Kissing the new season through the glass.
(Without the glass.)
Like clockwork, the granddaddy of gimmick posts is once again upon us. That’s right– thin slicing has returned!
(Okay, not that clockwork-ish lately. I have been traveling, and it makes it tough to write pieces that require more preparation. Unless I want to totally frighten the people next to me on the plane by watching Maria+Holic and Kampfer.)
Thin slicing is based off of Malcom Gladwell’s Blink, a book about the ability of someone to quickly judge what is really important and what’s not important from a very limited experience. And that’s basically what I do in watching, at max two episodes, of a weekly anime series and trying to rank all the shows from a new season. And I love all the people who complain, “But you can’t rate a show properly with only an episode!” That’s why it’s called “thin slicing.” Watching more would only defeat the purpose. And I don’t have to be 100% right. Just right enough.
Thin slicing is to quickly find the Mariya’s and Kogarashi’s and Lulu’s… and maybe even a few Professor’s and Nano’s along the way. And in this orgy of ranking new shows from 1 to whatever, the only guideline I go by is simply, “if I received one episode of all the shows at once, which one would I watch first? Second? Last?” The ranking is not a quality ranking. It’s a visceral instinct ranking. And, of course, for shows to be ranked high… some will be ranked low. Deal with it. Also, because I have finite time, I might just decide not to thin slice something. Especially series that are crappy sequels *cough* Tono to Issho *cough*.
This season… well… it’s feast or famine. Honestly, it’s a lot better than famine of the previous six months when TWGOK and Madoka were the only things worth watching. Enjoyed everyone telling me “Fractale isn’t bad!” or “Give Level E a chance!”… which is like watching Canadian football because the NFL is locked out and a giant meteorite wiped out every NCAA school.
(Before we begin, a quick Star Driver rant: I expected more from the collaboration of the brains behind Utena and Gurren Lagann. I’ll just say that. Also, were you so desperate for an ending that you ripped off the one from Gurren Lagann? At least you didn’t use Utena‘s penismobile.)
#MR IRRELEVANT. [C].
[C]: Control: The Money and Soul of Possibility is probably the worst anime I’ve seen in a while. Let’s see… horrendous CGI (almost make me throw up)… battle sequences that are completely not explained and makes Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D racing battles seem straightforward (no seriously, let’s have a battle sequence for five minutes and explain nothing)… plot that makes absolutely no sense (let’s just say physics and common sense are gang raped repeatedly)… terrible use of subtitles that make a third of the screen unreadable (terrible design choice)… and dialogue and jargon that make no sense to anyone (makes Star Driver seem like plain jane Japanese)… ugh. Might be worst show to ever be on Noitamina. I almost tweeted, “How many dicks were sucked to get [C] on Noitamina?” but decided against it.
(Production house is Tatsunoko Production Co. of Tatsunoko vs. Capcom fame… and they haven’t made an anime of note in the last ten years. Good golly. Not a great way to break back into the business. They also do Sket Dance, which isn’t far from [C] in the thin slicing.)
(Mitigating factor: writer is Noboru Takagi, who did Baccano! and Durarara!. This is like seeing David Pogue slumming on Huffington Post.)
#27. ASTAROTTE NO OMOCHA.
Astarotte no Omocha is a forgettable anime about a succubus who does not like males meeting– perchance– a typical loser harem male lead. This _never_ ever happens in anime. Such original creativity. The dialogue is grating, especially when the girls talk about scoring men, which sounds as ridiculous as anime bloggers talking about scoring women after they spent the past three hours circle jerking about Haibane Renmei. Character designs are terrible, with a cow meido _thingie_ that looks like one of Dr. Moreau’s failed experiments, and a– get this– a DFC blonde loli who has a complex about her size and fearing men and is a tsundere. Egads.
(Mitigating factor: Gives me another example to use for my “scraping the bottom of the barrel for anime material is the death knell of the industry” hypothesis.)
#26. DOG DAYS.
