Like clockwork, the granddaddy of gimmick posts is once again upon us. That’s right– thin slicing has returned!
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.
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?” If you were flicking channels at 1am, would you stop at Working or Ika Musume? 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 non-interesting sequels *cough* Morita-san *cough Bakuman *cough*.
This season, I’m tossing in a Moneyball wrinkle. In the past, I have applied sabermetrics to anime, which was met with responses from confusion to someone making a meta blog called “chartsuki”. I evaluated haremettes and meido on their VORM (Value Over Replacement Moe)… now, I’m extending it to complete series with the introduction of WAR (Watchability Above Replacement), which is like it’s baseball counterpart. How much more watchable is show X over an average show in the same genre? For example, Rizelmine is quite unwatchable, so it has negative WAR. Meanwhile, Cowboy Bebop is insanely watchable and re-watchable… it would have a WAR in the league of Mariano Rivera.
Quick recap from last season. Only Penguindrum (Evan Longoria) and Usagi Drops (Ben Zobrist) have positive WAR. Brutal. Then again, Penguindrum is veering into best ever penguin anime category.
#MR IRRELEVANT. Horizon on the Middle of Nowhere
The result of the kitchen sink approach to anime is Horizon on the Middle of Nowhere (境界線上のホライゾン/Kyoukai Senjou No Horizon). Just a confusing clusterfuck of bedazzling ideas… not only is the cast War and Peace humongous, they don’t take time to introduce anyone… there’s some sort of ship or something recreating Three Kingdoms era or something… there’s stereotyped characters from all over the world, yet not the world because it’s now ruled by gods or something, including a fat American who attacks with potato chips and a racist Indian who attacks– get this– with curry… boobs that just can’t be explained through physics and/or anime… there’s some mysterious girl who died like ten years ago but is back… Horizon just tries to do too many things at once. Magical girls battling? Character designs that run the gamut from a slime from Dragon Warrior to high tech angels to a ninja version of Ash Catchem to a fat American eating potato chips? Dystopic future that looks like the past? Gay guy who is in love with dead girl? (Don’t tell me he’s not gay. He looks like he just stepped off of Project Runway.) Worse yet, none of it is explained. We have to wait until the credit roll at the end of the first episode to figure out what time period they’re in. Terrible WAR, Adam Dunn level, even for the harem fanservice action genre. If you’re looking for bouncy animated melonpan, there’s better choices this season than this mess.
(The creator of this mess? Minoru Kawakami and Sunrise. It’s sadly not train wreck bad but just bad.)
#21. Tamayura Hitose.
Tamayura Hitose is trying way too hard to be some sort of touching, slice-of-life anime. Unfortunately, it’s snore-inducing. It also feels really forced: hey, the dad died, but he left behind this camera! Here’s some friends Fu hasn’t seen in ages! Here’s her stuffed animal-addicted friend giving her a stuffed animal! It doesn’t have the typical high WAR characteristics of Hanasaku Iroha or Kamichu: memorable main character and whimsical cuteness. Tamayura just has this bad photography angle… the main character mails photos. Mails! You’d think with the mom interneting the whole time, they would know of this “Flickr” thing or “email” thing. The animation by Hal is below average, and there’s really nothing (good) memorable about Tamayura.
(The time skips during the first episode really confused me. Like I didn’t know how much time elapsed during every scene transition. Also, I was hoping that Fu’s original friend would pull a Ko-chan and confess to her before she left.)
#20. Cube x Curse x Curious
Cube x Curse x Curious (C3, CCC) would seem more fresh is we haven’t had a Denpa Onna or Kannagi recently, but Silver Link’s latest effort is quite tiresome. The strange, naive, mysterious girl who magically shows up in some poor young high school student’s house genre is as saturated as Starbucks. There’s really nothing interesting about Fear’s plight or Yachi’s typical male ineffectiveness. I gave up on this show after they devoted 5 minutes to a sequence of Fear wrecking the house as she cleans it… reminded me too much of Optimus Prime destroying poor Shia LeBouf’s house in the first Michael Bay Transformers movie.
(We’re scrapping the bottom of the barrel of light novel adaptations with CCC. It’s like the bottom end of reality TV shows with America’s Next Top Model All-Stars and Bachelors in Alaska. Instead of watching crud like CCC, why not watch Downton Abbey? It’s a British show currently showing on PBS and Netflix that is a period piece that occurs between the Titanic sinking and World War I. It follows the workings of a British castle during this time, and it’s extremely well-written– Netflix even gives it “cerebral, understated” tag. There’s plenty of human stories, politics, and intrigue… as well as a castle full of meido. It reminds me a lot of Hanasaku Iroha if Ohana were a dashing blonde lawyer. Much better use of your time than most shows on this list.)
