“I do it for love.”
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.
A twist for this season: For over the past year, I’ve been applying the Bechdel test to the first episode of shows. I don’t think the test itself is equipped for anime, as anime, by far, as a genre, has more all-women casts than any other genre. Sitcoms? Drama? Sports? We got them all beat. There are literally dozens of shows where not one penis shows up. So I’ve come up with another test: the BS test. Three criteria that mimics Bechdel. One, are there two male characters with at least equal chance of boning a haremette? (Nisekoi would fail on this point as Shu, as loveable as he is, has no chance with any of the haremettes.) Two, do the male characters talk to each other about a plot point? Three, the male character has to be a human. Simple, hun? Do you think more shows will pass Bechdel or BS this season?
Quick recap from last season: SAAAAAAABER! FAAAAAAAVARO! AAAAAAANGE! CHIAAAAAAAAKA! AAAAAAASUNA! LOOK AT THE SKY IT’S MAGIC HOUR!
#MR IRRELEVANT. Isuca
“She’s having her life force taken in exchange for the ultimate pleasure.”
I waited for Isuca to air before finishing up thin slicing. Ugh. Why does this show need to exist? This show is bad, bad, bad. Despite airing last this season, it has some of the worst… everything. The animation is terrible, almost Yu-Gi-Oh! levels bad. The characters are also so poorly designed that the male lead looks exactly like background characters from mediocre shows. Just very bland design. The plot of hunting demons… well… it’s been done before. Like hundreds of times. The “original” bit they add is that the demons suck your life force by making you orgasm, which led to this show’s awkward glowing vagina scene. The male lead is a moron, and the female lead is a sad attempt at a tsundere character. I really can’t think of any reason to watch this show other than if you want to be a Mystery Science Theater 3000 for anime and are deep into your twentieth season looking for a show to make fun of.
There’s also some weird logical moments for the characters. The male lead almost gets killed by a demon posing as a young girl. The next day, he goes to school unable to forget about the incident. He stumbles across the female lead who is demon hunting. Then he finds a mysterious young girl out in the open. He then tries to protect the young girl saying that she cannot possibly be a demon… wait, didn’t you just get attacked by a young girl posing as a demon last night? Of course, the girl turns into a demon. Three minutes later, he finds yet another mysterious young girl in the wood. You know what his reaction is? She isn’t a demon! Of course, she’s another demon. Sigh.
(Fails Bechdel and BS. The two guys only talked about the female lead.)
#18. Sengoku Musou
I don’t know where to begin with Samurai Warriors. I really don’t. I dazed off during the episode, and my notes for the show consist of just one word, “Lacrosse”. I’m sure it means something and that I’m not currently trapped in an M. Night Shyamalan screenplay. Last season, somehow, against all odds, Rage of Bahamut went from a shitty f2p iOS game into a halfway decent anime with monster production values. When everyone was busy having masturbatory conversations about how well ufotable is doing with UBW, Mappa was lighting it up with Rage of Bahamut. Favaro and Kaisar were great, and that show featured incredible animation and plenty of FAAAAAAAVARO! Sengoku Musou features none of that. It’s just a badly timed, badly drawn, badly written, badly conceptualized anime.
The animation is terrible. It feels like the show came out of 2002 with a lot of speed lines and very little motion. The character designs are totally confusing as, ridiculous ornaments aside, some characters look like traditional Japanese characters while others look like cartoons yet others look like they are forming a boy band. There’s no consistent visual character language. It’s like nine different character designers worked on this show, and they could not agree to a consistent style. All the armor is also asymmetrical as I guess samurais only get attacked on either their left or right side but never both. The story is about the same level as 1980s WWF. It’s bad. I especially like the part when Sanada charges a fort and literally hundreds of gunmen could not hit him with a gun. Instead, he dodges all of them and slams his spear into the ground, destroying the gate. Seeing it in anime just makes it seem even more ridiculous than in the game.
Every single warring states period anime has featured either the generals turned into loli haremettes (i.e. Sengoku Collection) or some ridiculous fabulous contest with or without flaming exhaust pipes on horses (i.e. Basara). I would like to see a gritty Game of Thrones-type re-imagining of the warring states period. Like serious political and character intrigue with shades of grey and not just good vs. evil or brother vs. brother. Anime storytelling is all too trapped in its tropes sometimes, but when a show does come along and tries to tell a story instead of telling a trope (like Barakamon), the story is all better for it. This show wouldn’t be the last time I wonder if a more modern Games of Thrones-esque treatment wouldn’t be an evolutionary step for a certain genre. There’s plenty of anime to go around for everyone. Don’t be threatened that I want something other than yet another bad magical school or girls as military equipment show. For the warring states genre, I think I would welcome that more than yet another loli version of Oda Nobunaga.
(I’m just puzzled why Koei would think 2015 is a good time for a Samurai Warriors anime. 2007? Totally understandable. 2015? Not so much. Is this supposed to promote their SW4 GOTY edition or something? And who cares about the franchise at this point? A Crossy Road anime would make more sense in 2015.)
(Fails Bechdel. Passes BS in fabulous colors.)
#17. Assassination Classroom
“How’d we end up like this?”