If you’re into furries and bad storytelling, Dog Days is for you. If you’re not, skip this and go take your dog out for a walk instead. Much more pleasant and productive. Typical average Japanese guy gets sent to a warring states-period-ish battle between furries and, uh, discovers that wars are fought with pseudo-Spike TV Ninja Warrior type contests. The losers get turned into cats and dogs. Unclear if they get turned back, but I won’t be sticking around (or care enough) to find out. Everything about this series just feels uninspired (the main character is generic enough that I was hoping he was named Jiro Yamada) while the premise is convoluted… cat and dog people fight each other by running across obstacle courses? Only good thing this show has is the “red shirting” of extras… you know exactly who is going die… errr… get turned into a cat or dog.
#25. TIGER AND BUNNY.
I always wanted to watch an anime that’s just nothing but commercial endorsements for companies that I don’t care about. Now if they managed to sneak in an iPad mecha or Orange Crush mecha into Tiger & Bunny, I’d be interested. Horrible CGI work complements the lame premise of superheroes competing on reality TV where an aging, washed-up star is going through a mid-career crisis nicely. I was watching Initial D Second Stage (the one where Takumi blows out his engine) recently, and the CGI work on that is just a bit worse than this show. 10 years later, and they can barely top Initial D, which wasn’t even pretty for its day?
(Mitigating factor: If this is the future of anime, I’m going to jump ship and start watching EPL.)
#24 BATTLE GIRLS TIME PARADOX.
If one bad modern Japanese person gets tossed back into another world anime isn’t enough, there’s two this season with Battle Girls Time Paradox. Clueless girl gets tossed into some alternate reality where Nobunaga Oda is a chix0r and all the other major characters of the time are also chix0rs. They’re also not hawt chix0r but more of the scary bewb chix0r type. Basically, for this show to exist, someone must have looked at Ikkitousen or Koihime Otome and decided that they would flip the switch and have the modern person go back instead of bringing busty warlords into the future. I guess if you like cheap breasts and cheap action with no need for a brain, this show is for you. Otherwise, I would recommend skipping and watching House Hunters International instead.
(Mitigating factor: I ranked this show above Dog Days just because of Yuka Hirata doing a live-action preview. Not as awesome as Taniguichi doing his for Raki Suta, but she’s a gravure idol. With hopes and dreams.)
#23. ORE-TACHI NI TSUBASA WA NAI.
First two minutes of this show has four haremettes pressing their melonpan into the typical loser harem lead’s body. Two minutes! Ore-tachi Ni Tsubasa wa Nai- Under the Innocent Sky (俺たちに翼はない, We Don’t Have Wings) is aiming for a world record. Unfortunately, those were the best two minutes of the show, as the rest just degraded into typical slice-of-life conversations that I just don’t care about. Except the owner of the cafe where most of the action takes place and his, “Real men don’t use condoms. We do it bareback” line. Anime… teaching young men all the right things. My big complaint about this cheaply animated and censored show is that it has a huge cast, possibly larger than DRRR!, and they’re all generically the same. I cannot tell one haremette or one loser male apart. Gah. Bad character designs and lack of individuality plus trying to get every character some screentime in the first episode is just a recipe for failure. But, hey, at least it has a sidetail-sporting waitress meido.
(Mitigating factor: the rock-based BGM makes me think that my BlazBlue match is starting. The wheel of fate is turning. Rebel 1.)
(Bonus mitigating factor: the ED seems to change every episode, so, uh, it has that going for it at least.)
#22. SOFT TENNIS.
If you name a show Soft Tennis (Softenni, which sounds more like a condition where a man cannot get an erection), you would expect, well, soft tennis, a wussy form a tennis that’s popular in Asia and is invading America. Except it’s really just a plot to put haremettes into cute tennis outfits, which I wouldn’t mind, except the tennis outfits aren’t cute. They’re just generic stuff one might see at Walmart’s sporting section, and the animation by Xebec is terrible. Compared to other shows this season, Soft Tennis looks ancient. More so, the plot is lame, revolving around a perverted and lazy girl who can’t stop having perverted fantasies, except they turn every possible situation into some sort of lame sexual joke to the point it becomes grueling and grinding instead of funny. Basically, if I tossed in an NBA playoff reference into every item instead of just every other item.