#19. Maji de Watashi ni Koishinasai!
Maji de Watashi ni Koishinasai! (真剣で私に恋しなさい/MajiKoi) tries to recreate feudal battles with high school students and haremettes. This show is terrible. The premise is lame (why do we have high school students beating each other up instead of going to class?), the animation is terrible (speed lines… everywhere!), there’s no battle damage or even dirt on the uniforms after supposed vicious fighting, and every two minutes there’s an “Ah ha! We ambushed you!” moment. It felt like the entire Mt. Fuji saga on Code Geass condensed into five minutes. Not surprisingly, it’s based off an eroge… mmm… it probably works better in that medium. I guess in the eroge haremettes beating each other up genre, this show would have a terrible WAR, way behind genre leader Shadow Warrior Chro– err– Utawarararararu. Mmm… maybe ADV was right. It is a tough name to properly remember. Oh well, ADV isn’t around and licensing crap anime before they air anymore at least… OH SHI-
(Studio Lerche? Never heard of them. The character designs are all so bland and identical looking… with so many characters, you’d think that they would put more effort in differentiating them. And, yes, this show has been licensed by Sentai Filmworks even before an episode aired.)
Wow, the panty shots… Maken-ki has the highest panty shot rate this season. The show is yet another battlin’ high school girls fanservice show in the vein of Ikkitousen and Real Bout High School. I didn’t find much interesting about it… all the fighting haremettes look the same with the same big hips, same large melonpan, and the same tired stereotypes. Meh, nothing new. We’ll forget about this show by 2013.
(Has there been a good high school girl fighting show? It’s just violence as an excuse to show battle damage on nubile high school girls, right? Why skimp on the plot? Good plot and characters plus battle damage on nubile high school girls would revolutionize the genre. Think about it. It’ll be like when magical girl shows evolved to be more than just cute jailbait via Nanoha and Madoka.)
Do you like karuta? If you do, Madhouse’s Chihayafuru might be your Derek Jeter. I know we’re running low on ideas if karuta (the Japanese poem matching game) is made into a serious anime. Fortunately, they have major shoujo tropes lurking in the background to spice things up. Sigh. The main heroine seems to be the typical “hey, look at me, I’m going against the grain!” shoujo heroine type, and she so readily accepts to be friends with the outcast of the class… since, you know, the hawt, popular girl always goes for the brooding loser with an esoteric hobby? Again, nothing special.
(If only did this like a sports anime… can you imagine a karuta training sequence with Eye of the Tiger or Edge of Glory blaring in the background? Actually, I can’t. And maybe that’s why this show can’t work as a sports anime but instead must work as a shoujo anime.)
The best thing that I can say about Bone’s Un-Go is… uh… can’t say anything nice about it. The character designs are off (at times, the faces are drawn quite lazily), the plot is weaker than Kamisama no Memochou‘s, and the hook is ridiculous. There’s a little girl who can transform into a sexy vixen and get her victims to answer one question truthfully to solve a crime. Well, why not ask them, “Did you do it?” instead of all the roundabout logic designed to fill in time. It felt like watching a poorly animated Law and Order or CSI procedural where the first 50 minutes is nothing but filler and then, whammo, the case is solved. This show can also be ragetastic as the first episode pretty much says, “Hey, we let the 1% get away with shit because they’re the 1%.” How’s this for an idea? If they are stealing money, it is theft. Put them in jail.
#15. Hunter x Hunter
Hunter x Hunter is not different from every other manga turned anime from Shounen Jump: there’s a plucky pre-puberescent male lead with some special power trying to obtain the penguindrum. Trying to distinguish Hunter x Hunter fundamentally from Bleach, One Piece, Naruto, and Toriko is like trying to distinguish between Burger King, Arby’s, Wendy’s, and Hardee’s.. I think these Toriyama-styled shows all have the same WAR since they are all indistinguishable from each other and none really interest me. They are the ultimate replacement level player. At least the key 12-18 year old male demographic eats this shit up… I don’t. I dine at Five Guys.