I watched the original OVA for Assassination Classroom, and it was terrible. So much so I thought it was guaranteed to get a full anime series. And the TV series is no better: the premise that an alien or government-made creature (depending on your POV) has to get killed by his students, or he destroys the earth. Simple enough. No little sister romances or giant mecha pilots being brought back from the dead seems like a good start except there’s some big flaws.
One, everything with the alien teacher, Koro-sensei, is a deus ex machina. He literally pulls out not dying from his ass with nonsense gibberish like, “Ha ha! You can’t kill me because at exactly 12:05, I shed my skin automatically! This makes me more powerful than the Kraken from Evolve for precisely 100 milliseconds!” The show is filled with that kind of nonsense. Secondly, all the characters suck. The teacher is borderline asshat slash bully, and not in a charming Onizuka way. The students are all tropes and caricatures. None of them are remotely originally. Third, the whole premise is convoluted. Okay, it’s a prestigious school that everyone wants to get in, but once they are in, they find themselves in a mountain campus with rejects? What kind of prestigious school has that? Is there a reject campus for Stanford in the Sierra Nevadas? Is there a reject campus for MIT in South Carolina? What is this? And why do the kids need to kill him with special weapons? If they need a solid 10 minutes to explain the convoluted scenario to me, maybe it’s not worth a story. Four, Koro-sensei, who wishes to blow up the earth after blowing up our moon, lectures someone about using suicide bombing techniques in trying to kill him. Um, dude, you’re about to kill a few billion people. There’s a lot of mixed moral messages in the show. I know the show wants the teacher to turn into an Onizuka-type that redeems the students, and then he doesn’t blow up the earth… but it’s just boring and lame.
(Fate has the same convoluted story issue. The Holy Grail War has way too many special exceptions and rules. If Caster can go, “Fuck you guys, I’m going to get my own Grail with hookers and blackjack,” maybe we should re-evaluate the story. In fact, I fully support Caster getting hookers and blackjack.)
(Mach 20?! He would totally blow up the classroom if he could move around at mach 20 inside the classroom dodging bullets. Please, anime, I am totally willing to accept this alien teacher who can move at mach 20, but at least make the physics make sense. There should be many sonic booms ripping up the classroom and reducing it to rubble.)
(Fails Bechdel. Passes BS.)
#16. Unlimited Fafnir
“He’s a D first and a man second.”
Unlimited Fafnir makes Cross Ange look like To Kill a Mockingbird. Both shows are almost identical in concept: dragons from another world are attacking our world and the only defense against them is an army of girls based on a tropical island. In Fafnir, the girls have magical powers (The D) while others do not have powers whereas in Ange, the girls have no powers while normal people do have magical powers. In both shows, only women can be abnormal, and, surprise, in both shows there is a male character is who is also abnormal. Also, fanservice. At least Ange has interesting character dynamics and a sphere of plot lines that do not involve the male lead. In Fafnir, everything revolves around the male character’s D. Plus, the animation and design of Fafnir is horrendous. The “transformation” sequence where each girl summons her D powers to manifest her weapon is poorly conceived and doesn’t work well visually. The weapons themselves are all boring. Wow, she has a shield. The other girl gets a bow. And another one gets a sword. How imaginative. Of course, every battle sequence must feature a flying projectile flung at a girl, with shield girl rushing to block it at the last moment. Furthermore, the music is some of the worst of the season. You know what goes with poorly drawn fanservice harem dragon anime? 80’s ass rock.
(The first scene involves the male lead stumbling across the heroine naked on the beach. I know naked female/clothed male is a traditional Japanese greeting, but isn’t this a bit ridiculous? They are in a war zone. I can’t wait for the light novel version of Dune where chapter one features Paul stumbling across Chani as she takes off her stillsuit.)
(The writers must be aware at The D means something in English, right? “Can you show us your D powers?” has a certain meaning that doesn’t necessarily mean, “Hey, can you do magic and fight a dragon?”)
(Fails Bechdel and BS.)
#15. Shinmai Maou no Testament
“Maria tricks Basara and Mio to form a master-slave magical contract that allows them to know each other’s location. But, Maria unexpectedly makes Basara the master and Mio the slave, not the other way around. Because Maria used Succubus magic to form the contract, the penalty for a disloyal servant is a strong aphrodisiac effect that can only be relieved by the touch of the master, leading to orgasmic release.”
That’s from the Wikipedia entry for Shinmai Maou no Testament. Somewhere, Shakespeare is spinning in his grave that he didn’t think to write a comedy about succubus who fucked up a contract leading to her master turned into an orgasmic pin cushion. The show is actually not that bad. The animation, while piss poor, does properly perfectly convey the “This anime is only here to sell model toys” nature of the show. There are many moments when the animation will whisk you back to 1999. The costume design is also pretty good. The male lead always wears a boring jersey T-shirt so the character designer can focus more time and effort on the ladies. The succubus, Maria, is a DFC wrapped in leather belts. The demon queen turned slave, Mio, always wears shirts and dresses that form fits to her melonpan (how is this possible with cotton?!). The show begs us to forget about the character with a penis and focus instead on the character with a large bosom. Maou no Testament also features magic! Everyone loves magic, right? Okay, okay, the show is bad. It’s just another bad ecchi harem comedy in a sea of bad ecchi harem comedies. If you want fanservice or bad demon vs. heroes stories, there are better choices. I’m just amazed that this franchise has seven light novels and counting.
