Fall 2011 Season Wrap (complete with balloons and fireworks!)

Since I originally planned on having this out earlier, I thought I’d have a separate, very short post wishing everyone a Happy New Year.  Buuuuuut, thanks to my recent infatuation with Korean dramas, finishing up the fall anime became less of a priority.  Although it took a bit longer than anticipated, here are my quick final impressions of the fall season.  Happy 2012, everyone!

あけましておめでとう!

Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai

Otherwise known as Haganai, this anime was one of the biggest surprises of this fall season.  I knew from the first episode that this was definitely an anime that I wanted to follow, but I was uncertain about how it would stand up over time.  Haganai had some wobbly areas, mostly when it veered away from its comedic core and tried to be more dramatic.  The awkward attempts by the club members to do the kinds of activities that friends do, along with the inclusion of their individual quirks, are what made the show so unique in its thoughts on young relationships and growing up.  I especially adored Rika’s sexual humor and wish that she had more spotlight; her scenes were usually short and restricted to one or two per episode, but they were always among the most memorable moments of each week.  Where the anime stumbled was in its overarching story about Kodaka and Yozora’s friendship and how it differed from the one they shared as kids.  The last episode in particular was a bit of a letdown in several places, when Yozora turns into a  girly girl over her anxiety about Kodaka forgetting her face.  Her gruffer attitude and mean streak of humor (to an extent) are what I like about her, and it felt too strange to see her do an about face to twitter pated high school girl.  The resolution of her and Kodaka’s confusions about their friendship, however, worked out nicely.  I would have been pretty upset if, after his realization, the two of them had gone back to acting as they did when they were kids.  I definitely would love to see more of these characters, be it through specials, a movie, or even another short season.
Final score: 8.5/10

Secret ingredient(s):  Shiguma Rika and the stellar voice acting by Fukuen Misato.

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Tamayura ~hitotose~

Although this anime didn’t take quite the center stage that I expected it to, it was a warm addition to the chilly fall and, like many of my favorite foods, often left behind a pleasant aftertaste.  I had a lot of hopes riding on this anime due to it sharing the same director as my all time favorite ARIA series, and that hope certainly contributed to my later disappointment; however, Tamayura definitely started out a bit rough.  From the start, the focal points were split between Fu’s past with her father, and the present friendships she forms after moving to Seto Island.  In a way, this dilemma reminded me of Natsume Yuujinchou, which, too, had issues navigating between episodic stories and an overarching plot.  I feel like the two can be reconciled if handled with care, yet Tamayura doesn’t quite make it.  Regardless, I had a lot of love for the show around the mid-season, particularly for its heartwarming tales involving Fu, her friends, and the people of Seto Island, and the last episode really nailed what I had hoped for all season.  The interactions during the exhibition felt more realistic than many of the other encounters earlier on.  The opening moment lacked the cheesiness that would have been created were there to be a line filled with smiling faces.  Instead, their very first customer is Momoneko-sama, who embodies much of what this show is all about.  Afterward, the people trickle in slowly and steadily, gradually forming a steady stream of interested and friendly community members.  As the exhibition is held right before the New Year, the high energy and kindness of the everyone involved makes a lot of sense.
Final score: 7/10

Secret ingredient(s): Maon-chan’s storytelling and whistling.

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C³ – CubexCursedxCurious

My oh my, this is one pretty-looking dish that will unfortunately poison you with one taste.   centers around an interesting idea featuring curses and the sort of manifestations they can take, often ones that result in human form.  The graphics, too, give the eye something delicious to gaze at, with their smooth animation, vibrant colors, and whimsical shapes.  However, that is as far as the compliments for this show go.  In the departments of plot, character, setting, and script, utterly fails to succeed.  While the set up worked to a certain degree, no conflicts are truly settled, and the pacing and story jump all over the place.  The characters are cardboard cut outs of various moe archetypes, and though their sexual humor is admittedly funny depending on the timing, it is more than often overused and abused.  The small setting forces the visuals to step up and try to mask how truly boring this whole affair is.  The visuals are in large part the very reason why I stuck with this anime, as they look very similar to another anime of the same production company, Baka to Test.  Judging from Silver Link’s short list of works, they excel in animation, do fairly well with humor, and suck everywhere else.  Pick up this anime only if you’re looking for some overt sexual humor that tends to the masochistic and sadistic.
Final score: 4/10

Secret ingredient(s): Fear-in-Cube, taking thick Indulgence Discs from Haruaki.

