Hey, I just watched you,
And it was kinda boring,
But here’s your number,
You got thin sliced, baby.
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.
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 Sword Art Online or Binbougami Ga? 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 (you should know if you’re in or out on these by now anyway) or if the show is only 5 minutes long.
Quick recap from last season: Chitanda is curious. That is all.
#MR IRRELEVANT. Uta Koi
TYO Productions (yet another studio I haven’t heard about) brings us a terrible, terrible romance anime in Uta Koi. It’s like short vignettes of love stories inspired by the karuta poems. Ugh. Is karuta the in thing this year? Is it the anime equivalent of the overnight oats in a jar fad sweeping through Pinterest as we speak? Anyway, Uta Koi has pretty bad story (generically bad), animation (looks acceptable in 2008), pacing (worse than Jormungand), and dialogue. The dialogue is so sappy and so uninspired that it makes romance novels with Fabio on the cover seem like To Kill a Mockingbird, The Hobbit, and Leaves of Grass combined into one. If you’re looking for a romance anime to watch, skip this show.
(Mitigating factor: The ED, Singin’ My Lu, is Engrish heaven. “The song eages the pain”? “I’m just singin’ lus, singin’ las, set it loose, every la”? Not even Nicky Minaj would touch these lyrics.)
#17. Tanken Driland
Not sure why I watched Tanken Driland. It’s a kiddie anime made by Toei and not really my cup of tea. I guess if I were nine years old, this show about a princess who wants to travel and find epic loots would be awesome. (My older self? Bemoaning raid lockouts, inability to find DPS that won’t stand in fire, and those damn, dirty, cheating Beaters.) Anyway, Tanken Driland‘s a mobile OS game turned anime. Yes, that’s how dry the well is now. We have turned all manga, light novels, and eroges into anime, so we’re now working on mobile OS games. What next? Anime inspired from Amazon product reviews? Ikea instructions? Food truck menus? Where does it end?
#16. Koi to Senkyo to Chocolate
If you’re looking for a boring, generic harem anime based off a visual novel, Koi to Senkyo to Chocolate (恋と選挙とチョコレー, Love,
Erection Election, and Chocolate) will be awaiting your eyeballs. This show is so generic, I ended up forgetting it until I realized, “Hey, I forgot to thin slice that show with the murder.” Yep, someone gets run over by a Prius in the introduction, and it’s never referenced again in the episode. At first, I thought that AIC Build just spliced two shows into one incorrectly, like attaching the intro of Darker Than Black in front of To Love Ru. Nope. It’s all Love, Erection, and Chocolate. On the bright side, the animation is horrible, a good step down from Haganai.
(Mitigating factor: If you asked me to point to a show that had the most tropes in it, this show would be it.)
#15. Arcana Famiglia
Arcana Famiglia (アルカナ・ファミリア) blends a lot of ingredients I don’t find appealing. It’s a reverse harem, action, mafia, action, tarot card smoothie. I feel like it’s one of those, “Hey, let’s just fling shit at the wall and see what sticks” shows; probably won’t surprise you that JC Staff and Chiaki Kon (director of Higurashi, Umineko, Junjou Romantica, and Nodame Paris) is behind this show and that it’s already licensed by Sentai (let’s start the pool for when Sentai goes bankrupt). The animation is lackluster, and the first episode tries to introduce the huge cast and mimic the first thirty minutes of Brave. In fact, the original Arcana Famiglia game might have been what Pixar played and thusly inspired Brave. Mmm… nah.
#14. Dakara Boku wa, Ecchi ga Dekinai
This season’s most realistic looking nipple award goes to Dakara Boku wa, Ecchi ga Dekinai (So I Can’t Play H). I imagine this anime being as good as Seikon no Qwaser, which I regrettably ranked a bit too high previously. But, then again, Seikon no Qwaser had bat-shit insane girls and soma sucking, so I regret nothing. Anyway, this show features nonsense about magic and death and grim reapers all in the name of providing a climax moment where the male protagonist gets his face stuck the female protagonist’s crotch thus powering her to victory. I can just imagine this scenario with Kiritsugu and Saber already. If you enjoy Seikon and Queen’s Blade, this show is for you.
