So I’m late crossing the finish line, but at least I finished, right? There were a ton of series to make it through this season, and I wasn’t sure if I’d make it through writing this entry. But, here we are, and I’m now wading through a rush of newly airing fall anime.
Final thoughts include: Bunny Drop, Tiger & Bunny, NO.6, Sacred Seven, Ikoku Meiro no Croisee, Kamisama no Memochou, Hanasaku Iroha, Natsume Yuujinchou San, Blood-C, Dantalian no Shoka, Ao no Exorcist, Kamisama Dolls, Nekogami Yaoyorozu, Uta no Prince-sama, Baka to Test 2, and Nichijou. These thoughts are fairly brief, given the large number of anime covered in this season review, and are usually about two paragraphs long. If I like the show enough, I’ll most likely return to it sometime for a re-watch and write a more detailed review!
Bunny Drop: 10/10 (Masterpiece)
Like a ray of sunshine on an otherwise cool day, Bunny Drop ushered in warmth, as well as redefined preconceived notions about “family.” Each episode brought not only its characters closer to each other, but also to the audience. In a way, I, too, felt as if I were raising Rin, as well as experiencing the same hardships as Daikichi with work and home life. Maybe it’s becuase I’m at that age where a career and a family of my own are not so out of reach, but looming realities, be it a few months to a few years from now.
Bunny Drop lived up to all my expectations, yet kept its slow pace until the end, resulting in an ending open to speculation. In my version, Daikichi marries Yukari, and Rin and Kouki grow up together in the newly forged family. And, they live happily ever after. Though cheese-ball-y, it’s hard to not go all sentimental with the show, given the plot, characters, soft visuals, and whimsical music. The anime stands out among all others this season and out of all anime I have seen up-to-date, a feat I started to believe impossible in the mind-numbing slough of harems and magical worlds. I cannot praise this show enough for the weekly moments of joy it shared with me.
Tiger & Bunny: 9/10 (Great)
Like BD, I knew right from the start that Tiger & Bunny was something special, a kind of show I had never seen and perhaps may never see again in anime. When I first took it on, I assumed it would just be a typical superhero type of series, reminiscent of DC/Marvel. Now, I am in no way an expert on superhero comics, not even very knowledgeable, but the only one I can remember considering the effects on media were Spiderman and Iron Man. Neither of those took media to the extreme like T&B (correct me if I’m wrong, please), and that’s part of what made this anime so unique. Exploiting acts of goodwill as means for entertainment and subduing the public is an issue not addressed until later in the show, though the concerns definitely lurk from the first episode.
But my absolute favorite aspect of this show is its characters, specifically the main character, Kotetsu, a.k.a. “Wild Tiger.” From the beginning, his character is likable, albeit the liking comes at his expense. He seems a bumbling fool who doesn’t understand that he’s ineffective and too old to be a superhero. He believes in doing good simply to do good, not for competition and publicity. He charges in before thinking out his actions beforehand. He’s honest and incapable of giving up, his grin masking the years. He repeatedly called himself an old man, but because of his personality, I never believed it. Kotetsu’s kindness and eventual troubles only make him more engaging. This show went so much further on character building than I expected it to, further than other anime from this season from which I expected more development.
NO.6: 8/10 (Very Good)
While NO.6 was far from the perfect sci-fi, as it suffers greatly from too many loose ends, it does excel in surprising its viewers, never once shying away from questionable plot twists and character growth. Some ani-bloggers have likened this show to older anime, given “…its over-the-top dialogue, apocalyptic imagery and soaring BGM” (RC), but I have little pre-21st century anime experience to support this. I do agree, however, that NO.6 does abound with the previously quoted list. There was not a single moment in the past weeks where I was bored or disinterested; every ending was a cliffhanger, and each episode induced an appropriate “WTF?!” response. Whether these responses were positive or negative, though, depended a lot on the smoothness of the transitions between plot points.
My main fault with this show was the fact that the episodes were simply loaded with too much material. This is one of the few cases where a second season, or longer first season, would have been necessary to fully explore the points which were briefly shown then glossed over. The final episode, especially, showcases this–I was mentally unable to take a breath through the entire 20-some minutes, which was great for riveting my undivided attention but not so good for post-viewing analysis. I did not, however, have any problem whatsoever with the relationship between Shion and Nezumi. Female-to-female affections are ignored, often encouraged, in anime, so why not male-to-male affections? The only place where I found it out-of-place was at the very end, where Nezumi then promptly disappeared for no reason. NO.6 is thrilling and deeply flawed, but unforgettable. If I spy the original novel version on the bookshelves, I will definitely pick it up.
