Brief early impressions of the shows of the Spring 2012 season

April 25, 2012

As before, here are my sort of early impressions of another season's worth of shows. These are more or less in the order I watched the shows (which is not necessarily the order they aired in), although I'm not sure this order is useful for anyone but me. As usual for seasons (but unlike last season), the start of the season has been fairly strung out and so have these early impressions; in fact, not publishing this entry is getting embarrassing.

  • Ozma (or Ozuma): I watched a couple of episodes of this and it just didn't grab me. It has a potentially interesting setting and basic plot (and I normally like action SF), but the execution leaves me unmoved and indifferent.

    (I also gave this a lot of allowances for being a Leiji Matsumoto work from an earlier era. Pickier people may have stronger reactions to it.)

  • Hiiro no Kakera: Based on two episodes, this is a relatively bland and inoffensive example of its genre with nothing particularly interesting about its characters or its setting. I don't think I'm going to watch any more; watching the second episode made me realize that I want the female protagonist to be something more than a basically passive, helpless doormat.

    (Passive doormat female protagonists seem to be par for the course in this general genre, so I expect that in the future I can rule out basically all reverse harem shows like this.)

  • Lupin III - The Woman Called Mine Fujiko: I've seen some Lupin movies and bits of the TV series and I've had the chance to skim through a bit of the original Lupin manga. This series is not very much like the anime but a fair bit like the manga. My short summary is that I liked it (and I don't mind the change). This is adult in the general meaning of the word; the animation is stylish and quite different from normal anime, and the show is willing to be subtle and put little details in. It remains to be seen if the show can sustain the mood and the style over its run, or if it will descend to pandering and offensiveness.

    (I could live without the fanservice. I hope it will get better, but probably not; the manga has a bunch of that sort of stuff.)

    A lot of people have written much better commentaries about this show. See, for example, Altair and Vega's colloquium (NSFW).

  • Medaka Box: Medaka is so over the top that this becomes peculiarly amusing; it's impossible for me to take her or anyone around her entirely seriously. I suspect that this won't support the show for very long, but I'm willing to watch an episode or two more (at least in theory, I seem to not be getting around to it in practice).

    Update: two episodes and I'm out. This isn't amusing enough to overcome Medaka.

  • Sankarea: The first episode was kind of slow moving but did manage to hold my interest and make me want to see the next one. The second one continued this trend.

    (See this interesting blog post on the cinematography in Sankarea; I think this sort of thing is one reason the show is holding my interest despite the pace.)

  • Kore wa Zombie Desu? of the Dead: This is more of the same as the first season, at least based on the first episode. I liked the first season (apart from the last episode, let us never speak of that), so I will keep watching for now. I'm finding myself much less enthused than I was expecting, partly because I'm not sure what the show has left to say after the first season.

  • Zetman: It's hard to tell what this is going to be about from the first episode because the OP/ED makes it clear that what the first episode covers is just backstory. Going only on the first episode's execution this seems like a decent but relatively generic shounen action story; in this season it's probably not going to sustain my interest.

  • Fate/Zero #14+: It's more of the same, except that now things are slowly starting to happen. This isn't really a new show, this is just a long gap between two episodes. Since they are running out of episodes, I can hope for actual decisive fights soon.

  • Nazo no Kanojo X (aka Mysterious Girlfriend X): This is different, in a good way. It strikes me as a much more grown up and interesting take on the high school romance genre with characters that are far more interesting than usual. Unfortunately the second episode has shown that I'm highly ambivalent about this; I liked the unusual stuff but found the stock high school romantic fumblings just about unwatchable.

    (Commentary suggests that the third episode continues the stock high school romantic fumblings, so I think I'm out; the genre is almost never my thing, no matter how fresh the take on it is.)

  • Accel World: This wears its heart on its sleeve from the get-go; this is going to be a shonen action show about secret battles. I'm fine with that and it seems reasonably well executed so far, with some interesting gimmicks and clever characters.

