This season review discusses: AnoHana, A-Channel, Dog Days, Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko, Deadman Wonderland, GOSICK, The World God Only Knows 2, Maria Holic Alive, and Sengoku Otome: Momoiro Paradox.
This may possibly have been my busiest viewing season ever, totaling at 9 from this Spring 2011 season, and an additional 4 still ongoing shows. The higher number of viewed anime also resulted in a wider variety of genre than I usually watch at once. Forced to watch episodes one at time on a weekly basis, I found handling this many shows more manageable than I had previously thought it would be, most likely because of the different flavors each anime provided. From dramas like AnoHana, mystery thrillers like GOSICK, satiric comedies like TWGOK2 and Maria Holic Alive, and fantastical fan service like Sengoku Otome, my table was covered with a number of savory dishes. Though many of them followed through on their initial bursts of flavors, a sad number of them finished with not so pleasant aftertastes.
Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae wo Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai: 9/10 (Great)
AnoHana fulfilled all my expectations and succeeded in topping my list for this spring season. I’m a sucker for drama, as evidenced by my Asian Live Action list of favorites, and I received plenty of it in this anime. Though the premise of the show is very simple, and the season itself is fairly short, I thought the time spent on the individual characters themselves, as well as the relationships between them, were extremely well done and essential to the overall story. By the end of the series, I had become attached to each one of the main circle of friends. My favorite would have to be the two other girls, Anaru and Tsuruko. I find both of their inner conflicts highly relatable and their personalities both attractive and endearing. Poppo easily became my favorite of the male characters, though I do wish he had received a little bit more attention; we didn’t get much about him until the very end, though I think that that was done intentionally to show in practice just how much of a side, go-along kind of person he felt and acted like until recently. I recommend this show for anyone looking for a more intimate and dramatic story about friends and growing up.
A-Channel: 6/10 (Fine)
My preview of this anime reminds me of why I give most anime at least three to four episodes to charm me before I decide to kick it. While A-Channel had a weak start, I’m ultimately glad that I stuck with it until the end. To enjoy this anime, you have to go into it with the expectation that you will not get anything new or intellectually stimulating. At the heart of it, A-Channel is a cutely animated show about cutely stylized girls doing cute things. Looking past the strongly suggested yuri scenes and the forced moe reactions, this show does a fair job of implementing slice-of-life, school girl anime. I did find some episodes enjoyable and comical, though I wish that those moments had been much more present. I also found the ending somewhat lacking in actual closure. I had completely forgot how long this anime was supposed to be, until I realized that I only had two more episodes to go and that I felt absolutely no warning about the end coming. Usually in shows even like this, I get some sense of an end. For example, in K-ON!!, graduation looms over the girls. I was not convinced at all of Tooru’s discomfort with one year passing and another year starting, since none of the girls were as of yet graduating and/or leaving. I would have been better convinced had Nagi, Run, and Yukko actually graduated or began studying and searching for universities. But, I guess that would be a bit too serious for this extremely non-serious anime.
Dog Days: 7/10 (Good)
Dog Days was probably one of the most surprising shows for me this season, as I found it one of the more enjoyable weekly additions to my watch list. While it certainly does not top my list in terms of originality in character or plot, it combines the two well enough for me to find each episode and character fun in their own ways. I have a huge weakness for animals in general, most especially dogs, and I loved the part-human and full animal versions of the citizens of Biscotti and Gallete. While I still find the main and side characters largely generic, the anime did a good job of giving each one of them enough air time and characterization for me to become attached. And although the plot was, again, predictable to a degree, the pacing and battling art style made the conflicts exciting. My main gripe about this show was at the last few episodes. Episode 11 wrapped up the main conflict of the show, and as such, was properly climactic. I found it strange that there were two full episodes following it, but knew they had to send Shinku home somehow. Despite the drama of his return feeling anti-climactic, in the end, I liked the amount of attention they paid to his departure and search for re-summoning. Another minor complaint about the ending was of how the evil sword was defeated. I found it a bit too convenient how Brioche d’Arquien and Yukikaze “Yuki” Panettone swooped in and were coincidentally familiar with sealing evils like the sword. I recommend this show for someone who likes fantastical worlds with light-hearted fun and battles, but doesn’t expect too much in terms of complexity in plot or character.
Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko: 7/10 (Good)
Despite the complete lack of plot or resolution to a good majority of the suggest conflicts or questions presented throughout the show, Denpa Onna was yet another anime that pleased me and fulfilled the expectations that I held for it. Similar to Bakemongatari, this Shaft show surrounds a somewhat capable but otherwise useless male character with a plethora of extremely unique females. This anime gives each girl a decent amount of screen time, but fails to hook up Makoto with any of them. The muse of the title, Touwa Erio, though initially fascinating and chock full of dilemmas, later becomes a rather flat character with her repetitive set of endearing characteristics. Unfortunately, the same loss of interest occurs for every one of the other characters: Meme, Maekawa, and Ryuushi. There is an attempt at closure in the last few episodes, where we meet female character, Hoshimiya Yashiro, who, like Erio once did, believes herself to be an alien, as well as an esper. Unlike in Erio’s case, there are actual scenes where inexplicable events occur around Yashiro. She also re-introduces the ideas of limitless self-potential and the necessity for belief, ideas that were voiced originally by Erio, but later set aside for reality. I find it interesting that the anime does a full circle with this idea, and wish there had been a bit more time spent on Yashiro. My favorite character would have to definitely be Maekawa, with her endless supply of cosplay outfits, my number one being the last dugong suit. I recommend this show for times where you’re bored with the typical harem and want to get a bit of quirkiness and self-acknowledged moments of moe. The art style is gorgeous for both character and setting, and I still found myself singing along in childish glee to the catchy ED theme (though I could have done without its Erio fan service).
Deadman Wonderland: 6/10 (Fine)
This show had so much promise at the start, and I was hopeful that it would be one of my favorites at the end of the season. However, what started out with an adrenaline rush, ended with hardly a whimper. We don’t even get the satisfaction of closure for Ganta, since he makes the stupid decision to remain behind and solve the mystery of his classmates’ murders. I believe that closure will come in the form of a follow-up OVA that has already been scheduled to air, but I’m just guessing on its content. As for Ganta, I felt he suffered greatly from Shinji-syndrome; he consistently failed to man up and spent the majority of the show just crying and whining about how terrible his situation was and how insignificant his abilities were. I kept waiting for him to experience a growth spurt in confidence, but no, his cowardice followed through all the way until the end. What little build in his abilities came, came too late to save my disappointment for Deadman Wonderland. In the end, I felt like this show just basked in the masochistic pleasure of its own gore. Hardly any of the characters leave this show with hope in their futures, and Ganta’s blindness to the truth of the Red Man’s identity infuriates me. Even Shiro failed to hold my interest throughout the show, since her cuteness just ended up wearing on me with its stagnant repetition. I was only happy with her when her darker side emerged, but since that side failed to reveal itself to Ganta, again, I was disappointed. I will still follow up on the OVA whenever it releases, but won’t make the mistake of holding such high expectations.
GOSICK: 8.5/10 (Very Good)
I find that the average blog critic judges this show a bit harshly and I think that that occurs mainly because of the high expectations and slightly unrealistic mystery story standards. From the very start, when Victorique–complete with her extravagant dresses and silken blonde tresses–appeared on screen, I knew that this would not so much be a show about detective work or states of national and international affairs, but a show about a girl and a boy. Sure, I figured a good amount of embellishments in the way of political intrigue would permeate the story, but I felt strongly that GOSICK would focus mainly on Victorique’s and Kujo’s relationship with each other, and how the relationships will be tried through interaction and separation. And for the large part, that’s exactly what we got. The early episodes were fairly episodic in nature, presenting miscellaneous cases for Victorique’s detective work. Kujo’s assistance serves mainly to strengthen their relationships with one another and create a shared affection between the two. Though the solutions were fairly unsurprising, that didn’t stop me from enjoying the methods they took to get to those points. By the time the connections between the cases and Victorique’s deeper involvement in them began to reveal themselves, Victorique and Kujo had reached a point in their bond that made their care for one another believable. I wasn’t that intrigued in the war itself, but in the main characters instead. Since they were strong when physically together, I wanted to see how they would fare once separated. The ending made me happy since it seemed to wrap up all the loose threads, but wasn’t completely happy in an unrealistic way. I feel that I will only enjoy this show more upon a second viewing, when I’m not held back by weekly, or even later, releases. Perhaps then the plot won’t feel as disjointed and held together only by characters.
