Spring 2012 Season Wrap

GIVE ME MOAR FISHING!

I was going to hold out on this season review until Saki Achiga-hen was done airing, but, being as I don’t know whether or not the additional three episodes will come out soon or some months later, I decided to just go ahead and slap down my spring thoughts now before sharing my summer choices with you all.

I feel like I watched so much more this season than before, but looking back, I actually am under the previous winter by about four shows.  Still, twelve is probably way too much all at one time! Anime covered include: Acchi Kocchi, Fate/Zero, Hiiro no Kakera, Jormungand, Mouretsu Pirates, Natsuiro Kiseki, Sakamichi no Apollon, Saki: Achiga-hen, Sankarea, Tasogare Otome x Amnesia, Tsuritama, and Zetman.

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Fate/Zero Part 2

When looking at the Fate anime franchise, I find it interesting that my scoring for it goes from high to low according to the story’s chronology.  The first part of Fate/Zero earned a 9, this second part an 8, and Fate/stay night dropped down to a 7, bordering on 6.5.  I’m curious if my first two scores would be the same had they decided to not chop the series in half, as the second part felt disconnected from almost all its characters but Rider and Waver.  My admiration for Saber from F/SN and interest in Emiya Kiritsugu from F/Z1 went down the drain, but that may have been the intention of the story all along.  Their stubborn ideals are both disproven in their results and both characters are left broken.  Saber’s end is even more interesting given my familiarity with what comes after when Shirou picks up where his foster father left off.

My main problem with this whole thing stems from the show’s expectations.  The audience is expected to somehow feel something along with Saber when she learns of Berserker’s true identity; the same can be said for Kiritsugu’s entire background and reason for being who he is now.  And yet, I don’t care.  Either I’m lacking something, or I think the show just didn’t do a good enough job portraying them in enough of an empathetic light and/or didn’t take enough time on them for the emotions to feel justified.  There are still plenty of great and good points about this series though, including Lancer’s unfair end at his own forced hand, the strangling theme that a few of the characters experience, and especially Rider’s final battle against Gilgamesh.

Final score: 8/10

Secret ingredient(s): Rider and Waver were the refreshing duo that this show desperately needed, and my enjoyment in their segments never lessened through the two parts.  Waver is also the only character who we get to see really change and come to a realization of who he wants to be.  If there was any pair I was rooting for in this war, it was them.

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Tasogare Otome x Amnesia

I’m so puzzled by trying to rate Amnesia, as I admired it greatly for what it accomplished in narration and art, but also couldn’t ignore the many flaws in story and character development.  Without fail, this show was a visual treat in each episode, and I could always count on it to present me with a glorious array of colors ranging dark to light.  There were times where the fan service was a bit over-the-top in a way reminiscent of Nisemonogatari, but being as I find Yuuko sexy in a similar way to Senjougahara, I could forgive it in those instances.

The actual setup of the story works pretty well, though it did suffer from blocks in flow from time to time, usually in the form of pointless character Momoe.  I enjoyed the splitting of Yuuko’s identity, which explained her constantly cheerful, but flat, character at the start.  One of the main complaints I remember hearing then was how uninspired her character was; I think it was ahelo who disagreed with my comparison of Yuuko to Senjougahara, describing Yuuko as plain when set up against Hitagi’s more complex persona.  I’m curious if these evaluations hold up after Yuuko’s state of being is revealed.

Final score: 7/10

Secret ingredient(s): Creative narration and visual effects kept me on my toes.

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 Jormungand

I’m not exactly sure how to put my finger on it, but there was just something special about Jormungand that made it a precious inclusion to each week’s viewings.  Despite its flaws in overall plot and conflict, what I loved most about this show was its characters–both the members of Koko’s team, as well as the various people whom they encounter.  It’s particularly their duality that defines them; no one person is devoid of his or her own personal struggles.  Quite a number of them show serious signs of mental instability.  And yet, the brief highlights on their motives and personalities somehow makes what they do understandable.

Avvesione pointed out in his own final review the ease with which each conflict is resolved.  Each seemingly impossible task is accomplished with ease at the more than capable, you might even say godly, skills of Koko’s crew.  This imperviousness carries through all the way through to the end when two of the team, Valmet and Ugo, are in life-threatening situations.  Honestly, I am actually relieved that they didn’t die, since I had already started to take their immortality for granted.  Even with all its bloodshed and underworld dealings, Jormungand is at heart a show of family and camaraderie.  Who knows if their miracles will continue in the promised sequel, but I’ll definitely be there even if it’s more of the same.

