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Like a clock running slow, 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– OH FUCK IT. YOU’VE READ THIS SAME BOILERPLATE FOR
EIGHT NINE YEARS NOW. You either get how this works by now or not. And, yes, I’ve been writing thin slicing posts since 2005 where I ranked Nanoha A‘s over Mai Otome.
For people who want to know how this ranking is done, I suggest reading the archived explanation. If you’re like, “This show is ranked too high!” or “Too low!” then, well, you obviously don’t know how this works. For every show high, there has to be a low. Deal with it. And, again, for the sake of time, I don’t rank sequels if I never finished watching the original or if there’s nothing interesting about the sequel. It’s a sequel! If you watched the first season, you should know if you should watch the second as well. You don’t need my permission to watch Jojo, Fairy Tail, or Spoon. Sheesh. And for Broken Blade, you’ve seen it before. Wake me up when they change the ending such that Ted doesn’t end up with Robin.
A twist for this season: A vacation to Japan totally derailed the thin slicing (which you’d know if you follow me on Twitter). While the post is late, it still arrived. One good/bad thing is that I’ve watched almost half of a few series, so this isn’t very thin of a slicing. Maybe a medium cut.
Quick recap from last season: It was terrible. Noragami was a rare bright spot. And stop it with the “But KILL la KILL is a 2014 show!” It’s a 2013 show to both my system and Wikipedia’s system. Twelve episodes aired in 2013; twelve in 2014. Get over it. Worry about more important things like what was that sound you just heard?!
#MR IRRELEVANT. Trading Card Animu
Technically, I think this post should get the Mr. Irrelevant award. Oh well, I’ll give it instead to a tie between selector infected WIXOSS, Oreca Battle, Hero Bank, Majin Bone, and any other show this season that is (a) based off a trading card game and (b) target audience is a middle schooler interested in said game. My gosh. Trading card games are big and huge in Japan. I didn’t realize it until I found a late night TV show that featured young girls talking about various Weiss Schwarz trading card games. You could tell that the girls have the enthusiasm of “I’m one misstep away from pr0n” look on their faces. It was sad and exploitative. Though not as sad and exploitative as the show where girls showed cleavage on webcams and got smashed, alone, in their bedrooms as a panel of guest judges made fun of them. (Comedy Central is now in negotiations to buy those US TV rights.) But I now understand why ImoCho sold well, and why there’s a live action movie for it. Anyway, these shows are all the same, highly boring, and only serve as commercials to sell cards. I’d at least like my anime to serve as commercials to sell me plastic figures. Fuck yeah, HG 1/144 Strike Freedom Gundam Ver. GFT.
#30. Rowdy Sumo Wrestler Matsutaro
Holy shit. He should be in jail! Battery, DUI, sexual assault, theft, and kidnapping? This show shouldn’t be Rowdy Sumo Wrestler Matsutaro but rather Matsutaro In Fucked In the Ass Penitentiary. I don’t understand the show. Okay, I get that they are trying to make Matsutaro be a jerk. He’s almost Joffery Baratheon, but not quite. Joffery is spiteful, petty, and has a serious complex about himself, but he is one of many characters. You can also see the effects of Ceresi’s parenting on him. Matsutaro is a featured asshole who is mean for no reason to old ladies and puppies. He’s also not a sympathetic figure… which is kinda odd as the show tries to be a sports anime. Wouldn’t you want him to be at least a bit sympathetic? Like maybe his dad is a drunk and beats him, and with wrestling, he’ll turn his life around? Nope. He kicks puppies because he can. Besides an unenjoyable (different than unlikeable) main character, archaic story, and doofy animation/character designs, this show doesn’t have much going for it.
(Mitigating factor: Wait, we’re over four episodes in, and there’s hardly a peep on MAL or Wikipedia about this show? How many BD sets do you think Toei will sell of this series? Three? Four?)
#29. Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu ka?
I think the moe trend is waning. Is the Order a Rabbit? is one of the few (really only) pure moe show of the season, and it is terrible. The show centers around a bunch of “cute” girls working at a cafe that has zero customers. They have like four times more staff than customers. It’s also a boring cafe without any personality kinda centered around a creature that may or may not be a rabbit. The 4koma could have based itself around a more interesting cafe idea. In Japan, I visited a cat cafe, a garden cafe, a Gundam cafe, a meido cafe, a hammock cafe, and a hipster cafe that was trying to out San Francisco, well, San Francisco. All of these cafes are vastly superior to the one in this show. The attempted humor is also super low calorie, and the girls have no discernible personality. Anyway, I don’t have much of an opinion about this show since I fell asleep watching it beyond, “I don’t think I want to watch any more episodes of this series.”
(Mitigating factor: The Fashion Czar, our puppy, and I fell asleep while watching this show. It’s the only show this season to put all three of us to sleep.)