    (Future episodes could very easily shoot all of this in the foot.)

  • Tasogare Otome x Amnesia: I do admire the gimmick of showing most of the first episode twice, but I hope they never repeat it; once was enough to get the point. Overall, though, it was definitely fun. I like the characters and it doesn't seem like it's going to be horror.

    (I may eat those last words in an episode or two.)

  • Haiyore! Nyaruko-san: What makes this work for me is that Nyaruko is both cute and horrifying, and may or may not give much of a damn about our protagonist's actual feelings. Without those elements, this would be yet another vaguely amusing, decently done show featuring a magical wish-fulfillment girlfriend. With those elements it has an interesting sharp edge. Also I actually found it funny, unlike most comedies.

    (Only time will tell if the show keeps these elements, of course. If Nyaruko doesn't do a few creepy things every episode, I'll be disappointed and get bored.)

  • Jormungand: This is no Black Lagoon, but then very few things are. It's an acceptable and interesting entrant in the same genre, even if the only character I'm really interested in is Jonah himself.

    (I think this show has the most addictive OP song of this season, broken English and all.)

  • Eureka Seven AO: I haven't seen the original Eureka Seven so I'm undoubtedly missing all sorts of things, but the first episode of this felt merely ordinary to me. I'll likely continue watching it out of hope because a lot of people seem enthused.

    (The second episode makes some of the first episode's characters more interesting and complex than they initially seemed, which I like.)

  • Sakamichi no Apollon: Given the ordinary setting I wouldn't normally have watched this, but its pedigree made me check it out. I've wound up more interested than I expected, although I don't know how long I'll continue watching.

  • Tsuritama: I really enjoyed the first episode; it was crazy, stunning, peculiar, and above all interesting. It's not afraid to mix crazy metaphors into a crazy reality and take both to the limit. I am eagerly looking forward to future episodes; if they can sustain the power of the first episode, this will be a show to remember. I can think of no greater praise than to say that the first episode at least is truly a noitaminA show, a show that could only be made by people who're willing to take chances.

    (Apollon is not really a noitaminA show in this sense; it's different but not daring.)

    The second episode is more conventional and less stunning than the first one, but it's still sustaining my interest.

  • Hyouka: This has visual style, interesting characters, and subtle storytelling. I like it. The larger story it's aiming for may not be original but it looks like it will be well done.

    (This season seems to be a quite good one for shows that are trying for something besides the standard anime visual style.)

    For a contrarian take you can read Shinde Iie. I can see all of the flaws that this review points out, but for me they don't (currently) matter; I'm happy to enjoy the execution.

My best show of the season so far is Lupin by a mile. Nothing else is even attempting to be as interesting. Note that Lupin could fail massively, because this is nature of taking big risks by being unconventional.

This season has so many decent-or-better shows that I have no idea what I'm going to watch for the full season. It's clear that I'm going to have to trim from what I'd normally watch, possibly quite aggressively. As it is I'm already backlogged on episodes for some shows in this list.

Passing on very aggressively:

  • Upotte!!!: When I initially heard about it, the premise seemed merely goofy (and decent anime has been made from goofy premises before). What they decided to do with the premise is cringe inducing and left me somewhere between utterly disinterested and actively repulsed; I didn't even finish the episode.

Not watching even though it may be very good:

  • Space Brothers: All of my impressions so far from commentary around the net are that this is a well done and probably moving slice of life show. I don't watch slice of life shows, not even when they are salted with some promise of space, especially when they are apparently 50+ episodes long.

(This is my flaw and should not deter anyone else.)

I've basically not looked at or considered other shows for various reasons that I'm not going to try to put here. I may be missing some good stuff, but that's always the case and this season is pretty overwhelming (even with potential insomnia ).

Written on 25 April 2012.
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Last modified: Wed Apr 25 11:56:23 2012
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