Year of the Dragon edition. Fus Ro Dah!
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.
(Not thin enough for you? Try this season’s atomic version.)
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 Another or The New Prince of Tennis? 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.
This season, I’m tossing in a wrinkle in that there’s no wrinkle. Vanilla is the new caramel fudge pistachio mud tracks!
Quick recap from last season: Orthos lost to Yuno, Shu pulled a noble phantasm out of Waver, and Ice Witch and Saber were preparing to smack down right when the “To Be Continued in Spring 2012” appears. Doh!
#MR IRRELEVANT. Gundam Seed HD
As much as I love Gundam Seed, I don’t have a lot of motivation to spend 25 hours of my life re-watching it. It’s been the primary whipping boy of this blog from 2004 to 2006 with one complaint being why the hell the golden goose franchise of Gundam wasn’t going widescreen when other shows were at the time. So, yeah. There’s just nothing relevant about Gundam Seed in 2012 unless we get that Flay x Kira sex tape.
(I would have preferred a Gundam Wing remake instead. It’s like the Wind Waker of Gundam.)
(Back in 2002, a few anime series were done in widescreen but not in HD as Japan had an analog widescreen TV standard. If Midori no Hibi can be in widescreen, Gundam can.) HD didn’t come along until Ergo Proxy and Haruhi in 2006.)
#18. The New Prince of Tennis
Prince of Tennis is just a Toriyama anime applied to tennis. Echizen will make it to high school no sooner than Luffy finding One Piece. The setup for this new “season” is that all the middle school kids are dominating the high school kids at some elite tennis camp run by nazis. The camp cannot be more asinine, and the rules are more complicated than the GSL’s Code S format
(You’d think for a tennis anime, they would animate the tennis scenes. Nope. A lot of stills with speedlines, but whenever a guy is pushing up his glasses, they break the bank on animation budget.)
#17. Papa no Iukoto wo Kikinasai
Goddamnit Listen To Me, I Am Your Fucking Father (Papa no Iukoto wo Kikinasai/パパのいうことを聞きなさい) can be summed up with one word: boring. There’s this typical loser male who gets into a semi-interesting club at college, but this is instantly derailed by three underaged “daughters” who just want to bone him. (After watching Usagi Drops, I really hope the ending isn’t that he does bone them.) I felt the college portion was at least passably below average, but the three daughters are below average for haremettes. The cliche-o-meter runs high. Also, the characters designs are pretty bad, and the animation is even worse– animation itself is quite sparse.
(Mitigating factor: Maybe something interesting would come out of the Street Observation Research Society, and, man, it should have been named the Street Observation Society… missed chance.)
#16. Highschool DxD
Highschool DxD is yet another fanservice soaked interpretation of religion by the Japanese masters. I mean, mass fanservice and nudity worked so well for Seikon no Qwaser and Dance in the Vampire Bund, why not do more? DxD is just senseless battling between demons with titties tossed in to distract from the terribly generic plot. There’s nothing– repeat: nothing– that distinguishing about the story. And be honest: you’re not watching this one for its story.
(Studio TNK? Never heard of them before either, but the animation isn’t bad. Though the character design could be better– all the haremettes either have huge melonpan or no melonpan. There’s no middle ground.)
#15. Bodacious Space Pirates
I don’t have a lot of kind words for Bodacious Space Pirates (Mouretsu Space Pirates/モーレツ宇宙海賊). The animation is below average, the character designs range from blah (main character) to lolwut (the medic with the dead pale lipstick and cheap whore bubble outfit), the plot is brain dead (this is not Firefly, not even Space Above and Beyond), and the scenario composition needs work (pirates inherit their pirateness?). I guess the saving grace is that it does feature a meido cafe, and the main character is a meido slash space pirate.
(Mitigating factor: best thing to come out of this bodacious show? “It’s time for piracy!” More fun to imagine that line as one clicks on links on Tokyo Tosho.)
#14. Knight in the Area
Knight in the Area (Area no Kishi/エリアの騎士) is as generic and cliched as one can get with a sports anime. Even still, there’s a lot of redeem– err– no, there’s nothing redeeming about this series. The heart transplant aspect is bizarre at best, the perky female lead is just like any other sports anime perky female lead, and the animation by Shin-Ei (never heard of them before) is a bit off. The characters run funny. I don’t mean Arararargi funny. I mean they just don’t look right… which wouldn’t be much of a concern if they didn’t run too much– but this is a soccer anime. You’d think they would nail down the soccer portions.