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Shinryaku!? Ika Musume

If there’s one thing that pissed me off the most about the ISML 2011 Nomination Phase, it was that Ika Musume was cut.  Her first season was one of my favorites of 2010, and I was stoked to see that a second season would air this year.  What makes this invader from the sea so lovable? Her entire look of blue tentacles, squid cap, and white/blue outfit, her mocking laugh, the pleasure she takes in the smallest and easily overlooked of objects, to name a few, but it’s primarily her complete lack of capability for invasion that cracks me up the most.  The previous season was mostly episodic, with little but comedy filling the story, but it did end with a warm message of Ika Musume coming to understand that she cares for humanity almost as much as she does for the ocean.  The second season took a cue from that and interspersed many more lessons of the heart throughout the comedic skits.  This subtle change of tone definitely impacted my overall feelings about the anime, since I found a number of the moral teachings cheesy.  Working’!! turned into my favorite comedy of the season, although I still excitedly watched new episodes of Ika each week.  I’m not sure what the reasoning was behind the change, but I can’t say whether or not it was necessarily a bad idea, since I might have complained about the show going stagnant if it had strictly remained the slapstick comedy it was before.  I still love the characters and the jokes, and would happily watch a 3rd season, special, or movie if they were to come out.
Final score: 8/10

Secret Ingredient(s): Chizuru’s impenetrable defense.

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Working’!!

As a grad student who has already completed a TA-ship and is struggling to balance finishing a thesis with living alone, a part-time job is a must to pay the bills.  I feel a little silly saying this, but the first season of Working!! is what interested me in trying work in the food service industry.  I picked up a server job at a local, family-owned restaurant and found, unsurprisingly, that the real thing is a heck of a lot different than in anime.  Despite how much harder my part-time work turned out to be, my great co-workers and employers help a lot in making everyday enjoyable (free food also works).  Working’!! isn’t so much about food or about serving it; instead, it focuses on the relationships of all those involved, from the chefs, to the servers, as well as with the management.  This sounds serious written down, but Working’!! is a skit-based comedy that depends greatly on the quirks of its characters.  I wasn’t such a huge fan of the first season, which some people hailed as one of the greatest and most unique, s’life comedy anime EVER–I found it funny enough, but became quickly tired of the repeated focus on Inami-chan and her androphobia.  I wasn’t too excited about this second season, being afraid that the problem of repetition would crop up again.  There was also the issue of Taneshima-san, who had a flat personality and only served as a means for other more colorful characters to bounce jokes off of.  Thankfully, Working’!! went above and beyond the prequel and avoided the death traps of repetition and dull characters by somehow creating a fresh twist for each skit, no matter how similar the themes might have been.  New characters were introduced, including Yamada’s presumed brother also self-dubbed “Yamada”, Kyouko-san’s underlings, and a very “normal” female server who isn’t named nor speaks until the very last episode.  Inami shows marked worsening then bettering of her condition and becomes closer to the still oblivious Takanashi-kun.  Taneshima-san doesn’t change much, but her scenes with others, notably those with Satou-san, go several notches up in humor.  All the minor improvements across the characters and story work together to produce an overall better work of comedy.
Final score: 8.5/10

Secret ingredient(s): The male kitchen staff, particularly Satou, on whom I have a little crush :p

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Ben-To

I really had to fight my utter love for the idea of this show and for food in general when rating the anime, since my complaints about the animation and art style weren’t really reflected in the original 9/10 score I gave.  But those complaints are small indeed, as Ben-To‘s whole concept, unique take on fan service, unusual cast of characters, and ridiculous sense of humor really fight to push up the final score.  Looking at the plot from a distance, it’s ludicrous! I wouldn’t even be able to imagine turning half-priced food fights into some type of cohesive story; I’d either have some forced plot, or repetitive episodic arcs.  Ben-To dodges the negatives of both and scrapes together the best they have to offer.  Major plot points include the formation of the Half-Priced Bento Club, Sato’s rise to Wolf status, the Monarch storyline, and Orthros’ dominance.  Although I found the Monarch story less interesting than the others, interspersed, stand-alone episodes worked well to dilute the intensity of the more plot-driven arcs.  I am usually one of the first to drop an anime due to fan service, but Ben-To again handled this cleverly by incorporating different perspectives and plenty of male fan service at Sato’s expense.  I like that areas like the mid thigh where the stocking meets the skin are shown as erotic, as opposed to barely covered boobs.  One of the wolves, titled “Chapatsu”, never has her face revealed, as the camera remains insultingly zoomed in on her chest area.  Much like the half-priced bento, the subpar art style packaging does not deter from the quality product inside.
Final score: 8/10

Secret ingredient(s):  Every bento box from every episode, and those spectacular episode titles.  Mmm mmmmm, thank you for prompting numerous midnight snacks.