#14. Mashiro-Iro Symphony
This season features two shows with an all female school accepting male students for the first time. Mashiro-Iro Symphony is one of them. It’s yet another eroge turned anime that features, well, haremettes and a typical harem loser male. At this point, after so many years of blogging and watching anime, I can’t tell the Mashiro-Iros from the Lime-Iros apart anymore. The first episode centered around the protagonist looking for his lost sister, who despite having a modern cell phone, can’t find her way home from the store. This is as lame as starting off a Star Wars movie with a trade dispute.
(Manglobe goes from Samurai Champloo to Ergo Proxy to Michiko to Hatchin to Sacred Blacksmith to TWGOK to Deadman Wonderland to this. Wow. I miss the old, grittier Manglobe. They started falling off a cliff with TWGOK, which should be a slam dunk, but the later eps of S2 and the OVA were terribly done.)
(Other show with school gender integration? Maken-ki.)
#13. Last Exile ~Fam, The Silver Wing~
Gonzo is back from the dead and milking their one franchise with Last Exile ~Fam, The Silver Wing~. Of course, it has barely anything to do with the original series except name and a few characters. The story and action are ludicrous so far. For example, if I’m running a big battle fleet, why wouldn’t I have snub fighters help defend them? The Empire had TIE fighters defending their Star Destroyers, the Archangel had Gundams, Galactica had Vipers, the TCS Victory had Excaliburs, and even the Federation used fighters in the Dominion War. Also, if I’m flying way up high, wouldn’t I want an enclosed cockpit and pressurized masks to bring in fresh air and help with the g-forces? No, no, let’s not think rationally about Gonzo. Instead, we have the story of plucky pre-puberescent pilots trying to save the world once again from an evil empire. Dialogue is Gonzo-styled wooden, the jokes are quite forced and terrible, and the action is, again, ridiculous. The princess of complaining is also quite annoying. The character designs and CG work might have been fine five years ago, but they aren’t fine today. Hopefully, the plot for ~Fam~ will ramp up faster than the original… because it has nothing else going for it.
(Dear Gonzo, if you want to be a relevant studio, hire real writers. You’re counting on the person who delivered A Dark Rabbit Has Seven Lives and Final Fantasy Unlimited to write ~Fam~. Couldn’t you have just backed up a dump truck of money for Gen Urobuchi or Nisio Isin?)
(If Gonzo really wanted to make a splash, they should have hired Joss Whedon to write the script. Not saying he would do it for any money, but they need to roll the dice and try something new. Getting a non-Japanese writer to try his hand has to be better than getting the person who gave us Final Fantasy Unlimited.)
#12. Phi Brain
This season features two shows with characters with “perfect memory.” Phi Brain is one of them. If I told you that the director for Keroro and Princess Tutu would make a ridiculous show about a guy who uses his third eye and, after some deep introspection, exclaim, “I SOLVED THE PUZZLE!”, you’d be like, “Moar meido fanservice!” Phi Brain reminds me a lot of Yu-Gi-Oh… main character has some weird golden object that brings out his latent powers… has the spikey hair… has the almost Marina-class useless female helper… and screams “I SOLVED THE PUZZLE!” much like Yugi exclaiming, “I CAN SEE THE HEART OF THE CARDS!”
(Other show with a perfect memory character? Chihayafuru.)
(The first episode features a huge maze under a mountain. Who the fuck built it? Why? And how is it so well-lit? You’d imagine that the electricity bills for that thing would alert the local authorities in that it might be an underground pot farm or something.)
#11. Kimi to Boku
Kimi to Boku (君と僕) is for whatever reason considered shounen comedy. That description might be right– I laughed more at the unintentional comedy than the intentional comedy. Consider: an anime about a bunch of guys who act like the cast of K-On!, Hidamari Sketch, and Raki Suta. They sleep together (no homo), they talk about getting sand on their lunches, and they do each other’s hair. Oh wait, as much as Mugi would like to, we don’t see Mugi doing Mio’s hair… Kimi to Boku is just creepy. A bunch of high school guys acting like high school anime girls. On the bright side, the animation is terrible with the character designs lazy and identical looking. Still, I did laugh at parts of this show… if it were an all-female cast, I would have ranked it higher. The guys doing each other’s hair thing is just creepy.
(JC Staff! How low have you fallen the past few seasons. I would say JC Staff is lower than Gainax was during He Is My Master. Not that anything is particularly wrong with HIMM, but Gainax wasn’t exactly cranking out hits or even bunt singles at time. And HIMM is definitely a bunt single attempt gone horribly wrong.)
