Blame Jormungand 2 for the delay in my response to the shows I watched for the Fall 2012 season. But don’t blame Koko, because her and her chic new haircut are just too cute.
These past few months have been a whirlwind of some really great and really bad anime moments, even more so than any other of the 2012 seasons that I can remember. I also ended up backlogging a few intriguing shows that I simply could not fit into my schedule, including Shin Sekai Yori, Robotics;Notes, and Psycho-Pass. I have heard enough positive feedback about them from others that I’m probably going to end up marathoning them near the end of the next winter season.
You’ll also notice that I cut my former use of ratings from my season wrap. Though I feel obligated to assign numbers to these same shows when I “complete” them on MAL, I have a more difficult time justifying my scores here. Sometimes a show that quality-wise would probably score around a 5, I’d personally feel like giving an 8 because of the enjoyment factor. So until I convince and artist friend or commission one to draw me some food or home-themed rating images, I’ll cut scores for now! Read on, my dear readers, and let me know what you thought of the season or even past year as a whole!
Poyopoyo Kansatsu Nikki
Come one, come all, and celebrate the life of a truly magnificent cat, Satou Poyo!
The sad truth to my experience is that Poyopoyo easily became some of the best three minutes of anime each week. And when the end came in the 52nd episode, I was completely unprepared and bewildered that it was finished. Although the episodes consisted solely of short stories aknd life snapshots, the simple charm of the characters and art made it a worthwhile and memorable addition to my anime for 2012. After watching it, I felt like a world of roundness influenced by Poyo could only be a good thing!
Secret ingredient(s): Protector Poyo always made sure his family, as well as any other person or creature being bullied around him, were safe. A lot of people could take a lesson or two from him!
Hidamari Sketch x Honeycomb
I spoke a couple of times about this show while it aired, one including a recipe for karaage and the other contemplating the effects of time on relationships. Although this show held much of the same charm as its previous seasons, there was an added sense of impending change that increased my nostalgia for the characters and setting. The girls went about their every day lives as usual between the Hidamari Apartments and Yamabuku Arts High School, finding joy in the little things while also improving even more on their individual skills.
Since this season marks the ending of Yuno’s second year, she, as well as her friends, are starting to look forward to the changes they’ll have to undertake. Hiro and Sae are third years and so have begun applying to universities, and Yuno begins worrying both about being a better senpai for first years Nazuna and Nori as well as keeping in touch with her friends who will soon be leaving Hidamari Apartments. A huge support for this show, as usual, is its art style–which is perfectly befitting of a show placed in and around an art school. Shaft’s usual attention to symbols and color palettes are spot on, though I never felt distracted from the story as I sometimes am with them. Although this fourth season marks only the second year for lead Yuno, I feel no sense of urgency for a sequel. My love for this show is influenced in large part by the core four of Hiro, Sae, Yuno, and Miyako. While I enjoyed the inclusion of Nazuna and Nori in Hoshimittsu, I can’t really imagine another year without my favorite cook and blossoming mangaka.
Secret ingredient(s): Miyako has always been my favorite character in the Hidamari Sketch series, but I came to appreciate her in a different way in Honeycomb. Yes, she’s large in both appetite and humor, but I also realized that she’s extremely talented and will most likely succeed as an Artist. She has the passion and creativity to enwrap others in her vision. She’s energy on canvas!
Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse
It surprises me even now that I kept along with this anime, since it includes a lot of things I usually despise: male chauvinism, one-dimensional villains, unimaginative mecha/fights, and boob shapes that defy reality! Another annoyance was the inconstant quality in art and animation; some weeks I could only stare in horror at the visual travesty in front of me. I would have initially passed on this anime if it weren’t for the all hype about it when I was at AX 2012, and even though I missed the pilot viewing, I heard a lot of positive feedback about it from other attendees. I then kept up with the show because my now ex was interested in it based on the sci-fi setting…as well as the bodysuit’s reputation. Bah, me, and my silly desire to watch whatever he wanted to watch.
