Sunday, July 21, 2013

Summer 2013 Set Menu

*GASP!* Choices, choices!

Is it just me, or are there a crap-ton of interesting shows this summer? I don't think my menu has had this many entries in a single season for, well, ever. I thought I was doing pretty good clearing out my watching list with the close of the spring, but then I started trying out summer shows and found myself loathe to drop any of them. Most of them were an immediate "Yes" after just one episode, but we'll see how many are still around midway through the season.

Menu overview:

* Free!

* Rozen Maiden: Zur ckspulen

* Senki Zesshou Symphogear G

* Gen'ei wo Kakeru Taiyo

* Tamayura: More Aggressive

* Love Lab

* Servant x Service

* Silver Spoon

* Stella Jogakuin Koutouka C3-bu

* Watashi ga Motenai no wa Dou Kangaete mo Omaera ga Warui!

* Fantasista Doll

* Kiniro Mosaic

* Uchouten Kazoku

* Monogatari Series: Second Season

* Genshiken Nidaime

* Dogthere were extracurricular activities after school for me, but most of them centered on sports. Even in college, I didn't realize there were clubs until I was in graduate school; people just didn't go around trying to recruit members like they seem to always do in anime.

A step forward into starting the Photography Club and recruiting members may seem like a simple enough drive to the plot, but Tamayura will probably improve tenfold with the focus. The first season was enjoyable enough for those of us who watch healing anime, but the tone and pacing never wavered, and even lovers of ARIA, Natsume Yuujinchou, and Hidamari Sketch might have found themselves yawning.

Surprise ingredients: The events of this sequel are supposed to take place only a year after the end of the first, but with the way the girls talked about their past, it seemed like many more years had passed. It cracked me up that they kept bringing up the WE Exhibition as if it was some monumental event that happened long in the past, when it was the climax of the previous season. I'm assuming they'll probably put on a second exhibition sometime during this sequel, and I hope to seem some changes from the activities chosen with the first.

I also found the discussion on Fuu's deceased father throughout most of the pilot a much needed inclusion, since he was brought up briefly in the original, but then dropped for the rest of the season. I'm hoping that won't be the case again here.Love Lab

Love Lab surprises me with not only its setting, but also its cast. With the premise circling a popular and distinguished student council president who is discovered by another delinquent-esque student practicing romantic moves like kissing seems like the perfect opportunity for a romantic comedy, with a male-female pairing. Instead, the show takes place in an all girls' school, and the delinquent turned tutor is about as qualified to teach on high school relationships as a elementary kid. Her knowledge is derived from manga and her own fantasies, making the instruction and execution that much sillier.

Rico is a girl who knows her own style and is reluctant to confirm to school regulations of dress, so has earned a reputation of a cool and aloof rebel, which kind of makes me laugh given how her rebelliousness shows in fluffy hair pins and a rolled up skirt. I'd pick Amu of Shugo Chara as the tougher candidate.

Surprise ingredient: There's a delightful twist to the use of dakimakura as a male instead of the popular female version, and Maki's ideal male is another ridiculous but realistic imagining of a young girl. I remember the days of kissing my own hand and of my checklist of qualities my dream guy would most certainly have.Servant x Service

As an office assistant, I take great interest in this show, which pairs office work with social service. The jokes hinge on adults struggling in their first serious jobs and figuring out their places among customers, coworkers, as the craziness that is adult life. Maybe that's why much of the comedy connects with me. When the gags stick to work-related practices, I find the scenes run much more smoothly than when the comedy circles to lower humor regarding Lucy's chest and Chihaya's cosplay making its way into the office.

Boob jokes are almost always tactless, while the cosplay scene didn't fit in with the professional atmosphere; I highly doubt a Japanese governed office would allow an employee to walk around off hours like the show portrayed.

