much more interesting show. Of course then a lot of Fate fans would have hated it.)
- Haiyore! Nyaruko-san: As I should have expected, this turned into a reasonably funny but ultimately ordinary magical girlfriend comedy; the periodic horrifying bits of the first episode that gave it a sharp edge disappeared almost immediately. Inertia caused me to watch it all the way through.
Shows I still intend to watch more of:
- Hyouka (#6): It's beautiful and well done but somehow I haven't had
the energy to actually watch it except very occasionally. I really do
like it when I do watch it, though.
(The nasty thing to say about the show is that it's a beautiful shell wrapped around an empty void. I'm not convinced that this view is wrong.)
- Aquarion EVOL (#17): as I mentioned in my Winter 2012
retrospective, no sooner had I written about why I was still
watching it than I stalled out for vague
reasons, partly because it was getting plot in the good craziness.
- Tsuritama (#2): I don't have any reason for having stalled on
this; I just did. I want to watch the next episode, just not enough
to actually get around to it. It's been praised enough that I do
want to continue with it, which may be foolish.
(I might be better off being honest with myself when I don't find a much-praised show that I was initially very enthused about compelling enough to actually watch more of.)
- Sankarea (#4): The show is pretty and decent and does interesting
things and all of that good stuff, but somehow I don't find it
compelling. Maybe this means I should formally abandon it, but the
commentary about it I've seen in the ani-sphere keeps making it seem
(I stalled out after episode #4 in large part because the ending of the episode left me expecting that the next episode would take a particular boring plot turn, one that I wasn't looking forward to sitting through. It turns out that this is not the case.)
With a relatively busy summer season starting up, watching more of these shows may turn out to be more of an aspiration than an actual plan. Especially since two of these shows that I'm actively watching are continuing in the summer season.
In theory, may watch more of someday:
- Tasogare Otome x Amnesia (#3): There's nothing wrong with this and a decent amount that's nice, but there wasn't enough in the first three episodes to really hook me. I've already seen plenty of magical girlfriend shows.
Abandoned or dropped:
- Sakamichi no Apollon (#2): I could flail around and blather about this,
but the truth is that it failed to hold my interest enough to get me
to watch the third episode. Based on my exposure to bits of commentary
about the path the show took, I tacitly decided to abandon it; I'm
just not that attracted to an adolescent drama, even one with jazz
and good directing.
I sometimes find myself regretting this. I know it has great moments that I'd enjoy (I've actually recently seen some in Youtube clips that people have shared); the problem is getting to them.
- Jormungand (#3): The show committed the cardinal sin of spending a
large amount of episode 3 on a boring, stupid action sequence involving
some new characters mostly made from cardboard. The combination is
deadly, especially when the preview for episode four promised more of
(I was quite disappointed by this development.)
- Kore wa Zombie Desu? of the Dead (#2): In the end I thought that this
continuation was okay and decently entertaining but not necessary. The
first season said enough and I had other things to watch and do
this time around.
- Zetman (#2): Bleah. After two episodes, something about this had thoroughly rubbed me the wrong way. I didn't just find it boringly generic, I actively disliked it and didn't want to watch more.
I'm certain that someone, somewhere, has put forward the aphorism that in practice your priorities are shown not by what you say they are but what you actually do. This season made a nice illustration of that, as what shows (and how many of them) I wound up watching were (shall we say) somewhat different than what I put forward in my initial brief views. Particularly striking is that basically all of the 'artistic' shows I thought I was going to follow got stalled or dropped; what I actually watched was almost all action shows. I'm not sure how I feel about this. I'd certainly like to think that I'm the kind of anime watcher who enjoys things other than (often brainless) action shows, but the evidence on that is a bit scanty right now.
(The counter argument is that it's not as if I didn't try out other shows at all. Forcing myself to watch shows that I don't genuinely like and feel enthused about is just stupid, even if they're objectively good or theoretically broadening my horizons. Still, people like Author keep making things like AKB0048 and Tari Tari sound attractive.)