FInal score: 8/10

Secret ingredient(s): The Valmet and Jonah pairing was such a brilliant move, placing two characters with similar vendettas as each others’ guardians.  Having both experienced the extreme loss of their comrades, they are reluctant to form new affections–yet when they do, the feelings are even stronger than before.

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Sakamichi no Apollon

A jazz soundtrack managed by the lovely Yoko Kanno, the never-fail josei combination of art, character, and story: what could possibly go wrong? While Apollon was certainly far from bad, it did not meet the expectations that I had placed on it with all the pre-season hype.  What I thought I would receive was a story centering on jazz music, specially Japan’s 1960s experience, but what I got instead what a predictable tale of friendship and love.

I think everyone can agree that Apollon shined brightest when music was the focal point, with memorable scenes including Kaoru’s confession, his induction into Sen’s musical world, Jun’s heart-stirring trumpet solo, and the school medley performance.  Even though very little was said, so much was conveyed in their melodies and harmonies, in their own physical movements.  When their relationships circled around the music, everything jived.  But there were moments of disconnect, where I at times felt that I was instead watching a fluffy shoujo; take for instance Yurika’s arc.  While on its own, her very young enlightenment of who she really wanted to be in life–anything but the privileged, yet constrained, life in which she was born–was certainly interesting.  But in the overall scheme of the show, her offering was very small indeed.

Final score: 8/10 – Yoko’s music pushed it up higher than I would have originally rated it.

Secret ingredient(s): As farfetched as I found the ending–I mean, who really goes back and reunites with the past like that?–it did give me satisfaction of a sort.  I found Sentarou’s choice to leave extremely juvenile, yet realistic, but thought his final calling as a priest fitting of somehow with such a big heart.  What he needed most was a family in which he could feel a part.

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Tsuritama

If Apollon was my disappointment, then Tsuritama was my savior.  When stripped of all its sunshine colors and bizarre humor, Tsuritama’s plot follows a surprisingly simple formula.  We saw it in the recent Ano Natsu.  An alien comes to Earth.  Said alien encounters main character.  A major confrontation on a planet-destroying level looms. The alien-main character duo save the world.  The alien most likely leaves, but then comes back for a happy reunion.  You can probably name your own show that follows this structure.  Yet Tsuritama not only fulfills this generic blueprint, but it does so in all the right ways–perhaps explaining why this blueprint is so popular in the first place.

What drives this show are the characters, their interactions with one another, and their own personal journeys.  Even though this show was a short twelve episodes, not a moment was wasted.  One of my favorite characters is the little featured Yamada, who gets a small amount of screen time at the start, but at the end has his own head-to-head with the leader of DUCK.  He redefines what it is to be a true member of the organization.  Instead of mindlessly following orders from the top and apprehending Haru, he takes the time to observe and realizes that this alien is not at all what they had expected.  Like Haru and Yuki, his development as an angler sets him on the path of redefining his identity.

Final score: 9/10

Secret ingredient(s): I love how DUCK actually had its own duck in the form of Tapioca.  I’m not sure what his exact role is in the organization, whether it was to just observe Yamada, who was in turn observing JF1, but I always looked to Tapioca for a true reflection of Yamada’s feelings.  Hooray for finding a lover!

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Natsuiro Kiseki

Similar to my expectations for Tsuritama, I was completely overtaken by delight with this show.  Although I’ve had my fair share of four-girl s’life and, like many others, am tired by the repeated formula, NatsuKise took that genre and set it aglow.  Usually in the others, there’s a lack of the supernatural.  The inclusion of it in this story helped to create a focal point for each mini arc–you might even consider this a blend of the high school slice of life and magical girl anime.  Like many mahou shoujo, Rika, Yuka, Saki, and Natsu are given a wonderful gift, which is used on accident, or abused by a selfish desire, or, at best, for the benefit of another.  But in the end, it isn’t the magic that makes these girls special; it’s the way they handle it that makes me love them.

If there was one aspect that prevented me from giving this show full marks, it was the whole idol dream that kept resurfacing like that embarrassing baby photo parents always seem to have for family gatherings.  There were several fans of the show who were confused about whether or not NatsuKise would follow that storyline through and take our girls into stardom.  In almost every episode, usually Yuka would raise the topic of their childhood desire to become just like their favorite group, Four Season.  At times, the mention felt out of place and didn’t affect that particular arc’s outcome.  At other times, it was actually cleverly used to reveal one more side to the girls.  Times where I thought the idol dream worked well were “Typhoons Ghosts, Today’s Memories” and the time warp that crossed the present high school girls with their elementary school selves.  I also found it useful at the end in “Endless Summer Vacation” as another indicator of the need for the girls to finally move on to the next chapters in their lives.