#28. La Corda d’Oro Blue Sky
La Corda d’Oro Blue Sky is another installment of the long running La Corda d’Oro musical man harem franchise. It is a generic, vapid, and lifeless show that should only be watched by the hardcorest of hardcore La Corda fans. While I tolerate a few episodes of the original La Corda, this show is worse. The first episode is typical man harem with the haremette encountering all her possible sperm providers with all of them being assholes to her. I still don’t really understand why being a jerk or attempted rape is more prevalent in the man harem genre than the harem genre. The biggest asshole is the typical mousy female lead’s childhood friend who not only forces her to go his high school against her will (hey, that’s educational rape), but he puts her as one of the leading chairs of their student orchestra (a pale, pale homeless man’s version of S-OK). He basically told the hard-working, establish members of the club to fuck off because he wants this girl that he hasn’t talked to in years to be the star. Again, I don’t see the appeal. Of course, I also don’t see the appeal of Duck Dynasty, so what do I know.
#27. Kamisama no Asobi
The worst ED of the season goes to Kamisami no Asobi. Nothing says hip and hot guys waiting to be tamed by the right mousy lady than lipsyncing enka music with a bad Instragrammy filter as well as terrible CGI. And is he covering his man boobs? As per man harem rules, the men are generally mysterious jerks to the poor mousy female lead, who is tossed into an unsettling new circumstance ripped from the pages of Inu Yasha. While the men in La Corda are all musicians, Kamisama trumps them by having a man harem filled with gods. Not just any gods– but they feature gods from many faiths and regions– though it’s mostly Japanese and Greek with one Egyptian and one Viking. Zero Hindu. Zero of the Seven Gods of Westeros. I’m not sure if those groups should be insulted or relieved.
(I’m hoping the show features a male version of Belldandy. But I’m not sticking around to find out.)
#26. Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky
Atelier Escha and Logy (sorry Logy, but you have a terrible name) is based on the 79% metacritic game of the same name. I haven’t played a game in the Atelier series since Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana, and I can see not much has changed. Fetch quests for ingredients! Combine ingredients in a pot to make stuff! Use stuff to gather more ingredients! Rinse and repeat. I think I eventually traded the game in for Tekken. This show isn’t much more inspiring. It feels like the world’s slowest videogame to anime adaptation, and I swear the entire first episode felt like they animated the tutorial. That’s a great way to hook the viewer. (And why are state alchemists fixing windmills? I like how the show handwaves this with a simple, “But it’s important, so alchemists must do it.” Of course, they go visit the engineer so he can actually fix the damn thing.) The show is boring, and even if you are a fan of the game, I can’t see the appeal… unless you really, really love the game.
(The costumes are also over the top. They have way too much going on and are overly garnished. I got a hotdog today that was a plain Hebrew National, but they offered to put like fifty different condiments on it including tomatoes, dill pickles, and carrots. It’s a plain hotdog! I just want a little ketchup, mustard, onions, and some relish. I don’t need pesto or cilantro. That’s what the characters look like to me: overly garnished plain hotdogs.)
#25. Dragonar Academy
Let’s just get it over with: I disliked pretty much everything about Seikoku no Dragonar. The premise is done before (guy should have a dragon familiar, instead summons loli haremette), the animation is lackluster, the character designs and costuming are atrocious (they look like a cross between Mahouka and Da Capo), and the dragon aspect makes no sense. Why do people summon dragons? Why have a school that encourages the students to be complete assholes to each other? Why have a race when some dragons and fly and some cannot? How is this fair? I guess this show is aiming for a specific audience– people who enjoy nipple-less boobs in their low-calorie, poorly-written harem school anime. With dragons.
#24. Akuma no Riddle
Akuma no Riddle is yet another anime about people in the same class who have to kill each other. I’m not sure what exactly started the classroom battle resurgence of late, but maybe we can blame Danganronpa (Battle Royale is a bit too old at this point). I guess the twist is that the classroom is tasked with killing a specific girl, and, if they fail, they get executed. Of course, another girl starts falling for the girl, after all boring haremettes who act helpless are so uncommon and rare in anime, and decides to defend her from the other classmates. The show is dreadfully boring, slow, and unrealistic. Why are these so many damn rules in an assassination game? And if they wanted the girl dead, why not poison her pudding? The show fails to answer these basic questions early on before the viewer (really, me) lose interest and flips the TV to HGTV to check out what the Property Brothers are up to. The animation is also lackluster, but, hey, they tease reasons to buy the BD.
(Mitigating factor: Holy smokes, a male teacher? And not some sexually frustrated 25 year old with ample cleavage?)
#23. Baby Steps
The main character of Baby Steps, Maruo, has probably the worst hair of any anime character this season. Or really this year. I haven’t seen anything quite as perplexing as his spikey partial mohawk combined with a bowl cut. Nonetheless, Baby Steps is one of the many sports anime this season, and it’s hook is that a typical math nerd uses math to conquer tennis. Seriously? Ugh. You’d think muscles, endurance, and reflexes would be more important than pulling out a slide rule and protractor (he really does this) during a match. It’s not pool. It’s tennis. Angles and velocity means jack when staring down a 150mph serve. Besides the ridiculous concept and the hideous hair, this show has some of the lowest cost animation and least appealing overall character design this season. The characters are inconsistent shot to shot, and they are lazily drawn. Backgrounds and action are Yu-Gi-Oh! quality. I guess it’s too much to expect a low budget show on NHK-E to splurge, but at least make the characters (and hair) seem less terrible.