(Mitigating factor: Sentai Filmworks licensed Dakara before an episode aired. Why am I not surprised?)
#13. Kokoro Connect
The best way to describe Kokoro Connect (ココロコネク) is thusly: a SOS Brigade rip-off club featuring two guys (one possibly gay) and three women randomly switch bodies with each other like Freaky Friday. There’s no rhyme or reason for the body switches, and it’s not capitalized well (definitely not as well as Druaga). The concept isn’t terrible, but the dialogue is. Ugh. Spending two minutes on a joke about someone’s pervy magazine? Really? The whole pervy magazine joke just seems like something carried on from anime series to anime series like the Olympic Torch. Sure, it’s anachronistic, but the joke is needed to showcase how pervy a male lead is. If it weren’t for pervy magazines and hand placement after collisions, how could girls tell the perverts from the normals?
(Pro-tip: There’s no normal 15 year old boys. They’re all perverts.)
#12. Hagure Yuusha no Estetica
When I was watching Hagure Yuusha no Estetica (はぐれ勇者の鬼畜美学), I was wondering if it was an adaptation from an eroge… main character boning various princesses, clueless damsel being protected, terrible dialogue, and nonsensical fantasy/real life/futuristic scenario (people get sucked into another world and gain magic when they return to ours?). Nope. Turns out to be a light novel. Then I looked at the animation studio– ARMS– primarily a hentai production house (Night Shift Nurses Returns, Virgin Touch). Ah, that explains all the melonpan. If you’re a 13 year old boy, this anime is perfect for you. Anyone else, there’s better things to watch this season.
(The animation is terrible. The backgrounds are horrendous with some consisting of maybe ten strokes. Some side and minor characters received maybe 20% of the detail that the undressing haremettes have.)
#11. Oda Nobuna’s Ambition
Madhouse brings us yet another genderswapped historical figure show (is there a genre name for this yet?) with Oda Nobuna’s Ambition (織田信奈の野望, Oda Nobuna no Yabou). And, yeah, it’s generic and boring and generically boring. Who would have guessed a genderswapped Nobunaga would be a tsundere? Or that all the famous generals have been turned into lolis? This show does even try as evidenced by how it doesn’t even bother to explain how the poor loser male sap got teleported into feudal Japan nor does it really care. Which is good becaues I don’t care either.
(I feel like this genderswapped historical figure genre is oversaturated at this point. I have more bones to pick with this genre than with moe since with this genre the studios are just recycling the same old historical figures. We just saw a genderswapped Nobunaga LAST FUCKING SEASON. At least with moe, the girls are in different clubs. Sheesh. When can we finally get genderswapped George Washington and Abraham Lincoln? I feel like that’s where this genre needs to go. Hell, I’ll even volunteer to write it. Georgia Washington and Winnie Cornwallis get sucked into a futuristic mecha world where they decide the fate of the universe. Who wouldn’t watch that? Of course, Cornwallis would be a DFC with a major tsundere complex)
#10. Muv-Luv Alternative
I watched the most of Muv-Luv Alternative than any other show this season. It went from school days slice-of-life to alien apocalypse to Top Gun as fast as Amazon Prime. This genre skipping made for three entirely different sequences. I was bored but okay with the school days as it seemed to have Mai Hime potential. I loved the alien apocalypse, especially with the aliens so savagely eating people in what I thought would be a visual novel turned anime. Then I was completely bored by Top Gun. My main issue is that the characters we have in Top Gun are terrible. The main character turned into someone who has a stick up her ass at all times, the Nepalese girl is probably the worst character of the season, and the Italian guy is walking stereotype. And the American hero? He’s as American as SC2’s Stephano. I think I would have liked this show a lot more if it were just a season long of despair of trying to hold Japan from the Betas… sort of like Basilisk or Mai Hime where someone keeps dying every episode, and no one can do a damn thing about it. There would have been nice emotional depth. But, now, it’s a just caricature show with fancy robots. Sign.
