Long season is long. Why did Hyouka have to premiere four weeks into the season? Gah.
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 Jormungand or Polar Bear Cafe? (I wouldn’t.) 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 or if it is only 5 minutes long.
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: Kanbaru has boobs. That is all.
#MR IRRELEVANT. Jormungand
Jormungand (ヨルムンガンド) is what, in this business, we call a clusterfuck. The animation isn’t even acceptable for 2002, the character designs are off (manga looks acceptable… here, they look way too angular), the pacing is horrid with not one but two stories trotted out in the first episode alone, and nothing makes sense. It’s supposed to about a Middle Eastern kid who had his life destroyed by war and guns so naturally he goes to work as a kid soldier for a teenaged girl who is also an arms dealer? That premise I might be able to accept, except the arms dealing is about as realistic as the girl’s basketball game in School Rumble. They don’t even try to explain anything. So lacking realism, comedy, action, music, plot, suspense, a good hook, interesting characters, or half-decent animation, what’s left? Jormungand.
(White Fox! What happened? Katanagatari… Tears to Tiara… Steins;Gate… and now this?! Probably the worst combo breaker since Endless Eight.)
If you like sexually suggestion dialogue involving middle school girls who are “guns,” I would suggest Upotte!. For everyone else, skip this show. The whole premise that these middle school girls are also guns who shoot guns makes no sense. Do they shoot bullets out of their mouths if their vaginas are pressed? Is that what happens? Because that’s what is implied. Maybe we’ll get this clarification in Upotte! Extended Edition. In any case, the animation is terrible (even if it is net-only show) considering how good animation is this season overall (even Studio Deen isn’t that bad), the story feels like a Frankenstein story where they just try to ram in as many tropes as possible, and I just wanted this show to be over.
(If you need any further proof that ANN is nothing but a shill, this is their description of this show: “The general storyline is quite funny, and a bit “ecchi” in nature but is well written [sic] and not overy [sic] silly.” Yep. Because likes like “I’d going to fire… my hammer’s going to fire…” is both funny, a bit ecchi, and well-written. Anohbytheway, I don’t understand why the main male character’s face was shaded a la sex offender for half the episode but then not the second half. Just a comically bad mail-in job by Xebec.)
(I find it funny we have a show about arms dealers and a show about girls being guns in the same season. Weird. It’s like having two shows about protagonists using time travel to fix the unfixable in the same season. Huh.)
#21. All Over the Place
Acchi Kocchi (あっちこっち) is plasticy. Really plasticy. I don’t understand this new trend in animation where all the characters look like they are actual PVC dolls, but it’s disturbing. The styling for this series goes even further and gives the characters unrealistic hair gradients. It’s horrible. Stop it. The show itself is dull, like really dull. The cast isn’t interesting, just duller imitations of characters that have graced anime since the beginning of time. It’s a homeless man’s Raki Suta. The jokes are terrible. Most of them aren’t funny, and the pacing is too slow… mainly because the show insists on putting these interstitial graphics that look fancy but really put too much pause between scenes. It’s like watching Big Bang Theory without a laugh track.
#20. Shining Hearts: Shiawase no Pan
Shining Hearts: Happiness of Bread is a textbook example of how not to make anime based off a videogame. I played Shining Heart games, and I don’t see why this anime about bread needed to be branded as so. Also, this series makes me head hurt. The main loser male harem lead lives in a boat. Yes, he lives on a shipwrecked boat. How does he get electricity? Or prevent thieves from coming in? He gets woken up by three similar-looking generic haremettes who drag him out of bed, to the bakery, to make bread… while they go back to sleep. And then they spend the day until nighttime baking, distributing, and preparing bread. And then he goes back to sleep in his shipwreck. Just seems so inefficient. There’s also no plot or interesting characters or bread banking to keep my attention. Kill me. Kill me now.
(The animation by Production IG is quality. The way animals are drawn, especially the horses, make no sense. Oh well, at least the story is just below average fan fic material, so it’s not like top notch animation was wasted.)