#22. Kanojo ga Flag o Oraretara
If Her Flag Breaks is yet another terrible name for a show, and Gaworare is yet another terrible nickname. It’s typical paint by the numbers harem fanservice show. There’s a main character who is cursed with the ability to see dating sim-type flags on top of the haremettes. He can see friendzone, romantic, and death flags, which really put a damper on things. The show is then about him needed to populate his “Quest” house with haremettes of various RPG tropes to avoid his own— da da dum– death flag. The good: actual capturing. Something long missing from the harem genre as well as Kyoto Animation. The show is classic harem, so if you enjoy classic harem anime, then it’s for you. The bad: the boring lolitastic character design, the poor comedic moments, the whole flag thing that feels really forced and arbitrary. It’s worse than the judges rules in Final Fantasy Tactics A2. There’s also some quality animation moments.
(Her name is “Nanami Knight Bladefield”? And she has like 23 siblings? Only in anime. Or maybe the NBA.)
#21. M3 the dark metal
Satelight & C2C
My stirring memory of M3 include a girl pelted by tennis balls as part of agility training (I’m trying to imagine Blake Bortles, great pr0n name by the way, getting pelted by tennis balls at the NFL combine), a secret government organization that has pricey mecha but doesn’t hesitate to put pilots with no training inside said mecha (when they could have put a pilot with training into said mecha instead), and said mecha being pulled over by the police for firing on an alien invader. Every bad decision in M3 is compounded by the subsequent follow up worse decision. If you have to use people doing the stupidest things possible to advance the plot, that’s just terrible writing. It’s great when Louie (He’s gonna die anyway… dammit FX, why did you take out the enjoyable 20 second OP? To toss in another terrible commercial?) is doing making terrible life decisions… not so much when it’s supposed to be a gritty dystopic sci-fi mecha show.
(Why do these shows constantly have to feature people sent back to a training environment. Even the hotshot pilot assigned to the squad wondered this, “Hey, I’m already a graduated pilot. Why am I in a fucking dorm again?” It’s like if Ghost in the Shell had Motoko join Section 9 high school… seriously, anime, not every situation needs a high schooler in high school. They can drop out. They can be college age. And when was the last time we had a thirty year old main character heroine in anime? Balsa? Has to be Balsa.)
#20. Soul Eater NOT!
This image sums up the show. Soul Eater NOT! is a slice-of-life, school days take on the original Soul Eater. You know all that action, adventuring, and melonpan Soul Eater is built on? Let’s get rid of it, and instead toss in three heroines involved in a love triangle. It’s like the unholy love child of Sakura Kiss and Soul Eater. I have a few issues… one, they trot out the original cast much like how Star Trek Voyager trotted out characters much more beloved than its own cast. Two, the character designs are really inconsistent. They’re supposed to be around middle school age, yet the boys in their class look like they’re twenty-four. Three, this school is supposedly in Nevada. I cannot imagine this type of city anywhere in America let alone Nevada unless Vegas decides to open an Attack on Titan-themed casino hotel and made it look like this.
#19. Blade & Soul
“Show me the rainbow after the rain.” But what if it is a tender rain? Blade & Soul is a Korean MMORPG turned into an anime by Gonzo which can best described as… I’m not sure. There’s a lot of similarities to Queen’s Blade where all the main characters are well-endowed females fighting each other, but that’s where it ends. Fanservice (sadly) doesn’t dominate the show, and there’s no ridiculous breast milk attack. It’s a strait up lackluster action series about a swordswoman… I have no clue what her goal is… that’s a good sign. Anyway, the main problem with the show is that the characters are utterly personality-less. They all seem like going through the motions like robots or cardboard cutouts. The main character, Aruka, in particular, has the personality of Rei Ayanami. While this isn’t an issue for Rei as she’s surrounded by more forceful characters, Aruka is pretty much alone. She’s almost like Ginko, expect that while Ginko is quiet, he has a personality and acts like a human (despite him being a human-mushi-alien-cyborg).
“This is my true power!” There’s five giant mecha shows this season, but only one features a giant robot powered by sexual harassment: Daimidaler. The protagonist powers his mech by doing sexual acts on a poor heroine. (Wait, didn’t I just ask for a sex-fueled mecha last series?) The show is supposed to be a spoof and comedy, but it’s not done well. Too many jokes revolve around cheap penis or boob gags and not enough character humor. This comedic emphasis is what separates Duel, the current queen of mecha parodies, with Daimidaler. Also, the pacing a bit off. Kouichi goes from being totally woman deprived to being already bored of Kyoko’s melonpan by the second episode. What will he demand by episode nine? A foursome involving a goat? I think if you’re in the market for a comedic mecha series that pokes fun of typical mecha tropes, there’s no other option than Daimidaler. I might have enjoyed a show like this in a weaker season, but there’s just so many better options for comedy, fanservice, and mecha this season that Daimidaler gets the back seat.
