Sunday, July 14, 2013

Spring 2013 Anime Roundup

As a whole, Spring 2013 was a nod towards the old school. None of the titles captured the best of their respective genres - this will probably be remembered mostly as a spring season of mediocrity across the board - but the pleasant throwbacks to older times made each series pretty worthwhile for the hardcore anime fan. As usual, we got a lot of variety to pick from.

I'll start off by singling out the titles I think everyone should watch, my own opinions of quality aside. I like anime, so I try not to be too harsh on it, but if you're not hardcore about it and you don't have the time to consume as much anime as I do, I wouldn't say there was much released recently that is worth keeping up with in the scheme of things.

Of course, you should all be watching ATTACK ON TITAN. It's basically a Hollywood film in substance and style, except animated with lots of still frames. I actually don't like this show as much as I should. It takes the main character three episodes to pick up a rock. Fuck him, I say. I don't like any of the characters very much. But it is extremely stylistic, dark - in the nihilistic way - and very, very manly. If you like dark superhero type movies and you hate "cutesy moe shit", you should like this show, or at least the idea of it. This is an anime that is popular with people who don't actually like anime as a genre very much. A good - if not great - gateway anime. I don't have anything against mainstream hits and I'm glad AoT caught on as well as it did. It's good for the industry and for the fandom. So if you consider yourself an anime fan, you should watch it so you can formulate your own opinion on it.

The other solid recommendation for the season is DEMON LORD AT WORK!, or Hataraku Maou-sama! It's funny, for a start. Good characters, witty jokes. Unlike a lot of anime comedies, I consider it extremely accessible to Western viewers because there are little to no otaku jokes and the comedic timing follows a similar rhythm to Western sitcoms. Speaking of which, the comedy is very situational, and although it sometimes devolves into a fairly substandard action show it never loses its atmosphere of fun. Nothing about the plot or the characters is very original, but it's got good mainstream appeal and it sold really well, too. I fully expect another season of this to get announced soon enough, so this will be a mainstay in the fandom for at least another year yet.

Everything else is either disposable and won't be remembered in a year's time or the appeal is too niche. I don't recommend the following titles for casuals, but I did find things to like in all of them. And if you're one of those hardcore fans, you would probably have already watched most of these so you're just reading this for is my opinion to see if I agree with what you thought about them. I see how it is, mate. Well, let's take it in alphabetical order:

ARATA KANGATARI: Wowthis sure was a flop. Like, no one paid any attention to this show at all, did they? This might surprise some of you, but I really like Yuu Watase's manga, actually. I still have the nostalgia feels for Fushigi Yuugi. Arata is basically what you get when you cross Fushigi Yuugi with Inuyasha. It's shonen for girls, but I have nothing against that. The only thing that disappointed me was that the adaptation itself was so obviously subpar and this really needed at least four or more cours to actually develop as a story. Shonen problems, really. Go read the manga.

CHIHAYAFURU 2: Compared to the stellar first season of this anime, Chihayafuru 2 is a bit inconsistent in its focus and pacing. It details more heavily the sports aspect of the show, which stand up well in its own right, thankfully. Only in a handful of episodes, though, does this series summon up the powerful emotions that it did in me in the first season. Those moments are still enough to remind me why Chihayafuru is among my favourite anime of all time. A truly heartfelt and inspiring piece of work.

DATE A LIVE: I'm still watching this show, but it's really not as terribad as some assume. It's ridiculous in the genuinely amusing way - and I really like the quirks of some of the girls. Otherwise, not much to say. The harem element speaks for itself.

DEVIL SURVIVOR 2: You know, I don't think Seiji Kishi actually likes the Shin Megami Tensei games. That's the only way I can explain how soulless this adaptation was. Persona 4 suffered from this too. The only good parts in it were the anime-original comedy segments. DS2 suffered from cheesy speeches, weak characterisations and a plot that was too fast-paced and condensed to have any emotional impact whatsoever. Fundamentally, I felt it was a very lazy production, though there were some small touches in the presentation that helped bring some of the game to life. Nice OP and ED combo, too.

HAIYORE! NYARUKO-SAN W: All in all, this was a pretty unnecessary sequel, but I happen to like Nyaruko-san a lot as a whole. The referential humour may be a bit too repetitive and blatant, and Nyaruko may be a really annoying love interest, but I have genuine fondness for the characters. Kuuko is the Best Girl and shipping her with Mahiro was some of the most fun I've had as an anime viewer in a while.

