Brief sort of early impressions of the Fall 2014 anime season
It's time for another early impressions post, as before. I have to admit that these early impressions are actually rather late in the 'early' stage of things, for no particularly good reason (although Mushishi did only start airing last week). My overall view is that this is a really strong season with a major good surprise and I'm very happy with how things have come out. Any season where I worry that I'm watching too many shows to be sustainable is a good season.
- Mushishi second season continued: There really isn't anything to
say about Mushishi that I haven't already said, but the first two
episodes of this resumption have been especially strong.
- Shingeki no Bahamut - Genesis: This is the surprise hit of the
season for me and it came basically out of nowhere. The show is
simply excellently done, with lovely directing, good animation,
interesting characters, and an interesting series of change-up
- Psycho-Pass 2: Before this continuation started I really wondered if the show would have anything more interesting to say after the first season, but after a weak first episode the show's picked itself up and staked out some interesting themes (well, as far as I'm guessing).
Things I'm enthused by:
- Hitsugi no Chaika - Avenging Battle: It's more Chaika and there's
really nothing more to say than my description of its virtues at
the end of the first half. I'm probably
enjoying this more than Psycho-Pass 2, but it's more lightweight.
- Fate/Stay-Night - Unlimited Blade Works: The Fate-verse may be
dead people all the way down but damn, this
production has money and talent and it mostly shows (sometimes
I'd much rather the show followed Rin and Archer rather than Shirou and
but the production (and the core story) is at least making the latter
two tolerable right now, even if I sometimes feel like I'm watching
in spite of myself.
One of the interesting things about watching this iteration of F/SN is that I already know so many spoilers for it (including from the earlier UBW movie). On the one hand this drains a bunch of tension; on the other hand this means I can spot little details that might otherwise have passed me by and understand what they're signalling.
- Garo - The Animation: This is very nicely done and from the same
studio as Bahamut, but it misses being an out of the park hit
because it feels much more conventional than Bahamut. But it has
set up a quite complex background and set of story lines, so I think
it has potential to be quite powerful and really good. It's still
good right now, it's just not great the way that Bahamut is.
Garo has by far the best OP of the season of what I've seen. There isn't any contest.
- Log Horizon second season: The show feels slower and less exciting than before, but it's still Log Horizon. I'm on board for more evil Shiroe and so on, although I could do with less angst. I don't really have anything to say otherwise; at this point either you know you like Log Horizon or you know that it's not of interest.
- Shirobako: This is a show that I think is interesting without
necessarily being good as such. I quite like the look inside an
animation studio but at the same time it's chaotic and hard to
follow and I have relatively little engagement with the characters.
It badly needs a guide to what's going on and what all of the various
people do, because if you aren't reasonably well informed about
who does what and why various bits are important it's really hard
to understand the problems the studio is facing. Even I'm getting
and I've picked up a reasonable amount of the terminology and the
anime production process.
(For instance, in the first episode if you don't understand the crucial role of the sakkan it's not clear why the sakkan can take over animation for one sequence or why it's such a bad thing to lose the sakkan for a while.)
Entertaining but sitting on the edge:
- Madan no Ou to Vanadis: What I like about this is that almost all of the characters involved are functional and mature adults with heads on their shoulders (and the one character who isn't is the one that irritates me). Adults who act it are a decided novelty in anime and it's refreshing to have a whole cast of them. With that said, the charm may well wear off this at some point and it definitely has its awkward bits.
Marginal, where I'll be amazed if I watch them all season:
- Seven Deadly Sins (aka Nanatsu no Taizai): This is a kid's shonen
fighting story and it makes no bones about it. What's kept my interest
so far is how over the top the power levels are; for example, the
climactic big fight in the first episode had them blow up the entire
top of a hill. In other words, I'm watching for grand fights and I
expect to keep watching only as long as it delivers that.
- Ore, Twintail ni Narimasu: People have very divergent reactions to this depending on whether its non-stop more or less single note jokes work for them. So far the jokes have been making me laugh; since that's pretty rare, I'm willing to keep watching. However I won't be surprised if the laughter wears off abruptly and because painful instead, at which point I'll drop this like a hot potato.