#10. Shakugan on Shana III Final
Shana returns for her final season. Probably not a good thing if what I’m looking forward to most are the Shana-tan bonus clips… and this coming from a guy who blogged (and enjoyed) pretty much all of Shana up to this point. S2 went off the tracks and stopped making sense, and III Final (couldn’t they at least keep the naming consistent?) starts off incomprehensibly with respect to the end of S2. Supposedly, you have to bridge the gap by reading the novel… and, well, that’s not a good thing. My own personal rule for anime: don’t expect the reader to consult a novel, an eroge, or a wiki to figure out what the fuck is going on. If you’re a die hard Shana fan, you might as well stick it out and get your melonpan fix. Otherwise, I can’t see any other reason to pick up Shana at this point. Low WAR.
Working!! returns for another season, and it’s pretty much the same as the first season. If you liked Working!! the first time around, you’ll like it here too. If you didn’t, well, it’s not going to win you over. I just have an issue with how frickin’ large this restaurant is. There’s loads and loads office space… what restaurant you know of has a larger office space than kitchen? Would you want to eat at such a place? Also, there’s a huge staff with four+ waiters/waitresses working, yet there’s hardly any customers, and 2 or more staff are usually chatting it up with each other. Clearly, Wagnaria is a front for the
(Can we get through an episode without mentioning Popura’s height or Inami’s androphobia? It’s a comedy crutch at this point. She’s short. I get it. She fears men. I get it. The characters lack chemistry with each other as they all seem designed to mix with Souta but not anyone else.)
#8. Gundam Age
Occupy Gundam Age! The new protagonist (joining recent luminaries like Heero, Kira, and Setunsa) is Flit, a little 14 year old boy (who obviously hasn’t hit puberty yet), who is also a Gundam-maker in a family of Gundam makers…. as in he’s been contracting with the military to build an experimental Gundam since he was a toddler. Oh, the plans for this uber-powerful mobile suit was given to him by his mom. This clearly puts him in the 1%.
When I went to the Gundam panel in AX, Sunrise/Bandai wanted to position Gundam Age as the “Gundam for your little brother.” Well, mission successful. At least I have Gundam Unicorn to tie me over to the next real Gundam series in 2015.
(Obviously Level 5’s influence is seen in this series as it looks a lot like Professor Layton. Do I want Professor Layton in my Gundam anime? If he were solving puzzles with Phoenix Wright in Gundams, yes. If we’re talking about character and mecha designs, not so much. No, seriously, I kept thinking Luke would show up and be a downer.)
#7. Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai
SOS Brigade? Afterlife? Drama club? Make way for the Neighbors Club of Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai (僕は友達が少ない/I Don’t Have Many Friends), an anime based on a light novel series about a bunch of misfit haremettes trying to learn how to be friends with each other. Much in the way the residents of Melrose Place were friend with each other (except less sex and abuse, I suppose). The main character is a stereotypical misunderstood loser male, and the two main haremettes aren’t very special either. There’s the crazy one and the slightly crazier one. The brunette is voiced by Marina Inoue (Kana Minami) in her “I’m up to no good” voice, which does it for me. Though the blonde one is voiced by Kanae Itou (TWGOK‘s Elsie), so when she screamed, “I just want friends!”, I was thinking that I heard it as “Kami-sama no baka!”. Works either way. And apparently we’re getting an Index-ripoff as well as a meido later, so looking forward to that. Average WAR for a harem comedy.
(Mitigating factor: AIC Build is doing a nice job with the character animation… though the make-up on the haremettes is as bit much at times. The ED is a K-On! knock-off attempt, and the OP features melonpan being smashed into the glass. I feel like you need to know these things. Needless to say, AIC knows their fanservice.)
#6. Ika Musume S2
If you enjoyed the first season of Ika Musume (侵略!イカ娘), then you’ll enjoy this new season de geso. There’s really nothing fundamentally different from season one to two de geso. Ika Musume‘s a perfectly fine average moe comedy series degeso. It has its boring points, it has its great points (like mini Ika), but it doesn’t do anything exception terrible or bad de geso. Totally average to slightly above average WAR for moe comedy genre but not great in the comedic amphibian taking over the world genre, which is dominated by 5 time MVP Keroro de geso.
(Squid ink for everyone! Why do I get pumped and excited whenever Ika starts vomiting?)