HAYATE NO GOTOKU! CUTIES: Manglobe continues on their dogged quest to remove every layer of funny from Hayate. They're succeeding spectacularly.

KARNEVAL: Karneval was not a good adaptation. It felt aimless and ultimately never came together. For a story that obviously caters to fujoshi, it did surprisingly little to engage emotionally. Most of the time, it kept the secrets of its world close to its chest, choosing to portray an air of whimsical mystery over developing its characters beyond a few perfunctory quirks. It's got a striking visual style and the OP is really quite good, but ultimately, I didn't get very much out of this show.

MUSHIBUGYOU: The hero is annoying and the singer of the OP absolutely cannot sing to save his life, but Mushibugyou isn't bad. It's got some really neat ideas in the setting going for it. I'm a shonen junkie, though, and by my standards this show doesn't really hold up. It's hard to see any sense of progression in this.

ORE NO IMOUTO GA KONNANI KAWAII WAKE GA NAI.: I never hated Kirino as much as everyone else seemed to. I'm also not opposed to wincest. I think the dialogue and the character interactions are genuinely well-written and creative. There are also some buried social commentaries about what it means to be an otaku or to have a sibling here, virtually indistinguishable from its cheap tropes it uses as a foil. To me, that's what actually makes the show really clever, though. You get from it what you put in. I've always thought OreImo in general cops way more flak than it should, just because it's one of those incest titles that happened to become mainstream. I can't on good conscience recommend the second season because it lacks structure and any real narrative focus, but the series as a whole isn't shit. I really, really like it.

RED DATA GIRL: I haven't finished this yet. The guy's a dickhead. The girl's a wuss. The atmosphere of the show, though, is mesmerising.

SUISEI NO GARGANTIA: I only watched one episode of this. I think I watched this show correctly. I put it aside planning to marathon it later on, because that is what I do with plot-driven shows like this, but the feedback from other bloggers told me this anime gets progressively worse after episode 1. Guess I won't finish watching it, then, so I can keep my good impressions of this series still intact. The only thing I can say about this show in review is that I think Ledo has a really nice ass. W-WHAT WHY ARE YOU STARING AT ME LIKE THAT??

TOARU KAGAKU NO RAILGUN S: Railgun is my favourite show about cute girls doing cute things. It's also the most plot-driven show about cute girls doing cute things there is. Yeah, that's probably not a coincidence, is it? The blend of the cute and the action in Railgun strikes me as fascinating, though. As a reimagining of the Index-verse, it really adds its own spin while retaining the integrity of the original. The fact that this season is covering the Sisters arc, which was my favourite arc in the entire Raildex franchise, is the cherry on top. One of the greatest spinoffs ever made, I cannot praise this show enough.

UTA NO PRINCE-SAMA MAJI LOVE 2000%: I blogged this show. It was pretty awesome. You'll find a more substantial review if you scroll down .

VALVRAVE THE LIBERATOR: This was a really controversial show and it inspired a lot of discussion, mostly for the wrong reasons. I enjoyed it rather unabashedly, though, since I think there's a lot to be said for the unpretentious, straight-faced ludicrousness that this show has going for it. But it's also sensationalist, exploitative and I'm uncertain about whether it's a parody or not. Despite the fact that it tries to include every anime trope in the book in an attempt to appeal to mainstream sensibilities, I feel that this is the kind of show that only those with very specific expectations could ever like.

YAHARI ORE NO SEISHUN LOVE COME WA MACHIGATTEIRU: . It might be a little rough around the edges, both plot and art-wise, but I think it's a genuinely interesting and honest take on high school life and the teenage existence. The main character's pessimistic attitude towards life is fleshed out and nuanced - and ultimately, this anime never tells us whether being a cynic is good or not. I'm pretty proud of myself, actually - before this show even aired, I had it called as "that Light Novel adaptation that will end up surprising everyone by being genuinely smart and funny", and that's what this anime ended up being. My personal pick of the season.

YONDEMASUYO, AZAZEL-SAN Z: Offensive, disgusting yet somehow witty and penetrating, I find myself vacillating between thinking Azazel-san is brilliant and utter garbage. This sequel somehow managed to be dirtier than the original. Imagine that. It's not for everyone, but having this kind of irreverent humour is good to shake up the otherwise stale formula of anime comedy. I'll be thankful towards this series for that, at least.

YUYUSHIKI: Cute girls doing cute things. Full review .Oh, yeah, and HUNTER X HUNTER is still awesome. Episode 85 made me tear up. It's good shit, go watch it. NARUTO SHIPPUDEN is still doing fillers. Sounds about right.
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