Category Archives: Review
Spring 2013 to summer 2013 (25 episodes) (Japanese title – Shingeki no Kyoujin) (more info)
I’ve often sold myself as the guy whose tastes differ with mainstream opinions in order to stand as the representative of anime fans who think a lot of big titles are highly overrated. However, today I’m taking a more relaxed position as the voice of reason to try and calm things down a bit. When I saw this image indicating that Cruchyroll had given Attack on Titan five of five stars with only two episodes out, my first reaction was, “really?” and the second was, “hold your horses.”
It’s just my own style to refrain from giving new anime I’m optimistic about a score because there’s no guarantee that the same level of quality will continue to hold up as the series continues. But I’m not willing to let a perfect score go unanalyzed with so little to go on. All we have so far is the setup, in which a young Eren and his childhood friends witness the power of the monstrous and disturbingly human titans that seem to have crawled straight out of the uncanny valley.
The only thing that the humans have done is get their asses handed to them, with no glory whatsoever. Episode two in particular was incredibly lackluster with several time skips and way too much summarizing of what happened in between. Sure it was stuff that had to be said, but it could have been said more elegantly and in a way that didn’t sound like reading a history textbook.
Now, let me be clear. I’m not saying Attack on Titan doesn’t deserve those five stars, because it very well might. The music for the opening and ending themes is epic and orchestral—befitting the grand scope of the setting that not only is big, but FEELS big. It’s got a fresh art style too with very sharp lines that makes all the edges pop out, giving everything a lot of personality. The writing has done a great job getting me emotionally fired up, although the only emotions I’m feeling are hatred or disgust for everyone outside Eren’s circle of friends and an uneasy sickness towards the titans. We have been treated to a oversized, dark and hopeless situation that needs a hero to turn things around.
But I have a worrisome suspicion that our hero may be a rather shallow trope. He’s a cocky, loser kid who is quick to make enemies of those stronger than him and has some rather unfeasibly grandiose dreams. If that isn’t a familiar formula then clearly you don’t watch mainstream anime because that sounds an awful lot like Naruto to me. The preview for episode three even indicates that Eren continues to be the stereotypical screwup in basic training.
If we’re looking for a beautiful action series that’s likely to have some masterfully flowing battles flavored with a thick revenge sauce, I can definitely see Attack on Titan being just that. But I don’t foresee it being some deeply thought-provoking introspection on the human condition, which leads me to my conclusion that Crunchyroll’s praise is premature.
Summer 2012 (12 episodes) (title literal translation – Love, Election and Chocolate)
When the food research club finds out that it’s going to be shut down amid sweeping reforms and budget cuts, they resolve to protect it at any cost.
Out of the many, many high school romance comedies I’ve watched, the student council is a frequently recurring plot element. Usually they just sit on the sidelines to be used when necessary, but occasionally they happen to be the primary antagonist or sometimes the entire story is centered around the activities of the student council.
However, I’ve never seen an anime where the entire central premise was about the student council election and that’s the primary way in which KoiChoco distinguishes itself. All the drama and underhanded dealings that are associated with real elections get played up in one unexpected development after another and protagonist Oojima constantly faces the dilemma of getting himself dirty, caving to the advice of his campaign advisor or sticking to his morals and hoping his good-natured intentions don’t backfire.
It does well, but there’s more than a few instances where KoiChoco feels like it’s trying way too hard. Chisato in particular is wearing a pretty big “childhood friend character,” sign and all five potential love interests of this anime based on a dating sim have some overly gnarly wounds in their backstories. But for the most part the story knows when to be lighthearted and when to be serious to create the right amount of tension and even enough misdirection to keep things unpredictably interesting—even going as far as to occasionally poke fun at its own genre.
With a good cast of voice actors, a fitting soundtrack, a couple of fresh ideas and a nice balance of playfulness and sincerity, KoiChoco is one of the better representatives of romantic comedies. And of course, any series that makes a reference to Madoka is cool by me.