(Mitigating factor: I started browsing an Ikea catalog about 15 minutes into this episode. Probably not a good thing.)
#21. YONDEMASU YO AZAZEL-SAN
What’s with all the half-length shows this season? I remember when anime was 50 episodes… then got cut down to a season of 25… now a season is typically just 12… and is the future 12 minute episodes? I have an idea. Instead of shortening the anime, why not just stop making bad anime? Yondemasu Yo, Azazel-san is basically Production IG’s take on a modern monkey paw’s fable. Be careful what you wish for. Especially with lecherous demons. Beyond okay animation, there’s really no much going for this series… and, yeah, it’s a comedy. I think it would have done better as a drama. I also don’t understand why the brother, who is a superpowerful Charlie Sheen-class warlock, doesn’t just do the jobs himself. If he can summon and enslave demons, why does he send the least competent one to do his bidding? Is this Starscream syndrome?
#20. HEN ZEMI.
I guess my longtime readers know I’m not into perverted anime for the sake of perverted anime. When anime tries to go the “adult” route, it usually comes up flat with bad jokes and an over-reliance on tit and ass jokes. Hen Zemi… welcome to the club! Ugh. Xebec also recycles character designs from Kanokon. Why don’t studios realize that you really need to step up your game if you’re going to make an anime about adult situations? The baseline is Oruchuban Ebichu, a delightful story about a perverted hamster named Fredri– Ebichu. Ebichu is the Evangelion of the adult comedy genre, and it’s also the Gainax series that no one seems to remember anymore. Shame. Skid all the crappy anime on this list and go watch some perverted hamster action. Go go now~ shoo~
(Mitigating factor: this show is only 15 minutes long. Whew, didn’t think I could suffer through a full episode.)
#19. DORORON ENMA-KUN MERAMERA.
MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA MERA
#18. THE QWASER OF STIGMATA CENSORED.
The soma sucking antics of Seikon no Qwaser are back. So is the censoring. Terrible. Would I watch The Wire without the swearing? Would I watch Game of Thrones without all the doggy-style bonking? Would I watch Family Guy without the violence? Would I watch Seikon no Qwaser without soma sucking? Also, I think 24 episodes of soma sucking is enough… there’s only so many variations to it… then again, Team Rocket managed to develop about 15,532 variations on how to capture Pikachu. Mmm… oh well, novelty is wearing off, the animation is still terrible, and there’s just not enough soma being sucked. Also shows how terribly weak winter 2010 was when both Seikon and Hidamari Sketch made top five.
(Mitigating factor: Genderbending! Never fails… except how does Sasha suck his/her own soma?)
#17. SEKAI ICHI HATSUKOI.
Sekai Ichi Hatsukoi is a full-blown yaoi drama. Yes, there’s guy on guy action. Yes, it’s going to be full of shoujo angst. Yes, it’s not my reader’s cup of tea. But I have to give credit for Studio Deen for actually putting an effort into this. Production values are decent (for them), and Chiaki Kon is directing. Yes, she went from Higurashi, Umineko, Nodame, and Midori no Hibi to this. The first episode did keep my interest, if for any reason that it was full of plot holes. The main two lovers apparently do not recognize each other after being apart for ten years. How could they not?! Little stuff like this drive me crazy. I can totally believe the premise of a shoujo manga magazine staffed by gay men who enjoy bonking each other, but I cannot get over believe that someone would not remember what their first love looked like.
#16. 30-SAI NO HOKEN TAIKU.
Keima’s seiyuu, Hiro Shimono, is voicing the lead for 30-Sai no Hoken Taiku as well as two other shows this season (TWGOK and Sket Dance). This one is the worst of the three. You’d think life would be funnier as a thirty year old trying to get laid (or only because Luke Wilson and AC Green set the bar so high), but it’s not. The jokes are sophomoric to the point that I was disappointed they couldn’t get away from tit and ass jokes. Normally, this isn’t a bad thing, except the jokes are so damn generic. There’s only so many times I can see the same groping joke over and over again– you can be a bit more adult with this show, so the writer/mangaka just got lazy and went for easy instead of clever which is disappointing since there’s just so much better comedies this season. Plus, the animation is perfectly lukewarm.