Final score: 9/10

Secret ingredient(s): The Rin and Yuka duo were such a joy to watch, and I can’t even choose a favorite between the two.  What started as a preference for Rin slowly turned into an equal appreciation for Yuka and her energetic joy–which makes sense since my original favorite also shares this adoration for her best friend.

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Mouretsu Pirates

Starting off slowly and losing many viewers in the process, Mouretsu Pirates took its time with Marika’s development as a captain and involvement in the grander world of piracy.  There were times where I agreed and felt that the high school aspect was much too generic and cutesy, particularly with the golden ghost ship arc.  I found ridiculous how quickly her fellow club members were able to learn how to manage the Bentenmaru, and how persistent the show was in showcasing their many and varied cosplay outfits.  But as I stuck with the show, my interest in Marika’s character holding strong, the wait eventually paid up in the latter half of the anime.

Some of my favorite arcs include the space yacht’s participation in the Nebula Cup, as well as the very last Northern Cross series of episodes.  Though very different on the surface, they each pitted their members against threats much more tangible than all the ones previous.

Final score: 7/10

Secret ingredient(s): As a foodie, I had great interest in the Legendary Chef and his sons.  There was something so believable and beautiful about seeing all the different pirates of varying personalities, many of them often opposing one another, putting aside their weapons for the sake of one legendary meal.  The view of wonder in their eyes and all the tastes unfolding on their palates was pretty cool.

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Zetman

Zetman felt like the odd man out in my spring line-up, mixing a gladiator-like battling system with the character-driven questions of how to define humanity and justice.  I could always depend on this show to deliver plenty of fighting and loss; I don’t think there was a single episode where someone didn’t die.  Yet despite the darkness, glimmers of light could be found in some of the most surprising places.  I also enjoyed how Kouga, the man who wore the garb of a hero and was showered with public praise, was actually one of the most conflicted and deluded characters.  In a way, I found him comparable to Fate/Zero’s Kiritsugu, who, too, followed a justice that required a sacrifice of the few for the many.

One of the most interesting character developments in Zetman arose from the love triangle between anti-hero Jin, the “hero’s” little sister (Konoha), and a seemingly normal human girl (Hanako).  I kept expecting Jin and Hanako to part ways, and yet she clung on with surprising tenacity, wheedling her way into his heart and giving him the first comfort he had experienced in a long while.  Starting out this whole thing with Jin’s childhood and showing his friendship with Konoha and Kouga automatically pushes the viewer to hope for a budding love between Konoha and Jin, but I liked that the characters didn’t go this route.  Very rarely does young love come to fruition, resulting instead in people looking from afar as they start new lives with new people.  The story’s twist on Hanako’s true identity then further pointed to the blurring line between monster and human.

Final score: 6/10

Secret ingredient(s): Kouga was always a fun character to watch, though not always in a good way.  More than usual, I was yelling at him to open his eyes already, and realize that his idea of justice was deeply flawed.  It amazes me how someone with such potential persists in his childhood fantasies to the extent of destroying almost his entire family.

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Sankarea

I was initially wary of this show primarily because of its zombie focus–while I found Highschool of the Dead entertaining in an over-the-top and bawdy way, Kore wa Zombie, in turn, lost me after just one episode with its loud humor that I just didn’t find funny.  I admit that my stomach turned at Chihiro’s necrophilia; even now, I can’t really justify his attraction.  But that magnetism is what intrigues me about the realities in both Chihiro and Rea’s lives–particularly Chihiro, since his fascination began at a very young age, with no inexplicable reasoning for his interest.

Where the story most excelled was during Danichirou’s scenes; his cliched but deliciously disturbing overprotectiveness of Rea illustrated well in the movements of his hands and the use of his gloves.  The further backstory on him and his encounter with Rea’s mother humanized him and his unhealthy obsession with his daughter, but didn’t excuse it.  I only wish that the level of detail and inner-connectedness that pervaded Danichirou’s scenes had similarly worked elsewhere with Chihiro’s cousin and little sister.  Wanko seemed to serve at least some sort of prop for showcasing Chihiro’s childhood.  Her present placing, however, had her flaunting her assets like some two-bit hussy.  While Rea’s attraction to Chihiro was understandable given her dependability on him, Wanko’s feelings are less believable.