(Why does every mecha show need to rush the main protagonist into said giant mecha by the end of episode one? Every mecha show did that this season. Also, why aren’t there more main character female mecha pilots? All the female pilots this season are either villains or sexual energy reservoirs. I was going to write a commentary post about how Sunrise is approaching Gundam all wrong. I gave this a lot of thought while I was at the terrible Gundam Front in Tokyo. Basically, they want to appeal to kids, so they made two kid-focused series with Age and Build. Kids are fickle. They will move onto the next toy or play Blade & Soul for the boobies. Gundam was built on the strength of the original series that appeal to older teens, not the Saturday morning crowd. What they need is just a well-written mainline series that doesn’t try to sell toys. Make the series successful, then whore the Gunpla, not the other way around. They should also consider a main character female pilot. The franchise is sorely missing a strong female pilot who is both the main focus of the series as well as a pilot. And give her a weird useless prince that she can save. But, I can’t believe I’m typing this, don’t treat her as a sex symbol. Treat her more like Garrod Ran than Sexsuna.)
#17. Fuuun Ishin Dai Shogun
Dai Shogun harkens back to Vandread where the giant robot changes based on which female haremette that, uh, docks with the male lead. The twist is that they have to be virgins yet constantly blue ball. It is a half-assed idea. Someone grow a spine and write the inevitable mecha powered by sex. Do you think Fate/Stay Night would be as popular as it is today if Saber got her mana by holding hands? Besides the gimmick, the show has nothing going for it. The animation is one of the worst (and laziest) of the season and more resembles Flash animation than normal anime. JC Staff… you have fallen this low. The characters are all one dimensional nitwits, and the grunge metal meets samurai style doesn’t work. Even Basara is shaking its head.
#16. Bokura wa Minna Kawaisou
We Are All From Kawai Dormitory / We Are All Pitiful is yet another show about a poor male harem lead forced to live in a dormitory with a bunch of tropetastic haremettes. Such originality. The girls have their issues, and the guy slowly wears them down and makes them all like him. You’ve seen this before. The landlord is sorta like the grandma from Hanasaku Iroha. The drunk is sorta like Misato. The main haremette, shockingly, thinks that the male lead is a bit of a pervert. The male lead’s friend is a creepy pervert whose only purpose is to be a second male character. There’s nothing new to the formula except a bad instagram-like color saturation. Also, the animation style looks more like a shoujo reverse harem than a harem series. The male characters’ hair are better defined than the female lead’s, which is a problem.
#15. Brynhildr in the Darkness
Oh gosh, another show about magic and some tragic childhood. Brynhildr in the Darkness brings something new to the table though: dubstep and no OP song. It’s a bold move, Cotton; I hope it pays off. I had a lot of trouble getting into the show because way too much happens. Girl dies. May or may not be the new transfer student in class. Future sight. Magic shield. Aliens. Government experimenting on said aliens. I mean, it’s enough to have one or two of those concepts, but all of them? Tossed out at once before you had a chance to digest? A bit too much. It doesn’t help that the animation is lackluster, the characters are plain and boring, and there’s dubstep. This is one of the first shows I watched, and one of the first that I gave up on… so it has that going for it. Admittedly, the next show on the list is similar and may or may not be better. They’re both equally blah.
#14. Black Bullet
“Why don’t you wear a meido outfit and hand out flyers?” That’s probably the only thing I enjoy or remember from Black Bullet. Other than that, I was wondering how did they rebuild Tokyo so fast after it’s been leveled. I mean, it’s 2014, and One World Trade Center is still under construction. Not only that, life went back to normal such that a high school student is the boss at a detective agency that controls super teenagers who can kill the alien invaders. Wow. Such haste. Logistics aside, let’s make fun of their clothes. The male uniform is a standard sports coat blazer except it has a stripe running down it. Maybe it’s a racing stripe? The female uniform… what is going on with that skirt? It totally doesn’t go with the sailor fuku top. Anyway, the show is typical dystopic magic alien nonsense with all the tropes tossed in: Mystery loli? Reluctant fiancee? Poor finances? Cursed children? Fake “jizz” scene involving said loli? Check, check, check, and double check.
#13. Manga-ka to Assistant-san
“IF this will result in a good manuscript…” Manga-ka to Assistant-san is exactly what I expect: a low calorie 4koma comedy about a perverted manga-ka and his beautiful yet clueless assistant. I did enjoy the comic, but the anime’s pacing a bit too slow. 4komas are all about constant comedy. Dragging out three strips over twelve minutes isn’t going to cut it. Also, the editor, Mihari, doesn’t translate that well into the anime as she looks like Love Hina‘s Suu with pigtails in a purple suit. She looks more like tonight’s special guest at The Artist Formerly Known As Prince’s mansion than a manga editor. Zexcs’ production values are so-so. If you’re a fan of the series, then it’s worth checking out. However, if low wattage comedy about a pervert ain’t your thing, move on.
(The churn at all the anime stories in Japan is incredible. It’s hard to find any older series as it’s just constantly new stuff. Even Kyoto’s store was all Free!, Chu2, and Tamako. There’s little Raki Suta, almost no Nichijou, and only one sad pencil board for Clannad. Zero Full Metal Panic, Munto, or Kanon. I tweeted a bit already about the lack of KILL la KILL merch, but you’d think that one of the most popular series would have stuff for sale. To put it in perspective, there was a lot more stuff for Wake Up, Girls and Akuma no Riddle (despite it just airing) than KILL la KILL. Trigger is a new studio, but they need to properly monetize what they have.)
