Looking back at the Spring 2014 anime season
As before, it's time for my usual retrospective look back at the season to see how well my final views match up with my early impressions and my midway views. Sort of as I did in my winter season retrospective, there's one show I'm ranking based on how much I'm enjoying it instead of how good I think it is (for everything else I think the two match up quite well).
- Ping Pong: This is the total surprise of the season for me, far
more than I expected at the start of the season. My best
description of it (borrowed from somewhere else) is that in the end
it's a character piece carefully disguised as a sports story, and
what a character piece it is. It is full of interesting real people
and it covers its events with a beautifully understated touch. It is
unafraid to show instead of tell and more than that, to show without
jumping up and down to point out certain things. I found it powerful,
affecting, and in the end touching.
I liked the art style. I think it worked very well for how the story was told and how the story was told really helped the impact of the story.
- Knights of Sidonia: This is far from a flawless show but what
elevates it here is that it absolutely nails a certain sense of
atmosphere and ambivalence, and it's also a gorgeously SF show.
I have come around to feeling that it absolutely needs to be in full
CGI to work, not just for the stunningly well done battle scenes
but also to draw a real distance between it and more 'anime' shows.
The show is also genuinely well directed and well written, things that
are unfortunately rare in anime. One sign of this is that it's willing
to confidently depart from strict adherence to the manga storyline in
order to improve the experience of the anime.
(Some people feel that the large scale death rate in the show has caused this aspect of it to lose its impact. I disagree personally because I think that the show is going for a different sort of impact that is less about people dying and more about the massive death rate among the pilots.)
I'm eagerly looking forward to its continuation in the fall.
(See eg Bobduh's reaction to episode 11 for both praise and criticism.)
- Mushishi second season: This is still an excellent show, one that I
think is better than Sidonia, but I've wound up feeling at a
distance from it for most of
the season. My current theory for why
is that the episodes have lacked any sort of ongoing thread that runs
between them. Sure, Ginko shows up in each of them, but for most
episodes he's just been an oracular presence that solves problems
or watches things happen; we haven't really been pulled into him
emotionally. The exception that proves the rule is the marvelous
which is all about Ginko being unsettled and getting yanked around
and us seeing the really weird side of the mushi.
To put it one way, Mushishi has been great to watch but Sidonia has affected me when I watch it.
(Mushishi was unfortunately hit with production delays that pushed back episodes 11 and 12 to its fall season continuation. Some rumours say that these are more plot and Ginko-heavy episodes; if they'd aired this season I might well have a much stronger opinion of Mushishi overall, based on my reaction to episode 10.)
Plain good fun:
- Hitsugi no Chaika: This wrapped up its first big arc with a nice
big bang and a well done pivot to move the overall story forward.
It continues to be a solid show with competence all around in its
execution and I'm quite looking forward to the second season.
(I have little to say here because this is effectively a midseason pause instead of anything more climactic. Of course the show is executing a midseason story pivot now; it was about time if things weren't going to drag.)
- Ryuugajou Nanana no Maizoukin: This wound up being a perfectly
competent and decently interesting show with some interesting and
intriguing characters. It's just not particularly memorable as these
shows go because it's not particularly exceptional. Tensai is the
best and most interesting character, with Juugo second.
- JoJo's Bizarre Adventure - Stardust Crusaders: I've continued to watch this basically as a comedy and it's continued to deliver that way. Things have stayed absurd and crazy and there have been some nice moments. I have no particularly deep emotional engagement with anyone in the show the way I have in every show from Chaika on up.
This season has turned out to be excellent, with several shows that are basically certain to rank highly in my eventual 'Best N in 2014' entry. While I'm disappointed with the failure of a few shows, this is much better than I expected at the start of the season; both Sidonia and especially Ping Pong turned out to be far more powerful shows than I anticipated.
(Looking back at my early Ping Pong impressions kind of makes me laugh now. And it's not that the show drastically improved over the course of its run. Its excellence was there from the start but I didn't trust the show to sustain it all the way through, so I was cautious.)