(Mitigating factor: I would give this show more thought if it had more tits and ass instead of man-boobs and anal penetration jokes. In other words, why would I watch this when I can get man-boobs and penetration jokes plus C.C./Shirly/Kallen fanservice with Code Geass?)
#15. SKET DANCE.
Probably bad sign when I saw Sket Dance and thought “Scat Dance” and wondered, “Why would they make an anime about poop? Are they so out of ideas?” Then I thought it was “Skeet Dance” which made me ponder, “Is this yet another poorly executed adult show this season?” Then I realized it’s just an unfortunately named, totally generic shounen action show. There’s just nothing of note. The animation is terrible, the character designs are dull and boring, and the plot is paper thin. I think it’s about a club that goes around helping people, but I don’t really care about that or any of the highly generic characters. Oh look, it’s a violent girl who pretends to be not so violent. Oh look, it’s a guy who only talks through texts or IMs. I think I’d rather watch either Scat Dance or Skeet Dance.
#14. DEADMAN WONDERLAND.
Deadman Wonderland could really be really good (focus on the psychological elements) or really bad (treat it like any typical shounen action series), and Manglobe chose the former. Ugh. The pacing is rushed just so they could show some action early on and really gloss over how badly and shitty the Japanese court system has become (seriously, they can railroad a 14 year old like that?), but the real crime is just how lackluster everything looks and feels. The plot is just too rushed to feel the same visceral despair and hopelessness that the manga conveys.
(Mitigating factor: I’ll just spoil it for you. The Red Man who slaughtered everyone? Yep. It’s the girl, Shiro..)
#13. HIDEN NO ARIA.
Mysterious tsundere DFC loli redhead voiced by Rie Kugimiya? Runs into mysterious man with a more mysterious power? Contrived setting that allows for warfare with swords and guns and Segways equipped with Uzis? How is Hiden no Aria (緋弾のアリア, Aria the Scarlet Ammo) not a JC Staff show? Oh, wait, it is. And all’s right in the universe. Unfortunately, this series just has some terrible direction (really, do we need a recap of what happened five minutes ago?) and was just 24 minutes of pure trope. I especially liked the plot twist at the end when it’s revealed mysterious girl is the transfer student into harem male lead’s class. JC Staff’s animation work is also really slipping. They’ve gone from above average to below average in the past two years.
(Mitigating factor: I liked the Segways with Uzis. I don’t like the parachute that managed to stay up in the air for like four minutes after a drop from a ten story building. I liked the bullet time. I don’t like how poor aim an army of Uzi-equipped Segways have… Johnny Five wouldn’t have missed!)
(Bonus mitigating factor: The typical loser male lead gets woken up by a hawt haremette… who makes a delicious seafood breakfast for him… and cleans his guns… and he treats her like dirt. She, of course, is madly in love with him. Oh anime~)
#12. A CHANNEL.
You know the expression “poor man’s”? As in RahXephon is a poor man’s Evangelion? Or the more advanced “homeless man’s” as in Tarvaris Jackson is a homeless man’s Brett Favre. So based on that, I want to introduce the “starving man’s” as in A Channel is a starving man’s Lucky Star. In that you must be starving for Lucky Star to appreciate A Channel. And that all the girls in A Channel just look starved. I know that most anime heroines are pretty svelte to begin with, but A Channel just makes them look like starving refuges. Their legs are literally chopsticks! I cannot get over this. The poor character designs submarine this show more than the poor pacing (it is sloooooowpoooooke) and the poor entertainment value of the material (seriously, girl is jealous her best friend got new friends is the best they can come up with?). This show is the starving man’s and the homeless man’s Lucky Star.
(Mitigating factor: There’s a much, much better example of how to turn a 4-koma about cute girls doing cute things into an anime. Keep on reading for it.)
#11. HOSHIZORA E KAKARU HOSHI.