Final score: 7/10

Secret ingredient(s): I was fascinated with the mysteries surrounding Chihiro’s grandfather and the part he had to play in his grandson’s interests.  His repeated references to his former wife, who very likely could have been a zombie at one point, make him a priceless store of information, especially with certain pages from Chihiro’s book illegible.  I’m also curious as to why he eats hydrangea leaves as well; surely he should have known their properties from the very start.

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Acchi Kocchi

 When I first locked on to the shows I would be following for the spring season, Acchi Kocchi wasn’t even on the list.  I don’t even remember how I came around to watching it, but I’m pretty sure it was because someone whose opinion I respect convinced me to try it.  At first, I wasn’t really hooked, since it felt like a moe-blob-rific anime glorifying the multitude of anime cat lovers out there.  Main character Tsumki oozes so much adorable cat-like habits that it’s hard not to want to hold her in your lap–what makes her character less fluffy, however, is the inclusion of some other silly characteristics, such as their quick reflexes, habit for staring, and aversion to over-petting.  Seeing a human act these out instead was pretty entertaining.

A lot of people keep on comparing Acchi Kocchi to Lucky Star, and while I can see where they come from, the similarity is mostly a visual one.  The majority of the predicaments the characters get themselves into are recycled scenarios from other school anime–what prevents them from being complete carbon copies are, again, the quirks of the cast.  I was impressed to see a male lead actually have a bit of spunk and smoothness when interacting with the opposite sex.  Although his friends peg him as oblivious, I really don’t think he is.  Too many of the phrases he says are perfectly timed, and voiced in just the right way to set the listener’s heart aquiver.  If anything, there is really only one kind of “normal” character in this circle of friends, one who parallels  Lucky Star character Tsukasa.  Hime’s awkwardness and sweetness serve to magnify the oddities of those around her.  This anime more reminded me of Nekogami Yaoyorozu.

Final score: 6.5

I would eat her choco, AND live to tell the tale

Secret ingredient(s): I’ve started to notice my attraction characters with lab coats, and Acchi Kocchi‘s Mayoi is no exception.  She shares another attribute that I tend to find amusing in an anime character: the prankster.  Who knows if it’s really hair underneath those buns of hers…

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Apparently the Tamayorihime emits balls of light

Hiiro no Kakera

 Despite always pushing this to the very bottom of my weekly watch list, for some reason I kept with it.  I’ve been on the hunt for a decent reverse harem for a while now, ever since La Corda, and stil haven’t found one quite up to par.  Hiiro no Kakera probably ranks in at the lowest, even below the godawful atrocity that was UtaPri.  Apparently, there’s even a second season slotted to air, which completely baffles me given the terrible plot progression and cast of characters.  The one saving grace to the entire thing was finally seeing Tamaki wield her once latent Tamayorihime powers–an event that doesn’t happen until the very.  last.  episode.  I just wish that that had been enough to make up for all the bile I had to wade through to get there…

This doesn’t deserve a second paragraph.

Final score: 4/10

Suguru wasn’t my favorite, but neither was anybody else–a FAILURE for an otome.

Secret ingredient(s): Since HnK started out as an otome, the TV series includes a short scene at the end of each episode highlighting one particular male in the harem.  It was pretty funny hearing them voice some oozy line that no guy I know would ever have the courage or cheesiness to say.  I could easily see each of these scenes as one screen from the game.

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Saki: Achiga-hen – Episode of Side-A
Eps. 1-12

Other than Hiiro no Kakera, I don’t think there was any other show that had me in agony as much as Saki.  While the push to the Nationals was extremely rushed, each match, in turn, dragged through sometimes several episodes at a time.  The worst case of this was near the end when Miyanaga Teru finally came out to play.  True to her reputation, the other Miyanaga sister completely dominated the match; however, the show inserted a few surprising struggles from the other schools.  While this certainly made what otherwise would have been a boring game interesting, the anime’s choice to prolong that one battle through multiple episodes completely killed my interest in its outcome.

Another major problem I had with this show was how completely inept Achiga-hen seemed to be.  I just couldn’t understand how they of all people were able to make it to Nationals if other players found them so predictable.  Nothing was more frustrating then watching them get slapped around in their games when they fully knew the reason for their losses.  Instead of changing up strategies, they persisted with their little gimmicks, whining and crying most of the way.  By the time Kuro decided to go against her instincts and surprise Teru with a win, I had already lost all desire in seeing Achiga-hen get anywhere.  I really, REALLY wanted to just rewind and watch the whole damn thing with the original girls who I had grown to love in the first season.