Probably not for me:
- Amagi Brilliant Park: This is well made but after watching two
episodes it hasn't really grabbed me. I may watch more to see if clicks
(especially since various people praise it and it keeps ranking high on
and in a slower season I'm pretty sure I'd be watching it, but this
season is already really busy for me.
- Parasyte - the maxim: This is probably the best show of the season that I'm not watching (I saw the first episode and that was it). I think a large part of it is that a good part of Parasyte is some degree of horror and I'm just not a horror person. I can see how good the show is, my gut just signals the rest of me with 'nope nope nope not interested try again'. I think I might enjoy it better in manga form.
Definitely not for me:
- Gundam Build Fighters Try: There's nothing wrong with this show.
It just has the misfortune of being a sports show about mecha, which
are two things that almost never work for me. I gave the first episode
a try and while I could see the quality and the appeal, it just didn't
make me want to watch more.
(Even my favorite Gundam works are my favorites for reasons other than the mecha, although it turns out the mecha are surprisingly integral to their stories.)
- Inou Battle wa Nichijou-kei no Naka de: Congratulations, show, you
made the irritating chuuni guy so irritating that I can't stand him. Whatever
else it is (and it may or may not be decent), this show is not for me
- World Trigger: The first episode was a potentially interesting concept wrapped up in what was in retrospect a rather boring and lazy execution.
Have not looked at due to bad initial reports or other reasons:
- Akatsuki no Yona: On the one hand I theoretically like this genre in
general. On the other hand I seem to only really like shows in this
genre when they're unusually well done and early reports are that
Yona's execution is kind of pedestrian and ordinary. In a less busy
season I might have looked at this anyways; in this season I have triaged
it pending effusive praise (which so far has not been forthcoming).
- Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuusha de Aru: This had the misfortune of airing late
in a very busy season and not generating massive praise, so I've triaged
it just like I have Yona.
- Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso: On the one hand I really liked Nodame
Cantabile. On the other hand this involves characters in high
school instead of university (which I consider a general warning
sign) and may have excessive amounts of melodrama and hammering
So far what praise it's gotten has not been effusive enough to get me
to take a look.
- Cross Ange: Nope.
I actually find this a pity because I kind of would like to watch a
Sunrise mecha action show, partly because we haven't had one of those
for a while. I just have no interest in watching one with this one's
reported sort of content.
- Trinity Seven: Apparently your generic fighting harem LN adaptation
in a very busy season.
- Terra Formars: From all reports this falls into the 'over-censored
carnography' bucket without very much interesting in its execution.
- Gundam Reconquista in G: Gundam? Tomino incoherence? In a busy season? Nope.
(There are others that I haven't looked at due to their genre not being my kind of thing. And there may be some that I've just plain overlooked.)
Since I'm currently following eleven shows (with at least Amagi whispering to me to watch more), something is clearly going to give in what I'm watching. Sadly one of the losers may well be Shirobako, despite its appeal.
The importance (or lack of it) of Gundams in my favorite Gundam works
I am generally not a mecha fan, Gundam included, but I've wound up seeing some Gundam works that have genuinely impressed me and stuck with me; right now I'd say that my two top works are The 08th MS Team and War in the Pocket. For reasons that don't fit in the margins of this entry I recently wound up thinking about how important the presence of Gundams is in those two shows. Could you take the mobile suits out and replace them with something else without fundamentally damaging or changing those shows?
(This question makes more sense for me than for a Gundam fan, because what I like about these shows has almost nothing to do with the Gundams in them.)
I think that The 08th MS Team is actually surprisingly dependent on mobile suits in specific, because to make the whole feel of the show work you need a specific combination of attributes in your military machinery. They have to be ground based, because it very much matters that the MS Team is down there slogging along in the mud instead of flying distantly over it all. They have to be single pilot, because the whole dynamics of the situation would change if the pilots (especially Shiro) were working in a close team with other people in their vehicle instead of being alone. And they have to be powerful because people react to this; things would feel very different if the team was using, say, armed motorcycles instead of something that dominates the battlefield.
(That they dominate the battlefield also gives the MS team's actions special weight and their position special importance.)