I am enjoying Bento. It has a simple premise of people competing for half-price bentos, and a winning hook of delicious thigh meat. My gosh, there’s so much delicious thigh meat in this show. Bento knows it is not going to be the next great anime or an anime for everyone, but what it does, it does well. Just a fun show… and… well, I hope we are watching anime for fun and not overanalyzing them in 2,000 word blog posts like an essay for philosophy class. In the poor hero getting dragged into ridiculous world he probably shouldn’t get dragged into, Bento has great WAR.
(What other mundane things can we make anime of? Changing motor oil? Taking the dog for a walk? Folding laundry? Being the first person to comment on an anime blog post?)
#4. Persona 4.
Persona 4 is projecting to be a high WAR candidate just because the watchability replacement level for mainstream RPG videogame turned anime is so low. It’s like finding a left-handed catcher that can hit for power. When you’re using Valkyria Chronicles and Tales of the Abyss as examples of high WAR, it’s not a good thing. Anyway, Persona 4 has a few things going for it: the plot to the game is excellent, and it seems like AIC ASTA is keeping it intact. The music to the game is excellent, and I’m happy they’re using the Engrish lyrics to their fullest. I have hope. Now I face out \ I hold out \ I reach out to the truth of my life…
(You know how I complain about anime not updating themselves for the present? Well, Persona 4 has candy bar phones replacing some of the flip phones from the four year old PS2 game. If only the hero had a persona fusion app… and it’s jarring that the protagonist has both a name and a voice.)
#3. Guilty Crown
Production IG’s Guilty Crown is from the director and scriptwriter of Gundam Seed and Code Geass plus features music from supercell. That’ll do, pig. That’ll do.
I guess Guilty Crown is either like Gundam Seed with Inori in the Lacus role or Macross with Inori in the Minmei role. The hero is lame and bland, and the mysterious girl is like any other mysterious girl in anime. His superpower is that he can become Vargas from Escaflowne— yep, he leap attacks giant mecha with a giant sword. Toss in some sinister government organization, some skintight mecha pilots with ample melonpan, and a cute mecha creature thing: we have Guilty Crown. Who am I kidding? This will be a fantastic train wreck: mecha, anger-inducing hero, singing with supercell audio chops, Production IG, and a ridiculous dystopic Japan plot. I’m in.
(The whole show could have been invalidated if Shu gave the vial to Gai ASAP instead of crying like a little bitch. Anytime we kick off a show with such an idiot plot, I know we’re in the Sunrise being Sunrise zone except it’s not Sunrise. Also impressive: yet another Production IG anime about terrorists bombing Japan in some dystopic, government-controlled future. I wonder if Kunihiko Ikuhara pitched Penguindrum to them, and they rejected it because it doesn’t have penguin mecha.)
(Bones, Madhouse, Manglobe, Sunrise, and JC Staff all don’t do very well this season with Shaft, Gainax, PA Works, and Kyoto sitting on the sidelines. It was their chance to step up, and they did not. Fortunately, Asread stepped up in a big way with Future Diary and Ufotable doing their best Kyoto impersonation. Next season looks to be killer so far with Nisemonogatari and Another.)
#2. Future Diary
(With how terrible the manga-bundled TWGOK, Nichijou, and Future Diary OVAs were with respect to the reason season, I can say that all manga-bundled OVAs can go to hell. They’re doing more harm than good in that people checking them out would be bummed out, and it won’t get them excited for the TV anime. The quality jump for those three series is just incredible. And, yeah, I can’t believe Asread is doing a good job with the animation here… maybe I can eventually stop complaining about their work on Minami-ke. Oh, who am I kidding?)
Ufotable is quickly winning fans with Fate/zero. The animation is fantastic, the music is good (really enjoy Oath Sign OP), the pacing is much improved, and the story is interesting. I want to see more each week having been spoiled by the hour long first episode, and that’s the goal of thin slicing: make me want it. Excellent WAR. If the worst thing I can say about Fate/zero is that it doesn’t have enough Irisviel x Saber bonking, we’re in good hands. And, yes, we need Fate/zero to step up the yuri.
1. Ufotable and AIC Asta are moving up the studio rankings. JC Staff, Bones, and Madhouse are moving down.
2. Overall season quality much better than previous, which only Penguindrum still worth watching today. This season is not as strong as spring, which had Nichijou, Hanasaku Iroha, Steins;Gate, and Friendship Anime.
3. Ben-to is the dark horse hit of the season.
4. This post is more disjointed than normal. Waiting for Last Exile spread things out too much.