Secret ingredient: I actually approve of Hasebe's character since his individual quirks can all easily be found in the typical office. There's almost always that male worker who can't seem to help sexually harassing females, and the constant search or the easy way out and best opportunities to slack off is something I think everyone experiences one way or another.In turn, he constantly surprises me with his various skills and capabilities, such as calming down irate customers and their children, communicating via sign language with the deaf, and quoting their manuals on the fly.Silver Spoon

Being the second anime set in an agricultural university, I'm starting to think that I went into the completely wrong field. The work looks exhausting and back-breaking, yes, but also incredibly fulfilling. I'm not a vegetarian by any means, and I'm not always able to eat organic, but I do try to make sure that know where my food comes from and whether or not it's source would shame me. I do think I have enough knowledge regarding the food industry to not react in the oblivious way that Hachiken does, a young man fresh from the city and a prestigious high school attending the university for its low tuition. Like him, I'm not sure what my emphasis would be, but I think we could rest assured in the probably stable job market.

Already, Silver Spoon has shared different professions the students are aiming for, and the spotlight on the cuts of meat and efficient production of eggs, and I imagine future episodes will be similarly educational. And I don't mind that, as long as our protagonist also matures in his view towards the agricultural sector.

Surprise ingredients: First off, I'm a huge eater of eggs, with my two a day, almost every day. Hachiken's reaction to the source of eggs was hilarious, but also exaggerated. You think he'd understand the biology of the process, and the fact that most humans don't even eat the shell. After that episode, I relished every bite and runny yolk from my open face egg sandwich the next morning.

Another amusing scene concerned the horse that name was so afraid of. I have a lot of respect for horses and try I ride one whenever the opportunity arises, but I did date someone who had a somewhat rational fear of them. He viewed their towering size and chomping teeth as frightening, and didn't even want to pet them.I giggled so much when he fed the horse a carrot for the first time and imagined it chomping off his fingers.Stella Jogakuin Koutouka C3-bu

Riding in after the successful Girls und Panzer, this show similarly captures my delight with its girlish antics and infectious joy in an activity usually enacted by males. The last time I remember anime characters playing at war was in Hanasaku Iroha, where the all male guests pinpointed the young girls of the inn. FMP also springs to mind.

The emphasis here is on guns instead of tanks, and I feel a bit more confident in understanding the terms and strategies. While hunting and target practice are most likely vastly different from guerrilla warfare, I still hold a fondness for Yura's first time holding a gun.I remember my dad teaching me how to hold and aim a rifle, and the responsibility that goes with carrying it.I used to spend hours with my kiddy pellet gun killing offensive soda cans.I have regrettably never experienced paintball or airsoft guns, but if the chance ever arises, you can bet I'll be there! What makes this series even more fun is the mixture of sexes in the latest tournament.While I loved all the quirky teams in Girls und Panzer, I didn't get that sense of Girl Power! that I do here. :p

Surprise ingredient: Yura's attitude in her last battle in the tournament really disappointed me, and I'm glad the other characters confronted her about it immediately after.While I can certainly understand the fear that comes with the realization that you are severely outclassed, the sportsmanship in me hated how Yura surrendered to the opposing team.As the last member on the battlefield, she should have fought to the last second.Rin and Sono's reprimands were well given and I'm hoping to see Yura improve in the future battles.Watashi ga Motenai no wa Dou Kangaete mo Omaera ga Warui!

"Watamote" tells the comedically painful high school debut of Tomoko, a socially and fashionably inept freshman with zero inklings on how to improve.With a brother who is seemingly well socialized and participates in sports, I find it a bit unrealistic just how far gone she is, but perhaps she really has lost all touch with the current trends due to her reclusive habits.While many of Tomoko's reactions to her failures are entertaining in their own ways, I also find every action of hers extremely painful to watch.The feeling reminds me a bit of when I was watching the beginning of Aku no Hana, a show I wasn't able to finish and has been thrown on the back burner until further notice.I'm hoping that won't be the case here.

Another distasteful aspect to Watamote, at least for me, is how spiteful Tomoko gets whenever her scenarios don't turn out the way she wants.Her inability to make friends, even speak naturally, turns around with sharp retorts that could be extremely hurtful if the recipients of her bitter thoughts were to hear them.I can accept such reactions towards people who treat her poorly, like the friends of her little brother, but am disgusted with them when used against bystanders who have been able to attain what she seeks.A good example of this is her reunion with her middle school friend, Yuu.Even though I've experienced relationship problems that pushed me to reconnect with old friends, and regret letting those ties fade in the first place, I wish Tomoko had not turned her back so quickly after learning about Yuu's boyfriend.