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UN-GO

Although I didn’t know much about this show at the get to, I was interested due to its mystery-like premise.  I was interested in seeing what direction UN-GO would take.  The first episode disappointed, though, with its single episode arc and predictable outcome.  I felt no relation with the characters, and so had little to go on to gravitate me to them and the story.  Inga’s character, in particular, felt like some sort of magical plot device only there to ask the right question at the right time and unveil the truth.  The anime followed this vein for a another episode, and I was planning on dropping it after watching the 3rd.  However, that 3rd episode introduced a setting and story that really interested me, and the story extended further for one more episode.  That 2-episode arc was exactly what was needed to fully flesh out the details.  This arc also introduced one of the more relatable and sympathetic characters of the show, Sasa Kazamori.  Since we knew its backstory and how it came to be, it was easier to feel some type of connection to Kazamori.  Sadly, this focus on character doesn’t extend to any of the others in this show, not even the main characters.  More emphasis is placed on the plot and clever dialogue.  And since character is extremely important to me as a viewer, I had a difficult time with the ending arc.  The genre of the anime also conflicted, since at times it was a mystery, or sometimes sci-fi, fantasy whenever Inga took control, as well as a post-war drama focusing on communication and politics.  They clashed and were oftentimes never explained in full.  The setting and concept were fascinating and begged to be elaborated upon, and I just wish this show had followed through on the initial promises.
Final score: 7/10

Secret ingredient(s): The irony of Kazamori’s little girl and plush forms when compared to its mature speech.

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The iDOLM@STER

This anime was a bit of a guilty pleasure. Since it started out as a game, I imagined young men laughing lewdly as they dressed individual idols into the most demeaning outfits possible.  And this isn’t too far from the truth, since The iDOLM@STER supplies us with several closets of adorable regular outfits and stage costumes to clothe the plethora of idols.  A favorite idol for everyone! But, I was pleasantly surprised at the lack of sexual fan service.  While the girls certainly wore short skirts and skimpy tops, not too much attention was paid to any particular body part.  Chest sizes were appropriate to the young ages of the characters.  I felt a parental type of care and concern for the success of these girls, which points to the successful characterization of “Producer-san”, who is never named so that every man is Producer man.  My main irritation with his character, however, was how helpless I felt watching him botch up his management early on of these girls.  I can understand that he is supposed to grow in capability, but I still find it unlikely that such an inept producer would be hired to promote these girls’ idol statuses.  This irritation about his character, however, is happily eclipsed by my adoration for the individual arcs and the time spent on each of the girls.  I had a ton of fun getting to know them and their unique circumstances, what it is that makes them want to be idols.  Almost every arc had me changing my favorite, but Hoshii Miki’s was the one that felt like it had the most love.  The iDOLM@STER brimmed over with laughs, friendships, sweat, and tears, and I was sad to see it end.
Final score: 8/10

Secret ingredient(s): The energetic anime-original songs and the concerts

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Mawaru Penguindrum

I feel like whatever I could say about this show wouldn’t give it justice, since my one-time viewing of it while it aired feels woefully devoid of anything remotely close to assurance.  This is only my 2nd experience with a work directed by Ikuhara, the other being one of my all-time favorites, Nodame Cantabile.  I’ve read a lot of reviews praising Revolutionary Girl Utena, and I have of course heard of Sailor Moon.  I really had no clue what to expect with this anime after watching its PV a good while ago.  Something I really appreciated was the large number of bloggers keeping up with the show–I was able to read up on tons of different perspectives of almost every episode, helping me come to a better conclusion that may or may not have agreed with others.  Mawaru Penguindrum from the get go had a lot of depth and could be interpreted a million different ways, with no particular one being the correct one.  There were times where I felt like the anime had lost control and focus, that what we were showed at the start was no longer the objective.  There was definitely a point where I almost hated Ringo-chan for spending so much time on screen and throwing off what I felt to be the main plot.  And yet, seemingly distant sections came together to create a complicated whole.  A general complaint that I seem to come across a lot is that the show is maybe too intelligent, too in love with its symbolisms and ambiguity.  I can certainly see where they come from, but I find this anime to be one that must be watched multiple times.  My first time through, I didn’t pay so much attention to the background shapes and patterns, knowing that letting myself become distracted would just detract from my attempt at understanding the plot and characters.  Next time around, I’ll probably spend more time trying to guess out the possible meanings of the symbols, and how each connotation affects the story its own peculiar way.
Final score: 9/10

Secret ingredient: The penguins.  Always, the penguins.