(I feel like making Maria not only a demon queen but also a little sister character a bit too much. That’s like a cronut. Combining a croissant with a donut seems like a good idea until you realized you waited in line since 6am to buy a $6 pastry that isn’t as subtle or intricate as a croissant yet isn’t as scrumptious or glutinous as a donut. Instead, the donutness ruins the croissantness and vice-versa. That’s what happens when you try to jam as many tropes into a single character. Watch, Maria will eventually turn out to be demon queen, little sister, and childhood friend all rolled up in one bouncy haremette. And don’t even get me started on Wonuts…)
(I could not decide which show I rather watch less, Testament or Fafnir. I think I would watch Testament more just because it doesn’t feature Yoshitsugu Matsuoka, the Japanese Troy Baker.)
(Fails Bechdel and BS.)
#14. World Break: Aria of Curse for a Holy Swordsman
“I want you to become saviors that can break down the metaphysical.”
Seiken Tsukai no World Break is yet another terrible magic school light novel. Can people write about anything else?! Another terrible light novel turned anime featuring subpar character designs, poor animation, and confusing plot. Once again, the male lead is tossed into a magic school, and his powers are just a bit different than everyone else’s. I guess the twist for this show featuring a male harem lead in a magic school is that everyone seems to be reincarnated with memories of their previous lives. Like any other light novel about magic schools, it is supposedly a prestigious institute, only the teachers and staff are terrible. They show off using their spirit weapons, their Plana, and then tell the students to summon theirs, only they haven’t explained how. A student asks the teacher, and he’s like, “Well, I shouldn’t have to tell you. Any idiot can do this.” Thanks, teach.
(Fails Bechdel and BS. Female characters too fixated on male lead’s penis. Male characters basically non-existent.)
#13. Absolute Duo
“Do you expect rationality in a school that forces a fight in the opening ceremony?”
There’s just too much light novel trash going on in Absolute Duo. Yes, it’s about a magic school. Yes, it features male protagonist with a power dissimilar to everyone else at the school. Yes, it features females tossing themselves at him hoping for some of his sperm. Yes, it features ridiculous reasons for fighting. All of these light novel shows are basically the same. They all range on a scale from 1 to Index with most of them unable to cross the Shana threshold. This show makes up crap, and it can’t seem to remember the crap it makes up. Okay, it’s a highly prestigious school that everyone wants to attend. Except the school makes everyone partner up and fight so only half the students actually make it in. Wait, wouldn’t people have leaked this info? No one knows that the school operates like that? If Cornell made their students fight to the death on the first day of class, wouldn’t at least one person tweet or Facebook about it? Then there’s the whole magic system, Blaze, which is people pulling weapons from their asses. The explain that the weapons are not dangerous and will not kill it, only injure our spirit. But the weapons are seen destroying buildings and roads. Um, right.
The animation from 8-bit is also substandard with really inconsistent settings. Sometimes, there would be plenty of people around. It would cut to show no one around, and then cut again with plenty of people around. It’s like if the key animators never spoke to each other, and the animation director was too busy playing mahjong to check the key frames. The character designs are all boring and lackluster. The architecture choices seems to be someone who has a hard on for European architecture, except they’ve never been to Europe.
(The bunny girl meido teacher whose character design looks really out of place? Sigh.)
(And we are finally out of the terrible light novel district. I think I may drop all magic school light novel shows from thin slicing in the future. They’re just always so bad now.)
(Fails Bechdel. Passes BS.)
#12. Death Parade
“Let me hit her! Dammit let me hit her!”
The show’s first story basically features a man who feels justified in beating his wife because she cheated on him. Then a mysterious man decides that the wife should go to hell while the husband goes to heaven since the transgression of adultery outweighs abuse. Of course, the mysterious man is working with a mysterious woman, who did not agree with his verdict. But tough luck. The husband went to heaven, and the wife went to hell. Death Parade/Death Billiards has issues beyond gender bias. For one, it is way too heavy-handed. If Mushishi or Shigofumi are trying to point across by whispering it to you, Death Parade is trying to convey the message via a Detroit Metal City concert. There is nothing subtle about the show. It tells you what to think. The way “evidence” is presented is basically a serious of “Objections!” Phoenix Wright style. Before the previous revelation has had time to sink in, more revelations! And the whole format of two people enter purgatory, one goes to heaven and the other to hell is just heavy handed in itself. Why can’t both go to hell? Why can’t both go to heaven?
(Fashion Czar’s review: “Dammit Scarlett Letter bullshit. Fuck you anime.”)
(Have you seen The Fall? In it, Agent Dana Scully comments that men are afraid of women because a woman might laugh at them… but women are afraid of men because a man might kill them. Let that sink in as you watch Takashi become fearful that Machiko is laughing at their marriage while Machiko is afraid that Takashi is going to beat her skull in. And, of course, Machiko, along with her baby, are dragged to hell.)