Sacred Seven: 6/10 (Fine)
From the same production company as T&B, I couldn’t stop myself from hoping for the best with Sacred Seven‘s plot originality and characters. Sadly, that wasn’t nearly the case. We are introduced to a world filled with magical monsters, as well as a select few humans with access to these magics, known as Lightstones and Darkstones. The powers come from these crystal thingies, again, not very well explained. I gave this show the benefit of the doubt and kept watching in the hopes that all would be revealed. In the course of waiting, I could only appreciate the the well done art and battle animation.
I don’t really have much to say about this show purely because of how generic it turned out, though admittedly colorful enough for me to waste 20-some minutes on it every week. What little amounts of comedy and romance there were I found cute, but the action lacked the tension needed to really get me to invest my interest. While, yes, the characters on screen panicked and had their lives on the line, it honestly didn’t feel that way to me as the viewer.
Ikoku Meiro no Croisee: 9/10 (Great)
This was yet again a show this season that excelled and captured my heart in a way that very few shows can. I put this right up there with Bunny Drop for sweetness and with ARIA for peaceful, everyday living. The one thing that kept me from giving this anime a perfect 10 was the inclusion of Alice, who began very annoying but gradually grew on me. I wish she hadn’t come across so ridiculous and out-of-place at the start, since that affected my feelings about the first few episodes in which she premiered. Her character didn’t truly become interesting and acceptable until her sister entered the season, and we could compare Claude/Yune’s relationship with that of Claude/Camille.
I wasn’t sure at first if the whole idea behind the anime would work, as a “Japanese in Paris” just seemed kind of farfetched, especially in the provided era. But, somehow it did work and I couldn’t help but love watching Yune learn new things everyday about her foreign surroundings and about herself. Much like Mizunashi Akari of ARIA, Yune thinks more for others than for herself, and always find the beauty in every little living thing. We see this greatly shown in the way she treats the homeless boy. She even has a similar affinity for cats! However, her desire for importance, to mean something and matter, are very human and make her more realistic than my beloved Akari-chan.
Kamisama no Memochou: 7/10 (Good)
This show was a bit of a fill-in for me after last season’s journey with GOSICK. While I did appreciate Memochou for what it offered, it ultimately failed to go beyond my expectations for a mildly satisfying mystery show. The problem lies within its characters, who are only developed enough for the audience to remember their faces and circumstances, but not enough to remember their names. Even now, the only names I can remember are Alice, Ayaka, Sergeant, Narumi, and Sou. I don’t think that’s even half of the reoccurring characters. The episodes revolve more around the mysteries of the cases themselves, and the often overly-dramatic resolutions. I admit to my interest remaining piqued for a good majority of the mystery arcs, but I became accustomed to Alice’s theatrical explanations and wise one-liners.
At the very end she defines NEET, refuting the assumption that they are “…people who can’t or won’t do things.” Instead of accepting the stereotype, she describes NEET as a way of life, one that creates its own rules and must react differently because of them. She then goes on to explain her own self-designated role as a “NEET detective,” adopting the label “speaker of the dead” (which automatically makes me think of Orson Scott Card). I thought her definitions romantic, though somewhat self-justifying for the group’s lifestyles and actions. As for Ayaka’s closing story, her scene of waking up was predictable, cheesy, though satisfying after all the emotional build-up. Memochou was a fun-enough ride, but I’m glad it only lasted for 12 episodes.
Hanasaku Iroha: 7/10 (Good)
I have such mixed feelings about this show, because I entered with certain expectations, ones that the show failed to meet, but left with different, but positive feelings. There was such a big hype about this show when it first came out, about its amazing artistic detail, both in the backgrounds and in the characters, and in the premise. It seemed like it would be the perfect dramatic show to take the place of AnoHana. While, yes, the initial drama peeked its head up now and then, this show for the large part was a slice-of-life.
Many episodes didn’t even remotely focus on Ohana, instead centering on Nako or Enishi. The side plot started turning into main plot, and for a while, I completely forgot that Ohana ever had any problem with leaving home and losing connections with Kou. But then later down the line, these initial dramas reared their heads again, and the audience had to suffer through some very real teen love aches (much more realistic then Minchi’s whole character make-up). The ending itself was predictable, since almost every episode past the middle referenced the Bonbori Festival repeatedly, but it did a great job of wrapping up loose ends, yet still left a definite sense of hope for the future of Kissui Inn and its employees.