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Fate/Zero

I never used to be what I would call a “fan” of the Fate franchise, but I have always had a fondness for Saber and Rin’s characters.  I found the premise fascinating, but thought the TV series had less of an impact in setting and plot.  The protagonist, Emiya Shirou, annoyed me greatly since I almost never sympathize with weak leads.  When I heard that a prequel would be made, I wasn’t too excited until I heard that it would be animated by the makers of Kara no Kyoukai, films with ravishing art, powerful music, and enigmatic characters.  The stories weren’t too complex, but the dialogue is some of the best I’ve seen.  Not to be out-stripped, Fate/Zero excels on all fronts.  The characters have leagues more depth than those of the sequel, and the smoother animation perfectly suits each hero’s battle.  Although I had a good understanding of the Holy Grail War from F/SN, F/Z explained it much better.  The atmosphere also felt much more mature because of the older characters and thought-provoking dialogue.  Scenes like the kings’ temporary truce and discussion, as well as Caster and his Master’s re-definition of God, did a lot to give viewers insight into the motivations behind various heroes’ desire for the grail.  What I did not expect, however, was the lesser focus on Saber, who was one of the mains of the sequel.  I for some reason thought that she would take an immediate, central position in the Fourth Holy Grail War, so was at first irked at the attention spent on other heroes.  But that shift was well played, as Iskandar and Diarmuid quickly became some of my favorite characters.  The Masters, too, made their moves not just on survival instinct, like in F/SN, but measured out their strategies patiently.  Sadly, the show will not continue into the winter, but will instead take a break before resuming sometime in the spring.
Final score: 9.5/10

Secret ingredient(s): The characterizations of Rider (Iskandar, Alexander the Great) and Irisviel.

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My New Year’s plans consist of cooking up a new recipe of Pesto Cream Fettuccine and watching the first episode of Rinne no Lagrange.  Remember, eat long noodles for a long life!

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15 thoughts on “Fall 2011 Season Wrap (complete with balloons and fireworks!)

  1. The only one I’ve managed to finish so far is Haganai. Despite the fact I’m not into ecchi I liked show and I found Rika emerged as the funniest character. I almost gave up at episode 10 but I carried on and the resolution was a nice fit. I just have to finish Mawaru Penguindrum and Un-Go.

    • I’m glad you pushed through and finished up Haganai. :) All the 1-cour, and 2-cour from the summer, should be done airing now, so hopefully you free up some time to finish them!

  2. That is an adorable picture of Saber and Iris up at the top. Nice recap, I enjoyed reading your thoughts on the various shows that you watched in the fall.

    Happy New Year Marina!

  3. Out of all these, the only pending ones I STILL need to watch is Ben-To and idolm@ster. I guess I’ll try to squish in some time in these following months >_<

      • I’ll try my best :p I need to sacrifice some more time to watch anime, I had been using them too much for visual novels >_<

  4. Seems we had similar thoughts on Working’!!, Ika Musume, and Tamayura and both enjoyed Idolmaster and Penguindrum for their individual charms and merits. I do plan on going back and watching Ben-To, Fate/Zero, and maybe Haganai which seemed to be some of the top of the season for you. It was interesting to read your evaluation on those since I’ve read so much about each but haven’t seen anything that in depth before (mainly “lol that scene was hilarious” or something along those lines).

    Also surprising to see you actually enjoy a few anime with sexual humor like Haganai and parts of C^3. Wasn’t expecting to read that.

    • Yes, trust me, I was veeeery surprised when I realized that I enjoyed the sexual humor in those shows. If it’s creative and perfectly timed, chances are that I may appreciate the humor. I’m one of those people who sits and listens to a comedian and just doesn’t get why people find the jokes are funny. It’s not that I don’t understand the jokes; it’s quite the opposite where I find them poorly performed, transitioned into and away from, and uninspired. When I find a comedian who can get a laugh out of me, I commend him or her very highly.

      I’m glad you found my thoughts on some of the anime helpful. I do find it strange though that others haven’t spoken much in-depth about Ben-To and Haganai, since they really stood at as comedies not only for this year, but for the past few years.

  5. on your list, i’ve only finished Tamayura, Working’!!, Ben-to && Mawaru Penguindrum.

    seeing Haganai get a pretty good score, i’m thinking of getting back to watching it since i placed it on-hold after watching ep1. as for C3, i haven’t even finished it && every time i do watch it, i always check if i’ve gotten half of the episode ’cause it’s boring.

    • I don’t encourage you finishing C3 :p Although if you do, I hope you like it better than I did.

      Of the anime we shared, I’m curious how your scores compare to mine. Did you like those shows?

      • i still plan to finish C3 ’cause i want to avoid dropping shows..

        for Tamayura, i’d have to say we have the same score. i wasn’t really disappointed with how it turned out since i wasn’t expecting anything from it like you did. it was relaxing to watch && i certainly liked the latter episodes as well.
        as for Working’!! guess i’m scoring it a little higher than yours. maybe around 9/10. since i picked it up right after i finished S1, i certainly enjoyed every bit of it && never got tired of their jokes, other than the one regarding Inami’s androphobia.. the new characters were definitely good, most especially Yamada’s “brother”.
        Ben-to, on the other hand, was good and i definitely liked the ben-to && the fights but the last arc somehow dragged it down for me. but then, overall it was good.
        for Mawaru Penguindrum, we definitely have the same thoughts. i would like to rewatch it sometime and guess the meanings of the symbols as well. i definitely need time for that.

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