Brief early impressions of the Winter 2014 anime season

January 15, 2014

As before, so again. Every season I do an early impressions post to organize my thoughts and also so that later on I can laugh sadly at my naive and optimistic views. This season I am either grumpy or being more selective than usual, depending on your perspective; as I put it on Twitter:

I'm increasingly feeling that I've been burned too many times by shows with 'promise'. Stop the excuses. Deliver something right here and now.

Quite a lot of shows failed this test for me, some of them well regarded ones. Even the ones that survived are not all that strong, so this looks like being one of those not so great winter seasons.

Clear winners (so far):

  • Seitokai Yakuindomo season 2: The show reliably hits my funny bone just as the first season did.

    (This is extremely rare. Most anime comedies aren't for me.)

  • Noragami: There's nothing exceptional here as far as genre and broad plot go but the show is very well executed and I like the characters. I'm with Aroduc in that it's refreshing to have a protagonist who gets powers and considers them really quite neat instead of something to be horrified about. I hope that she gets to kick more monsters.

  • Sekai Seifuku - Bouryaku no Zvezda: It's hard to tell where this is going after just one episode but the first episode did a great job at holding my interest. My best guess is that the show will play its absurdisms straight but not seriously; if it manages to do a good job, I expect to like it a lot.

In ongoing shows, both KILL la KILL and Log Horizon continue to rock in their own ways.

Things I am reasonably enthused about so far:

  • Space Dandy: This had an absolutely terrible first episode that was marred by any number of problems including bad writing that thoroughly alienated me; even people who liked it overall were saying out loud that the first half was pretty bad. Although it was an instant drop I just couldn't let go and very reluctantly watched the second episode, mostly out of masochism (there was a bit of me that didn't want to believe that something with SD's pedigree could be that terrible, although objectively I know better). To my total surprise, everything changed for the much better. The second episode was actually a nice show that did a good job telling a story and throwing in interesting and funny events without beating us over the head and even being subtle periodically. More to the point, it's a show that I want to see more of. So I've undropped it for now.

    At this point I have no idea if the good Space Dandy will continue or if the bad one will come back, so I have no idea if this is going to be something that I stay with. I'm honestly expecting an uneven and bumpy ride and probably a bunch of frustration.

  • Nobunagun: This is nice and it's doing interesting things, but it doesn't have Noragami's quality of execution (or animation budget). It is clearly and consciously aiming to be over the top and to have a definite style; both of these are things that I can get behind. Better to have personality even if it doesn't always work than to be safely bland.

Not for me (tentatively):

  • Tonari no Seki-kun: I read the first chapter of the manga and didn't find it particularly funny, plus there is something about the basic premise of 'boy does something that irritates girl until she reacts and then gets blamed for it while the boy always gets away with it' that rubs me the wrong way. I've seen the show's OP and frankly I think it has a good version of the joke that delivers most of the amusement value I'd get out of the show.

    I call this a not-for-me because lots of people seem to like the show quite a lot. Clearly the humour doesn't click for me and does for them.

Misses (in descending order of quality):

  • Toaru Hikuushi e no Koiuta aka The Pilot's Love Song: There's nothing wrong with this as such. It's just bland and unimpressive and comes with impending grim doom (because the show has carefully told us that everything goes to hell later).

  • Robot Girls Z: The first installment of RGZ has basically one core joke. Unfortunately neither that joke nor the show's execution of several variations of it are anywhere near funny enough or good enough to sustain an entire episode. As I put it on Twitter, the version of the joke done in the opening sequence is about the right length. You might as well watch that and stop.

  • Wizard Barristers - Benmashi Cecil: By all logic I should really like this but instead it somehow irritates me quite a bit and I lack any interest in seeing the further activities of these characters. Perhaps part of it is that the whole exercise feels kind of soulless. The protagonist especially rubs me the wrong way with her collection of moe tropes (sleeping in late on her first day of work, jumping in apparently over her head, tragic past that gives her burning motivation, etc etc).

    (I'm also not sure I have much enthusiasm for watching a courtroom drama, even if it comes with magic.)

  • Nobunaga the Fool: The first episode of this is a lot of chaos and incoherent things happening without explanation or much context. I'm all for starting in the middle of the action (it beats infodumps), but there has to be something there to get a grip on. There wasn't here and so I'm left with no interest in these characters or what's going on.

  • Hamatora: This is the generic and cheaply made shonen show that Noragami wasn't.

I haven't checked out any of the four (I think) high school romcoms that are airing this season and I haven't heard anything about any of them that would change my mind. This is not a genre that generally works for me. Similarly I haven't looked at any of the other comedies, as none of them sounded like they would at all work for me.

Written on 15 January 2014.
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Last modified: Wed Jan 15 22:59:10 2014
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