(Speaking of British dramas, now that Downtown Abbey has passed its Code Geass inflection point and went from train wreck bad but enjoyable to just terribad, I needed a new British drama to watch. Enter Broadchurch. Most people think Broadchurch is a who done it murder mystery… well… that’s just window dressing. The show features David Tennant as quite possibly the world’s worst detective. I feel like if Sherlock arrived at Broadchurch, everything would have been solved in five minutes… heck, Dora the Fucking Explorer could have solved the fucking case. The whole murder mystery aspect is also not really the show’s strong point. Instead, the show is about vignettes into the lives of the residents of Broadchurch: their pathetic, hopeless lives because they live at a tiny town with no hope of bettering themselves. Everyone tries to find happiness in their dreary existence in different ways, whether it’s drugs or adultery or pedophilia or bullying or God… and it never brings anyone actual happiness. It is interesting that no character tries to find happiness by bettering themselves or helping others better themselves. I also enjoy David Tennant’s terrible haircut.)
(As much as I enjoyed 90210, bringing it back was probably a wrong decision. The times have changed. You used to be able to devote an entire hour to Brandon dating a black volleyball player. That won’t fly anymore unless it involves Brandon dating a black volleyball player but cheating on her with the star cornerback while secretly hiring North Korea to hack the high school’s servers. It’s also why I don’t think I want to see Duchovny and Anderson back on The X-Files. They weren’t in a happy place after I Want To Believe. The only way The X-Files can work today is if Duchovy plays Mulder a la Hank Moody where he’s a carefree womanizer and Anderson plays Scully a la Stella Gibson where she is a no nonsense cop who isn’t afraid to seduce her underlings. I just can’t see 1990 Mulder and Scully being relevant in 2015.)
(Mitigating factor: Plenty of emo facial distortions.)
(Fails Bechdel and BS. Basically had only 3 characters interacting all the time.)
#11. Fafner in the Azure: Dead Aggressor: Exodus
“Why did we fight?”
Fafner originally aired in 2004, eleven years ago. Since then, it has had an OVA as well as a movie. But, still, eleven years is a long time, and I barely remember the show beyond, “Hey, everyone looks like Gundam Seed characters.” That might be my main issue with the show: the all look like early 2000s characters, and they all look pretty much the same, except the obvious American who has a round nose instead of a pointy one. Apparently, this series is a continuation of the original Dead Aggressor, and it tosses the viewer into the world without a chance to really adjust to it. Eleven years is a long time. XEBEC should have put a little more effort into refreshing our memories than trying to get into yet another mecha combat scenario.
Originally, I considered Fafner the poor man’s Gundam Seed trying to be Eva, and I still feel that way. While the animation has gotten better, the story is still meh. I don’t remember the last time I wondered in the past eleven years, “Man, I wish I had more Fafner to watch.” If you liked the original, you’ll probably like this, though with the introduction of more mind-reading lolis, who knows? Maybe it’ll be like subpar Darker than Black sequel. If you haven’t seen the original, go watch that before this. Duh.
(Mitigating factor: If Exodus ends with all the pilots holding a concert, then jumping on well-drawn non-CG horses, and then flying off in the sunset in a propeller plane? Anime of the Year.)
(Passes both Bechdel and BS. Good job!)
#10. Binan Koukou Chikyuu-bu Love!
“Isn’t cuddling great?”
I’m amazed Cute High Earth Defense Club Love got made in the current geopolitical anime climate. With shows needing to appeal to the hardcore audience to survive, what is the core audience of this show? Diomedea should know this lesson well as their other show this season is nothing but pandering to an established hardcore audience. This show’s a comedy slash parody slash manservice series about boys being magical girls. This mishmash was tried in Kore wa Zombie Desu Ka? but that leaned towards appealing towards male viewers who want comedy. This series features Free!-type manservice except not as well drawn as Kyoto’s manservice.
Everything is low tier on this show. The animation and production are equivalent to Tenchi Muyo GXP, which aired in 2005 and that wasn’t good then (still better than Sailor Moon Crystal). The story is very basic and filled with one dimensional characters. The jokes are bland and about the level of Homeboys in Outer Space. Yet, there’s just a stupid charm to the show. It’s like you have to respect someone making a show that revolved around chikuwabu for a solid eight minutes that features boys doing their best Sailor Moon impression. It’s a dumb show I don’t mind having on in the background, like all those shows about people buying luggage or storage units at auction and finding junk inside.
(Fashion Czar’s review: “I’m glad this show exists, but I’m not sure if I want to watch another episode.” We’ve watched every episode thus far.)
(Oh gosh, why doesn’t this show have a common abbreviated name? Like BiLove? Then I realized no one gives a shit about this show.)
#9. Yatterman Night
“We will give Yatterman a forehead flicking!”
I was confused by Yatterman Night. I thought the show was originally a comedy kids show where the good Yatterman fought the bad Doronbow gang through space and time… instead, I got a dystopic, depressing future that felt like a generation away from Casshern Sins. The premise, though, seems to be that the Yatterman have prevailed, and instead of an awesomely utopic world, it is a complete dystopia where everyone is afraid of the Yatterman. This is where the Doronbow gang rises and tries to break free of the Yatterman rule. Okay… it’s an interesting premise, but I have one big issue: the show cannot decide if it is a comedy or a bleak drama series. On one hand, the ringleader is a nine year old loli. On the other hand, there is some sinister evil Yatterman government shit going down. Yet back on the original hand, the true star of the show is a talking pig named “Oda-sama.” Still, on the other hand of the other hand, people are dying left and right– how fun or comedic is death by starvation? One moment, the gang is eating maple tree leaves because there’s no other food. In the next moment, they are piloting a giant forehead flicking mecha that looks exactly like something Team Rocket would come up with. They don’t have food, yet they can build a complicated, ridiculous mecha? The show is interesting, and I like the take where the Yatterman are evil.