(Mitigating factor: I felt like I would enjoy this show 10X more if the OP was just vuvuzelas blaring.)
#13. Zero no Tsukaima F
You’re either with the Zero no Tsukaima (Familiar of Zero) franchise or not by this point. My suggestion: if you like wrathful lolis and male leads who can’t make up their minds and a mind-boggling about of big bewb vs. small bewb jokes, start with season one (instead of season four). If not, there’s better shows to waste your time on. The only redeeming thing left in this franchise is Siesta.
#12. BRAVE 10
We get to see Sanada Yukimura’s story of the Sanada 10 Braves again in BRAVE 10 (ブレイヴ・テン) after seeing variations of it in Basara (weakly) and Samurai Deeper Kyo. BRAVE 10 is just filled with tropes… destined meeting… brooding ultra-powerful guy who helps weak girl despite not wanting to help weak girl… guy being bribed with food… guy waking up next to near-nakkid girl… and an almost limitless supply of ninjas for the heroes to slaughter. BRAVE 10 is just generic action show that doesn’t bring anything new to the table with below average animation and floppy melonpan. Production is done by Studio Sakimakura, which has only one anime prior to this: Catfight Vanguard, which I have never heard of. Good times.
#11. Senki Zesshou Symphogear
Senki Zesshou Symphogear (戦姫絶唱シンフォギア) is what K-On! should have been. Kidding. Symphogear is pretty confusing… the world is supposedly under siege by “Noise” which can only be defeated by Penguindrum‘s Double H, but the world is pretty and has a kick-ass art and music school. Despite the two year plus siege of mankind, the solders still exclaim, “Our weapons don’t work!” You’d think they would know this about now. There’s also Double H letting hundreds die to save a single girl. I don’t get it. Also, the design style of the Noise are a homeless man’s rip-off of Madoka‘s witches. Gotta love how like four shows this season have to come up with lame reasons why the lead character is the only one capable of piloting some mobile suit. It’s probably the most tired anime trope since getting caught in a compromising position with haremette A by haremette B.
Another is difficult to write about. When an anime is terrible, I usually have a lot to say. When an anime is awesome, I usually have a lot to say. When it’s perfectly in the average middle? Much tougher. And that’s PA Work’s Another: the average middle. If it were a restaurant, it would be Chili’s or Applebee’s or Sizzler. Mei and Kouichi just aren’t interesting, and the supernatural aspect doesn’t get me into a “ZOMG! Next episode!” mood.
(Mitigating factor: Is ryo becoming the new Ali Project? Everything Ali Project does sounds the same, and everything ryo writes is the same bittersweet song.)
#9. Inu x Boku SS
Inu x Boku SS is typical shounen action show about combat butlers. And, yeah, it features a pint-sized tsundere lead and a somewhat misunderstanding indestructible butler. The spiritual anime fighting plot isn’t very interesting, and the tsundere and butler relationship is a bit one-sided, but it’s a serviceable anime. It’s sadly in the middle… nothing I find terribly wrong and nothing I find terribly interesting. Now if only Roromiya wore meido fuku instead of butler fuku. (Her Gashadokuro ability reminds me of too much of the Skeleton boss from Terraria.)
(Mitigating factor: Second series by David Productions. And I can tell from Shirakin’s leggings… my gosh, this studio loves leggings almost as much as I do. And you, young anime studio; we shall watch your career with great interest.)
#8. Rinne no Lagrange
Rinne no Lagrange (Flower Declaration of Your Heart/Lagrange: The Flower of Rin-ne) is basically Aquarion EVOL without the penises. (And Satelight outdoes Production IG in animation.) The saving grace of the highly generic plot of lone female pilots staving off an alien invasion is that Mamiko Noto plays the hard-boiled, hard-ass cousin. Very different from her typical roles. Also worth noting that they’re depending on static defenses like guns on a battleship to defend against high mobile mecha from space.
(The female pilots all pilot their mecha by straddling a la Code Geass. The male pilots are all sitting upright a la Gundam. Mmm… if I were a gender studies major, I might have more to say about this one.)