#12. One Week Friends
I’m not sure if I want to watch One Week Friends (一週間フレンズ). It’s a bit too similar to ef ~a tale of memories~ for my tastes, and Shaft did a really good job with ef. It’s like if NBC started airing a Game of Thrones knockoff that was every bit a copy to HBO’s Game of Thrones, except NBC’s version didn’t have boobs, asses, decapitations, or Peter Dinkage. Why would I watch that? I’m sure Brain’s Base is more than capable of telling the story of a girl who can’t remember falling in love with a boy with only a notebook remind her of said love… but… yeah, it’s been done. At least do something different: have the guy be the one with the memory problem, use a tumblr account instead of a notebook, introduce a love pentagon… anything… because right now Chihiro and Renji-kun are the Daenerys and Khal Drogo of this genre. So why isn’t the show dead last? Well, I kinda want to see if they do something different since the pacing has been fast for this type of story. Kaori went from “But we’re not friends yet!” to going on a day-to with Yuki in just two episodes. Two! Jorah Mormont wishes he could move that fast.
The Irregular at Magic High School feels like the love child of A Certain Magical Index and The Pilot’s Love Song and sadly no ImoCho. I don’t know why the series is so popular. It’s almost exactly like Index: magical students living in a school of magic. The students are ranked by how well they magic, and the magic is an assortment of failed X-Men powers. The main male protagonist, surprisingly enough, scores very poorly on the scale despite having wondrous powers (besides making haremette ovaries ache). They even took the popular female protagonist and spun her off in her own series, Railgun style. Mahouka is more of an imitation of Index than copy though. The twist from Pilot (and maybe Kiddy Grade, but Pilot is more recent and stickier in my memory) is that there’s class warfare between the nobles and the peasants (called “Weeds” of course). I don’t think we need this twist, but apparently Tsutomu Satou thinks we do. It’s silly. It’s as silly as people arguing over dumb things when titans are scaling your walls and eating your children.
(Mitigating factor: Madhouse’s animation vacillates between acceptable and good and has their trademark fanservice, but the costumes… the school uniforms in particular look terrible. And Miyuki Shiba looks too much like Mitsuki Kanzaki.)
#10. Knights of Sidonia
I both really like and really hate Knights of Sidonia. On one hand, it’s a rare, gritty, thought-out space opera involving the final remnants of humanity trying to escape from a powerful alien foe. On the other hand, it’s full of stupid characters making terrible decisions, and plot is advanced using said terrible decisions. Yep, Battlestar Galactica. Sidonia’s world is interesting: aliens called the Gauna have destroyed Earth over a thousand years ago and now people live in ark ships like Sidonia (assumed to be the final one remaining). These aliens are fought by mecha armed with something resembling a Spear of Longinus. The future society has a plethora of sci-fi stuff like the genetic engineering and how the ship operates. But, and, this is a big but, is that all the characters behave in the stupidest ways possible. In every situation, out of all the options presented, they gravitate towards the worst one. It’s Battlestar Galactica bad. My favorite early terrible mistake is that the hot shot pilot had a chance to kill a Gauna, but the Gauna damages the mecha that his girlfriend is piloting (what kind of military allows both bf and gf in the same four person unit?), so he goes to shield her from the next hit instead of finishing off the Gauna. Of course, this leads to his instant death, and the death of his gf a few moments later. It also causes the deaths of the other two squadmates. Oh, to top it off, because they failed in killing this Gauna, Sidonia has to make a course correction to evade it, costing thousand of lives.
The show is done in 100% CG. For most of the shots, especially the space ones, it works out well, but the character shots are not well done. It’s bad enough that everyone wears the same clothes, but all the faces look too similar. Yes, I get some characters are clones, but everyone looks similar. It’s literally the Lannisters. And what the fuck is up with talking animals? I’m so confused… they have the technology to teach a bear how to make curry, but they can’t figure out the best strategies to defeat the alien that has almost exterminated humanity.
(Another stupid example: Eventually, the Gauna is defeated by the main character. Of course, you’d expect him doing something none of the real pilots can do would warrant a promotion or something… nah, let’s stick him back in pilot school and call him a trainee, despite that he’s the most capable pilot on Sidonia. Crazy. And let’s have him feud with another student who is jealous of him instead of pulling him out and putting him in a real combat unit.)
(Yet another example: The show does a terrible job at explaining why the Gauna hates us so much. I guess it wants to do a slow reveal, but we’re already halfway through the series. It tries to handwave with a, “We tried to communicate, and it didn’t work. So we gave up.” Wait, you sent it a friend request on Facebook, the Gauna rejected, and that’s why we’re at interspecies warfare?)
#9. The World Is Still Beautiful
Have you ever imagined how Drogo’s and Daenerys’ story would have unfolded if instead of being trapped in G.R.R. Martin’s fantasies, they were trapped in the fantasies of a shoujo manga artist? That’s kinda The World Is Still Beautiful (Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii). There’s a shota would somehow conquered the world before conquering puberty who is wed (out of political reasons) to a princess at least twice his age (and size). Of course, the shota’s (Livi) kingdom is dry (yet overflowing with flowers). The girl (Nike) can control rain. She then uses her ability to summon rain as a way for the two of them to get to know each other better and eventually, I guess, fall in love. It’s pure low calorie, slice-of-life shoujo. If you’re looking for comedy, then try Tamako Market. If you’re looking for a lot of, “Hey, this person isn’t as bad as I thought,” then this is the show for you. Despite it’s numerous flaws including not understand how weather works, inconsistent animation, and terribad music (“It’s a tender rain…” I GET IT SHUT UP AND SING SOMETHING ELSE), the show is a nice break from all the mecha and sports anime this season. Oh who am I kidding? No one who reads this blog will watch this show.