Awful story direction and character development aside, there was one positive about Muv-Luv that grabbed me from the start. I honestly liked the majority of the pilot episode; the build up of Yui’s friendships and teamwork and their subsequent demise successfully had me hating the BETA and wanting to see the humans succeed in fighting them off. I’m not one for senseless and glorified violence, but I did approve of the annihilation that effectively turned me into a Yui supporter. Unfortunately, much that followed, Yuuya Bridges’ character and the Scarlet Twins in particular, almost lost me. The shows closing arc was its saving grace, with the coup and BETA attack ensuring a clear storyline that also helped to fulfill my desires from the very beginning.
Secret ingredient(s): Yui’s character design was nicely put together, from her high school days to her present Lieutenant standing. Straight brown hair isn’t usually stunning when compared to the variety of colors and hair styles that anime provides, but she truly lives up to her nickname of “Princess Yui”.
Eureka Seven AO
When this show first started airing in the spring, I had to hold off on it because I felt obligated to first watch the parent story, Eureka Seven. Perhaps I shouldn’t have done that, because the genius behind the prequel’s craft and execution only served to inflate my expectations for AO. Let me say this clearly: I do not think AO is a bad show. It’s actually a very good show, and every episode has layer upon layer of available interpretation. Unfortunately, what the anime lacked was a compelling cast; there was never a point where I felt affection for any one character. Instead of appreciating Ao on his own as a young boy, I kept looking at him through the lens of Eureka and Renton’s parenthood–he was nothing more than the product of a pair who had made me laugh and cry a full season before. And when the duo did appear, they were hardly as I remembered.
Even though one of the greatest motivations, characters, for the original never blossomed in the sequel, I could still feel a lot of love from the creators for the story and all its possibilities. I really enjoyed thinking about the “truth” of Ao’s world. Guardian Enzo episodic reviews were a godsend, so if you’re willing to give this show a try, check out his thoughts!
Secret ingredient(s): I’m always such a sucker for mascot-type animals in anime, and Noah was no exception. I mean, it’s a SLOTH. A sloth with uncanny human mannerisms and speed as necessary!
Kokoro Connect: Michi Random
Kokoro Connect is an exercise in youth and its perpetual search for identity. Our five characters are perfect examples of that coming-of-age period where one searches for definition and purpose–a phase that some people struggle with all their lives. And they just might have drowned in their individual issues if left alone; however, supernatural forces intervene in the form of “Heartseed”, a being of unknown origin and motive, aside for curiosity. Heartseed and its ability to manipulate the lives of Taichi, Iori, Inaba, Yui, and Aoki is a compelling device for driving the plot forward and forcing the characters to adapt to survive, but it is also a huge weakness. Almost nothing about Heartseed is explained, except its desire for interesting results. Who or what it is is left unknown even at the end. No matter what sort of positive changes the protagonists have gone through over the course of the show, I can’t help but feel much of it is for naught with the instigator of the phenomena still a mystery.
Another major issue I had with this series was its on and off again relationship with its characters. For the most part, the males were sacks of potatoes for our girls to sometimes run to for protection and at other times to use as punching bags. I actually wouldn’t have noticed much of a difference if Aoki’s character was wholly cut from the series, given his lack of action and significance to the others. In an almost opposite extreme, Iori is given far too much attention, with her fear of identity being magnified to ridiculous proportions to encompass a good majority of the main series and the OVAs. All the characters suffer from identity issues, as is normal for people of their age group, but Iori’s fears were overly dramatic for my tastes. I couldn’t help but feel relieved when Inaba became the it girl for Taichi, since I found her to be both the least useless and dramatic of the others, but also the most believable.
Secret ingredient(s): While I never forgot that the characters were all members of the Cultural Research Club, I don’t think I ever really understood what that meant since none of the previous episodes showed them doing club activities. BUT! The OVA thankfully pulled in their club duties when they were forced to compete with the Jazz Band Club for their mutual moderator.
Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun: Full thoughts here.