TWGOK 2: 7/10 (Good)
So…I guess I’m to expect either a third season, or closure in the upcoming OVA? Regardless of what kind of sequel follows this second season, I was extremely disappointed at the lack of conclusion. Despite that disappointment, I did enjoy the show overall, and found the Kusunoki and Nagase conquest arcs much more enjoyable than many of the ones in the first season (exempting Ayumi and Shiori). I tend to enjoy the confident and physically capable characters more; perhaps it has something to do with the “ideal” that Keima and Nagase discuss in the last arc, an ideal that is necessary for self-confrontation and improvement.
“Ideals…Absolute convictions that transcend reality. If they truly exist…”
The Haqua arc got my hopes up that this second season would provide further information about the loose demons and their various human mutations, but alas, that interesting vein was dropped midway through the series. Haqua became just another recurring female character thrown in occasionally for comic effect. The closing episode, itself, at first felt like the anime was trolling its viewers, introducing neither another girl, nor development on better understanding the loose demons. Like the closing episode of the first season, it showcased Keima playing yet another dating SIM, though instead of rushing through a huge backlog like he does in the first season’s end, he spends the entire episode prolonging his play through of a surprising find (with horrific art, but apparently a girl closest to his “ideal”). The aspect I liked most about this episode was when Keima turned down a game studio’s (B’s ware) request for his input on creating an ideal dating game. Tying in to the Nagase arc with its message of necessary high standards, he takes it a step further by acknowledging the impossibility of meeting the exact same ideals of multiple people. You can only do what you yourself deems is the best and hope that it brings you good fortune. Am I reading too much into it?
Maria Holic Alive: 5/10 (Average)
This show was probably my biggest disappointment of the 2011 Spring Season, due in large part to the expectations I had left over from the first season, which I greatly enjoyed. A majority of the jokes present were all ones I had seen before, and as such, failed to pique my interest or laughter. Absolutely none of the main conflicts were resolved, again, like the first season, but resolution was exactly what I wanted in this season since I really am not in the mood for any sequels. The final episode, pictured above, did little to help my soured affections for the anime. The entire episode revolves around Kanako’s desperate attempt to notify everyone of her upcoming birthday so as to reap as many birthday rewards as she can. I thought her actions not only pathetic, but pathetic in a way that I never thought of her as before. It’s already established early on in the first season that Kanako is eager for yuri love, and that almost any hint of female sexuality triggers copious amounts of nosebleeds, panting, and salivating. The reaction’s actually funny coming from a female main character, since it’s not a reaction typical to women. Kanako is portrayed in a new light, one of a girl who thinks only of extorting the affections of others through force. Never before did she try to coerce others into liking her; she took what she could get and was generally happy with that. Any other desires were kept to her own superfluous fantasies. Maria does confront Kanako for her selfishness, but it came too late for me to forgive the sudden change to Kanako’s personality. Maria Holic Alive gave me a lot of old, old humor, as well as unwanted twists to the protagonist’s character. The one thing I thought this show did well, as it did in the past, was its art. The colors, designs, and animations are delightful, as always, and struggle hard to cover up a botched comedy.
Sengoku Otome: Momoiro Paradox: 6/10 (Fine)
I went into this show with extremely low expectations, and walked away pretty happy with the experience, predictable and fan service-y as it was. Sengoku Otome was my 2nd low intellect/fan service anime, following Dog Days, that also tickled my fantasy moods. Hideyoshi, as a main character, is useless, but likable in her bubbly, cute mannerisms. I enjoyed going along with her on her various adventures with Nobunaga-dono and Akerin as they searched and battled for the pieces of the legendary crimson armor. Again, like previously stated, the plot and villains were easy to spot right from the very beginning, but I thought the ridiculous yuri situations and “battles” comical enough to forgive the foreseeable outcomes. This show was ultimately a feel-good show that succeeded in wrapping up all its lose ends. Though the ending episode overflowed with a bit too many cheesy life lessons about friendship, endurance, and hope, I still sat through the closing credits with a smile. Like in Dog Days, this anime gives Hideyoshi the chance of returning back to the world of sword and women, an open door I’ve always liked in multiple world fantasies like this.