#7. Aquarion EVOL
My pick for this season’s best train wreck award goes to Aquarion EVOL (アクエリオンEVOL). There’s a lot to like… it’s a giant mecha show overflowing with sexual innuendo… the animation by Satelight is excellent… the characters take a long time to make terrible decisions… and the plot makes no sense. Like why is this city so beautiful and lovely when it’s supposed to be a ground zero war-torn battleground? But if you shut down your brain, it’s a fun watch. There’s plenty of references to sex, there’s a frickin’ chasity belt on the giant mecha, there’s simulated orgasms, there’s pronunciations from the villain that he’ll make the purple haired girl his, and there’s a nun leading the women and a robot leading the men. Also, this series takes place 12,000 years after the original Aquarion, and the tech level is about the same of the two civilizations. They’re still using film for movie theaters, and they’re using cannons as static defenses. Yes, cannons like from pirate boats against giant mecha that can fly into space.
(Curiously, Satelight did a double episode a la Fate/zero to kick things off. I think Aquarion EVOL would have been nice as an OVA, but I’m not sure how they plan to grind 13 or 26 episodes from this mess.)
(Can we classify Aquarion EVOL and Rinne no Lagrange in a new genre type? Tower defense. Because whenever I see these military units combat mecha, they’re always using static defenses a la something that came from a StarCraft custom map. You never see a squadron of F22s scramble to fight them. Also, the granddaddy of this genre has to be Evangelion.)
#6. Amagami SS+ plus
Wonder if everyone remembers the endings from the first series since Amagami SS+ plus picks up where every six haremettes left off. They’re two episodes per haremette, and some are more necessary than others. For example, the tea club one never got any love, so maybe she’ll get some lovin’ with two more episodes. Others, well, they are manufacturing boring stories for to fill in the time. Still, if you like Amagami, this is for you. If you haven’t watched Amagami, start with the original series.
#5. Kill Me Baby
Kill Me Baby is JC Staff’s most delightful surprise since Potemayo. It’s just high octane random comedy kinda of a weird mix of Potemayo‘s cuteness, Ninja Nonsense‘s nonsenseness, Kyouran Kazoku Nikki‘s lolwutness, and Raki Suta‘s interaction dynamic. I am enjoying this show now, but I don’t know when the characters will get stale (just pretty much 3 characters interacting but they are 3 above average characters) or when I’ll be driven to murder by the OP. My gosh… kill me. Kill me now.
(Mitigating factor: Agiri is a Mai-class troll. Between Agiri, Mai, Kyubey, and Matsurika, anime is in a mini-Golden Age of trolls. You can probably count all the times Shaft trolls us too.)
#4. Thermae Romae
Thermae Romae (テルマエ・ロマエ) is done by yet another studio that I have never heard of, DLE, and features (a) Flash animation style animation (b) classical music galore (c) a shit ton of naked men. The main premise is that a Roman Empire bath architect gets sucked into modern day Japan, and he uses knowledge from modern day Japan to dominate the bathing industry in historical Rome. And comedy ensues. I’ll give points to Thermae Romae for being different and inventive, but I can’t get over the cut-out animation. The show is quirky and fun enough to deserve a real budget and has sleeper hit potential. Also, I’m not sure how much material can they get with just bath houses, but, then again, I questioned how much material could anyone milk from fighting over half-priced bentos.
(Soft boiled eggs in ramen are excellent. Good sake is excellent. I just never thought of enjoying this combination in an outdoor hot springs. Thermae Romae, you’ve given me a lot to ponder.)
#3. Waiting in the Summer
(And, yes, there are a lot of Please Teacher vibes except there’s no teacher. A senior and a frosh are a lot less creepy than a teacher and her student. Thanks. This must be the mini-Golden Age of Spiritual Successors. First Penguindrum and now this?)
#2. Danshi Nichijou
There’s a lot to like about Daily Lives of High School Boys (Danshi Koukousei no Nichijou/男子高校生の日常): Danshi Nichijou is Nichijou with a starting cast of 3 boys instead of 3 girls. That by itself is a winning formula. Sure, why have sugar and spice and everything nice Powerpuff Girls when you can have the clearly superior snips and snails and puppy dog tails Rowdyruff Boys? And Sunrise’s Danshi Nichijou has worse animation than Kyoto’s Nichijou so you won’t be distracted by pretty animation and instead focus in on the comedy. And why have characters with a single trait (a la Mai and her trolling) when we can combine someone like Mai and Kyon to make someone like Tabata? And why bother with cute slice-of-life moments like with Nano and Professor when we can focus in on Tadakuni’s cross-dressing and brokenness? Danshi Nichijou is an all-around winner.
Nisemonogatari (偽物語) brings all the boys to the yard. And it’s like, “It’s better than yours, damn right it’s better than yours. I can teach you, but I have to charge.”