#19. Hiiro no Kakera
Hiiro no Kakera (緋色の欠片) is based off the otome game of the same name, and it is just like any old harem anime except with a female loser lead and four (or five?) hawt men as bodyguards. I always wondered how come no one ever made an otome game featuring male leads? It would be like the Bachelorette mixed with Super Robot Wars. Like if a typical female harem lead runs into K1 Morisato, K1 Maebara, Kyon, Ararararagi, Tomoya, and Tomoki… and reverse harem antics ensure. Wouldn’t this be a lot better? Have the best of the best male harem leads be part of a harem? I feel like this idea could work. Who would be the end man in that scenario? I think it would come down to Ararararagi vs. Tomoya.
(I made up the quote for this series. When I was done watching the episode, my notepad only had “otome game” written down and nothing else. If I had to say something good about this show, it has to be, “Hey, I didn’t watch it on 2X speed. Though I probably should have.”)
#18. Polar Bear Cafe
After seeing the intro for Polar Bear Cafe (しろくまカフェ), I was like, “I totally should have smoked some pot and did some acid before watching. It’s trippy. Nothing in this show makes any sense. Why does a panda family that doesn’t wear clothes do laundry? Why do kids go to a zoo to see pandas when they walk amongst us and live next to us? Why does a polar bear have a cafe? What kind of jobs can you as a panda? Just a trippy show. The gags are also terrible. I mean terrible. I’ve seen harem anime with better gags. All I could think of when watching Polar Bear Cafe is, “Do they expect to make money off of this show? Is it an anime specifically designed for pot heads?”
#17. Haiyore! Nyaruko-san
Only anime can turn Cthulhu into a bouncy anime haremette. That’s the premise for Haiyore! Nyaruko-san (這いよれ! ニャル子さん) where Cthulhu turns itself into a hentai and anime-addicted high school haremette who has to “protect” the poor loser male lead. It’s just like every other anime in this genre, except “magical space girl” or “starfish goddess” or “Flame Haze” or “zombie girlfriend” or “robot meido” is replaced with “Cthulhu deity.” And I was highly disappointed there were no tentacles involved yet. You’d think with Cthulhu, tentacles would be flying around. Nope. Instead, some anime about King Arthur dodging F-15 fighters hogs the tentacle spotlight. This show also features some serious domestic violence and abuse messages. The male lead stabs the poor girl with a fork whenever he disagrees with her. I don’t think this is the right message to send… except maybe, “In case you forgot, anime is quite misogynist.”
(The animation and production by Xebec is also quite poor. The monsters look like plastic toys. I kept thinking they should be fighting plastic toy green army men instead. And was it really necessary for Cthulhu to have a hentai addiction? It’s like they decided the original premise was so weak, they needed to slap on more tropetastic layers?)
#16. Sengoku Collection
Japan’s obsession with turning historic generals into hawt haremettes continue with Sengoku Collection as it’s basically Basara meets Ikkitousen. Considering that now Japan has done Japanese and Chinese warlords 15,532 time over, I wonder what’s next? I am really hoping for Georgia Washington, Tina Jefferson, Paula Revere, and Pocahontas fight against the evil Red Coats. Anyway, Nobunaga gets time warped to modern Japan, latches on a loser working with Dante and Randall, and tries to figure out how to reconquer the world. She’s exactly like Iskandar if Iskandar had ridiculous melonpan, stripper high heel boots, and zero personality. The narrative of this work is below average (being generous), and the animation seems very plasticky. Sengoku Collection is also a combo breaker for Brains Base: Spicy Wolfgasms, Princess Jellyfish, DRRR!, Penguindrum, this. Ugh.
(Mitigating factor: Social media in my anime?! As much as I like “Twittor”‘s appearance, since I would totally tweet “Why do I have to watch Oda Nobunaga take her clothes off?” Also, the typical convenience store clerk loser male is obsessed with whales. Ridiculous obsessed with whales. He might be to whales what Chihiro Furuya is to zombies, Professor is to sharks, and Keroro is to Gunpla.)
#15. Kore wa Zombie Desu ka? of the Dead
Kore wa Zombie Desu ka? of the Dead (これはゾンビですか? OTD) is Studio Deen’s latest clusterfuck. At least the series is designed to be a clusterfuck, featuring a magical girl from another dimension, a vampire ninja, a necromancer, a zombie magical girl, and Tim Tebow. Okay, maybe not Tim Tebow, and it continues the wacky adventures from the previous season. Needless to say, it hasn’t improved much. But if you’re in for cheap laughs, cheaper fanservice, and occasional pop culture reference to Shaun of the Dead or Apple, you could do worse. The show does earn points for using social media but loses points for flip phones galore… iOS and Android dominate.