Winter 2013 (12 episodes) (more info) (title literal translation – Sasami at Not Doing My Best)
Going into Sasami-san, I expected that I would enjoy it a lot more than I did. It’s a nice-looking Shaft anime with a trippy premise and the cast includes Chiwa Saito and Kana Hanazawa, two of my favorite voice actresses. So finding myself in the position of not liking it has me somewhat perplexed. The only reason for this I can think of is that this anime wants to be a psychological comedy in the vein of Bakemonogatari, but unfortunately is being let down by the problem of not having a plot. I can’t find any motivating force behind the actions of these weird characters and that wouldn’t be an issue if Sasami-san had the same quality of dialogue that graces Nishio Ishin’s works. Wandering aimlessly isn’t the best setup for this kind of anime unless there’s an overarching theme that ties it all together and because there’s so many other anime right now that are put together much more cohesively, I’m going to have to let this one go.
Winter 2013 (10 episodes) (more info) (title literal translation – The Troublemakers Are Coming From Another World, Right?)
When someone is stuck between a rock and a hard place, it’s good anime logic to call for heroes from other dimensions. Mondaiji-tachi is still in the early stages, but is showing plenty of the traits associated with a good action / adventure with a worthy cause. The cast is full of colorful characters with superpowers of suspect origin, but they have enough flexibility to be put to some creative uses. My biggest complaint about the series so far is the fanservicey design behind the orchestrator of this setup, the Black Rabbit who happens to be a literal bunny girl. She feels very much like an unnecessary cry for attention from a series that is actually interesting enough in its own right. Like many series before it, I wish writers would have more confidence in their work to not devalue it with characters like this. But as she’s the only issue I’m having with this series thus far, I can overlook her and enjoy the battles that may not be keeping me on the edge of my seat, but still have excellent flow.
Winter 2013 (12 episodes) (more info) (alternate title – Good Job Club)
Along with Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai, Yuru Yuri, Ebiten, Seitokai no Ichizon and many other recent series, GJ-bu is a story of some high schoolers who have formed a club for the purpose of not doing very much besides messing around. The formula bends in the direction of a harem anime that puts male protagonist Kyouya in the center of attention for the four girls, but manages to keep a level of class for the lead guy because he’s often just the girls’ plaything. While it’s not exactly an enviable position to be in, at least he’s not a stereotypical, lecherous womanizer or a spineless, immature, overreacting caricature. Beyond that, the show is the usual plot that comes with this kind of setup—thinking about funny concepts or just getting into ridiculous situations. GJ-bu is just another title this winter season that I can’t fault, but I also can’t lavish with praise.
Winter 2013 (13 episodes) (more info)
Inevitably, Love Live is going to get compared to both K-ON and The iDOLM@STER, so I’m going to just get that out of the way. Combining the concept of a school music club with young ladies pursuing careers as idol singers in theory shouldn’t be too preposterous a setup. However, in execution it’s a real flop. At the core of this overlap is music, and the bread and butter of any music anime is that the music needs to be good. The two series it’s borrowing ideas from have that area covered, but Love Live is definitely not up to par.
There’s also the hard-to-swallow plot point about how our heroines have the harebrained idea that they’re going to attract new students to their school that’s suffering from declining enrollment in just a year or two by competing with established idol clubs at other local schools. There’s a level of cheesiness to it that makes me want to smack someone for even suggesting the idea. Combined with some really intrusive CGI-animated scenes when the girls start dancing, there’s nothing to praise about Love Live. I even think there’s room to speculate that this was the product of some money-grubbing committee who saw the success of the aforementioned titles and decided to frankenstein them together into something guaranteed to appeal to both audiences, but really shouldn’t appeal to anyone.