Secret ingredient(s): Two characters jumped out at me, and they weren’t our romantic leads. I always liked Natsume and her bubbly personality, and I appreciated our mutual interests in blogging and other social media. I could also understand her growing fear near the end of the series when she began to worry about losing her friends to each other. Having been in a couple of long-term, serious relationships myself, I know all too well the ease of slipping into the routine of just you and him; hanging out with friends becomes less of a priority. It wasn’t too much of a surprise to me when she fastened her affections to someone older and seemingly more permanent.
Another character I liked from the get-go and who I wished had received more screen time was Yamaken. Perhaps there’s more to him than shown in the manga, but I’m hoping on a second season to fulfill those wishes. His cool and laid back demeanor are right up my alley, though I do wish some of his friends’ silliness would rub off on him now and then–if he could just laugh a bit more, he’d be a perfect fit for Shizuku.
Sword Art Online: Full thoughts here.
Secret ingredient(s): Although my full thoughts cover in large part the crafting and setting that were my favorite aspects of the show, I guess I should specify something else here. Another game mechanic that I really liked was how SAO implemented weapon repair. A weapon like a sword or bow can be upgraded to better stats and repaired if damaged, but the number of upgrades is limited. There will come a time when a replacement is necessary, no matter what affections the user has placed on it. A weapon’s cost and durability should also help caution a player in battle.
Sukitte Ii na yo
At the start, I felt like this show was a tad similar to Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun, given its socially-inept female lead and quick romantic turn of events. Then I thought it might take a more serious turn into discussing high school relationships and sex–if it had, I probably would have found the show more unique and grounded in reality. Unfortunately, Sukitte Ii na yo drew back from its daring foray, leaving the naughty business to its side characters, and ended up following a generic shoujo route, complete with love rivals, jealousy, bullying, miscommunication, and little sisters. And I still enjoyed the anime, despite the disappointments I faced midway through.
Along with my usual taste for shoujo romance, I also tend to prefer the love rival to the main duo, and that preference rang true even here. I’m not sure what it is with Japanese high school romances and weak, even unlikable, male leads, but they seem to be the ones who always get the girls. Boyfriend Yamato is supposedly the high school hunk, with his perfect looks and charming personality, but I found him not at all to my liking. Due to Mei’s timidness and naivety, I wanted her to find someone of strong character and maturity, a person very much like Kai. Normally I can bear with the knowledge that the nice rival will most likely never get the girl, but here it was extremely frustrating. The one thing I liked about Yamato was his unswerving affections for Mai, even if he didn’t always know how to properly express those emotions to her.
Secret ingredient(s): Besides sharing hair styles with two of the girls in the show (straight like Mai’s and wavy like Megu), I had some fun with Kai’s character. I liked how he was portrayed as more on the brawny side, since it’s pretty normal for these shows to follow the more fashionable route of thinner, more delicate-looking males. I honestly am not usually attracted to slender men, so I appreciate Kai representing my tastes. I also admired his character in general, particularly after his reason for revenge was blown out, since he was often the voice of reason and a pillar of strength that characters like Mei, Yamato, and Megu could look up to. You keep up that healthy appetite and full head of hair! ❤
What is with all the delay on this particular anime from fansubbers? The main reason why my fall thoughts came so late was in large part because I kept waiting around for a particular subber to release the last two episodes. I became impatient and picked up 11 from a different provider, but even then, the final was delayed from both of them. I don’t see how anyone could wait on the cliffhanger like that.
Overall, Jormungand 2 fulfilled my expectations for more of what I loved from before and continuing backgrounds of its side characters. It also improved on some of the issues that I had with its prequel. A major complaint that I had was how immortal some of Koko’s crew seemed to be, no matter the gravity of any given situation. *SPOILER* Renato’s (“R”) arc was one of the most memorable and moving scenes of them all. Even though he was a spy for Bookman, he still fell in love with the people and atmosphere of Koko and her crew. It wasn’t until that point that I really found myself going along with Koko’s crazy personality and schemes; R was that good of a persuasion. Another great execution of plot and characters was the set up for Operation Jormungand. Like pieces on a chessboard, each of the people that Koko either recruits or abducts are given their own mini arcs and prove their significance to her master plan. That trio of women scientists had me grinning every time!