Surprise ingredient: The main impetus to continuing this show is my curiosity about whether or not Tomoko will blossom, as every person is capable of.It's amazing what a little bit of attention to appearance and social activities can do to boost self-esteem.And when you're more confident with yourself, you become more attractive to others.Right now the main problem I see with Tomoko is her inability to communicate with others and expectation that they will instead come to her.Fantasista Doll

It's been a while since I last watched Cardcaptor Sakura, but Fantasista Doll reminds me greatly of it with its use of cards, summoning sequences, and transformations-although more in line with the times with its sexualized characters.I wasn't sure what to think about this show since the start of the first episode had me thinking we'd have a fantastical table top cards type of sports anime.That idea was quickly nixed with Uzume's contract to an unseen entity out of fear of an unknown attacker and the resulting warriors, called "dolls", clad in nothing but what looks exactly like white body paint.While I like the idea of the cardholder being the one who has to armor her dolls, I don't understand why they sometimes appear in their skintight suits and at other times materialize in regular clothing.Does their appearance depend on whether or not the Master is in battle?

I may not have received the table top game I was expecting, but I am looking forward to seeing how the live card battles will unfold and what collecting more cards will accomplish.There's obviously a greater power at work here that ensured that Uzume would take part in what is most likely a manipulated tournament of sorts, and I'm curious to find out who the mysterious young men at the end of each of the first two episodes are.

Surprise ingredient: On top of the regular dolls, there are various other cards that can be used in battle, including trap cards.I like that they follow suit with the ridiculous dress of the dolls and encompass abilities like the fish cake trap.Whoever thought of using a fish cake as a way to bind up the opponent like a pig in a blanket is a pretty twisted person!Kiniro Mosaic

If you're watching this show, then you probably have also noticed the strange shift in tone between the first and second episodes.While the first reminded me greatly of Ikoku Meiro no Croisee and had a unique feel to it with its setting and gentle humor, the second turned more run-of-the-mill by dropping our characters into a school setting and reusing gags concerning foreigners and flat chests.I was originally set on including this in my weekly routine, but if the series continues to follow the example set by the second episode, it may get backlogged.

What made the opening episode so great was the nonverbal communication that Alice and Shinobu shared.Overcoming a common language with through actions worked both for them and for the presentation of their characters, since we could learn about them through our own eyes instead of being told what to think about them.With Alice's transfer to Japan and her proficiency in the language, a lot of that delight through deed disappeared.If a happy medium can't be found, I'll either put this on hold, or try to force myself to rethink my approach to watching this anime.

Surprise ingredient: Although this show is mostly nice girls being insufferably nice to one another, there is a delightful naughtiness to Shinobu's personality.So far this trait of hers appeared mostly in the pilot, but I'm hoping to see more of it later on since it adds a necessary spice to all the sweetness.Uchouten Kazoku

There are a couple of shows this season that seem to have been branded as highbrow, and Eccentric Family is one of them.I'm not sure how widespread this show will be among Western audiences considering the seeming lack of viewership for RDG, but I feel it may be more successful considering its more unique perspective.Instead of being told from the point of view of a high school girl seeking normalcy, we have a tanuki protagonist, one who sometimes parades as a young boy and at other times as a school girl-in reality he can probably transform into any appearance he likes.Like the title displays, "family" is an important theme here, particularly for old world creatures like the tanuki and tengu.With the present dominance of humans and the threat of the Friday Fellows, life as a tanuki is more dangerous than ever.

It's fascinating to me how one of the greatest fears of our characters is the very real possibility that they'll be caught and cooked up in a hot pot, despite their obvious intelligence and wondrous abilities for transformation.I find the act of eating tanuki a strange one, particularly with a character like Benten involved.Having worked closely with both tengu and tanuki, she should know more than any other the abhorrence of killing such creatures, much less eating them.Her participation in the act completely baffles and intrigues me.