I'm not sure how to score this past season with my standard metric, partly because I avoided trying to figure out what shows I was likely to actively follow in my early impressions (if I had any private ideas about that at the time, I've since forgotten them since I didn't write them down). I kind of consider several abandoned or stalled shows to be failures but that's partly because they're shows that everyone says are pretty good.
Brief early impressions of the anime of the Summer 2012 season
As before, here are my impressions of another season's first few episodes, or at least of the shows that I have bothered to watch. This time around I'm using a different format, partly because I hope to be much harsher about what I will continue watching.
(The order within each section is roughly how good or interesting I think each show is.)
- Moyashimon Returns: I really liked the original Moyashimon and
I'm glad to see that this continues the wackiness of before, educational
interludes and all. You probably want to watch the first series before
trying this one out because it pretty much starts in the middle without
bothering to explain very much.
- Dog Days': I liked the first series, as lightweight as it was, because it was genuinely cheerful and fun. The second series is delivering more of the same (so far, but I have no reason to think that will change).
Hits that could easily fumble things in future episodes:
- Hagure Yuusha no Estetica: I'm with SDB here; the first
episode is a refreshingly different take on the whole collective of
usual light novel cliches. I like that the protagonist is competent,
confident, and has things together; you might even call him sort of
grown up. On the other hand the setting and basic premise mean that
the show could easily go downhill from here.
- Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita (aka Humanity has Declined): I'll
be honest; I didn't find the first two episodes of this as
darkly humorous or as funny as the rest of the ani-sphere
seems to have. What has hooked me for now is a moment that was the
punchline and logical consequence of a series of things that we were
shown through the first two episodes. I can't help but feel affection
for a show that's willing to be that clever, subtle, and patient.
(Despite that I'm not so taken with Jinrui that I'm willing to elevate it to a hit just yet.)
- Campione: based on the near universal thumbs down of this that I
saw in my slice of the anime twitter-sphere and blog-o-sphere, I was
expecting something terrible or at least utterly boring. Well, that's
not what I got. This may be a collection of light novel cliches but
it's a well assembled one; I was entertained throughout the entire
first episode. With that said, the first episode was all background
and who knows what happens next.
I expect to keep watching this as long as it avoids falling into boring cliches and then drop it like a hot potato. My cynical side gives that an episode or two.
(Having watched (part of) both Hidan no Aria and Dragon Crisis, among other bleah-inducing light novel adoptions, I feel qualified to say that Campione's first episode is no Dragon Crisis (much less HnA) and that I am not entertained by everything. Execution matters.)
Need to see more of before I can say one way or another:
- Sword Art Online: Time for me to be contrarian. The first
episode of SAO was workmanlike and pretty but also disappointing; it
was a barely disguised massive info-dump to set up the background to
the actual show, which might perhaps start next episode. We haven't
even seen one of the major characters yet and the characters that we
have seen are mostly ciphers so far. Since lots of people praise this,
I'm willing to give it another episode to see if the actual story
(The difference between SAO's first episode and Campione's first episode is that the latter managed to say a lot about the characters and the former basically didn't.)
Beyond that, I have no idea if I'll be able to tolerate the premise or if it will turn out to be too close to what I've called the 'trapped protagonist' genre. If the show plays up the angst of the protagonists seeing people die around them or similar things, I'm out.
(I've read some people praising SAO as compared to Accel World because the stakes are higher in SAO than in AW (where the characters aren't risking anything except the ability to keep playing a game). I, uh, disagree with this view, to put it one way. Shows are not necessarily improved by the grim prospect of death.)
The core difference between SAO, Campione, and Estetica is that the latter two had first episodes that were engaging but potentially highly atypical while the former had an unengaging first episode but I'm willing to give it another episode to see if it gets better.
- Muv-Luv Alternative - Total Eclipse: To be blunt, the first two
episodes were a waste of time (and the second episode was an exercise
in brutality). The first episode almost put me to sleep with a barrage
of stuff about characters I could barely be bothered to tell apart, as
well as a moment that had me yelling at the screen. The second episode
then bloodily slaughtered everyone except the show's protagonist just
to make sure we got the point that this war was horrible and dangerous
and that the alien menace was thoroughly unpleasant. Apparently the
real story starts in the third episode and people say it is much better,
I suppose I'll watch the next episode to see, since I've already
invested the time to watch the first two. (This is the fallacy of
sunk costs in action.)