Barnum Studio’s second attempt at anime production is the fantasy harem-ish Campione!. There’s a few things of note to this show: One, the main haremette, Erica, dresses like Megan Fox from Jonah Hex. Her normal outfit looks like what someone might wear at an 19th century brothel. Her battle outfit looks like what someone might wear to hang out at a mall. It’s confusing fashion choices. Two, I guess because the show starts in Italy, there is some phenomenally bad Italian. Also, a main Italian city is deserted during the day with zero guys hitting on a girl dressed as a 19th century whore? Three, there’s an awesome meido, Arianna, who gets drunk and thinks she can drive as good as Saber but ends up driving as well as Yukari-sensei. If you want generic low calories anime with a side of fanservice and meido, this seems to be a good bet.
(In the first episode, Arianna is driving Erica around. And then she waits for a train with the male lead. Why didn’t Erica just have Arianna drive them to the destination? Arianna eventually shows up there with the car as well.. gah… simple plot hiccups like this early on is always a sign…)
(And, yeah, yet another anime this season pushing Italian stereotypes.)
#8. Tari Tari
Tari Tari is like a blend of K-On! (musical girls doing cute things), Haruhi (three girls and two guys trying to make a club work), and Full Metal Panic (special classmate who can pilot mobile suits). Okay, kidding on the Full Metal Panic part, but Tari Tari just feels like PA Works is trying to copy Kyoto. The cast and story feel like post-Makoto episodes of Kyoto’s Kanon, and the setup is a poor man’s mix of Houkago Tea Time and SOS Brigade. I dunno. Not much interesting about Tari Tari, and there’s no Ohana-type strong character to salvage it.
(Also worth nothing that the animation– especially the character animation– feel like a gigantic step back for PA Works. It’s behind the quality level of Angel Beats and Hanasaku. And if you’ve noticed, the screenshots for Kokoro Connect and Tari Tari have been swapped… because they look so damn similar… so, yes, I’m going to have a good laugh at everyone who comment that the screenshots have been swapped… I did it on purpose.)
That line is a flat-out lie for Joshiraku (じょしらく). The girls aren’t cute, and the dialogue is as thick and obscure and convoluted as Zetsubou Sensei (if not worse). The show is about five girls who are amateur traditional comedians in a world that doesn’t care about that shit. They seem as anachronistic as a VHS cassette, which isn’t a bad thing. It could have been a charming series, but the dialogue is just too specialized. There’s a lot of obscure references, sight gags, and puns that probably require 20 years of experience with Japanese language and pop culture to fully appreciate. And who has time for that?
(Mitigating factor: I think the show could be a lot better if the girls weren’t so one dimensional with each gag seemingly reinforcing their trait. The show could have been a lot better if they had more situational gags like Danshi Nichijou or Nichijou. But, maybe, that’s the limit of how far an anime can go if it occurs mainly in a single room. Seitokai no Ichizon anymore?)
(JC Staff’s best animation in a while, and it’s average amongst the shows this season. Oh JC Staff, how you managed to turn into the Applebee’s of anime.)
#6. Kono Naka ni Hitori, Imouto ga Iru!
Kono Naka ni Hitori, Imouto ga Iru! (この中に１人、妹がいる, My Little Sister Is Amongst Them) is Russian Roulette, except there may be six bullets in the six chambers. I think the only viable option for Shougo is to go gay. His dad never specified that he needed to wed a female, just get married and start a family. Shougo should be thinking more of Cameron and Mitchell than Makoto and Sekai. Though thanks to this show, we now have melonpan, hopes and dreams, and creme puffs in our vocabulary toolkit.
#5. Natsuyuki Rendezvous
Something must be wrong with me. Why am I leaning towards josei series like this season’s Natsuyuki Rendezvous (夏雪ランデブー) and last season’s Kids on a Slope? Is it that I’m mellowing in my old age? Or that I’m bored of generic harem fanservice shows? Or that these shows are just good since there’s not a lot of josei animated so they pick from the best rather than the dregs harem fanservice tend to dip into these days? Or all of the above? Anyway, it’s hard to get more josei than ripping off Ghost, which is basically Natsuyuki Rendezvous tries to do, except it subs in a secretly nice guy instead of the sleezeball other man role. There. That’s the whole plot. Ghost with a nice guy (though he does look like he hangs out with Onizuka) and a flower shop. I’m just waiting for a series now that’s about a love affair between a rich girl and a poor guy on a huge epic boat.