Natsume Yuujinchou San: 9/10 (Great)
Let me first start off with how happy I am that there is going to be a fourth season. I didn’t originally think this way, since I went into this season thinking that it was going to be the last. Maybe it’s just me being used to all the trilogies that American audiences have come to expect. Regardless, I previously had no idea where else the makers could take this show and its characters, as three seasons of the large majority of heartwarming s’life seemed like quite enough. However, San followed through on some more serious issued raised in Zoku, which leaves ample room for development in Shi. The biggest question for me is when, and I do mean when, will Natsume tell his family and friends about his ability to see spirits? He danced around the issue quite a bit through several episodes, with all his flashbacks of how he came to be where he is and his experiences as a transfer student, but no real resolution was made.
As usual, the slower episodes that pattern themselves after the original pace of the first installment were all beautifully crafted. On the whole, I found each of the encountered youkai touching and haunting; they continually reminded me of why I love this series and stick with it season after season. Both new and old characters were given refreshing twists, for example, the young fox spirit’s coming to terms with Natsume’s growing relationship with the human world, as well as with his own place of belonging in the spirit world. Nyanko-sensei, too, brought with him more laughs and revealed a new, weaker side to his character. If he existed in cat form in real life, I would most likely have to restrain myself from reacting like Taki.
Blood-C: 5/10 (Average)
Since before Blood-C I had only seen the live action film Blood: The Last Vampire, I feel like I wasn’t as badly let down as other die hard fans of the Blood franchise. That does not mean, however, that I did not mind the many, and I mean many, sins that this collaboration between CLAMP and Production I.G. committed. That also does not mean that I did not enjoy many aspects of this anime. I have a lot of conflicting feelings about this show, and really, really hope that the follow-up film brings back some positive feedback to this much-railed-upon adaptation.
It cracks me up that one of my most popular blog posts is the one I wrote about guimauve, an entry I wrote when it was first introduced as a seemingly innocent little treat that Saya liked eating with her coffee. There was a ton of conjectures about whether the coffee or the guimauve were laced with some memory-modifiers, and now we know that neither one of them was the innocent sustenance that it seemed. I still stand by the connections I made back then between the coffee-guimauve relationship and Saya’s personality make-up. If there’s anything the deluge of poorly revealed truths gave us, it was that while Saya may have been tricked in acting out a life very different from the one she previously knew, she still experienced those emotions of joy and love. Since she experienced them, they, too, define who she is. Despite the revelation of her past and the bet she made with Fumito, as well as the re-surfacing of her memories and full capabilities, she now has those memories of honestly felt emotions to deal with. Have they weakened her? Strengthened her? I assume those answers will come in the movie, when we also find out with whom and for what reason(s) she made the contract to protect humans. Let’s just hope that the movie steps away from predictability, blind awe of already predicted truths, and very annoying morning singing.
Dantalian no Shoka: 8/10 (Very Good)
Dantalian suffered from much the same problem as Hanasaku Iroha–confused genre. After the first episode and in my initial impressions, I had compared this anime to both GOSICK and Toaru Majutsu no Index. Alas, it was less like the former and more of the latter in terms of pacing and disappointment. However, I find this show much more thought-provoking and leagues more enjoyable than Index, almost to the level of fun I had with Victorique and Kujo’s adventures. I thought Dantalian would follow a more linear storyline, but almost every episode and half episode of the anime can be interchanged with another. This isn’t a bad thing, at all, but sometimes the changes in story, even in characters, were quite jarring. Perhaps the most surprising one of all, and probably one of the more talked about episodes of the show, was episode six, “Libricide.” We were suddenly thrown in with a couple of new protagonists, a new setting, and almost no connection with the Huey/Dalian duo. They are given a brief mention, but then are largely forgotten in Hal and Flamberge’s investigation of a suspicious town with a high number of disappearances. The funny thing is that their story becomes just as interesting, and maybe even more so, than that of our original protagonists. Sadly, they do not make a reappearance until the very end. Another notable example is more of a change in narration and art style, as episode nine, “The Book of Twilight,” takes place inside a book. The sudden change takes a while to get used to, but much like “Libricide,” it quickly captivates the viewer.