Once I found out that Hoshizora e Kakaru Hoshi (Bridge to the Stars) is done by Feng (Akasaka) and features an effeminate little brother character, I kept thinking, “Oh gosh, please not let this be a Rolo/Lulu situation.” In the meanwhile, we get a typical assorted harem cast (a fun game is to try and identify what each haremette’s attribute is during the OP… oh look, she must be the tsundere since she has a short hair and has a scowl) and some typical “hey, I’m going to live in rural Japan” premise. One thing I did like about this show is that the first episode featured not one not two but three collisions with prospective haremettes. Including the inn manager who is probably 45 but looks 17. I guess if you need a fanservice harem fix, this show is it for this season. Not exactly ringing endorsement, but endorsement nonetheless. (You can probably tell that I’m starting to actually enjoy the anime at this point in thin slicing. May actually watch more episodes of the following shows. Weirder things have happened.)
(Mitigating factor: There’s a much, much better example anime of a poor kid getting pawned off to some rural inn. Keep on reading for it.)
(Double mitigating factor: Tsumugi? Ui? Wait, hun?)
#10. AO NO EXORCIST.
Generic shounen action series ahoy! A-1 doesn’t do a bad job with Ao no Exorcist (青の祓魔師, Blue Exorcist), and it’s a better adaptation than Deadman Wonderland. A few things to note… one, there’s no female love interest. Only two shows on this list don’t have a cute female romantic interest, and the other show had two guys bonking in the first episode. Two, when anime and religion collide, the results are both humorous and cringe-worthy. Three, this show is beyond predictable… “I’m a demon? Why? What? I don’t understand!” Four, if Rin is such a great cook, why doesn’t he look for a job as a chef?
(Mitigating factor: South Korean boy band 2PM sings the ED. Why couldn’t they get Miss A instead? Shut off boy, shut off…)
You know how some people rage against moe anime? Can’t stand K-On! even though K-On!‘s a solid show that gets a good metaranking? Well, I feel the same way about the idiot plot anime where the plot is only perpetuated by the idiocy of the characters. I can’t stand these shows. I couldn’t stand Battlestar Galactica because of it too… gee, let’s argue over abortion when there’s only 53,000 humans left. Anyway, Kaiji is an idiot plot. The idiocy is needed to balance out his winnings. In other words, deus ex machina idiocy.
(Mitigating factor: The despair is what’s entertaining. If only if they can make an anime about someone full of despair. And– lightbulb!– let’s make him a teacher.)
X-Men is the only American serial comic that I still read, and I’ve been reading it since middle school. Even though these days they have relocated to San Francisco, it’s still the same old, same old struggle of the outcasts. Can Japanese anime do this justice? Or will the gloss over everything Ekkusu Men stand for? So far, just seems nonsense on par with typical Marvel comic nonsense. So that’s good. However, I can’t stand the Engrish. Scott-o. Suturm. Beas-so. And whatever they pronounce “Wolverine” as that I cannot recreate with romanji to the point I hope they keep calling him “Logan-o”. So that’s bad. What’s ugly? Suturm’s sagging melonpan. Also terrible? Scott-o using laser guns to blow up robots– how do I shoot optic blast-o?
(Mitigating factor: I would rank this higher if they had a typical jpop OP/ED. Instead, they have just these horrible instrumental pieces that must have taken a whole afternoon to compose. If you’re going instrumental, you have to be catchy like Tank.)
I enjoyed Steins;Gate, but, then again, I enjoyed Chaos;Head. Steins;Gate, like it’s predecessor, is another psychological mindfuck… but with time travel paradoxes! Which they conveniently waved off in the show with a PowerPoint bullet: time travel paradoxes do not exist. Genius! Got rid of that meddlesome point. Actually, they preach the multiverse, which is very similar to the one that powers the space travel in John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War. What I liked? Mamoru does a fantastic job at portraying some epic paranoia delusional mania (which he’s probably justified in having). Makes me wish they casted him as Keima. What I didn’t like? White Fox’s animation is nowhere up to the standards they had for Kiddy Girl-and and Katanagatari. Also didn’t enjoy the trap… too trappy!