Final-ish score: 5/10

“Marvelous!”

Secret ingredient(s): Props go to Hanada for being such a trooper in the face of her scary opponents.  I also had to respect her for going into the game knowing full well the way her teammates think about her: a girl whose only talent is not allowing her points to bottom out.

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Season of the hime cut, indeed.

13 thoughts on “Spring 2012 Season Wrap

  1. I really look forward to these. I really dig the Secret Ingredient sections. However you are kinda mistaken on one. I like using super cheesey lines on a friend of mine to make her laugh and cheer her up.

    Also I recall another anime with a classical music base I wanted to reccomend a friend of mine. I searched your archives, but didn’t see it. You happen to recall it by any chance?

    Good blog as always and sorry for the crap comment.

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    • Yes, but see? Your cheesiness stems from a sense of humor😉 It’s not like you’re being serious and trying to sweep the gal off her feet with your smooth lines. The harem guys are dead serious every time.

      Hmmm, classical music as a base. The only ones I can think of are Nodame Cantabile and La Corda d’Oro. :S Perhaps you’ve seen one that I haven’t? If so, I’d love to find out what it is if you ever remember ^^

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  2. Can’t I be trying to sweep her off her feet with my sense of humor and be serious? I feel humor works best if it’s based in truth.

    Thanks for the help and if I come across or recall anything I’ll let you know.

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  3. While Achiga-hen was very flawed overall and nowhere near as good as Saki, the Teru onslaught was absolutely amazing. I never liked the Achiga Girls to begin with so kicking them out of the bucket and turning Kuro into a side character in the match was really the only thing that made the series more interesting again.

    But seriously though, Achiga girls suck. Kuro is a whiner, the team is boring and Akado’s a terrible coach.

    Toki is my hero and Subara is my idol. If this show was Saki: Senriyama-hen then I would like it infinitely more.

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    • Yes, Senriyama-hen sounds sooo much more appealing! Although, I admit that I found the whole future turn thing kinda cheap after Toki was able to push it to first two, then even three turns. I mean, C’MON!

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  4. I agree with your points on F/Z and SnA. I thought both series’ showed potential (particularly F/Z) but in the end I wasn’t able to finish either of them due to different issues. I didn’t have enough of an emotional connection to the characters in F/Z, and the second season was just too grim. SnA, on the other hand, felt too much like a sugary melodrama whenever it departed from the more interesting angle of exploring relationships through music.

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    • When I was at AX and sitting in on musician/composer Yuki Kajiura’s panel, she kept talking about how dark F/Z was. It made me laugh how thoroughly dismal she found the story and its characters to be. I’m really hoping that this season’s Natsuyuki Rendezvous is better than SnA. SnA is probably the least favorite josei I’ve seen so far, sitting even below Kuragehime with its open ending.

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  5. Tasogare Otome x Amnesia: THAT DAMN ENDING! AHHHHH!! I wanted it to end with Yuuko moving on forever, but nooooooooooo! I guess this means were in for a season two? I did enjoy the shafty animation from certain episodes and Yuuko’s personality was always addictive because she was half moe like and the rest was all ecchi moments? Yeah she was a great character.

    Tsuritama: Crazy fishing adventures! I think the wacky idea of the plot made me interested in watching that series, but I was sold by the bright artwork oh and Akira’s voice actor? HELL YA! Sugita Tomokazu did an amazing job with that character and what about the duck? They were the PERFECT PAIR; however there was only one character that drove me insane every week and that has Haru…oh…my…god…I hated him at the start, but eventually he calmed down so I didn’t mind him too much near the end of the series.

    Natsuiro Kiseki: AGREED! Rin and Yuka were always so much fun to watch together! I guess they kept me watching every week oh and then they threw the wishing rock at us? Those wishes were some of the best! I liked the Natsumi clones, invisible Saki, time travel and last but not least the first time the girls got stuck together? LOLOL Great stuff! I want more episodes…or another season?

    Sankarea, Mouretsu Pirates and Acchi Kocchi were fun series! So are you excited for a pirates movie?

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    • I can’t really tell if Amnesia will get a second season or not. The open ending does create that possibility for us, but like you, I would have preferred to see Yuuko move on. I don’t really see where a second season would even take us.

      Like you, I didn’t really have much of a liking for Haru at the start; he did grow on me throughout the season as he become more human in his emotions. I liked it at the end when he tried to protect everyone by sending them away.

      Is there a Pirates movie coming? I didn’t even know! I am in for that, whenever it comes out!

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