Animation production from Tatsunoko is okay. Seems like a low to medium budget affair with sparse animation, boring backgrounds, and a lot of still shots. I think Oda-sama is the best animated character. One thing I do like about this show is that they show things rather than flat out explain. I dislike it when a show just explains everything like a Wikipedia entry instead of showing us the world… Yatterman starts off slow, but it takes the time to show the viewer the world rather than explaining every nuance via monologues. I appreciate it.
(Another anime with its moon destroyed.)
(Passes both Bechdel and BS. Awesome!)
#8. How To Raise A Boring Girlfriend
“Winning formulas work because people love them.”
Saenai Hiroin no Sodatekata, SaeKano, or “How To Train An Ordinary Girl Into a Heroine” feels a bit different when translated to “How to Raise A Boring Girlfriend” via Aniplex. I’m a bit confused about the show. The show is yet another anime about people trying to make a video game, but it seems self-aware of the tropes and pitfalls of such a show. At one point, a haremette even points that the explaining shit with a monologue is lame, and the male lead continues to narrate an overly long monologue. I’m not sure if the show is just pointing out an endless parade of tropes and purposefully falling into them? Or did it want to fall into them as sort of a meta-commentary on the tropes? I find it odd that a show would be self-aware to wonder if there’s too much fanservice start off with a hot bath scene involving quite a bit of nakedness. It’s like the show wants to subvert the genre, yet it can’t stop being subverted itself. In this whole meta genre, I Can’t Understand What My Husband Is Saying does more in three minutes than this show does in thirty– at least that show tries to put a spin on the tropes… plus it has Destiny Fucker, best character name of 2014 hands down. It’s like the light novel author willingly gave into the trope temptation because of the money. And maybe that’s what the show is: a commentary that only tropes sell, therefore it is going hog wild in them, Oda-sama be damned.
I think the show would work better if it subverted the tropes instead of embracing them (duh). Do I need to see another harem show where busty haremettes toss themselves at the loser male lead? Except in this one they know how silly it is, yet they still do it? I guess it’s an improvement. If the gimmick of this show is that it is self-aware, it needs to do more with it. It can’t just announce a trope and then do it. That just feels like a wasted opportunity. SaeKano could have been a great show, but instead it becomes yet another harem series. There’s some clever dialogue that just gets wasted, like the rant about how big-headed anime blogger can be, “You big league bloggers sure talk different.” I have a blog! I write about Amagi Brilliant Park! I mean something! Maybe… please… *sob*
A-1’s animation is a bit spotty for this one. It’s like their animators are still tired from SAO. I’m not a big fan of when the outline piping color changes, and there’s a bit too many still images.
(The Troy Baker effect: you know how it seems like every other video game features Troy Baker? Because he’s a talented voice actor who has a great voice. Except you end up hearing it everywhere from The Last of Us to Lego Batman to Shadows of Mordor to WildStar to Saints Row to BioShock Infinite? Well, the Japanese version is Yoshitsugu Matsuoka, who basically started getting big roles in 2011 and has only amped up since. He does have a distinctive voice, much like Troy, and you probably know him best for Kirito. Well, if you like his voice, get ready for a lot more of it. SaeKano, Absolute Duo, and Fafnir (not Fafner) have him doing his Kirito voice as the male lead for just this season. Toss in roles for Shirobako and Yowamushi Pedal, that’s five shows where Yoshitsugu has major speaking roles this season where he sounds the same. Next season? He is voicing the male lead for three more shows that we know of. He is even more prolific than Troy Baker at this rate.)
(Also, at this point, I’m convinced I can write a light novel. It’s like for a light novel, all we need is either a shitty club featuring slightly broken haremettes and a spineless male lead or some sort of magic school that features the haves and have nots. Though I still haven’t given up my idea for a series: Moe of the Dead. K-On! meets zombies. Slice of life with maturing in a dystopic zombie-fueled future.)
(Passes Bechdel. Fails BS.)
#7. Kantai Collection
“I heard you were one of those special type destroyers so I thought you would be scary.”