The episodic pacing for this show magnified the strangeness of the ending, since tension suddenly rose and the audience was expected to just go with the flow. The final episode does start out fairly normal; Dalian and Huey encounter a mystical series of events–in this case, zombies–ones that affect not only them this time around, but also their entire village. The three pairs of keykeepers/gateways suddenly meet, as one of them (introduced in the penultimate episode following Huey’s love of flight and time as a fighter pilot) turns out to be the cause of all the ruckus. Dalian and Huey face their greatest trial yet, one that brings us closer than over to the mystery that is Huey’s long standing relationship with the mystic archives and its librarian. There is no closure, nor explanation of how Huey became so involved with Phantom books and the pink-haired librarian (or manifestation of?). As with many of the previous episodes, a resolution is no where to be found.
Ao no Exorcist: 7/10 (Good)
While I’m more of a shoujo/seinen type of viewer, I occasionally enjoy shounen–usually only one at a time and only after I’ve guaranteed that the episodes don’t extend in number past 50. Ao no Exorcist was my pick of the Spring 2011 season, and I was pleasantly surprised at what it had to offer. I intentionally kept my expectations low, and I had no pretense of the anime’s intelligence or originality. However, if the show did one thing right, it knew how to have fun and charge forward with an anime original ending. It also mixed comedy and drama pretty nicely. I’m not at all familiar with the manga, but I have read enough elsewhere to know that 25 episodes and a story true to the original would be difficult, to say the least. I appreciated the creation for what it was and am glad to see closure and no immediate push for a sequel.
Probably the most enjoyable aspect for me was the anime’s premise and environment. While both do admittedly remind me of Soul Eater, it somehow felt less kiddy (despite all the kiddy commercials surrounding it). I feel like if the show were to dive into its ideas and settings more, it’d have to rival the length of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood.
Kamisama Dolls: 8/10 (Very good)
Talk about under appreciated–Kamisama Dolls had such little going for it before its airing, and even after, I felt like not many people were watching what I feel was one of the best-written shows of the summer. The anime was wholly creative in plot, and though most of the characters were fairly predicatble, I felt like they all had some realistic and warring emotions. Kuga-kun was not just some weak guy running away from responsibility; he restrained a strength and authority that few people would resist. That glimmer of darkness made both him and Kukuri even more interesting. Kamisama Dolls did pretty much everything very, very well, with the exception of its art style, particularly of Hibino’s character. I already railed about it in my initial impressions post, but the design truly did not improve all the way through to the end.
The unexpected success of this show excites me since there looks to be a second season in the future, a set up the anime worked in well, and we were given just enough closure for the end to satisfy. But, there are still plenty of unanswered questions to address, ones serious enough to warrant another season. How will Aki and Kyouhei confront their pasts and change their futures after heading back to Kurakami Village? Will Kyouhei, once again, take up partnership with Kukuri, or will he be the one to successfully link with Amaterasu? Will Hibino follow Kyouhei back to his village, and will their relationship progress even further? This is definitely an anime that I would not hesitate to re-watch, most likely before the airing of its second season, so that I can do a more in-depth review of it here.
Nekogami Yaoyorozu: 7/10 (Good)
Nekogami Yaoyorozu reminded me that a complicated plot and cast of characters are not always essential to enjoying a series–sometimes it’s about the simple pleasures of sharing good laughs with some charming…cats? Much like with Ao no Exorcist, I did not deceive myself in thinking that this anime would do anything new, and yet, its soft color scheme and cutely drawn group of gods and humans were irresistible. Even the main character–Mayu, a cat god thrown out of her celestial home–won me over with her lazy selfishness. As self-serving as she is most of the time, there are moments where she reveals her capabilities for graciousness, wisdom, and responsibility. The moments are few, yet their infrequency makes them all the more noticeable. The relationship between her and Yuzu was a joy to watch, as the two contrasted so much, yet matched so well.
Nekogami Yaoyorozu boasts quite a few other lovable characters, my favorites including Shamo, the poverty god, and Yurara, the god of dreams. The small story arcs covering 1-2 episodes at a time suited the series well, not only following the gods’ antics with each other and on Earth, but also providing a worthwhile coming of age tale for Mayu. She does mature a bit, but still has plenty of growth left in her. I would be satisfied with just this season, but wouldn’t hesitate to watch a second one were it to air.