War in the Pocket is a more ambivalent case. A lot of the situation and impact are not particularly dependent on mobile suits in specific so it feels like you should be able to swap them out for something else, but at the same time it's hard to figure out any alternative that leads to the crucial final confrontation while keeping Al so involved in it. To keep him so involved in the confrontation you probably have to keep it on the ground, so once again you need ground-based military machinery that has a single pilot and is sufficiently scary to force the defenders to sortie expensive and rare experimental hardware instead of relying on standard military vehicles and forces.
(Of course the background and settings for both shows are completely entangled in the Gundam Universal Century mythos as it is. But I think you could contrive some relatively similar setting that removed the mobile suits. After all, mobile suits are arguably an analogy for aircraft in the first place, although if we take this too far we wind up saying that the Federation is the US and Zeon is Japan in World War II.)
Looking back at the Summer 2014 anime season
As before, it's time (and long past time) for my usual retrospective look back at the season to see how well the final result matched up with my early impressions and my midway views. This has been delayed partly because the summer season turned out to be an almost total bust for me; I only managed to watch one show all the way through as it aired.
Watched and finished:
- Aldnoah.Zero: This was a reasonably entertaining show but I wouldn't
call it particularly great; however, the show did manage to make
watching it be enjoyable (for all of its absurdities). Following my
usual rule that whoever gets the most character
development is probably it, Slaine is the real protagonist; sadly,
I suspect that the show disagrees with me. This is the only show I
wound up following on a weekly basis through ths season.
If I took this as a serious dramatic work, it would be a failure; it simply has far too many flaws. As popcorn entertainment I rather enjoyed it because I could laugh at all of the crazy and nonsensical bits and admire all of the ways the show found to make Slaine suffer. I agree with all of the people who say that it's impossible to believe that the show is serious about the events in its first-half climax.
(Also, if this was a serious work it would be an extremely grim one given how large the show's onscreen and offscreen body count is.)
I'm looking forward to the second half although it may well turn out like Valvrave, where the magic and charm wore off very fast.
(Yes, this is a lot of words in an attempt to justify both sides of Author's collected impressions at once. As usual I see both the virtues and the flaws of the show but I weigh them in my own way.)
- Fate/Kaleid Liner Prisma Illya 2wei!: In the end I got bored enough (and desperate enough) to pick this up again after dropping it in the hopes that I would at least get some nice mindless action. I more or less got that, but it was competent instead of spectacularly stunning like I was kind of hoping for. I should really just resign myself to the fact that nothing in Prisma Illya will ever top the episode six fight from the first series and leave it permanently dropped. See also my Twitter capsule summary.
- Zankyou no Terror: I realized that I had essentially no interest in finding out what happened next to the characters or what was going on with the whole situation. So I stopped watching it.
Towards the end of the season I tried out two highly praised series that I had not previously given a chance to. My reactions:
- Barakamon: After three episodes my overall reaction is that I
find the show charming and I can see why people like this a lot, but
I don't find it compelling enough to drive me to watch more with any
particular urgency (especially now that it's not a currently airing
show). Part of it is certainly that the show is a bit too obvious and
heavy-handed with its moral lessons for Handa. The segments when it
wasn't concerned with that were much more enjoyable but unfortunately
not all that frequent in the first three episodes.
- Sabagebu: The highest recommendation I can give this is that it makes me laugh on a regular basis (which is not common, most anime comedy fails for me). However in practice it's fallen into the same problem as Seitokai Yakuindomo, which is that plotless humor doesn't have much to strongly drive me to see the next episode. See also eg Evirus.
I expect to watch more of both of these shows, but in practice neither has grabbed me by the labels and demanded to be watched. Someday, when I feel like it or I want something to fill in a block of anime watching time.
I also tried out Strike The Blood for vague reasons, partly in the hopes that it would be another Tokyo Ravens. My capsule summary is that it hasn't proved to be anywhere near as compelling a watch as Tokyo Ravens was and is otherwise a perfectly ordinary shonen fighting show. I suspect that I'm not going to wind up watching much more of it; I just don't find it all that compelling.