I will say Kantai Collection is growing on me. If it is just another military moe show, I’m not interested. If it is a dark military moe show, maybe I’m in. I’m hoping that the show is either about WWII where the girls are fighting against something standing in for America (hence why all the monster fleets are commanded by white skinned blonde girls), or it becomes like Basilisk or Mai Hime where people die until there’s just a handful at the end. I’m hoping for Mai Hime. I’m also glad the show doesn’t try for any realism– it’s just bonkers insane. So a new girl destroyer is tossed into battle without any training… she doesn’t get any instruction for battle from the school, so her friends have to teach her… the girls as ships look like bad Halloween costumes… the whole girls as ships things… the arrows that turn into aircraft.. the adorable midgets piloting the aircraft (my favorite part of the show)… where the hell do the girls keep their torpedoes? You know what? The show doesn’t fucking care. It just wants to show cute battleship girls being sunk. It’s not like other military moe shows (like the horrible girls as guns one or the other girls as ships one) where they try to ground it in reality. Nope. The show doesn’t even try to explain (or apologize) any of this shit except, “Hey, they have souls of ships.” The show is like Polar Bear Cafe in that it’s past weird. It’s past “Wait, did Polar Bear Cafe really outsell Amagi Brilliant Park?” to “Wait, did KanColle just surpass Hello Kitty, Hatsune Miku, and Pikachu as Japan’s largest moe export?”
The show is also intriguing that pretty much all of the ships are ships that were famously sunk in WWII. Kisaragi was the second major Japanese ship sunk, for example. Akagi and Kaga are two of the aircraft carriers sunk at Midway (which coincidentally is the name of the ninth episode of KanColle). The well-endowed secretary ship carrying the hopes and dreams of Japanese sailors, the Yuki Nagato, was sunk as part of the Bikini Atoll nuclear tests. It would chronologically be one of the last ships to be sunk, but sunk in a way… uh… what’s the opposite of going down fighting?
Production values are high. There’s some weird choices between CG and drawn art, but overall it’s Diomedéa’s best looking show of the season. They put a lot of effort into the production of the Third Girls Aerial Squad. I kinda of wish that the school uniforms would make more sense, as they make zero sense right now beyond, “We just want to give each girl her own uniform, except for the unlucky few who have to share.” Also I’m positive that the show is employing almost half the female seiyuus in the industry. It is a large cast.
(Diomedéa is running four shows this season. How is this possible? They have done four shows in total since 2012.)
(Passes Bechdel. Fails BS. The only “male” character is the Command-in-Chief who orders the girls around, and we never see his face. When we do have his vision, he stares at the melonpan of the secretary ships a lot. Anime is such a great counterargument to the Bechdel test.)
6. The Rolling Girls
Remember when I was making fun of Sengoku Basara because its writer’s previous projects were Bible Black, Body Transfer, Angels in the Court, City of Sin, and the unforgettable Bible Black Origins? Well, from the mastermind, Yasuyuki Moto, behind Bible Black and Basara comes The Rolling Girls. Despite sounding like hentai, The Rolling Girls is a cute slice of life drama that has a bit of everything: friendship, hand-to-hand mortal combat, music, and politics. It’s a voyage of discovery and maturing for the characters in a futuristic Japan that isn’t necessary better or worse than the one now. This early on, I’m not sure where the story is heading. If it can become some sort of K-On! meets Kino’s Travels meets Durarara!!, then that would be spectacular. Right now, there are a few head scratching moments like what exactly are the rules for combat? Is it like Robot Jocks? And the Best and the Rest isn’t that well-explained, but I’m willing to give the show the benefit of the doubt and a few more episodes to smooth things out as it has been hinting at maybe something more sinister at the heart of this new world.
The hook that got me interested in this series is that Wit Studio’s animation is fantastic. Everything– backgrounds, characters, motions– are so vibrant and colorful that the show just feels optimistic. I really like the look of the world. It’s the exact opposite feeling I get watching Wit’s most famous work, Attack on Titan. Then I realized that the art director previously worked on K-On! and Haruhi Suzumiya. Kyoto’s current art director for Kyoukai and Amagi worked on backgrounds for almost all of their previous shows. Whenever I think about background artists, I just think of the cloud dude from Shirobako. Shirobako is just turning it up right now. It feels like a show where the staff is having fun making it, and it shows. I’m going back thinking about last season and how enjoyable it was… I’m not sure if Fate/Stay Night even cracks top five for last season. Just wow.
(Mitigating factor: I think I would like this show a lot more if I knew Japanese geography better. They made quick references to places, prefectures, and cities in Japan, and I have no clue where any of them are. Um, I know where Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka are… and that’s about it.)
(Passes Bechdel. Fails BS. Not enough male characters and zero lead male characters.)
“You have changed. You can make polite small talk now.”
How long did that polite small talk last? One episode before Inaho was calling Inko fat? I enjoyed the original Aldnoah.Zero because it seemed like a competent series. The first battle against Trillram was nuanced and exciting and showed off Inaho’s wits. All seemed to go well until A-1 shredded Urobuchi’s notes and decided to have Sunrise take over production… because… well… do we really need Inaho and the princess to be alive? And another princess who is wheelchair-bound? And give Inaho a magic eye that lets you weigh girls plus see if they are lying? He’s turned into Lulu plus Orange-kun into one. Then I realized it. Inaho, with his bionic eye, has turned into a Google Glasshole. Nooooooo! Next thing we know, he’ll be insisting that the Deucalion is turned into a white bus.
There’s just so many hand-washy aspects of the show now. Besides Inaho and Asseylum not dying. The new princess Lemrina that no one seems to know about yet can power Aldnoah? The fact the earth forces manage to build a space station when they were getting their asses kicked in just 19 months? The martian kataphracts that flying in space like the ones from Knights of Sidonia? The Deucalion can be powered by Inaho because he got Asseylum’s blood on him? The fact Slaine can pilot an Aldnoah because he got kissed by this new princess? There’s a lot of hand wavy stuff. If all it is needed is the blood of a royal, wouldn’t people have strung them up and make them bleed like bears being harvested for their bile? Or if all it takes is a kiss, I mean… it can get pretty dark for Lemrina there if horny, power-hungry men found out about this power transfer.