(Mitigating factor: The almost ubiquitous Dyson fan from the original season returns, and it’s really the fifth character at this point.)
#14. Mysterious Girlfriend X
I guess Mysterious Girlfriend X (Nazo no Kanojo X/謎の彼女X) picks up where Amagami left off: more body part sucking. Except not really. Mysterious Girlfriend X is more like one of those cocktease anime where the main couple keeps talking about bonking, but they never do… like anything from Mizuki Kawashita, that horrible “I wanna get laid” show from recent history, and ああっ女神さまっ. I think my main problem with this show is that it seems to be geared, 100%, to drool fetishists. Yes, there are some alien girl (she uses an UFO pencil and has an UFO charm on her bag) and harem mechanics, but it’s most about bodily fluid fetish. Besides this aspect, the show really has nothing. The animation is sub-par, the characters (especially the male lead) are boring, and the setup is pure slice-of-life romantic comedy. There are better choices this season.
(Studio is Hoods Entertainment… never heard of them.)
#13. Medaka Box
Nishio Ishin is hit or miss. Thankfully he (or she) has a quiver full of arrows. Just Medaka Box (めだかボックス) doesn’t exactly hit the bulls-eye. A tired premise of an uber-excitable, uber-powerful student council president (wearing cleavage-enhancing uniform different from the other girls, of course) trying to make things right one suggestion box comment at a time. I was like lolwut at the concept. One, I find it surprising the box isn’t used for, uh, sexual suggestions by horny 17 year old boys immediately. Two, who the fuck gets 98% of the vote? I don’t even think Saddam Hussein got 98% of the vote. Three, wouldn’t social networking make a lot of this show obsolete? Four, wasn’t this concept explored (and much better done) in Haruhi Suzumiya (not that anime isn’t copypasta)? Five, Nishio Ishin, if you are reading this, quality over quantity. Thanks.
I enjoyed Zetman‘s (ゼットマン) start, but I have this sinking feeling this action scifi drama show telegraphed too many of its moves too early. Oh look, there’s exactly 13 episodes and 13 monsters that escaped. Oh look, there’s this rich guy who wears white and believes he’s Karen Araragi, and there’s poor guy who wears black and believes he’s Kalki. Oh look, there’s an old guy giving a typical old guy speech before an old guy dies. Let’s just say there’s not a lot left to the imagination, much like Lindsay Lohan. The good news is that all the superpowered characters resemble X-Men. Hey look, it’s Toad and Cyclops…
#11. Dusk Maiden of Amnesia
Dusk Maiden of Amnesia (黄昏乙女×アムネジア / Tasogare Otome x Amnesia) is pretty generic harem supernatural school life show. It’s centered around a typical harem loser male with no discernible backbone, his main squeeze who is a ghost possessing the school, and other various generic harem-type characters. They apparently solve supernatural mysteries around the school and describing it as a homeless man’s Mushishi would be a huge insult to Mushishi. The animation by Silver Link is passable, but they made the odd choice of repeating the first episode twice with and without the ghost girl inserted (for effect). But they recreate each scene exactly, so it seems like a huge money saving move. At least Kyoto re-animated Endless Eight eight times. If you’re into this genre, this show isn’t a bad choice but for everyone else, there’s better options on the table this season.
#10. Kuroko no Basuke
Kuroko no Basuke (黒子のバスケ) is my manga-reading guilty pleasure. It combines so many things that I love: basketball, manga, bromance, sports anime timeline, and ridiculousness. If only it featured meido, Kyubey, Gundams, and a space jizz date rape water gun. There’s not much to say about the anime except it’s a vanilla adaptation with vanilla animation. But I can definitely imagine my fourteen year old self totally watching this show.
(My issue with this show is that someone like Kuroko could never be an important part of a championship team. He’s way too weak defensively, and there’s no Ben Wallace-type to cover up for this defensive lapses. You could be on the court as a sixth man if you lack defensive capabilities but you can make it rain like Steve Kerr… but you’re not making it as a sixth man if all you do is get a few cheap assists. Just not happening. Any opposing team worth its salt would punish Seirin for having Kuroko on the court.)