Surprise ingredient: There's an interesting hierarchy among the tanuki based on a couple of the families shown thus far.The Shimogamo and Ebisugawa families, both tanuki, are the only ones we've seen so far, but based on what we've been told, you would think the Shimogamos would rank high.Their father had the respect of their society and is credited for "uniting" them.Why is it now that the Shimogamos are considered low, or is it just the Ebisugawas who act like that?Monogatari Series: Second Season

The fourth installment in the Monogatari series and the first part of the "Second Season" (which comprises of Bakemonogatari, Nisemonogatari, and Nekomonogatari), this latest edition is the first with the noticeable absence of former protagonist, Koyomi Araragi.I'm not sure whether or not he'll appear later on, but as of now, we're escorted by Senjougahara and Hanekawa.This changed focus actually works really well to revitalize the setting, which I was starting to find stagnant around the Fire Sisters arc.Coupled with both Senjougahara and Hanekawa's short hair styles, I've got high hopes that we'll have less of the recent trend towards overtly erotic scenes and more of the subtle slyness that made me fall in love with Senjougahara in the first place.

There's a bit of both in the sleepover for the aforementioned young ladies, with my preferences leaning much more towards the pillow talk and morning after moment of silence rather than the shower shadows.While I believe Senjougahara capable of verbal play, I very much doubt that she would actually grope another female character, much less one she knows to also share close ties to Araragi.Watching the shadows through the door felt very surreal, as if I were watching someone's fan-fiction instead of the actual show.

Surprise ingredient: Going back to the haircuts these girls display, I recall a discussion I had with Avvesione a couple of times regarding the attitudes of fans.While I haven't seen much of it myself, he stated that quite a few people were extremely disgruntled with the changes, even withdrawing their admiration for the current characters.However, we both agreed that the act of cutting hair was not only realistic, particularly for females, but also desirable.We (as in other girls and me, not Avvensione, haha!) girls cut our hair all the time; in fact, I find it much more unnatural when anime constantly have female characters wearing the same clothes and hair styles, no matter when they're young or already in high school.A different cut and length is one of the most common representations for a girl, or even any person, to feel different, to re-make him or her self.Genshiken Nidaime

Is Genshiken old enough to be considered a cult classic now? Because that's how it feels to me.When a sequel was announced, I was not only surprised, but also a bit frightened.How would the huge gap in time between the two affect the characters and setting, and would our present trends be reflected? After just a single episode, it became pretty clear that we are in our new generation of Genshiken, and that much of what I loved in the original has been replaced by fujoshi galore and passionate cosplay by members prettier than the previous.With only a couple of males left and the resulting strong female presence, the club's change in focus says a lot about how modern visual culture has become much more accepting of female otaku.

It'll be interesting to see how this season progresses with the new cast and whether or not they'll be able to publish once more while also supporting Ogiue's professional work.As she is the very reason the club was able to recruit new members, I'm expecting that she'll probably take up a good majority of screen time.That doesn't necessarily bother me, but I am hoping for more variety to be revealed in the personalities of the club members.

Surprise ingredient: I was very happy to be reunited with the graduated members of the club, a couple of which are dating current ones.Sasahara's brutal honesty with Ogiue proves how genuine their relationship really is, and how far along she has come in confidence.There was also a painful sweetness to seeing Madarame's ongoing crush on Saki.Dog & Scissors

I couldn't help trying out this show with its description of not only a dog protagonist, but also one that loves books more than life itself.Of course, Kazuhito wasn't always a dog, but a young man with nothing but books on his mind.His obsession with text is only eclipsed by an even stronger desire for a particular author's works.The circumstances of his revival as a dog are as unlikely as his reunion with writer Akiyama Shinobu, yet both are very real and result in a strange pairing of a sadistic young woman with writer's block and a helpless bookaholic trapped in the body of a longhaired dachshund.