(There’s some bumbling thieves introduced early on, and they remind me a lot of the bandits from Home Alone.)
#8. Hitsugi no Chaika
Chaika, The Coffin Princess is the first show of the season to get picked up for a second season, so that’s something. I think this show would have scored much better with me if Toru and Akari were husband and wife instead of brother and sister. They act like a married couple to the point that their domestic squabbles start to resemble Al and Peg Bundy. It would have been such a different show dynamic if they were a married couple since Chaika could be the Yui to their Kirito and Asuna. Making them a creepy brother and sister yet maybe not blood related pair… come on. There’s like three other shows this season with that going on.
Nonetheless, Chaika, the title character, cannot properly speak yet wields an anti-tank gun as her magical implement. Awesome. All magical girls should use anti-tank guns over staffs or rods. While the concept of a brother and sister pairing protecting a princess as she goes on a quest isn’t new (Bones already did it before), Bones does do a good job at telling the story. There’s a good balance of humor, action, and intrigue, and that’s all I ask for. Maybe some meido fanservice. And better animation. That other Bones show this season does a much better job at animation.
(Everything the Acura siblings use their iron blood powers, I have to shout at the TV, “Did you pay the iron price? Or did you pay with gold?”)
(Mitigating factor: The whole government agency chasing them around… they seem more like a circus troupe than a secret agency. Their costumes also look like they are the loli X-Men.)
(Speaking of SAO, I got to play some Fighting Climax! while I was in Japan. It’s really basic and feels less polished than Guilty Gear X2. But it does feature an awesome anime cast. Where else can you pit Kirito against Kirino? I think if they expanded the cast and refined the moves a bit, it could be brought over stateside. The SAO and DRRR connections alone make it appealing. And after spending over a decade in California, I am not used to people smoking inside buildings.)
#7. Captain Earth
“Hope is believing tomorrow will be better than today.” Probably both the best and worst thing about Captain Earth is Star Driver. Seeing how most of the Captain Earth production staff is from kissing through the glass, there’s enough similar elements to make me wonder why the hell they didn’t just make Star Driver S2. They call Daichi the “Earth Driver” for Oharuhi-sama’s sake. Like what’s with “libido” again? And why is Daimidaler making better use of libido-powered mobile suits than the Star Driver team? And why does the Earth Engine have such a long and complicated launch sequence. It’s like four minutes long. I can only imagine the costs involve to launch it into near Earth orbit each time it is needed. And why bother disassembling it once it’s done with battle? And what’s with the weird fairy tale story– oh wait– that’s a different show this season. My bad.
Still, Captain Earth (much like Star Driver), is feast or famine. There are some great things about it (like Bones’ animation, the bonding between the four children, the fact all the characters are somehow interwined), and some really head scratching things too (like why is this space station so fucking huge and why is Salty Dog dude such Debbie Downer). I do wonder where the series will go. I guess that’s one thing if we’re thin slicing one episode, but I’ve watched one fourth of this season already. I just hope they do slice-of-life type episodes showing the four kids outside of aliens or conspiracy plots. Maybe they can go to WWDC or something.
(Star Driver/Captain Earth team is written by Yoji Enokido. He only wrote FLCL, Melopan of Oblivion, Nodame, Redline, Utena, and Sailor Moon. That’s a pretty solid resume. He’s teamed up with director Takuya Igarashi on a few of them. I just hope they name their next series, “Pilot Uranus.”)
(Now that I think about it… Melody of Oblivion had libido-powered weapons as well as a catch phrase, “BOKU NO MELOS!”. It all makes sense now… kiraboshi!)
“A tall, tall wall looms in front of me.” Production IG brings their animation talents to the volleyball court for Haikyuu!. The show follows almost all the traditional sports tropes to a tee– there’s the main character, who is spunky and full of confidence despite having a limitation, and his rival, who is cocky and seemingly perfect. There’s an a female manager as well as an absentee coach. The very mild twist is that both the main character and the rival end up together and on the same team. They then will make each other better and conquer the world of volleyball. So bromantic. What I like about Haikyuu! is that it actually gets the sports sequences right. It’s not a gross exaggeration as GJ-bu or a scenario that will never happen in real life like Prince of Tennis. It’s actually trying to be realistic. As for the short, plucky Hinata who loves to spike? Totally believable. These are they try hards who can win at high school but ultimately have to settle for the club level at college. Just how it works. And his “rival,” the settter, Kageyama, who has a constant Catsuki scowl on his face. Anyway, this series has what it takes to be a solid show: likeable characters, great animation (background characters that move?!?, sports action). I just hope it doesn’t drag on forever.