Winter 2013 (12 episodes) (more info) (title literal translation – I Don’t Have Many Friends NEXT)
Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai NEXT is just a continuation of the first series. It picks up right where season one left off and continues the misadventures of the Neighbors Club as the group of misfits stumbles their way through trying to figure out how they should function to fit in with society. While a direct continuation isn’t a bad thing, when it doesn’t exactly have the best source material, just doing more of the same really doesn’t cut it. In short, I’ll watch NEXT if I have the time because it has its moments, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I end up dropping it.
Winter 2013 (13 episodes) (more info)
As slice-of-life comedies go, Minami-ke is definitely above average and does a fantastic job of steering clear of material that’s been done before in this genre; focusing on its own unique take from the perspective of the three Minami sisters. One of the distinguishing features of each season of Minami-ke is that the art style gets a new look. So despite the fact that it’s now on its fourth iteration, it manages to attain a nice level of freshness and because the series is very episodic, it’s fairly easy to get into Tadaima at this stage in the franchise. However, it does make a few references to past events and I worry that newcomers may be lost on more than one occasion. It’s not gut-bustingly funny, but will definitely serve up quite a few smiles.
Winter 2013 (12 episodes) (more info)
Based on its art style and a three-sentence description I’d expected Kotoura-san to be a two-dimensional moe anime. However, what I got was a rollercoaster ride of emotions that really caught me by surprise. The first half of this episode encapsulates Kotoura’s rough childhood and the troubles that come with her ability to read minds and her good-natured honesty. It’s a truly disheartening series of misfortunes that shows what becomes of people who can’t be honest with themselves, but are then confronted with their own inner truth. In this way, Kotoura is the knife that’s peeling away the mask that people wear to play the game otherwise known as, “being social.” I can understand her pain, but perhaps it reflects poorly on me that I wouldn’t have chosen to be so frank if I had the ability to read minds; using my ESP to live a more advantageous life.
The supposition that most people would be ashamed to have their inner thoughts broadcast to others appeals greatly to me because I can say with a fair amount of certainty that my thoughts are an honest reflection of my actions. I take great pride in the path I’ve chosen to live a life free of hypocrisy within my own character. I’m not ashamed of who I am and because of this, I identify strongly with Kotoura-san’s male protagonist, Manabe, who similarly takes his classmate’s mind-reading ability as a chance for self-improvement (when he’s not broadcasting his fantasies). This change of circumstances from Kotoura’s lonesomeness and off-putting attitude to finally meeting someone who can push her to open up is fantastically written and shows a lot of potential for future growth. If I was to give a criticism to this anime, I’d say its cute visual design devalues its very serious premise. But if that’s all I have to complain about when I’m already an admitted moe fan, then I’m going to give it a pass and remain on the edge of my seat, expectantly waiting to see what will become of this unexpectedly sophisticated anime.
Winter 2013 (12 episodes) (more info)
Much like Nanoha, Vividred Operation is a magic girl show that hides its more supernatural elements under the guise of technology. And it’s not a bad formula. It helps alleviate some of the setting’s baggage that comes with the genre when it gets depicted in the more traditional sense like Sailor Moon, My-HiME or Symphogear. For me at least, this is the way I usually prefer my magic girls. The series also follows the mahou shoujo tradition of giving the heroine an adorable animal sidekick, but whether or not Vividred is going to give in to other magic girl tropes like having to collect a certain number of some unspecified substance remains to be seen.
The enemy that main character Akane is going to be fighting appears to be strongly inspired by the Neuroi from Strike Witches, which makes sense because the two anime have the same director and character designer. The rest of the setting feels original and has some imaginative elements that the future could conceivably produce. I particularly like its concept that an abundance of free, clean energy around the world has led to an era of peace. And it’s no stretch of the imagination that an attack by forces outside the Earth would not only be more likely in such a situation, but targeting the world’s focal point of energy production would be the most logical first step in a larger campaign. So far, Vividred Operation has shown itself to be well thought out and I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes from here.