(I'm going into TE basically cold. I understand that it's at the tail end of a series of spinoffs of spinoffs of spinoffs or something, but I don't know or care about any of the details and I expect the show to stand on its own.)
On the edge:
- Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon II: The first episode delivered crazy action
but I remember what happened after the first episode of the first season
(and it did not involve more crazy action). Still it looks like there's
probably going to be at least one more episode of fighting and Horizon
is good at making that interesting.
With my new found determination to drop things rapidly instead of sticking grimly to them, I think I'm going to watch this until people start standing around and talking to much and then immediately drop it.
- Rinne no Lagrange season 2: The first season was kind of like
a lightweight, inoffensive version of an action show, and the first
episode of this season is much the same. I feel conflicted because
once again this is just good enough to be casually enjoyable and
entertaining while I'm actually watching an episode.
If I was smart, I would probably drop this now and use my time for something more productive. I'm probably not that smart (and watching this is pretty certain to be brainless, which is sometimes useful).
- Arcana Famiglia: I would really like to like this show because the premise of a strong female character kicking ass and taking charge of her own life is rare and attractive. Unfortunately the execution of the first episode was basically a paint by numbers exercise that left me disinterested in all of the characters, the heroine included. I have no enthusiasm for seeing more, especially since descriptions of the second episode do not exactly make it sound thrilling (or even vaguely exciting).
I haven't watched anything else from this season yet and at the moment I'm not planning to; none of the remaining shows sound interesting enough to draw my attention (at least not now that I'm trying to be pickier than I have been in the past). As always, this could change if Twitter and blogs manage to make something sound sufficiently attractive.
(Sometimes that even works out and I wind up watching a good show.)
My problem with Fate/Zero: the characters
One of the reasons that I wound up watching Fate/Zero only sporadically and without any particularly burning enthusiasm is that I found basically all of the characters to be, in Author's phrasing, jerkfaces. Out of the entire collection of Masters and Servants and secondary characters, the only one I actually found likable was Waver (and even then he's only truly likable after he's matured). Even the much-admired Iskandar is not all that nice when you get down to it, for all that he serves as a good father figure for Waver.
(The closest any Servant comes to being likable are Saber and Lancer but they're both what I'll call 'Heroic Stupid', each blindly heroic in their own different ways. They're both capable of doing cool things but that doesn't mean that I find them sympathetic.)
There are two areas of special failure that I want to single out. The first is that Fate/Zero reduces a number of characters to cartoon villainy or close to it, most noticeably Ryuunosuke and Caster but also people like Kayneth to a lesser extent. This is lazy storytelling and pretty much made these characters boring, which was not helped by the story's ham-handed attempts to make them vaguely sympathetic (often at literally the last moment).
(It's possible to make totally evil characters still be interesting, but it takes being clever instead of just kicking dogs. Caster pretty much just kicked dogs, metaphorically speaking.)
The second is Kiritsugu. The story's attempt to make him sympathetic by giving him a tortured background simply persuaded me that he had been damaged from the start. I felt that his actions and reactions were too unrealistic for anything approaching a normal child and the story didn't convince me that he'd been broken by excessive stress; instead I wound up feeling that Kiritsugu was a natural killer who had latched on to the idea of 'justice' as a substitute for any innate sense of morality.
(In the Fate-verse, this struck me as completely unsurprising for a mage and the child of a mage. Let's face it, a lot of mages in the Fate series are badly morally damaged; just look at Tokiomi's actions with Sakura for one example.)
(I was prodded to write this entry by Schneider's entry (via Author). I entirely agree with him on the Fate/Stay Night characters versus the FZ ones; the cast in F/SN is much more likable and interesting to me and as a result I found F/SN much more engaging than I did F/Z.)