(Another trope: pairings in sports anime have to involve the battery. You never see the pitcher tied to the shortstop. It’s always to a slugging catcher, like in H2. And Kuroko‘s pairing is a guard with a power forward. It’s never a guard with another guard. Here, it’s the setter and the spiker.)
(I would love an Attack on Titan and Haikyuu! crossover. I’m not sure how it will work, but I’m sure it’ll be delightful. While I was in Japan, Attack on Titan was everywhere, mainly because of their crosspromotion with 7-11. The biggest difference between Taiwan and Japan was that Taiwan had Attack on Titan and Adventure Time everywhere. There’s even whole stores devoted to selling Adventure Time hoodies. There was no Adventure Time in Japan. Zip. Zilch. Nada. You’d think at least BMO would catch on.)
#5. Mekaku City Actors
“I’m shitposting about anime.” Mekaku City Actors‘ most important actor is Akiyuki Shinbo. I think getting Shaft to produce your anime is Russian Roulette. Sometimes, it works out really well and the show magically comes together– Madoka, Maria+Holic S1, ef, and Bakemonogatari are shining examples. I can’t see another studio on those shows. However, there’s the opposite where Shaft being Shaft hurts instead of helps. I think Mekaku City Actors is one of those shows. I think the concept of a hoodie gang with eye powers trying to avert some tragedy is a strong one. I think most of the characters are interesting. I even think that music is charming. However– and this is a big however– Shaft made the series look exactly like Monogatari. It’s like they ran out of fucking time and decided to re-use art assets or decided that Monogatari‘s unique flat style is a perfect fit for Mekaku. It’s not. I’d rather have the slightly more traditional art and backgrounds of Nisekoi or Madoka (heck, they fairy tale scenes are done in Madoka witch style anyway).
You can argue that Shaft’s style is at least interesting, but the issue is that you want the art to supplement the story, not overpower it. You go to an NFL game to watch the teams. You don’t go to the games to watch Ed Hochuli. Shaft is making you watch Ed Hochuli. And they’ve shown that they can do it. Madoka had it’s unique witch style complement the story, and it made sense within the story. How does Monogatari‘s flat style, Monogatari‘s virtually empty city (seriously, have these people even been to Tokyo before?), and Monogatari‘s ridiculous architecture fit into Mekaku City Actors? Despite Shaft being Shaft, I am enjoying the show. I just hope the adaptation doesn’t fall apart like it did for the end of Monogatari S2 when Shaft ran out of time.
(This is also where thin slicing would have helped… episodes one through three were excellent. Episode five felt like Monogatari S2. There’s 17 more episodes left. What are they going to more resemble? One through three? Or Five?)
(Concerning episode four: tutturuu~)
#4. Nanana’s Buried Treasure
Satelight & C2C
“Not needing sleep is the ultimate skill of an internet junkie!” Nanana’s Buried Treasure (Ryuugajou Nanana no Maizoukin) is yet another show this season that has a sketchy name. I’m sure Juugo wants to find her buried treasure if you know what I mean, hehehe. Anywho, the series starts off with probably the silliest intro sequence of any show this season: Nanana and her friends tomb raiding while wearing sailor fuku. (Again, Square-Enix, you’re sitting on a potential gold mine. Sailor fuku DLC for Tomb Raider.) It’s like a classic late 90s anime moment. The whole concept of the show seems ridiculous: Nanana has buried a treasure, turned into a ghost (what’s with A-1 and ghosts?), and forces a poor harem lead to acquire said treasure. Even with the ridiculous premise, I enjoyed the show quite a bit. There’s a loli cross between Taiga and Sherlock Holmes in Tensai, yes, her name means “Genius.” There’s Nanana, a pudding-addicted ghost, who enjoys Terraria, and the classic Misato-class landlord. The show and cast moves along fairly quickly, and if you go along with the nonsense, it becomes quite a bit of fun. While the puzzles could use a little work, the show at least tries to inject them with humor as well. The show is nonsense, but it’s fun and a quick watch. Plus, A-1’s animation is fantastic. Even if the architecture is ridiculous (seriously, who the hell builds a huge skyscraper mall on a twelve year old island), at least it’s well-drawn and features a city populated with people.
(Of course, I enjoyed the trap meido scene. “From that reaction, I assume you’re into meido.” It’s one of my favorite scenes thus far in the season.)
(Honestly, from Mekaku on, I had a hard time ordering the shows. It literally changed week to week, which probably didn’t help the speed of thin slicing. I have an episode of Mekaku and an episode of Nanana… what do I watch first? Grrr… if only I had a list or ranking for it… andohbytheway, this is a much better situation than last season when I decided against awarding a #1.)
#3. Mushishi Zoku-Sho
Animation Studio Artland
Hey, let’s take an anime series that you enjoyed a lot from 2005 and… uh… continue it! With the same everything, including animation production values. I’ll take it! Mushishi continues to be Mushishi, Ginko continues to be Ginko, and all’s right with the world. It’s still a low-key, high-thought series about wonder, us, nature, life, death, and everything in between. There’s plenty of morality plays as well as mortality plans. Mushishi is one of the reasons that I love anime: it’s a diverse enough genre that it supports this kind of storytelling. Though, seriously Artland, it wouldn’t hurt to up the production values a bit…
(To give you an idea of how long ago Mushishi aired, the first season of Mushishi aired summer 2005. My first thin slicing was fall 2005.)