Along with the very odd set up, the intentions of this anime are still unclear.I'm three episode in, and I'm not sure where exactly where we're going, and whether or not a return to human form is even possible for Kazuhito.Even in this short time, we've crossed multiple genres, including fantasy, comedy, and mystery.And I guess that's appropriate, given the characters involved.Akiyama, real name Natsuno, is gifted with skills crossing multiple genres who seems to enjoy breaking barriers and expectations.When in the zone, everything around her appears to fade-unfortunately for our lead.As things stand now with the culprit found, I'm assuming the direction will lead whatever way will influence Natsuno for her still-in-progress work, Lust.

Surprise ingredient: The scissor fetish is back once again, with Natsuno continually wielding hers like a couple of pistols.Her precise slashes are enough to scare the crap out of her victims, but stop short of actual physical harm.The one thing that does bother me a bit, well, a LOT, is her use of them on Kazuhito.I get that he's really a human and that she's overly sensitive to the tactless boob jokes, but I hate seeing a dog sheared the way he often is.The World God Only Knows - Goddesses Arc

We're up to the third season, and it finally looks like we might be making some progress after the drudgery of the second season.I have a love/hate relationship with this show, and have not read any of the source material, but I'm hoping with the inclusion of the goddesses here that we'll get something more than just the same ol' conquests.The inklings of recovered memories isn't altogether new since I believe hints of that were also in the second season, but for some of the girls to actually retain all memories from their moments shared with Keima is actually an exciting idea.I was never a fan of Kanon, or a majority of the other girls, but I admit that she grew on me once she regained her confidence and returned to the stage.

I've also always wondered about the structure of Elsie's Hell, and why she's so atypical ofbig, bad demons.With the goddesses Weiss, and Vintage unveiling the struggles that took place long ago between the powers of Heaven, Earth, and Hell, I'm finally getting some light on what little I used to know about the foundation from the first season.I don't know if this arc will cover another two seasons to balance out the first two, but if so, I hope the pacing improves over the previous.

Surprise ingredient: With Elsie filling in as an idol and Keima's mother sent off for her own safety, we're also finally getting more time with Haqua.She came in during the second season and a lot of fans were excited due to her character in the manga.But I never understood the fandom since very little was actually shown of her personality in the anime.I'm hoping the one-on-one time she has with Keima now improves what flatness that she's presented so far.Kamisama no Inai Nichiyoubi

"Just what is going on."

I couldn't stop myself from quoting that ridiculous closing sentence to the ANN description of this show.As poorly phrased as it is, the question is a valid one.The world in which Ai-chan resides is a strange one, without purpose and without a so-called God.People no longer are born, nor do they properly die on their own.It takes an official gravekeeper to put people to rest so they do not rise again.As the child of a former gravekeeper, Ai lives a peaceful life in a village full of those who dote upon her-an existence that is quickly shattered with the arrival of a pale young man whose name is the same as her absent father.

If not for the airhead lead, I would view this show more like Kino no Tabi, or Haibane Renmei.There's a similar feeling of beautiful discomfort with the perceived world and those who live in it.Along with that feeling is the thought that, like the mentioned shows, Sunday without God will also lack an ending, or any real explanation for the state of the world.I don't really have a problem with that from the get go, as long as the show doesn't aspire for more than disconnected stories of a wandering gravekeeper.

Surprise ingredient: Ai's role as a gravekeeper comes into sharp focus when the several graves prepared end up being filled, then receives affirmation when another gravekeeper approves their rested state.Until Scar's assessment, I, along with Hampnie, doubted Ai's title.I also can't help but admire the form and design of her shovel, which appears to be the official symbol of her craft.Scar's shovel looked identical, but gave off an air of sharpness similar to its master that Ai's lacked.Brothers Conflict

Finally we have a reverse harem that tickles my fancies just right and has me excitedly looking forward to the next episode! Despite the way the title sounds, the brother-sister relationship here is not one through blood, but through marriage.Another excuse for the acceptance of these roiling emotions are the ages of the characters.The majority of them are already adults and past the point of being raised together for an awkward number of years.At 16, I think Ema (or "Chii") only has another year of high school before she's off to college.With twelve delicious young men surrounding her, the thirteenth too young to count at 10-years-old, she's in for a whirlwind of sweet nothings and bruised hearts.