Sankarea (さんかれあ) is an anime about necrophilia. On the surface, it seems like a typical harem anime with zombie elements, and that’s a reasonable assumption. The guy is a typical male lead who is into necrophilia and eventually turns into a pseudo-zombie. The girl dies and comes back as a zombie. Her dad likes to take nakkid photos of her. The other girl is related to him. There’s a loli involved at some point too, so, typical harem setup. As I enjoyed the manga, I am enjoying this show. The animation for Sankarea is quite good, which is surprising considering this is Studio Deen. And isn’t it weird for a studio to have not one but two zombie shows in the same season? Shouldn’t they space this out better? Isn’t this like if Bethesda released a Fallout sequel and an Elder Scrolls sequel in the same month?
#8. Accel World
Accel World (アクセル・ワールド) is the “sequel” to blog favorite light novel Sword Art Online (which is getting its own TV series next season) as the neuro linker used in SAO is eventually refined to the one shown in Accel World. Unfortunately, while SAO was a low calorie fantasy series, Accel World tries too hard in engage in conspiracies and in a Pokemon-esque battle system. But my main problem with this series is that, yes, Arita is supposed to be fat. But why depict him as short as well? I would have preferred if Arita looked like Daru (and Daru didn’t do bad with the ladies from what I recall) because he’s just too comical now to take seriously. I was cracking jokes like, “Maybe Arita would be the seventh man for the Generation of Miracles?” at his ridiculous figure. Sigh. Anyway, the animation by Sunrise (Sunrise?! First Danshi Nichijou and now this?) does a competent job with animation except for the battles, which look lame and uninspired.
(Accel World is what happens to our world if Obama wins in 2012. Ready Player One is what happens to our world if Romney wins in 2012.)
#UNRANKED. Nadia “Remaster”
I guess the most fascinating thing about Nadia is that it almost destroyed the career of a young, inspiring director. He hated the lack of creative control given to him for Nadia, and he basically stopped making anime for almost five years. Of course, when he finally returned to making anime, the anime that he made was distinctively his: Neon Genesis Evangelion. Not counting OVAs and movies, Hideki Anno only directed three TV series: Nadia, Eva, and Kare Kano. They’re all good. Except the last 6 episodes of Kare Kano… episode 19 is the equivalent of Marauder Shields in Mass Effect 3. Also, watching the “remastered” hand drawn animation of Nadia compared to the modern CGI shows today… there is still some old timey charm in the old ways.
(Grandis and her gang must have been the original inspiration of Team Rocket. I will accept no other explanation.)
#7. Eureka Seven Ao
I was confused a lot with Eureka Seven Ao. I guess the first part I was confused by is how is it connected to the original series? Bones stated it is a sequel, yet it occurs in what appears to be 2025 Earth. I don’t want to have to consult a wiki, an Eureka Seven fanboy, nor obscure anime forum threads to figure out what the fuck is going on. It’s been like eight years since I watched Eureka Seven, but didn’t that series occur far in the future in a world other than earth? How’d we get to 2025 Earth unless this is some sort of Macross Zero prequel? Then why does the mom resemble Eureka so much? Why does my brain hurt so much? Anyway, the animation and production value by Bones are excellent. One of the best this season. The themes of the original Eureka Seven with Ao having to carry weight and being racially discriminated against are again present. As is the enigmatic Nirvash. As is a weakly shrine maiden-like heroine. The first few episodes reminded me a lot of Evangelion. The Scub Coral monsters look way too much like Angels, and the whole concept of him being connected to his mom while in Nirvash… well… you’ve seen Evangelion. I just hope the show is more than just Scub Coral monster of the week.
Tsuritama is all about the date rape water gun. A-1’s newest endeavor is kind of a mixed bag. The art style and music is whimsically unique, but the animation quality fluctuates quite a bit. The story about two gay fishing bros is already interesting enough, but I felt like they bedazzled it a bit too much… hey, let’s toss in Space Channel 5’s Ulala… and an Indian with a duck… and space aliens… it’s like they couldn’t stop themselves. But probably the best thing that happened this season is the space jizz date rape water gun. Just hard to top it.