#2. No Game No Life
“This game is utter crap.” I think if it were a normal thin slicing, I would have submarined No Game No Life. The first episode is a total mess: the instagrammy color saturation is an eye sore, the pacing is too fast too furious, Tet explaining the rules is terribly done, and Blank has blank personality. But the show (quickly) becomes a fun ride. So what if some of the plot points are a bit weak or that the games are a bit silly? The show is fun. I like watching Shiro and Sora work their magic and win. It’s like watching BBC’s Sherlock, if Sherlock Holmes had no enemies. Imagine a slice-of-life featuring a high functioning sociopath. Anyway, everything I complained about earlier fuels No Game No Life: the colors are growing on me (Madhouse!), the fast pace is actually quite enjoyable, the rules are in the easy to understand/impossible to master category much like Dota, and Blank is quickly becoming my favorite brother/sister team since Wataru/Aria thru Yotsuba. They even have the same, “Are they blood related?!” vibe. Even the quick hitting puns (Imanity? Disboard?) and gags are enjoyable. In toss gratuitous fanservice (thank Oharuhi-sama for Steph being Steph… and, yes, I loved it when Shiro points out that Steph is, in fact, being Steph), and the show is a winner.
(Another thing I enjoy… iPhones and iPads used to good effect! ZOMG! Though why do a hikikomori couple who live in complete darkness have a solar charger on them?)
(Mitigating factor: The first episode of Gargantia is a mess too and possibly worse than this show’s. However, both shows had just enough hook to make me want to watch the second episode… and… yeah… sometimes, it’s a thin slicing hunch that maybe there’s more that warrants more than just a first glance.)
(Double mitigating factor: Can I really rank a show that trotted out a Skyrim “arrow to the knee” reference? I guess I can. Man, the episode against Jibril was brilliant. Even though the game was complete nonsense, Sora’s masterful manipulating was clever, and it gave a reason to show Sora and Shiro making out like AC Slater and Jessie Spano. Add to that the metagame where Blank won the game against the censors… I took away their nipples! CENSOR THIS! HAHAHAHA!)
#1. Ping Pong
“Hard work is for chumps with no talent.” I like Ping Pong a lot. I might even ask it to prom. Tatsunoko’s production values are off the charts. I love the rotoscoping (much easier on the eyes than Aku no Hana), the characters, the ping pong (sports anime has to get the sports down pat… and not feature high school girls scoring 400 combined points in a basketball game), and the sound. The fucking sound. The sound effects are excellent, the Mandarin is excellent, but, most of all, the sound is put to good use in plot context as well. Listen to the noises when Smile plays. Tatsunoko nailed every aspect of anime production (except maybe going for the artsy OP instead of sticking with the reuse footage filler OP of the first two episodes… which I kinda liked). The only downside to this show is that if you watched the great live-action movie, you know what’s going to happen. But… who the fuck cares? Enjoy some mighty fine anime.
Also, the director, Masaaki Yuasa, is directing the June 2nd episode of Adventure Time. Apparently, Pendleton Ward just gave him free reign for an episode. I fully expect rotoscoped Finn and as well a Kaiba-like trippy dream sequence. My body is ready. I just hope it’s nothing like the terrible Kick-Heart that was featured at Akihabara’s Animation Museum. Seriously? They couldn’t fit a real anime museum or exhibit in Akiba One? The closest thing Japan has to a real anime museum is the Ghibli one, which isn’t enough. I would love a real museum with exhibits about the harem genre, old timey cel animation, and Shaft being Shaft. Until then, sadly, the closest thing to that would be Mandrake…
(Kaio = Cobra Kai of table tennis.)
(Ben over at Cartoon Brew is doing a good job at recapping the series.)
(I should really do a Best of Noitamina post someday. They have featured such a wide variety of anime that it’s a really sizable collection. Though I think I like the block better when it goes for shows a bit outside the norm and go for a bit older audience… Ping Pong, Kids on a Slope, Princess Jellyfish over C, Galilei Donna (seriously!?), and Black Rock Shooter any day.)
Strongest season in a while. It’s every stronger than the phenomenal summer 2013 season that sent five series to Best of 2013 including #1 overall Free!. Usually when a season starts, I dread watching a lot of the shows because of how terrible they are. This season, there’s a lot of good shows and surprises. Nanana, NGNL, and The World Is Still Beautiful came out of nowhere. Ping Pong exceeded my expections. Mushishi matched them. Mekaku is a bit disappointing because of the hype and Shaft being Shaft. Captain Earth sorely disappointed me: I miss Star Driver‘s Eyes Wide Shut homages. Plus, that’s with Kyoto, PA Works, Sunrise (!?!), and Trigger sitting out this season. And I am glad that the moe boom is over, the magic boom hopefully is plateauing, and I wouldn’t mind a good scifi mecha series. I hope that the instagrammy filters will not catch on. Though I hope with Mushishi‘s success, studios will consider revisting older franchises worth revisiting. I’m sure both Kino and Shigofumi are missed and could easily continue where they left off (and, really, JC Staff… do you have anything better than Shigofumi up their sleeves at this point?). Enjoy the season… whatever remains of it.