Sidebar: On Iskandar
My view of Iskandar is kind of tangled. On the one hand, he spends a lot of time in the show being a likable guy and a good person for Waver to be around. On the other hand, I can't watch those segments without remembering what Iskandar ultimately believes in and that at the core he is not a good person (no matter how nicely he may act); instead, he is the King of Conquerors, larger than life in vices as well as virtues. I can't listen to even his early enthusiasm for taking over this new world he finds himself in without thinking about what his words imply.
(We may laugh at his ambition, but Iskandar is serious. He would throw the world into fire and sword simply because he wants it. I can't forget this even when he's personally nice to people.)
Looking back at the Winter 2012 anime season
This is what you could call 'extensively delayed'. Since the Winter 2012 season is well over by now, it's more than past time for another one of my retrospectives to go with my early impressions and my followup on what I was probably going to actually watch.
(If I was clever I'd claim that I'm doing this so late in order to wait for Moretsu Pirates to finish so I could have a proper view on it, but the truth is that I just sat on this for various reasons.)
The short summary is that I finished everything that I thought I was actually going to. That would be:
- Moretsu Pirates: This wound up never being deep but generally managed
to be entertaining. The details were best not thought about too deeply,
because it turned out that the show's attitude towards zero-g was typical of its attitudes towards almost
everything. Still, it was a fun ride and the kind of light entertainment
that we don't often see these days.
(I sympathize with Author, but I've long ago managed to gain the ability to turn off my brain when watching a lot of anime.)
My concise summary is that Pirates turned out to be entertaining but not serious, nowhere near up to the overall level of Sato's various famous series (which managed to be both entertaining and substantive). I don't know if this is the fault of the source material, the adaptation process, or both. If you want more depth on this view, see Jonathan Tappan (via Author).
- Nisemonogatari: I didn't like this as much as Bakemonogatari (and
there were parts of it that made me twitch), but on the whole I
enjoyed it. At this distance I find I don't have anything substantive
to say about it. It delivers the *monogatari experience, which is
either good or bad depending on your views of that experience.
(The twitch inducing stuff in Nisemonogatari is a sufficiently complex subject that it does not fit in the margins of this entry.)
- Ano Natsu de Matteru: I enjoyed it and have already written enough
words about it.
- Rinne no Lagrange: This is not finished as such, since we've only
seen the first half so far; the second half is coming up in the summer
season. While I enjoyed the first half I'm not quite sure I enjoyed
it enough to actively watch the second half. Overall I would say that
its flaw is being a bit lightweight without the characters, setting,
and situation being sufficiently intrinsically interesting to offset
- Inu x Boku SS: This was charming and generally made me smile, and
had the grace to end at a good spot (the manga series is ongoing).
It delivered more or less what I was expecting, with somewhat less
supernatural stuff than I was hoping for.
(My attitudes on the anime are tangled because I read ahead in the manga, so now I find it hard to cleanly evaluate either. I will say that the anime was well enough done that I found myself enjoying watching stuff that I'd already read.)
Theoretically going to finish real soon now:
- Aquarion EVOL: I wrote something about why I was still watching EVOL and then kind of stalled out on it when it appeared to be starting to mix plot into its crazy hijinks (plot is not what I was watching EVOL for). Still, what I've read says that it finished quite well and certainly I watched it all through the actual Winter 2012 season.
I managed to not watch any more of Shana III, although I may change that someday. I also didn't watch any more of Senki Zesshou Symphogear (in fact I think I stopped immediately after writing that it was teetering on the edge back in this).
As a general comment: giving up on watching shows partway through instead of grimly sticking to them out of a misplaced, neurotic sense of completeness turned out to be a remarkably liberating thing and feels quite good. I don't regret anything in Winter 2012 that I stopped following, even if (as in the case of Shana III) they may ultimately turn out to be kind of good. I really should have started doing this long ago and I hope to do more of it in the future.
(Well, okay, I already have with the Spring 2012 season, but that calls for another entry.)
(As before, my reasons for wanting to do this retrospective are more or less covered here.)