Right from the get go, we get quick introduction after another.I can't blame Ema for falling ill on the first day after all the commotion, since I, too, felt overwhelmed at the number of brothers she suddenly has to consider family.I already have some favorites, including basketball player Subaru and playboy Buddhist priest, Kaname.There's an enticing mystery to Iori's silence, as well.These first few episodes have several of the brothers already revealing their overly quick romantic affections for Ema, but the general direction for the opening arc has been for Subaru.I'll quickly put in that I was a fan of him before the anime started to drop in scene after scene for him (including that towel moment, mmmm mmm).I couldn't help but like his sporty clothes and the white and green colors.

Surprise ingredient: On top of all the flirting and insignificant-turned-signifiant glances and gestures in the actual episodes, the opening sequence and preceding scene which is unique each week knows exactly how to play to the audience's varying fancies.Each brother is highlighted in the opening, while two to three are in the very beginning doling out tender phrases to Ema.Ongoing:

* Hunter x Hunter (2011): We're now at 89 episodes, making this the second longest running series that I've ever stuck with.It's also the first to be without a single episode with dropped quality or to lose my interest.That's pretty impressive, but also consider that this shounen is out of my usual comfort zone.The characters are many and varied, and I hold strong attachments to lead characters Killua and Gon.Right now we're at the darkest arc of the anime to date, and I'm hoping to see a burst of improvement in their abilities as nen users to combat the overwhelming adaptive nature of the Chimera ants.

* Shingeki no Kyojin: After a filler episode and several slow weeks, we're finally starting to get a bit back into the pacing that caught my interest at the very start.Titan received a lot of attention at this year's AX, and for good reason, but I also felt like it had started to flag under the weight of its initial lofty goals.I don't know when we'll ever make it to Erin's basement, but the move to the Recon Corps' Special Ops Squad is a sorely needed change in environment.

* Uchuu Kyoudai: The drama of Sharon's illness was a dangerous move for the series, since it had spent so much time focused on Nanba's movement through training as well as Hibito's time on the moon, but a valuable inclusion to both of their character developments.Now with it out in the open and the renewed promise of a scope on the moon, I'm finding the likelihood of Namba's success even more sure and likely soon.

* Toaru Kagaku no Railgun S: This season has been a godsend to the franchise, as its predecessors lacked direction and often had events that seemed out of place.Now that we're caught up to a point where certain scenes can be found in other seasons, just from another point of view, the pieces are falling into place.I can't even measure the satisfaction I had watching Touma's confrontation of Accelerator, and the Sisters' first move against the experiments.


* Blood Lad: Trends are nothing new, and the recent one seems to be on re-imaginings of demons interacting with the human world.Blood Lad feels a lot like Soul Eater to me with its humor and art style, but improves upon the childish gags with a darker lead character and a side whose death shakes the opening episode.If I weren't already overloaded with anime this season, I would for sure watch this regularly.For now, it'll be set aside, but may move its way up to weekly viewing depending on how the other shows fare.

* Makai Ouji: Devils and Realist: Another fantasy with demons and an heir to Solomon (what is with this obsession with Solomon?), this show pairs fantasy and reality, magic and science.William is a frustrating young man with a noble lineage, nobler than even he knows, and a recent bunkruptcy.His refusal to believe in what he sees since it cannot be yet explained with science aligns with my view, but completely aggravates me in terms of the anime.This is an anime, man! Get over the science and accept that you're dealing with the unnatural already!

* Danganronpa: This is another anime that I was hesitant to push to my backlog since I'm intrigued with its premise and execution.I've already watched three episodes, so if I'm naughty enough to keep up to date on my anime each week, I may also include this one.A closed-door, murder game mystery, our characters have no choice but to cleanly kill one another if they want to escape the "school" into which they were lured.A bevy of rules are in place at the hand of a laughable overseer, president Monokuma-a half-white, half-black plushie with a twisted sense of justice.

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