But what am I complaining about? I like good train wreck, and it’s been ages since Code Geass. I’m going to make popcorn every week and enjoy some Aldnoah.Zero.
(I think if A-1 played the story straight, it would have been a better show. Would I go for a darker Game of Thrones-esque giant mecha drama with many characters and many motivations? Yes, yes I would. Aldnoah just felt like the director and other writers were not comfortable except for trope-filled mecha shows. It’s like that they tried to resist going full trope, but, in the end, they couldn’t stop themselves from indulging on the trope cocaine. And that’s where we are now. The Gundam Seed Destiny script all powdered up and on the noses of the Aldnoah.Zero staff.)
(Passes both Bechdel and BS. Glad to see Rayet, Nina, and Inko enjoy friendly banter while feasting on cocktails and caviar while lounging around in swimsuits during the possible annihilation of mankind.)
#4. Koufuku Graffiti
“I want to be in a warm room cooking warm food for a warm love.”
Koufuku Graffiti is food porn at its best. It made me go out and make inari. I went to the Japanese store, bought pre-made tofu skin, dehydrated shitake mushrooms, carrots, and sushi rise as well as bonito flakes. I had to boil the tofu skin, and then simmer it in a broth of sugar, salt, soy sauce, and mirin. I rehydrated the shitake mushrooms and made danshi. Then I let it marinate with the carrots in a mixture of sake, sugar, soy sauce, salt, danshi, and mushroom water. Then I cooked the rice, cutting in vinegar, salt, and sugar. Finally, after hours of letting everything sit, I made the inari. That’s what this fucking show did to me. The next night? I made beef stew using the translated recipes. “Appropriate amount of ketchup”? What kind of shitty recipe is this? Anyway, that’s what this show does to me. Oh, since then, I have bought a pan just for making tamago. So, yeah.
(Best tamago I’ve had was at street vendors in the Tokyo fish market, right outside the sushi shops. Nothing like a heaping plate of tamago for $2 at 7 in the morning while freezing in the cool early Tokyo air. Tastes better than stuff you’ll find in restaurants for a lot more. Second best would probably be 7-11.)
I’m not sure if I’m doing the show justice if I said, “Hey, it’s Hidamari Sketch except with food porn!” It is like Hidamari Sketch in that the girls live in an apartment complex and go to art school. There is a dash, a hint, a scent of art, but it’s not to the degree as that other long-lasting Shaft franchise. There is a central friendship between two girls, but it wasn’t like friendship. It’s more of family and companionship. I don’t think it’s even yuri-ish as it seems more like mom and daughter or grandma and granddaughter. “Sometimes, it’s like having another grandma,” referring to the main character, Machiko.
In terms of food porn, it’s not a 24 minute long boring Instagram feed of food. Shaft sexs it up. With sex. Shaft draws some of the most beautifully animated inari, and then makes it provocative at the same time. If Maria the Virgin Witch saw this, she would blush. Shaft takes food seriously. Also, I was impressed by how Shaft feels restrained. There’s no wacky backgrounds. There’s no unearthly architecture. There’s no weird character design shifts. Everything is solid. Animation, motion, directing, movement– all top notch. Better than parts of Monogatari S2 and definitely better than Mekaku and Nisekoi. Of course, we know it’s Shaft. There’s head tilts. There’s the textures that only they do. There’s the detail to line weights. There’s food porn. What other studio would devote so much to food? Maybe Musashino Animation.
(Nominations for worst parents in anime. Machiko’s parents go overseas, abandons her with her elderly grandma, and when the grandma passes away, they don’t even come back to fetch Machiko. Instead, she lives alone with a deadbeat aunt who occasionally visits. Andohbytheway, she’s like in middle school. That’s probably my two complaints about the show: Machiko’s terrible parents, and the age thing. Even if Machiko were in high school, I think it would have been a better show if Machiko were in college. I think that feels more right, especially with how she treats Kirin. I can’t take her and Kirin being similar aged seriously. Plus, what kind of art school is this? Seems really specialized that they require so much from perspective students.)
(Passes Bechdel. Fails BS. Kirin’s dad is the only male character with more than two lines.)
#3. Durarara!! X2 (Shou)
“A lot of things have changed… but not us… I think.”
Since Durarara!! originally aired over four years ago, a few things have changed. The original light novel completed its run. The production staff from the original series left Brains Base and founded Shuka, which is handling X2. Not only that, but X2 is broken up into three cours, airing Winter 2015, Summer 2015, and Winter 2016. There is going to be a lot of Celty and friends in the upcoming year. And that’s a good thing. I’m looking forward to the sharp writing and interesting characters that I enjoyed from the first series. What I’m disappointed about is the ED being nowhere as awesome as Yuya Matsushita’s original Trust Me, which apparently has since been DCMA’ed to hell on YouTube. Sigh. I just want my Yuya trying to be like MJ fix. It’s just one of those YouTube classics that I never ever get tired off, like Roundball Rock. I wonder if John Tesh still carries around that answering machine…
If you enjoyed Durarara!!, there’s no reason to not watch this new season. Batshit crazy twins who fight Senjougahara-style? Russian Sushi getting a plot arc? Shizuo being Shizuo? All good. Everyone else, go start with the original season and learn about Dollars, Ikebukuro, and
Dungeon Dice Monsters Yellow Scarves.