Secret ingredient(s): I used to enjoy Valmet’s character the most, but ended up preferring Chiquita through the second series. Her very cool, slick personality makes for a great combination with both Caspar and Lehm. If there is anyone I’d want to cosplay from this series, it would be her. I just need to hit the gym and practice that cat-like grin!
While I found the soundtrack to the prequel enjoyable enough while watching the episodes, it wasn’t until this season that I found myself admiring how the music complemented each scene. I also found it unique from the majority of other anime music out there.
And so ends my charming time at Mikage Shrine! Yet another show with romance in the air, Kamisama Kiss takes the supernatural spin with a shrine setting and a lead girl who is thrust into the world of gods and spirits. In my season preview a few months ago, I likend this series to the 2001 Fruits Basket. Both take a normal human, high school girl and surrounds her with gods and other mythology. Where FB is inspired by the Chinese zodiac, Kamisama Kiss instead follows Japanese Shintoism. And unlike the earlier 2012 anime Inu x Boku SS, which also included creatures from Japanese myth, this show faithfully portrays its characters in their home setting while still melding them into the modern world. Despite the silliness of a tengu disguised as a human popstar and going to high school like any normal teenage guy, it really fits the overall appeal of this anime: old world mentalities adjusting to the quickness of the 21st century.
Keep in mind that this besides its clever meld of Shintoism, every day high school life, and romance, this anime is simple in presentation. The art style and animation are nothing special, but the light color palette well suits Nanami’s innocence. The music, in particular the OP, perfectly represents her sweetness and desire to grow up into a capable young woman and land god. Although there’s nothing spectacular about the art, music, or story, they’re all handled with extreme care and relay their allure to the audience. I would be more than happy to pick up a second season if it were to air.
Secret ingredient(s): *SPOILER* Despite its predictability, I really enjoyed the kagura dance at the very end that Nanami performed to cleanse the shrine. All her hard work and love for her home come together beautifully in the face of true danger. I found it very interesting how the original land god was unable to completely exorcise the spider demon (tsuchigumo) and had to instead seal it away, but a human girl turned god succeeded. */SPOILER* Perhaps it’s only through the union of the old world and the new that both can survive.
While I’ve seen Bakemonogatari, I ended up stalemating on its sequel, Nisemonogatari. Nekomonogatari comes before both, and tells the tale of Hanekawa Tsubasa, one that was referenced in the latter part of Bakemonogatari, and I believe once again in Nise. I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler, considering the title, to say that Hanekawa was at one time possessed by a meddlecat–or perhaps possessing one herself. I’m not sure if I’m just not remembering it clearly or if this is the first time that it’s mentioned, but I was surprised at the gravity of Hanekawa’s home situation, as well as her own strangely dispassionate obedience and subjugation to others. I also don’t know if it was the intention of these four specials, but I found myself greatly disliking her by the end of them, when I once thought her to be my 2nd favorite girl of the cast.
Although I can sympathize with her about her loveless home, I also disapprove of her inability to empathize with those around her. I can’t blame her guardians for their discomfort with a insufferably perfect child (of course her “father’s” violence is inexcusable). But they’re both in the wrong. Furthermore, I found it fascinating how what is typically a quick possession on the meddlecat’s part twists itself into something much more extreme and dangerous enough to rival a vampire’s level. While I may not like her, I cannot deny Black Hanekawa’s entrancing sexuality. SnippetTee wrote an intriguing piece on the ballet-inspired forms that Hanekawa displays that I highly recommend anyone interested to read.
Secret ingredient(s): The lighting and framing in these episodes are superb, in the usual SHAFT style. There are several instances while watching where I would pause and backtrack to admire a particular scene.
Coming soon: my Winter 2013 choices!