Uta no Prince-sama: Maji Love 1000%: 5/10 (Average)
Congratulations, UtaPri, you have just won the Cheesiest Anime of the Season award. This show hooked me at the start since it reminded me of a beloved reverse harem, Kin-iro no Corda: Primo Passo. Like that one, it focuses on music and love…and not always in that order. However, where Corda actually has some semblance of an interesting plot and doesn’t give in to satisfying the pure lusts of every reverse harem watcher, UtaPri throws all believability out the window. Our main girl is cute in her own way, and the show certainly pushes Haruka’s “talent” for music composition onto us plenty enough, but they’re just not enough for me to see six hotties falling for her and refusing all other composers but her. As is expected, she goes through each one of the male singers, giving us snapshots of their music and oh-so-shiny locks of hair. My favorite stayed the same for the whole season: Ittoki Otoya, the red-headed sweetie. Haruka had an obvious favorite as well all throughout, Ichinose, but instead of choosing him outright as her graduation assignment partner, she greedily wants all six singers. I can understand where she comes from, but I can’t help but laugh due to the revere harem set up.
If you thought AnoHana suffered from forced drama, then you better beware of UtaPri, as it tries 1000% to conjure emotions from its viewers. This makes it hard for the viewer to actually feel these emotions, since the signs for triggering are so visible and pathetic in attempt. Every time one of the guys sings Haruka’s music, the screen flashes with bright colors and blares out melodies and lyrics that are cheesy beyond belief. This is the music that is supposed to push these idols to success? I had to agree with WhyNot’s option to color all lyrics’ subtitles with a rainbow gradient. And then the ending throws us into the drama of Ichinose’s coming out with his alter-identity, Hayato-sama. The reactions of his group members were sooooo over-dramatic, whiny, and annoying. C’mon guys, you seemed to have matured with your past encounter with Haruka, so why the backslide now? Then the school principle’s little “test” of Haruka had all the guys’ panties twisted up. The end would have been much more satisfying had the producers opted not to use the same damn song they use in the anime’s opening credits. The awe we’re supposed to feel is spoiled. Watch this show for laughs at the reverse harem, and not for anything else.
Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu Ni: 6/10 (Fine)
I’m appalled that the reviews for this anime on MAL are largely 9 and 10s. Were they watching the same show as me? Did they SEE the first season for comparison? The corresponding image describes perfectly the feeling I had all through out this: STOP! Okay, maybe I’m being a little over dramatic here, but I was honestly horrified at the incessant parade of re-used jokes…over…and over…again. The jokes all focused on the male-female relations, the miscommunications, and the idiocies. And while those idiocies were hilarious in the first season, they lost their sparkle, their creativity, in the girls’ pathetic badgering and the guys’ pathetic attempts at entering girls-only areas.
What saves this anime from a lower rating is that it still excels in the area of art and animation, both of which are beautifully drawn and a comedy all in itself. I don’t think Baka to Test would be nearly so successful without its accompanying visuals. There were also some honest to good moments where I laughed, and laughed hard. The last arc of the test of courage would have been a perfect place to start the season, not the completely pointless beach opening with which we were provided. Maybe this drab second season is all a build up to a possible third season, where we might even *gasp* see this class of idiots somehow make it out of high school. But, don’t get your hopes up.
Nichijou: 9/10 (Great)
So if you haven’t already gotten the hint from one of my banners, I’m a huge fan of Nichijou. I’m right up there on the levels of Professor’s love for sharks. Yup, that’s a pretty strong love. This is the first show in a long while where I felt no push for an ending; I wanted Nichijou to just go on indefinitely, providing me with infinite Professor and Nano silliness. And maybe some Mai, because Mai and her dogs had me dying in laughter every single time. Nichijou was never afraid to go all out, all outer limits style, and the daring paid off. I don’t know if there was any other anime this season which busted me up with quite the same ferocity and frequency. There were several times where the jokes went right over my head, but I was okay with that (for now). The visuals were usually enough to make me giggle just a little, with their heavy inking and random moments (completely with blurry camera movements). Maybe, just maybe someday after more studying and more familiarity with the culture, I’ll get more of the jokes that I missed this first time around.
Nichijou worked really well with its quick snapshots of humor, and I feel that watching the episodes weekly, or daily, is the way to go. The moments where the comedy faded were usually when the gags would go on for too long, where I’d start shifting in my seat and wondering when the skit would end and the next begin. Regardless, I was pleased all the way to the end, even though I had misgivings at the start that the show might lose material for originality as the season wore on. And even though I didn’t expect it, we were given a little bit of some resolution to Nano’s insecurities about her key, and about her relationship with others in general. I just may have to wear a Nichijou-themed t-shirt when I go to AX next year 🙂