(I’m also disappointed that the 2D Waifu Van got downgraded from Horo~n to the little sister from that crappy magic school show. Sigh. Why couldn’t they just use Yuuki or Shinon from SAO? They already reference Death Gun this season.)
(There’s a lot of Apple in this season. I like how even the UI in the show reflect iOS8 and Yosemite… hey, an anime that takes place in modern day yet doesn’t feel like something from six years ago. Though the chat client, while “upgraded” still feels a bit out of place. They should all be snapchatting each other. I guess I should be glad they toned that back a bit. I’m sure Shinra would appreciate some sexts or kinky snapchats from Celty once in a while. Though Celty’s Matrix-era slider phone feels even more out of place now. Couldn’t they just give her a Microsoft Surface Pro?)
(Come on. Any doubt? This shows passes both Bechdel and BS.)
#2. Maria the Virgin Witch
“My jaws are too sore. I must have overused them~”
I just want to know what happened at Production IG headquarters that they would make Maria the Virgin Witch. A relatively low-selling manga that only ran for three volumes? A story that prominently features owls giving blow jobs? Sign me up for a full season with good production values! I’m convinced Maria sent her succubus army in to “negotiate.” The show is interesting for two big reasons. One, the show is not scared to discuss sexuality. It treats sexuality like any other topic in a way that not even Melrose Place managed to do. Two, Production IG sunk some money into this project. Everything is well-animated, and the characters have an almost innocent 1980s era vibe to them, except they are all hardly innocent (except for Maria). I also like how the succubi are drawn with owl eyes when they are in human form, which contrasts to everyone else’s Nadia-era eyes.
I’m not sure if this show is a drama, slice-of-life, comedy, or whatnot, but it has a bit of everything. Maria has the personality (and task) of any typical male lead. She is powerful yet insecure in her sexuality. (Joseph would be childhood friend or neighbor haremette in this scenario.) Notice how the top two shows feature sexuality as a normal topic, rather than how magic school light novels treat it as “oh no you saw me naked!” There’s segments devoted to how terrible war and medieval Europe is, and there’s segments where Maria is trying to craft a penis to go on her incubi. But I want to see how the story unfolds, and it’s a different enough show from traditional anime fair to seem even more compelling. Even if it has shouta owl incubi getting, uh, bottomed.
(Do we really need another story about how Jean d’Arc was wronged? Didn’t we just get one last season? Does Japan have a word for Japanese people who love French culture? Kinda like “weeaboo,” except for Japanese people who pine for French culture?)
(Passes Bechdel. Passes BS. Go go mercenary bros.)
#1. Yuri Kuma Arashi
“Man-made rules don’t work on bears!”
Do you like Kunihiko Ikuhara? If you do, skip this paragraph and start building your Yuri Kuma Arashi tumblr page. This show has all of his trademarks: long, unchanging sequences with nuance, lesbians, sexuality, societal norms, long stairway to the rooftop, invisible storms, and cute animal mascot characters. His last effort, Penguindrum, had a fantastic first eight or nine episodes… then started to fade… and ended up with a mess of an ending. Hopefully, Yuri Kuma Arashi will escape that fate in a penismobile. Gao~ gao~
As for this show, the central premise is that stardust has turned bears into violent creatures who feast on humans. So humanity, because we are so smart, decide to build a wall to keep bears out. How this makes any sense is beyond me. Lo and behold, the wall does not work since the bears can transform into young girls and blend in. Walls never work. Point me to a show where building a damn wall saved the day. In any case, the bears then secretly murder and eat young girls. That seems… too straightforward? Well, okay, there’s a bear court (think Phoenix Wright with furries) that grants the bears powers to transform into magical bear girls. The magical bear girls then eat the honey lily of a girl. Gao~ gao~
Everyone thinks this show is about conforming to what society thinks is right or repressed lesbian sexuality. Ikuhara isn’t like that. Why would he have another sexual societal norm opus after Utena, the greatest lesbian sexual societal norm opus? I think Yuri Kuma Arashi is actually his take on Blade Runner, only instead of Replicants and cyberpunk, it’s bears and lilies. The lesbian bear imagery is just a better take than Harrison Ford and androids. Is everyone in the world already a bear? Gao~ gao~
Or the show can be a commentary on the dangers of bears.
Production values are fairly good, and it’s this season’s most giffable show. I wonder what would have happened if Ikuhara and Shinbo ever combined forces. Still, the highlight of the show is (a) the bears, especially how cute they are going “Gao~ gao~” (b) the fabulousness (c) all those psych 101-themed anime blog posts that could be mined from this show.
(Passes Bechdel. Fails BS. The male characters are only in the bear judgement scene talking about the female characters. What does it say when the female characters have to ask male characters for permission to do sexual things?)