(Mitigating factor: The meido won me over, k? So what if the plot is convoluted? I like meido. Nekomimi meido. And this anime does take place in meido cafes in Akihabara…)
(Bonus mitigating factor: I liked it when homeless man’s Pants made one of the heroines say, “Your banana is soft and squishy.” Classic.)
#6. THE WORLD GOD ONLY KNOWS.
Gosh, I love Elsie. She’s quite adorable. The World God Only Knows comes back for its second season, and it picks up right after the first one ended: with Keima scoring more and more nubile haremettes. Four up this season with Kasuga, Chihiro, Jun, and Haqua… I would rank this series higher except the animation is below Manglobe’s standards, the OP is still terribad, and I know this series too well. I don’t need to see it every week like I do for the following shows on the list. Maybe if we got some Elsie x Haqua fanservice… mmm…
… just derailed myself.
(Mitigating factor: Jun’s one of my favorites, since scoring teachers is something rare in non-teacher fetish *cough* Happy Lesson *cough* anime. At this rate, we’ll get to Tenri but not epic reverse trap Yui next season.)
#5. ANO HI MITA HANA NO NAMAE O BOKUTACHI WA MADA SHIRANAI.
Pretty obvious what Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai (あの日見た花の名前を僕達はまだ知らない, We still don’t know the name of the flower we saw that day“) is about: long names. And also six childhood friends who drifted part after the death of one of them (is this a spoiler? because you find out by minute six), and now the ghost of the dead friend will try to unite and respark everyone’s mutual friendships. This anime has potential. It has compelling characters, and the animation and music by A-1 is great. We all know how this one is going to turn out: all the friends will reunite, and we’ll get an emotional farewell for Menma. Nonetheless, I applaud A-1 for doing so many original series, and this one looks to be so much better than So Ra No Wo To.
(Mitigating factor: I like how every character has a weird nickname given to them by Menma.)
#4. MARIA+HOLIC ALIVE.
It’s not like I ever wrote a post titled, “Top Ten Ways I Killed Myself While Watching Maria+Holic” or anything like that.
#3. DENPA ONNA TO SEISHUN OTOKO.
Shaft’s other team is working on Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko, and most of the staff come from Natsu no Arashi and Araragi Under the Bridge. Which probably isn’t a surprise when I tell you it’s about a typical loser male character finding out that suddenly he’s living with a mysterious girl who burrito’ed herself in a futon. Let’s just say lunacy ensues. When I first watched this episode, I didn’t know anything about it, but three things told me it was Shaft immediately: Makoto’s head tilt, which is becoming a Shaft staple, the way the pattern moved on the futon, and the Kyubey stuffed animal. One thing that didn’t tip me off… no Shaft being Shaft moments. I was both scared and impressed.
(Mitigating factor: Kidding on the Kyubey plushie. It was a Mesousa.)
#2. HANASAKU IROHA.
Best. Heroine. Ev–of this season. ‘Nuff said.
Hands down what I look forward to each week. Nichijou is just funny, adorable, and well-done. Professor and Nano are aces. They steal the show. They steal the season. They stole my heart. They are the best anime pairing since Lulu and Suzaku. More importantly, I am impressed at how well this series is paced, since this is not an easy genre to pace as even Minami-ke had issues, but Kyoto has been smooth with it. The show is also genuinely funny, in a way both kids and adults can appreciate, and puts other comedies to shame this season. Also, the animation is fantastic. Smooth, crisp, full of movement, and interesting backgrounds and interstitials. While PA Works may use more colors, they seem to loathe extra animations– something Kyoto relishes doing. What really takes the roll cakii? Turn off the video and just listen to this anime. The BGM is fantastic– probably the most fitting and well done since Gurren Lagann, and the voice work is tremendous. Heck, even the OP is impressive with Hyadain doing all the voices. There’s a reason why I’m calling this anime the next Azumanga; go watch Nichijou. You’ll be glad you did.
(Mitigating factor: Yadda.)
(If you’re looking for meido, this season has them in spades. From the top tier pantheon-bound Matsurika to waitresses of Hanasaku and Ore-tachi to the nekomimi meido of Dog Days and Steins;Gate to the cowgirls of Astarotte no Omocha, it’s like a resurgence of meido this season.)