(I might have given this show points because it not only features a non-iPhone app phone, it features the characters using the phone realistically. When the guy took a picture of the fishing knot, I was hoping he’d Instagram’ed it, but instead he just shows it to the prince of fishing. Which I can understand since he probably doesn’t know the princes’ Facebook profile or Twitter handle.)
You can follow my Fate/Zero blogging. Things I like: Iskandar, Kiritsugu’s ruthlessness, Irisviel’s driving, Saber’s poutiness, Gilggy’s Protoss war machine, and Ufotable’s animation. Things I don’t like: Laws of physics being broken, deus ex machina Noble Phantasms, Lancer’s “nobility,” Gilggy’s Protoss war machine, Caster’s tentacle monster that was shoplifted from Nanoha A’s, the pacing (no one offed in the first thirteen episodes and then… wow, Spike dies), and the lack of a space jizz date rape water gun. Why isn’t this in Gilggy’s treasure trove, but he has a Protoss phoenix?!
If thin slicing is true to its word and is about judging the quality of anime by knowing the least about of it, Hyouka would be near the top. The director of Full Metal Panic? Written by the author of Full Metal Panic? The male voice cast of Clannad and the female voice cast of K-On!? And Kyoto’s top tier animation? And seemingly based off of Encyclopedia Brown? It’s like when HBO announced they got George RR Martin and Sean Bean involved for Game of Thrones. How could it not work? It would be completely different if NBC announced Game of Thrones starring Matthew Perry. And, you know what, I have no idea where Hyouka is going. Worst case K-On!; best case Clannad. Not a bad spread.
(This is my seventh year of doing thin slicing posts. Yes. Seven. And I’ve been anime blogging for ten. Yes. Ten. And I still excited about things like readers telling me that anime figures are on sale at Kinokuniya.)
#3. Lupin the Third: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine
I have a really hard time deciding the top three shows this season. Lupin the Third: Mine Fujiko to Iu Onna is excellent. Just fun-sized pieces of our favorite thief: Fujiko. Sayo Yamamoto (who is a lady) has done a pretty solid job in bringing the franchise back by focusing on Fujiko instead of Lupin. The show seems to be individual human tales strung together by Fujiko as she’s thrown (or tosses herself) into these situations almost like a lower calorie version of Mushishi. But it’s always hinting at a larger story for Mine (mmm butterflies?), which if we get to, this series would be fabulous. If not, it would be disappointing. The animation style is quite unique and disguises static imagery quite well. Plus, Fujiko is as nakkid in this series as often as Kate Winslet is nakkid in The Reader. Even the OP, New Wuthering Heights, is full of boobs. Interestingly, Mine’s boobs seem to be smaller in the ED, which suggest we’re looking at either little girl Mine or pre-operation Mine. The music and sound are quite good with Watanabe (Bebop, Apollon) helping with music. The voice actors– having honed their roles for decades are all excellent. Even the new VA for the titular Fujiko, who is now voiced by Miyuki Sawashiro, is excellent. And, yes, that is Kanbaru’s VA. So both Kanbaru and Fujiko have boobs. That is all.
#2. Space Bros
I love Space Brothers (Uchuu Kyoudai/宇宙兄弟). Go read my first two posts about it. Basically: it has some awesome characters and tells a story that isn’t stereotypical anime. Or Hollywood. Or really any genre. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older, but I gravitate towards shows that try to do something a little different… and I’m a sucker for pugs.
(Space Bros occurs in 2025, which is the same year as in Eureka Seven Ao. I already think Space Bros is optimistic in that we’ll go back to the moon let alone the flying cars of Ao.)
#1. Sakamichi no Apollon
Sakamichi no Apollon (Kids on the Slope) is josei slice-of-life coming of age centered around jazz from new studio MAPPA. Bebop‘s Watanabe and Yoko Kanno (and Seatbelts) are involved, and my review as I had in my bros post is thus: Sakamichi is basically K-On! without moe and with much better music. K-On! for the dapper gentlemen and lady.
(Nitpicking, but I felt like The Seatbelts should have done something for the OP. As much as I like YUKI, I feel like this show deserved The Seatbelts. Imagine if Bebop had generic jpop over Tank!… yet… Sakamichi no Melody is still my favorite OP of the season.)