(Mitigating factor: Dogakobo is the studio, and I had to double check since I thought it was “dog poo” for a while. Not exactly a major studio, but they do have a lot of assisting studio experience. Also. with josei, it’s hard to see where this series will go. Will it go full-on angsty and terrible? Or will it go dramatic and entertaining?)
#4. Moyashimon Returns
I enjoyed the original Moyashimon (もやしもん) the original anime series and the live action drama, so I think I’ll enjoy this sequel. Two things trouble me though. One, the five year gap? I mean, we were still on Tobey Maguire Spiderman then. At least toss us some recap rather than brief introduc–hey I’m gonna let you finish, but here’s some new plot first. Two, the character design changes are so jarring even more so than Minami-ke, and that was handled by three studios. My gosh, what did Shirogumi do? What was wrong with the original character design? Why did you let someone who has no other experience with character design work on this show? Needless to say, I preferred the old more realistic style than the current more cartoony style. While cartoony may fit the microbes better, I felt the realistic style contrasted the microbes better– which is a better stylistic and narrative choice. Oh well, I just hope more zany antics befall our group. In the first season, we had s&m, a drunken lesbian hookup, and a crossdresser. I’m not sure how that is going to be topped. But I want to try.
(At both Fanime and Anime Expo, I noticed a dealer’s booth that was selling plushies of sexually transmitted diseases… kinda like Moyashimon for genital warts. I remember seeing this booth before and wondered, “Do they actually make any money?” How far is a business model selling plushie herpes going to go? Is their target audience people who have diseases that want to tell their partner in a hilarious and cute way that they have an std? I don’t get it.)
(I went to a talk by Momofuku’s David Chang, and he mentioned how Japan hordes their A-class soy sauce and miso and basically sells us the outlet store stuff as “premium” so he decided to make his own. His comment? “Microbiology is fun!”)
#3. Binbougami Ga!
(Kana Hanazawa is hitting home runs lately. Enjoyed her seductress voice for Nisemonogatari, quite bookworm demeanor in TWGOK, her “Tutturuu~”, and her bipolar depiction of Sakura here. Oh, and she’s voicing four major roles right now: Saki, Campione!, Hagure, and this show. She is Mike Trout.)
#2. Sword Art Online
Sword Art Online doesn’t disappoint. The show just has the right amount of action, humor, and harem elements to make it a fun watch. A-1 is doing a solid job with animation and pacing (so far, they are averaging about the same number of pages per episode as Bakemonogatari). Not much to say except my graphics card has no issues rendering Asuna’s creme puffs.
(Out of all the smaller animation studios, A-1 is doing 25 episodes of Sword Art Online as it goes to 39 episodes with Space Bros? My gosh, do they ever sleep? What small studio would agree to do two long series in this day and age? Or are they getting paid sweet, sweet JAXA money for Space Bros?)
#1. Mankind Has Declined
I have no clue what to make of Mankind Has Declined (人類は衰退しました, Jinrui wa Suitaishimashita) so I’m just sticking the show here. It’s the Tsuritama (space jizz water gun) of this season, only it’s wackier and stranger. The show makes no logical sense– in fact, I think it prides itself on this fact. Kinda charming, like Kamichu. There’s sugar-addicted fairies, some calamity that befell mankind, headless chickens, yaoi conventions, and a complete lack of names. There’s the Narrator, the Assistant, the Grandfather, and Y. The show is different. Different but good. After every episode, I’m not sure if I’m confused or hallucinating, but I want to see the next one– maybe it’ll tell me something about this show– and, most likely, it’ll only confuse me more. I know what Kirito is going to do next. I have no clue what Narrator is doing. Because of that simple fact, I’m more curious. And that’s what thin slicing is about… if I have every show, which one will I watch first?
(Mai Nakahara uses her Nagisa voice, and Miyuki Sawashiro uses her Kanbaru voice. It’s awesome. Though now I hear more Mine Fujiko than Kanbaru, despite that they’re both kinky characters… though who has more nakkid screentime of the two?)
(I wish they incorporated more of the humanity is declining stuff into this anime. An anime about Jared Diamond’s Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed would be a welcome change and interesting. But here’s a spoiler for that book: pretty much everyone chooses the collapse ending.)